Victorian Masterminds is in the golden zone of games. It is light enough to have wide appeal and holds a depth of strategy that will keep players coming back for more.
Publisher: CMON Limited
Designer: Antoine Bauza, Eric Lang
Artist: Davide Tosello
Game Type: Variable Player Powers, Worker Placement
Initial Year of Release: 2019
Age Range: 14+
Expected Playtime: 45-60
Number of Players: 2-4
Theme and What is it?
Sherlock Holmes is dead! Without his interference you, as a villainous mastermind, can wreak havoc on the world. You will send out your henchmen to London, Paris, Moscow, Washington DC, and Rome to complete your master plan.
Victorian Masterminds puts players in the mindset of a rampaging villain. Your fellow masterminds will occasionally help your plans while more often tripping over you and taking the things you had your eyes set on. The player with the most devious plan and the most precise execution will prevail and become the true Victorian Mastermind.
As an aspiring Victorian Mastermind, you will send your henchmen to the various cities of the world to execute your master plan using their personal strengths. Your master plan will be some mixture of various elements. You will collect the parts needed to assemble a machine that will bring the world to its knees. You will increase your firepower to keep ahead of the secret service.
When it pleases you, your master thief will steal entire BUILDINGs from the board. Some buildings give you extra resources while the special building unique to each location is an act of pure mayhem. What could be better than plucking the entire Eiffel Tower from the board or swiping the Colosseum? Muahaha.
But that is not all you can do. You can seek the Da Vinci Codex. The codex is worth a few points but the greater breakthrough comes from having 5 books. It unlocks freedom in how you choose your next henchman to send.
With a designer team like Bauza and Lang, this game was destined to be something worth checking out. The game features a solid degree of strategic planning, players messing with each others plans, and the timing of each action being absolutely critical. We expected a CMON game to have a great deal of component quality but it cannot be overstated how easy it is to get players to come over when this is setup on the table.
Game Build Quality
The miniatures are well made and come with an excellent storage tray in the insert to protect the more fragile parts. The punchout bolts and copper plating are smaller than most components I am used to. They seem to work perfectly fine as is and drastically cut down on punchboard space and insert space needed. The scientists look like they are straight out of a particular fictional franchise my players enjoy. They are being imprisoned and forced to do the bidding of the villainous players.
Another thing worth noting is that CMON didn’t just make simple player pawns or use cards for henchmen. They made quality gears with customized art for each of the unique henchmen in the game. These henchmen are after all, just cogs in the machine of your master plan.
Wow, this game looks GREAT! Not only were the components excellent but the artwork is amazing. The machine blueprints hold a particular fascination for me. The location artwork makes it clear which cities are being represented without any names written on the board. You cannot beat the impact the box art makes in a buying decision. Well done Davide Tosello!
The really great moments in Victorian Masterminds come when your opponents have several henchmen tiles in a face up discard. And their last person or two includes a saboteur that can foil your critical plans. But which one of the locations is currently going to ruin your day? Is it the London stack you desperately want to place this henchman on? Or is it your alternate plan of stockpiling some firepower in Moscow? One is a trap! The other holds your destiny as the greatest mastermind.
There is not much take that overall. You always get the basic benefit of the location you visit it just requires taking good advantage of most of your bonus actions to win. I steer clear of most take that elements and this minimal but devastating interaction is far more FUN than it is FRUSTRATING. It is such a fine line to walk that some players might find it has stepped over their comfort. I urge you to try it for yourself as I have very little tolerance and loved it.
Age Range & Weight
14+ is a bit high of an estimate. The theme involves theft, being the villain, and has player interaction that can leave feelings hurt when a plan crumbles. This is probably why they have aimed for 14+. I can see 10-12 year olds being able to handle the game otherwise.
Victorian Masterminds is a relatively light weight game. The rules are pretty simple to learn in a few minutes. The strategic elements of when and why to do things holds a great deal of worthwhile gameplay.
Victorian Masterminds is in the golden zone of games. It is light enough to have wide appeal and holds a depth of strategy that will keep players coming back for more. It allows for an each teach, a theme that will draw in any crowd of players, and gameplay that can withstand repeat play. This is one of my absolute favorite acquisitions from Gen Con 2019 and I anticipate playing it over and over for years to come.
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