Megabytes of Madness

Megabytes of Madness

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Writer_smallerRobo Cthulhu

In actual fact, we did make a comic without having played the game. With a weekly schedule, and a limited budget, both time-wise and money-wise, this is often necessary. I would feel bad if we were reviewing a game on these terms, but as all we try to do is add some more humour to the hobby we all love, I feel it’s OK to poke some fun at games from a distance, particularly as we try to keep the comic topical.

I did read and watch a number of reviews on the new edition of Mansions of Madness, and oddly, I can’t seem to get a clear handle on whether or not the game improves on its first, original edition. It’s a game I have long wanted to play, so I was very curious about the new edition, and the changes made. Replacing the role of dungeon master with an app is actually a great idea for a game like this. Obviously, this could never be done with an actual RPG, but with the more limited scope of a board game, it is altogether more feasible. Fantasy Flight Games tried and succeeded in their first app-driven game, XCOM, which runs brilliantly, and fits thematically with being run by technology. Having an app to inject added chaos into a real-time game by timing events, interrupting players and throwing random spanners into the works is actually a brilliant conception.

Mansions of Madness doesn’t quite seem to work like this, though, and appears to simply replace the role of games master with an app in order to make the game fully co-operative. There don’t appear to be any integration issues (unless you count hyperbolic, unfounded, apocalyptic fear), and the game apparently runs smoothly. The issue seems to be with replayability, and the number of scenarios given with the game – which is a sparse four. There are add-ons and expansions, of course, but they seemed to be priced closer to full games rather than expansions. They are of course chock full of tiles, cards and miniatures, but that doesn’t really take the sting out of it for me.

Having said all of this, what I have written above is not a review, nor should it be regarded as such. This is not a game I have played, but while it is not really on my purchase list, it is still certainly a game I want to play. I enjoy Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, and Mansions Madness takes these games further, crafting a more immersive, spooky and mysterious play experience, all of which are steps in the right direction as far as I am concerned.

In the meantime, we have plenty of other games to fill the dark evenings in the run up to Halloween – Ghost Stories and Mysterium being top of the list in that regard.

Anyone played Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition? And more importantly, what are your recommendations for a good night of spooky gaming?

14 Comments on Megabytes of Madness
  • Good one! 😀 Hope it won’t be playing like that, though – we will have our first play this Sunday, and although I am a little afraid of the whole using-gadgets-even-during-tabletop-gaming-from-now-on aspect, I am very happy about being able to play MoM in a cooperative way. 🙂
    Oh, and making comics about an unplayed game means no problem or harm whatsoever. Please keep doing comics! 🙂

    • Thank you! I hope your play of it goes really well! Let me know if you enjoyed it, I’m really curious.

      • We have played it yesterday. It went for more than four hours (the first, easiest scenario!), but 1. we played with the maximum number of five players, 2. we really took our time with learning the game, 3. we really didn’t try to concentrate on the game, lots of fun, lots of laughing, lots of empty beer bottles for us to pick up after the guests left… 😀

        SOOOOOO my short verdict is that it is really better than the first edition in all ways, it really is easy to get into it for newbies (although I do recommend for one people to read through the how-to-play AND the rules reference leaflets), the narrative aspect, the whole story-telling, almost role-playing atmosphere is charming and works great (even my non-role-playing friends really got into their characters, I was surprised!).

        Remark: we have plugged the tablet used for the app to our hi-fi, and it worked great: the ambient noise, the sound effects, the narration all coming “from the wall” (speakers) and not from a little piece of electronical equipment on the table. I strongly recommend this (even if you have to invest in a piece of cable if you do not have it already).

        However, it is sadly not a “perfect” game for me – I have two topics of criticism:

        1. Since it is hard (time-consuming) to actively look for weapons, and after the search tokens are all used up, impossible, it may be that in the end some investigators are an underdog in the final fight. (Maybe it is different with less investigators than the maximum.)

        2. My bigger problem (although it might not happen in every game): it seems from our game that the traitor aspect can be very cluncky, it is not carefully considered. I got to be a traitor because of the loss of my sanity points for the second time, and my madness was so that I though the mission would be better left unfinished. And that’s it. I had no clear anti-mission, and no real tools of sabotage either (you can’t attack other investigators – at least the game doesn’t write about this anywhere -, can’t steal from other investigators etc). So I just… hanged around? Until my pals, the group of sane investigators won? About which I was very happy, even though I should be upset about losing?… So that left a bit of a sour taste – the otherways great climatic ending became unjustly anticlimatic for me. I know, I know… it’s better than being dead and eliminated (which happens if you run out of health points the second time) – or is it?… -, and also I checked some other ways of going mental, all of which seemed far more interesting (becoming a firestarter or an axe murderer), but still. This was a disappointment. (By the way, even if I had drawed some other kind of Insanity card, the game is very much unclear about how many rules (should?) change/work after somebody became a saboteur, because suddenly it becomes hard to unanimously agree about who should start the turn, or how the fire spreads – which is unclear without a saboteur in the first place.) Soooo this Insanity thing will be house-ruled in our group. 🙂

        TL;DR: Great game, but don’t go Insane! 😀

        • Matthew Sigal

          While I agree that that isn’t the most thematic of the insanity cards, there are actually multiple ways to sabotage the other investigators, if you choose to. There is indeed a steal from investigators action you can use. There is an “involuntary push” action you can trigger against other investigators. You could barricade the other players in a room. You can literally set the house on fire. These are all on that back page summary sheet, and described in more detail in the rules reference guide. Also, there is a rule where if someone actually gets eliminated – the other investigators only get one more turn to complete the investigation. So, while you can’t actively attack the other investigators, you can passively affect this pretty substantially.

          The rules also do talk about conflicts of interest (under “Conflicts” in the RRG): “It is possible that investigators have differing intentions and goals.
          If this prevents investigators from reaching a decision as a group,
          the decision is determined by an investigator chosen at random.”

          Regarding weapons, not everyone should or needs to be armed. Usually when we play with 5, we’ll have 2 bruisers (melee/heavy weapons), 1 spell caster, and 2 supports (knives/guns/healing items). But investigators usually only need 1 weapon, so trading is a good action to take. But further to this, not every scenario has a “final fight” – it really depends on the scenario.

          • Thank you for your advices! Indeed, we have overlooked the Steal and Push actions since they are not mentioned in the Learn to Play guide, only the Rules Reference, about which I am pretty upset. These possibilities would have been enough to feel that I am not powerless as a sabotageur.

            Regarding weapons: we played with 5 investigators, 2 of whom did not have a weapon, and we felt pretty powerless in fighting as a group. But maybe that’s just the way the game is. (And killing somebody/something was not the winning condition anyway. :))

        • Thanks for such a detailed breakdown of your play. After posting this comic and reading the comments I have honestly changed my mind about this game – I definitely want it now!
          So that’s gonna cost me …

          • Yeah, it is pretty costy. And since reviewers say there is not much variance in re-playing the same scenarios, the price of one scenario (base game/4) is pretty steep… And the two expansions have only 1-1 new scenarios… So for me, whether I am going to buy any expansions for this game depends on whether they publish new scenarios digitally & for a low price. But still, did not regret the purchase one bit! 🙂

          • Matthew Sigal

            Regarding variations, if we are only talking about the maps, the breakdown is something like this:

            Scenario 1. 4 maps (6 with expansions)
            Scenario 2. 1 map
            Scenario 3. 1 map (2 with expansions)
            Scenario 4. 1 map
            Scenario 5 has at least 2, and I’ve only played 6 once so can’t comment on if it has more.

            However, even if a map only has 1 layout, some things will still be randomized across plays (starting items, enemies, item/NPC positions, puzzle layouts), and there are usually multiple endings you can achieve (usually a “best” ending, and an “ok”, as well as a defeat). So even these have some replayability. That being said, if you are only playing to hear a new story, then yeah – not much changes on that front across the rounds.

            The other thing is – some of these scenarios are hard to impossible to win on the first attempt, since you do not know what you are doing and some of the campaigns require very specific actions to be taken in order to succeed. Winning a scenario is pretty important to my group, so it isn’t surprising to play a scenario and then immediately set it back up to try it again afterward, if you have the time.

            I know the expansions are pricey, but they do add way more investigators (having 24 to choose from is better than only 8), some of the most classic mythos creatures, as well as new locations, in addition to the scenarios. If you enjoy the base game, I’d definitely recommend picking them up, but ya – they aren’t essential to the experience.

          • Thank you for the breakdown! I understand your stance, and we like winning too, but I am all for the story, and it is a much stronger element for me than winning. It can be put this way – if I’m losing, that was the STORY, and I have no reason to go groundhog-day on it until I am winning. 🙂 Or, to be more cruel: MoM is just not cut out for the kind of cutthroat tactical combat, where one or two actions can often determine the outcome of a game, as in Imperial Assault or Descent 2nd ed (both are exceptionally finely balanced – at least for our plays, in my party). MoM is great for atmosphere, randomness and fun, and also, story (although it is more for using beloved and well-established tropes than for surprising players – but that’s fine with me, for surprise, Betrayal in House on the Hill or straight-up tabletop roleplaying is better :D).

  • Dexter Ó Thuithear

    Hoping to finally crack open the Betrayal at House on the Hill box soon, since I picked it up over a year ago and have yet to do anything with it. Looks fantastic, and seems apt to be getting into it for Halloween.
    Gloom is worth giving a try if you want a spooky game. We house rule that you can’t play a card without explaining the story as to why you’re playing it, or how it happened. It builds a ridiculous narrative, especially as you play action cards on opponents, forcing them to change their stories.
    I’ve been super tempted to pick up Cthullu Pandemic since I saw the box. It supposedly plays rather well, but I’m 100% certain I don’t need *another* Pandemic iteration, given I still haven’t even tried the three expansions I own…

    • I am right now trying to figure out which of my friends I can tempt into buying Cthulhu Pandemic, so I can get to play it without buying yet another Pandemic (vanilla, The Cure, Legacy, expansions). Hmmm, those all sound like band names.
      Betrayal is great. We have had such great fun playing that game. It can start off slow, but once the betrayer is revealed and the real story unfolds, it is nothing short of memorable. It ranges from spooky to downright absurd and hilarious.

  • Matthew Sigal

    When MoM:2E was announced, I was mad. I had literally spent hundreds of dollars on the 1st Edition (base game, both big box expansions, most of the POD expansions, fancy storage solution, et cetera), and… only got it to the table 3 times. The one vs. many aspect just was not a hit for my group — I’d spend like an hour or more setting up the game, only to have people come over and for them to make some wrong decisions and get bodied. They’d lose and get mad, and then I just spent all that time to… make my friends upset. Not really what I was looking for. That being said, 1st Ed. has some amazing mechanics and with the right group I think would be really fun — but between the set-up time, the finicky number of decks to juggle between, and the core me vs. them aspect, it was hard to justify playing it over other games.

    Then 2nd Ed. came out and I play tested it at GenCon. And it seemed pretty great. I told a friend, he picked it up, and I got to play the first scenario all the way through. And I was sold. Purchased my copy the next week.

    It improves on the 1st Edition in every way. You literally open the box and you are pretty much ready to play. I love how the map gets revealed as you go. I love how the combat uses monster specific flavour (which would necessitate a ton of different decks if this was being done with cards). I love that it is fully coop — until it isn’t (going insane gives you alternate win conditions, that might even go against the group). The digital puzzles are pretty cool. The rules are exceptionally clear for an FFG game, and the available pool of actions are so simple that even non-gamers won’t be lost/will have a great time. And the stories that the game produces, they are simply top notch.

    There are some negatives – while the first scenario has a lot of randomization across plays (the entire map might look completely different), it seems the other scenarios don’t have as much. The base game does only come with 4 scenarios. The beginning and ending movies are kind of cheesy/abrupt. Players can be eliminated from the game. But it is so worth.

    I’m hoping more scenarios are in the pipeline, but I can tell you that I’ve already gotten MoM 2nd Ed. it to the table *thirteen* times since August 5th, and have a dedicated group of friends dying to play more. And I’ve only played Scenarios 1 (8 times), 2 (four times), and 6 (once), so there is still a ton of content to explore.

    • Matthew Sigal

      tldr; MoM 2nd Ed is wonderful and tops my list for spooky games to play by a mile.

    • Wow. That is a really positive review. It’s actually made me re-think the game. From what you say, it does ultimately sound like the kind of play experience I love from games -co-op, thematic, story-telling, variation between plays. And that is a huge number of plays from just the base four scenarios – it’s honestly more than I thought you would have been able to get from it. I’m impressed, and thanks for taking the time to write so much. I really appreciate it!