Gaming Tuesday – Mansions of Madness
THIS IS LOVECRAFT! should be the answer to it.
Mansions of madness is a hybrid between a role playing game and a board game. You have the unknown story elements, the game master (or guide) and the setting of a role playing game. You have the board tiles, the cards and tokens and the figures of a board game.
Based on the stories and the world of one of the greatest minds of fantasy horror books, H.P. Lovecraft, the game plays out as some investigators try to unveil the mystery of a certain place. (generally a mansion :P)
One player (often the most experienced one) will be the guide, read the story, choose the mystery and play the role of the evil creatures. The rest of the player will take on the task of the investigators trying to find out what happened, and usually prevent further horrors coming into our world.
Some cool feautres of the game are the fact that the investigators start the game without really knowing much about what they have to do, and have to uncover clues and get information about the case, while fighting against zombies, maniacs, dark cultist or worse. The investigators have a few options to start th game, which can make for a whole different game, and no matter what choices they make characters tend to be well balanced.
There a little dice rolling included, (one d10 included) mainly to give it some randomness in checking for combat saves or skill tests.
Since the game master is usually rooting for the investigators to be able to finish their job (even if he tries to do everything to stop or kill them) this game generally ends in a fun and entertaining fashion.
Now to the not so cool things. The game has a steep learning curve. Specially for the master. This curve gets even worse if you have never played it and find yourself with more than 15 different card piles in 2 different sizes and 8 different categories, and on top of that all the different tokens. Reading the rules without trying the game once is almost useless, you need to have a game with someone who is able to teach you to understand it easily.
The second not so cool thing is puzzles. Investigators will find themselves facing some puzzles throughout the game, these are generally very easy, and take longer to set up than to solve. A feature they perfectly could have gone without, maybe replacing by some rolling or some other way of checking to see if they pass or fail.
Third and what worries me most is that once you have played a few times, changing up the storyline, building different scenarios and such you are basically out of game options. The standard mansions of madness comes with 5 stories, which you can play approximately 2 or 3 times each. After that, you most likely will need to buy new cards and stories to keep on playing, otherwise everyone already knows where clues are. (unless you play with different people each time)
All in all a very interesting and fun (and relatively short) game. Recommended for skilled games or gaming addicts like me, certainly not for newbies. Provides some cooperative fun until the end, and if you are one of those imaginative gamers you will certainly have the best time.