I’m a big fan of the Despicable Me and Megamind movies that were released several years ago. I’ve always thought that one of the most important elements of a hero is their villain, so it was nice to see the bad guys get a little time in the spotlight.
Victorian Masterminds follows in the footsteps of those films. Players take on the roles of eccentric madmen (and women), seeking to wreak as much havoc as possible. And how does one wreak havoc? Well, by sending out agents to terrorize the cities of Europe so that you can complete your greatest evil contraption. You know, just a normal Tuesday.
Working Together as a Team
Victorian Masterminds has players taking over an evil empire, controlling its followers and its resources in order to cause chaos throughout Europe. Each turn, players will utilize an agent – represented by a gear – in order to take an action at a particular location.
One of the intriguing elements of the game is how these gears are utilized. On a turn, a player puts the gear face down in a stack next to a city location. Thus, other players aren’t sure what agents have been played at that location (this could be important later). Whenever three players have played a gear at the same location, the actions of each agent are resolved in order from the first gear played there to the last.
Each player has five different agents, each of which has different abilities. Players must be careful where they play each agent to ensure that they maximize the benefits of their skills. And oh, the skills they have…
There’s More Than One Way to Take Over the World
Victorian Masterminds doesn’t seek to limit the imagination of any would-be evildoer. You’ll be given plenty of options for how you can start to spread chaos.
What you’ll plainly see at the start of the game is the Doomsday Machine that each player has on their personal player board. These are cleverly illustrated as blueprints, and as the game progresses, players will add cardboard pieces to show the development of their contraptions. It’s quite enjoyable to see your creation slowly coming to life, and each piece you add gives you another bonus. You’ll want to make sure you collect plenty of bolts and copper plates to get your machine running.
Perhaps you want to use your machine to go around and steal buildings from major cities. Sure, why not? You just need to make sure that you’ve got the right amount of firepower to do so. Those buildings aren’t just for show – they’ll be worth points at the end of the game.
Maybe you prefer for one of your agents – your Henchman – to complete missions at the various locations. Each location holds one mission card that grants a bonus if certain conditions are met, like a certain building has been captured, or maybe a certain number of codexes have been collected. This can be another way for you to get points.
Oh, those codexes I mentioned? They’re fancy little books that can be worth one or two points. You can go ahead and collect those on your turn if you want. Collect enough of these books, and you’re no longer having to play your agent gears randomly, but instead you get to pick which gear to play on your turn.
There are even more layers to this game that I’m not going to get into here, but just know that you have a lot of different ways to get points. But if any player finishes their machine, or if the Secret Service level (yeah, I didn’t even get into that) reaches 12, the final round is triggered. Agent gears are resolved one more time, and a few scoring bonuses are thrown around. The player with the most points in the end wins!
The Spice of Life
As you can see, there are a lot of things to do in Victorian Masterminds. At first, this can be a little bit overwhelming. You will want to do everything, but you won’t be able to pull that off. So instead, you’ll have to start prioritizing. Yes, the game certainly encourages long-term planning, and you’ll be able to set up several moves in advance, if you would like. However, you also have to be able to think on your feet, as another player could swoop right in and ruin all your plans.
That’s what I love about this game – a nice combination of deliberate planning and spontaneity. If you are the type of player who only flies by the seat of his pants, you won’t do all that well here, as you need to be deliberate to ensure that you’re making progress each turn. However, if you sit and plan and every little detail of your move, you’ll probably fail, too, as things can change without notice. Well, maybe you’ll adjust, but you’ll anger everyone at the table for making them wait around so long while you take your turns.
Each time I’ve played this game, I’ve ended it wanting to try a new strategy. Maybe I just put all my time and effort into my machine, making it more powerful and earning me bonuses. Maybe I just try to capture buildings, or maybe I’m going to be a codex kind of guy this time. Maybe I’ll combine a few approaches. However, even if I were to have a plan, it’s going to change as soon as one of those gears doesn’t go my way. And that’s perfectly fine with me.
A Great Time of World Domination
I think I’m beginning to see that I have a “type” of game. I don’t know that it’s a genre, or that it’s centered around a particular mechanic. But I’m a really big fan of Hadara, The Quest for El Dorado, and other games in which I can come up with several plans all at once each turn, and then pick the one I think is best at that moment.
That’s what Victorian Masterminds allows me to do, and it’s got nice little wrinkles that make it different from those other games and worthy of a place on my shelf. I’m a huge fan of the components and the artwork. I think the worker placement approach with the gears is terrific. And I just love the entire theme and its fun steampunk vibe.
Some have said that they don’t feel they have enough control in this game, or that it feels like you’re just playing against yourself. I can see their points, but I say, so what? This is a great, fun time from start to finish, and it always leaves me wanting to play it again. This little box of mischief has forced its way onto my shelf, and I’m pretty sure it’s here to stay.
You can get your own copy of Victorian Masterminds on Amazon or at your friendly local game store!
- Great production quality
- Interesting turn mechanics
- Several different paths to victory
- Maybe there’s not enough control?
- The box could provide better organization options