Game Review: Nefarious

USAopoly, 2011

What are we going to do tonight? Try to invent new, nefarious inventions to try to take over the world!

Nefarious is a great little game from the well known game designer, Donald X. Vaccarino. It is easy to play but does have a slight learning curve, as it uses a slightly odd game engine mechanic which can be a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of rounds, it moves quickly and easily.

The game “engine” mechanic works like this. Each player has an identical hand of four cards. Each card represents an action that you can take on your turn. One of the actions allows you to place one of your five meeples on a board space that corresponds to the four actions. Once you have meeples on the board, you gain one coin for each of your neighboring players that plays that action during their turn. You then use the coins to create inventions from a different hand of cards. Each invention has a victory point value. The first scientist to create 20 points of inventions wins the game.

The four actions you may take are: Place a meeple, invent, research and work. To place a meeple, you must pay the cost for that action listed on the board. The meeple and research spaces cost 0, invent costs 2 and work costs 1. To invent, you must have the correct amount of coins to pay the cost on the invent card that you are playing. After all inventions have been purchased, you resolve any game results listed on the invention card. Researching gets you two coins and one invention card, and work will gain you four coins.

I mentioned that invention cards might have a game effect. There are 3 possibilities: There is no effect, the effect happens to all other players (red directional arrows) or the effect happens to you (green arrow). The effect may be drawing or gaining cards, placing  free meeple, or gaining or losing coins.

The invention cards themselves are very fun. They range from Death Rays and Time Machines to Buttered Cat Arrays, and from two to eight victory points. Up to six people can play.

This is a very fun game. It is engaging, fast paced and has light humor. The game engine can be a bit confusing for younger players, so unless you have an advanced gamer kid, the 8+ recommendation would be advised. Although the box says 2-6 players, I recommend playing with no less than 3. Role playing is encouraged, but not necessary. I wonder how long it will take to get a Minions version of the game? Very much recommended!