Continuing our look into Villainous with Wicked to the Core and Evil Comes Prepared
In this segment, we'll be covering Wicked to the Core (Dr. Facilier, Evil Queen, Hades) and Evil Comes Prepared (Ratigan, Scar, Yzma)
Objective: Defeat Snow White
I'll make no bones about it: Evil Queen is one of my favorite villains in the game, not only because her deck and her collection of ingredients do interesting things, but her goal sounds so simple and is right in keeping with the film. Just defeat your primary enemy. Easy! Except that the Queen has no Vanquish ability and, as with Captain Hook and Jafar, she first has to find Snow White. The easiest way to do that is, of course, with the Magic Mirror, which would be a one-use item (Alton Brown fans will know what I'm talking about) and not worth its space in the deck, except that it also lets you draw whenever you're targeted with a Fate action, which can be really important for the Queen, since she needs to play all four Ingredients before she can unlock the Dwarfs' Cottage and make plans to give the apple to Snow White. However, she can Brew Poison and take the benefit of the Ingredient and Condition that provide Poison (Mummy Dust and Jealousy, respectively) at any time. Jealousy isn't a card I'd hold on to when presented with a Discard action, but the other Condition, Vanity, has both an easy opponent requirement (two or more Items) and a great result, since it lets you rifle through the top of your deck and gives the option to either discard them or replace them in any order. MTG fans will know it as the Brainstorm of Villainous. Like Jafar, the Queen can also take advantage of some key Items, like Magic Tomes, The Throne, and The Box (Hellraiser/Time Bandits/Gom jabbar references go here) that aid her in deck manipulation, Power generation, and Poison creation. She'll be more reliant on those things than other villains because of the lack of that Vanquish action, which means her only option for dealing with Heroes is the five Take A Bite cards or trying to get around them with I'll Fix Ya! or Scream of Fright. Once the Cottage is unlocked, the most useful Ingredient will tend to be Black of Night for another go at a non-Fate action.
Or you could spend a lot of time at the Laboratory, which already has five actions, making it unusual in Villainous (along with Cruella's Hell Hall and Ratigan's Buckingham Palace.) She also has two Activate action locations, in The Woods and The Mine, but both of them can be covered by Heroes. You'll spend most of your time rotating between those three spots, regardless of when the Cottage becomes unlocked. Like Captain Hook and Ursula, you also have access to the Move Hero action at the Laboratory, which can also be covered by Heroes. The Poison action at the Laboratory, however, can never be, so you'll always be able to execute Take a Bite when needed. And you will need it, since her Fate deck is heavy on Heroes, as you might expect with Snow White and all seven Dwarfs to include. But it also has Woodland Creatures, one of a very few direct discard effects in the game, which can be devastating when played by knowledgeable opponents (Root rule, in action.) And all of the Dwarfs, despite being relatively low Strength, will need a card from your hand to get rid of and some of your precious Poison that you're saving for the fairest in the land. Bashful and Happy can be particularly annoying for the abilities that directly affect your Poison supply and creation, regardless of whether you choose to use your apples on them or not. The Queen is a similar kind of puzzle to Ursula's (lacking Vanquish) and can be stalled in a similar fashion by a poor draw, but simply having access to four locations and the universal application of Take A Bite gives the Queen a significant edge.
Objective: Control the Talisman and successfully Rule New Orleans.
I have an abiding love for New Orleans so, despite never having seen The Princess and the Frog (I have since been enlightened), I was kinda geeked when I discovered that a character rooted in that locale was part of the first expansion for the game. Dr. Facilier has a goal that initially sounds like it's not that big a deal. But when you hear the full extent of it, which is revealed on the key card, The Cards Will Tell, you come to realize that it's a bit more challenging. You have to control the Talisman and you have to pull Rule New Orleans from the Fortune Pile, but you can also only do it from the Voodoo Emporium and it involves shuffling said Pile and pulling three cards from it. Absorbing what the Fortune Pile means can leave the goal sounding as if it's as complex as Jafar's or Ursula's. But Facilier can also benefit mightily from a good draw and the possible inability by his opponents to stack the Pile against him, such that winning in the first few turns just by having the right cards fall into your hands is certainly possible and there's not much that your opponents can do about it. But it's still relatively complicated and there are a lot of pitfalls on the way there. Tactical choices make up a large part of his game, since most of the cards that would go into the Fortune Pile are really good (Sleight of Hand drawing three, keeping one, and discarding the rest for 1 Power, for example) but they also clutter the Fortune Pile with more cards that you don't want to draw. So, just like the Discard action, you have to make choices early on that will impact later events. In that respect, Terror is actually a solid Condition, since its requirement is easily met (an opponent gaining 3+ Power) and it lets you siphon cards out of the Pile if you're closing in on a win (or simply to use them again.) Illusion Powder has a similar effect. On the downside, the Talisman is purely a MacGuffin and does nothing for you other than being a requirement to win, like Ursula's Trident. It also is automatically stolen by ANY Hero that has Strength three or less that is played to Facilier's realm, which is the majority of those in his Fate deck. Plus, most of his Allies have deleterious effects if they end up in the Fortune Pile, so it's often a better idea to spend the Power to simply play them if you can't otherwise get them out of your hand, which can be a drag on your resources. Also also, similar to Ursula, Dr. Facilier is dependent on not just one card, but two in order to win.
His realm is decent, with Power gains throughout, but all of them covered by Heroes except the largest in The Bayou, which is also the usual dual Play a Card, plus a Move Ally/Item action (the "big spot.") Facilier is one of those villains encouraged to use the Discard action, not only for its obvious benefits, but also because it's a good way to get cards out of your deck and into your discard pile, where they can't be dumped by opponents into the Fortune Pile with cards like Almost There and The Evening Star. Unfortunately, Masked Spirits, perhaps the worst of your Allies, are also an Item, which means Juju can grab them from your realm and dump them into the Pile. In fact, the majority of your Fate cards are about allowing your opponents to abuse the Fortune Pile, so expect to get Fated early and often. This is part of what makes Dr. Facilier such a great character for the game because, like Maleficent, he actively encourages direct interaction by players attempting to slow him down and, even if there's not an immediate effect on his board, they know that they've made things more difficult for him simply by playing those Fate cards as they'll ultimately have an effect on his attempt to Rule New Orleans. But RNG is a thing here, just like it is with Queen of Hearts, so pulling the right card on the first attempt isn't unheard of. That said, I still think the ability for opponents to impede Facilier more than most other villains makes him a more difficult prospect than someone like Prince John.
Objective: Start your turn with three Titans at Mount Olympus
Hades is a really cool villain to play, with a number of cards that do interesting things; most notably the Titans themselves. So, it's an entertaining deck. The difficulty arises from the fact that it's... just... so... slow. As with most "Move X thing to X location" tasks in Villainous, you're always going to be moving the Titans from one end (The Underworld) of your realm to the other (Mount Olympus) and everyone's going to be able to see you doing said thing. The issue here is that you have to do it three times and it's, thus, much easier to parse just how close Hades is to winning (or not) than many other villains and what Fate cards to play in order to prevent it. As noted, the Titans all do cool things when they move, like grant you Power or freeze Heroes in place or untrap other Titans so they can move again. But there are only five of them in the deck, which means you need to find, play, and move a majority of them, even assisted by Eye of the Fates and Get Ready to Rumble! and you normally just won't have enough time during the average game to make that happen. Like Jafar, Hades has some really powerful cards (in addition to the Titans) to make up for the difficulty of his goal. Chariot may be the best Item in the entire game, since it not only allows you to take a fifth action every turn, but also allows you to move somewhere else to do it, so you can immediately move back to your original location (like, say, The Gardens: Gain 3 Power, 2x Play a Card, Discard aka "the big spot") and keep exploiting the actions there on your subsequent (and successive) turn(s.) And Cerberus is the strongest "defeat a Hero at an adjacent location" Ally in the game, while Hydra can be the neverending Ally. And, of course, there's the all-important Mortality Potions that mean nothing in a general gameplay sense, but mean that Hades can keep his Titans on the board even while beating up the opposition. So there are avenues to success. I think it simply takes too long to get the whole machine (ahem) moving.
As noted, The Gardens is probably your best location, followed by The Underworld, since that's where your lone Vanquish action is, as well as the Move Ally/Item action that can't be covered by a Hero; the other being at Mount Olympus. Again, using the Chariot to hop between The Gardens and The Underworld can produce some really significant turns. But first you have to draw the Chariot, of course. And Hades' Fate deck hits hard. The cards that trap Titans, like Hera, Zeus, and Lightning Bolt or effectively trap them like Hercules, are significant. But the real killers are things like Pegasus and Go The Distance, which move Titans; typically away from Olympus. And almost all of the Heroes are Strength 3 or greater, which means that many of Hades' other Allies, like Panic and Pain, are going to be less useful in solving your immediate problems. As I said about Ursula, I enjoy playing Hades, even if I rarely win with him. I like his theme and the interplay between cards in his deck. I just think Prospero Hall made this villain a bit more strenuous than necessary and a bit lacking in answers when everyone else can predict almost every move (literally) you're making,
Objective: Start your turn with The Robot Queen at Buckingham Palace/Defeat Basil.
Ratigan is unique among the villains in having two goals that he can try to achieve. But what that also often means is that it's easier to accomplish either of them. Ratigan alone has a Plan B, whereas everyone else has to rely on Plan A alone. That means it's more difficult to truly entrap Ratigan with his Fate deck, as he can always be setting up for his goal as The Rat, if The Superior Mind objective (moving the Queen to Buckingham) falls through. And Ratigan has the cards to accomplish either goal. One of the best Effects in the game is Greatest Criminal Mind (gain two Power or two cards.) Ruffians are an excellent Ally, despite their direct inefficiency (only two Strength for two Power), because they give you an extra action every time they're played. And you can discard them to play a six(!) Strength Ally (Felicia) for only three Power. Use Felicia to get rid of a troublesome Hero? Use Bell to put her back in your hand. Uniform is two actions in one (Play a Card and then Vanquish at +2 Strength.) And the ultimate combo that most are hoping to play is simply using the Airship to fly The Robot Queen right to the Palace. Ratigan's deck is really remarkable and the need to pay 15 Power to play the Queen is not particularly challenging, between Gears, Tools, and Fidget dropping Flaversham at his Toy Shop.
All of that is on top of his really powerful realm, since no actions can be denied at The Secret Lair and that's where the lone Activate action for many of his powerful Items is located. But he also has five actions available at Buckingham Palace, including one of the Move Item/Ally actions that he needs to accomplish his primary goal. There is no Power gain at the Lair, so he will have to spend some time outside of it while building up his infrastructure to accomplish that goal, but that's no different from the frequent rotation that many other villains engage in during their first few turns. Ratigan's realm is like the polar opposite of Ursula's and his deck is similarly superior. It's not difficult to keep most Heroes out of wherever you don't want them to be with Capture, as well. The key aspect to his Fate deck is that it's mostly geared toward Plan A, as well, which is understandable as that is the "primary" goal, as opposed to the "secondary" with The Rat. Most of the Effects and Heroes are targeted toward removing or stopping the Robot Queen. Once Basil is played and (usually) discards her, it becomes a relatively simple matter of playing Felicia to his location and Vanquishing him, possibly because you used the Bell to bring her back to your hand. I'm making it sound very rote but that has repeatedly been my experience with Ratigan. I've never lost a game playing as him and he's won in others' hands, as well. There have been games when it's simply all gone horribly wrong and Ratigan was never able to get the Queen in play in the first place before someone else took the victory, but far less often than you might initially expect when trying to play an Item that costs 15. All of that said, Ratigan probably has the coolest mover of any villain in the game. Style counts for something.
Objective: Defeat Kuzco using Kronk.
Yzma is one of a number of villains who have to defeat their main film opponent in order to win the game. But Yzma's unique Fate deck setup- splitting it into four decks -and needing to use a specific Ally (Kronk) to perform that beatdown is what sets her apart. Most notable, of course, is the four Fate decks. In a macro way, it limits the choice of opponents as far as what to pick, because they don't have the potential of picking any card in the deck, but rather only what's in that pile. In a micro way, of course, it often doubles their options as to what to pick since they get to look at all the cards in that pile, which will often be three or four, as opposed to the usual two. But Yzma also has unrivalled intelligence as to the composition and arrangement of her Fate decks, with cards like Eavesdrop, After Them!, and Smash It With A Hammer. Playing the latter card and combining its effect with a Superiority in hand for the next time someone Fates you can be a drastic accelerator toward reaching your goal, provided you make the right guess (or know which deck you're targeting to begin with.) Most of the puzzle in playing Yzma is in dealing directly with the Fate decks, as opposed to the usual issue of dealing with one's own deck and hoping to draw the right cards. And, indeed, she's one of the few who has recycling cards in the form of Dagger and Kronk himself, neither of which get discarded when used to Vanquish Heroes, so once they're drawn, they effectively stay drawn, with the caveat that she has to minimize movement with Kronk, of course. That's helpful, since Yzma's other Allies (Imperial Guards) are fairly underwhelming. Yzma also has one of the most interesting long-term planning cards in Beauty Sleep. Is it worth it to skip an entire turn to gain two Power, draw two cards, and divert a Hero? In the early game, almost certainly. But keep in mind that the last part of that card is the most questionable, since there will often not be Heroes available to move. But that does engender some later game use of it when skipping a whole turn is less attractive, which makes it an often worthy choice to make, regardless, and a nicely-designed card, overall. Yzma's playstyle, in general, does tend to encourage focusing only on your own game, as opposed to those playing with you, however.
Her realm is an average one, with her "big spot" (Two Play a Card, Gain 3 Power, Discard) being The Jungle and her other most useful location (Gain 2 Power, Move an Ally/Item, Play a Card, Vanquish) being The Palace, so you can expect to be spending a lot of time in either place. Yzma's Power requirements are pretty minimal (the most expensive card being Kronk, at 3) so she'll often have a surplus of Power available and not much to spend it on, since digging through the various Fate decks doesn't cost much. That makes cards like Fake Funeral and Ferocity pretty easy discards. But that is, of course, where the Fate cards come in, and one of the most prominent among them: Wrong Lever. That can end your surplus Power situation right quick. But, by far, the most devastating of her Fate cards are those that reshuffle her decks, like Beware the Groove, Pacha, and On the Run. All that work you've done deducing and guessing is suddenly wiped out with all of your cards shuffled together. That effect, more than anything, is what earns Yzma her difficulty level, since few villains can be entirely reset in that fashion and have to spend time building again. Of course, just like with Dr. Facilier, if you guess right and/or get the right draw, you can end up with both Kuzco and Kronk in your realm in the first couple turns and end the game right there. But there are far more opportunities for others to easily disrupt those plans than to have that miracle draw. That's kind of what makes A Cruel Irony so useful, since you can use it to do successive Eavesdrops and narrow your odds back down to what should be workable.
Objective: Start your turn with at least 15 Strength in the Succession Pile.
Scar is a great example of taking a similar task to other villains (defeating a named character; this is how most of the decks track their respective stories, as most Disney films are a Hero's Journey)- in this case, defeating Mufasa -but making it secondary to the actual goal. Mufasa must be Vanquished to begin working toward the goal, but the main task is to be king of the beasts by piling up (almost literally) as many bodies as possible. Credit to Prospero for keeping the game within the Disney "kid-friendly" parameters by using "Vanquish" and so on, but it's really hard to miss the imagery here; not least because almost all of Scar's surfeit of Allies are carrion eaters, in the form of hyenas. Cards like Feeding Frenzy and Hungry Hyena do nothing to dispel that. The deck is unusual in that it emphasizes swarm tactics (Hungry Hyena gaining Strength for other present hyenas) and cards like Ed and Shenzi make building up to that point not such a drain on your resources. Strangely, Scar's most effective ally might actually be Stampede (i,e. wildebeest, not hyenas), since it will allow you to move a Hero (like Mufasa) to another location and then perform a free Vanquish action, which is a good way to kickstart your pile. Be Prepared is also one of the best draw/discard cards in the game, since it not only cycles three cards of your deck, but also lets you draw two or that one crucial Effect into your hand for the cost of one Power. Long Live The King can have a similar impact on your Fate deck if you're still trying to find Mufasa or if you're looking for targets to build your Succession Pile. Like his Allies, most of Scar's deck is tuned to function in bursts, which is good obfuscation for the opponents who might not be aware of how quickly you can suddenly surge into a winning position.
Scar's realm is solid, with his "big spot" at The Elephant Graveyard (which is a nice style choice for the story) and his other good spot at Pride Rock, which also has two Play a Card actions; giving him two locations at which he can release packs of hyenas. But the only Vanquish action is in the otherwise somewhat unremarkable The Gorge, which is another good reason to have access to Stampede on the regular. As you might expect from his goal, the majority of his Fate deck are Heroes and almost all of them are mid- to high-Strength Heroes (3+.) Simba is the most limiting among them, since Hungry Hyenas won't be able to have a Strength greater than 2. But the Effects are really the most devastating of the cards, with Prophecy adding +3 Strength and Hakuna Matada, worst of all, lowering the total of your Succession Pile and bringing a mid-Strength hero back from the dead. Scar's deck functions much like a race. Once the race has begun, it's a question of how quickly you can use your own cards like Long Live The King to complete your goal, since most opponents will, as with Prince John, attempt to avoid Fating you and putting you farther ahead than you otherwise can do yourself. Most of Scar's difficulty comes from, first, finding Mufasa and then being able to Vanquish often enough before someone else steals the crown from him.
Next time, we cover Cruella de Vil, Pete, Mother Gothel, Horned King, Gaston, and Lady Tremaine and then wrap things up.