CSW Does Board Games: Mansions Of Madness 2nd Edition
I was a big fan of the first edition of Fantasy Flight Games' Mansions of Madness. It was a fantastic 1 vs many Lovecraftian mystery game. It had some major issues, though; It took a VERY long time to set up, and if the GM makes a mistake, it can render the scenario unwinnable. In addition, some of the mechanics were unwieldy, and there were SO MANY tokens and cards to keep track of.
Cooperative games that tell a story are my favorite types of games, so when I heard that the 2nd edition of MoM did away with the GM role, and allowed all players to solve the mystery together, I was very excited. The first thing I did after arriving at Gencon 2016 was waiting in line to buy the new game. Since then, I have played it several times. I have played it solo, and in groups of 2 and 4. I have played multiple story scenarios. Spoiler free review: I really enjoy this game. All monsters and GM work is handled by an app that runs on tablet/phone/computer. It has music, sound effects, and some narration. There is little to no setup besides starting the app and selecting a scenario. Each time you reveal a new room or location, the app describes everything you see there and instructs you on where to place the various tokens and features. Characters have different stats, and each stat just tells you how many dice you roll when the app instructs you to take a stat test. There are successes and failures. You add up the successes, and good or bad things happen. There are also puzzles that need to be solved via the app. In my experience, things move more smoothly if one person is responsible for handling the app, and reading all the content out loud.
Now, it is spoiler time. I am going to talk about our latest game, and while I will not ruin all the details, I am going to mention some things about the "Escape From Innsmouth" scenario. If you do not want to see spoilers, please stop reading.
Seriously... spoilers. Stop now.
Tim and I (each controlling 2 characters) were tasked with visiting the town of Innsmouth to research the history of one of their founding families. While there we noticed many strange occurrences, and decided that we needed to leave the town asap. We started the game holed up in a hotel room, waiting until morning so we could leave the town on the next ferry.
Clearly the townsfolk didn't like us looking into the town's past. An angry mob tried to break into the hotel to do unspeakable things to us. At this point, we found a back way to exit the hotel, and began gathering clues by exploring the town, including shops, and alleyways. We started to uncover clues about the town's founders, and found a potential way to escape the island. By using a radio, we contacted a fishing boat offshore. They said they would come rescue us, but we needed to find a missing FBI agent, light a fog lamp so they could safely navigate the dark waters, and ring the clocktower bell to alert them that we were ready to go. Finally, a plan!
We found the FBI agent, and assisted him in finding evidence of the town's strange history and inhabitants. At one point we needed to open a combination lock by solving a numbers puzzle. In the above image, Tim was picking a lock to gain access to a storage box.
In addition to the rioting mob (who later started setting fires to buildings!), there were creepy fish-men called Deep Ones. We killed a number of these, but the mob was too large, and we had to run from them.
Tim's magician character, Dexter Drake headed for the clock tower to ring the bell, while the author (forgot names!) and nun headed to the dock to light the signal fire. My other character, a PI had gone insane by this point, and was heading in the other direction to go out in a blaze of glory by murdering the mob. He failed fantastically, and collapsed, insane, sobbing in a head in an alley corner.
The bell was rung, but we did not get the fire lit in time. The boat crashed into the dock, and had to be freed from debris before we could escape. Tim's characters were on the boat, while the brave (?) nun tried to free the boat.
She did manage to free the boat, but the mob caught up to her. Her "friends" left her to die as they escaped on the boat with the FBI agent. It was a good thing they left her, as she had gone insane by this point, and was only interested in setting fire to things.
So, the game was a success, and we all won. The team managed to fulfill all the requirements of the scenario, so Tim's characters won. Both my characters went insane. When this happens, they get a little card that gives them a secret objective. The PI had to help the group succeed, and ALSO die. The nun won if there were at least 6 areas on fire anywhere on the board. It was close though. I'm not sure we would have survived another turn...
I really had a great time with this scenario. It had a much different feel to it than the previous scenario (search evil house to stop people from doing bad things). We felt constantly hounded by the mob, which affected our choices in-game. I also get a kick out of the insanity mechanic. I liked the little twist in my goals, and I don't harbor any ill will towards Tim's characters for leaving the nun behind. she was insane! They were lucky to escape. This game took us around 2.5 hours with a few short breaks. I am looking forward to playing this game again soon.
Editorial note- I know we usually enjoy the spectacle of fully painted battlefields, but this is a board game, and I have chosen to separate board game pieces from miniatures inside my head.
After a few games of Mansions of Madness, I can say I enjoy it and that second edition is significantly different from 1st. The Innsmouth scenario was based primarily around running back and forth gathering widgets. There are lots of instances where you have to get key A to open door A, etc... Sometimes it is an actual key/door and sometimes it is just a person who won't talk to you until you have a certain item. Repeating this became a bit tedious in a grinding video game way toward the end. Despite all that, it was an interesting story. In this session, I got to take a turn running the app. It was very straight forward and a fun part of the game.