Your quest for world domination continues in Becoming a Monster, an expansion to the mad scientist game Nefarious.
What Is Nefarious: Becoming a Monster?
Nefarious: Becoming a Monster is an expansion to Nefarious, for 2 to 6 players, ages 13 and up, with a play time of 20–40 minutes. Becoming a Monster retails for $19.95 and is in stores and on Amazon now. The Nefarious base game is required to play. As with the base game, I think it’s okay for younger players who have a little gaming experience, because the rules aren’t too complex and the theme is a humorous take on mad scientist tropes without being inappropriate for kids.
Nefarious: Becoming a Monster Components
- 20 Invention cards
- 25 Twist cards
- 3 Role cards
- 42 Action cards (7 each for 6 players)
- Turn tracker
- Turn marker
The expansion adds more inventions and twists, along with some components to go along with some of those new twists. The illustrations and icons all match the base game, as you’d expect, with the fun invention drawings and little one-liners about them. I’ll show you more of those in a bit.
I complained about the base game that the cards felt very flimsy; in the second printing, USAopoly did correct that and the cards were stiffer. The cards in the expansion are also stiffer—though, it did feel like the invention cards were even stiffer than those in the second print run. Of greater significance is the fact that the new cards are also slightly wider than the old ones, which makes shuffling a little more difficult. Expansion components should always match the base game as closely as possible, particularly when they’re shuffled together.
(Note: I tried this with my first-printing copy of Nefarious first, and the cardstock difference was immediately noticeable and made it a little hard to get the inventions evenly shuffled. USAopoly provided a newer printing, and it’s considerably easier. If you’ve got a first printing, you can play with the expansions without buying yourself a second copy of the base game, but be aware that this may be an issue.)
The action cards don’t suffer from the same problem, though. There are three new action cards for each player, but the expansion provides a full set of action cards, not just the new ones, so that you can’t distinguish the new ones from the old ones. My only gripe there is that they had a chance to adjust the 2 and 4 cards to make them more differentiated, but they still look very similar.
The turn tracker and marker is a simple cardboard tile with a cardboard brain token, used to track the number of turns for particular twists.
Unfortunately, the box insert for the base game wasn’t really designed with much room for expansion, so although you could throw these components into the base game box, some of them will just be floating around in the box rather than in a particular well.
How to Play Nefarious: Becoming a Monster
The basic gameplay remains the same as the original, so you can refer to my “How to Play” section for the base game if you need a refresher. On each turn, players choose actions simultaneously, then reveal: you can earn income based on your spies and what other players chose, then take turns resolving the actions: Espionage, Invent, Research, and Work. The goal also remains the same: be the first player to reach 20 points by building inventions.
To use the expansion, simply shuffle the new inventions into the inventions deck, and the new twists into the twists deck before starting.
There are 20 new inventions total, with varying costs, point values, and effects. The Clever Proof is free to invent and is worth no points, but lets you draw 2 invention cards and take $4 from the bank. The Meat Tree is costly, but then doubles whatever money you have leftover.
Twelve of the new inventions have an orange background (and stick to the “Becoming a Monster” theme), and introduce a new type of effect. These are tied to specific actions, and once you have the invention, every time you take that action, you resolve the invention effect first. For instance, the Second Head triggers on Research (action 3): every time you Research, you get to draw a new invention card from the deck. These inventions vary in price and point value, but their real strength lies in making your actions even more powerful.
There are a host of new twist cards—each game uses two twists, which change up the base rules somehow and make each game different, just as in the base game. However, Becoming a Monster also throws in a few new categories of twists, which I’ll outline briefly below.
Action Card Twists
There are three twists that each add a new action card to the game: Developing, Experimenting, and Producing. If you use any of these twists, everyone will add the associated action card to their hand during setup. Develop lets you discard one of your existing inventions, and you get to build a new invention at a discount based on the discarded card’s VP. Experiment lets you draw a card, and then play it immediately if you pay its cost—a little bit like combining Research and Invent. Produce is like Work in that you earn money, but instead of the default $4, you get $2 per invention of the player who has the most inventions—so if anyone has built a lot of inventions, you can cash in big.
These new actions don’t have their own spaces on the board, but you can still use Espionage to earn money when your neighbors pick them. They pay off on Invent, Research, and Work, respectively.
Ten of the new twist cards are “investments.” You can invest in one of these by using Espionage to put one of your spies on the twist card (sometimes paying an additional cost), and each investment has a different effect.
Role Card Twists
There are a few twists that add role cards to the game—the twist card says who to give the role card to, and the role card describes its effects. The Mole gives you double profit from spies, and then passes to the next player. The Orphan makes you lose $1 at the beginning of each turn, and you can only get rid of it if you played Research and there’s at least one player who didn’t. The Police lets you choose an action that may not be played for a turn, and then passes to the next player.
These two twists use the turn tracker. Every four turns, something will happen. Double Agent has good effects: place a spy for free, draw a card, get money, play an invention for free. Super Spy has bad effects: lose money, discard a card, remove a spy, discard a built invention. It also imposes a time limit: if the game makes it to 20 turns—which is not common—everybody wins (Double Agent) or loses (Super Spy).
Extra Action Twists
Finally, there are three twists that may give you bonus actions on your turn. Loners lets you play your action twice if you’re the only one who played it. Soulmates lets you repeat your action if your neighbors played it. Race for the World (a play on the game Race for the Galaxy) lets you also play whatever your neighbors played if it’s different from yours.
If you’re a fan of Nefarious, then Becoming a Monster is a nice way to reinvigorate the game.
The new orange inventions can make actions very powerful, which also means that other players will need to use Espionage strategically to earn some income on your boosted actions. Luck has always been a factor in Nefarious in terms of which inventions you draw, because the cost may influence your decisions more than the effects the inventions may have. For these, since they give a permanent boost to one of your actions, it can sometimes feel even more unfair when one player ends up with several orange inventions and you don’t get any.
The big changes, though, come in the form of twists. What I liked about the Nefarious base game is that the core mechanics (without twists) are already a pretty fun game of simultaneous action selection, but that the twists really let you mix up the game and give it a different flavor each time you play. With these new twists, there’s even more variety—particularly when combined with the originals. Having new actions to choose from, or being able to take more than one action on a turn, can speed up the pace of getting inventions to the table. The investment twists give you another use for your spies, sometimes with a better payout than you would get with the usual four zones.
My 10-year-old (who hadn’t played as much when I reviewed the base game a couple years ago) has enjoyed learning both the base game and the expansion, though she’s still a little weak strategically when it comes to using Espionage. She’d rather focus on her own actions and inventions—sometimes it has worked, and sometimes it hasn’t, depending on the twists that are in play.
The component quality is a little weird again—particularly the fact that the card size from the expansion doesn’t match the base game—but the gameplay is solid. For Nefarious fans, I think Becoming a Monster is a no-brainer. Or maybe a two-brainer?
Order a copy of Becoming a Monster from Amazon, or look for it at your local game store.
Disclosure: USAopoly provided a copy of this game for review.