The Disney Villainous Board Game Formula Gets a New Look with Marvel Villainous: Infinite PowerPhotos courtesy of Ravensburger Games Reviews board games
The Disney Villainous game series started in 2018 with the initial box of characters, which asked players to compete as one of a half-dozen villains from Disney films, with each character getting its own card deck and trying to achieve a unique goal. The series has since expanded with three more boxes, each containing three new villains, all interplayable with characters from other boxes, ranging from the famous (Maleficent) to the obscure (Ratigan).
The newest entry in the series, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, introduces five villains from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it differs from the previous games in the series in two significant ways. First, it’s not interplayable with the previous 15 characters. Second, the Fate deck, which is the only way in which players in Villainous interact with and try to interfere with each other, is a single, shared deck, rather than one unique Fate deck for each player, and now there are common Events in that deck that can affect all players until they work together to defeat it. That produces a very different playing experience, one that improves on the low degree of direct competition between players in the original series, but also adds a degree of complexity and can lead to longer playing times too.
In all Villainous games, each player will work through a prefab deck unique to that villain, playing one or two cards on each turn to their ‘domain,’ gaining Power tokens they use to play or activate cards. Players may also choose to Fate opponents, which means drawing the top two cards from a specific opponent’s Fate deck and choosing one of the two to play, which can be a one-time event or can play a Hero card to the top of the opponent’s domain, blocking certain actions until that player defeats the Hero. One of the most important mechanics in the game is the discard action, available only on certain spaces in each domain, because each deck has specific cards that the player must play to win or that are extremely helpful in advancing the player towards victory, so discarding cards that aren’t useful at that moment to try to run through your deck is essential.
Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power contains decks and tokens for Thanos, Killmonger, Ultron, Taskmaster, and Hela, and the stories in those decks adhere quite well to those villains’ stories from their respective movies. Thanos, of course, must collect all of the Infinity Stones, which first get assigned to other players’ domains so that Thanos must send Ally cards to those domains, defeat other players’ allies there, claim the Stones, and bring them back. His is by far the most complicated, and I think the most difficult, of the villains in the box, since he also must defeat Heroes other players send to Thanos’ domain to try to slow him down.
The Marvel Villainous rules also introduce a new card type, Specialty cards, which become permanent additions to your domain once played. These can just give you new powers or, as in Ultron’s case, must be activated in a specific sequence for you to win the game. Killmonger starts the game with one villain, my alter ego Klaw, who, once defeated, becomes a Specialty card (Challenge for the Throne) that you must have to be able to win. The Infinity Stones also become new powers for Thanos once they’re returned to his domain. Specialties are a mixed bag for game play: they allow for more ornate storytelling, which makes game play better resemble the films from which these characters derive, but they also make game play more complicated. Between that, the shared Fate deck, and the general complexity of the victory conditions for several of these villains, this game definitely gets a higher degree of difficulty than the previous entries in the series. That’s neither criticism nor praise, but where the first 15 characters were all playable for kids who were advanced readers, I’d agree with the Marvel Villainous box recommendation of ages 12 and up, and would expect an hour or more for a full game, probably more if you have the maximum of four players.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.