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Subject: One Stop Co-op Shop - Review of the Big Book of Madness rss

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Colin Degnan
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Overview:

Do you remember when you were a kid, and your Mom and Dad told you not to touch the burner on the stove because it was hot? Of course we all know what happened after that, as it was “burned” into our minds and more importantly, our hands when we decided to touch the hot stove anyways. Well “The Big Book of Madness” by Maxime Rambourg will bring back memories of your insubordination as a kid. In this game you are a group of young Witches and Wizards who open a book that is supposedly “off limits.” Once they open the book they cannot leave until they have fought their way through 6 terrible monsters. With only their limited knowledge of spells to protect them, they begin the journey through the arduous book, hoping to at a minimum survive the six encounters awaiting them in the cursed pages of the book.

If you would like to see a playthrough, please feel free to stop by my channel at The One Stop Co-op Shop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWUTIt6uTEw&index=1&list=PLr...

As a Witch or Wizard, you will begin with a deck of 4 different types of element cards (Earth, Wind, Water, Air), and 4 basic spells to use at your disposal. Each spell utilizes a specific type of element, and you will find that each Witch or Wizard has one or two elements that they are more proficient with because their starter deck has more of a specific type of element. During your turn you have a plethora of options available to you:

1. Activate a Spell
2. Upgrade deck by buying element cards
3. Upgrade spells by buying new spells
4. Cure Madness from your deck
5. Destroy a Curse card

After you have completed as many of the actions above as your hand of six element cards can handle, you draw back up to six cards, ensure you do not have a hand only of Madness, and then the monsters get a turn to act. On the board itself you will move the freaking amazing looking book marker to the next round (a total of 5 rounds per page in the book), and if there is a curse or curses in the particular round, the active player must activate and resolve the curse. Most curses will add “Madness” to your deck. I equate Madness to Wounds as I played a ton of Marvel Legendary before this game, and it works virtually the same. However, unlike wounds in Marvel, Madness can be a game ender for the players. Here is how you win or lose:

Win:
- Reach the final chapter and defeat the final monster.

Lose:
- Need to place another Madness in a players deck and there are none left in supply
- Player eliminated if they draw their hand and it is completely full of Madness

This is the game in a very broad nutshell. Now there is a lot that I left out here, but that is because I will explain more in detail below and would prefer not to repeat myself. 

Art & Design: 8.5/10

I have to say, when I opened this game up, I was immediately drawn into the theme because the art has a sort of magical feeling that permeates right out of the box. The element cards have just enough design to make you feel as though you are holding Fire in your hands. When looking at the different Witches or Wizards to choose from, you can almost feel the attitude of the Witch or Wizard by the art, and how they are portrayed on their card. Then, once you start understanding what the specific elements are good at (Fire – destroy/heal Madness, Air – coordination between players, Water – providing elements into support, Earth – draw power and recover ability from discard pile), you can see how these effects match the personality of the Witch of Wizard that is the same color. To be honest, although the Witch, Wizard and Element cards look cool, they are nothing compared to the game board itself. When you look at the board, you might as well say you are in Hogwarts because the designer captured the feeling of an old castle with walls that have seen many a spell cast within them. My only wish was that the board would have encompassed all the cards used in the game, instead of having to place the curse decks and element decks on the outside of the board. Just my personal opinion. Regardless, if you enjoyed Harry Potter as a child like I did, this game will make you feel as though you have the chance to be a Witch or Wizard, facing monsters and fighting for survival (Specto Patronum!!).

Theme: 10/10

The look, the feel, and the gameplay all resonate very soundly with the theme of this game. In order for the player to cast spells, you need to have some form of energy to cast these spells etc. That energy comes from the element cards. The more cards you have of one energy type, the stronger you become utilizing those spells. If you continue to focus on a specific element type and “learn” stronger spells by discarding element cards, you become even stronger. This seems to me to fit the theme of a magical world to a tee. There are monsters you must defeat, who are sending curses at your team, and you must work together to stop them or you will go mad. After playing this game, I itched to re-read some Harry Potter to re-live that feeling of anything is possible in a world of magic.

Game Mechanics: 9/10

The mechanics of this game are not difficult to understand, but the choices in this game are what make it stand out as a deeper game than ones like the Harry Potter deckbuilding game.

Options, Options, Options!:
Unlike most deckbuilders, where your options are to either attack/damage obstacles or purchase new cards, The Big Book of Madness provides significantly more options for your turn (noted above). All of these options make for a gameplay that is rich in decisions. Each of these actions can be taken multiple times during your turn so long as you have sufficient element cards in your hand to activate the abilities.

Spells:
There are four different types of spells, all that relate to a specific element (Earth, Water, Fire, Air). Each Spell type does certain types of actions. For example, most of the Water spells will deal with the support pool. Earth cards deal with drawing more cards. First is about destroying or curing Madness, and Air is about interacting with your fellow Witches and Wizards. Everyone will start with 4 basic spells, one of each type of element. Over the course of the game you can discard 2 elements of the same type to purchase a new spell of the same element type you discarded. Each element will have 3 spells available for purchase, but you must purchase the level 1 spells prior to purchasing the level 2 spell etc. etc. Each spell only costs 2 value to purchase but the stronger spells will require more element cards to activate. Players can specialize in different elements so that they can be more effective with the spells they purchase. Many of these spells can drastically affect the game. My favorite of all of them is Telepathy.

Telepathy is where the cooperative nature of this game shines. Telepathy allows one other player to take an action during your turn. This action could be any of the 5 listed above. The real puzzle of this game begins with this spell. Should you allow your fellow teammate to take one action to destroy a curse before their next turn? When you do this though, that players next turn will be less effective because you do not draw up to 6 cards until the end of the turn. Also, you may need that Air card you are using to activate Telepathy in order to destroy another curse. When my wife and I play, there are times where I cannot even remember whose turn it is!

Madness Mechanic:
If you have played Marvel Legendary, think of Madness as Wounds. They do nothing to you per say except clog up your deck. However Madness has a twist over the wounds in Marvel, they are always a lose condition. If you draw your hand up to 6 cards, and you only have Madness, you are out of the game. Also, the game starts with a certain amount of Madness cards, and if ever this pile of Madness is depleted and you need to draw another Madness, everyone losses the game.

Also, every time you shuffle your deck, you add one Madness card. Now initially that doesn’t sound too bad. But when you remember your starting deck starts with 12 cards, you realize how quickly you are shuffling your deck. Not to mention, over half of the curses will place Madness in your deck somewhere. Now there are ways you can destroy Madness cards, most notably through the initial Fire spell. However destroying a Madness card removes it from the game! This means you are not placing this Madness card back in the pile of available Madness. You are removing the Madness from the game. You can “cure” Madness by discarding 2 value of the same element. You will find that this is mechanic is key to your success. If you simply destroy all your Madness instead of curing it, you are going to have a hard time winning this game!

Only If. . .

Boss Monster
This is my biggest pet peeve of this game. I have pushed through 5 monsters, all who have tried to kill me through Madness, and I have either evaded them or defeated them. I get to the final Monster, and. . . . it is just like every other one except now I have to defeat the monster. Seems so anti-climactic to me. I would love to see a harder boss that brings out more curses, or affects us differently than the other monsters. Otherwise it just seems like a cop-out to have the final monster NOT be a boss. I know the final page everyone adds a Madness to the top of their deck, but that just does not cut it for me. I want to feel like the story has come to a climax with an epic fight. Maybe instead of only getting 5 rounds against a boss monster, you got 10 rounds (2 times around the board), and the curses change the second time through or something like that.

More Variety of Curses:

I would say at least half if not more of the curses are “Every player add 1 madness to their discard pile.” This is fine and does its job of messing with players decks, but I want more unique curses. Something like “All players place their hand in the next players discard pile and draws 5 cards.” More disruption! This could maybe be a part of an expansion? Maybe? 

5 player Difficulty:
I have played this game with 1,2, and 5 players. I have to say I think the 1 and 2 player games were great! You had turns that went quickly and you felt involved in the game. When we played our 5 player game, the game just dragged on and on. . . The Analysis Paralysis should up for players since there were so many options. We also played on normal difficulty and never lost to a single monster. But to do that the game took almost 2 hours because we were all trying to find the best possible play, and there were so many of them!

In my opinion, deckbuilding cooperative games seem to play best at 3 players (Marvel Legendary, ShadowRift, Xenoshyft are the ones I can think of). This game is no exception to the rule. 2 players you are itching to have a third player available for a few more options, but the turns will still go quickly. 5 players was just too long!

Player Abilities
I felt like many of the abilities the Witches and Wizards had were not very good. The special abilities were just rarely used. For example, the White Wizard that has the ability to draw one card and if it is a Madness to cure it. I almost never used that! Or the ability “have 5 cards in support.” I used this once and that is it. Just wish the player abilities were stronger so you felt like you had an ace up your sleeve.

Cooperative Aspect: 9/10

Two words for this: Telepathy, Support pool. The support pool mechanic and Telepathy card make the cooperation aspect of this game a 9 for me. Every turn you are asking other players what they could contribute during your turn. And during your own turn, you try and throw as many useful element cards in the support pool as possible. I do not think it is possible to win this game without cooperation. For me, that is what I want in my co-op games.


Replayability: 7.75/10

The game comes with a plethora of Witches and Wizards you can choose from. Also there are about 15 monster cards as well as 3 spell cards per level (3 levels of spells). With all of this, plus the fact that the monsters will always be in a different order, I do not see this game going stale anytime soon. Oh and I forgot to mention the 3 levels of difficulty!

Hoping that an expansion will provide more monsters and more spells, but as of now with the base and playing 12 or so times I am not bored at all, and each game is a challenge!


Difficulty: 8.25/10

When I first played this game, the first 4 plays I lost. One game I lost in round 3! The game is hard to master at first, but similar to Shadowrun Crossfire, once you figure out the strategy, the game becomes much more manageable. If you get flrusterated quickly that you cannot master a game, this game may not be for you. Once you learn how to utilize the Telepathy spell, and the benefit of curing not destroying Madness, you will start winning games!

Player Number

I touched on this already, but I lean towards 3 players as being the best player count. 2 players is a quick game, 5 players was a drudgery I never want to do again!

Player Type:

Although the theme of the game is relatively light, and you are essentially playing as kids at a school, the game is not for the faint of heart. I played this game with 2 different groups of non-gamers, and they just had a hard time grasping the deckbuilding, spell casting, Madness clearing etc. It was too many options. When you threw in allowing players to take an action during other players turns, which was the last straw for many of them. It was too difficult for them to enjoy.

If you want to play with a non-gamer, first teach them Marvel Legendary, or some other deckbuilder. After they understand those concepts, you can bring them into The Book of Madness.

Final Thoughts: 8.75/10

I love this game! I love feeling like I am at a Witch and Wizarding school learning spells and taking down monsters in the restricted section of the library! I also love the challenge the game brings and how I must cooperate with my fellow teammates. I have always enjoyed deckbuilding, and this game is no exception. If you are looking for a fantasy style co-op deckbuilder with a little more depth than Marvel Legendary (and a much smaller footprint in terms of space!) try this one out. You will not regret it!



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Kevin B. Smith
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Nice review.

Lightningbolt1312 wrote:
If you want to play with a non-gamer, first teach them Marvel Legendary, or some other deckbuilder. After they understand those concepts, you can bring them into The Book of Madness.

I can recommend Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle as a gateway deckbuilder for fans of the franchise. Maybe BBoM will be the next step after.
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Colin Degnan
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I second that! Harry Potter is a great way to jump start learning how to play a cooperative deckbuilder.
 
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trevor

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expansions please!!!!!!
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Matthieu BONIN
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bigGameGeek wrote:
expansions please!!!!!!
It's on its way…
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trevor

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Mattintheweb wrote:
bigGameGeek wrote:
expansions please!!!!!!
It's on its way…


Horray!!!!
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Colin Degnan
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This is so great to hear!! Now we just have to have the patience for the expansion to come out. . . Easier said then done!
 
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Antonio Tang
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peakhope wrote:
I can recommend Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle as a gateway deckbuilder for fans of the franchise. Maybe BBoM will be the next step after.

And, after that, Aeon's End!
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Matthieu BONIN
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Lightningbolt1312 wrote:
This is so great to hear!! Now we just have to have the patience for the expansion to come out. . . Easier said then done!
Well, we might be able to help with this…
Stay tuned!
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Long Nguyen
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Mattintheweb wrote:
Lightningbolt1312 wrote:
This is so great to hear!! Now we just have to have the patience for the expansion to come out. . . Easier said then done!
Well, we might be able to help with this…
Stay tuned!


*Breathes heavily*
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Dan Smith
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I don't consider this game a deckbuilder at all though.

The only thing you can add to your deck are elemental cards that are just resources. You cannot combine them in any way, cannot combo with them, and there can be no synergy between these cards.

Really, the only thing it has in common with deckbuilders is that the cards you buy are put in your discard pile.

Plus, in deckbuilers, you want to optimize your deck to make it as small as possible. Which is not so here as it'll make you mad fast.
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Colin Degnan
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Dan – that is an interesting perspective and I completely get what you are saying. Most of the “deckbuilder” mechanics are not prevalent in this game. You actually don’t want to churn through your deck to get to your good cards, because you will become mad if you do!

However, In my personal opinion I still see the game as a deckbuilder per say, purely from the fact that all of my actions come from a deck of cards that are my own, and I can purchase cards that will be placed into my deck for future use. I am honestly not sure what else you would call this game if not a deckbuilder.

Regardless of the name, I find it to be an enjoyable experience, and appreciate the fact that it is different from your “average” deckbuilding game.
 
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Steve Crow
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"I felt like many of the abilities the Witches and Wizards had were not very good. The special abilities were just rarely used. For example, the White Wizard that has the ability to draw one card and if it is a Madness to cure it. I almost never used that! Or the ability “have 5 cards in support.” I used this once and that is it. Just wish the player abilities were stronger so you felt like you had an ace up your sleeve."

The White Wizard's ability is more of a late-gamer. You don't use it on your first deck pass (since you probably won't have any Madness). But later on if you've got 6+ Madness in your deck, it can become pretty potent.

Then again, several of the abilities are late-game. The Green Wizard (i.e., "Fat Ron" as we call him ) probably isn't going to need that sixth spell until the mid-game. Or maybe never: there's usually one starter spell that each player can afford to dump because his teammates are covering it.

The 5-cards-in-support... yeah. Problem is, you're too busy using Support to let cards stack up there. Still, the... Blue Witch? starts with 5 points in Water. If you don't face a Water-cursing monster on your first round or two, she can build up to 5 in support. And don't underestimate putting Madness in Support.
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Colin Degnan
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Steve - Good points on the Wizards usages especially in mid to late game. I think I was hoping to see more effects that would be useful for the entire game. Maybe someone could hold one additional card in hand, or place a card in another Wizard's support.

With that being said, I think the fact that each Wizard's ability is somewhat situational makes the game more difficult and essentially more tactical. I love how when you play this game, you are thinking 3 or 4 turns ahead trying to determine the most optimal solution to defeating the monsters.
 
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