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Mansions of Madness» Forums » Variants

Subject: Balance Variant Ideas / Discussion (long) rss

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Lou Sgarbi
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The question this thread poses - Does MoM need balancing in the Investigators' favor? Given the complexity of the game, can this be accomplished with a variant or two?

The Situation:
I roll with eight or more MoM players made up of varying levels of boardgame experience, I also like to spread the awesomeness of Mansions with random new players. The company I keep seem to want the same sort of game: they want a semi-thematic yet no punches held game with the Keeper going for the jugular and both sides playing to win.*

However, it feels like the Keeper can only lose against newish players if he A) Lets them win or B) makes a catastrophic mistake. I've won twice now on Scenario 2 with an unintentional 1 Cultist spawn per turn per alter variant, yet both times I didn't feel any pressure.

After six games of ruthless Keeping (five wins, one loss due to a huge error **), I'm starting to get fed up with making Investigator Jambalaya, and even more fed up with how deflated this makes my opponents. We even had the dreaded dramatic storm-out at one point, and we're all in our twenties for heaven's sakes.

The Question:
So, can a game as complex as MoM with so many character combinations and scenarios be balanced with just one or two variants? What do players with 15+ games under their belt think about the balance later in? (I've yet to face off against anyone with more than 3 games played) Is this post too long for the variants forum?

Before the above questions dawned on me it all seemed so simple, just buff the investigators. Here's what I came up with. I'm open to suggestions on how they could be improved, and any story-specific issues (I've only played 1 and 2).

Update 2: It also dawned on me that a game which is too easy for the investigators would probably be less fun than one which is unfairly difficult. The latter is also more in keeping with the works of Lovecraft (Never RP'd or played the other board game, but I have read most of his stories). All the more reason to tread with extreme caution when buffing our intrepid heroes.

Update 3: Removing the below Variant for now. I found the extra time could actually work against new Investigators, depending on the objective.


Variant X - Tutorial Mission! Scenario 1 Slowdown:
- It takes 1 additional time token to trigger the event cards in the house of lynch. If an event card or clue tells you to add 1 time, gain 1 threat per player instead.

Makes the first game go slower, I find this helps for first time players. More time to learn, less time to set up, more forgiveness for them falling for your obvious distractions.


IMPORTANT: The below variants are designed to be used alone. Using 2 or more of these at once could make the Investigators too powerful.

Variant 1 - Mythos Cost +1, Starting Skill Points + ??:
- All Mythos cards cost +1 Threat to play
- Investigators playing Mansions of Madness for the first ever time start with 3 additional Skill points.
- Investigators playing the Scenario for the first time start with 2 additional Skill points.
- All other Investigators start with 1 additional Skill point.

A preliminary balancing measure. Tested and seems to work well. You're going to run out of Skillpoint tokens, so use a substitute (coins or the sealed door chips both work well). Credit to HinnyBoy for helping with this.

Variant 2 - Item Choices Be Damned:
- Investigators start with both of the items/spells listed on their Strength Trait cards.
- Investigators then pick which Strength Trait card dictates their stats. /Too powerful? Considering changing to weakest STR card.
- They then pick one of the two Intellect cards.
- The Microscope, Isabel's Letter, Warding Statue and the Typewriter may not be traded and can only be used by their original holders.

Warning: Untested. This one's a little more drastic. The item block prevents any abuse of item juggling, and can be kept thematic. I doubt Joe Diamond would know what to do with a microscope, except for using it as an ashtray.

Uncle Redafvir's General Tips for a Good Game:
1) Don't let your investigators start with an unbalanced or poorly chosen team. I might be mistaken but it seems the idea is to have a range of different roles, rather than all utility with no firepower and vice versa.

2) Make sure the combat cards are easily reached by all.

In Conclusion:
It's still early days, and if MoM veterans unanimously agree that the game is fine as shipped then this thread is probably redundant, as it is to those keepers who wish to play in a more RPG sense (which is fine, too).

For players oblivious to the Keeper's Objectives and who wish to play to win (as the rulebook/video sold it), however, the game appears in dire need of fixing. There's still a great deal of testing to be done, If you try them out be sure to let me know how it went.

- Red

* If the keeper isn't playing to win then all tension goes out of the window.

** My only loss was on Scenario 1 when I ran a Madman half way across the house thinking he could move through sealed doors, I only thought to check when I reached it. He got pinned in the kitchen and horribly murdered by a pissed off Joe Diamond wanting his Sample back. I missed the second sample by 1 turn, go figure.
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Cameron McKenzie
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I think the game balance is fair as long as the Investigator players know all of the possible Keeper objectives beforehand. If they are completely in the dark at the start of the scenario, there isn't much hope.

But then, I have only played Story 1 - there could be specific issues in the other stories.
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Lou Sgarbi
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MasterDinadan wrote:
I think the game balance is fair as long as the Investigator players know all of the possible Keeper objectives beforehand. If they are completely in the dark at the start of the scenario, there isn't much hope.

But then, I have only played Story 1 - there could be specific issues in the other stories.

That's a good point. I've edited my post slightly to take this into consideration, having only played stories 1 and 2 myself I'm not sure how Variant 2 effects things.

To me, half the fun is playing with people who have no clues as to what to expect. As you said, the problem then is how does a group of people, still essentially learning the game predict what my plan is? By the time the objective is revealed it's already too late.

What do you make of these variants as Versus Objective First-timers handicaps? That is, Investigators who have no clue what your objective could be.
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Henning
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Good post!

Redafvir wrote:

It's still early days, and if MoM veterans unanimously agree that the game is fine as shipped then this thread is pointless, as it is to those keepers who play in a more RPG sense.


I don't think this thread is pointless even if all veteran players think the game is balanced.

I am not there yet but I got a feeling that when every objective is played at least once and the surprise element is gone from the scenario (i.e. all player knows the event cards and all possible objectives and mythos cards) the game will turn out balanced, or perhaps slightly in favour to the investigators.

But this thread is for the beginners, isn't it?

I think that the most unbalanced situation arises when the keeper has played the scenario before but the investigators have not.

If the keeper hasn't played the scenario before (or haven't read through the event cards and haven't had time to contemplate on a strategy for example) I think the keeper is will be at a serious disadvantage as well, but perhaps not as much as noob investigators will.

Redafvir wrote:

Variant 1 - Mythos Cost +1, Starting Skill Points + 2:
- All Mythos cards cost +1 Threat to play
- Each Investigator starts with 2 additional skill points.


Maybe a handicap system could work:
If the keeper has not played the game before he gets 1 skill point per investigator.
If the keeper has not played the scenario before he gets 1/2 skill point per investigator (rounded up/down?).

If a investigator has not played the game before he gets 2 skill points extra.
If a investigator has not played the scenario before he gets 1 skill point extra.

The problem with this is that investigators have different luck values and would be rewarded differently.


Redafvir wrote:

Variant 2 - Item Choices Be Damned:
- Investigators start with both of the items/spells listed on their Strength Trait cards.
- Investigators then pick which Strength Trait card dictates their stats. /Too powerful? Considering changing to weakest STR card.
- They then pick one of the two Intellect cards.
- The Microscope, Isabel's Letter, Warding Statue and the Typewriter may not be traded and can only be used by their original holders.


I have also thought about this very same option and it appeals to me in a way. I think this will give more advantage to some investigators and less to others. For example: Ashcan Pete's starting items are far apart in value. Duke is a much better choice than the guitar, but this is compensated by much better physical stats. Sister Mary on the other hand has more equal items and more equal physical attributes, and would be at a disadvantage compared to Pete if you could freely choose starting attributes (and at an advantage if the keeper would choose).

Maybe this could be compensated with giving certain characters a skill point and another must remove one, for example.

Concerning the items that may not be traded, I would include the Rosary and Magnifying Glass here as well (Sister Mary has her faith and that is what gives the Rosary power in my opinion, and Joe Diamond has his investigation skills - he would know what to look for when using the Magnifying Glass)
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Kevin Outlaw
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This is a good post with some fun ideas. I actually think the game is incredibly well-balanced with two investigators. It is probably balanced at all levels, but it feels like it isn't when the keeper can have a couple of shoggoths on the board in the first few turns of a game with four investigators! Two investigators is definitely great, and I would not recommend any changes at all if you are playing with just two investigators (except adding +1 to the timer events in your very first game to allow for mistakes and frustration).

The mythos cards that destroy items really annoy people I have found, and I have come up with a simple variant for that: Any mythos card that destroys a weapon or equipment CANNOT be played on a "starting item." This basically represents (a) the cultists that kindly left a shotgun lying around for you were actually setting you up by leaving a duff weapon in plain view and (b) Jenny, Joe and McGlenn really love their guns and keep 'em all nice and shiny and not prone to suddenly blowing up in their hands.

Oh - and I don't think any starting items should be traded. The rules describe them as "fundamental" to the investgator's character. For example, the magnifying glass isn't like a magic magnifying glass that can zoom in on clues - it is a symbol of how good a PI Joe is. If he gave the magnifying glass away, it doesn't mean anything. It is his ability to use it well that makes it useful.
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Chick Lewis
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I used your 'take both starting items' buff in a 3 investigator game with two players who were not only noobs to MoM, but to ALL boardgames. It did seem to make it more fun for them. But they beat me because Pete with 7 Dex and Duke the wonder dog is so agile he's almost invulnerable to monster attacks. It was a fun game, though, and my new players are DYING to play again.
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Lou Sgarbi
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chicklewis wrote:
I used your 'take both starting items' buff in a 3 investigator game with two players who were not only noobs to MoM, but to ALL boardgames. It did seem to make it more fun for them. But they beat me because Pete with 7 Dex and Duke the wonder dog is so agile he's almost invulnerable to monster attacks. It was a fun game, though, and my new players are DYING to play again.


Interesting, I still haven't tried it. The stats are a worry, would the weakest Str card be too damning? I'm not sure if having a Guitar is worth losing all those potential rolls.

Just had a game against 4 - Two new, Two Second-timers using the Skillpoint Handicap and +1 Mythos cost. It was pretty close and felt more balanced than standard.

The problem was caused by the +1 Timer on the first scenario (Variant X - now in gray), the extra turns actually gave me more time to punish them and get away with it. I'm removing it for now.
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Cameron McKenzie
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How can you award +1 Skill points to the first time on an objective without giving away information about the objective upfront? If we play story 1 a single time, and then play it again, the Investigators might say 'Don't we get a skill point for playing a new objective?' What are you going say? 'No, you don't get one because I chose the same objective.'
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Henning
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MasterDinadan wrote:
How can you award +1 Skill points to the first time on an objective without giving away information about the objective upfront? If we play story 1 a single time, and then play it again, the Investigators might say 'Don't we get a skill point for playing a new objective?' What are you going say? 'No, you don't get one because I chose the same objective.'


Heh, I was just going to post the same observation my self. Maybe just give one skill point if its the second time the player plays the scenario - you do not want to reveal what objective you have chosen after all.

Edit: I think that if there is an experienced player in the investigator group she will probably let the rest of the group know what possible Objective cards there are and would thus nullify the keeper's advantage.
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Cameron McKenzie
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Hinnyboy wrote:

Edit: I think that if there is an experienced player in the investigator group she will probably let the rest of the group know what possible Objective cards there are and would thus nullify the keeper's advantage.


I think I would enjoy the game more (as Keeper) if the investigators knew the objectives beforehand. With Investigators who don't have a clue at all, I just don't think I have as much fun. I remember the first time we played Story 1, I got a few samples to the altar and the investigators started freaking out about the samples and killing every monster who picked one up. I easily stalled them with it, but if they had known the possible objectives, they would have known that I already had enough samples to fulfill the objective - if I had chosen it.
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Rasmus Olofsson
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If you double the cost for the keeper actions, I think it will be balanced.
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Nick Szegedi
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I think Double would be too harsh... let's say +1 to Keeper cards (a "1" is still a "2" but a "2" would be a "3" and a "3" a "4" (not 6!!!)
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