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Evil Overlord Preview

Quick Look: Evil Overlord

Designer: Ed Jowett
Artist: Sophia Michailidou
Publisher: Shades of Vengeance
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 3-10
Ages: 6+
Playing Time: 5-10 min (per round)

WARNING: This is a preview of Evil Overlord. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


tl;dr: Two-phased card game- part Pit, part King of the Hill. 

Getting to the Game: 108 cards in the box, and that's all you'll need. Shuffle them as well as you possibly can, then deal 7 to each player. The game starts when everyone picks up their cards and then immediately begins trading.

The ultimate goal is to try and get as many cards as you can of the same faction. There are four of those in the box, so the more people at the table, the more likely it is there's going to be overlap. Once you're satisfied that you've done the best you can, you declare you're done trading and set your cards down. Once everyone's done, you turn over just the cards of the faction you're going to play with, and discard the rest. Starting with the highest-powered monster on the table, everyone resolves all their abilities until every monster has played. At the end, the highest-power total amongst all the armies wins*.

Playing the Game: Evil Overlord has two phases, and both are enjoyable on their own merits. The first phase is the market phase, where players declare how many cards they wish to part with from their hand, and try to convince others to give them the same number. This will feel very familiar to gamers who have played Pit. You're looking to trade with people who are trying to get monsters of a faction that isn't yours, and after a few trades, you'll start to get a sense of who's trading what. When you're convinced your army isn't going to get better, you lay down your hand, declaring that you're done trading. There's an art to this step, as declaring first means that you get to trigger your monster powers before others of the same rank. You could easily flail about for a while, trying to get a perfect seven, but oftentimes that's not going to happen, so you have to decide just how much you want to push.

After everyone's laid down their hands, everyone flips over their cards, and chooses the single faction they think is their strongest. This might not necessarily be the faction with the most cards- every card has a power ranking from 1 - 9, and if you have 3 high-ranking cards versus 4 lower-ranks, well... All other cards get tossed away. The most powerful monsters have game-changing effects, and they're at the top of the pile with 9 power. They go first, and these powers range anywhere from removing one random enemy from each opposing army to stealing a matching-faction monster from another player's army. Again, the order of operations is first by power, and then by who laid down first. This phase has a lot of interaction and mechanics, so it can be easy to get lost in all the ins and outs. Remembering to resolve one card fully before moving on to another will help a great deal. 

The preview copy I received has some templating issues (multiple cards refer to enemy and monster interchangeably), but the developer informs me that they're aware of that, and they'll be lined up. This is going to be key for understanding a game like Evil Overlord, because with only a line of text to tell you what a card does, it has to be crystal clear. Decisions in the market phase are made in a moment, so you can't get to the battle phase and then realize, "Oh, THAT'S what that card does?!" This could be resolved by a listing of card errata in the instruction book, but that doesn't help a player in the furiously fast market phase make a split-second card evaluation. The clearer the text can be, the better, and I look forward to changes on that level.

Apart from that, Evil Overlord plays quickly, and the cards that do things are interesting enough to make them priority over a ton of vanilla monsters. Do you keep the four Creature faction monsters you have that don't do anything, or do you dump them to try and match up the two Dark Elves that have strong abilities? Making these decisions quickly and tossing cards around the table feels great, and it really is fast enough to be exciting.

* A note about the endgame. It's a little confusing, because while most of the time, totalling up your power at the end, and then everyone saying a number will work. However, if anyone is playing the Mech faction, it's going to be more complicated. The Mech faction has abilities that give their monsters a power boost when in direct conflict with specific other factions. This means that you'll have to have a couple different numbers going for them. The mechs only win if they can beat every other army at the table, and if none of the armies in the battle can beat every other army, then no one wins. This hiccup feels bad, as a multi-way close game could be a lot of fun, but with the added math, and the likelihood that it's going to be a draw, you're left with just a waste of a round. 

Artwork and Components: The art of Evil Overlord looks very nice. Cards that are supposed to feel menacing are appropriately dark without coming off as brooding or morose. The mech faction looks very slick, and the Creatures faction all vary nicely. Overall, the card art is good.

There aren't any components to speak of, but I'll go back to what's actually on the cards for a moment. The card colors are Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue. I'm not colorblind, but Blue-Yellow is one of the more common types that I'm personally aware of. There are icons in the upper-right corner of the cards, and the Blue faction (Mechs) is represented by a metal gear. The Yellow faction is a white circle with the silhouette of a black rabbit in it. I don't believe these would be easily confused, so I'm glad the developer has put some thought into this. The problem I have, though, is that as you can see below, the action text is a light blue font against a "scratched-off" or "erased" white effect on the bottom of the card. This text is very hard to read to my eyes, and my play group echoed this sentiment. It's readable if you focus on it, but much could be done to make it more friendly. This isn't gamebreaking by any means, but it would be a nice fix before the retail version is released.

The Good: Very fun, quick trading gameplay is tense and exciting. Variable card powers are nicely implemented across the factions and aren't lopsided. Large card deck means that not all cards will make it to a single session unless you play through the whole deck, and being able to gauge what's in the round is key to winning.

The Bad: Mech faction's powers feel like too much work, and often will work against you through no fault of your own. Card templating and text needs to be cleaned up before launch.

Score: Evil Overlord is fast-paced and very interactive, pitting armies against each other in a battle royale. There's room for improvement, but that's on the way. When you're able to play quickly without worrying about the rules, it's a crazy mess of fun and anarchy. I'm giving Evil Overlord a score of Monster Melee.


On KICKSTARTER now! Campaign ends July 1, 2018.

About the Author:

Nicholas Leeman has been a board game evangelist for over 10 years now, converting friends and family alike to the hobby. He's also a trained actor and works summers as one of the PA announcers for the St. Paul Saints, a professional baseball team. He lives in Minneapolis, MN with his board gaming wife and son.
Evil Overlord Preview Evil Overlord Preview Reviewed by The Madjai on June 05, 2018 Rating: 5

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