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Villainous Strategy: Maleficent

Villainous is an incredibly popular board game. Last year it took the board game world by storm, and this year (in 2019, for those future visitors to this blog) saw the release of the first expansion pack – Wicked at Heart.

The base game of Villainous sees six different characters battle it out to be the biggest and baddest of all. Earlier this year (in February 2019, for the sake of being pedantic) we decided, in the great tradition of over analysis, to pick apart the character of Ursula as well as analyse how all the villain decks compare to one another. That analysis can be read here, and it’s a good place to go if you just want an overview of the different rolls from a mathematical perspective.

Of course, Ursula is not the only character in the game – there are five others – Prince John (from Robin Hood), Jafar (from Aladdin), the Queen of Hearts (from Alice in Wonderland) and Captain Hook (from Peter Pan) all rank amongst the biggest villains of them all. Today though, we are actually going to look at one of the oldest villains from, the 1959 movie, Sleeping Beauty. This villain was then played by Angelina Jolie in a movie  named after the character in 2014 – and that character is, of course, Maleficent.

Maleficent is actually a fairly tricky character to play in Villainous, and so today we are going to look at crafting a Villainous strategy for her from the ground up. What are her cards? What do they allow her to do? Most importantly, how can you become the big bad and rule the kingdom for yourself? Let’s take a look.

Maleficent - Villainous Strategy


Villainous Strategy: Maleficent

If this is your first time visiting Start Your Meeples today then there are two things you should know. Firstly, welcome. I hope you enjoy your visit and that we see you again in the future. Secondly, things can get really geeky.

You see, at its heart, Villainous is a deck management game. What this means is that each character actually has two decks that we can analyse and pull apart. This strategy will focus on the Villain deck; however, it will make reference to the Fate deck on occasion.

What the Maleficent Villain Guide says…

It is a well known fact that in Villainous every character gets their own guide. One thing we discovered when analysing Ursula is that the guides are pretty good for giving an overview; however, it is possible to dive deeper into each strategy to create a more holistic approach. That being said, it is important not to ignore the guides, so first we are going to take a quick look at what the Maleficent Villain Guide says.

Maleficent’s Objective

Maleficent has a fairly easy to understand objective in the game. It is a “start your turn” objective, meaning that even after you achieve it you do need to survive a turn with everything in place.

Start your turn with a curse at each location.

The locations the objective is referring to are, of course, the locations in Maleficent’s Realm – namely – the Forbidden Mountains, Briar Rose’s Cottage, The Forest, and King Stefan’s Castle.

Green Fire and Prince Phillip

Green Fire in play, played after Prince Phillip got rid of Forest of Thorns.


The majority of Maleficent’s Villain guide is talking about the curses that she gets to play on her own locations. There are three curse types – the Forest of Thorns (x3), Green Fire (x3) and Dreamless Sleep (x2). Each one has a benefit and a…well…curse.

Forest of Thorns limits the strength of heroes that can be played at the location (to 4+), but if a hero is played on it then it is immediately discarded. This rule, by the way, is why I personally lost my last game of Villainous.

Green Fire means heroes cannot be played at that location – but if Maleficent is moved there then Green Fire gets discarded. There are 3 Green Fire cards in Maleficent’s deck, and she has to move each turn. To spell it out, it is possible to have three in play, and this is an important point for later as it does trap Maleficent to a location.

Finally, my favourite curse (weird sentence to say) is Dreamless Sleep. Dreamless Sleep reduces the strength of all heroes at its location by two. If an Ally is played at Dreamless Sleep’s location then Dreamless Sleep is discarded – however, it can be played to a location that already has allies or have allies moved there. Either works well.

Other Cards

There are two cards that the Villain Guide likes to point out, and those are Vanish and Raven.

Vanish allows you to get around the 3x Green Fire card conundrum, as shown above, by meaning Maleficent doesn’t have to move from her spot. The Raven also helps with Green Fire as it allows for you to take actions from a space Maleficent isn’t on each turn. The Raven can fly elsewhere and take one action available at that location. It cannot take Fate actions. The one piece of really useful strategy that the Villain Guide gives is to play the Raven as early on in the game as possible.

Maleficent’s Villainous Strategy

Like with all the villains in Villainous, success with Maleficent comes down to understanding two things and how they interconnect with one another – the Villain deck and the realm.

All the main Villain decks in the game are made out of 30 cards, and Maleficent is no different. She has curses, that no one else has, but that isn’t the only interesting thing about her distribution.

At this point we can actually pull up a graph created to compare the Villain decks across all six of the main bad guys. This was originally posted on the aforementioned analysis article here.

All Villains Card Distribution

As you can see, Maleficent stands out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, she has Curses (no surprise there); however, to accommodate the additional Curses, she has fewer items and effects. In fact, if we pull her graph up on its own, we can see that she only has six effect cards and two items.

Maleficient Card Distribution

That means that, so far as Maleficent’s Villainous strategy is concerned, she actually has fewer ways she can affect her own actions with the Effect cards. What this does is make Maleficent less mobile as a character, something which plays to her strengths to some degree, but hinders in other ways.

Of course, each card has a motivation as well. We can actually split the cards down by what their core action is, in regards to what it physically does. This has a bit of interpretation, but it’s a useful way of looking at the cards. The core actions are:

  • Fate Deterrent – Cards that give you an active bonus when opponents play fate on you.
  • Movement Adaptation – Cards that allow Maleficent to stay still or use actions from other spaces.
  • Curses – Cards that are both good and bad, but tend to reduce the efficiency of Fate or Hero cards.
  • Hand Churn – Cards that let you get through your deck.
  • Power Gain – Cards that actively give you power or make things cheaper.
  • Additional Hero Defeat – Cards that make it easier to defeat heroes.
  • Cost Reduction – Cards that make playing cards cheaper.
  • Ally – The Allies Maleficent has on her side. These are Goons and the Raven.

Maleficient Card Per Core Action

Now this, this is where we can start looking at Maleficent with a critical eye.

Speaking of which, you may or may not have noticed that the above graph adds up to 33/30. This is because there are a couple of cards with dual effects. You’ll also notice Fate Deterrent and Fate Restriction on the list. This is because Deterrent (in this case the card Dragon Form) gives you, as Maleficent, an active bonus when Fate is played against you and thus it deters players from playing Fate on you. Fate Restriction just reduces the strength of when Fate is played against you.

Allies are also not counted under any category even though the Sinister Goons and Cackling Goons can get bonuses depending on what is on their location.

Okay, conditions and justification aside, what does this tell us?

Maleficent at The Forest

Maleficent at The Forest

Movement, Movement Adaptation, and Green Fire

An earlier point made, way up near the top of the article, stated that Green Fire can be a bit of a pain due to it restricting Maleficent. This is true, and boxing yourself in with Green Fire is not a wise move; however, there are a collection of other useful cards that can be used to get around the Green Fire restriction.

Vanish means that Maleficent doesn’t have to move from her location. This can be especially useful is played somewhere like The Forest due to the power generation and hand churning it allows. We’ll come onto this in a bit, but The Forest is possibly the core place for Maleficent to use during her turn.

The Raven is also a powerful card, and can be used to collect cards or aid with churning cards even when Maleficent is busy elsewhere. Essentially, the Raven allows for Maleficent to have five actions in a turn.

The Raven however, cannot trigger fate. What this does is mean that there are a whole host of different logical conjunctions in order to work out the best places to play Green Fire. They go along the lines of:

  • The Raven can’t use Fate, and Fate is needed to slow opponents down, so one location with Fate needs to be left clear for Maleficent to use. That means leaving King Stefan’s Castle or the Forbidden Mountains clear.
  • King Stefan’s Castle has Vanquish and is the only location with Vanquish.
  • The Forest allows for hand churning with playing the most cards and discarding cards. It also has the three power – this makes it incredibly helpful when looking to churn through the deck in search of Curses as well as build enough power to put them into play.

What this does is make the Realm a board of two halves. On on left hand side you have the ways if moving heroes, but not generating much power. On the right hand side you have power generation, vanquishing, and playing cards.

This ultimately means is that playing the first Green Fire on the Forbidden Mountain makes sense, and if there is a second it can go on Briar Rose’s Cottage. This may restrict how much Allies can be moves between locations in the Realm, but (when Allies can just be played on locations) it also means the high value items are uncovered and still able for Maleficent to use.

This then allows the Raven to move between the two locations (Forbidden Mountains and Briar Rose’s Cottage) to move allies as and when it is needed.

How very Game of Thrones.

The Staff and The Goons whilst Maleficent is at The Forest

The Staff and The Goons whilst Maleficent is at The Forest

Power Gain and Hand Churning

One of the most valuable tools in the game, and something that seems to play a role in every Villainous strategy, is the ability to hand churn. You need to be able to play as many cards as you can (at the right time of course) as well as discard of cards you don’t need.

Luckily for Maleficent, all that can be done with one location in her Realm – The Forest.

The Forest allows for Maleficent to churn through the majority of her hand in one turn. With 20% of her deck being Curses, it makes sense for Maleficent to try and move through her deck as fast as possible, and thus it makes sense for her to play Curses as and when they come into her hand.

This gives a couple of benefits. Firstly, it means that when someone inevitably plays a strong hero on the Forest of Thorns it’s no big deal. You’ll be cycling through the deck fast enough that another Curse will come up soon to take its place. Secondly though, and this is important for the meta game, constantly playing Curses keeps the pressure on. It keeps all of your opponents on edge.

What this is all coming around to is the importance of one combo – Vanish and the location of The Forest. Vanish means Maleficent doesn’t need to move, and The Forest is (in my opinion) the strongest location Maleficent has to offer. You need the ability to play and discard cards.

One of the other benefits of The Forest is around power generation. Once the Raven is out, assuming you don’t need to move allies, there is no reason why that 3 Power on The Forest shouldn’t be claimed every turn. That is either by Maleficent or the Raven accordingly.

Maleficent at the start if a six player game.

Maleficent at the start if a six player game.

Rely on the Locations, Not the Cards

One thing that players may notice about Maleficent’s cards is that they are all a little bit…well…rubbish.

Okay, so this may seem a bit harsh; however, when we think about it her cards aren’t the best in the game. Curses are the aforementioned double-edged sword. The two hand churn cards that Maleficent has are conditionally based on the actions of the other players. The power gain isn’t a direct power gain, but is rather makes things cheaper, and the goons are okay…but not great.

This means that Maleficent relies more heavily on the locations than the cards in her hand.

What this, in turn, means is Maleficent will, a lot of the time, need to take all four actions on a space, and will need to use a few locations over and over again. The Forest is, as explored above, one of those core locations.

This leads to the point that Maleficent needs to move through her hand, no matter what is in it. Keep a Vanish or two as needed, and play the Raven, but move through the rest as swiftly and efficiently as possible. You need to get those curses into play. Be prepared for other players to Fate you out of a couple of them, but when that happens just place more down.

If you really want to bounce back, replace a destroyed Forest of Thorns with a Dreamless Sleep, and then Vanquish the Hero  who got rid of the original Curse quickly. It’ll help show your opponents that you aren’t going to go down easily.

TL;DR: Conclusion and Exploration of Maleficent’s Villainous Strategy

Okay, so throughout this article we have been exploring Maleficent’s strategy in some detail. She is an interesting character, namely because her deck seems just as restrictive as it is good. That being said, by keeping in mind a few concepts it is possible to hone her game play to make her near unstoppable.

To do so, you a few concepts need to be taken into account.

  1. Vanish and the Raven are your best friends. Use them to maintain your position whilst Green Fire is in play.
  2. The key is to keep playing Curses. Don’t wait for the right time, but instead churn through your hand as fast as possible. Other players will do everything they can to restrict your Curse placement, and will try to put Heroes on your curses (Forest of Thorns as an example). Constantly playing Curses, understanding that some will be bested, is the best way to counteract the Hero placement.
  3. In order to keep playing Curses you need to churn through your hand quickly to get back to your discard pile. The Forest is a good place to hold up to do this, with the Raven allowing for extra discards or plays as necessary.

Other than that, enjoy it and try to have fun playing one of the hardest characters in Villainous (in my humble opinion).

This is the second in-depth Villainous strategy we have taken a look at. Keep an eye out for the rest in due course. Meanwhile, let me know your thoughts about Maleficent in the comments below.

Other Villainous Articles:
Ursula Strategy
Jafar Strategy
Comparing Villain Decks
How We Lost To The Queen of Hearts
Villainous Review


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