Life is an endless hunt for the media that screams you: a particular movie, a hum-worthy tune, or the right TV show. For years, I searched for the right board games. I knew ‘my’ kind of video games and entertainment, but it was hard to pinpoint exactly what I was looking for in a board game. The most popular games seemed too complicated, too time-consuming or too reliant on a nearby group of friends. So for ages, I assumed board games weren’t for me — until I discovered Mansions of Madness.
Here’s the pitch: Mansions of Madness is a gothic horror adventure set in the worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. To defeat the game, you’ll go up against Cthulian monsters, deadly cults and demon worshippers in a dark 1900s setting.
Let me tell you, it’s grand. If you’ve ever wanted to fight cosmic gods, you’ll love this game as much as I do.
The gameplay is broken up into several stories centred on a crime or mystery. Players act as investigators, travelling around locations revealed slowly by map tiles. Along the way, there’s mysterious objects to uncover, suspicious people to interview and many magical crevices worth exploring.
Each scenario weaves an intriguing, Lovecraftian tale filled with excellent twists and turns. In some scenarios you’ll be hunting monstrous murderers. In others you’ll be protecting vulnerable widows from the ghouls knocking at her door. All the action is controlled by the app, and as you uncover more clues the deeper story will unfold. If you play scenarios again, you’ll also find different challenges unfolding: map tiles, items and monsters vary every time you play.
There’s a fair amount of thought involved in Mansions of Madness, and it requires a lot of strategy. You’ll need to solve code-cracking puzzles and translation challenges throughout, but it’s these stumbling blocks that make the game so consistently exciting. The risk of failure is high, and it makes for some very stressful dice rolls — even if you choose to take on the adventure solo. (The game is designed for 1-5 players.)
Players also have limited turns and the app can throw in curveballs like monsters manifesting near you or other investigators going insane. Whether you’re playing solo or with mates, there’s plenty of surprises along the way. Your choices guide the outcome of your game, and could just lead to disaster. Do you enter the door on the left which possibly contains deadly creatures, or the door on the left where the creepy old man lives? Do you pick up the sword, or use your turn to descend further into the mansion at the risk of death?
Every choice matters.
When you’re looking for the perfect board game experience, you want one that hits the right notes: it can’t be so hard you’re too frustrated to play, and it can’t be too easy the whole thing is a breeze. You also want something people can jump into a play without the long-winded explanations about what token goes where or what items you need to defeat the magic boss.
Mansions of Madness is a board game with excellent balance, and it’s very easy to teach.
If you’ve got a friend over and want to get them involved, the basics can be covered off in five minutes or less. Even if you’re learning the game for the first time, the manual lays out the rules simply and the app explains the rest.
In good news for tired adults, it also requires very little effort to set up and play.
See, the thing nobody tells you about being an adult is you won’t have time for the things you love and even when you do, you’ll feel far too tired to enjoy them. But Mansions of Madness requires minimal effort to drop in-and-out of, and you can pick up where you left off at any time. The app saves your map and character progress so if you need to pack it away between sessions, you can. If you want to bring it to a friend’s house, it’s also a very simple process. You don’t need to dedicate hours of your life, and you don’t need to remember complicated rules or character placements. The only thing you need to do is lay out your map tiles and you’re off to the races. It’s the obligation-free adventure you need.
But beyond the mechanics and the excellent stories involved, who wouldn’t want to fight monsters? Mansions of Madness lets you live out all your wildest dreams, including fighting Cthulhu and stopping the end of the world. If you’re looking for your next board game adventure, or you just need an excuse to go on a mythical romp with your mates, Mansions of Madness should be the next game on your list.
Playing it made me realise just how awesome board games can be.