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Julia

Alone in the Mansions – A MoM 2nd edition review (minimal spoilers)

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(cross-posting from BGG. Original article here)

 

I’ve always loved haunted mansions and stories about detective investigating the supernatural sphere, so that when the first edition of Mansions was made available back in 2011, it was an immediate purchase for me. This was the beginning of an incredibly troubled relationship: for how much I was in love with the idea behind the game, I couldn’t really love the game due to its extremely flawed nature: setup was incredibly long and difficult (a wrong seeding of the initial cards could have meant a scenario unplayable after a certain point); the stories often had sinchronicity issues among different elements (event deck and clues discovered, for example) in case investigators were too slow or too quick at advancing in the mansion; and balance was terrible, with a Keeper playing to win being able to bring home victory in a really high number of cases. And finally (possibly the real deal breker for me) there was a point in the game where the Keeper’s objective was revealed and victory conditions for both sides were made evident, even if investigators didn’t have gathered enough intel to actually know the solution of the case, creating loopholes that no good game should have left open. During the years, FFG put a lot of efforts into fixing some of these issues, and a couple of products they released at a later time (mostly Call of the Wild and the PoD exp The Laboratory) were able to grant an interesting game experience; still, it was not enough to save the game from the incoming extinction.
In some sort of way, it was logic that they would have returned to the game, creating something new that could deliver a different, flawless experience. Now such a product is finally available, a 2nd edition of the game that implements something completely unexpected: it’s not any longer a game pitting a Keeper against a group of Investigators, but it’s a fully coop game run by an app.


Why an app?

When I first met 2nd edition and discovered that the game would have been run by an app, I was extremely disappointed. An app in a boardgame simply didn’t sound right to me. At that moment I had played only 1 boardgame running with an app, and that game was XCOM: The Board Game. I kinda liked it, but it was a real time sci-fi game so that having an app seemed thematically consistent. But an app for an atmospheric game in a bewitched manor? The two games were just on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Still, it was not something I could change, and while playing the game I realised what they actually had achieved with bringing an app to Mansions. First of all, the setup time drops to (almost) zero: 5 minutes to setup a couple of decks, select the investigators, and you are ready to go. No more hours spent seeding items on the whole mansion, no more risks of errors making the game unplayable, and no more “I’ll show you the whole map of the house right now”. The house is now built around you as you play the game.

Then, the app allows the adventure to be different every time you play it. First of all because the seeding of the objects every time is different: going to the Lounge to search that library for information means you can find a spell; and on your next attempt at the adventure you can find soemthing different. A Silver Key, for example, or an Ancient Medical Text that could come in handy at a later moment of the adventure. But it’s not only the seeding of items: some of the core set adventures come with entirely different maps. And other elements in the game can be different from time to time (some pattern in monster movement, for example; but I won’t spoil the secrets of the game in this review so that everyone can enjoy all the nuances of the game). Furthermore, the app allows investigators to have guided conversations with NPCs (and most of the time you won’t be able to explore all the options dialogues with NPCs offer in one single playthrough, being a lot of questions mutually exclusive), and there are sidequests entwined in the main plot, and a lot of Easter eggs hidden here and there, with references to HPL’s lore but also “hiding” some surprises for the keenest investigators. As for the stories… the different objectives that were present in 1st edition are now gone, but stories in 2nd edition have different endings according to investigators obtaining some key information and achieving specific tasks: in this way, the finale may differ a lot according to your actions, and they are not always “good” for the investigators, meaning that you can clearly lose the game, but meaning also every story has a “neutral” ending, where in some way you survive, but the case, for many reasons, can’t be considered a full success.

 

The app allows then to customize the scenarios in a very simple yet effective way: the collection manager screen allows you to enter which MoM 2nd edition (and 1st edition) products are present in your collection. By switching on and off the different products, you’ll vary the composition of the investigator pool, of the monster cup and of the tiles available to generate the maps. In this way, threats you’ll be asked to face in every scenario will be different and the layout of the mansion could be modified as well.

At this point some may wonder what the impact of the app on the atmosphere of the game is. Well, a lot of attention was given to set up the right mood for the game, and the app gives a huge contribution in this sense. Starting with the introductions for the different cases read by a professional narrator and moving forward with a lot of flavor added to the descriptions of rooms and items and monsters found inside the manors and ending with Mythos cards effects, playing through these scenarios is by no means a flavorless experience. On the contrary, the app creates brilliantly a more and more claustrophobic mood that builds up a lot of pressure on investigators as they struggle to reach the adventure’s finale.

In the end, the app results being the living core of the game and an absolute and needed innovation; a tool able to grant clockwork precision to the game and at the same time able to grant an experience incredibly rich in flavor and depth.


Is the conversion kit usable only if you own 1st edition products?

Nope. You can use the conversion kit even if you don’t have any 1st edition product. The conversion kit basically allows to use investigators, monsters and tiles from 1st edition into 2nd edition games. In the case you don’t have the 1st edition, you may enable 1st edition products and play, using a proxy for the investigator minis (tokens from other games like Eldritch Horror or Arkham Horror work perfectly fine), and using the chits provided in the kit instead of the monster minis. Tiles could be more of a problem, but they are rarer to appear than 1st edition monsters (or at least so it appeared to me in my first games) and in any case they can be easily proxied with a piece of paper and a pencil. Alternatively, if you want to experience just 1st edition investigtors in 2nd edition, it’s enough that you input in the app the names of investigators from 2nd edition and then you create a small conversion table saying, for example, that Agatha is actually Darrell. In this way you know that whenever the app calls for an effect hitting Agatha, Darrell is the real target, and so on. So, even if you don’t own 1st edition, you can still enjoy fully the covnersion kit. And I have no reason to believe that tiles and minis of 1st edition will be made available for 2nd edition in the future.


How are the scenarios?

The core game comes with 4 different scenarios:

Cycle of Eternity: this is the easiest scenario (difficulty rating: star_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_white.gifstar_white.gifstar_white.gif ) coming with the core set, and plays very quickly (60 to 90 minutes). This makes Cycle the perfect learning scenario, but despite it being on the easy side, it’s still crazy fun to play: a series of disappearances lead the investigator to the Vanderbilt mansion where they will be asked to unravel a cosmic mystery before it’s too late for our world. A classic Lovecraftian story, that should appeal both the hardcore and the casual player

Escape from Innsmouth: Innsmouth is possibly the second most iconic city HPL ever created, so, having a chance at solving a case there is something every Mansions of Madness fan has always wanted. The game begins with the investigators already in Innsmouth, investigating the shadow that lies over the city, and making powerful enemies at the same time. The difficulty of the scenario rises ( star_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_white.gif ) and so the playtime (90-150 minutes) but at the same time, as you unravel the mystery, you also unravel the huge potential this game has. Run through the streets trying to avoid being lynched and talk to locals until finally all the pieces of evidence collected reveals an ancient, terrible truth. At that point you only need to escape from the city, and reveal the world what you’ve learned. Will they believe you?

Shattered Bonds: Investigators are asked to investigate a malevolent presence, a shade, or maybe something more terrible and evil, that stalks the family of Grace Bechman. A difficult scenario (star_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gif ) playable over a larger timespan (120-180 minutes) that sees investigators occupied on a twofold front: both investigating the mansion searching for clues able to solve the mystery and protecting members of the Bechman family still living in the house from the attacks of the mysterious creature, in a sort of cat and mouse game that should represent a real strategical challenge even for the most experienced players.

Rising Tide: this is by no doubt the longest (240-360 minutes) scenario present in the game; it’s so long and thick (but not too difficult: star_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_yellow.gifstar_white.gifstar_white.gif ) that possibly playing it over two different game nights may be the way to go (fortunately the app has a save feature, so that you can reload from where you left the previous time without any problem). Investigators are summoned back to Innsmouth to stop a ritual. They don’t have many clues at their disposal: only a list of 6 possible suspects, but nothing more. Patience, wit and logic are here the most valuable assets in a claustrophobic run against the clock.

So, keyword here is variety: the whole spectrum of length and difficulty is represented in these scenarios, that offer also very different adventures: protecting people and investigating the dead; delving deep into mansions and exploring entire sectors of a city; facing dangerous foes and running for your lives; all of this happens in a common frame, the brutal force of the Mythos tearing apart the fabric of our reality.


Is the game worth getting?

Yes. First of all, it’s a game designed for Mythos fans; anyone, even non gamers, loving HPL stories and creations will have a blast playing through these adventures because the spirit of the Mythos is perfectly captured in each and every scenario here offered. Then, Mansions 2nd edition is a game that innovates the boardgame canon, bringing the adventure to a whole new level: setup, synchronicity, replayability are no longer an issue. You can easily play each scenario 10 times without growing tired of the game, and the save function of the app allows you to play the game even if you don’t have the 4+ hours in front of you that 1st edition required. Finally, it’s a game for dreamers: there’s actually no limit to what can be achieved with the app, both in terms of scenario complexity (see Rising Tide, for example) and in terms of long term play, where longer cases could be resolved in terms of campaign play. Not that campaign play is included in the app at the moment, but who knows what could happen in the future? If you ever dreamed of sailing the Dreamlands on a White Ship, of adventuring in the foundations of a certain city lost in Antarctica, of witnessing the power of the Mythos back in the Victorian London or sacrifices done on the megalitic altars of islands lost to mankind, well, now, the door has been opened. Whatever you’re searching for within the Mythos, now you’re given a chance at having it; and even if you’re a solitary gamer, now you’re allowed to enter the mansions, alone.

 

________________________________________________________

EDIT: the game is out now, so I'm allowed to tell: been playtester for the game, so, my view of the game is due to 20+ games played

Edited by Julia

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So, I wasn't going to get this until it could give me something new, but I'm weak. So here is my initial impression after one 2P game

1. The app works well. It's not amazing, but it's good. The rooms are set up as you go along, the fights and puzzels go quicker.

2. No more looking through a pile of cards to find one that suit your attack

3. The conversion kit is included.

4. It all integrates well with the first edition

5. The app is a better way to distribute new scenarios

6. Liked the dice

So for the bad

1. Might be the scenario we played, but it didn't work well for 2P, while the old one was great for 2.

2. It didn't feel like we were investigators, just two people stumbling around a house where some **** happened

3. In the old one the house plan was pretty much layed out. You got a clue to go somewhere, you went there. Now you have to find the room first, leading to a lot of running around doing random search and explore.

4. No time means no sense of impending doom and urgency

We had fun playing it, just felt it wasn't as fun as the original. The original did have balancing issues, but we always played with fun in mind, not victory. Next time we'll try it with 4P and another scenario.

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2. It didn't feel like we were investigators, just two people stumbling around a house where some **** happened

3. In the old one the house plan was pretty much layed out. You got a clue to go somewhere, you went there. Now you have to find the room first, leading to a lot of running around doing random search and explore.

 

 

Hmm, those two seem to contradict each other a bit. Aren't random searches and exploring part of investigating?

 

:P

 

Anyway, I believe they want to give players more of a tabletop RPG feeling, instead of an actual board game. I think it's actually pretty neat that you don't know where everything is. Adds to the creepy vibe of being in a spooky mansion.

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I guess for me investigating is following clues and figuering things out, not just stumbling around til you find the thing you're looking for. Felt more like Scooby Doo than Miss Marple. In the old one you were given a clue, followed a lead and had to work to get to where you were going. Now you just check doors til you find the right one. Although this might be because we were playing the easy scenario. Again, I'm not saying this is a bad game, just miss a few things from the old one.

After the inital playthrough I do prefer the first edition, but that may change. Need to try with more players, the conversion kit and some of the other scenarios.

Edited by Babyblue

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I feel like if I showed up at a strange mansion and was given a clue that I needed to go to say the library that my immediate next step would be figuring out where said library is. I wouldn't have a top down overview of the entire mansion memorized from the second I walk in. Definitely love the fact that you're required to explore to find things rather than being able to just go straight to the room you are looking for. 

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I have Eldritch Horror and i never played MoM, is it worth getting MoM 2E?

The only thing that stops me from getting this game is the fact that im scared that my group of friends doesnt enjoy the gameplay.
When I first get the Eldritch Horror I was really excited to show them the game and start playing, but when we start playing (with 8 people, ye I know it can be a factor for boredom) only 3 (including me) were enjoying the game, because they wanted more "action", like rolling the dices, moving, getting stuff, and less encounters phase. So Im a bit scared to get this game because im afraid they wont enjoy it has much has I do.
This FFG games are so cool and I cant find another game that my friends would like, i can only see FFG  :P

So my question is, should I get this game and wait for them to like it, or should i get another that pleases all ?  :unsure:  :wacko:

 

(Sorry for any english errors, its not my native language)

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Babyblue,

 

out of curiosity, which scenario of the 4 have you tried? If you went with Cycle with 2 investigators you picked up the easiest of the possible combos (the scenario was designed as an introduction to the game) so that if you're a skilled player, then it's normal that you've found ti relatively not challenging

 

I hope your next playthroughs may offer you greater enjoyment!

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Hate to disagree Julia but conversion kit isn't use able on its own as you won't have the game tiles so can't selected investigators and monsters without tiles means you either need to change tiles on the fly or miss out on stuff surely?

Personally I have no issue as it's a reward for the hard core

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I have Eldritch Horror and i never played MoM, is it worth getting MoM 2E?

The only thing that stops me from getting this game is the fact that im scared that my group of friends doesnt enjoy the gameplay.

When I first get the Eldritch Horror I was really excited to show them the game and start playing, but when we start playing (with 8 people, ye I know it can be a factor for boredom) only 3 (including me) were enjoying the game, because they wanted more "action", like rolling the dices, moving, getting stuff, and less encounters phase. So Im a bit scared to get this game because im afraid they wont enjoy it has much has I do.

This FFG games are so cool and I cant find another game that my friends would like, i can only see FFG  :P

So my question is, should I get this game and wait for them to like it, or should i get another that pleases all ?  :unsure:  :wacko:

 

(Sorry for any english errors, its not my native language)

It's not arkham or Eldritch more actions but mostly story. Maybe Doom for them?

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Hate to disagree Julia but conversion kit isn't use able on its own as you won't have the game tiles so can't selected investigators and monsters without tiles means you either need to change tiles on the fly or miss out on stuff surely?

Personally I have no issue as it's a reward for the hard core

 

As said in the review, you can either use a proxy for the missing tiles, or you can assign 2nd edition characters to the app and create a correspondance with the 1st edition characters you're actually using.

 

Additionally, on BGG someone noted that if the starting tile of a scenario is a 2nd edition tile, then no 1st edition tiles will be called out by the app during the scenario (so, if you don't have 1st edition tiles available and you start on a 1st edition tile, restart the scenario). I never tried this tho, so I can't say this finding is true or not - honestly, in 20 plays with 2nd edition I was asked to enter first edition tiles only once, so a limited number of times

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Babyblue,

out of curiosity, which scenario of the 4 have you tried? If you went with Cycle with 2 investigators you picked up the easiest of the possible combos (the scenario was designed as an introduction to the game) so that if you're a skilled player, then it's normal that you've found ti relatively not challenging

I hope your next playthroughs may offer you greater enjoyment!

Hi, Julia

Yes, we started with the easy one. Today we went with 2 investigators each and Innsmouth. We lost after 3h. Again there was very little detective work. I would rate this scenario lower than the intro one.

Ah, well. 2 to go. Maybe I'm just too set in my ways to appreciate the changes. Surprisingly I like the app though. :)

Does the app adapt to the number of investigators? I assumed that it did, but the 2P game felt very simmilar to the 4P game.

Edited by Babyblue

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Something tells me you have expectations that will be failed by default, which will hinder your ability to enjoy the game severely.

You may be right. I expected it to be Mansions of madness with an app and some tweaks. In the original the intro gave you a clue where to go next. You followed it, got a new one etc etc. Meanwhile some other stuff happened, either by time ticking, or by the "evil" player messing with you.

Haven't played every scenario, but Innsmouth is just searching every nook and cranny looking for stuff. (Not giving anything away, they say so in the intro). There is no clever little clue or hint, and for me that weakens the imersion.

Will the last 2 scenarios suit us better?

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Yes, the app scales difficulty according to the number of players. Still, the investigation work is mostly searching & exploring and reconnecting the dots of the story told, so, if you don't like this...

 

Nonetheless, Rising Tide could fit your gaming interests better: you need to actually understand who, out of 6 suspects, is the man to stop

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Thanks, Julia, we'll try that then.

You also partially answered my next question, replayability. I restarted the Innsmouth scenario 2 more times, with and without the first edition stuff, and the map and story stayed the same. So no replayability for this one?

Rising tide seems intriguing though....

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Escape from Innsmouth is rather a big scenario, so, there is only one map. There are a few elements changing (if you wish, PM me, I don't want to reveal too much of the scenarios and risk ruining the fun for other players) but not the map. Same for Rising Tide, only one map, but the culprits change every time. the other two scenarios come with different maps, 6 for Cycle and I don't remember honestly how many for Shattered Bonds. 2 for sure, possibly more

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I feel like if I showed up at a strange mansion and was given a clue that I needed to go to say the library that my immediate next step would be figuring out where said library is. I wouldn't have a top down overview of the entire mansion memorized from the second I walk in. Definitely love the fact that you're required to explore to find things rather than being able to just go straight to the room you are looking for. 

This is a good point, and would work better in a game that wasn't "tuned" so strongly to have you hopping with monsters/insanities/injuries so soon. You often just do not have the spare movement time to be exploring. So in the first game knowing where things were assuaged this. I think if they pulled back on the monster spawns juuuuust a tad, the game exploring wouldn't feel like such a poor use of your movement... or you wouldn't continually feel you'd blown a decision by exploring the next tile instead of doing something else.

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I have Eldritch Horror and i never played MoM, is it worth getting MoM 2E?

The only thing that stops me from getting this game is the fact that im scared that my group of friends doesnt enjoy the gameplay.

When I first get the Eldritch Horror I was really excited to show them the game and start playing, but when we start playing (with 8 people, ye I know it can be a factor for boredom) only 3 (including me) were enjoying the game, because they wanted more "action", like rolling the dices, moving, getting stuff, and less encounters phase. So Im a bit scared to get this game because im afraid they wont enjoy it has much has I do.

This FFG games are so cool and I cant find another game that my friends would like, i can only see FFG  :P

So my question is, should I get this game and wait for them to like it, or should i get another that pleases all ?  :unsure:  :wacko:

 

(Sorry for any english errors, its not my native language)

I can't promise what your friends will like, but honestly I think Eldritch Horror is a poor game and I don't enjoy it. I'm often alone in this, because criticism of a large, fan-favorite Lovecraft game is like attacking a sacred cow. But after some time, most of the other gamers I know have sold or traded off their copies as well, because they realized they didn't really have fun when played Eldritch either.

 

I can say that Mansions of Madness doesn't move at the snail's pace of Eldritch as you wait for other players to finish a turn, and the game just creaks along and monsters spawn. You really move around the board, and reveal things and turns are short. Each player takes a minute or perhaps two usually to finish his "turn".

 

If the question is really "should I get a game everyone likes or this one?" I think you answered your own question. I like the idea behind MOM (it's far from a perfect game), but if you want people to come over and play with you get something you're sure they will like. I'd get MOM too myself, and try it out - but the last thing I'd want to do is try to get friends over and put things in front of them you think they wouldn't want to play. Good luck!

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