Breaking In: Villains and Henchmen! Review
Villains and Henchmen! Review
- # of Players: 1-4
- Playtime: 60-75 Mins
- Ages: 12+
- Designer: Ben Lakner
- Publisher: Ravensdale Publishing
- On Kickstarter 19 July 2018 thru 19 August 2018
In Villains and Henchmen!, you enter the world of superheroes… on the other side of the law. Your caper? You and your “associates” are going to break one of the world’s worst supervillains out of lockdown. To do so, you must avoid obstacles, deal with those pesky guards, and do your best to survive when the world’s greatest hero’s find out just where you are and what you are up to. To succeed you and your “friends” must work together… But remember, in the end, only one of you will be the villain. The rest are just henchmen.
What I like
- Teamwork is essential for success in this game.
- Even though this is a co-op game, there is an element of competition.
- A different angle on the superhero genre.
What I don’t
- The game has a noticeable lack of “take that” components in light of the theme.
Playing the Game
Before play begins each player is randomly dealt two archetype cards. You then select one and discard the other. This archetype is the villain you will be playing as.
Villains and Henchmen! is played in turns, which have three phases, Refresh, Action, and Event. During the refresh phase players add guards or heroes to the board if there are none present at the beginning of the turn. They then lose any stored defense and ready any powers they have, or any cards on the board that have been exhausted. The action phase allows players to acquire new powers, assault guards, and heroes, and try to overcome or bypass obstacles. This is also the phase where they can prepare (or “bank”) defensive cards and power cards for use later. The last phase, Event, is when the heroes and the guards fight back. It is also when the event deck comes into play, often making life more difficult for your band of evildoers.
To win, players must meet all the victory conditions of the scenario they are playing. To be declared the winner, a player must have the most personal victory points at the end of a successful rescue.
Who are you?
The archetypes in Villains and Henchmen! corresponds, roughly, with many of the various villains found in comics and movies. The lunatic, for instance, would correspond to the joker, a rather chaotic character who is rather hard to predict and sometimes a threat to themselves as well.
Archetypes have a big impact on how you play Villains and Henchmen! Using the lunatic once more, if you defeat an obstacle or a hero, you can then defeat a guard for free. This makes the lunatic a really powerful villain, except she can’t choose which cards she discards when required to. This can cause a lot of trouble if you happen I need a card she randomly discards. Another example is “The Goons”, who get an extra power, which can be very powerful… but they can never raise a power to 2ndlevel, which can be somewhat detrimental.
Playing nice with others…
Even though Villains and Henchmen! requires players to work together, and overcome obstacles and enemies as a team, it is not a good idea to lose site of the fact that ultimately you are trying to be the most powerful villain, and therefore the leader, in this group. To this end, the player with the most victory points at the end of the game is the winner, but victory points are also needed to succeed at your rescue attempt… and can be used to purchase powers… So many decisions to make. The key is to strike a balance between looking out for number one and making sure your “team” succeeds.
For a limited time only…
The power decks, where all those nifty superpowers are stored, serves two purposes in Villains and Henchmen!. The first is just what you would expect: acquiring new powers to subdue your foes. The second one, however, isn’t as helpful to your goals: the power decks are the timer of the game. When either deck runs out of cards, you have run out of time. And considering you have to discard at least one of those cards every turn, it is in your best interest to hurry.
Rank and File…
With one major exception, the guards are cannon fodder used to soften you up a little before the real threat arrives. Guards typically make you discard a card or victory point when they arrive on the scene. They slow you down, making it harder for you to beat the clock. Other things they do to make your life a little harder include making you discard victory points, boosting the other guards in play, and reducing the damage you deal. Basically, being a nuisance, but not too damaging.
Now for that exception. The Medic. You will loathe the Medic. All that hard work beating down those other guards. Then you get the misfortune of drawing this guy and he undoes it all. And to add insult to injury, he brings one defeated guard back into play.
Those pesky do-gooders…
While many of the heroes in Villains and Henchman are guards on steroids, a number of them are much more dangerous. When these heroes come out to play things can go from smooth sailing to handbasket to hades in a matter of moments. These characters pack a punch that will quickly end your career if you are not prepared for them. And often that punch is the first in a series of punches. For instance, the Speedster. This nice lady will start by making you discard a card you have banked, like a defense card or a power card. Then she is going to make you discard a victory point… Then every turn after that the active player gets to discard another card. And if her friend the Tank just happens to be with her, you’re gonna have to go through him first. Good luck getting through that thick hide of his.
Just a little something to make you feel unwelcome
What would a prison for evildoers be without a security system in place to help the forces of good thwart attempts at breaking out? Turns out they are just as good at keeping you from breaking in. The obstacle deck is full of recurring setbacks for your team of ne’er-do-wells. From summoning new heroes and guards to reducing your damage, to forcing you to bang your head against a reinforced locked door. These systems are there for one reason, to make your life miserable until help arrives.
Villains and Henchmen! is unique in that it is a semi-cooperative game where players take on the roles of villains working together in an attempt to rescue a fellow villain being held in a top-secret location. I like that the “villains” are facing opposition not just from the superheroes of the world, but also the personnel of the facility they are assaulting and the facility itself. And if you are not paying attention, that opposition will overwhelm you. Just like if you were trying to assault a heavily guarded, highly trained, top secret facility in the real world.
There is a good variety of archetypes, powers, and opposition you face and that means you are not likely to face the same game twice. Add to this that the win conditions for each scenario are different and you have a very replayable game.
I do have one issue with the game, however, In a game where players are competing to be the “Villain,” and not a henchman, I didn’t see any means of sabotaging your “teammates.” Players are supposed to be members of the criminal underworld, it would stand to reason that there would be some underhanded dealings, shaky alliances, and some outright backstabbing as each villain is trying to be the worst baddy in the group.
Villains and Henchmen! plays well, and though the number of decks may seem daunting at first, the game is actually pretty easy to learn and play. My personal recommendation is to don your best spandex suit, put on one of those scary masks you have hidden away in the back of your closest and get ready for some villainous fun.