Monday, 21 November 2016

Mansions of Madness second Edition 2.0 from Fantasy Flight Games unboxing and review

I am sure you all know by now, im rather fond of the work of H.P Lovecraft, and the Cthulhu Mythos by now, so with it being Halloween its the perfect time to share with you the latest entry in the Arkham files series of games from Fantasy Flight Games.  Mansions of Madness 2nd edition.  I have never played the first edition, but am a huge fan of games like Arkham horror a city level game, or Eldritch Horror which takes your investigators on a world wide hunt to stop the old ones in a large and epic game.  Then there is the fantastic Elder Sign a fast playing cooperative dice game.  Other manufacturors have amde Cthulhu themed games as well that are well worth look like the excellent Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu or for a more simple story crafting game Cthulhus Vault.

So with a large variety of Cthulhu themed games out there... what makes this so special? well.... plenty! so lets take a look.......
Its a BIG box, but with beautiful art on it, and it very clearly states an app is needed to palyt he game, though the app is free though, and available on PC, IOS, and Android.

That the influence of the old house was unwholesome, he could not deny; but traces of his early morbid interest still held him there. He argued that the fever alone was responsible for his nightly phantasies, and that when the touch abated he would be free from the monstrous visions. Those visions, however, were of abhorrent vividness and convincingness, and whenever he awaked he retained a vague sense of having undergone much more than he remembered.
     
–H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House 


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.
 It states 1-5 players, yes 1 player!! solo gaming for the win, the inclusion of this is as I always state excellent.  Ages 14 and up, but that may be due to theme since Olivia has played Eldritch Horror and other Cthulhu games its no worry to me, and the app does a lot of the work.  Game time does differ, some scenarios can be an hour and half, others 4 hours plus, so its variable, and dependant upon if you are playing solo or in a large group.
Now I said this game was a big box, and that's because there is SOO much inside it, take  a look at that components list! that's a whole ton of goodies, so lets pop the lid and see what dwells within........


 The very first thing that greets you when you pop open the top of this behemoth of a box is another sheet reminding you that the app is essential, it can not be played with out the app.
once you have got that sheet out the way you are greeted by a huge amount of goodies, bags of models, bases, and of course a gigantic thick and heavy slab of tiles, dice, cards and the new formatted rules reference and learn to play guides.  These are an excellent thing that FFG have started doing where the rules reference book works as an actual A-Z where you look rules up, and the learn to play guide, is well... a learn to play guide.  It creates a very simple playing book, that you can then dip into and out of reference when needed.
A nice touch is the 1st edition conversion kit.  For those gamers who have the 1st edition of Mansions of Madness this is excellent, as it converts your monsters, and investigators to the new format (there is a section on the app that lets you put in if you have the older stuff, so it can mix it into your missions.

 The dice used in the game are the 8 sided dice similar to those used in X-Wing, but with only 2 symbols on.  An Elder Sign, which means a success, and a clue token, which you can convert to a success by spending a clue token you have in your possession, then of course there are blanks....

When ever you are asked to roll a test it will be based on, or against one of your skills that the investigator has.  it will state which one, will power, strength, influence etc, and a number, that target number is the amount you need to reach or exceed to pass.  Some times the app wont tell you how to many you may need, it will just say, make an X test, and you put the number of successes into the app, this can allow you to have degrees of passing, though for tougher tests, they are stored, so the next time you try you already have any previous successes to go help out with.  I really like having specific dice, in other games in the Arkham range it was a d6 and 5 or more was a success, so having themed dice make it a lot simpler, and smoother to play still keeping in theme.

With it being FFG, you know its full of all sorts of tokens, and such like, though this is actually one of the lighter games for that, since the app deals with a lot of it for you, but it also suffers from another of FFGs issues, which is poor box control, so I picked up this little organiser from my local pound store and it does the job perfectly and fits back in the box at the end of the game, cuts down set up and take down time and makes a nice little tool on the tabletop to pull the tokens I need from.

The gameplay of Mansions of Madness Second Edition uses an app that handles all the map layout,  spawning creatures, generating events, and even randomizing the game board to increase the mystery and anticipation of every round. This means this game is a cooperative game, and can also be played single player... which you know makes me so happy!

When you sit down to play Mansions of Madness Second Edition, you will select one of the app’s scenarios to play, each with a different story, duration, and difficulty. The selected story will determine both the setting and objective of your mission, however the map, items, and monsters you encounter along the way will vary from game to game. Where an office may lie behind the door at the end of the hallway in your first game of Cycle of Eternity, a sitting room may appear the next time, and a study the time after that. The drawer that once held a brass key may later contain evidence to help you solve a puzzle, and the yard in which you once encountered a pair of chanting Cultists may now be home to a terrifying Deep One, or as we found out a big gribbly Star Spawn! With these ever-changing game elements, you will never play the same game twice; down each hall and behind every door lies another mystery for you to uncover.

After selecting the scenario, you and your fellow players will claim investigator identities. Each investigator has a distinctive story, driving their quest for the truth, alongside a unique array of traits, skills, and abilities. Take Minh Thi Phan, for example. A very balanced character, Minh is smart, cautious, and deeply invested in her quest for the truth. Her levels of health and sanity are neither exceptional nor lacking, but allow you to explore all avenues in your investigation. Her exceptional vigilance is also apparent in her special ability, allowing you to reroll one die while resolving a test of her various skills: strength, agility, observation, lore, influence, and will. Each investigators characteristics will be balanced differently, some enabling you to exceed in particular aspects of the game, while perhaps putting yourself at risk in others. 
After you have selected your chosen scenario and investigators, the app will generate the random elements of your game, including the map, starting items, monsters, and mythos events. You and your fellow investigators can distribute the starting items and spells freely at the start, but you should consider this decision carefully—it will require valuable time to trade later. Once the items have been allocated, you may proceed. The app will quickly and easily guide you through initial set-up and subsequently thrust you into the dark, mysterious night ahead.
The app shows you where to place bits of the mansion as you explore more, and search tokens and other bits as well as handling combat with the monsters, all very slickly and intuitively done
 Talking of monsters, you get a ton in the box! all plastic with their bases and card inserts that give you a bit of a background on the monster, and any special rules it may have.  These are slotted into the bases.  This was the one and only component complaint I had, the bases where so hard to get the card tokens into and the holes where not the rise size for  the pegs of the models, so I did have to spend a bit of time with a hobby file sorting that out.  Not a problem for miniature gamers who have that sort of equipment laying around, and I cant say if it was just my set or not, but do take care, as it seems the pegs on the feet are longer then the hole, thus will shred the monster card in there or not fit if the card is already inserted.
 It ranges from critters like Cultists,
 To Ghosts, Deep ones, and more.
Then the biggest scariest beasts... the Star Spawn.  Having one of these chase you is not fun as it really hurts if they catch you!

So how does it play?

Mansions of Madness Second Edition is played over a series of rounds, each made up of two distinct and phases. During the Investigator Phase, you and your fellow players will uncover the secrets of Arkham by exploring the shadows, investigating curious objects, solving complex puzzles, and battling fearsome monsters. When all investigators have completed their actions, you will confront the terrifying Mythos phase, comprised of mythos events, monster activations, and horror checks, mercilessly testing your health and sanity.

Your primary movements around the board will take place during the Investigator Phase, which allots each player two actions. In order to expand the map and discover its secrets, you can execute move, explore, and search actions. If you are simply traversing between previously revealed locations, moving can be a simple action, but you will likely face a far more arduous task should you attempt to flee a nearby monster or enter a new, undiscovered area. 



Exploring the map and searching its shadows for clues are equally uncertain, each potentially revealing new spaces, items, or information, while also chancing the appearance of a new monster or challenging puzzle. Utilizing items or interacting with the people and objects around you may also be critical moves, but they may cost you precious time all the same. Your final and most daunting choice of action is to engage with a monster, performing an attack while putting yourself at risk. However, every monster you eliminate will mean one less attack to face come the next phase.

Dread will fill you as each Mythos phase begins. Whether you are coming from smooth victory or heartbreaking defeat, there is no respite from the horror that awaits you. Once your Investigator phases are over, you will proceed through three equally torturous stages of the Mythos phase: mythos events, monster activations, and horror checks. The mythos events may affect your chosen investigators, particular areas of the game board, or those who have performed certain actions, testing a variety of skills. Whichever is headed your way, you have no way of knowing, and certainly no way of preventing it. 

After these events, the monsters will take their opportunity to strike, moving closer to the nearest investigator and attacking with all their might. How much damage you take will depend on how well you resist their vicious assault. Pain and fear are all but inevitable, though you will have to push through their many side effects in order to continue toward your objective. Should you survive the monster attacks, you will endure Horror Checks, the last stage of each Mythos phase. If you are sharp and agile, you may avoid these by staying far away from active opponents. Any investigator within range of a monster, however, may be in danger of taking yet another hit to their health or sanity. The Mythos phase is truly unforgiving.

The game continues until you either solve the mystery, or die trying.... and its not easy!

When you select a scenario on the app, you are greeted by a narration prologue to the story, then it guides you through set up.  You can click on anything at any time in the app to get a reminder of what it is? what was that search token in the hall? ahh yes knocked over papers... can you hear anything from that door before you open it? maybe....  The app also has a full soundtrack, which is suitably atmospheric whilst you are playing, and it describes everything, even when you attack, it gives you a little story piece of how you may dodge and swing, so it makes it great to read these out whilst playing, it really adds to the building tension, with the thematic music as well.


 Not a great roll from Olivia to fight the Hunting Horror.... luckily she evaded its return attacks, and I came to help her out, clubbing it with a fire extinguisher.... yes.... its both a weapon, and a tool... you can start fires in the game that spread.... so you have to be careful it doesn't get you as you and monsters will take damage.
 The app is so easy to navigate, just click on what you want to do, and it will reveal it to you, be it story, a test or a puzzle.... indeed the app has built in puzzles, sliding block style, a number sequence one, and a lock picking puzzle, these really add to the immersion feeling in the game.
 The terrain tiles are double sided, and beautifully detailed, the app will name the piece and show the image of it so its never hard to find the right one you are looking for.
 Things really started to go wrong when a Star Spawn appeared in the library, Olivia decided it was a good time to make use of her characters ability, which is she can move 3 spaces a turn instead of everyone else's 2 spaces.  I don't want to tell you too much about the story, as it WILL ruin it, and its something I feel you need to find out for yourself, to experience it to the fullest.
 We made it out at the end, but Olivias character was battered.  You take damage in the game in the form of cards, mostly face up that show an effect that could hinder you, but something's flip them over.  Once you have received 9 injured cards, you gain a random wounded condition card that may have a debilitating state on it,.  If you receive that many wounds again you are dead.  It works the same way with Sanity, here Olivia was insane by the end, and the back of these have all sorts of hidden agendas, it could mean anything from you can not speak, (really) to you must have a certain item to win, to you start stealing from other players characters if you are in the same space. these are great and really add to the gaems flavour.  Its the same with spells, it tells you how to use them on the front of the card, but the back has an effect that could happen when used you may not look at until you trigger the spell.  It could be something, it could be nothing, you need to risk it.

Items are also represented by cards so you can always see what you have equipped, and its effects.  Weapon items are classified by type, heavy, ranged, bladed and so on, and when attacking a monster it lets you choose what type of weapon you are using.
Escaping the mansion we survived the scenario, and beat it... but only just!

There really is so much to the game, but you do need to play it to appreciate those parts of it, as it teaches you as you go with the guide, and the app can even save a game so you can come back to it later.  If you where one of the people like me who where initially a bit put off by an app in a board game.... Do NOT be, this is fantastic, and after trying it I would not want to play it any other way, it makes things so much easier to set up, so this game can be set up and ready to go very quickly compared to other games, no sorting out specific decks for each mission, it does it all, tells you what starting equipment you get and away you go.  It got to the point with us where I was so involved in the game I forgot it was all computer generated, it just felt right... the story telling is deep, the app keeps a check on so many things it cuts down on your book-keeping, and increases your gameplay time.  This is one of the best games I have played...... and I look forward to trying out new expansiosn when they are released.  There is though still a ton of replay in the main box, as the app does mix up the layout of each scenario, the enemies, and the mythos phase, so no two games will be alike.  There are also great little touchs you find as you paly more... a little example, I searched an area and found a manuscript.... I chose to read it, and it granted me a spell, but said this knowledge comes at a price, and left it there.....  I forgot about it until trying to escape the mansion, and a monster spawned with a statement of this was the price I paid! a great touch to keep the story flowing.  This is very much the kind of game you will talking about AFTER you have played it, reliving those epic moments, those fails, those lucky breaks, everything.

Olivia says.....


I really like it, its fun, and it gets very scary witht he music, and when dad is reading the story and a monster appears! I like that there are lots of girl characters to choose from as well, I think this is very important and they are good role models.  The game is easy to learn and plays quite quickly if dad can find the right tiles fast.  I like the app, it means I have less to worry about, I can just concentrate on pretending I am in the story and not worry about other things.  I LOVE this game.


with an RRP of £92.99 its a high price, but its full of high quality content and high replay value, so find your local game store and join the investigation here!

If you liked the tile laying style of game, check out Star Wars Imperial Assualt
 
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