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Looking for Critiques: Nefarious

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: 07/03/2013

Howdy all,

In keeping with the advice I'm continually giving to others, I'm going to post here with a board game idea that I've been working on for some time. (Sorry I haven't posted a whole lot recently - it's always hard to focus in the winter). As always, please let me know what you think as well as ideas that it inspires you to share.


Every player is a mad scientist, vying for world domination through constructing villainous machines, plotting in various regions around the world, and securing your evil empire by collecting Villainy Points (VP).

How do you bring your nefarious plans about? The same as every other evil genius: minions. Faceless mooks are an industry staple, and as any mad scientist will tell you, "We're hiring!". Minions happily flock to your cause with a little persuasion, happily doing whatever they're told.

However, you don't have time to order your mindless servants about - that's why you have henchmen. Despite being a paranoid villain, you have 3 friendly henchmen whom you can direct to do your bidding, and who carry out your orders until they hear otherwise from you. It's their job to boss the minions around, allowing you to carry out your evil schemes.

On your turn, you do the following:
1-Move a minion from any location to anywhere else on the board.
2-Place minions: for each henchman, you may move one minion from your secret base to wherever your henchmen are located (you're not forced to).
3-If a region or machine has the requisite number of minions, place a plot marker on the region, or flip the machine.
X-Leave your henchmen where they are.

Note: you start with a handful of minions, and have a max of 20. you recruit minions to your secret base by leaving your henchmen there to recruit, where they recruit one every round. Everywhere else a henchman goes, he'll bring one minion at the end of each turn.

Minions are often assigned within your secret base to machine cards that you've obtained (see later) or to defend the base from attackers. -- (I'm not sure just yet how to deal with players attacking other players' secret bases, but I don't want it to be an area control game where you can attack/capture others' bases - I want something lighter. Maybe defenders and attackers have a combat every round, and if attackers are able to kill the defenders they can remove one minion from a machine? machines often need minions on them to keep them running at this stage, so that feels OK...)

The central board has several regions (right now, one for each continent). It also has a place for decks - one for machines (which are built in the secret base by placing minions on them via henchmen), and one for some form of action cards.

I'll go over how the world regions and cards work:
- Regions: henchmen allow you to place minions onto a region, and when you get enough to "capture" the region, you place a plot marker on the region. At that point, you can move your minions out and keep the plot marker there. Some regions are required for certain machines in your base, or for action cards.
- Decks: Place henchmen here to place minions. As long as you have a henchman on the deck in question, you can draw a number of cards equal to the number of minions there, keeping one, and putting the rest on the bottom.
- Combat: If multiple people place a henchman on the same place (region or deck), there's a quick combat at the end of the round (roll a number of d6 for each henchman on the region, hitting on a 5-6), and henchmen that are lost return to your secret base (but minions stay put).

Where I'm at: I've developed a set of machines that allow for you to spend minions to perform certain effects, and I'm working right now on an action card set. I expect to be able to hold my first playtest sometime this week. I'll post here when that's complete.

Some thoughts I want to bounce off others:
- Most games give you a bonus for being a particular faction, so maybe each player can represent a different mad scientist with a cool bonus. However, I kind of want to play with this idea and give everyone a different "paranoia", a detriment that they need to work with as part of the game (and that their villains can use against them). Thoughts?
- Game end conditions: should it be a race to X points, or the game ends after a number of rounds? Or is there something I haven't thought of as a way to mark the end of the game?
- I could make the game a cooperative game, where the players are trying to overcome some spy agency or misguided superhero as a team. The mechanics would actually work rather well, though combats/region control would need to be re-examined.

Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014
A few thoughts: 1. I'm really

A few thoughts:

1. I'm really digging it so far. I don't think a great mad scientist game has been made yet, and I find it to be a really interesting theme.

2. Variable player powers go a long way in creating depth to a game. But I think it's a great idea to give players a benefit and a detriment. You've got a giant ray gun, but you're also afraid of mice.

3. I'm partial to co-op games, so I can see that being a really cool way to play. I'm reminded of a Batman game. It's not a co-op, but you're a villain going around the board trying to accomplish things, and Batman keeps showing up to smack you around. Check it out here:

Something similar might work here. You could also take the Dead of Winter route and give players a common goal they have to accomplish but also each one has individual goals as well.

4. As far as end conditions, you could do an either/or thing in which the game ends when a player reaches X points or after so many rounds have passed. This would keep the game from overstaying its welcome.

5. Are you aware the name "Nefarious" has already been used?

Overall, I think you have a really good game on your hands. I look forward to seeing more of it.

Joined: 07/03/2013

I wasn't aware that someone else beat me to the punch on the theme and name. However, from what I can tell, it's fairly different in its execution, and seeing one game with this theme helps give me confidence that there's a niche for it.

What do others think?

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Sounded doubly familiar. The

Sounded doubly familiar. The Nefarious game I've played, and it is a card and worker placement game with no real map. The PC game Evil Genius has more in common with your design.

And I thought someone had posted similar here; I searched, and it was you about a year and half ago.

I think it is a very appealing topic as in my mind there is a fine line between mad scientist and game designer. So, keep at it. It seems like you know enough to solo test things like the combat system to get a feel for it.

As to your questions:

I think character weaknesses would be a great way to differentiate characters; like Doofenshmirtz's habit of placing big red self-destruct buttons.

For game ending, maybe you can go off of what Evil Genius has: A world stress indicator, basically a doomsday clock that triggers the game end when the world is fed up with the shenanigans.

Cooperative seems anti-thematic.

Joined: 07/03/2013
I like that...

Yeah, I have been toying with similar ideas for a while now, but now I've got it formed well enough to get running for a playtest.

But what I wanted to say most was: thank you for the great idea! A world stress indicator (a sum of everyone's villainy points) would be a great way to put a timer on the game which can also be something to manipulate to your benefit (once it's reached, the game ends with the current round, no matter who triggered the end of game).

It would be cool to include an endgame section about defending your base from MI6 or superheroes or something after the world decides to fight back, but I'll maybe add that later, if the game is short enough for an addition (and it never is).

Thanks again!

Joined: 03/02/2014
I definitely like the theme

I definitely like the theme and your description -- it sounds like the sort of silly and quick game I enjoy. (I'll have to check out the game that Gade linked to, but I promise to try yours, too, if you publish).

A few comments, though I don't really think I'm adding anything new.

- Go for over-the-top humor. Ideally some of it should come from combinations of things, so even someone who has played a few times finds something new to chuckle at. (For instance, if their super weapon combines a Microlyzer, a ball peen hammer, and the mysterious Device S, they should call it a Micro Peen S.)

- I like giving the players different powers and vulnerabilities. It fit well with the theme and it isn't that big a deal for a silly, fun game to be a little unbalanced.

- I agree with Corsaire that your theme doesn't work for a co-op game. The only idea that might work, there, is a semi-co-op, where the players are the senior henchmen of a single super-villain. While they are co-operating to help their boss achieve world domination, they are also competing to become the senior henchmen. But it's a totally different game.

Joined: 07/03/2013

Thanks for your comments, Zag; I'm always glad to have more people look over my game.

I'll be posting a rules document sometime in the next week to show where I'm at, and I'll even post a print & play excel file with my cards. Things have changed a bit since my last update here (playtesting does that) so stay tuned!

Also, the game name will likely have to change... any ideas?

Also, protip: for a quick and dirty prototype, make your cards in excel (if you're comfortable with that program). Doing so allowed me to make some pretty good looking cards with minimal effort that I could affix to my blank cards with a glue stick with minimal effort. I'll share my card template with my print & play as well.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
the game itself

I'm not wasting time over whether it is similar in some ways to other games and legal issues becasue I find these quite annoying.

As for the game I have several ideas and a few observations.

To avoid the conquest style (sending armies to capture enemy base) keep it that the location of the secret base is not known (pretty obvious really). You can't send your armies to caputre a base if you don't know where it is.

Finding the base could allow you to send armies but there are many far more interesting options open to you.
infiltrate the base with spies and steal tech.
infiltrate and sabotage
steal the machine!

I agree with the mad scientists not having 'powers' but rather things they need to work around, however I think that some of the henchmen should have 'powers', you could have a slinky female henchman who has the power to steal minions or charm enemy's characters, you could have a big brutal henchman who scares your minions spannerless and make them work more efficiently, etc. If you make it that the henchmen are not particular to your scientist then players could have a favorite scientist but still get interesting and varied games with a range of henchmen (randomly or otherwise assigned).

Finally, I would just like to add the following minor bit of advice regarding your game.
Don't approach it as a mad scientist would, looking for that amazing and totally original idea which would put you on top, rather I advocate taking what you have and building interesting aspects into it. Your system shows promise based on what you have posted but I have seen so many games discarded becasue people were looking for an idea to copyright and didn't have what it takes to develop that idea into something worthwhile.

Joined: 07/03/2013
Thanks for the observations

@Midnight_Carnival: I just did a playtest recently, and we really enjoyed the simplicity of the system, so don't worry about me overcomplicating things. This is the 8th game that I've prototyped (with dozens more never made), and I've learned a lot about keeping it simple and focusing on what's fun. I'll try to post print & play rules this week.

Regarding legal issues - I didn't realize that the name was already taken ("Nefarious"), but I'll come up with other names for it - that's the easy part.

And I know better than to attempt to copyright my game and such - I frequently counsel others not to do so with their own creations.

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