I have to admit, I’m not a fan of games that come with a lot of miniatures. It’s not the miniatures themselves, and if they are well-sculpted, they can add a lot of depth to the game, but it’s the fact I’d much prefer to see nice full-colour ‘standees’ or card tokens because you’re not confined to the miniatures in the box, or obliged to buy expansions for a variety of monsters to fight against.
Miniatures do make games very expensive, and in the worst of cases, the games are poor because all of the work has gone into the sculpting and design of the figures rather than in the game itself.
I played the first edition of Mansions of Madness with a few friends, and we found that each time there just wasn’t enough time to get the adventure done. The end would always come suddenly, either being overwhelmed by the monsters on the board or failing to complete a timed objective. The final straw for us came when Will had to draw a predefined search card on the second scenario, where the instruction on the back simply said, “The investigator is devoured”, or some such. No chance to avoid the outcome, and once that occurred, Will’s game was over. I won’t repeat his comment on that outcome, but let’s just say that we agreed never to play it again. The game took a bit of setting up and into two and half hours play, and instant death for one player with another half an hour of game to play seemed a waste of an evening.
But the second edition of Mansions had something new and exciting. The App! The possibilities this app would have for redefining the board game experience were too numerous to not give the second edition a chance to redeem its predecessor.
From the get go, everything seemed a lot better. Investigators had some kit to distribute amongst the players, including a weapon or two, a spell, something to heal players with and a useful object. The intro on the app was very atmospheric, and the way it opened up rooms and showed where to place things to interact with, was very easy to understand. The interface isn’t perfect, and sometimes you wish you could have a log of the last things said scrolled at the bottom of the screen. The lack of tool tips means on first play we had to keep checking what symbols meant, and the monsters were not so easy to identify if there was more than one of each type on the board.
The music was good throughout, and reminded us a little of the music from the first two Resident Evil games. However, it was difficult to see when we needed to make horror checks and what constituted as range, and the app could have helped with this, but sadly, it didn't. The scenario had so much to do in a short space of time, and if we didn’t achieve the objective in time we would fail. We had no idea how many turns we had to complete the adventure in, and we fell short by one turn we think, being unable to open a puzzle on the final turn.
One of the best improvements with the app is that you no longer need one of the players to be playing as the Games Master. Therefore each of the players is working co-operatively against the app. Another great feature of the app are the puzzles, which are so much easier to use, and can be easily developed for unique scenarios.
While it’s certainly much improved, it’s an expensive game to buy at £90, but there is a conversion pack that will make your first edition copy playable for much less.
We will definitely give the second scenario a go and hope we do better next time.