It’s a mad, mad, mad world.
Mansions of Madness Second Edition is one of the most profoundly improved new editions of any game that I can remember. The engrossing, challenging narrative game was in serious need of a reworking that enabled players to focus on the good things instead of the minutiae. Mansions of Madness 2E delivers.
Gone is the need for a “keeper” who acts as dungeon master, laying out the mansion and acting as all the enemies. That role’s been replaced by a free app, allowing for a 100% cooperative experience for up to five players.
The interactive app is integral to the experience, telling you what room tiles to place as you explore the area, and delivering a variety of narratives for combat and events. You’ll even encounter puzzles that you must complete using the app.
Of course, none of that matters if the game itself sucks. Well, it doesn’t. You are investigators, trying to uncover a mystery based on one of the four scenarios chosen when you begin a game. During the Investigator Phase, players take turns performing two actions - a mix of moving, exploring, examining objects, talking to strangers, or attacking foes.
Thanks to the app, you don’t just attack a monster, but you get a cool narrative to go with it. Along with a skill test based on one of your investigator’s attributes. You roll dice equal to your skill rating and can turn magnifying glasses into success by spending clue tokens. Check your successes against the app and follow the outcome as instructed.
Then comes the Mythos phase, where creepy events happen. Monster move and attack and you generally get the sense that you’re screwed.
Speaking of being screwed. Investigators have health and sanity. When you take damage to either, you draw the appropriate card from the deck, which may lead to further complications. Lose all your health and you’re wounded, limiting your movement. Lose all your sanity and you go insane (sensible outcome). When you go bonkers, you draw an insanity card and secretly read the back for your new objective... which could be to find a bladed weapon and perform a ritual sacrifice of your closest ally. Yipes!
Explore the area, uncover a mystery, solve some puzzles using the app – which is SUPER cool – and try not to lose.
So here are the bad things. The minis stink. The sculpts aren’t bad, but the enemies attatch to large black bases that eat up a ton of map space for no good reason. And the minis often fall out of their slots, especially since you have to lift them up to see the details about each on the card on the bottom of the base. It’s an incredibly poor design and absolutely hinders the joy of this tense story-driven game.
But here’s the real bad news. There are only four scenarios in the base game. Yes, you can expand this with if you have the first edition (the game comes with a conversion kit), but it’s not a lot for newcomers. This is a long experience, with the shortest scenario taking two hours and the longest going upwards of six. But play it once and it’s just not that interesting to play again even though the app randomizes the map and locations of some items.
Without greater variety these scenarios become tedious instead of thrilling. Which is a shame, because the core game is phenomenal fun. Given the price tag, you should proceed with some caution. It’s an awesome experience the first time out – and hey, this is four game day’s worth of material – but you’ll need new scenarios quickly to avoid burning out on this one.
The three best things about Mansions of Madness Second Edition:
- An engrossing narrative experience.
- Short set-up and quick to learn.
- Going insane is kind of fun.
The three worst things about Mansions of Madness Second Edition:
- Bases for the minis are big for no reason and pretty crappy.
- Only four scenarios and one of them is a six-hour commitment.
- Choices you make rarely lead to using the investigator’s attribute you’d expect.
Get Mansions of Madness Second Edition If:
- You want an Eldricht Horror game with easy set-up.
- You love narrative games.
- You're committed to spending on new expansions.