Let them come with their ridiculous weapons. They won’t be able to fight against my monstrous machine. With the shrink ray I will first take Tower Bridge, or should I rather take the Parliament? I mean, after all, I already have a bridge in my front yard. But not every villain has that kind of Parliament. On the other hand, it’s not exactly a pretty eye-catcher. Okay, I’ll put that thought in the back. I have to take care of the Bobbies first. Now they’re really climbing up the leg of my Doomsday Machine!
With Victorian Masterminds by Eric M. Lang and Antoine Bauza we slip into the role of a villain. In this board game, which was released by CMON, we send our agents to different cities to steal and spread fear and terror. We have attended different courses at the community college to be trained as villains. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, we looked at the Victorian Masterminds and wrote our experiences in this review.
There can only be one Victorian Mastermind.
It’s not my fault Sherlock Holmes disappeared. Probably he got tired of doing the police work all the time. But his absence is not really a loss now, from my point of view. Because now I can finally become the Victorian Mastermind.
That’s the rough plot the board game is wrapped up in and the Victorian in the name is already quite far-fetched. Victorian Masterminds might as well be playing in the modern era. A setting, in which a Gru from Despicable Me exists, could just as well have been used for it and maybe even fit better.
But the Victorian theme is also quickly forgotten. After all, it’s all about being the most respected villian, in other words a mastermind. And a villain needs an impressive machine. And when I write impressive, I mean big machines like the ones you might know from Wild Wild West. In short, whoever has the biggest has a good chance of winning. But such impressive machines are not just available in specialized shops.
So nothing helps and even a Victorian Mastermind has to get his hands dirty to build such a machine. However, the procurement of materials is not really our profession. These dirty jobs are done by our agents. After all, there are five of them for every villain to choose from. You order them to the individual cities and steal what you need to complete your machine.
Go for the Agents
Now every agent is not only a great material scout (after all, with only two different materials it doesn’t take much skill to do so). No, each agent also has a special second ability. For example, your number two is really your number two, it can simply perform the action of a location twice. So steal material twice, or kidnap two scientists, or increase firepower by two.
But among us villains, I usually used number two to really just get material. Because my machine is supposed to be finished, so I get special abilities as soon as a section is finished.
However, there is not only the number two. Apart from a saboteur, which is a standard part of a villian’s repertoire, you also have an engineer, a henchman and a gunner. Each with a different area of responsibility. The gunner will also steal a building from the city you send her to.
According to rule 37 of the Villain Codex, you need small shrunken buildings to put them in your garden.
The henchman has you doing missions. At the end of the game, these missions give you victory points, as well as points for buildings. The Engineer is the only element that works differently for each Victorian Mastermind for each player, because his ability is linked to the machine you are randomly assigned to at the beginning.
I know what you planned, maybe!
Well, and then there is the saboteur, as mentioned above: He is of no use to you at first. But his special ability makes sure that an agent of another player can’t do anything either. How does that work? It’s the mechanism of action. The agents are placed from your supply on one of the cities on the map. Hidden, so that the other villains at the game table don’t know which of your helpers you are placing. As soon as the third agent has been placed in a city, the stack of agents is taken, turned over and dealt with from top to bottom. If a saboteur appears, the next agent will be disabled and will no longer be able to perform his special ability.
And it is exactly this element that makes Victorian Masterminds so much fun to play. Not the saboteur, but uncovering the agents. Because so much is happening right now. Did my plan work out or did my table neighbor snatch away the job I actually wanted to do because he had laid his agent earlier?
And why is my saboteur now lying at the bottom of the stack? Hadn’t I moved him to another town? And why is he now hindering my number two? But everyone has to deal with their own memory problems.
During this uncovering you spoil on your other masterminds plans. And that’s the core of the game. The topic is, as already written, only wrapped loose on top of the game. Collecting victory points is nothing new either. But beating the other one again and again is what makes Victorian Masterminds so fun for me and why I have nothing against another game. It’s not that difficult and I can quickly teach it to new players. And yet there is an equality of opportunity at the table. There is no strategy that always leads to success. Because even if I manage to finish my machine first, it doesn’t necessarily mean victory for me, even if it gives me a lot of victory points. Often enough, my wife has taken me off the track by going for the missions and simply stealing my victory.
One screw in the gear
However, Victorian Masterminds is not the board game I expected. I expected a nasty game in the Victorian age. But I did not get it. Even the plastic miniatures of the buildings are just nice accessories without much purpose. The terrifying machines are just simple flat prints, which I puzzle with the sections one by one. For this I use very tiny material tokens. Why these were chosen so small, I still do not understand. These tokens are only placed on your tableau and there is more than enough space. I would have found it more thematic, if I could really build this machine in 3-D, that is, if I could put the individual sections into each other, and then spread doom on the game board with these miniature.
What was very negative: Our copy had an acrid chemical smell coming from the plastic miniatures. Even rinsing in warm water with soap could not completely remove the smell. Very unusual for a CMON board game.
So what remains after several games of Victorian Masterminds? After the first enthusiasm when the board game was announced, a little disillusionment followed with the first game, because it was not Victorian and the Mastermind is not that strong. But after some more games the tide turned a little bit. It’s fun to place the agents to see how the saboteur carries out his action and thus prevents my opponent’s move. Or if a plan really works out without the others intervening.
Playing off opponents is the great strength of Victorian Masterminds and unfortunately not the theme. So for me Victorian Masterminds remains one of many nice games, which is not outstanding, but works mechanically well.