Staff Pick: Nefarious

As they say, everybody wants to rule the world.

In Nefarious, you can step into the goo-stained lab coat of a mad scientist and try to do just that. Designed by Donald X. Vaccarino, the legendary creator of Dominion and Kingdom Builder, Nefarious is a fast-paced competitive card game where you try to out-invent the other players in a race for world domination.

Turns are played simultaneously as players choose one of four actions – espionage, research, work, or invention. Espionage lets you place spies, which generate money based on the actions of other players. Research gains some money and a new invention for your hand. Work gives you the most money, but nothing else. Invention is where you play your masterstroke – whether it’s a giant mechanical spider, a death ray, a beast-man, or a time machine. Each invention card has a number of victory points and a variety of effects, from drawing more inventions, taking money from your opponents, or placing more spies on the board.

this art is from the older edition, but the content is the same

Adding to the chaos is Twist cards, which are selected at the beginning of the game. They change the game in big ways – Private Funding gives you double your starting money, while Parallel Universe lets you play your actions twice. With 64 invention cards and 36 Twist cards, the action remains fresh after multiple games. The art design is gorgeous and the illustrations are hilarious – like the buttered cat array, a cat with buttered toast strapped to its back (according to the urban legend, a cat always lands on its feet and toast always lands butter-side down, giving you... a very dizzy cat, I guess). The simultaneous play keeps the gameplay focused, as no player feels left out or has to wait for their turn. The endgame can be thrilling - Nefarious has a tiebreaker mechanic that keeps the game going in case of a tie, which can lead to some tense moments. At an average of 30 minutes a game, it’s a great warm up for a game night or a casual session with non-gamers. Strap on your safety goggles, press the big red button (wait, what does that button do again?), and grab Nefarious for some inventive fun.

- Charlie, Professional Presser of Big Red Buttons