time is a major issue with Mansions. We had games running 5 hours or more (and we always play Arkham under 2 hours), and the set-up of the core game and most of hte adventures is totally *crazy*: you have a sheet where are listed, according to some of the choices made by the Keeper, all cards to be seeded for the adventure (for example: in Room 1, place the "Axe" exploration card, Clue n.2, a "Nothing of interest card" and the Padded Lock card). If *any* of these cards is misplaced (and when you have 40+ cards to seed this could happen), then there's a risk the adventure is not beatable (you finish into a cul-de-sac where you need a card to go further, but there are no cards available). So, consider a setup time longer than Arkham's.
Honestly, although I do love the design, the core game is seriously flawed. It does scale down *horribly* (Keeper's power is a function of the number of investigators playing, but Events do have a universal time trigger, hence, the less investigator you play, the slower you go, but the crap keeps on happening at the same pace). The Keeper is forced to reveal the Objective (conditions to win the game for both sides) after Clue 1 is found (which is perfectly valid trigger) OR Event 4 is resolved regardless of the number of clues found (this could end up in absurd situation like: the party sits on the entrance of the Mansion without doing anything for the whole game. Event 4 is triggered, Objective revealed: investigators know they have to leave the house to win the game. In the next round they leave, without knowing anything of what's going on, but still, they won). Monsters are allowed to attack once / Keeper turn, but they could actually damage every investigator passing by during their turn, so that if you have a Chthonian in a room you have to pass through, and you try to pass with all 4 investigators and they fail the Evade, then all 4 are damaged (5 hits or something) and then the Chthonian attacks (which is totally crazy). Additionally, monsters can play "hide and seek": if they exit the room you share with them and reenter with the following movement, you check Sanity AGAIN, even if it's the same Maniac you've seen already 100 times in the same adventure. So, all of this can be extremely frustrating. Keeper can add frustration on frustration by playing Mythos cards on your head. I won a game simply because investigators had to open a door, and for something like 5 turns I pushed them back playing Mythos and Trauma cards on their head. And in the end nobody was happy. So, in december 2012 we played the last PoD (House of Fears), we ended up in an 8-hour game (I never finished it, being collapsed on the couch under my friends' two golden retriever) leaving everybody so unhappy we put the game on a shelf and left it there for a year more or less (more recently we played some newer scenarios from Call of the Wild, and we enjoyed them a lot more, even if, as Amikezor said, they could have been provided with a better atmosphere).
As for you last points:
a) you should consider if you like more Thriller movies or Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead. Additionally, if the Keeper is more a competitive boardgamer (focused on what to do to win in the shortest and most effective way possible the game) or could enjoy being a sort of Game Master, focused on telling a story (my thoughts on this point are monodirectional: if I want an RPG experience, I go with an RPG, not with a boardgame. But for others this could be different, and they will certainly like MoM more)
b) I do love Munchkin too, but trust me, after 6 hours of dice rolling and dogfighting, with the idea of "one more hit and I win the game" you pick up a card saying you point blank a Maniac and deal one damage to him and 2 to yourself because you didn't know what you're doing, and you keep on drawing similar cards... well... it's no good
c) this happens sadly often. I haven't played MoM as often as Arkham (maybe I played 30-40 games or so), but often, in the end, when the climax should be reached (considering frenchkissing nuns this could sound ambiguous. Uhm), you end up in situation where you need 2 more hours to do the very last thing (and everybody is sleeping around the house - not the mansion, your house) because the Keeper simply keeps on repeating the same action that forces the situation to loop endlessly
d) point is the fridge-warning should have been triggered before the fridge-opening, in the story line original idea, but this never happened because investigators went another way. Problem is that an RPG offers flexibility (they go another way? well, then the Keeper can move the encounter) while the set-up of a boardgame can't be really changed. So, paradoxal situations arise (another one coming to mind - don't remember the adventure: investigator see a crawling hand moving on the floor. Two rooms later they see the same hand returning to life, so they should have had the encounters the other way round).
Still, as Amikezor said, some of the fan made scenarios are good. They have been playtested to death, and they work perfectly. New scenarios coming for the game have all the major problems I spotted out kinda solved, and the game is now going in the right direction (let's hope they will go on with this). You need to have three things to really enjoy Mansions:
- some money to invest (at least for the core game and Call of the Wild (the latter is on promo on bookdepository.com for 23 EUR instead of 60; it's an English site with free shipping around the world, so, shipping to Germany shouldn't be a problem). Beware, it's a cash cow: each expansion has not so many Scenarios (forget the complexity and variability of a Descent campaign), and the replayability of each Scenario is quite low
- some patience to invest: in reading carefully the adventure, trying to spot out the weak points and fix those before gathering friends and playing
- a love for RPG able to stop you from being a cruel butcher: most people will simply ditch you if you follow this path
IF I had to choose a "GM vs party" game, I'd go with Descent over Mansions. If I had to choose another Lovecraftian game, I'd go with the Call of Cthulhu LCG, which is awesome. Or wait until the first reviews for Eldritch are out (this one should definitely grant you a lot of replyability). I should get my copy in a couple of weeks and then I'll certainly write some extensive feedbacks (GM your e-mail if you want further details on EH or any of the above mentioned points)
Ok, longish feedback. Sorry if I've been too talkative
Edited by Julia, 14 November 2013 - 05:47 AM.