Star Wars: Villainous Proves It's Good to Be Bad – Designer Mike Mulvihill Tells us All

24 April 2024
Proving it’s good to be bad, the Villainous range of games sees you playing as the evil characters of Disney’s catalogue. With a Star Wars version of the game finding epic expansions, we caught up with Mike Mulvihill, its game designer to find out what goes on behind the scenes in being tempted to the dark side…

Written by Charlie Pettit for Tabletop Gaming magazine

What is Villainous?


Villainous is a tabletop game where you take on the roles of a Villain (either Disney, Marvel or now Star Wars!) and you try to achieve their goal that usually is thwarted in their story” Mulvihill explains. In the original Disney animation-based games, that might see Ursula trying to become Queen of the Ocean, or Captain Hook being able to lure Peter Pan to his defeat.


Mike Mulvihill holds a Disney Villainous Piece

“I worked on Disney Villainous since the first set.” Mulvihill says of his creation, which has grown hugely from the first games success. His background design can be found in the likes of Shadowrun (TTRPG), Heroclix, and Pirates of the Spanish, as well as Horrified, also for Ravensburger.  “After that, we pushed for Marvel Villainous, and I helped create that version of the game. Our next target was Star Wars Villainous, and I started doing concepting on the game as we discussed with the licensor.”


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What is Star Wars Villainous?


“In Star Wars Villainous, you try as Darth Vader to tempt Luke to the Dark Side. Or as General Grievous, you want to collect 10 Lightsabers by defeating Jedi, who he hates. Meanwhile, your opponent Villains are playing Heroes at you to try and slow you down. This asynchronous play, where each Villain has their own goal, becomes a race to be the best and greatest Villain in the Galaxy!”


“There are a lot of directions we could have gone in adapting the Villainous system for Star Wars. A major part of my job is working with our product development team and the licensor to hone in on what elements of Star Wars will resonate with fans… and also translate to really fun game mechanics that feel completely on theme. For instance, we wanted to add cool Ships to the game. That meant combing through storylines we wanted to pursue, game mechanics we wanted to introduce, Villains we wanted to see… and working with the licensor to adapt and adjust until we’ve captured the true Star Wars experience.”


Related article: Through the Ages – Star Wars on Tabletop


We ask, having loved the many Star Wars games that have come to fruition over the years, what makes Star Wars Villainous stand out?


“The Villains!” Mulvihill answers immediately, which we can’t help but agree with. It really is in the name. “You get to be a classic iconic Star Wars villain. I think our ability to take these great stories and make them into a game, while being that Villain, separates Star Wars Villainous from other games. Plus, if you know Villainous there are new mechanics within the game itself – not only ships but a Restriction punishment that limits the Villain, that comes directly from their story, and we have an Ambition mechanic that mimics the Force as well as each Villain’s inner drive. If you love Star Wars and love their Villains. This is for you”


Who is in Star Wars Villainous?


We begin every Villainous set by asking: who is our compelling headliner or cover character? Who is that villain that’ll stop you while scrolling or walking down the aisle. Who is the villain makes you say “Whoa–look who is in Villainous!” Sometimes that’s popularity – sometimes it’s an iconic unique silhouette. We keep a list of them. But we only do a few a set so some don’t make it … but we have plenty more opportunities!



From there, we aim to create a compelling set of Villains in each game. We do this through considering things like eras or styles, objectives or play patterns, deep cut characters or surprises and many other criteria to ensure an awesome product.


Plus, we work with the licensor directly on this. They will help us determine what Villains they would like to see and which they think works together. In Star Wars we try to have a Force user (Sith) and a non-force user (Boba Fett, Cad Bane, General Grievous … etc.). That gives us plenty of options. Personally, there is one Villain I haven’t had a chance to do that I really want to but that’s a secret…


To be honest I can’t believe I was able to do Cad Bane! Seriously, that is incredible to me!”


While we try to guess who the secret Villain might be, knowing that in the huge Star Wars Universe, there are hundreds it could be, we have been treated to some great options already – the aforementioned Cad Bane and Boba Fett appear in the Scum and Villainy Expandalone, alongside the Seventh Sister, where the core game offered Moff Gideon, Asajj Ventress, Kylo Ren, General Grievous, and Darth Vader. It's reassuring to see that across the Star Wars games, there’s no attempt to hide behind only familiar characters. Asajj Ventris appears in The Clone Wars animated series, and more recently the Bad Batch, but doesn’t appear in the core set of films – yet has earned her place within the game for simply being a cool villain. It takes a fan of the franchise overall to know who works particularly well without relying on villains who have seen the cinema screen.


Made by Star Wars Fans


Since the beginning!” Confirms Mulvihill, when we ask if he’s a Star Wars fan. “I saw Star Wars in the theatre in 1977 and was hooked even back then. This year is the 25th Anniversary of The Phantom Menace. It came out on my daughter’s first birthday. I was in the theatre that night. Working with the licensor on Star Wars Villainous has pushed me to have an even deeper understanding of the world and characters – especially each of the character’s stories spanning across decades of different media. I have such an appreciation for the scope of what was created during my lifetime.”


The enthusiasm comes across in the games, as well as in the resultant mechanics.



“As a game designer I keep a list of mechanics that I’d like to use but can never find the right place for. In our discussions on the ships of Star Wars, we kept trying to find the right way to use them. One of my dream mechanics was to figure out a way to have new locations with new actions appear during a game. Once I made the combination of using this dream mechanic with the Star Wars ships, it really was a huge personal breakthrough that works in the game. To have the joy of the Millennium Falcon appear mid-game … well that’s just awesome!”


What's the next Villainous?


“We have announced the next set will be out later this summer.” Mulvihill says. “All I can say right now is that it is EPIC”. Not that Mulvihill is staying still for long though. “Villainous is going strong and we have no plans to stop. We have announced Sugar and Spite featuring King Candy and Shere Khan for Disney Villainous…I have other games from Ravensburger that I work on that will be announced soon, including a new Horrified. If someone would have told 15-year-old Mike that I’d spend my day making games, deep diving into Disney and Star Wars movies and TV shows and reading comics – I would have called them a liar. Well, here I am – doing exactly that and loving it!”


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