Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for March, 2011

Mansions of Madness

Posted by sodaklady on March 27, 2011

My friend, Mike, brought Mansions of Madness over yesterday. He’s a Fantasy Flight fan so I am put upon to play many of their games with their wonderful sculpts, myriad quality pieces, and at least a dozen tiny decks of cards. Mansions of Madness is not an exception.

The first thing I notice as Mike is setting up is the lovely artwork on the map boards. The garden caught my eye first, and I wanted to take a lawn chair and a book and sit there enjoying the tranquility it seemed to have. Then I saw the work room next to it, a blood-spattered sheet on the table. Oh, no, there’s no tranquility here, let’s move on. The foyer is classy with its black and white checkered floor and softly colored rugs; a grand staircase leading up and branching off in two directions. The artwork truly cannot be faulted.

Mansions of Madness map

The game map tiles set up for our scenario. Isn't the garden lovely? The wonderful photo by permission of Manueld.

The set-up takes quite awhile, as usual, but Mike is a FF pro and has everything well-organized so it’s on the table in about 15 minutes even with my interruptions to show him a video of the next game I want.

I’m then presented with a stack of characters to choose from and take two. The characters seem very simple with only 3 characteristics to deal with. Ahh, there’s more; two other sets of cards to choose from, each with 3 or 4 more characteristics. That’s more like it. The artwork is nicely mood-inducing, and the fonts are easy to read even with older eyes.

Mansion of Madness character

Here's a character set. Choose what you want to start with and what action you want to be able to use. Very nice photo by permission of thinwhiteduke.

Now for the game play, which separates the men from the boys’ toys. As the good guys, I get to move 2 spaces and do one action on my turn. Actions include running (which means I can move 1 extra space), explore (turn over a card in the room), fight a bad guy/monster, use the ability of a card item I might have, drop an item I have, or use an item in the room such as a chest of drawers to block a doorway or hiding in a trunk. This seems very simple. Yet it’s not.

Some doors are locked or jammed so you may have to roll to test your strength or solve a puzzle or have a key before you can pass through. If a bad guy appears in the room with you, you can’t just run away. First you have to roll to see if he frightened you enough to damage your sanity, then you have to roll to see if you have the agility to evade him. I found this tedious, but then I’m probably not the target audience since these RPG-style games are not my favorite.

Then the bad guy, the Keeper, takes his turn, throwing bad guys at you or moving the ones already on the board. This is also the time when two good guys can trade items if they’re in the same space. Why? Why is this part of the Keeper’s turn? I found this counter-intuitive.

Another part of the Keeper’s turn is keeping track of the Event Deck, placing a token on it to keep track of the number of turns. After 3 to 6 turns, the Event takes place, moving the scenario along in its specific direction.

The good guys come into this house with only a vague idea of what they are to accomplish and must search the rooms looking for clues and items of importance. At a certain point in the scenario, they are given their objective, and hopefully they have done a good enough job of finding stuff and killing off monsters to fulfill it before time runs out (the last Event card is turned over).

My impression of this game began to blossom after the second Event card was turned over:  it’s very scripted. Between the clues I needed to find, and the Event deck keeping to its schedule, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of choices but was being shuffled along the appropriate path, like a rail shooter in a video game. By the half-way point of the game, I had decided that this was a lot of fiddly work for very little game play. I could get a better story from Last Night On Earth: The Zombie Game, have more freedom in how I wanted to approach my objective, and the luck factor would be just the same: hope the dice and the card deck favor you this night.


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The Saga of a Game Trade

Posted by sodaklady on March 10, 2011

After three months of playing the various crayon rail games (British Rails, Eurorails, and Martian Rails), I decided Richard and I need another game, something to offer variety to our deep 2-player gaming sessions. I decided it was time to revisit the rules to Twilight Struggle.

When I first read the rules to Twilight Struggle, back when it was new, I was intimidated by the long play time, and also how several plays were needed to become familiar with all of the cards. It seemed like more of a time investment than my husband would be willing to put into a game. The crayon rail games have changed that presumption; our first game took 4+ hours and we both enjoyed every minute of it. Even now, after playing nearly every day for 3 1/2 months, it takes 2- 2 1/2 hours to play. So I have to ask myself, “why are they such a hit?”

I’ve come up with three basic reasons:  1) simple rules, 2) the organizational/planning mindset needed to optimize the cards in hand, and 3) the total immersion in the game at all times. I think Twilight Struggle fulfills these qualifications so off I go to find a trade partner!

I was amazed to find over 30 users who were compatible to trade with and decided to narrow my search to the new, Deluxe Third Edition, of which there were a handful available. The first person I sent a trade proposal to responded quickly with a question, which I answered quickly. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. On the third day, an hour before the trade offer would expire, I heard back: a simple no thanks. I have no idea why my offer was refused. I had four games to trade that this person supposedly wanted in trade!

Alright, there are others. So I send off a trade proposal to the next person in line… who also didn’t think my time was worth anything. Three days later the offer died a natural death without one damned word. Yes, they had been on the Geek during that time, and it wouldn’t have taken any time at all to click the “refuse offer” link so I could go on to the next person. See, I don’t think it’s right to put out a bunch of offers, wait for someone to respond favorably, then send a “oops, you’re too late” message to anyone else who accepts the offer. I’ve heard that some people do that and it’s just plain rude.

Next! In my third offer I wrote a note asking that they respond one way or the other rather than let the offer die in its own good time. And I heard back a short time later letting me know that they would indeed let me know as soon as they’d had time to think about it. How nice! Woo hoo! Unfortunately, the answer turned out to be “no” because I didn’t have the version of the game they were looking for. Well, at least I didn’t waste another three days!

So now I decided to just write a geekmail to people asking if they’d be interested. If they didn’t respond in a day and a half or so, even though they’d been on the geek, I could move on to someone else. I sent out two messages and waited. Nothing. Damn, now I’m down to the 2nd editions and ones that are not marked with a version in the trade matching list. And some of them show matches that are nowhere equivalent to TS.

I spent some time looking through peoples’ “want in trade” and “wish” lists and found some games that I wouldn’t mind trading even though they weren’t on my “trade” list. In this way I found one person that had a Deluxe version that hadn’t shown up on the trade match list. Great! I sent a note to him and two other people.

That night I heard from one of the two who had a 2nd Edition copy, asking a question about one of my games for trade. I answered and kept my fingers crossed.

The next morning they answered in the affirmative. Hooray! I then sent off an official trade proposal. Whew, I’m finally going to get a copy of this game before the next printing, which could be as little as a month or two, but could possibly be much longer.

An hour later I received another geekmail, this one from the person with the Deluxe version. Well, of course I did. What’s the old saying: it never rain but it pours? Yep. But I had already thought of this, and decided I would complete this trade as well for two reasons. 1) I would really like the Deluxe version, of course I would, and 2) I just can’t be the jerk that says “oops, you’re too late.”

So I’m waiting for my two copies of Twilight Struggle to arrive. I truly hope that Richard and I enjoy it, and that I can find someone who wants a nice 2nd Edition copy.  😉

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