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Radioactivepanda

Should you buy this game?

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Short answer, yes.

 

While we don't yet have the physical game in hand, we can tell a lot from the app.  And unless there's something truly wrong with the contents of the box we're looking at an amazing reinvention of this game.

 

The first edition had several problems.  Setup took too long, tracking monster health was fiddly, and a single misplaced card could screw up the whole evening.  But the truly fatal flaw of that game was that it wasn't really all that expandable.  Yes it had two expansions, and a whole bunch of print on demand titles, but while those each added new stories they largely failed to actually expand the base game itself.

 

The original version relied on specific story cards to be seeded throughout the map, as well as others used to track the pacing on the doom clock.  This meant that for each scenario they had to print a separate deck of cards that was only really usable for that story.  Then there were additional alternate cards that gave variations on each scenario.  But few of these cards would ever be used more than once, as once you've played through a particular story, there was little incentive to repeat it.

 

Now most of those were actually very good stories, and I really hope we eventually see new versions of them using the new system.  But back then it just meant that about a third to half the cards you got in the box were only ever going to be used once.  This actually got more true in the expansions, and the print on demand packs were entirely designed for single story use.  More than once I looked at my collection and marveled at the giant stacks of story cards, likely never to be used again.

 

This of course made custom scenarios difficult, as you had to proxy the story cards or compensate for them in some way.  And designing a map layout was not as simple as arranging the tiles.  You had to plan out the web of discovery and there were no tools from FFG to help you.

 

Games like Descent 2.0 and Imperial Assault have since arrived, using new methods to plot out a story on the board.  And for a long time I've dreaded that Mansions would be rebooted to use the same map tile system they share, and be doomed to the curse of constant combat.  I love Descent, and I'm very interested in IA, but Mansions is an exploration game, not a grinder.

 

But FFG has completely surprised me.

 

The map tiles remain the same, allowing all those giant gorgeous rooms to remain.  They were originally conceived to have room for small cards to be laid out on them, and the design allows for large atmospheric artwork.  Simple lines still divide the rooms into manageable spaces, allowing for multiple investigators and monsters per area, without becoming an overly technical grid.  Even if you somehow don't enjoy this game these could easily be used to construct maps for other Mythos games.  This release brings the total to over 50 available tiles, all double sided.  And there's definitely more to come.  Honestly if they had abandoned the game and just released more tiles like this I'd have been content.

 

The investigators are still pretty top notch.  There's been a few meh ones here or there, but overall they're distinct and expressive.  Though I am surprised they've added new people when the original game was only 16 into the established Arkham cast of 48.  But looking at Descent I think it's likely we'll be seeing monster/investigator/map packs coming soon.

 

The monsters are the only part of this I wasn't thrilled by, but I've largely warmed to them having seen the actual scenarios.  This release is heavily Innsmouth themed, even if they don't really shout that on the cover.  I'd have preferred better bases, but I'm hardly surprised they continued with the ungainly base and token system from Arkham and Mansions 1.0.  The good news is with the new system it looks like you're free to rebase them at will.  I was already planning on it, and they'd made it a lot easier to do.

 

So what does the app do, and what does it not?

 

For one, it makes tracking monster health a breeze.  All monsters are individually tracked in app, and you have total control over their damage.  As with most skill checks and such you roll the dice and tell the app the result.  Pass/Fail or amount of damage.  This means if you're really having a hard time of it you can fudge a critical number now and then if it becomes necessary ;)

 

Each monster past the first has a unique identifying symbol added to a corner of it's portrait.  I can only assume the box will come with stickers to add to the bases to match.  If not that's an easy paint job, and a couple of painted strips with similar symbols off to the side mean the tokens don't even have to be in the bases.  This is something we toyed with to simplify the first game and I'm thrilled they implemented it here.

 

Setup is simple, but not mindless.  Search, Interaction and Exploration tokens are placed inside and on the edges of revealed tiles respectively.  This allows for plenty of interaction points without having to worry about stacks of cards.  Remove a search token and the app will handle the reveal, very much in the same manner as the original game.  You may need a specific item to get past that token, or you may need to solve a puzzle.  Remove an exploration token and new tiles will be added and new tokens placed.  The feel and pacing of the original game is absolutely preserved.  If anything the atmosphere has been improved, given the added level of story bits that appear throughout.

 

Tokens are also used for various NPC's to fairly good effect.  Honestly I've not gone through all the scenarios yet, so as not to spoil the story entirely, but so far I've yet to see an NPC do much to help in combat or even move around much.  However they are well used to add story and interaction points.  I wouldn't mind seeing a miniature pack for them.

 

The app does a fair bit to hold your hand, though not in an obnoxious way.  And in the easiest scenario it did not seem even to be possible to actually lose the "race against time", though I doubt that's true for some of the others.  In fact one of the best changes to the overall game is the absence of the hated "Doom Clock".  In the original game you were dissuaded from doing much exploring off the beaten path, as there were more often than not a finite number of turns before the Keeper simply won.  While there are certainly stories that benefit from a race against time, it was grossly overused.  This time around exploration is absolutely encouraged, and even necessary to progress past certain points.  If you dawdle too long you may find yourself hit with an "event" or two that can easily result in loss of health or sanity, but the feeling of "rush-rush" in greatly reduced.

 

As for the loss of the Keeper, the game does a fine job replicating them.  So much so that I didn't notice much of a difference overall.  Creatures still mostly spawn according to specific rules and story points.  Combat still plays out with the same descriptive flourishes the original did so well.  And investigators still get hit with personal attacks from out the blue.  Those who were fond of playing Keeper may be disappointed, but Investigator players don't seem much affected by the change.

 

Best of all, it appears that virtually everything in the box will be reusable.  So expansions can actually "expand" the game, rather than just string it out.  New stories and scenarios are far more likely to appear regularly, as they require much less work to create, and can be entirely digital.  No more waiting for the next POD to print and ship.  And while there is no leveling system like Descent, a campaign system of sorts is more of a possibility now.

 

While it's likely we'll be relying on FFG to provide those stories for a while, it is not unthinkable that this might be opened to allow for custom scenarios down the road.

 

If you don't already own the original game, this is a solid buy.  If you do, this is a must buy.  And as many have already pointed out, the components from the conversion kit will undoubtedly be reprinted.  So grab the originals if you see them cheap, as it is still a good game, but you'll probably be able to get the bones cheaper later.

 

For those that worry about the price of this box, remember that this is all good meat.  There don't seem to be any one-time cards this time around, so the replayability and potential customization level is MUCH higher than before.

 

I'm very happy with the state of Mansions right now, you should be too, and I'm eagerly looking forward to what's coming next.

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Well said, er, typed.  :)  I will also add this, the app really adds the sense that the game's "world" is still moving while the investigators are doing their own thing.

 

I felt like things were going on all around and that just gave me goose bumps. So excited for this, now, off to finish painting my first edition minis!

 

BTW, I will post all of them (1st and 2nd edition) when I'm done.  

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I own the original Mansions of Madness, the Forbidden Alchemy and the Call of the Wild expanions... and I haven't played any of them yet! To be honest, when I first saw the announcement of this 2nd Edition, I was afraid I had wasted money on a game I hadn't even played yet. But then I started looking more into this new version, and the more I read about it, the more I actually want it. Heck, I believe this 2nd edition could finally be the trigger to start playing the game, and most of my 1st Edition stuff can still be used!

 

I had a look at the app yesterday, and oh boy... speak about thematic! You can even solo this game, it seems!

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Eldritch plays very much like Arkham Horror, though on a global scale.

MOM is not as tactical as something like FFG's Descent or Imperial assault, but you have a similar scale being your investigators and their immediate surroundings, and elements for gamers that enjoy RPGs. I believe Mansions tells the best story.

Arkham LCG will be fun, I watched a playthrough of the game on youtube and will preorder. It is a card game, so mechanically very different.

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I agree with everything said above.  I've had an opportunity to play through one scenario of MoM 2e and I can say the only thing I didn't like were the ridiculously large monster bases.  As such, I spent an evening rebasing them all to smaller round bases.  Half are painted at this point.  Unlike MoM 1e, the 2e monster tokens are all identical per critter, so there is no real need to have them in the bases.  I just keep them to the side for reference.

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