I am a proud nerd, geek, and gamer. I started on old skool Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s and moved into video games and still wallow in a good RPG (role playing game). I am also a fan of the macabre and bizarre, and enjoy the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Thus, when fellow gamers Paul & Karen offered to induct Sweet Babou and myself into the joys of Mansions of Madness, “a scenario-driven board game of occult horror and mystery”, we were all over that like white on rice.
And lo, it was good.
The game itself takes its setting from the stories of Lovecraft, including his fictional Arkham, Massachusetts, and its sister-cities of Dunwich, Innsmouth, and Kingsport. The dark horrors you fight are modeled from the Lovecraftian mythos, as are the eerie effects in the game. It is app-driven, so the app acts as the keeper (or as I still think of it, Dungeon Master), telling you what’s happening and letting you know when it’s time to roll the dice to decide your fate. With a little techno-fiddling, Sweet Babou got it to display on our TV, which was nice.
The various tiles allow you to construct the mansions/towns where your madness will take place, and figurine to move around that you can geek-out on and paint if your heart desires.
For most gamers, the heart almost always desires the painting of figurines.
I really, truly enjoyed the game. It was as much an RPG as it was a board game (especially if you gave it some enthusiasm), as well as being both immersive and interactive, and it even set up decent challenges. Sweet Babou and I were enamored enough with it after playing it once to by a copy for ourselves, and although I am bitter that the expansion packs are both pricy and ubiquitous, I’m glad we did. So far we have yet to play a round where we ‘win’ … even if the game is officially won there is always at least one member of the party who became Cthulhu chow, or the game is officially lost with a single surviving character who gets to limp away and enjoy his/her insanity forever. More than once, we’ve both died horrible game-deaths, dragged into the gaping maw of various beasties.
The app-as-keeper is probably better for gaming, per se, in that the rules are adhered to vigorously … but I admit to missing the joy of a human GM (game master). Part of the fun of RPGs was to try to flummox the DM so his/her dice rolls failed. Could pretending to hit on his wife to distract him with the idea of our lesbian affair REALLY influence his dice roll? Of course not. But it is hilarious, especially in the context of the adult beverages the average adult gaming party consumes.
We had a DM actually hurt himself by pulling a muscle when my drunken Sweet Babou stood up before God and Man to demonstrate how “Halfling-style” sex would work. Good times, those.
Lack of human keeper aside, if you are fan of RPGs or board games or H.P. Lovecraft, I feel confident in recommending Mansions of Madness for your enjoyment.