Friday, October 28, 2016

Can I Play with Madness?

Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition) is another great product from Fantasy Flight Games. It is a 1920s era Investigators versus Lovecraftian Horrors board game. With miniatures and a app for a game master.
The first edition of this game came out a few years back and was liked by a very small dedicated fan base. I was disappointed in it. I kinda wanted a Call of Cthulhu dungeon crawler with some mystery solving. Which it sort of was, but there was fixed, detailed adventures that required the GM to do a lot of set-up work. If there was a minor mistake during setup it would ruin the adventure. I found the game too fiddly, slow and too much work and not enough fun for the GM. So on the shelf it went.

Second Edition fixes all of that by giving the GM's job to a computer. I must say I was very skeptical that this would work, but it does work. Now Mansions of Madness 2ed is a co-op 1-5 player game. You do have to have a tablet handy (Or on a laptop via Steam) to run the app.
The app does a good job of handling map reveals, objects, random events, and stuff of that ilk. All the action still happens on the gaming table. Moving figures and monsters, dice rolling and keeping track of your character's physical and mental health is still the player's job. It launched with four scenarios and now it is up to six, with more on the way. Each adventure has some variants in map layout and monsters, so it is not exactly the same every time you play.

The first edition maps, monsters, and investigators can be used with the newer version, which is really nice for those of us who held on to it. For those who didn't pick up the first edition and its expansions, FFG is selling those as 2nd Edition packs. Lots of support right away for this game, and more to come.

Let us talk about the miniatures for a moment. The sculpts are okay for game figures, but the large, clunky, square bases are just the worst. Like with Imperial Assault, the grey figures looked sad against the fantastic artwork on the maps,  So I did want any (in)sane Cthulhu fan would do, paint the figs and re-base!
I decided to go full boat crazy and use clear bases for the monsters. I had thought about that for the investigators, but their bases where small, round, and looked fine for the figs. Plus I didn't really want to try and cut off those tiny feet. I am very happy with the end results.
All the monsters, more to come.
Investigators painted by Mrs. Blackheart.
I have talked to some people who question "Why the app? Why not just make it into a computer game?" For me, it is because I enjoy the social and tactile interaction of a boardgame. I like being a GM, but sometimes you just want to be a player in the party of investigators and to share that experience. In this example, it allows everyone to do just that.

Having an app take over the GM role is novel, and does add to the air of mystery and surprise to the game. It also allows for some puzzle-solving that is done on the tablet. There are, of course a few quirks with the app, but overall it works well. Is computer assisted games the future? For some games I think so. It definitely works for Mansions of Madness,

Go Roll Some Dice
And try not to go Mad

No comments:

Post a Comment