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Mansions of Madness: House of Fears» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Wasted Potential rss

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Victor Lesperance
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Whenever I think about this expansion, I actually get frustrated and a bit angry. I would summarize it as "Wasted potential."

The background premise is IMO the best to date. And it turns into nothing but new mechanics that are either pointless, broken, non-play tested. No NPC's have discernable motives. The player character's seem to have no motive. The plot is A to B to C to D lead by the nose.

And this is supposed to come from the hands of a semi-famous author/gamer teaming with a board game that is supposed to highlight storylines?

In 1 hour I could re-write this from the ground up. But then I've got a game of post-it notes instead of professional cards. And if I post it, why am I not getting the royalties instead of what feels like a phoned in cash grab?

But lets talk details...

1) So, the brilliant background is that someone makes a movie of your lives then you walk in as the movie is playing. Add that this is the Cthulhu universe and BAM - you have instant epic things that could be happening... yet there's no incentive to watch the movie. All it does is repeat the current clue. Which you might as well just get by going to the current clue, because the current clue also contains the key you need to open the door to the next clue. So the info on the screen is both redundant... and lacks the key. So, just play this scenario like every other one ever made. That's means lots of new mechanic serving zero purpose.

Also, this whole premise makes no sense. Clearly the audience has been sucked into the movie when it started. And the PC's arrive during the opening credits. Yet, inexplicably they can watch it all night, get their wasted duplicate clues, and yet are immune to the movie's power?

Here's one of several better ideas that took me all of 10 minutes to concoct:

Clue 6: Choose whether or not you wish to watch a few minutes of the movie to gather clues. Inform the Keeper and then return this clue face down to the explore pile. (Putting it back face down implies that this room/movie can be "re-explored" ad nauseum.)

If yes (watch movie), receive "Forshadowed knowledge." Let the card host a couple skill tokens (or add more skill tokens if they already have the card). Sure they should have better rolls in the adventure, they've just watched some of the upcoming crisis and know what to prepare for.

If no, (and no other player has "forshadowed knowledge" they receive "Nothing of interest."

If no, (and another player has "forshadowed knowledge") they receive "scanning the audience you see one or more of your group standing slack jawed staring at the screen. And yet you could swear you just saw them exploring outside as well..." - you may not read this card aloud or trade it to anyone holding a "forshadowed knowledge" card.

I think you can see what this is setting up. Some explorers are now in the movie. Some are not. Yet you're all still exploring the house together SEEMINGLY like normal. You have segregation of knowledge which is always fun. And now that characters are in "2 camps", this division could invoke different ramifications(ie, the classic 1a, 1b, 1c choice of most scenarios) and the rules would appear on objective cards (1a, 1b, 1c).

This only takes a couple of cards and a scenario rule to implement. Now, the movie means something. More than that - its central to the scenario's premise. And a card like "forshadowed knowledge" hosting clue tokens, is a generic enough concept that it can fuel all kinds of fan made, or future expansion material.

That's is what these expansions should be offering. Not reprinting duplicates of all the cards we already have and charging $15 for it.

*And I'll digress into a huge irony: The premise is that all the artifacts of your prior adventures are on display throughout the house. Best explanation ever for all the eclectic junk that one finds in every game of MoM. Yet, this scenario could have then most benefited from pulling most of its cards from the core game. Thus allowing all supplied cards to focus on new effects/clues/mechanics/creativity. Wasted opportunity.

2) Lost Souls. So for the first time in MoM, players can uncover a monster while exploring. Great! I love new mechanics and surprises. And yet its wasted on these "lost souls." They're basically hidden altars where the keeper can summon things. Yet they can't move once created, and to summon something, a PC must end his turn in the room and you must spend threat AND you only get one attack then auto-die.

Lame.

These are ACTORS who think they are YOU. Who - in the movie - ARE YOU. How much potential is that?!?

Let's screw with the heroes' minds a bit, folks. These actors are the heroes fighting the monsters that you fought earlier in your career. So, various ideas (and all could be used given 1a, 1b, 1c choices):

View the world from their eyes (it is their movie you're in, after all). When revealed, place one of the hero's figures atop the lost soul card. Give the hero a monster figure - like a shuggoth - to play with for the rest of the game. So, at least if the soul is trying to kill the hero, we're enjoying a cool perspective - they are the 'good guys' and you're the evil... even though you're still the ones trying to escape the film...

And how cool if escape involves exiting the manor... so you're actually winning by moving a shoggoth off the board... get it? you're playing "inner sanctum" from the reverse perspective! Which is like watching a movie of your own past. Which is what you're simulating. Oh, Hastur, thy madness consumes me!

Epilogue: Now safe, you think back to your adventure in the Inner Sactum so many years ago. That instant when you cleaved the shuggoth's head in two. Is it just morbid imagination that you now think you remember that look of terror in its many eyes... terror and familiarity...

Or... maybe you, the monster, must defeat these monster hunters. So, create a keeper card that turns one hero into a monster. The more threat spent, the weaker the monster. So, zero threat makes you a shuggoth, but 15 threat makes you a cultist.

Again, that's a "generic effect" that one can build into future scenarios for wildly different adventures. New cards as new building blocks for creating new scenarios.

Being less ambitious, there's other story options...
History is written by the film makers: Maybe these faux heroes never "see you" since you aren't in the movie. But this is a documentary. So what happens now "re-writes" history. So, they (the actors) go to fight the monsters in the house because this is what you did. So, you need to keep them alive. Because if the documentary shows that "you die", then... you died! So, mechanically, the keeper will blowing through threat to make his actors as reckless as possible, hurtling heroes towards monsters and splitting the party ("playing poorly"). So, the "real" heroes must save their own lives by running interference and keeping their alter-egos alive. THAT'S a unique take on Mansions of Madness!

Room for One
Or what if we play on the idea that every character now has 2 copies - the actor and the player. Maybe only one of each set can escape the movie. So now each player can individually win/lose. What a great exploration player motives. Sure I may be be helping my team mates to win - but then my copy makes a break for the exit. Do I stay and help my friend, or do I cut and run so I make it out alive?

Epilogue: We all made it out alive! But, from time to time, when I look into the eyes of my friends... I wonder what is now looking back at me.

Boy. I could go on for pages with wild ideas that exploit this fantastic premise.

And here's exactly why I'm upset. This "expansion" cost $15. But 90% of what you get is exact copies of cards you already have, used to create a scenario that plays out like every other scenario.

I would have hand crafted a set of cards that have "generic effects" that combine with a page of scenario rules, or objectives, or clues, or whatever to create a wildly different gaming experience, but that can then be used as tools for fan-made material. And if every expansion did this, then we'd have the building blocks for the most amazing fan material to come.

And sure, 1/2 of every expansion will probably be usable only in that expansion, like cool scenario specific clues.

But the core of every expansion should be some new mechanic, written on cards with fairly generic text. That new mechanic makes that expansion cool all by itself. But that subset of cards can then be used across expansions for fan use.

If you made it this far, thanks for bearing with me.
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