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Subject: Despicable We (An iSlaytheDragon Review) rss

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Alex Singh
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Taking over the world. You thought it was going to be easy. You had the smarts and the know-how. You had the drive and determination. Perhaps you didn’t appreciate how expensive it would be to create a death ray. But what you really didn’t anticipate the competition. World domination just got competitive. Taking your sweet time to get things just right isn’t an option any more. So it is now your mission to prove that amongst all evil scientists you are the most Nefarious.



How it Plays

The goal is simple: take over the world. In game terms this means getting 20 points. You will have 4 actions available to you in order to accomplish that goal. Every round begins with all players secretly choosing an action card that corresponds to the action they’d like to take. Once everyone has selected their card, they are all revealed simultaneously. Before any of the actions are resolved, players receive income if they have spies on the actions chosen by their neighbors. If you have a spy on the espionage action, for example, and your neighbor revealed an espionage action card, you will receive $1. After all players receive their income the actions are carried out in the following order: Espionage, Invent, Research, and Work.

All players who chose espionage will be allowed to place one of their 5 spies on one of the 4 spaces that correlate to the actions in order to facilitate the gathering of income as described earlier. This action does not allow you to move previously placed spies and you are limited to the 5 spies you start the game with so be careful where you place your spies.

After espionage comes invent. Players who chose this action will select an invention card from their hand and all players will simultaneously reveal their cards. You must pay the indicated price in money and then place the invention in front of you. When revealed and paid for, each invention has an associated effect that will do things such as give you money or cause other players to discard cards. Additionally, each invention has a score value which adds to your total score and brings you close to victory.

You begin with a few invention cards in your hand, but if you ever run low or are unable to play the cards you have you can take the next action, research. With this action, you draw 1 invention card to your hand from the common invention deck. You also receive $2.

The final action is work. Mad scientists have bills to pay just like everyone else. With this action, you will receive $4.

Once all the actions are taken, the score is checked to see if anyone has won. If not, a new round begins and play continues until a victor is declared.


The invention deck. It’s full of inventions.


Look on the Bright Side

Before diving into my qualms with the Nefarious I feel like I should give it some praise for its artwork, if only to make me seem like less of a curmudgeon in the rest of the review. The artwork and graphic design, simply put, are superb. The illustrations are bright and whimsical, adding an air of levity to the affair. Whether it was the ludicrous inventions or the cartoon depictions of evil, Nefarious was able to bring a smirk to my face. The graphic design is worthy of praise as well. It’s clear and the symbols used to describe what the invention cards do are intuitive. Once you’ve learned what the different symbols mean, it makes a lot of sense and fluency in the symbol language can be achieved in a matter of minutes.

I wish I had more good things to say about Nefarious, I really do. I never want to play a bad game. I am rooting for them all to be great. Unfortunately, that’s just not possible.


Spies are placed on the action spaces in order to facilitate income.


Killing Time

What is a game? You could argue over the definition until you’re blue in the face. And honestly, I really don’t care how you define it. It’s a semantic argument that has little bearing on my enjoyment of said games. The question I’d rather ask is what do I personally want from a game? I asked myself this question a lot when I was playing Nefarious. I’ll state it bluntly: I had no fun with Nefarious. I would have preferred to sit around the table doing nothing rather than playing Nefarious. It’s a harsh judgment, but it isn’t helpful unless I can explain why I had no fun. Rather than tear down Nefarious, I’ll describe what I look for in a game and how Nefarious fails to provide.

Ideally, a game will provide me with meaningful and difficult decisions. It isn’t enough for my actions to matter, I want to be challenged along the way. I enjoy a bit of grit in my games. The friction allows for something for me to grip onto. You can take a piece of entertainment, sand away the edges until it doesn’t rub anyone the wrong way and create something palatable to the masses. It’s the difference between watching San Andreas or Seven Samurai, reading The Hunger Games or Cloud Atlas, watching The Big Bang Theory or Better Call Saul. And I get it. Publishers don’t want to cut off potential sales. The result is the board game equivalent of iceberg lettuce, unoffensive and completely devoid of nutritional value.

The decisions in Nefarious are one step removed from a game of Go Fish. Everything you can do is solely dependent on the invention cards you draw. If you can’t afford an invention on this turn you either wait to gather more money or draw more cards trying to find one you can afford. And the invention cards vary wildly in price. Some are completely free to build and others can cost as much as $12 so you can’t even make reasonable plans for the future. The only real decision you have is to play a card you can afford or wait until you can afford to play a better one. Waiting is rarely the right choice as your opponents play inventions that force you to discard cards and money. So your choice realistically becomes to play a card you can afford now or wait for the possibility to play a card that you might be able to afford later. Not really much of a choice.


2 random twist cards are added to every game to try and spice things up.


Perhaps it was the creator’s intent to have players adapt to each game of Nefarious through the twist cards. Every game, two twist cards are revealed that change or add restrictions to the game. For example, a twist may provide extra coins when you take the work action or force other players to discard coins every time you play an invention card. They do change things up a bit, but the underlying game is so reliant on the random cards you are dealt that they can’t manage to salvage the experience. It’s a manicured lawn on a condemned home. It doesn’t address the underlying issue of lackluster decision points.

The simultaneous action selection element of the game has shades of potential on the surface but is just as brain dead as the card play. Playing spies early is the only real option lest you lose out on long term income. So every game begins with multiple rounds of players doing nothing but placing spies on the board. Where should you place them? Since you have no idea what inventions everyone has, you have no idea what their priorities are. Are they in desperate need of cash or do they need to draw more cards? Invention cards vary so much you can’t even make an educated guess. So where should you place them? Who cares?

I play games to be with people and sure, in a literal sense, Nefarious is played by multiple people. We are technically playing together. But replace those people with robots that randomly plays cards and it would be mostly the same. It might actually be more interesting, but I digress. Nefarious doesn’t allow for a player’s personality to shine through their actions. You can’t play aggressively if the cards you draw don’t allow it. It’s the difference between Uno and Poker. There are no styles of Uno players as opposed to various types of Poker players. I look for games that take players’ personalities, mixes them up in a whirlwind of systems and rules in order to spit them back out at the players in exciting ways. Nefarious could care less who you are or what you do. It is Nefarious and it will always be Nefarious no matter who is behind the hand of cards.

Did I play that card that makes you discard coins because I’m mean and vindictive? No, it was just the only card I have. Did I play that card that removes your spies from the board to get back at you? No, it was the only card I could afford. Does it matter what I want to do in the game? No, it’s all in the cards you were dealt.


Spies being spies


Conclusion

I don’t like Nefarious, but it isn’t an abomination. It’s clearly not aimed at me, but I can only speak to my own experiences and preferences. Nefarious is emblematic of the games that I’ve left behind in my childhood, activities to pass the time on rainy days. I was happy to play Uno and Don’t Wake Daddy back then. I was also happy throwing a tennis ball against the wall for an hour. I’ve grown up. I want something meaningful from my games and Nefarious fails to deliver. On top of that, Nefarious has some of the worst components I’ve seen in a game in quite some time. The cards are incredibly thin and the coins have a sort of plastic film over them that tear and peel if you look at them the wrong way. Maybe you’ll like Nefarious, but if you’re the type of person that reads board game reviews you probably won’t.

---

I originally posted this review to iSlaytheDragon. Visit the site for more reviews and articles on your favorite games.
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Christian K
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Thanks for the review

I did enjoy the game so I just wanted to give some remarks.
The real interaction and play between the players comes from the action espionage where you place a meeple out on an action that others will take (which in turn makes t less attractive for them to take that). There is certainly skill in this aspect.

Playing spies early is certainly not the only good strategy, it depends on the twist.neven if you do, how many do you play? Do you put one on the espionage action? Only if you think the other players consider the twists such that you should place a lot of spies.


Yes the cards and random, but more expensive cards give better rewards. Balancing the different ressources monays cards and agents is another skill.

For the components, USAopoly are offering upgraded ones (they shipped them to me in europe for free) so shoot them a mail if that would interest you.
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Hans Moleman
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Don't mind the negative review -- we definitely need more of it on the geek, but I feel some points were unfairly noted.

Components -- USAopoly did drop the ball on the 1st print run but they have definitely stepped up and swapped out the cards/coins for better ones.

Gameplay -- The twist cards (the 2 random cards that come out at the beginning of the game) GREATLY affect the play and pace of the game. Compare it the scoring cards in Kingdom builder or the 10-card spread in dominion. The throw all your spies down quickly in the 1st 5 turns strategy isn't always the best approach.

For who this game is for -- I think you are right. For a seasoned gamer, this is more like watching paint dry. I definitely wouldn't suggest this for a group like that. But with a newbie or growing gamers, this one is usually a hit. Simultaneous action and Resource management streamlined to perfection.
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Alex Singh
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KingD21 wrote:
Don't mind the negative review -- we definitely need more of it on the geek, but I feel some points were unfairly noted.

Components -- USAopoly did drop the ball on the 1st print run but they have definitely stepped up and swapped out the cards/coins for better ones.

Gameplay -- The twist cards (the 2 random cards that come out at the beginning of the game) GREATLY affect the play and pace of the game. Compare it the scoring cards in Kingdom builder or the 10-card spread in dominion. The throw all your spies down quickly in the 1st 5 turns strategy isn't always the best approach.

For who this game is for -- I think you are right. For a seasoned gamer, this is more like watching paint dry. I definitely wouldn't suggest this for a group like that. But with a newbie or growing gamers, this one is usually a hit. Simultaneous action and Resource management streamlined to perfection.


While the twist cards do affect the game, I never felt that they changed my decision making to be any more meaningful. Thanks for your thoughts and input!
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Corey Hopkins
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The component issue (and the free fix offered by USAopoly) have been common knowledge for anyone on the Nefarious boards for some time. Not pointing out the fact that free replacement packs are available to anyone with an affected copy does a disservice to the publisher and potential buyers.

As to the game, yes it's light. But sometimes people want to play light games. That doesn't somehow make them less of a "gamer".
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Alex Singh
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chopkins828 wrote:
The component issue (and the free fix offered by USAopoly) have been common knowledge for anyone on the Nefarious boards for some time. Not pointing out the fact that free replacement packs are available to anyone with an affected copy does a disservice to the publisher and potential buyers.


I'm glad that the publisher is making amends, but it doesn't make what I said any less true. Unless it was pointed out to me in these comments, I would have had no idea this was even a possibility. Better quality wouldn't have changed my feelings towards to the game, but at least there's an option for others to get them.

chopkins828 wrote:
As to the game, yes it's light. But sometimes people want to play light games. That doesn't somehow make them less of a "gamer".


I never claimed that. I recounted my experience with the game and tried to give reasons why I felt the way I did. I may have failed to fully explain my point of view and I'm sorry if I did. But I never claimed to be the authority on what people should like or what makes them a "gamer."
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Christian K
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Just for the record, I read tons of review and have written a couple myself (and even done some videos) and I highly enjoy Nefarious. To me, it packs a large punch in a short playing time. Good variety and extremely little downtime while remaining interactive. It is a winner in my book and my group enjoys it as well.
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Chad Osborn
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Ouch! My family thoroughly enjoys Nefarious and the replay ability that occurs from the twist cards as it really changes the game up each and every time. There is a strategy about which inventions to build as some can have a negative/positive impact on you/your opponents. As noted above by Christian, the limited downtime is a huge plus for all players as well.

Just recently we released a review of Nefarious (can be found on BGG) and as you can guess from my statements above, it is totally opposite of this one.

We feel it is important to really review the history of a particular game to know of any issues with components that have since been fixed and addressed, prior to submitting a review.

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Christian K
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I guess we are going down the rabbit hole of all negative reviews
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Chris
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I had the misfortune to play this last night, in a rare "Hey, let's be open minded" moment that again proved to me I'm right to be highly selective at my games group.

Got a hand of inventions, and basically just played the money card until I could afford my most point scoringest invention, then the one after that, then whatever got me to 20, and I won by a mile what with other players apparently thinking interaction and spies and things actually mattered.

Utterly boring, utterly dreadful. I think I *might* prefer to play Exploding Kittens. Blimey...
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Charles Waterman
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TheRocketSurgeon wrote:
<snip>

Got a hand of inventions, and basically just played the money card until I could afford my most point scoringest invention, then the one after that, then whatever got me to 20, and I won by a mile what with other players apparently thinking interaction and spies and things actually mattered.


That won't happen if everybody gets 20 coins at the beginning of the game from the Private Funding twist.....
 
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