I've been playing the new edition of Mansions of Madness (2nd edition) for a few days, and wanted to add some thoughts I haven't seen mentioned in other reviews (although I may be wrong).
For those new to the game, Mansions of Madness is set in the Lovecraft universe, and takes place mainly in a.. yes, Mansion, although in this new version we get to explore more of the surrounding area as well.
Each player takes the role of an Investigator, trying to solve a mystery. You can move around the house, or area, which is slowly revealed as you explore, with new floor tiles added as you go. Clues to the mystery can be found throughout the area, along with usable items and weapons. You may meet and question other people, fight Eldritch monsters, and run screaming from hideous entities who are all hell bent on your destruction.
In the original version one player would be the "Keeper" (or the Games Master) and run the game, whilst the other players would play as a team against the Keeper. In this 2nd Edition, the role of the Keeper is replaced with an App (if you are using iOS or Android) or a program (if you are using a PC or Mac). The app is a requirement and you can not play the game without one. Whilst this has some downsides (more on that later) it also allows you to play the game solo as well as co-op with a group of up to 5 people.
However, Mansions of Madness is more than just a simple solo / co-op version of the previous game. It tries to bring some new innovations to the genre, adds immersion via the app, and also includes some unexpected new additions.
One of these is the new Damage and Horror concept.
Damage and Horror Cards
In all previous FFG Lovecraft games you have had a stack of heart tokens and brain tokens to represent your life and sanity. In MoM2 however these are replaced with cards.
When you take damage you now draw a card into your hand, representing 1 heart. Sometimes you are instructed to take this face down, and sometimes face up. On the back of the card you find some flavour text, which could say "nothing happens", or it could cause something bad to happen to you in addition to your 1 damage. Once you have read the card it goes back face down into your hand but you are not safe yet. Other cards and effects may tell you to flip one of your damage cards at random and follow the text, so there is the continual danger of that nasty war wound cropping up just when you least expect it.
The same goes for Sanity, now called Horror, which works in the same way. The sanity and damage cards can even reference each other, telling you to flip one or the other at random when something bad happens.
Once you have the hang of it, it becomes a very clever little system, and adds to the immersion of the game in a way I didn't expect.
When you take too much damage (have more cards in your hand than your allowable hearts) you are wounded. You lose all your cards and now have a second chance - but if you take your maximum amount of damage again you are eliminated. Having an investigator eliminated now spells doom for the entire group (unlike in MoM1 where you just came along with another investigator) and you can all lose the game. So, in this version you actually need to keep an eye on your team mates and make sure you all survive.
One of the more unexpected elements of this system however is what happens when you run out of sanity and have too many cards in your hand.
When this occurs you go insane and draw an insanity card. Just like being wounded you now discard all your horror cards and have a second chance - but, unlike being wounded your insanity card has some rather interesting effects.
Insane investigators now have a chance to secretly turn against their team mates and try to win the game alone.
Yes, MoM2 now has a secret betrayal mechanic.
For example, you may find that if a certain number of rooms is on fire you win the game and everyone else loses. Or you might need to let the investigation complete but ensure each of your team mates are wounded. Or - of course - the card may say nothing at all. Either way, once you go insane, I won't be trusting a word you say.
It adds a completely new twist on the game, and one that suddenly made MoM2 very exciting for me. I love secret quests, and this one simple addition turns a good co-op game into an excellent 'all against one' game. And the more people that go insane, the more objectives that can potentially enter play, and the more chaos that can be generated by the group!
This sounds great (and it is) but it wouldn't matter if the App that runs it was no good. Thankfully however, it's fantastic.
The app adds a whole new level of immersion, with voice acting, sound effects, spooky music, and interesting stories and settings. The stories feel far more epic than they did in MoM1, with large sprawling settings that are no longer restricted just to the Mansion itself. And they really draw from the books of Lovecraft, making you feel you are inside the stories - in a way the other Arkham / Eldritch games have never really done for me.
For example, in one game you find yourself in Innsmouth, inside the Hotel from the books, with something trying your locked door as you desperately try to find a way to escape. And it works. It works very well.
The app manages to control the game, without ever feeling restrictive, and the turns flow smoothly and feel organic in the way they work.
Puzzles have always been a fun side event in Mansions, and the app of course adds more of these, letting the player involved interact and play a side game as they try and find the clues. Again this feels very smooth and well made, bringing more immersion to the game.
The only downsides of the app for me were that I experienced a crash at one point of the story, repeatedly, which did sour my early experience. In an App free world I could play my boardgame with no worries. In this new experience, the worry that your game could be ruined in a moment is always there - although FFG are patching it fairly quickly to fix these. Still, it can be argued that more testing before launch would have found these bugs quite quickly.
The other argument against the app is that it may be obsolete in 10 years time, thus giving your game a shelf-life that others do not have. Although, in fairness I have been a PC gamer since Doom in 1993, and I can still play that 23 years later - on my phone. If I am still playing Mansions of Madness in 23 years time then the payout will have been worth it.
The game components are of course very good, as you would expect from FFG, although the figures may be a little less solid than in the previous version. The cards and tokens are all very good quality, and are not overwhelming as they were in Arkham and Eldritch Horror. They all work together well, using a system that is deceptively simple that feels very playable.
And its very addictive. I have spent far too many hours on it over the last few days without even realising!
The only downside for me is the small number of stories - only 4 at launch, 1 less than the first edition, and the way a lot of the components seems geared up just for those stories. For example one of the tiles looks like it was made with one of the stories in mind, and there are tokens representing the characters you meet in the stories - something FFG have done with Descent and Imperial Assault before releasing expensive figures to replace them. I hope Mansions does not go down this route and instead releases more stories on a regular basis without the need for buying physical packs each month.
FFG have announced recently that 2 new stories will be appearing for free in the "Fall", and also 2 expansions - replacing the figures from the first version and its expansions (although if you already own these a conversion kit is included in the game).
As mentioned before I did have some crashes with the app, but apart from that it is feels well made, and works very well at running the game, without being overpowering and feeling like a video game.
It is very much a board game, with an app. Not an app with a board game.
If you like your Lovecraft / Eldritch games, and you enjoyed MoM1, and you don't mind paying out the much higher new FFG prices (something that is really not very impressive at all), then I can highly recommend Mansions of Madness 2. It is probably the best soloable boardgame I have played, even more so that Arkham, and indeed more than the recent Descent app.
I hope you enjoyed my review, and I am now off to paint the figures, to add to the immersion! I'll add some pics below as I complete them.
- Last edited Mon Aug 8, 2016 8:05 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Aug 7, 2016 10:07 pm
I was not aware of the new edition and became aware while on vacation this past Friday...I had my FLGS hold a copy for me and picked it up when I got back in town last night, and very excited to play! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, I am so glad everyone seems to be having a good time with this thus far and anticipate my son and I will too! We have all of the non-POD 1st editon stuff but it has been hard to get to the table, this seems like it will see more play. Cheers!
- Last edited Mon Aug 8, 2016 8:55 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Aug 8, 2016 8:54 am