This is the first of three villain books for Champions, the superhero setting for the Hero System. The Champions Universe has been around in one form or other since 1981, and is rich and textured. With the release of the Sixth Edition of the Hero System rules, it's time to update some classic villains and add some new ones.
Champions Villains Volume One: Master Villains gives you pretty much what it says on the tin; master villains who can each take on an entire team of superheroes. These are the Biggest of the Big Bads, each capable of being the end-point of an entire campaign.
The villains each get a multi-page write-up, with history, personality, and suggestions for how to use them in your campaign. And, of course, the all-important stats. Many of them also have minions, from those that are powerful super villains in their own right, to nameless mooks and robot drones. Even before you pop open Volumes II and III you'll have villain teams and thugs to throw at your mighty heroes.
There is a good range of villains here, whatever your campaign, you should find something for you. You have those with secret bases and armies of minions, but also villains who work on their own. There are villains who are technological, magical, even political. Classical megalomaniacs out to conquer the world, those who want to destroy it, and those that just want a big pile of cash.
There's a good power spread too, given that they're all "master" villains. Once you've fought Doctor Destroyer and won, you can start getting into the more cosmic level of no less than three villains who conquer entire dimensions.
In a way, though, I wonder if there's a little too much here - I can't imagine you'd ever be able to use everyone in this book. Like I said, you could pin an entire campaign on at least half of them, and never even look at the others. That may be true of any "monster manual" book, though.
The art is colour throughout, with each villain, and most of the mooks and minions getting a protrait. Overall, the art is... variable. Not particularly in terms of "good" and "bad", but there are at least three very different styles. The painterly and more typical comic-book styles kind of clash with a more "animated" one. I don't think the "animated" style is particularly bad, but it is a little jarring. A couple of those are of people who don't dress up in superhero costumes, and I think a more detailed rendering would have been better.
One thing I didn't particularly like was the number of references to the Champions Universe product - for example, there's an Alpha-Beta-Gamma-Omega rating system for villains that isn't even briefly explained, just a reference to CU given. It made the book feel like it didn't really stand alone. It's only a niggle, but it was something I noticed.
Random thoughts: I was surprised by the number of Canadian villains.
Slug looks an awful lot like an evil Earthworm Jim.
Overall, I think this is a really good product, and one you almost certainly want if you're running any Champions at all. There's plenty to plunder for any superheroes game, whatever the system, and even for other genres.
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