This past weekend the wife and I finally got a pair of days off together and dove head first into our first 2017 board game! The unopened box – Mansions of Madness Second Edition – finally broke its seal after collecting dust for a week on the dining/gaming room table. Mansions of Madness is an Cthulu themed adventure game based off the inspirations of H.P. Lovecraft. We loaded the companion app on our laptop and started diving into the various components within the box. Within moments I came up with the first CON and no I am not talking about your typical gaming stat – Constitution!
CON #1 FAT FINGERS – And that’s my fault. The cardboard cut outs were going all over the place. Had to lock the dogs up so they wouldn’t snap them up like Snausages! Like most Fantasy Flight Games there was a bevy of cardboard tokens, board tiles, and a ton of mini cards to be used during the game. The one real CON here was the figurines that had to be snapped into plastic bases must have been stamped out by a drunken monkey. I basically had to whittle down the plastic nubs with a knife to make anything work and seriously contemplated using super glue! Sorry Fantasy Flight but for $100 you can make that part of assembly less of a pain in the ass. Your target audience are most likely rotund figured middle aged men like myself!
Other than that we were able to assemble and organize the rest of the components within the first twenty minutes of opening the box until we realized there were too many monster tokens and not enough bases or figurines! Also why were there two decks of investigator cards? Immediately – instead of reading the instructions – I went straight to GOOGLE. Of course had I read anything within the instruction booklets first I would have realized these extra components where part of the first edition conversion kit and we could just put them back in the box and not worry about them. Like a typical man – and never stopping to ask for directions – it would appear I don’t read them either. The wife promptly reached across the table top and grabbed the instructions.
Within the first few minutes of watching her thumb through the pages of the both the instructions and rules reference – while rubbing her forehead vigorously – I promptly decided maybe we ought to see if there were any “How To Play Mansions of Madness SE Sessions” on YouTube. To our delight we found a new rabbit hole to adventure down. We must have put in a good six to eight hours of top 10 board games of 2016 followed up by review and let’s play sessions for several different titles since discovering this new found YouTube Pandora’s Box!
I digress – after watching the very informative “Let’s Play Session” linked above – we hit up the app and started our first play through. The app was our first Pro in that it set the stage with a nice narrative and was complimented with spooky sounds and music throughout our adventure. After the intro to the scenario we picked our investigators and divided up the five items provided to us to start the adventure! Right away I was a bit confused as to where our weapons were as we didn’t seem to start with any. Not used to starting anything in the gaming world without at least a tree branch to smack something with! The game is made up of basically two turns, one for you as the players called the “Investigators Phase” and another for the enemy called the “Mythos Phase”.
The game is cooperative and as we adventured we were able to take two actions within our phase. Common actions such as move up to two tiles, search/investigate, interact with NPC’s, pick up items, trade, and of course ATTACK! While frantically moving and searching for items to wield as weapons – I think we may have gotten our first friendly NPC killed as we heard noises from a room and promptly rushed in the other direction only later to double back and find what was described as a horrific crime scene. During the “Mythos Phase” it was the bad guys turn. Usually it starts off with an eerie non combat event – that believe it or not can kick your ass – and then a random monster NPC spawn or two within the current layout of the dungeon.
I should say the dungeon starts off with one tile and as you use your explore/search action the app reveals more. Very cool mechanic – as in you do not have the entire layout displayed upon the table in front of you. Also we played the first scenario twice and on the second run through the app was intelligent enough to change the layout!
After the eerie event and any monster spawns these evil baddies are allowed to move and ATTACK! And if that is not enough there is one more horror check you need to perform before the “Mythos Phase” is over. The horror check is basically meant to test whether or not your investigator is crapping their pants in the presence of mean scary monsters. Your investigator basically has a health pool number and a sanity number – which in most adventure games would take the place of mana, magic, or power. So after encountering spooky sounds then being terrified and possibly outwardly clumsy in the eerie non combat event, then potentially being attacked by a monster, the final horror check step can have an effect on your sanity. Of course if you lose your sanity you become INSANE!
Being insane looks to have a significant and potentially hilarious effect on completing the game that you may NOT share with your partner until it is all over. We have yet to experience this but after reading the back of an insanity card we can’t wait to fail our horror checks and go insane to see what happens. This mechanic may end up being my favorite as it will bring in the human element of your partner saying “What the fuck are you doing that for!” while you remain silent or cackle maniacally!
Overall we played twice during this weekend of MADNESS! Love the game and look forward to playing the four scenarios that came with the app. We already see one DLC scenario within the app – not sure how we feel about that after the video game world has basically stuck it to us with making us pay extra for more content that in most cases should have come with the game. Also historically the first iteration of Mansions of Madness came out with a couple of expansions and I believe they will carry on that tradition with SE. The base set of the first edition and any of it’s expansions can be brought into SE with the prior mentioned conversion kit. This game gets a five out of five stars from us and we look forward to more time with it in the very near future!