Have you ever dreamed over taking over the world? I like to think that everybody’s got an evil genius trapped inside them somewhere and so I’ve got a soft spot for games that involve world domination. Nefarious, designed by Donald X. Vaccarino (famed creator of Dominion) and published by USAopoly, is one of those games that allows me to toy with the idea of inventing tools for destroying the world while avoiding a hefty prison sentence.
Nefarious: The Mad Scientist Game challenges groups of 2-6 players to an evil arms race, with each attempting to create the most powerful evil inventions before their fellow villainous peers. The players simultaneously play 1 of 4 action cards face down every turn: Espionage, Invent, Research, and Work. Espionage allows a player to place a spy, which will later game them income. The Invent card allows a player to pay for and complete an invention to gain Victory Points. Research lets players draw a new invention card and gain a bit of cash. Work gives the player more money to use towards hiring spies or working on inventions. The first player to 20 Victory Points takes over the world! Twist cards can be played at the beginning of the game to change how the game is played; for example, one twist card allows players to play two action cards each turn and keeps in the action fast paced.
Nefarious is a deceptively easy game to play. The rules are simple and can easily to taught to children or non-gamers. This is a fantastic game for groups who prefer light, fast-paced gameplay. Rounds are quick and since players play cards simultaneously, downtime is a minimum. When my group played, entire games last 30 minutes or less, which makes this a great game for those nights when you don’t have much free time or need something to play in between those long, rules-heavy eurogames. The box suggest an age range of 13+, but the rules are simply enough for younger kids to play and the content is kid-friendly.
I’ve read complaints that this game touts itself to be a strategy game, but lacks the strategy aspect due to its simplicity. I find these complaints to be unfounded. Sure, this lacks the deep strategy of eurogames and it’s rare that players will find themselves thinking about 4 or 5 turns in the future, but the need for devising and changing your plans on the fly to respond to other players actions exists and that’s what makes this game fun.
The art of Nefarious is cute and goes well with the theme, but the components in this version of the game are lacking. They don’t have the rugged feel of other games. The cards are incredibly thin and the coins feel cheap, especially with a price point of about $30. The board is great, but would be totally unnecessary if it weren’t for the option to play spies. Fortunately, I can look past these flaws and they aren’t a deal breaker.
Nefarious is a fun, rules-light, fast-paced game to to play with your kids or friends who aren’t into heavier games. Groups that prefer longer, more intensive games may not enjoy Nefarious, so be sure to keep your gaming group in mind when shopping for this game. We give it a 3/5.