A couple weekends ago I got a chance to play Mansions of Madness for the first time. Despite how long it’s been around, I’ve never played Arkham Horror either — surprising considering I’ve got the same longstanding adoration of the Cthulhu Mythos that about 90% of the role-playing community shares.
The game was a ton of fun and very easy to pick up. Even before we started playing I had keyed into this idea that it was to Call of Cthulhu as HeroQuest or Descent are to D&D, and that proved to be a pretty accurate notion. The resolution mechanic is handled with a d10; the goal is to roll equal to or less than your character’s attribute number. As with CoC, the depletion of sanity and the slippery slope into madness is major part of play.
Like Descent, the Keeper is actually competing against the players rather than functioning as a neutral referee. I do think our Keeper was a bit more forgiving and helpful since all but one of us had never played before. That said, by the last few rounds we definitely took a turn toward hardcore competition and it was awesome. After we had revealed the mystery that told us both our win condition and the Keeper’s, there was an awesome heroic sacrifice that played a major part in our party’s victory over the mad cult of the King in Yellow. For the Keeper to win, he had to drive at least two of us completely insane. Realizing that a dead character didn’t help the Keeper at all, one of my buddies unloaded a his .45s into a few cultists before throwing his already insane character into a burning room that caused fatal damage. It was definitely one of those moments that define a truly great game night, as that night definitely was.
Of course, the second I laid my eyes on the miniature plastic chthonians, shoggoths, and crawling ones, I knew I needed to get my hands one some and rebase them for general role-playing use. Fantasy Flight really does package great accessories with their games. I haven’t actually followed through with buying the minis yet, but I’m sure I will soon.
Like most niche audience board games, the $80 price tag means that the game isn’t exactly an impulse buy, but I can certainly say I’d love to play again. If you haven’t played and the Cthulhu Mythos is something you even vaguely enjoy, definitely check this game out.