“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft
This weeks choice for Game Time Decision does its best to evoke that strongest emotion and does so by incorporating modern technology. Mansions of Madness Second Edition from Fantasy Flight Games is an investigative board game where the players are pitted against that oldest instigator of our fears, Cthulhu.
From the Website: Fight for your life in Mansions of Madness Second Edition, the app-assisted horror game inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. From the makers of Eldritch Horror, this fully cooperative game takes you and up to four other players on a harrowing adventure through the dark and desolate halls and alleyways of Arkham. Much like the original Mansions of Madness game, the second edition offers a number of thrilling and confounding scenarios, each with a unique and unpredictable map, intricate puzzles, and bloodthirsty monsters.
From RTHG Staff (Brandon): I’ve never really been a fan of Lovecraft and certainly have not read any of the books he has written. I am not, in fact, a great fan of the horror genre at large. It has just never really been my thing. I don’t get a thrill out of being scared or scaring others. Growing up I had no interest in Halloween (so was very content staying home and watching television) and the only reason I’m out on October 31st these days is my wife loves Halloween and so do our kids.
That said, I really dig Mansions of Madness Second Edition. My first exposure to this game was after a long day of walking around Gen Con this past August. One of the guys in our group picked it up and we decided we’d jump into it that night at the hotel (as gamers do after buying new shinies at a convention). I love solving mysteries and I think that aspect of the game plays more to me than the aesthetic of the Cthulhu setting. Many cooperative games don’t really guide you to interact with the other players with their definition of “cooperation” being that you aren’t actively working against the other players. Mansions fosters that cooperation by giving the investigators (your player personas) traits which encourage working alongside another investigators.
Certain scenarios also challenged my RPG gaming brain washing in that you must indeed separate the group if you want to achieve success. Coupled with the aforementioned teamwork synergies the players find themselves in sort of a ballet, balancing spreading apart to achieve goal coverage while timing their rendezvous to accentuate each other’s strengths.
Oh, and then there’s the app. That this game makes use of an app to guide the story I think is the gel that makes it all come together. Aside from the Vincent Price like narrator and eerie music (which help set the mood nicely) the app tells the story and when you factor that you input which personas the players are using it gives an even more detail enhanced version of the scenario format. A key feature of the app is to allow players various ways of accomplishing a task based on their ability strengths as well as random gear and spells they find. This flexibility is something you typically see in RPGs, rarely in board games. Also, when you factor that more content can/will be generated and easily delivered via download the app certainly adds to the value of the experience.
If you enjoy a cooperative gaming experience where thoughtful cooperation is rewarded, and you’re okay (or into) thing horror related then Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a quality game that you should try!