Villainous: How We All Lost To The Queen of Hearts
All is fair in love and war and Disney.
Recently, my gaming group and I all played our first six player game of Villainous, the board/card game designed by Prospero Hall, based on the Disney villains. In the game you play the part of one of six bad guys, each looking to complete their own unique objective the first. It is an ingenious game, and one that has won many a heart since it came out a couple of months ago.
The game has a maximum of six players – playing as Ursula, Prince John, Jafar, Maleficent, Captain Hook, and the now dreaded Queen of Hearts. We had all six in play, as you would in a six player game, and chaos ensued. I was Maleficent.
This is the story of that day, and how, despite everything, the Queen of Hearts walked all over us. Settle down children, it’s story time.
How The Queen of Hearts Beat Us All
Get it – “beat” – because it’s a heart?
I know, subtle.
Okay, so this isn’t story time (sorry kids); however, I thought I would explain how a friend of ours managed to beat us all using our least popular character in Villainous. We avoided her and, most of all, we underestimated her. As such she left us in the dust.
The first thing to say actually, is it wasn’t a complete white-wash. Jafar and Maleficent were two turns from winning, Captain Hook and Prince John were only one turn from winning. Villainous is a well balanced game once everyone works out how to play their character. This is where the strategy guides come in handy and they are really worth reading.
That being said, we all fell to the Queen of Hearts, and the worst thing is we didn’t see it coming.
As a character the Queen of Hearts has one huge strength that she shares with Captain Hook. The Queen of Hearts is one of only two characters who can win the game before the start of their turn. This makes them dangerous characters to keep an eye on as, with the other four characters, they have to hold their victory conditions for a turn. What is more, the Queen of Hearts has victory conditions she plays from her hand. This is contrary to Captain Hook who needs to play Peter Pan around four turns before he can vanquish the hero.
The Queen of Hearts has a very specific victory condition to play in order to win the game. She needs to have four sets of guards turned into four Wickets – one at each location. She then needs to play the card “Take a Shot”, at which point she turns over the top five cards of her deck. If the cost of those cards combined are under the power of the Wickets she wins the game. Moreover, she wins it there and then.
What this means is that, once the Queen of Hearts has four Wickets (a task that is difficult due to the cost of the cards, granted) she can hold “Take the Shot” in her hand until it is just the right moment to play. Since Wickets are fairly strong, the odds are fairly favourable (I haven’t worked them out exactly) for her to win the game.
How Was The Queen of Hearts So Villainous?
Of course, this doesn’t explain how the Queen of Hearts won our game of Villainous – it only explains how she could win.
Well, ultimately, the Queen of Hearts won because the rest of us focused in entirely the wrong place.
Let me explain – the strongest weapon the Queen of Hearts has in her arsenal is subterfuge. The other villains have obvious goals, ones which present themselves to the world. Prince John is the only one to pile up power, being the most obvious goal of all, and so sits there with stacks of power in front of him. This is a visual cue to play Fate on him as well. Both Captain Hook and Jafar have cards that present themselves at one end of their Realm fairly early, so you can easily keep track on where they are. For them it is a game of slowing them down. Maleficent has so many conditions on her curses it is difficult to forget what she has in play whenever Fate is played on her.
The Queen of Hearts, however, has none of that. There is no impending doom or moment of disillusionment. There is no impending Peter Pan or Magic Lamp. There is no Trident or Crown, or big stack of Power. Instead, there are standard Allies, who can be turned sideways. Then there is that card, Take the Shot, which can be held until the moment when the time is right.
Each character has their own strategy guide to teach you, as the player, how to play them. They explore the characters and some of the cards in detail. There’s not a huge amount I can add to that at this moment in time, I need time to study the cards and guide, which is why I am not classifying this as a strategy article. That being said I think there is a point worth noting about how my friend won.
My friend won as the Queen of Hearts, ultimately because he didn’t draw attention to himself and he played his own game. We all became focused on stopping Prince John, and so sacrificed our own turns in some cases to play Fate to slow Prince John down. Next we had to work on Captain Hook.
Whilst we were all working on playing fate to slow other players down, the Queen of Hearts casually stockpiled what she needed and, whilst our backs were turned, she won.
I realise I jump between genders there – the Queen of Hearts is obviously female. My friend is male. You get the idea.
What is the point in all this? What is the point in writing about this as an article? Well, it’s simple really. I have written these casual past thousand words to prove a very simple point about this game. Here is the point – are you ready for the blindingly obvious?
In order to win in Villainous, you need to be a villain.
The moral of this story is not to do what everyone else is doing to try and win. Don’t join in the “we must stop X in order to win”, especially if you are in a game with a large number of players. Instead, let people do what they want. Let everyone else band together to try and stop the big bad Prince John or Jafar. You do your own thing.
To win as the villain, you need to play as the villain.
What’s your take? Have you played Villainous? Do you want to play it? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below.
I played my first 2 games of Villainous the other night (both 2 player), and in the first I won as the Queen of Hearts. The level of control she has over her own victory condition is so helpful to that end, where even when I had 1 opponent focused only on me, I was able to put it all together.
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She really does, doesn’t she? She came dangerously close to winning in our last game, although some lucky card drawing allowed Captain Hook to pull it out the bag 🙂
“Villainous is a well balanced game once everyone works out how to play their character.”
…and therein lies the rub. With the rules for Villainous spread out between rule books and strategy guides; it is not obvious to newer or less-experienced gamers how to play (mechanically) the game, much less how to win (strategy). It takes several plays to get to the necessary experience level. In my house, Villainous doesn’t have other appeal going for it to keep playing so I am not sure we will ever to to that requisite level.
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That’s a fair point. I can see that becoming grating. It definitely takes around 3 plays to even begin to see how all the characters even begin to behave, yet alone optimise.
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Same thing happened to me. I was Jafar right behind queen of hearts, thought I had it in the bag and bam she pulls out the win. Because everyone focused on hurting prince John. But all of our games a different hero has won and has been close! Super balanced game!
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The QoH is rather easy to stop. You want to fate her a lot. Don’t worry about your own objective for at least the first 5 rounds. If you can go back and forth between locations to fate her, do it. Seriously. So first you want to target Courtyard to prevent her from moving things, then target the rest in order (Hedge Maze, Tulgey Wood, White Rabbit’s House). She’s very hard to play as with the entire top row covered. Now as far as fates are concerned, the most ideal situation is you get the Mome Raths card and move her Guards/Wickets all to the same location. Ideally you want to take all the Guards/Wickets off of Courtyard and put them on white rabbit’s house. So why fate her so much? Because you want to churn through that fate deck as much as possible and repeat it as much as possible. Once there are heroes out there, then it becomes more common for you to get makes you larger and Mome Raths. Of course this is the strategy I play in a 2 player game against her.