Villainous Strategy: Ursula
Villainous took the board game world by storm last year. Designed by Prospero Hall, who was the mind behind games like the recent House of Danger and Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, Villainous is a game that is both competitive and suitable for all kinds of players. It is a challenging game, and because of that Villainous has drawn the attention of serious gamers all over the world.
Villainous is a game in which every player plays a different Disney villain, with their own objectives. Each character has two unique decks of cards, and those mean each villain plays in a completely different way. As such, the villains actually comes with their own Villain Guide containing basic information about how they should play, but it goes beyond that. Each Villainous strategy is its own unique beast, and involves some meta that needs to be explored to fully understand the villain and their capabilities. That goes for every one of the villains in their own way – The Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Maleficent, King John, Jafar, or, of course, Ursula.
Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) was actually the first character I played in Villainous and I have since played her a few times, as well as watched her get played by others on occasion. She is an interesting character, with a few unique quirks that make her Villainous strategy different to the rest.
Villainous Strategy: Ursula
Okay, so we’re going to split this into two core sections. First, we are going to look at what the Villain Guide tells us, then we are going to look at what it misses out, including looking at specific cards more closely.
What the Ursula Villain Guide Says
There are a few key points that the Ursula Villain Guide says about her role in Villainous. The first is Ursula’s objective and how she wins the game:
Ursula’s Objective: Start your turn with the Trident and the Crown in Ursula’s Layer
This is incredibly important to keep in mind as it is the key way of winning the game. We’ll come back to this a bit later, when we look at what the strategy guide doesn’t say.
Special Set Up and Changing Form
The next big piece of information is that Ursula has some special rules with setting up. She has a lock placed on one of the locations in her Realm – The Palace. She can use the Changing Form card to switch it with Ursula’s Lair.
The location with the lock is off limits, until Changing Form is played to switch it again.
Once the Trident is played King Triton is taken out of the Fate deck and the Trident moves to him. The Trident can’t be nabbed until Triton has been defeated.
Finally, the other thing the Villain Guide tells you is about Binding Contracts. Ursula doesn’t get the Vanquish action and so a Binding Contract must be used to get rid of the Heroes when they pop up.
Binding Contracts are attached to Heroes and then, when the Move a Hero action is chosen, and the Hero is moved to the Location stated on the Binding Contract, then that Hero is Vanquished.
And that is it. That is all the help the Villain Guide gives. It’s an alright amount of information, but it also shows why it’s called a Villain Guide and not a Strategy Guide. There is very little additional information in there. It tells us some of the quirks of Ursula’s situation, and it tells us what her victory conditions are, but it doesn’t tell us how to play Ursula. So, that is our question – how do we play her?
Ursula’s Villainous Strategy
To really understand Ursula we need to understand two things – her deck and her realm. We won’t split these into two separate sections, but we will look at how they interact with one another.
Interestingly, we can analyse Urusla’s deck in much the same way we can analyse a deck for games like Keyforge or Magic the Gathering. We do this by breaking down the different cards in her Villain Deck and seeing the basic types of action that they allow.
So, first thing first, let’s look at Ursula’s deck and how it breaks down by card type.
One thing really stands out about Ursula’s Deck and that is how few allies she has. The basic reason for this is because she cannot Vanquish and so doesn’t need allies for fighting purposes. Instead, since Ursula uses Binding Contracts she has additional Items within her deck. Likewise, we see a lot of Effects, and these are necessary for Ursula to get to the Trident and Crown that she needs to win.
If we look at the 30 cards in Ursula’s deck we can also break them down by the type of action they allow, and this is where it gets really interesting. Within Ursula’s deck she has effectively got six basic types of action. These are:
- Cards that allow for actions to be played on Locked locations. This can be by either unlocking them or allowing for actions to be played due to other reasons.
- Cards that allow for a Hero to move. These are cards that allow for the Hero to move, an important aspect seeing as one of Ursula’s two hero movement locations can be locked by having a hero played on them.
- Deck churns. These are cards that allow for Ursula to get through her deck. Deck churning is incredibly important for Ursula as both of her victory condition cards are within her deck. We’ll come back to this later on.
- Binding Contracts.
- Card Recovery. These are cards that allow for Items or Actions to be brought back.
- Other Cards. Okay, so these aren’t precise cards, but there are five miscellaneous cards in Ursula’s deck. This includes the two needed for the victory condition.
Again, we see an interesting split. We can now look at the concepts behind those categories in some detail to further understand Ursula’s Villainous Strategy.
The Locked Locations
There are essentially two cards that allow for Ursula to use actions on locked locations. These are the card mentioned in the Villain Guide – Change Form and another card as well. Change Form moves the locked location, making The Palace a viable option for play whilst locking Ursula’s Lair.
Why would you want to unlock The Palace? The Palace has the only Move Hero action in Ursula’s Realm. This means that, when Triton comes out he can be moved to a location to destroy him without the use of card.
The second card is not mentioned in the Villain Guide but can be just as useful, and that is Grow Giant. Grow Giant allows for Ursula to use the actions of a location next to her without needing to unlock it. Towards the end of the game this can be incredibly helpful if you don’t have any Change Form cards left. They both cost the same Power, and there are three of each card.
If other players play Fate on you, or if Triton has come into play because of the Trident, you can play a Binding Contract on them to seal their fate. That being said, Binding Contract doesn’t get rid of a Hero right away but means a Hero will get destroyed when they are moved to a different location. You still need to move them.
This is where the cards that allow movement of Heroes come into play. These include the Whirlpool and Poor Unfortunate Souls actions, of which there are three and one respectively, and two other cards. Flotsam and Jetsam are two allies who allow for hero movement when activated. Whirlpool allows for one hero to be moved to any unlocked location. Poor Unfortunate Souls allows for all heroes to be moved to an adjacent location and can be a board wipe if played at the right time with the right Binding Contracts out. Flotsam and Jetsam allow for a hero to be moved to each of their locations. Spread them throughout the Realm (don’t place them on the same Location whatever you do!) and you get a good spread of places/ways of moving heroes about.
There is one Move Hero location in Ursula’s realm, and that is at The Palace. It is worth keeping that in mind with Change Form and Grow Giant that they can be seen as hero moving cards by proxy, facilitating the hero moving action by unlocking it or making it available.
Deck Churning and Card Recovery
It took me a few games to figure this out, but Ursula is all about deck churning. In other words, you want to get through your hand as quickly as possible. This is because, for Ursula, it is a race to see if she can uncover the Crown and Trident before the other players come close to their victory conditions.
For Ursula Deck Churning cards are vital, and somewhat difficult to optimise cards. There are only four in the deck, of which two are Divination. These allow you to churn through the deck searching for Binding Contracts, discarding all the rest. It is here where the three deck recover cards come in – all three are called Opportunist and allow for Ursula to draw an Item or Effect back from the discard pile. What this means is that it is possible to use Divination to churn through the deck whilst using Opportunist as a kind of fishing net to catch the cards you want.
Discard them with Divination, fish them back with Opportunist.
The other type of card is difficult to use as it is a Condition, and that is Arrogance. It relies on the other players.
When another player defeats a Hero of strength 4 or more, you can play Arrogance to draw three cards and discard any three of your choice. Arrogance gives you a reason to play Fate on other players and give them difficult heroes to beat. Wait for them to beat them and then boom – play Arrogance.
Of course, giving them difficult heroes is not guaranteed.
The difficulty is keeping Arrogance in your hand and you need to weigh up whether the other players are playing aggressively or not. If another player looks like they will beat a strength 4 Hero then keep Arrogance, otherwise you can churn through your hand just as quickly without simply by using the Discard action.
One card that can make Arrogance easier is Trickery, but we’re now looking at the synergy between quite a few cards and playing them at the right time in the right order which can be quite hard. Trickery can reveal Fate cards to play against opponents. Play Trickery, hope for heroes, then play Arrogance when those heroes are defeated.
Of course, there are two Discard Cards locations in Ursula’s realm. One at Eric’s Ship and one at The Shore. The Shore has it at the top, and so try to keep Heroes off that space. Discarding cards, and being able to Churn is vital to Ursula’s role in Villainous.
There is one interesting point about the Binding Contracts, and that is that there are four locations but six Binding Contracts. This is because there is only one Binding Contract for the end locations in Ursula’s Realm – Ursula’s Lair and The Palace – and two for Eric’s Ship and The Shore.
What this meas means is it may be an idea to place Flotsam and Jetsam at the middle two locations to make it easier to move heroes there.
Where You’ll Be Spending Time
Okay, so this may sound a bit presumptive, but by looking at the board it is possible to assune where Ursula will spend the majority of the game – and those two locations are The Shore and Eric’s Ship. Ursula’s Lair and The Palace will only be played at specific times, whereas The Shore and Eric’s Ship will be played more regularly.
This is because The Shore and Eric’s ship have the three basic actions needed to be successful as Ursula during the first phase of the game. That is Gain Power, Play Cards, and Discard. Fate is an added bonus, useful for Arrogance.
You may find that you don’t need to go to Ursula’s Lair much at all. The only action offered by Ursula’s Lair or The Palace, that isn’t offered elsewhere, that you may need (bar move Heroes and Items, which can be negated by the use of cards) is Activate. This is needed for Flotsam and Jetsam, so it is worth moving to Ursula’s Lair occasionally if you do have Flotsam and Jetsam in play, to be able to move Heroes all over the board. It is a way of moving a Hero more than one space in a turn without the use of Whirlpool.
TL;DR: Conclusion and Exploration of Ursula’s Villainous Strategy
Throughout this article we have explored a few different concepts around Ursula’s deck in the hit game Villainous. Essentially, the use of Ursula comes down to a couple of key ideas.
- The keys to Ursula’s victory conditions are the Crown and the Trident, both of which are within Ursula’s Villain deck. The key is to get those out quickly, and so it is worth churning through her deck as quickly as possible. Key cards to doing this include Arrogance and a synergy between Divination and Opportunist.
- Once the Trident and Crown are out, the Trident has the condition of bringing Triton along for the ride. You need to get rid of Triton by using a Binding Contract and then by moving him. This is made easiest with a card like Whirlpool, but can also be done with the use of the Move Hero action at The Palace and the Poor Unfortunate Souls card. Flotsam and Jetsam are also great aids to this. I would recommend keeping Whirlpool in your hand as you get close to playing the Trident, along with a Binding Contract for either Eric’s Ship or The Shore. It will make getting rid of Triton easier.
Keep those concepts in mind and Ursula should be a successful character to play.
Anyway, this has been a bit of an indepth look at Ursula and her Villainous strategy. I hope it has been helpful.
What are your thoughts? Have you had success with Ursula? Do you enjoy playing her or do you prefer to play as a different villain? Let me know in the comments below.