With all those Advanced Abilities on the villain, I thought for sure it was going to boost up the difficulty a lot. To my surprise, we're still winning the cooperative game just as often as we had been when using the basic rules instead of advanced. The villain's Advanced Abilities are basically watered down by the additional Secrets cards, that make treachery less likely.
In fact, we've only lost the game twice total, once to the scarecrow on Basic, and once to the Dellion Dryad (a "web extra" downloadable villain) on Advanced. That's out of more than a dozen plays. We've had a few close scrapes, but as long as you get to the showdown, it seems the PCs are almost certain to win out in a cooperative game. The villains just aren't as powerful as you imagine them to be. We've decided, starting with our next play, to start using the Optional Showdown Chart to spice it up and add to the difficulty. I'm really glad they provided that chart, because as you get better at the game, it needs a little boost to the tension.Now that we've transitioned to the Advanced rules, I'm really glad we're playing the cooperative version. If not, I think my opinion of the game may have suffered when we hit Advanced.
In particular, the new Secrets cards have an annoying amount of "gray area". I'm specifically talking about "Hero of the People" and "On The Hunt". In our most recent game, the Lair was in the Fields. Those two secrets cards had assigned one town elder to the PC who was about to encounter the Lair, and another town elder to the Fields space. Both those cards allow the PC to use the town elder's stats in interesting ways. Problem is, neither the cards, nor the rules, nor the FAQ at the manufacturer's website, explain if those interesting abilities apply during a Showdown or not. They also don't indicate whether the elder being with you or at the site of the Lair includes them in the Showdown / Hunting Party, and whether or not you can still bring along other elders in the Hunting Party.
Since it was a cooperative game, this was no big deal, we made a ruling based on objective play balance and variety of play experience. But if we'd been playing competitively, this would have been ugly. In this specific situation, how you interpret it would mean the difference between the PC having +2 dice or +9 dice on the fight, whether the villain split his dice between 3 targets or 5, and whether or not we had to take our chances on revealing the secrets of 2 more town elders. That compiled list of differences is pretty huge, and I could see where that would result in an otherwise enjoyable game ending in a rules argument. Glad we dodged that bullet.
Similarly, we also had a situation in another recent game where a card had resulted in a town elder having 2 secrets. When they were revealed later, that one elder had both "Hero of the People" and "On the Hunt". There were no clear rules in the game to dictate which card takes precedence, and whether the elder ends up in a space or attached to a player. Hopefully, Flying Frog will issue some errata or clarifications about those two cards.