Quick Word

A friend once pitched me Mansions of Madness as Betrayal at House on the Hill (one of my favorite games) on steroids. I instantly started salivating. Then I read the rules. And the saliva dried up. Then I watched video reviews. And my mouth closed and I forgot about the game as a whole. The idea of all the prep work involved as being the Keeper seemed like a headache I wasn’t prepared to tackle (and I would be the Keeper…because that is always the role I seem to play). When the 2nd edition came out my interest was piqued. I received my copy, read the rules, watched Rodney Smith break it down for me, and set off on my own little adventure into the mouth of madness…

Brief Game Synopsis

Players assume the role of Investigators as they interface with an app that guides them on a scenario based adventure. Each scenario has a separate story so you start off unsure as to what your main objective is but you interact with clues and computer controlled people to figure out what you need to do to end the scenario.

Toys With Rules

Fantasy Flight has gotten into this thing where they release multiple Rules booklets – usually something like a Learn to Play and a full Ruled Reference where every topic is laid out alphabetically by subject. And I gotta say, I just love it. I mean, as a whole Fantasy Flight is getting a lot better with their rule books because of this new system. The Learn to Play books are always very simple with plenty of pictures and turn examples (looking at you X-Wing and Star Wars: Rebellion) and Mansions of Madness is no exception.

The app is intuitive and the Rules Reference works well to quickly clarify any rules questions that may arise.

That being said, I did play through my first game with the incorrect rules. It isn’t the Learn to Play guide’ fault, it isn’t an issue with the Rules Reference, and the great Rodney Smith did not fail me. It was all me. I know this because I went back and reread the Learn to Play guide and the Rule Reference, and watched the Watch It Played video, and it was there in black and white….every…single…time...

I felt like it should be shared because it was a simple mistake that really changed the game when I replayed, correctly. The mistake was, when taking damage (both mental and physical) the card is played faceup unless the card states otherwise. In our very first run through, there were only like two instances where the app or item text told us to flip an injury card, which we took as meaning to reveal the injury text, thus giving further negative effects. Playing correctly makes the game more difficult, but it adds to the fun factor.

(Along the same note as the above, when you become damaged / insane, you are to shuffle back into their respective mental / physical the unrevealed cards but the revealed / faceup ones stay attached to your character)

Boards ‘N Bits

Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition seems to be even more divisive then most games due to the streamlined approach of relying on the app and because of the monster miniatures quality / bases.

So let’s start with the tiles and tokens. Fantasy Flight has a strong history of creating games that are beautiful and sprawling and containing enough tokens and various bits to choke all the cats in China. The tiles and artwork is gorgeous, the barriers and way the tokens interact with the room tiles makes sense and flows nicely. I think “classy” is the word I would choose for the design and layout.

The app…I like it. A lot. I think it functions nicely, and though it is going through some growing pains that cause crashes or freezing, Fantasy Flight’s tech department has been hard at work patching up the issues. I definitely understand the frustration it creates, and I really do get the debate about what will happen when the app is no longer supported and stops functioning (it is the reason I won’t get World of Yo-Ho despite it looking amazing). But ultimately, for me at least, I would not have touched the game without the app. It takes care of the complicated Keeper actions for you, opens the game up for a fully co-op experience, and helps inject theme and atmosphere nicely. The ability to save your progress also rocks. In fact, the one game I played where it froze the app at the very end, I had to shrug off employing the explanation that clearly Cthulhu’s madness spread to the app and caused the game itself to go insane. No one else seemed to appreciate the explanation but me, but meh, they’ll get over it.

Now I do have some issues with the miniatures – no they ain’t exactly resin works of art but I think they look fine and aesthetically enhance the game nicely. My issue was that they would not stay on their bases, so at 3 AM in frustration I glued them onto their bases (poorly I might add) and after I had shoved these beautiful square chits into the bases. Now I cannot get these beautiful chits out and I don’t know how to paint mini’s and the glue has permanently left stains on the giant base that is oversized and serves no real benefit...but that is what I get for trying to figure out how to keep the mini’s on at 3 AM. If I had it to do over again, I would have glued the miniatures onto some clear lisko discs available on ebay or amazon and just written their horror rating on it because the app literally contains the rest of the info.

My Thoughts

I love this game. After the miniatures gluing fiasco I actually braced myself for disappointment but luckily, my experience (even playing incorrectly) was really, really positive. Having played through three of the scenarios fully and having had to replay several of them multiple times to beat / show someone new the game, I definitely feel like I will be getting my monies worth. Even if they don’t add more scenarios (which I cannot imagine they won’t be), I know I can revisit the scenarios in a few months with new players to get that rich experience the game offers.

Also, small thing, but this game inspired me to try my hand at creating a foam core insert. I am not really good at arts and crafts but I am pretty proud of the results, so I will probably post them tomorrow. Or maybe not. I am not much of a DIY kinda guy.

Son’s Thoughts

This game is a little too intense for my six year old, so here is feedback from two of my friends with similar feedback morphed together to be cohesive:

Mansions of Madness creates a really unique experience, where you are not quite sure if you are playing a 3D video game, or computer based board game. Regardless, it is a wild ride that manages to be a knuckle biting frustrating experience while strangely addictive. You hardly notice as hours pass in the real world while you investigate the mysteries of the creepy mansion and perverse town.

There is a lot of concern that soon we will have eaten up all the available content and with the expansions estimating around $80, it is uncertain if they will be immediately obtainable.

Here they differ as one person loved the miniatures and the other wished we had ditched them and use the monster tokens instead of ruining them by sticking them into the base. One of them also noted that Rita’s back story sounded like she should be black. We talked about it and he agreed that it was an unfortunate case of poor communication generated ignorance to the artist. A shame for sure, and something that will hopefully be corrected in a future expansion.

In the end, they both gave the game two enthusiastic thumbs up though, so there is that.

Pro’s

+ Unique and fun experience
+ Great use of app in-game
+ Super easy to teach
+ Rich playable characters to choose from that all feel unique

Con’s

- Expensive
- App reliant (hindered by glitches)
- Limited amount of starting scenarios
- Monster bases suck

Purchase, Play, or Pass

Due to the high price tag and the reliance of an app (and the distrust and reluctance it causes) I can really only rate this as a Play (despite the fact that it was an instant Purchase for me).
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Jez Dedman
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BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Quick Word

One of them also noted that Rita’s back story sounded like she should be black. We talked about it and he agreed that it was an unfortunate case of poor communication generated ignorance to the artist. A shame for sure, and something that will hopefully be corrected in a future expansion.



I played once recently, and noticed this about Rita too. However, from a quick look around here, I found this, which links to other threads. Apparently she is black...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1632842/rita-young-athlete-...

Anyway, I loved the game, agree with most points in your review and am also concerned that a lack of scenarios may hinder the games popularity/value - and I don't even own it...yet!
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Slumpy wrote:
BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Quick Word

One of them also noted that Rita’s back story sounded like she should be black. We talked about it and he agreed that it was an unfortunate case of poor communication generated ignorance to the artist. A shame for sure, and something that will hopefully be corrected in a future expansion.



I played once recently, and noticed this about Rita too. However, from a quick look around here, I found this, which links to other threads. Apparently she is black...
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1632842/rita-young-athlete-...

Anyway, I loved the game, agree with most points in your review and am also concerned that a lack of scenarios may hinder the games popularity/value - and I don't even own it...yet!


Yeah, we figured she was black but somehow that must have not reached illustrator, or just an odd choice was made by the inker.
 
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Adventurous Moose

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BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Yeah, we figured she was black but somehow that must have not reached illustrator, or just an odd choice was made by the inker.


Nope, apparently she is supposed to be a very light skinned black woman. So they are just following the description of the lore closely.
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Jackelantern wrote:
BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Yeah, we figured she was black but somehow that must have not reached illustrator, or just an odd choice was made by the inker.


Nope, apparently she is supposed to be a very light skinned black woman. So they are just following the description of the lore closely.


Ah, thank you for the clarification Mr. Moose.
 
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Mark Bauer
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Jackelantern wrote:
BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Yeah, we figured she was black but somehow that must have not reached illustrator, or just an odd choice was made by the inker.


Nope, apparently she is supposed to be a very light skinned black woman. So they are just following the description of the lore closely.


The original miniature is still white
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Stevie P
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BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Quick Word

- Monster bases suck



Was really excited to get this and the expansions. After getting it all punched out and the minis on the bases temporarily cuz no glue and the cards in the bases (only destroying one card that caught some flash and ripped through the name), I threw it all back in the box saying this system sucks. Why are the bases so big? Maybe I'll revisit it sometime when I feel like dealing with it, but as of now I have no desire to open the box again. I think FF needs to hire a gaming engineer (is there such a thing? There should be!).
 
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Dean L
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steprov wrote:
BoardSoNeverBored wrote:
Quick Word

- Monster bases suck



Was really excited to get this and the expansions. After getting it all punched out and the minis on the bases temporarily cuz no glue and the cards in the bases (only destroying one card that caught some flash and ripped through the name), I threw it all back in the box saying this system sucks. Why are the bases so big? Maybe I'll revisit it sometime when I feel like dealing with it, but as of now I have no desire to open the box again. I think FF needs to hire a gaming engineer (is there such a thing? There should be!).


They are that big to hold the tokens, which can be switched out for tokens from other Arkham games, so the minis can be used in those games too.

(Whether it was worth doing that is questionable but there was logic behind it)
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