Mansions of Madness

Board game review

gaming settings

Mansions of Madness by Fantasy Flight is an investigative RPG with a scripted Game Master. In fact, game play is guided by an app you can run on Steam or on a mobile device. The app tells you what tiles of the board to set out, what tokens to mark the board with, and helps you through exploration and combat.

Three or four scenarios are included with the game, but you can easily re-play them. The solutions to the mysteries don't change, but like many RPG adventures, there's often not that much of a mystery to solve. This isn't a spoiler but, believe it or not, in this Lovecraft-themed game, pretty much everybody's a cultist out to summon Cthulhu. If somebody's benn murdered, they're probably a sacrifice to, you guessed it, Cthulhu. Sure, the first time you play through an adventure, you'll get some surprises, and the more you become familiar with the adventure the less there is to uncover. But there are plenty of characters in the box to play, so by my reckoning you could play each adventure at least 3 times, once each with a different pair of characters and have a drastically different experience each time.

The adventures aren't short, either. I think the shortest estimated time is 60 minutes, and you can expect it to take a lot longer.

In other words, there's plenty of game play in the box.

The "problem" with Mansions of Madness is that the game master isn't a living being, at least by default. If you play the game as designed, there's no way to talk to NPCs the way you would in an RPG. It's like a Lone Wolf book or a video game. You get a few scripted options for what want to say or do at any given point, and you're locked into those choices. When the game calls for yet another monster to barge through the door, that's exactly what happens because there's no friendly game master around to protect you.

Then again, another way to look at Mansions of Madness is as a box of game assets available for both a scripted game master and a live one. You and a friend could play Mansions of Madness as a sort of structured RPG, with one person running the mansion and developing a story as characters explore, and the other runs the characters. Or, you can just play it as a board game, as intended, and have just as much fun. It's just a different kind of fun.

Photo by Riho Kroll using the Unsplash License.

Previous Post Next Post