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Flashback Friday - Mansions of Madness - Love It Or Hate It? Do You Still Play It?

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Mansions of Madness

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The release of Mansions of Madness in 2011 was a highly anticipated event, which quickly turned from happy excitement to bitter grumblings. The game was plagued by misprints, as well as criticized for its complexity, long set up time, limited number of scenarios, and, of course, those weird little puzzles. Despite this, Mansions of Madness had its fans and received two big box expansions, and 6 print on demand scenarios. 

In 2016 the first edition of Mansions of Madness was retired and the second edition of Mansions of Madness was released. This edition did away with the player GM, replacing it with an app, Although some were resistant to the idea of needing an app to play a board game, others praised it for reducing set up time and complexity, and allowing for an easy and less expensive distribution of new scenarios.

What do you think? Is the 2nd edition a significant improvement over the 1st? Do you play either edition? Love it or hate it?

 

 

There Will Be Games Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

Mansions of Madness
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

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Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #298093 07 Jun 2019 09:51
I bought Mansions of Madness as soon as possible. FFG was still in their prime at the time, and I was already a big fan of their Arkham Horror 2nd edition. Beyond that, I knew from my extensive experience with running the Call of Cthulhu rpg that Mansions of Madness was one of the best collections of short adventures for the game, so it gave me hope about the quality of this game.

I was disappointed as hell. Played three times and never again. The errata was annoying, but not a deal breaker, as my favorite PC games all needed extensive patches. What I disliked about MoM went to the roots of the design. Every scenario was a railroad job on a tight schedule, so all the potential for the excitement of exploration was tossed aside in favor of making each scenario a high-pressure temp job. Setup was a big pain. The miniatures were a bad design choice that more than doubled the price. Certain cards amounted to the dreaded lose a turn effect. And the lack of variety in the card decks led to rapid boredom. Overall, the game wasn't enough fun for the amount of hassle. However, I loved the modular boards and the overall appearance of the components was nice. The puzzles were a neat idea, but in actual practice, most of our players found them too easy while a couple of our players found them impossible.

I never tried the 2nd edition app-enhanced version. I fundamentally disagreed with the basic design assumptions of the first edition and didn't feel that it would be possible to salvage the game. I'm also not a fan of apps because I resent either being tethered to an outlet by a short cord or watching my battery prematurely drain.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #298094 07 Jun 2019 10:14
Not even mighty Nikki Valens could save this one.

The core Koniesczka design is ambitious...but the ambition is empty. Perhaps no other game makes a better case for “why don’t you just play an RPG?”
What a waste- replace paper and pencil with a shitload of crap components, setup and take down times as long as prepping a simple adventure, and gameplay that reduces character and narrative to nothing. Pick up a Call of Cthulhu book, some dice, and pencil and paper and you can do everything this game does 1000 times better.

Aside from all that, the errors and sloppy QC make this almost look like an unprofessional product. The 2nd Edition was an overall improvement, but I still couldn’t bear with it.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #298098 07 Jun 2019 10:21
MoM 2nd edition is one of the few games I've really enjoyed and sold on. It's for the same reason other commenters found problematic: the game revolved around the surprise factor of an unfolding railroad encounter.

No other board game I know has done this anywhere near as well as MoM and the first time it happens, it blows you off your feet. The second time you try the same scenario, though, it has nothing worthwhile left to give you, despite some inbuilt variety.

So it was quite clear this was a game that was worth exactly four plays before needing an expansion, and that the release schedule was going to be built around extract more money for those expansions. So I bailed. I'd still recommend anyone that's never played it to try because it's so unusual, but certainly not to buy.

Never played 1st edition. Just reading about it made it obvious it was a train-wreck.
Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #298104 07 Jun 2019 10:44
I only played 2e and found it to be an app game that inexplicably had a board game attached to it, along with a $99 price tag. Dull and exceedingly fiddly.
RobertB's Avatar
RobertB replied the topic: #298110 07 Jun 2019 11:34

Matt Thrower wrote: MoM 2nd edition is one of the few games I've really enjoyed and sold on. It's for the same reason other commenters found problematic: the game revolved around the surprise factor of an unfolding railroad encounter.

No other board game I know has done this anywhere near as well as MoM and the first time it happens, it blows you off your feet. The second time you try the same scenario, though, it has nothing worthwhile left to give you, despite some inbuilt variety.

So it was quite clear this was a game that was worth exactly four plays before needing an expansion, and that the release schedule was going to be built around extract more money for those expansions. So I bailed. I'd still recommend anyone that's never played it to try because it's so unusual, but certainly not to buy.

Never played 1st edition. Just reading about it made it obvious it was a train-wreck.


My experience is similar. Liked each scenario the first few times, but it got a little old after a while. If you love Arkham Horror stuff, and don't want to do RPGs for some reason, it might scratch that itch.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #298120 07 Jun 2019 13:27
I support Barnes' renewed RPG fandom kick.

I stopped playing Arkham Horror for the same reason. Heavier rules, more expensive, yet less satisfying stories. I remember dozens of amazing tales from the years I spent playing CoC. I remember no stories from the years I spent playing AH. I guess there was one time a nun rode a motorcycle, hooper-do. Other than that it was fun in the moment but completely forgettable.

For all the justified criticism leveled by this site during the formative AT-vs-Euro years -- where Euros were just this big soulless puzzle-solving exercise of moving pieces around a spreadsheet -- I don't think AH improves much on that. A spreadsheet with a coat of Cthulhoid paint on it is still a spreadsheet.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #298122 07 Jun 2019 13:46
I think a lot of us at that time were RPG ex-pats looking for something more than Euros were offering...and somehow we fooled ourselves into thinking that a game like Arkham Horror was a suitable replacement. But yeah, I can tell you everything about a CoC game I ran 25 years ago...and virtually nothing about any Arkham Horror game I’ve ever played.

All of this desire for games that create memories...and we were already doing it without the need for all of this legacy junk propping up games that are just as abstract and soulless as any Feld title.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #298124 07 Jun 2019 14:15
I've only recently got 1E due to a cheap Math Trade match and so far two games in me and the other three in the group quite like it. Obviously the replay value will be limited, but if I get 10 plays from a game that long that is pretty good for us, and it doesn't do the same as Arkham Horror 2E or Eldritch Horror (and not meant to) but what it is meant to do is good.
But I'm not an RPGer (never been, hardly been tempted), although the other three are hardcore players and they still like it, and I'm not in the 'FFG is shit' club so I'll most likely be a unique post in this topic.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #298127 07 Jun 2019 16:11
I think this is one of FFG’s worst games, both editions. First edition suffers from only a small handful of setups being any good and the amount of restraint the keeper needs to have because the players really don’t have much of a chance. “But it’s an RPG in a box” isn’t an excuse because it really isn’t.

Second edition is too much app. There’s no reason why it had to be a physical product. I’d accept the inevitable defense of being able to play it around a table with your friends if any single one mechanic (either edition) stood out as being exceptional, but that’s just not the case. The game is tedious.
DukeofChutney's Avatar
DukeofChutney replied the topic: #298130 07 Jun 2019 17:25
1st edition was a grade A hot mess. Its excessive ambition did sort of make it fun for a short while, but as spliting the party spelled doom and each room did not provide enough interaction for 4 players it didn't really work. I think the concept and over production could have worked but it needed much better scenario and card deck design.

2d edition was far more painless but always felt more app than game to me, so i'm with Look on this one. I actually preferred 1st ed, because it was sort of interesting if way to long for the limited pay off.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #298131 07 Jun 2019 17:32
I think that the only scenario for first edition that really worked and was fun and re-playable was the one by Richard Larnius. It gave the GM way more leeway than any of the other scenarios, so it actually became a real competition between the GM & the players. Therefore, you could play it over and over again, even after you knew what the objective was - which essentially was to get to certain room and get out again. Once, as the GM, I decided to simply save up everything, and then spawn one of the really big monsters towards the end of the game to block the player's escape. So the players moved through most of the game relatively unmolested; however, this just served to increase their tension and paranoia. When the big monster finally dropped, they were positively relieved.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #298135 07 Jun 2019 21:09
I only played 2nd edition once and wasn't impressed. It definitely has a hard time justifying itself when you play RPGs regularly.

Someone mentioned how rushed the game felt, and while I don't remember that from this game in particular, I think it's an issue in other FFG games. (Probably others too, but I'm going with my experience.) Both Imperial Assault and Arkham Horror really punish the player for not driving forward. Maybe they feel the alternative is the slogs of 1E Descent, but it feels like they have a hard time lining up pace and scope. You need a game that feels like its advancing, but you also need to let the player feel like they can do what they want. That last part seems pretty important if your game tries to recreate the TTRPG experience.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #298136 08 Jun 2019 00:20
Got the extended 2e set free for painting it, played it 4 times, sold the whole painted set for 400 dollars a few months later. Total satisfaction (YMMV).
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #298144 08 Jun 2019 10:33
Thinking about it some more, second edition robbed the game of its only compelling element: The setup. Which was still tedious and heavily prone to iffy results.
Jarvis's Avatar
Jarvis replied the topic: #298145 08 Jun 2019 10:35
I feel like I’m always in the minority here, but everyone I know who games loves this one (2nd edition). It’s the one that I hear my friends and family talk about the most and ask to play. These are more casual gamers and are the type that have zero interest in ones like Gloomhaven, Root, or any RPGs.

I agree that 1st Ed was a hot mess, but there were items in it I liked. 2nd edition has been a hit and I’ve had no problems replaying scenarios in it either. I don’t get the lack of replaying because they know the ending. Isn’t that the case of every basically every board game (though I get it if you just don’t care for the mechanics in it).
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #298150 08 Jun 2019 14:22

Matt Thrower wrote: I'd still recommend anyone that's never played it to try because it's so unusual, but certainly not to buy.

Matt just wrote my 5 second review of Mysterium. Somebody publish it... with credit to Matt, of course.