Silent But Deadly

Silent But Deadly

Magic Maze is a co-op game where talking amongst players is not allowed.

It is the only one of this year’s Spiel Des Jahres nominees that we have played, so we can’t say whether or not it deserves to win above Kingdomino and Race to El Dorado. Having spent just one frantic, fraught, evening playing it though, I can say for certain that it at least deserves the nomination that it got.

Ostensibly a co-op, Magic Maze will nonetheless have you so furious at your friends that the game’s ‘no talking’ restriction is all that stands between your group and forever fractured friendships.

While playing, you control four cookie cutter adventurers – mage, dwarf, elf, barbarian. You will be laying out tiles, and navigating the heroes through them to pick up items and make it to the exit.

In a brilliant twist on a well-worn theme, though, you are not navigating them through a dungeon, but through the local mega-mall. Your down-on-their-luck adventurers lost all of their equipment on their last adventure, and are forced to shoplift in order to restock. So instead of orcs and dragons, you have to navigate security cameras and guards.

Where the tension (and fun) comes in, is that while everyone is collectively controlling all of the adventurer meeples, each player is restricted to certain actions. One player can make them turn right, another left, another backwards, another up the escalator. While you can all see what is happening on the board, there are four adventurers, simultaneous play, and a sand timer.

And you can neither talk nor gesticulate to your fellow players. There is a marker that you can place in front of a player to hint that they need to do something, and you can ‘stare meaningfully’ at someone. But that is it.

Chaos ensues – although this doesn’t even begin to describe the scene, as you repeatedly slam down the player marker in front of someone who hasn’t seen that the mage needs to go back two spaces to continue on his path, because that player is focused on the elf and moving them away from where you think they should be going.

And as you repeatedly slam whack that marker on the table in front of them, their confusion goes to frustration, and you haven’t even noticed that someone else is staring balefully at you because you are paying no attention to the barbarian and the timer is almost up.

Not speaking leads to a lot of barely contained non-verbal utterances of mixed and heady emotions. To an outsider, I suspect our game sounded like the zombie apocalypse. In fact, when one of us called to check where our pizza delivery was, the alarmed lady on the phone actually asked him if everything was OK.

It should go without saying that I thoroughly recommend Magic Maze.

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Megabytes of Madness

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?

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Better Left Unseen

Mysterious Contents of the Drawer

I was actually considering getting “Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor” for my birthday, being both a present and a fun thing to do, but then I got really excited about it and we ended up just booking an actual Escape Room for the day (hour).

All of which goes to say we haven’t actually played it. But it sure looks like fun, and it’s a great idea for a game. Unless you have over-enthusiastic friends.

Unfortunately, this week’s blog post was defeated by poor time-management on my part, so I have to wrap it here. However, I invite everyone to come up with some ideas as to what you think was in the drawer, and I look forward to hearing what you all come up with.

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