I've already talked about how different games by Seiji Kanai have clearly become popular and Tobie and I are not immune to this allure. After we fell in love with Love Letter, we were significantly more away about Kanai's contributions to the industry. And thus it became rather interesting to encounter other games designed by him on store shelves - and this also made them games to seriously consider.
Say Bye to the Villains first piqued our interest because (1) it appeared to be a game involving samurai and (2) it boasted of being able to support up to 8 players is something we always welcome for our game nights. And for this to be accomplished by a card game certainly had us even more curious. And so we eventually bought the game and had no major regrets since.
Say Bye to the Villains is a cooperative strategy card game created by Seiji Kanai and reprinted in English by AEG. It requires a minimum of 3 players to play and can support up to 8 players without additional expansion sets or things of that nature.
The game has each player taking on the role of some legendary figure, all noble warriors in their own right with the souls of true samurai. Each role card features a particular strength value and defense values along with special abilities. Given this, each hero must eventually face off one of the villains that are arrayed in their path. And each player can only handle one villain during the game in a true showdown.
But the villains also have different stat values and they also have additional cards helping them in their efforts to defeat the heroes. Thus heroes take turn playing cards to provide themselves with additional training, thus boosting their stats or perhaps ways to reduce the effectiveness of the villains. But heroes also need to determine which player will take on which villain early on in order to provide time to develop appropriate strategies.
But you can't just keep playing cards. Each hero has 10 points of time to deal with an enemy and each card played can add or subtract to one's running time total. So it's not about playing as many cards as possible but instead making the most of the limited time available to to you in order to find a way forward.
Of course there are other special actions out there like discarding cards in hand in order to get a glimpse of some of the support cards boosting the villains and other such things. All these nuances can potentially help the players, but can also result in spending more time points and thus limiting your options when facing your villain.
Once all cards have been played and no more time units are free, then the showdowns begin and each hero faces his villain and the various hidden support cards are revealed. With all cards out in the open, it becomes possible to determine who wins and loses and tally things up. And because you are a group of heroes facing off against these villains, any one villain who is not vanquished by a hero will result in the whole group losing. This is the final showdown after all - no one can be allowed to escape alive.
The game requires a different way of thinking and even just figuring out which villain will become your target can be tricky. There are just so many different unknowns that you have to deal with in the game and yet you have limited options for winnowing out the truth as well. The balance between your individual investigations and coordinating your actions with your fellow players make for quite the stressful game experience - and the villains aren't even actively opposing you! They just stand there waiting for the end of the hero actions and then they get resolved.
Say Bye To The Villains is an elegantly complex strategy game that really provides for interesting play sessions and compelling strategies. Admittedly it's quite difficult to win, but this just makes those moments of victory all the sweeter when they come around. Thus the game gets 4 devilish villain support cards out of a possible 5.