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Mansions of Madness In-Depth

LTN’s Tabletop Revelations

Title: Mansions of Madness, Second Edition
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Mechanics: Cooperative, Dungeon Crawler
Players: 1-5
Play Time: 2-3 hours

For those who know me, it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of horror, love the works of H.P. Lovecraft (minus the racism), and the Cthulhu Mythos. I mean, I have a giant Cthulhu on one of my game shelves the size of a baby.

My Giant Cthulhu

Game Description

Mansions of Madness is an app-driven, cooperative dungeon crawler. Pulling inspiration from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, you take on the role of an investigator trying to unravel a mystery before time, or your sanity, runs out. Managing your health and sanity is essential in this game. Lose enough of either and the investigator will be driven insane, or worse, die trying to fend off eldritch horrors.

Rules

The rules are straightforward and are easy to follow. I did not have to go to any outside resource for rules clarification. The Learn to Play booklet has 20 pages and provides an essential guide to playing each round. There is a second Rules Reference included, which is mainly made up of a Glossary. This is where the meat and bones of the rules are found. Want to know what a Barricade is and how it impacts gameplay? The Rules Reference is your go-to source. Fantasy Flight also published an FAQ for the game for those rules that were initially ambiguous.  The FAQ can be found here

Game Play

The Mansion of Madness app is required to play this edition. The app controls most aspects of the game, except for the player’s actions. After selecting your investigators for the scenario and obtaining your starting items, the app will provide the background for the scenario and will guide you through setting up the initial board. While the app works fine on a phone (I typically use my iPhone), I would suggest using a tablet or a computer. The biggest reason for this is the app provides ambient music and some sound effects.

Screenshot of app.

Each round is split up into two phases: the Investigator Phase and the Mythos Phase. In the Investigator Phase, players take up to two actions to move, explore, and attack to meet the victory conditions of the scenario. In the Mythos Phase, monsters spawn, attack, and other really bad stuff happens.

A game underway.

Throughout the game, players will need to manage their health and their sanity if they want to make it through the scenario. Lose enough of either and the investigator will be driven insane, or worse, die trying to fend off eldritch horrors.

Components

The artwork on the map tiles fits the theme overall. From ruined temples in the jungles of South America to the streets of Arkham, the artwork really sets the stage on the board. Talking about the map tiles themselves, they are your basic cardboard map tiles, but they are good quality. I’ve had my copy of the base game since the edition released in 2019 and have played countless games. They have stood up to being unpacked, played on, and packed back up again. After five years of playing, they show minimal signs of wear. Just be careful, as unlike Imperial Assault or Eldrich Horror, the tiles for Mansions of Madness are straight-edged and do not have the cutouts where the map pieces fit together. It’s a long way to say that the tiles will shift and slide as the game progresses.

The miniatures themselves are okay. They are made from durable plastic and will hold up well. If you are looking to paint them, be prepared to spend some time scraping off a lot of mold lines. The details in these models are also sufficient; but, if you are looking for highly detailed miniatures, you’re not going to find them here. Keep in mind that this game retails at $110 so there is a trade-off between quantity and quality to be considered, especially when it relates to components like miniatures.

Issues

The biggest issue I have with the game is the base for the monsters. They can be a bit of a map hog.

Star Spawn on the map!

My solution when I first started playing was to only use the stat tiles for the monsters.

A thrall stat tile with Ursula Downs.

This reduces some of the clutter on the gameboard; however, it also takes away from the theme. And theme/ambiance is vital in a game where one’s sanity is at stake. There is something to be said about seeing your character figure up against the miniature for a Star Spawn and the helplessness they would feel facing something that big.

Ursula Downs prepares to take on a Star Spawn.

Others have posted their solutions, so I’m not going to rehash it here. Now that I have more experience with the game, I’m revisiting utilizing the minis for the monsters. I like that sinking feeling in my stomach when the odds are against me in this game.

Whether or not you decide to use the minis, it’s not a dealbreaker in my opinion for this game. Do what works best for you.

Expansions

Over the years, Fantasy Flight has released several expansions. These expansions added new investigators, monsters, locations, and a few new rules. The rules for each individual expansion do add to the depth of the game. The Path of the Serpent expansion, for example, added overgrowth and rubble. These weren’t needed previously as this expansion introduced us to the jungle.

I will be upfront with you here, two are out of print. There was the Recurring Nightmares Figure & Tile Collection and the Suppressed Memories Figure & Tile Collection. The components from these expansions were found in the First Edition of the game and a conversion kit was provided in the Second Edition. You can still find them on eBay, but they are expensive.

  •         Recurring Nightmares Figure and Tile Collection (Out of Print)
  •         Suppressed Memories Figure and Tile Collection (Out of Print)
  •         Beyond the Threshold
  •         Streets of Arkham
  •         Sanctum of Twilight
  •         Horrific Journeys
  •         Path of the Serpent

Conclusion

Mansions of Madness is a solid game with tons of replay value thanks to the app. There are a total of 22 released scenarios, including 2 DLC. It is important to note that certain scenarios require specific expansions to play. Your collection is managed through the app, and it impacts what tiles, items, characters, and monsters are available for a scenario. It even manages the monster’s HP and movement.

Will you be able to survive the onslaught of unnatural eldritch horrors? Or will you be driven insane by their very presence? You’ll have to play this game to find out.






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