Evil Overlord Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.

The Basics:

  • For ages 6 and up
  • For 3 to 10 players
  • Variable game play length (approximately 10 minutes per round)

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • To rule all evil, you must first command it


  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Contemporary American crime writer, Patricia Cornwell, said “I believe the root of all evil is abuse of power.” In this game, abusing power by any means possible is the name of the game. You are a lesser lord of evil, but what you really want to be when you grow up is an Evil Overlord, the supreme ruler of all of things “not good or even remotely great”. But there’s a catch. You are not the only one with ambition and the hordes of evil at your command can be cantankerous. Oh, well. If it was easy, you’d most likely wouldn’t want the job.

Evil Overlord, designed by Ed Jowett and to be published by Shades of Vengeance, will reportedly be comprised of 108 cards. Since this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality. The artwork provided by Sophia Michailidou is outstanding, covering everything from high fantasy to high-tech.

Enter the Ring

To set up the game, first take the cards and shuffle.

Second, deal to each player 7 cards each. Players should look at their cards, but keep them hidden once dealt.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin.

There Can Be Only One Evil Overlord

Evil Overlord is played in rounds, turns, and phases with no set number of rounds or turns per game. A typical game turn is summarized here.

Phase One: Trade

The trading phase is all about haggling in an attempt to collect cards to command an army through a trade. There are four armies in total. These are the “Terrifying Undead”, the “Subjects of the Dark Elf Empire”, the “Emotionless Robots”, and the “Horrific Creatures”. Each army is comprised of monsters and special abilities.

A trade is initiated by any player by pointing to an opponent and stating a number out loud that represents the number of cards they are willing to trade for. For example, “Five!” The only catch is that a player can never trade for more cards than they have in their hand.

The opponent the active player pointed to can accept or reject the offer by either saying no or countering with another number value. In addition, any other opponent can counter the offers being provided or accept the offer from any player.

All trades our done out in the open and simultaneously. There can be one or multiple trades happening at the same time. This can be confusing at first, but think of it like being on the floor of the World Stock Exchange. Lots of people are calling out numbers looking for a trade. When the right person says the right number, jump in. Or, if you want to start your own, shout out a number and see what response you get.

No information can be provided when trading the cards. That is to say, players trading cannot say “Hey, I’m giving you [name of card]!” or “Wow, you gave me [insert name of card here]!” If any such information is provided, the trade is immediately null and void. The number of cards agreed upon are handed over to the trading party at the same time, resulting in both parties ending up with a full hand of cards once the trade is completed.

The important point to make here is that players are trading “away” cards. Or, to put it another way, they are giving away cards they do not want. If you hear an opponent say “Five”, that means they have five cards in their hand they think are junk. Of course, one player’s junk is another player’s treasure. Or, in this case, army. Because trades are semi-blind (only the player who has the cards knows what they are giving away, not what they are getting), it’s possible that the player gets cards that are of the same army type they just traded away for. If so, tough luck. Keep trading!

When any player is done trading, they put their hand of cards face-down in front of them, signifying they are done with the Trade phase. A player who is done trading cannot participate for the duration of the phase. Remember which player ended their trading first, as it will be used in the next phase.

Note that there is no time limit for this phase of the game. It could take a minute or two or longer. It all depends on when the players want to stop trading. The last player who wants to trade is somewhat “skunked”. They don’t lose any points, but they are forced to keep whatever cards are in their hand, for better or for worse. This means players should trade as fast as they can and end their trading as soon as they think they have a “killer army”.

Phase Two: Battle

After all players have signified that they are done trading (or only one player is left who wants to trade but cannot due to their opponents no longer wanting to trade), each player picks up their hand and decides which army they want to battle with. The player must select to play cards from one and only one of the four armies. All cards not part of that army are discarded, leaving only those the player has elected to use in their hand.

After every player has selected an army, they play their cards face-up in a row in front of them, starting with the monster with the highest Power value (a number noted on the card’s upper right corner under the army type).

All players now go through their row of monsters in their selected army, starting with the highest Power value and moving down. Each ability is resolved, effecting all opponents at the table. Once the highest Power value has been resolved, the next highest Power level is resolved and so on until all the cards are resolved.

If more than one player has the same Power value in play, the player who finished trading first goes first, at which point turn order then proceeds clockwise. If the first player to end trading is not part of the current battle, the next player in turn order sequence is the first player to resolve their card and so on until all players with the same Power value have resolved their card.

After all the players have resolved their cards, any that are left over are collected by the owning player and the Power value of all the cards in their hand is added together to determine the player’s total Army Power value.

Ending the Round and the Game

The player with the highest Army Power value has won the round and is declared to be the “Evil Overlord”. If only one round of game play is possible, the player who is the Evil Overlord is also the overall winner. If, however, another round of game play is wanted, the Evil Overlord of the round takes their cards and places them face-down in a pile next to them. Each pile counts as a round of victory. All other cards are discarded.

For the next round, take the remaining cards in the game and begin a new round by dealing seven cards to each player. Never shuffle the discarded cards back into the deck. When there are no more cards left in the deck to play a round, the game comes to an end. The player with the most collected piles of cards (won at the end of the previous rounds) wins the game and is the true Evil Overlord.

To learn more about Evil Overlord, visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks had a lot of fun with Evil Overlord, especially during the trading phase. They shouted out trade numbers one at a time at first, waiting to see who would counter. By the time they had finished several games, the trade phase was a free-for-all, with the Child Geeks shouting out numbers to initiate and counter trades. Cards were passed faster than hotcakes at a church pancake dinner and there were many “YES!” and “NO!” shouts to be heard, which is about the only thing you can say in the game other than number values. According to one Child Geek, “I really like it! It’s fast and fun!” It’s fast and the fun value really comes in two waves. The trading, which is a lot of chaotic entertainment, and the battle, which is the big reveal. As one Child Geek put it, “I love it when you show your cards and you hear the other players groan.” Most battles, however, were not one-sided. Cards were compared, removed, and the final score of the round was always a surprise. When all the battles were done, the Child Geeks voted to approve Evil Overlord.

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game. A self-described “casual gamer to the extreme” said, “Easy rules and fast play make this a great game to be played at any occasion. Be it waiting at the table in the restaurant with the kids or out on the back porch with friends.” Because the game only has 108 cards and nothing else, Evil Overlord requires very little table space. However, since players have to sometimes shout over each other during trading, playing the game in a location that normally requires silence (say the library) is somewhat difficult but still possible. Another Parent Geek said, “A great game for a quick filler or whenever I have the right people at the table who I want to battle over a beer or two.” The game is very casual and fits easily into just about any situation, beverages included or not. When the Parent Geeks were done with their armies, they retired and voted to fully approve Evil Overlord.

The Gamer Geeks were mixed. One Gamer Geek who did not like the game very much said, “This is essentially War with a few gimmicks. I didn’t care for it at all.” The “gimmicks” the Gamer Geek alluded two were the trading and the abilities on some of the cards. According to the same Gamer Geek, you could create the same type of game with a deck of standard playing cards. Which turned out to be somewhat true, sans abilities. The only thing the players had to do was pick which suit to use. But not all the Gamer Geeks agreed. According to one Gamer Geek who rather enjoyed the game, “It’s light and easy and a lot of fun. I think the real magic comes through with the trading interaction. The rest of the game is just showing cards.” For the most part, the majority of the Gamer Geeks thought Evil Overlord was a bit too light and highly repetitive. Entertaining, but not altogether engrossing. The final vote left Evil Overlord without the Gamer Geeks’ approval.

Evil Overlord is bone simple and that is part of its charm. But I do not agree with some of the Gamer Geeks who think the game itself can be duplicated with a standard deck of cards. To suggest such a thing completely discounts the card abilities, which should not be so carelessly dismissed. While not every card has an ability, those that do are powerful and potential game changers. I once started a trade with a “six” (all but one of my cards in the my hand) simply because one of my initial cards had such a great ability that I wanted to use. Likewise, I switched what army I was attempting to collect due to the ability of a card I just received in a trade. Some abilities are powerful enough to make a small army into a force strong enough to compete against a larger army. Remember, it only takes one point more than your opponents to win the round. Such a point could be won easily with the right ability in play.

The armies themselves are there for narrative and do not really have any other role to play in the game other than to keep the different armies separated. Still, it was fun imagining I was controlling a vast army of the undead or programming a battalion of robotic terminators. Furthermore, it was entertaining to see a Dragon take out a hordes of undead and elves. The different genres battling each other brought back memories of other such genre-clashing games, such as Smash Up and Zombie Ninja Pirates.

The best part of the game is by far the trading. You can have a lot of fun during this phase and make some incredible trades. You cannot help but feel like a super star when you get your cards back from a trade and you have everything you need to win. As the trade phase continues, the pressure is slowly turned up. Whenever a player ends their trading, it forces the rest of the players still actively trading to consider the worth of their hand. Some cards you do not want to be left with and you can always end up with cards you do not want. By the time trading comes to an end, it feels a bit like running a sprint. Tired and out of breath, the battle itself is a welcome respite from all the activity and energy just spent with the trades.

Do give Evil Overlord a try when the chance presents itself. The game plays quickly and there is a lot of fun to be had with the right people. And by “right”, I mean talkative and energetic. Evil Overlord will fall flat if trades are done with minimal effort and the battles are nothing more than showing cards. Be brave! Be bold! Be loud! Your army’s strength is based not only on their Power level, but the player’s ability to really get into the game. Evil or not, lording over your opponents after a successful battle feels pretty good.

This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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