I've played all three scenarios and there're scandalously few reviews on them so I figured I'd write up some thoughts for those interested.
I am not providing a review of the new tiles, items/spells/conditions/other cards, investigators or monsters, but I would say that, in short, the tiles are lovely, new cards are so-so, the investigators are crazy powerful (half of them feature action efficiency abilities, one starts with a very good weapon that does FOUR damage AND offers a free one-die reroll on ANY check made by the investigator PLUS all the investigators still have solid stats to boot) and the monsters will flesh out the monster variety for previous scenarios decently well.
However, I will be providing a comparison critique of the relative value of Beyond The Threshold and Streets of Arkham as expansions at the end, which may include some reviewing of stuff I just said I wouldn't be... Just accept these things!
SPOILER WARNING - I haven't used spoiler tags anywhere, but I have kept spoilers to a minimum. The biggest spoiler is in my indications of the balance between investigation and fighting, as well as the risk of insanity in each scenario. I have also listed the scenario(s) I feel each one is most similar to from past Mansions of Madness scenarios. I think knowing these things might help players gauge which scenarios would be better for their group, but if you prefer to play scenarios totally blind then you might not want to read this.
You're off to help a friendly academic at Miskatonic University unravel the sinister goings on at the campus...
Most similar previous scenario(s): Cycle of Eternity
Difficulty: App says 4/5, I say 3/5
You get a reasonable amount of time to complete the objective, although with five players you might find yourself in a bit of a pinch if you dither around too much. With four players then we had plenty of time. Risk of insanity (which is typically more dangerous for scenario success than being wounded) is about average. To an extent, the pacing of the scenario is somewhat controlled by the players as you're strongly hinted as to when bad things are going to occur, which isn't unusual for the scenarios, but you're also told how you can delay them, which gives the players the necessary urgency and agency to keep the scenario failure at bay.
This scenario appears to have been mostly designed as a gateway scenario for new players, a poster boy for some of the new monsters, and as a vehicle for showing off the new Improvement mechanic, which lets you upgrade your investigator's skill values during the scenario.
The scenarios sports a very good balance of combat vs investigating with monsters both plain and more impressive as well as multiple NPCs to chat to and even a slightly more advanced puzzle to solve.
The main drawback of this scenario is that the tie to the Lovecraft universe is fairly slim and the overall goal of the investigation isn't particularly engaging once you know what you have to do. The story is perfectly satisfactory, it's just not particularly Lovecraftian. I also ran into a few instances that could've done with a bit more polish in the scenario development, most notably that the app spat out some phrases that were no longer relevant in the context of what we'd done.
I recommend this scenario as an opening or gateway scenario for new players. It's not overly complex and the objective is straightforward enough once uncovered. The good balance of investigation and combat ensures there's something for everyone. Plus it plays in a comfortable 2-2.5 hours or so. A perfectly adequate romp, but nothing special.
Gangs of Arkham
A recent murder places the heat under tensions between two rival gangs, but is there something more supernatural to the murder than a straightforward gang hit? Can you solve the murder in time to prevent a mob war?
Most similar previous scenario(s): Rising Tide
Difficulty: App says 3/5 and I'd be inclined to agree
The objective of the mission is relatively straightforward, even if you're not sure where the scenario is heading at all times, and you're given quite a generous allotment of time to explore and investigate as you please. If you do excessively dawdle then the mythos effects become very punishing, but I think you have to get a bit unlucky for the really nasty ones. Worth bearing in mind that this scenario is lengthy and, as such, the risk of insanity is higher than average.
This scenario is a very long, primarily investigation-based scenario, with an adequate sprinkling of combat throughout that I feel was better balanced compared to some of the older Mansions of Madness scenarios, which I've found can over-favour investigation with perhaps one or two fights towards the end.
The theme of the scenario pitches itself very heavily around a tense gang war ready to erupt, but that tension is rarely present for a lot of the scenario. I was actually quite disappointed by how little interaction you got to have with either of the gangs involved. The murder investigation you do have is interesting by itself, but I feel that certain marketing spin was added to the scenario to provide a better hook and overall backdrop to the story than "look into this murder". Furthermore, much like Astral Alchemy, there isn't much in the way of Lovecraft poking around here.
While I enjoyed the scenario, it does have a sort of "walking simulator" feel to it. There's a lot to explore and plenty of time to do so, but the scenario keeps a fair chunk of the mystery under wraps until quite close to the scenario's end, which leaves you with a lot of theories that you can't see anything to do with for much of the scenario. When the app finally drives you towards the crescendo then your theories will finally come into play, but up until then there's relatively little the investigators can do proactively about the mystery other than gather information. This is not to say the mystery's not interesting, more that you're not really given the agency to get involved until much later on.
Clocking in at around 3.5-4 hours then this scenario is an evening's commitment. If you like a slow-burning investigation then this scenario will pay off in spades.
A series of unfortunate events draw suspicion to a new, recently opened exhibit in the Miskatonic Mueseum. The investigator's arrive one night to examine the exhibit artifacts before someone else is killed...
Most similar previous scenario(s): Vengeful Impulses
Difficulty: App says 5/5, I say 2/5
Probably the most questionably rated in terms of difficulty, the designers have clearly erred on the side of caution because of the nature of the challenge involved. The scenario's challenge derives primarily from a complex puzzle that unfolds throughout the scenario that some players may find very difficult. However, if you're familiar with the puzzle format then you'll likely find the scenario to be a total breeze by comparison. In terms of time, you're given almost exactly the right amount of time necessary to investigate everything; I felt my group even dawdled a bit and we still finished up just in time. Risk of insanity is relatively high.
Ill-Fated Exhibit is a heavily investigation-focused scenario with none-to-minimal levels of combat. The theming is strong and the scenario well-paced. The scenario objective is obvious, but to solve it then the investigators will need to tap their brains in a way that the Mansions of Madness scenarios have never truly required before.
The scenario takes about 2-3 hours to play and I have very little to add other than that! I really enjoyed the scenario overall, I would say it was perhaps my favourite of the three in the box, however its enjoyment could fall a bit flat if the players find the objective solution hard to get to grips with. Still a nice experience regardless in my opinion.
As a tip: the scenario recommends in the pre-launch blurb text that the players have paper on hand and take notes during the scenario. While I do agree this is important, the app does still record what I believe is all the essential information in an inventory item you can interact with if you need to, so don't worry if you feel that you've missed something critical in your own notes. You'll mostly need your own paper to help solve the puzzle, rather than to make sure you have all the information you need.
With the exception of Ill-Fated Exhibit, the scenarios in Streets of Arkham don't try anything particularly new or exciting, however I would say that the overall quality of design elements outside the plot of the scenarios is quite good, they felt generally slicker; FFG clearly learning from their previous scenarios.
The locales depicted in the scenarios are excellently themed in terms of tile usage and I would say that all the scenarios are adequately good romps, with Ill-Fated Exhibit standing out above the rest. Each scenario does choose to do its own thing, which perhaps helps cater to different audience demographics, i.e. Astral Alchemy is a solid, short romp; Gangs of Arkham offers a longer, more in-depth investigation and Ill-Fated Exhibit tries something a bit different altogether.
The stories told are all satisfying enough, but I felt that scenarios from the base game and previous expansions succeeded in evoking the Lovecraft feel much better than these did.
Realistically, if you're thinking of buying more Mansions of Madness then the big choice at the moment comes down to whether you pick up the smaller box Beyond The Threshold, or the bigger Streets of Arkham, so let's do a comparison!
Beyond gets a few points initially for being cheaper, but of course that's at the tradeoff of content, as it has one fewer scenario and fewer other goodies for bulking out your collection. Given how expensive the Mansions expansions are then the price element may be very relevant for you, which is why I'm pointing it out first.
In terms of straight scenario quality, I believe Beyond was probably a marginally better expansion, although it only has two scenarios and they were almost exclusively investigation-based scenarios, which might turn some players off if they wanted a bit more combat or more balanced scenarios. If that does turn you off then Streets is easily a better choice. That said, Vengeful Impulse is a satisfyingly short murder mystery and Gates of Silverwood Manor really reaches out of the box with its execution and general weirdness factor, which only Ill-Fated Exhibit really comes close to matching. Both scenarios have a stronger theme than most of the scenarios in Streets, so scenario quality of Beyond feels better overall if you're indifferent to combat.
Of course there is more to the expansions than just the scenarios. In terms of new investigators then Beyond's investigators are about on par with the previously printed ones, but power gamers will find it hard to pass up the Streets' investigators. Marie Lambeau in particular opens up spells for investigators in a way that's generally quite hard to utilise in Mansions. As a game based on using your actions efficiently then taking time to cast some of the minor spells like the one that focuses people (I forget which it is) just feels like a waste of time, but Marie gives you a free action every round to use on spells, which massively throws open the opportunity to actually use some of those spells a bit more, not to mention it lets her get an extra attack off on a monster in her round. Finn Edwards gives you a free move before or after a search/investigate action, which is absolutely insane for the sheer action efficiency alone. There are so many instances in the game where you have to awkwardly move to an area and wait a turn to look at something and he solves these spectacularly. I've already detailed Tommy Muldoon and his powerful gun-toting ways at the beginning of this post. Diana Stanley, by comparison, is relatively tame allowing you to reduce any instance of her receiving 2+ horror cards by one, which would probably be great but she only has 6 sanity, which is somewhat risky in many scenarios, even with that ability, so she's probably the weakest of the new ones.
Both scenarios featured a new mechanic, however the one from Beyond (the key items) was something that only really got used in one scenario and will be hard to apply to future scenarios as not everyone will necessarily own the Beyond expansion, rendering the necessary tokens unavailable for use. Comparatively, the Improvement mechanic in Streets can see play in any of your scenarios (through items that offer improvements if not through in game event text). Furthermore, Streets features a new type of puzzle (variation on Hanoi Tower puzzles) which will obviously integrate into other scenarios nicely, whereas Beyond featured no new puzzle. Please note: the new Hanoi Tower puzzle is NOT either of the more complex puzzles featured in Ill-Fated Exhibit and Astral Alchemy, which are separate puzzles specific only to those scenarios.
The new monsters in Streets clearly have much broader application than the one in Beyond. The Skeleton is handy as a Zombie replacement, but probably the least useful overall. Human enemies that aren't occult are in short supply so the Gang Thug from Streets is a welcome addition, if you're bored of Hunting Horrors then the Star Vampire will boost that category of monster and the Lloigor is another huge monster, and makes for a nice extra to the huge monsters, which feel very limited otherwise. Comparatively, the Thrall from Beyond is fine but doesn't match up to the range of monsters from Streets.
The new cards (spells, items, madness, conditions, etc.) aren't hugely here nor there, though I will say that the new conditions in both expansions are quite cool. The fact that Streets gives you items that offer improvements (which is always a nice feeling) probably gives Streets the edge here.
In terms of tiles, I think you're likely to get more mileage out of the Beyond tiles as they mostly enhance house-based scenarios (of which there are many), whereas the Streets expansion focuses on a broad range of locales that I'm currently struggling to see repeat application for. Quite a few of the Streets tiles are dedicated to the Museum, some of which have the potential for other usage, but many I can't imagine will have much purpose in other scenarios. There're several school themed tiles in Streets that we might see more application for in future expansions, but I think the biggest tile usage for future scenarios comes from the street shops, outdoorsy places and buildings that we meet in the Gangs of Arkham scenario which might add a bit more to future and past town-based locales.
Overall I think you trade overall content for scenario quality by taking Streets over Beyond, but avid Mansions fans will probably be feeling the pinch on the scarcity of scenarios available for the game so this might just become a default purchase for people that really want more of the game. Whatever your take, I think both boxes have merit and I have found both to be worthy additions to my Mansions of Madness collection.
- Last edited Fri Feb 2, 2018 2:39 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Wed Jan 31, 2018 4:20 am