By Dan Harrison at the City Ground
Barry Bannan's wonderful long-range strike wasn't enough to prevent a first defeat of pre-season for Villa.
Captain for the afternoon Bannan led by example with a sensational free-kick to wipe out substitute Lewis McGugan's opener.
But another Forest super sub Marcus Tudgay produced a well-taken solo effort before McGugan scored again to give Paul Lambert his first defeat as Villa boss.
Lambert made string of changes from the midweek victory at Peterborough United with Stephen Ireland and Charles N'Zogbia the only players retained in the starting XI.
The debut of Dutch central defender Ron Vlaar generated the most excitement among the army of 3,800 Villa fans who made the trip to Nottingham.
After meeting the claret and blue faithful for the first time on Friday in an appearance at the club shop, it was down to business for the former Feyenoord man.
His wait was extended a little longer because of a 15-minute delay to kick-off due to the flurry of supporters still trying to enter the stadium.
Once the match got underway, it didn't take long for him to live up to his Concrete Ron nickname by outmuscling Forest's powerhouse forward Ishmael Miller with a challenge that brought a rapturous cheer from the away fans.
But, barring a half-volley from Adlene Guedioura that sailed over the bar, the early action was all at Forest's end.
Villa had the ball in the net twice in the opening 15 minutes but Nathan Delfouneso was flagged offside, while Ciaran Clark was penalised for a foul after heading home Bannan's free-kick.
Brett Holman came close to adding to his pre-season goals at Burton and Peterborough but both his right-foot efforts from the edge of the box were deflected wide.
And, not to be outdone, fellow new signing Karim El Ahmadi struck a fierce drive which was brilliantly tipped around the post by Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp.
The introduction of Darren Bent at the break bolstered Villa's attack as the club record signing made his return from a thigh injury picked up on the recent USA tour.
Villa were restricted mainly to long-range efforts after the restart.
Firstly, Holman miscued from outside the box after a driving run from the middle of the park and then Greg Halford did well to charge down a bullet effort from N'Zogbia.
But it was Forest who struck first on 69 minutes when McGugan slotted across Brad Guzan with a neat finish from around 18 yards.
The lead, though, was wiped out within second thanks to the brilliance of Bannan.
The Scottish midfielder had already gone close from a similar distance only to narrowly miss the target.
His second attempt was perfect. There was nothing Camp could do to keep out Bannan's terrific curling free-kick which nestled in the top left corner.
However, the pendulum quickly turned back in the home team's favour.
Another of Sean O'Driscoll's replacements, Tudgay, made an instant impact.
He gathered possession just outside the penalty area and embarked on a mazy run before neatly tucking past Guzan.
The American goalkeeper was beaten again around 10 minutes from the end, this time McGugan driving a low free-kick into the bottom corner.
Bent went close for Villa at the death but Camp did well to thwart the England striker from a tight angle.
FOREST: Camp, Harding, Collins, Halford, Moloney, Gillett, Reid, Guedioura, Majewski, Miller, Blackstock. Subs: Subs: Moussi [for Gillett, 66], Cohen, Findley, McGugan [for Guedioura, 61], Darlow, Greening [for Reid, 71], Lascelles [for Blackstock, 71], McGoldrick [for Miller, HT], Tudgay [for Moloney, 71], Freeman [for Harding, 76], Derbyshire.
VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Warnock, El Ahmadi, Bannan, Ireland, Holman, Delfouneso, N'Zogbia. Subs: Given, Bent [for Delfouneso, HT], Delph, Gardner, Lichaj, Stevens, Carruthers, Baker, Johnson, Weimann.