GrogHeads Reviews Mansions of Madness 2

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The second part of our Weekend of Madness ~

Avery Abernethy, 5 August 2018

I’ve played Mansions of Madness 2 (MM2) with a group of five random people at a MACE gaming convention and solo at home.  MM2 provides a unique board game experience.  At $90 retail at Amazon, it is also the most expensive board game I’ve ever purchased.

In MM2 you are playing a character with a set of skills.  Each player (up to 8) has an investigator avatar.  If you play solo, the manual suggests picking two investigators to run.  My solo game used only the core MM2 set playing “Cycle of Eternity.”  My convention game with random strangers had five characters and used an expansion.

MM2  provided one of the best solo board game experiences I’ve had.

Players cooperatively attempt to solve the mystery.  The investigator’s goal is unknown at the start of the game.  You begin with limited information in a single room with closed doors and potential clues.  Game setup requires starting the computer app, selecting the scenario, and indicating to the app which investigators are playing. After this information is inputted, the app displays the initial room setup and provides starting information.

The core Mansions of Madness 2 game comes with four scenarios of varying difficulty.  MM2  provided one of the best solo board game experiences I’ve had.  The app provided background sounds.  I had no idea what would happen when I opened a closed door or made a game choice.  Because the app ran the mystery, monsters, puzzles and other aspects of the game, it was a very immersive experience.

I closed an extradimensional gate to win my solo game.  It was a close thing.  A huge monster was spawned and was moving towards my investigators. My investigators were heavily wounded with marginal sanity.  If the huge monster had reached them, my investigators would have been eaten or driven insane.  I could almost feel the house shaking with its footsteps as the monster was closing in on my two investigators

MM2 monster coming 1

monster coming


MM2 monster coming 2

monster coming

One of my “winning characters” became an uncontrollable kleptomaniac. Both investigators had acquired many helpful items during the investigation of the haunted mansion. Parts of the mansion were unexplored.  Fortunately, I persuaded the Butler to tell me about a critical key needed to penetrate a critical locked room.  Looking at the picture of the final board, both characters had accumulated a lot of horror and physical damage cards and each had many items.  The red map icons represent potential undiscovered rooms.

MM2 final board

MM2 final board

In sum, this was an amazingly good onetime solo game experience.  But I wonder about the replay value with only four investigations.  Is there enough variation in finding clues, fighting monsters, and solving puzzles to hold your attention?

My group experience was mixed.  In a noisy convention environment, the app was far less effective in creating a spooky atmosphere.  Having five newbies was not helpful.  In a cooperative game, having one or more players hare off lowers everyone else’s enjoyment.  The horror is diminished when you have five people passing around a smart phone with a small screen.

I’ve played so many games over the decades I usually have a good handle on replay value.  This game is so different I cannot make an accurate replay value assessment.

This leads me to draw several conclusions.  First, to maximize the horror run the app on a tablet computer.  Better yet, use a portable laptop or a PC with a big screen.  The experience is maximized with good speakers and a big screen.  A smart phone is too small.

Second, this is a cooperative game.  One or more uncooperative players sucks the fun out of the game.  Third, players must be able to concentrate. Having a group of strangers, a poor game environment, or too many newbies reduces the fun.

Fourth, I’m concerned about the replay value.  I’ve played so many games over the decades I usually have a good handle on replay value.  This game is so different I cannot make an accurate replay value assessment.  This is also an expensive game.  My only suggestion is to question people who have played the game intensively.  If this game becomes a personal favorite, I may write a brief follow-up review focusing on the replay value.

I have a mixed recommendation.  I had one of my best solo game experiences ever.  It ranks as high as my favorite solo PC game experiences.  This is high praise.  But with only four scenarios, I’m unsure if the solo experience will hold up.

If I’m playing Mansions of Madness 2 with a group I want to keep the group small and have a good gaming environment.  Eight players would really slow the game down.  It is easy to lose focus with individual decision making in a large group.  Some puzzles are quite complex.  The time needed for one player to solve a complex puzzle may bring boredom to the other players.

Last, run the app on a PC with a biggish screen, on a mini-laptop which can be easily passed from person to person, or on a large screen tablet.  A smart phone is just too small to provide the optimal game experience.

I’m glad I bought the game.  I’m looking forward to playing with my wife.  She enjoys cooperative games, mysteries and puzzles.  For us, this was a home run purchase.  The introductory scenario can also be run in less than two hours.  This seems like a very good two person game.

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