Sunday, August 04, 2013

Mansions of Madness

Yup - another huge Fantasy Flight board game is official owned by me . . .

I know, I have a slight acquisition problem, but it could be worse - I could be a Harlequin Romance paperback collector . . . hey . . .

So, played my first game (with family) yesterday, and I have to say this is not a super light board game, but a heck of a fun one.

There is much to be done as the Keeper, the one controlling the story, which was me. One false move in placing clues during game setup and the game gets sort of broken. Avoidable if you pay attention and double check what you are doing.

Also, if you, the Keeper, are not intimately familiar with the particular story you are playing through (there are five scenarios, each with three major story lines and 12 combinations for a total of 180 variations), it can get pretty confusing as to what is exactly going on as clues are purposefully vague and the associated flavour text is also kind of vague.

But, this all works to great effect. You don’t just want the investigators to have everything handed to them on a silver platter - no, they must explore the mansion and follow the clue trails to stand a chance at beating the scenario.

There is a clever timing mechanic where, at the end of each Keeper’s turn, a time token is added to a stack of cards for each particular scenario. Once the number of time tokens matches the number printed on the backside of the card it is flipped over and an “event” transpires based on the choices the Keeper made setting up the scenario.

I’m probably making it sound more complicated than it is - just make sure, if you are Keeper, you know exactly what is going down and don't mess up placing clues during setup - and all should be good. Also, as a player, you need to pay particular attention to the flavour text to unravel the details of where the next bit of information may be hiding.

The miniatures in the game are just awesome sculpts, but the cards seem a bit thin though they are totally useable. The double sided game board pieces are very thick and nicely detailed and the whole Lovecraftian theme just screams out in this game.

I actually like it more than Arkham Horror (even though I only played MoM twice - once solo to learn the rules and once with family yesterday) because it is a more intimate setting and the tension ratchets up nicely as the events unfold and time begins to run out on the investigators.

Combat is done with card draws and flavour text as well and it works nicely. You are never quite sure which attribute you may be testing as you wield your melee weapon or fire your gun. Very well done. Spells are likewise brilliantly done. Each spell in the game has 5 cards and each effect printed on the back is different, so when an investigator casts a spell, succeed or fail, he/she is never quite sure just what the heck is going to happen. Very Lovercraftian, and very fun.

As the game unfolds memorable moments for the players happen. During our family game, in the last two turns, Harvey Walters took a fire extinguisher to a Maniac and gave him a good thrashing . . . epic fun stuff.

Then there are actual puzzles to be solved by the investigators, phobias and traumas the Keeper can play at times to screw with the investigators and monsters galore to toss into the mix to keep the players on their toes.

Overall a great game, but one that needs a Keeper with good concentration skills as he/she looks after about 80% of all game activities, including combat cards and revealing exploration cards in the various rooms.

Highly recommended if you are a board game fan, doubly recommended if you like board games and Lovecraftian themed ones.

And, because of painting my daughter’s room last week, plus a plethora of other family activities as well as this new board game distraction - I did not get to making a video . . .

Until next Sunday . . .

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