Locals will recall the second week of February 2019 as the week the Tri-Cities saw enough snowfall to effectively shut down everything. Stuck in our home, Sara and I broke out Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. We punched and assembled, downloaded the companion app, and dug into an afternoon of hunting through a house filled with Lovecraftian nightmares.
It was awesome.
In Mansions of Madness, players take on the roles of mundane, regular folks thrust into terrifying situations. Every player chooses a character with different strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, a unique special ability. Players cooperatively explore a mansion filled with secret passages, treasures, weapons, and clues in an effort to figure out the mystery of the scenario and solve it before succumbing to the sanity-breaking monsters within. In the first suggested scenario, players are searching through a house where a mysterious cult is working to open a portal to an eldritch dimension. The game never lets up in terms of its pacing; we were constantly having to push through room after room while being chased by Hunting Horrors and Star Spawn as we struggled to figure out how to close the portal before the ritual was complete.
The components are high quality—exactly what you’d expect from a Fantasy Flight game. We had a little difficulty assembling a couple of the miniatures, but after shaving the pegs down a bit, the miniatures came together fairly easily. The chipboard used for the tiles and tokens is nice and heavy. The cards are sturdy; most of them will remain unshuffled throughout the life of the game, so they’ll last even longer.
The most significant piece of the game, though, is the free companion app (available for iOS, Android, Mac, and PC). This app is essential and takes on the role of the game master. It provides all the setup instructions for each scenario, controls the spawning of monsters, relays what information is uncovered as players search the mansion, and so much more. In the previous edition of the game, this role was controlled by a player which provided a fairly poor game experience. The companion app in this 2nd Edition is a remarkably impressive example of how technology can enhance board game experiences.
The base game comes with four scenarios, each of which can be played through multiple times as the companion app randomizes the mansion’s layout, item locations, enemy reactions, and several other game elements. In addition, the companion app provides two more scenarios that can be played using the components of the base game for five bucks a pop. There are currently four expansions that provide additional game components and scenarios.
This edition also comes with a conversion kit that will grant players who own the first edition the ability to convert their older content into a 2nd Edition-compatible format—a big money saver for early investors.
Nikki Valens should be lauded for her ingenuity and design talent. She works in an industry that is still overwhelmingly male (analoggamestudies.org has some interesting studies about this), and works to increase female visibility and representation in tabletop games.
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition is leaps and bounds above its predecessor in every measurable way. Nikki Valens has done a tremendous job redesigning what was formerly a clunky and moderately enjoyable game and turning it into a masterpiece.
Designed by: Nikki Valens
Player Count: 1-5
Playtime: 90-120 minutes (varies by scenario, some can take up to six hours)
Time to Learn: 20 minutes
Am I happy I bought it?: Definitely. This one will see a lot of table play.
I purchased this game from Adventures Underground because they’re awesome.
Written by Brendan Quinn; President of Tri-City Area Gaming. Learn more about the 200+ annual gaming events we host by visiting http://www.tricityareagaming.com.