Sunday, 16 November 2014

Say Bye to the Villains

The game's description says it all:
"A cooperative game of vanquishing villains".

Within the cooperative spectrum of games, I much prefer this game over Hanabi and Pandemic ...although the game might not appeal to everyone*.

Literally: "Punishment to the villains"

Name: Say Bye to the Villains (2012)

Trivia: Apparently the Chinese characters on the box, 成敗, are actually pronounced "Sei Bai" (Japanese Kanji pronunciation) meaning punishment, hence the pun in the title.

Designer: Seiji Kanai, with artist Noboru Sugiura

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), amongst others

Players: 3 to 8 - arguably harder to win with more players (but that makes the game fun).

Age: 12+

Time to play: 30 to 45 minutes?

Price Range (AUD): $23 to $30 (if ordering from eBay be prepared to pay the extra $40 shipping, which is absurd)

Availability: Seems to be available online,

Genres
  • Cooperative
  • Beat the bad guys/ bosses
  • Card
  • Japanese Ninja/Samurai-themed

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.8* out of 10. (Great cooperative game - See my Rating Scale)

The classic final showdown between villain and hero is something that is well-known to video game, comic-book, fiction, and movie fans alike. That is one of the main reasons why I like this game: because the entire emphasis is on the ultimate head-to-head battle against a worthy foe.

All 8 heroes that may be selected by the group have a unique super power or trait, as do the 8 villains. The general gist of this game is that all players must defeat all of the villains in a final battle. In any given matchup, the battle is played out by comparing a villain and hero's Speed, Power and Life points. However before this happens the Heroes must spend time investigating the Villains in question to determine their strength and weaknesses, whilst boosting their own collective strength. The villains have all sorts of cunning tactics hidden up their sleeves such as hidden weapons, ambushes/traps and loyal henchmen all willing to fight for their cause.

I genuinely think this game does a good job of overcoming the main problem that Pandemic had: namely, and this is a common occurrence in cooperative games, the fact that one 'aggressive' or more outspoken person can boss everyone around by telling people what to do.

In contrast, in Say Bye to the Villains, it truly does feel like each player is in charge of their own character's destiny and is privy to the weaknesses and strengths of their character. That is to say, only you know what cards you have in your hand and whether you are strong enough to take on a villain (particularly if you are the only person who has checked on the strength of a certain villain). Therefore, it would be ridiculous, and largely impossible, for other players to simply give commands or orders to the group without at least consulting or discussing the options at hand (but of course, it is likely that a more vocal spokesperson for the group will emerge over time, but this is fine - in the spirit of cooperative games - so long as everyone is consulted).

I also find the variety of weapons and statistic boosters (for both Villains and Heroes) quite fascinating, and with the deck properly shuffled, there is almost always a tricky surprise in store for the good guys. For example, there is the Secret Passage card which gives a villain an extra 99 Life points - making him or her impossible to defeat unless the hero has the card that grants Infinite Power or a stalemate in the battle is an acceptable victory condition.

* Reduced from 8.2: Not everyone will like this game though, especially if they aren't into adding up numbers and don't relish the idea of a boss battle. Although I really like this game, my rating ought to consider the general populace - and the game might only satisfy a particular niche of people (ie. those who enjoy boss battles in a video-game type of game mechanic) for the reasons stated! But even then that doesn't stop it from being a great game!

The Good:
  • Provides a thrill of beating the bad guys and fighting evil bosses/ villains. The game has great thematic value in that respect.
  • Real groupwork required to win the game - everyone needs to contribute
  • There is considerable strategy involved. As a sidenote, some hero powers seem a bit weaker than others at first, but they actually do have their use if given more strategic thought. 
  • Can play a lot of people!! 
  • Massive variety of cards (loads of weapons and scenarios for both heroes and villains as well as power-ups)
  • Interesting combat concept of comparing statistics of to see who has won in a showdown. The Speed statistic is particularly cool, deciding who goes first (See below rules "Description of the Statistics by way of example") 

The Bad:
  • Quite hard to win (not necessarily a bad thing though)
  • The 'no communicating' rule is a bit suspect and sometimes hard to comply with (much in the same way as Hanabi) [See below "A Note on Communicating"]
  • Some of the actions are a bit difficult to grasp at first, particularly in respect of playing one card face down to represent that 1 unit of time has passed. The game may be difficult to explain to those who aren't really into games (or Role Playing Games specifically where your character's attributes are a key and familiar aspect of gameplay)
  • I kind of wish the villains and heroes had a wider array of special abilities
  • You won't like this game if you don't like adding up numbers, mildly difficult games or the idea of boss battles (which might be the case if you aren't into video games)*

What makes this game fun? 
If you are the type who enjoys a finale between villain and hero (as I suspect many of us out there are!) and if think you would enjoy that theme in the context of a cooperative game, then give this a go!





- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -









Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

The general aim of this game is to defeat all the bad guys. Each hero must take on a bad guy; but before that happens, some preparatory work needs to be undertaken!

Choose your villains

Draw as many villains as there are players (Eg. if playing a 5 player game, draw 5 villains).

There are 8 villains in total to choose from, half of which are shown below just to give you an idea of what they look like:


The number in the top right corner of the villains card indicates how many black "resource" or "situation" cards each villain receives facedown. These cards generally boost the villains powers significantly.

For example, Soubei Echigoya, whilst having relatively weaker statistics (4 Speed; 3 Power; 3 Life) has 7 resource cards to compensate for these low stats.

For example, this is what the villain setup would look like in a three player game, assuming Soubei, Jingoro and Houkai are the villains:



Choose your heroes or vanquishers

Now players draw as many heroes as there are players.

Also, draw the black vanquisher cards that correspond to the heroes in question. Just to give you an idea of what they look like, three heroes and their respective vanquisher cards (the ones with 'cool' looking outfits) are shown in the example below:

Hero cards on top; vanquisher cards on bottom (what they look like when they 'transform' and are about to fight the bad guys!)

The Vanquisher cards, seen in the bottom row of the above picture, have two uses. The first use occurs towards the end of the game, where the vanquisher card itself will be used by each hero to target a villain (by placing the vanquisher card next to a villain). No villain can be targeted twice and each hero must choose their own unique villain to fight!

The second use of the Vanquisher card is fantastic: the flipside of the card is a great summary of all the actions that can be used in the game:



Each player gets a hand of 7 white player cards which should be kept secret from all other players.

On your turn you may...

1) Play an action card. Obviously some action cards are more powerful than others (see below for some examples).

Concept of time: At this point it is important that I explain the concept of 'time' in this game

  • When you play an action card it costs a certain amount of time. Each player cannot play a card if this would send their total time to over 10 units (ie. each player only has a maximum time of 10). If a player reaches their time limit of 10 units, they MUST target a villain.

2) Use your vanquisher's special ability at the cost of 1 unit of time. For example, Tatsu can reveal 1 villain's black situation card at a cost of using up 1 unit of his time by flipping over any of the black cards like so:



3) Use a standard ability. Standard abilities each cost 1 time and they include:

  • Draw 1 card
  • Draw 2 cards, then discard 2 cards
  • Pass 1 card to any player
  • Check 1 situation card

4) Target a villain

___

When using Options 2) or 3) above, in order to represent that 1 unit of time has been used up, a player must play one of their cards face down. For example this is what the table might look like after several plays:


Observe that:

  • Mind Over Matter has a cost of 3 time (see the top left corner of the card);
  • God Speed has a cost of 4 time;
  • One face-down card has played, equating to a cost of 1 time (this was played to use a standard ability or a special ability);
  • Special Training has a cost of 2 time.

This player's total time is 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 = 10. Therefore they must immediately target a villain as they have reached their maximum limit.


Targeting and fighting villains

When all heroes have targeted a villain, a battle ensues between each villain and hero.
The statistics of both heroes and villains are added up and compared.

Using the above picture as an example Tatsu has:

Speed = 1 + Infinity = Infinite (due to "God Speed")
Power = 7 + 5 = 12 (due to "Special Training")
Life = 8 + 8 = 16 (due to "Mind over Matter")

Suppose that Tatsu targets Jingoro the Wild Dog and that these are the revealed situation cards of Jingoro:



The final statistics of Jingoro are, therefore:

Speed = 5 + 5 (Hidden Pistol) - 3 (Debauchery) = 7
Power = 5 + 5 + 3 (Thug, and Jingoro's special ability that Thug values are tripled) - 3 = 10
Life = 8 + 3 (Thug, and special ability) + 99 (Secret Passage - a crazy card) = 110

Description of the Statistics by way of example

In a showdown, Speed dictates who attacks first. If the person defending survives, they get to counterattack. After that no further attacks are made.

To win, ALL heroes must:

1) Not die (ie. Lose all their life, which occurs if the Villain's Power > Hero's Life) AND
2) Be able to kill the villain (ie. Hero's Power > Villain Life).

In the above example, Tatsu has the higher speed (Infinite > 7) and therefore attacks first. However his crazy speed won't do him much good because his Power (ie. damage) is only 12 which is nowhere close to destroying Jingoro's Life of 110.

Jingoro would then counterattack with a Power of 10, which is not enough to overcome Tatsu's Life of 16.

This ends in a Stalemate as neither side has died. Unless the victory condition has changed (which rarely happens), the heroes lose as a stalemate is not enough for a victory.

A Note on Communicating

If you do find out information about a villain, you must never reveal the statistics or the items stated on any of the villain's black cards. The same rule applies to what you have in your hand - you can't mention the name of the cards you have nor can you mention the precise numerical statistics they give.

So you could never say:

  • "Jingoro has a speed of 13"
  • "Jingoro has a Secret Pistol"
  • "Jingoro has an item that gives him +5 speed"
  • "I have a card that gives +5 Life"
  • "I have the Meditation card"

However you CAN say things like these:

1) "I can handle that situation card"
2) "I can target Villain X"
3) "I reckon Player A and D can target Villain X, but Player C would get destroyed if they targeted Villain X."
4) "I need more Power, can anybody give me some?"
5) "Who needs Power? I can give them some?"
6) "Can anyone defeat Jingoro?"
7) "Can you investigate Jingoro for me please?"


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