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You want to be an evil overlord, but with the four creature factions refusing to fight alongside each other, you’re going to have to pick a side and trade your way into a fighting force that can wipe out the others.

Evil Overlord is a five minute card game that is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. It asks one simple question: what kind of army of darkness will you raise?

Gameplay

The deck is made up of 108 cards. These are minion cards from four different factions: Creatures, Dark Elf Empire, Undead, and Mechs.

Each player is dealt seven cards. You may look at these cards but you do not show them to anyone else. Cards say which faction they belong to, their power level, and ability (if any).

There are two phases of the game: the trading phase and the battle phase. During the trading phase, players announce how many cards they’d like to trade. When you propose a trade, another player can accept it or even propose a counter offer. If a trade goes through, players exchange the number of cards agreed on. Your hand total must always be seven so you cannot, for example, trade three cards for two.

You are not allowed to say anything about the cards you are trading. All you know about the trade is the number of cards involved.

There is no turn order as you trade. Players may trade freely, and as much as they like. You may trade with the same player multiple times. Once you are satisfied with your hand, you place if face down on the table. You cannot change your mind and get back into the trading after this.

After all players have finished trading, the battle phase begins. Players announce which of the four factions they are fighting with, discarding any cards that do not belong in that faction. Then they all place their remaining cards on the table face up.

First, abilities are resolved, with creatures with higher power levels using their abilities first. Some abilities will force cards to be discarded. After abilities, players add up the power level of all their remaining cards. The player with the highest number wins and becomes the new Evil Overlord. You can either end the game there, or continue to play more rounds until the deck is depleted, in which case the player who has won the most rounds is the one true Evil Overlord and winner of the game.

Evil Overlord Cards

Review

Evil Overlord is simple and straightforward. You can learn the rules in a matter of minutes and you’re off and playing. The fact that it’s quite a portable little game and can be played with up to ten players, makes it ideal for gatherings and groups.

While trades are mostly blind, the fact that they’re done in a free-for-all format means you have to make decisions quickly — a trade might not be on the table for very long before another player takes it. You can also sometimes get an idea of what kind of hand a player might be building, based on what they pass you. The more players in the game, the more you have to remember during the trading phase and the more challenging it becomes.

During the battle, abilities sometimes interact with each other in unexpected ways and the rulebook could use a little more explanation on how some of these situations play out. Some abilities are also quite powerful, so you need to be careful before handing those off. Even if it belongs to the faction you’re not planning on bringing into the fighting phase, it might be wise to hold onto and discard it, rather than risk having that ability used against you by another player.

All these choices and layers to the trading comes together to create a lightning-fast game with some fun lightweight decisions as you manage your hand. It’s delightful, satisfying, and a lot of fun. Well worth checking out on Kickstarter.

Pros: Portable, trading free-for-all mechanics are enjoyable, very quick little game

Cons: Rulebook could use some explanation for card abilities

UPDATE: The publisher has agreed to create a player help page on their website to resolve any confusion on different scenarios players might encounter.

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.