Product-Mansions of Madness, 2nd ed.
Producer– Fantasy Flight Games
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60-360 minutes (1-5 players)
TL; DR-Great, but the price is a bit too steep! 89%
Basics- Can you survive the Mansions of Madness? Step into this fully co-op board game as different investigators trying to uncover secrets best forgotten and lore never found! The game is very easy to learn and basically teaches you how to play as you go. First, the players choose a scenario that they want to play from a computer, iPad, or android device. That is the first thing to note here- you MUST have a device to play this game. These scenarios range in difficulty from one to five with the intro scenario being a two. After scenario selection, players then choose different character to be with different powers. With that done, the game will then give the players different starting items and the players divide these up as they see fit. Then the computer will layout the story and world telling the players where to put icons on the map, what map to build, and what other actions they can take.
Turns are fast and easy to do. Each investigator takes their turn in whatever order they choose. On a player’s turn, they do two actions. These action range from moving two spaces, interaction with different icons on the map/computer, interacting with puzzles, casting spells, and attacking creatures. Interaction with some icons expands the map and story. Sometimes when you interact with an icon on the map, you have to roll a number of dice equal to one of your skills to discover something. The dice are eight sided with blanks, clue icons (magnifying glasses), and elder signs. Elder signs are always successes, but clue icons indicate you could succeed if you spend a clue token. You only get clue tokens when you explore or uncover something which makes the clue economy extremely important! Also, some skill checks will require multiple successes to to succeed.
Attacking is interesting as when you attack a creature, you must tell the game how you attack. Then the computer randomly assigns you an attack method that depends on a skill roll. Sometimes the skill is obvious like strength for a punch, but other times you might end up doing agility when you swing a hammer. Again, sometimes you only need one success and other times you might need multiple. If you succeed, the computer tells you how much damage you do to the target.
Spells vary from attacks and player buffs. Each spell is a deck of cards where you draw one card and keep it face up in front of you. When you cast the spell, the computer or the spell will tell you how to cast it, what skills to roll, and then it tells you to check the reverse side. Some spells cause you to have to make another skill check to avoid damage or insanity and some just go off without a hitch. After you cast your spell, you then shuffle the spell back into its deck and draw a new, random version of the spell.
Puzzles are one of the most intriguing additions to this game. Unlike other games where players have to just roll a die to uncover the family mystery, in this game, the players have to do sliding tile puzzles, math puzzles, and even picture puzzles to uncover secrets. All are done on the computer, so there’s no fuss or muss on setup and clean up.
After all players have taken their turns, you tell the app or computer you are done, and the computer takes control, possibly spawning monsters, doing horrible events against some of the players, and advancing the story. Monsters are the biggest threat as they move around the map directed by the app. The app will tell you to move monsters and then attack players in their spaces. Monsters’ attacks are resolved like player attacks. The target of the attack rolls a skill. Unlike player attacks, each success on this roll only removes one damage, not ALL damage. After attacks are done, the app directs the players to make horror checks against the monster with the highest horror stat within three spaces. This is another skill roll that only removes one insanity for each success the player achieves.
Damage is interesting in this game. This game builds on Fantasy Flight’s other games with damage cards being both normal damage and special damage. When you take damage or insanity, you get a card face down of the type. Some cards and events will direct you to randomly flip one or more cards face up. Now, you get special effects like being lame or agoraphobic. When your damage equals your health, you discard all face down cards and gain a wounded condition card. You can’t do the move action twice in a turn, and if you gain the wounded condition again, you are dead and out of the game! If you gain insanity equal to your mental stat, you go crazy and gain a secret goal. Now, you might not win by helping the other players but might only win if you start enough fires! It’s a fun, fresh twist on the game.
Once all the monsters are done, then the players take over again the the cycle continues until the players win or horror descends across the land!
Mechanics-Overall, I like what I see here, but the computer part is a bit of a pain sometimes. The hardest part is that the app is slow and there’s limited options on it. If I attack with a 2×4, odds are I will see the same attack roll five times in a game. That wasn’t bad in the first edition when I as the bag guy shuffled four cards for an attack, but now with the computer app, I’d like more options and descriptions. The computer tends to slow down game play a bit. However, I do like the general speed of human play. A turn is quick as a human, and it is not overly complicated. All the fun different things I want to do are easy to do, and I enjoy that immensely. 4.5/5
Theme-My wife and I can’t stop playing this. It’s fun, and I feel like I’m in a Lovecraft story. It’s even got a modified version of my favorite short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”! Things feel right, the toys are nice, and the look is great. 5/5
Instructions-Fantasy Flight Games has been doing this new version of game instructions where the simple instructions get a short book with pictures and the nitty gritty get their own book with an index. That’s ok, but I end up needing to cross reference things, and it feels clunky. Also, I feel some things were not explained as well as they could be, like how horror and monster attacks are not blocked with one success, but they need multiple. Those details are pretty important, and I think it wasn’t emphasized enough. I got the feeling of missing key instructions until later a few times playing this game. 4.25/5
Execution-Ok, here is the bitter pill to swallow-this game is not worth $100. I like what’s here, but I feel I got more from the first edition than the second. Sure the app is nice, but I got more cards in the first edition, more books, and just more stuff. Now, I get more generic cardboard, monsters, and the app. What makes me give this a “4” is the backwards compatibility of the starter box. Fantasy Flight was a class act by giving me a conversion kit to get my old stuff into the new. I think what I get here is fair for $80, but for the $100 it went for, maybe that’s a bit much. Everything is great, but maybe not that good. If you want to to make that choice for yourselves, check out our unboxing here https://youtu.be/HK3Mb369xoA 4/5
Summary-I like this game, but it’s a game that you have to invest in. What’s here is good, but too expensive. If you NEED your Cthulhu fix, then this is a great continuation of the Arkham Horror games from Fantasy Flight Games. It’s a solid set with nice monsters, good cardboard, great stories, and easy mechanics. But, if you can’t drop the equivalent of a small car payment on this box, you might want to wait till this thing goes on sale. It’s a great game, but at this price, I’d like a bit more in the app, the box, and the game overall. That said, I’m still glad bought it, and I plan to buy the expansions. So, it’s gotta be good. 89%