The spark of an idea (a giant mechanical spider), the carefully researched plans (eight legs? Or should we go for ten?), and the brilliant final execution (I’m glad I added the flamethrower). This is the way you come up with a plan to take over the world, or at least hold it ransom for some ridiculous sum of money. The life of the mad scientist with a taste for the finer things is not an easy one. Luckily, in your goal to become one of the most infamous inventors of all time you’ll have some help from your minion buddies. Nefarious is the new (or not so new) game by Donald X. Vaccarino. It was originally published in 2011 with a very artistic look. The 2015 second edition by USAopoly is quite pretty to look at with a 1950s approach to the updated art and science fiction. Up to six players take on the role of mad scientists trying to invent their way to global domination (maybe they were never picked in gym class?).
Nefarious plays out over several rounds until one player has achieved 20 points of infamy. Each round players will secretly select one of four possible dastardly actions and reveal at the same time. Each action is numbered between one and four and they’re executed in that order.
Deciding to perform Espionage will allow you to play first and send one of your five minions out into the world. The minions go to the game board where they will start earning you money. The board has spots for the four different actions. When you place a minion out with Espionage you can choose to send them to any of the four actions. Now, going forward players will have to pay you a buck for every one of your minions on that action if they want to perform it. Invent is the second action to be executed. This is where you’re really going to make a name for yourself. When you Invent you’ll be able to pay for Invention cards from your hand. Inventions will earn you infamy points, but also provide event bonuses that usually help the player that executes them or hinders the other players. Research will earn players two bucks and allow them to draw an Invention card. Finally, when you need some money, you just got to go out there and work. Taking the Work action will earn you four bucks.
In Nefarious you’re balancing earning money with making timely Inventions. When is the right time to sit back and save up a nest egg and when should you unleash a shrink ray on your opponents?
But wait, there’s a twist! After you’ve played the base game a bit you can add in a couple Twist cards that play with the rules of the game, keeping you on your toes. The twists can range from things like Propaganda, that will earn extra points for inventions to ideas such as Perpetual Motion, which allows players to select two action cards each round instead of just one. None of the twists are going to change the game completely, but they may force you to come up with some new strategies, depending on the situation.
Nefarious is light as heck! Too light probably, for some hard core gamers. More than anything it’s a race to save money to pay for your Inventions. Now, light is not a bad thing. You just have to come into Nefarious with the right expectations. It’s probably going to be a starter or filler game for the night. The artwork on the second edition is great and fits the theme perfectly. USAopoly has done a great job making the game more appealing. It does feel like you’re in a 50s spy movie, but you’re the one developing the machine that will block out the sun. I was a fan of Nefarious and you should definitely give it a shot, if for no other reason than the ability to be eeeeeeevil for 45 minutes!