Oh god. Disney IP at work. This can’t possibly be good.
Villainous is a game where up to six players take on the roles of some of Disney’s most nefarious villains: Maleficent, Jafar, Captain Hook, The Queen of Hearts, Ursula, or Prince John (animal version). Each player has a board with four sections full of actions they can take on their turns, a deck of cards, and a second deck of Fate cards to throw them off track, but that’s largely where the similarities between the characters end.
In keeping with the small but growing trend towards asymmetrical gaming, Villainous offers a different win condition for each character, a different deck of cards with different items and abilities, different Fate cards (which reflect that character’s nemeses—Captain Hook has all the children from Peter Pan, for example)—and different sets of actions on each of their four board sections. In fact, not all characters have access to all four sections on their boards at the start of the game, or at any point—Ursula constantly has one end of the board or the other locked off.
Each turn, the player takes their very well-made pawn and moves it to a board section other than the one they were just on (think Scythe). They then perform all the actions on that section. This can be partially thwarted by their enemies; one action is to play a Fate card off someone else’s deck, which can be used to cover the top two actions on one section of that player’s board. These heroes can’t be defeated unless the player puts minions on, or moves them to, the same space with power equal to or greater than the hero’s. Items can be attached to minions to make them stronger, but the same goes for the heroes. It’s a take-that mechanic without the rage inducement; rarely does a player not have any board options without all of the actions on it available unless they’re winning handily and everyone is coming after them, in which case, hey, be a better villain.
For a deck-based game, the balance between when people reach their win conditions is pretty remarkable. This isn’t to say that everyone gets there at about the same time, but rather that everyone has a win condition other players can see coming. Whoever’s closest to winning can get slowed down, but not to a degree that effectively stops them from being able to win unless they get dogpiled hard (which is itself just a strategy that hands the game to someone else). It could have been successful with any theme; the game is strong.
But beyond that, Villainous has more flavor than atomic wings. All the minions, heroes, items, abilities, and everything else associated with each villain is spot on. The game even allows for some seriously messed up situations; for example, Jafar can hypnotize Aladdin and make him kill Jasmine. If you don’t think that’s great—not the domestic violence aspect, but the sheer evil in the act of making it happen and the fact you can get so dark—this game might not appeal to you as much as others.
It’s a really good game, though. Play it. You want to be bad. You do. You doooooo.
(4.2 / 5)
A comic book like Flavor isn’t typically my go to genre. These near slice of life style hobby comics don’t usually catch my interest, but Flavor had a charm at first glance I don’t usually get from these kind of comics. The obviously Hayao Miyazaki world building style and art is an eye catcher, and while the book is obviously very western, it draws from some great art design and styles of animation and comic book history, and that’s a big +1 for me. But art and style isn’t quite enough for me, and Flavor is going to have to provide something as a reader I can usually forgive in genres more geared toward my interest: an extremely compelling story and cast of characters. All faith in Image aside, that task falls to the creative team.
Flavor is set in an interesting enough world that throws away realism for its setting, a fantasy world focused primarily around cooking. It’s a swords and shields fantasy but also gives a very anime 1920’s type of vibe. It’s a clever mix that works extremely well from a visual standpoint. Chefs are the true celebrities around here. Owning and running a restaurant is one of the most demanding and rewarding things you can possibly do. Being a world class chef is only a pipe dream to most, a near unreachable goal but ambition aside, Xoo is a young, unlicensed chef struggling to make a name for herself and take care of her family. Her endearing personality and trusty dog companion certainly help her along the way though, and in classic shonan anime style, it seems she’ll work until she’s the very best, even against all odds. But there seems to be much darker things going on in the shadows of the world, and when the setting turns out to be a completely walled city, we learn of some potentially evil entities in existence. But are they keeping people in, or keeping something out?
Flavor’s setting and its worldbuilding are what really shine here. Xoo’s dog is the star of the show in perfect Miyazaki fashion. It’s basically a human. Regardless of its inability to talk, it can basically do anything a person can do, which just makes it adorable. Xoo is an endearing and likeable enough character but the world and characters around her outshine her, yet another common trait of anime styled settings. These worlds that are built very specifically around one thing like cooking is a common method in these storytelling styles, but it makes for a very malleable way to tell a story, and it allows you to prioritize and make interesting something that otherwise doesn’t carry much weight by itself. Becoming the world’s best cook might make for an interesting story, but a world where everyone wants to be the world best chef? That’s attractive to a reader/watcher and that’s why Flavor succeeds where it otherwise may fail. Flavor still isn’t my go to style or my go to genre, but it has a lot of elements worth mentioning and I’m sure people that are more into this style would have have a great time with this, so I’m looking forward to the buzz around this comic later down its run.
(3.5 / 5)
Ah yes, my favorite coined term: Imagocalypse, continues with Isola #1, a new fantasy comic written by Brenden Fletcher made famous in recent months by Motor Crush, yet another, but unique image ongoing series. He’s also done some other cool things like Batgirl and Gotham Academy. Anyway, this comic is total eye candy, and like most other Image #1’s you take one look at the inside of the comic book and you’re like “Yup I have to read this.” seriously, this comic book is gorgeous. As much as I rag on Image for their oversaturation of of these comics I can’t deny how appealing to the eye they seemingly always are upon first glance. That being said, does Isola belong in the backlog of my graphic novel list I’ll probably never be able to finish as it grows faster than I can shrink it, or is this a comic I’ll explore further with single issues? My subscription list shrinks all the time as I grow tired of filling my short boxes too fast – so only a select few great titles don’t get relegated to the cheaper graphic novel form. Art won’t carry Isola to victory, even if it gets it close, so hopefully Image delivers again with Isola #1.
We’re thrown into a fantasy world we don’t know a much about, which is a growing trend among these fantasy stories, and we quickly meet Rook, who you can assume is some kind of royal guard, who’s acting as an escort for the Queen of the land, or at least some kind of land. The Queen, for reasons unknown has fallen under some kind of evil spell or curse and has been transformed into a black tiger with blue stripes. It’s somewhat unclear whether or not the Queen can really understand her situation, or even understands our main protagonist, but funny dialogue ensues as Rook tries to communicate with the stubborn and lazy big kitty cat. It’s apparent that the two are on a secret journey of sorts to a land named, ding ding: Isola. As they journey through the perils of a jungle-type wasteland, their relationship keeps their moods uplifted and their preparation keeps Rook’s sword sharp.
First of all, while the cover of this comic book is wonderful to look at, the title of the comic is completely unreadable. Maybe that’s a minute detail to criticize, but googling this comic book originally was actually difficult because the font of the title is so unreadable. It looks like Jsoia or Jsdla, no joke. That’s a problem. Hopefully they’ll fix it or they’re going to be in trouble. The story itself doesn’t have much weight to it yet. There’s a lot of questions and little answered in this first issue. In the case of a good comic, writers can get away with that annoying trait, and like I mentioned earlier it’s a quickly growing trend among these stories. Luckily the quirky personality of the Queen in lion form and the relationship between these two main characters, as well as the art carry the otherwise confusing and overly unexplanatory first issue. I can’t really say whether I think there’s something truly special here. With comics like Descender and Diesel, it was apparent from the very beginning the comic book would be a hit. This one, is a little harder to tell. However, there’s a great creative team with an obviously fleshed out story with a lot of issues ahead of them, so keep your eyes on Isola, and we’ll see where it goes from here.
(4 / 5)