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Subject: Mansions of Madness 2: Electric Boogaloo rss

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As a horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft was no stranger to using the Creepy Old House premise, though they weren't always his better efforts (for example, most Lovecraft fanboys would consider The Lurking Fear to be at best a guilty pleasure). Similarly, the Creepy Old House has proven to be a popular setting in many Call of Cthulhu RPG adventures. So it wasn't much of a stretch to try to adapt these scenarios into board game form with the first edition of Mansions of Madness. And it did feature some interesting concepts, especially the puzzles. However, setting up the game could be a real chore. In particular, sorting through and placing the Exploration cards was the sole responsibility of the Keeper player. And if he goofed with so much as one card, it could render the scenario unsolvable. So the recent overhaul of the game by FFG was a welcome development.

The primary innovation is the introduction of a mobile app which performs the tasks previously handled by the Keeper. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices these days, it's a much more feasible prospect than it would have been in 2010. This greatly reduces the set-up time, since you now have fewer decks of cards to deal with. It also applies Betrayal at House on the Hill-style on the fly assembly of the board, which makes the exploration aspect more realistic (since players really shouldn't know the layout of the house beforehand). The base app includes four adventures of varying lengths and difficulties, plus an additional two which require use of certain first edition components. Presumably FFG will make new adventures available as in-app purchases at a later date.

The game comes with eight investigators who have not previously appeared in the first edition of the game (a few of whom are making their debut in the Arkham Files series as a whole). Also included are character sheets for first edition investigators with updated stats, allowing you to use the minis from the original game and expansions. Each investigator has six attributes (Strength, Agility, Observation, Lore, Influence, and Will) ranging from two to five, as well as Stamina and Sanity stats and a special ability unique to that character. Attribute checks are performed by rolling a number of eight-sided dice equal to the attribute. A die that rolls a blank counts as a failure while a die that rolls an Elder Sign counts as a success. If a die shows a magnifying glass, it will count as a success if you spend a Clue token on it. While some attribute checks will indicate how many successes are needed, others keep their success threshold secret. As a result, some tasks may take multiple actions to complete. When prompted, the number of successes you have rolled are entered into the app and it will tell you whether or not you've reached the threshold.

As with the first edition, gameplay consists of an Investigator Phase, followed by a Mythos Phase. Previously, each investigator got to move up to two spaces and perform one action per phase. Now you get to perform two actions of any sort, allowing greater freedom in how you can act. Possible actions include moving two spaces (this can be split, so you can move one space, perform another action, then move another space), interact with the environs, drop, pick up, and/or trade items, attack a monster, or use an item or ability with the Action keyword. During the Mythos Phase, the app will generate a series of mishaps for the investigators to overcome. The app may then instruct that certain monsters be put in play. If there are any monsters present, they act as described by the app, with any investigators close enough being required to make Horror checks and possibly defend against attacks.

The app doesn't remain idle during the Investigator Phase. During the initial set-up, it will instruct players on what items they start with (which can be distributed amongst themselves however they wish), what room tile they start on, and what item cards and interaction tokens get placed on the board. As each token is placed, a description is provided, be it a door, decoration, piece of furniture, or an NPC. Flavor text is also included which may or may not imply some particular urgency in interacting with that feature. A similar process occurs whenever a new room is discovered. When you wish to interact with something, you tap on the corresponding icon on the app's display and follow the instructions you are given. While most interaction icons require an action to activate, a few don't. Whether or not you need one will be indicated before you commit.

Combat isn't too different from first edition. When attacking a monster, you open the monster drawer in the app, selecting your target and your attack type. You will then receive a bit of flavor text as well as what attribute you need to roll and how much damage a successful hit scores (with the app tracking monster damage). Investigator damage on the other hand has changed considerably and is likely to appeal to those who hated fiddling with the Stamina and Sanity tokens of the first edition. Instead, the indicated number of Damage or Horror cards (depending on whether Stamina or Sanity damage was taken) are dealt to the player. Unless stated otherwise, they are dealt face up with any described effects being applied. Cards that don't have some lingering effect are then flipped over. Throughout the game, a player may be told to randomly select one of these face down cards and resolve any effects it might have. Once the number of Damage or Horror cards equals or exceeds the associated value, they get discarded and the player takes either a Wounded or Insane condition as appropriate. Should this happen if the player already has the associated condition, the character is dead.

Puzzles have been rethought as well. Solving puzzles is now done with the app, so you no longer have to deal out tiles and squint at the arrow to see which way it should be oriented. Moreover, the puzzles now have more variety. While there were technically three different types of puzzles in the first edition, they all employed the same mechanics of rotating and/or shifting the tiles until they formed a desired pattern. Only a few specifics differentiated them. Each puzzle type in the second edition employs different mechanics. Slide puzzles are identical to the Rune puzzles from the first edition, where you shift the tiles until they form a picture. Lock puzzles involve bars that either shift right and left or up and down, where you attempt to unblock the path of a specified bar to reach a slot. Code puzzles are reminiscent of Mastermind, where you guess a series of numbers or colors and are told how many are correct and how many of those are in the correct position. As with first edition, you have a limited number of moves per action based off an attribute (usually Lore), and you can take multiple actions to solve it.

But no matter how much improvement a new edition of a game receives, the occasional lingering flaw can slip through. In this case, it's the monster figures. Much has already been made of the quality of the designs, towards which I'm personally indifferent. My beef concerns the more practical issue of fitting them into their bases. For the figures with two pegs (like the Star Spawn), it looks like they don't quite align with the holes on the base, making it difficult to get them in and stay in. Even the one peg monsters don't have a very snug fit. So unless you're more confident wielding a tube of glue than I am, expect to reserve some set-up time fitting the monsters back into their bases when you take the box down from your shelf.

But while production values may not be entirely up to snuff, actual gameplay has been nothing but improvements. Just make sure you can run the app first, since you'll probably feel rather silly if you drop a C-note on the game only to find that your device is incompatible.

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Christine Biancheria
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Man, the fitting-in-the-pegs thing ... that is a downer. Had to do some of that last night.
 
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Mark casino
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Quick question: does everyone need to have the app on their phone or is it just on one phone and one person handles all of it?
 
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oldschoolgamr
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Psypher_Aemaeth wrote:
Quick question: does everyone need to have the app on their phone or is it just on one phone and one person handles all of it?


You need the app on only one device. It is not set up to run on multiple devices (a la a Jack Box game). One person can read the text of each event (like someone would read a card), or if using an small device it can be passed around to share the narration roll.

I personally use the steam version running on my laptop connected to my tv - so everyone at the table can watch if they want - that works as well.

Enjoy!
 
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