18th October 2022

The evening began with introductions to two new people:  Turquoise and White.  As everyone else arrived and we waited for the last couple of people, the group started with a quick warm-up game of NMBR 9.  This is a quick and simple tile laying game where players take number shaped tiles and add them to their tableau.  Tiles must connect to an edge of tiles already placed in the same layer, and when placing tiles on top of others, they must not create an overhang or sit wholly on one tile.  At the end of the game, players sum the face value of the tiles on each layer and multiply that by the “floor” they are on.  In other words, the ground floor is “pointless” whilst tiles on the second floor (or third level) are worth twice their face value.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

Although the game plays just four, with two sets squeezed into the box, all eight people were able to play together.  Everyone was happily laying tiles, with those who had not played it before quickly getting the hang of it.  A few people needed to be reminded of the fact that tiles on higher levels must be supported by at least two tiles and if not the first, must touch another tile on the same level.  Most people managed to stay on the straight and narrow though and before long everyone was practicing their mental arithmetic to work out their scores.  And it was really close at the top:  it looked like Turquoise’s score of sixty-nine was the winner until Teal posted his score of seventy, and then Blue just pipped him with seventy-one.

NMBR 9
– Image by boardGOATS

By the time NMBR 9 was done, everyone had arrived including Lime with his copy of the “Feature GameDisney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All, that he had borrowed from work.  This is an asymmetric card game where players take on the role of a Disney Villain (Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, Red Queen, Ursula or Prince John), and try to satisfy their own personal objectives.  Although the game is fairly simple in concept, a sort of worker placement, where players move their “worker” to different locations on their private player board and then carry out all the associated actions.  The fact that every character plays in its own way and has different objectives, makes it much more complex than it sounds, however.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

Disney Villainous unquestionably plays best with smaller numbers of players and, with two copies, the ideal would have been to play two games with three players each.  However, several people were reluctant because the Disney theme didn’t appeal, or dueling card games weren’t their thing.  So in the end, there were five playing: Black as the Queen of Hearts; Turquoise as Maleficent; Blue as Jafar; Lime as Captain Hook, and Pine as Ursula (or Arse-ula as she became known).  Each player took their booklet with their instructions (their “Villain Guide”), and that was Blue’s big mistake in her preparation.  She had deliberately not read all the characters’ details in advance as she didn’t want an unfair advantage.  However, because the characters were so very different, it meant she couldn’t help advise.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

For example, each character has two decks of cards:  a Villain deck and a Fate deck.  Players have Villain cards in hand, while other players (mostly) activate their Fate deck.  The Villain deck includes Ally and object cards which are played below the action spaces on a player’s player board and usually enhance the actions in that space.  The Fate deck on the other hand includes Hero cards which are played (usually by other players) above the action spaces on the player’s board and reduce the number of actions a player can carry out when they activate that space.  Hero cards are a pain and most people can get rid of them by carrying out a Vanquish action, however, Ursula does not have a Vanquish action and instead defeats Heros using Binding Contract cards.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

The second mistake was that most people didn’t read their instruction booklet properly, partly because without knowing the game, it felt very abstract, and partly just because the situation wasn’t conducive to sitting down and concentrating.  Turquoise had watched a play-through video, so had a better idea of what was going on than most—Maleficent’s winning condition was to start her turn with a curse at each location.  Curses are a card type unique to Maleficent and have an Ability that affects Heroes at that location.  While Lime was still hunting for his Never Land Map to unlock the Hangman’s Tree and Pine was searching his deck for the Trident and the Crown, Turquoise suddenly threatened to win as she had Curses at all four of her locations.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

This seemed to organise everyone else, as they collectively worked out how to stop her from winning.  Meanwhile, Black was doing something odd with his cards, turning them sideways or “tapping” them.  He, as the Queen of Hearts had to have a Wicket at each location and then successfully take a Shot to win.  Wickets are Guard cards that have been activated.  A Shot is then taken by revealing the top five cards of the Villain deck and if their total cost is less than the total strength of the Wickets then he would win.  With several Guards played and and activated, he was making progress too, and aside from luck, nothing the others could do was going to stop him winning when the time came.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

While players took it in turns to prevent Turquoise from succeeding, Blue had found the Scarab Pendant and the Magic Lamp cards that Jafar needed.  Having not read her booklet properly, when she got her Magic Lamp at the Sultan’s Palace, she thought she was there, only to realise there was more to it than that and had to work out how to fix it.  There was a feeling of achievement when Lime finally unlocked Captain Hook’s Hangman’s Tree and had found Peter and Pine finally found one of his special objects, but was still struggling with lots of power and no way of using it.  By this time though, the game had been going nearly two hours and although nobody was going to just “let” Turquoise win, most people had had enough and were starting to secretly hope someone would do the decent thing and end the game.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

Eventually, Black took a shot, and was unsuccessful.  Blue, having worked out how to hypnotize the Genie had a path to the end, though someone ensured that would take several more turns by judicious application of a Hero card.  Turquoise was still doggedly playing Curses when Black finally had a Shot on target and everyone else cheered with genuine relief.  Unquestionably, the game had outstayed its welcome, though that was largely caused by the number of players—three would have made it easier to focus on what others were doing and would have had much less downtime.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

The biggest problem with the game though, was the mismatch between the cutesy theme (and gorgeous artwork from the Disney films) and the isolated nature of the asymmetric multiplayer solitaire which means it is definitely not a kiddies game.  This mismatch perhaps partly explains why there are so many copies of Villainous for sale cheap in online auctions.  It would have felt a lot less isolated though with fewer players.  That said, to some extent, the game is all about the individual players finding a way to solve their own personal puzzle, while trying to throw just enough spanners in other players’ works to delay them and ensure their own victory.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

In this sense, once a character has been played and “solved” it reduces the replay-ability, especially against new players, who have to solve their puzzle from scratch.  This is perhaps why there are several other Villainous character sets available, and even Marvel character sets (which seem to be more popular).  Lime though, was not looking forward to playing the game again (one of the conditions of borrowing it) and ultimately was very pleased when he was able to postpone the replay, indefinitely.  That said, both Lime and Blue commented that they felt they had unfinished business with Villainous and would like to try it again sometime, though there are so many games and so little time, it’s not clear when that might be.

Disney Villainous: The Worst Takes it All
– Image by boardGOATS

While the first group fought with their Disney villains, everyone else settled down to a six-player game of Citadels.  In this game, players take on new roles each round which represent Characters they hire to help them acquire gold and erect buildings.  The numbered Character cards are drafted in secret at the start of the round with one taken out before the draft and one left unused at the end, to ensure everyone has imperfect knowledge.  Then, each number is called and the player with that Character enacts it.  When called, each player takes their turn.  First they take money (two gold from the bank) or draw two District cards and choose one to keep, then they may build one District paying the cost in “toffee-look-alike” gold coins.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

The game ends at the end of the round when one player builds their eighth District.  Players then score the cost of each District they have built, plus three points if they have at least one District in each of the five colours, plus four bonus points for the player who triggered the end of the game and two for anyone else that succeeded in building eight Districts.  This is an older game (one of Green’s first apparently), but nobody had played it in years so the group decided to play with just the basic characters:

  1. Assassin — Names another Character that misses their turn;
  2. Thief — Names a Character and at the start of their turn, steals all their gold;
  3. Magician — Swaps their hand with another players, or replaces some cards;
  4. King — Receives one coin per noble (yellow) District and takes the start player Crown;
  5. Bishop — Receives one coin per religious (blue) District and protection from the Warlord;
  6. Merchant — Receives one coin per trade (green) District and receives one extra coin;
  7. Architect — Build up to three Districts and draw two additional District cards;
  8. Warlord — Receives one coin for each military (red) District and destroys one District.

At White’s suggestion, the group tried a new method of choosing the start player, namely picking a character card at random and counting round the table to the number of that character.  The King was the card revealed, and counting round four places landed on White himself.  And so the first round started.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

There was no Assassin in the first round, so a gentle start. The Thief, White, decided to steal from the King; often a dangerous thing to attempt, but not so much in this game.  Thus, the game began, with players taking money and building Districts, at least for White and Lilac, who had chosen the Magician. The King came next, and Green duly handed his starting money to White.  With nothing much he could do, he took two gold coins and could build nothing, but did take over the calling of characters. Pink and Teal continued the round with taking money and building Districts.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

The next round was even more equitable as neither the Assassin nor the Thief were chosen. Teal took reign as King this time. Green was able to build his first District and everyone else was on two.  During the third round there was much mirth as Green tried to steal from the Merchant, who turned out to be Lilac, his partner — how dare he!  However, she had no money so it was fruitless anyway.  Green’s starting hand was such that he still could not build, just as everyone else went ahead and built their third District.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

In the fourth round, Lilac was the Thief and chose to steal from the Architect, little realising that this time that was Green, and like last time, he had no money either!  While all this was going on, the others had been building up some several Districts. Pink had blue and red Districts, Lilac had a green and a couple of blue, Teal had a couple of green and a red, while White was also mostly targeting red Districts.  By this point, everyone was really getting into the game and there was a lot of good natured banter round the table. Somehow, Green was being picked on as usual, but this time not with intent.  Teal was beginning to look strong and Lilac had a lot of Districts, but all relatively low in value.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

At the mid-point in the game, the Assassin finally came into play.  Green chose him and selected the Merchant as his target.  It turned out that was Teal, a good choice considering that by then he had three green Districts, which would have given him a lot of money.  The King finally moved away from Teal (to White), but overall there were very few yellow noble Districts being built.  During the second half of the game, the Magician began to cause a little chaos as hands of zero cards got exchanged with hands of four, five or even six.  It was still looking like Teal was strongest, just as he nabbed back the King, but then White built a nice big purple Dragon Gate. This cost six Gold, but would be worth eight at the end.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

Somehow Teal had managed to get to seven Districts with the others on five and six.  Green, sitting directly after Teal in turn-order, chose the Assassin and took one for the team.  Since he picked second, the information available to him told him that Teal could only be either the Architect or the Warlord.  He decided to try for the Warlord, on the basis Teal had two red Districts and a couple of Gold already, so could probably build his final card and finish the game.  It wasn’t until the the very end of the round before this was confirmed, and Green had indeed been successful. Teal missed his turn. So everyone else was now on six Districts while Green was still only on five.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

In the final round, Teal was still the King; would Green try again?  This time he chose a different approach and decided to try and steal from Teal instead.  Teal was the Merchant this time, so although Green was successful, he could not not stop him from building his eighth District.  Teal’s three green Districts gave him three coins, plus an extra one for the Merchant and the two he could take anyhow—more than enough to build his last District.  No one else managed to build eight, though almost everyone else managed to get seven.  Only Teal and Lilac got the bonus points for building at least one of each colour however.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

That meant Teal was the runaway winner with thirty-two, with White and Pink very close to each other in second and third with twenty-six and twenty-five respectively, and Lilac not far behind that.  Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed it regardless of their final score—Citadels is good classic that works better with more people and this time it did not fail to deliver as everyone really got into the spirit of the banter.  Players drifted away and once Villainous finally came to an end, there was time for some chatter about things including Christmas party plans, before everyone finally went their separate ways.

Citadels
– Image by boardGOATS

Learning Outcome:  In asymmetric games, someone has to know how the rules apply to everyone.