21 Fart-Gun Salute--A Double-Take Review of Nefarious

This is it! It's time to take over the world and make your childhood mad-scientist dreams come true! Nefarious is a simultaneous-action, hand-management game for 2-6 players, that's going to take you anywhere from 20-30 minutes to play. It's from renowned Dominion designer Donald X. Vaccarino.

Is Nefarious an evil ploy to get you to play terrible games? Or is it an evil ploy to make every other game look horrible? Best read on to find out!

The Components

  • The Game Board
  • Spy Meeples - 30 (5 of each six colors)
  • Twist Cards - 36 of these
  • Invention Cards - 64
  • Action Cards - A set of 4 for each player
  • A bunch of Money Tokens

The game board is broken up into 4 different zones where you place your spy meeples, as well as 2 spots for 2 Twist cards, and an Invention draw and discard spot.

The Setup

Each player takes a set of Action cards and matching Spies, as well as $10. Then shuffle up and deal 3 Invention cards to each player, and put 2 of the Twists on the board
--they're the only two that you'll use. 

The Gameplay

The game is played in simultaneous rounds. Each player selects an Action card, places it face down, and then they all reveal them. Players may collect income (depending on the placement of their Spies), and then you resolve Actions.

The four locations you can place Spies on the board correlate to the four Actions you can play on your turn. If you have Spies on the zones that match the actions played by the players to your right and left  you collect $1 income for each Spy in those zones.

Those zones and actions are:

Espionage - This Action allows you to place a Spy on one of the 4 zones. Some zones are free, while others cost to place a Spy.

Invent - Playing this Action lets you play down an Invention from your hand--paying the cost and then triggering any actions on the card.

Research - This Action lets you to draw an Invention card and earn $2. 

Work - This action earns you the big bucks--4 of them to be exact. 

If someone has 20 points at the end of the turn, that person wins. If there's a tie, you keep playing until someone has more points. 


The Verdict

Jeremiah--Nefarious has a very simple game mechanism: play an action and resolve it. All while racing to 20 points. It's a fast-playing programming game that is super accessible to non-gamers.

Firestone--Yeah, this is definitely for nongamers or families. In fact, it's a great introduction to simultaneous action games. It miiiiight work as a filler for gamers, but it's honestly pretty dang light. 

Jeremiah--While it feels like it's a race to 20 points, there isn't much of an opportunity for anyone to affect what the other players do. Yes, you can improve your chances to earn points faster by paying attention to what your neighbors are doing and moving your spies into the proper places, there's no real take-that mechanism in the game. Thematically I would have liked that.

Firestone--I think the Spies are much more useful in the higher player numbers. I played a few 3-player games with my kids, and Son the Elder never once put out a Spy, and he was always right there in the running--and won the first game. With more players, the income from Spies is just better. 

Jeremiah--The game is gorgeous. It's a visually striking game, great graphic design, amazing artwork--it's the whole package. 

Firestone--I do like the artwork. It's fun, and fits the theme. 

My favorite part of the game is the Twists. These change things up enough that every game will feel a little different, and that's good. The downside is that some of the do slow the game down, and this is a game that really needs to be played in 20 minutes. 

Jeremiah--The resource management wasn't a tight fit. I felt like money came to me abundantly, and I was able to pay for some hefty inventions fairly quickly. I thought it might be tighter, requiring more management and strategy to line up your monies. Not a terrible thing, but it seemed the water down the decision a bit.

Firestone--Yeah, my problem was that it was just so light. Decisions were mostly obvious, and there's some definite luck with the draw. Because money is fairly easy to come by, if you draw a bunch of high-value Inventions, and I draw a bunch of low-value ones, you're probably going to win. 

Still, it's an enjoyable way to spend 20 minutes. And both of my kids liked it quite a bit. It was just a dud with my gaming group.

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Nefarious is a nice light-weight game of simultaneous action and resource management. It won't be the heaviest game you play, but it's certainly an approachable game with some fun light-weight decision making, all wrapped up in a beautiful and fun thematic package.

Firestone's Final Verdict--This is a good family or nongamer game, with a fun theme as you race to 20 points. Definitely recommended if you like Despicable Me!

Theology of Games would like to thank USAopoly for providing review copies of Nefarious. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 

Thanks for reading!