Ready for more spooky, creepy boardgames? Great! (And I hope you said “yes” right there. It would have been really awkward if you’d said “no” and then I’d just gone ahead and said “Great!” anyway. Wouldn’t you agree? Well, let’s just agree that you said “yes” both times.) Last time, I shared a few ghost themed games, and before that, I shared a few zombie themed games. This time, the theme is the occult. Witches, and worse…
Mansions of Madness
Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Mansions of Madness puts players into the roles of investigators of the supernatural. The investigators will enter a mansion and move from room to room, encountering obstacles, clues, useful items, and dangerous opponents.
One of the players must take the role of storyteller, who is called the Keeper. It is the Keeper that places obstacles and clues and controls the monsters. The investigators (who must work together) and the Keeper will each have their own goals throughout the game. These goals depend on certain decisions made by the Keeper during scenario setup.
The rulebook contains several different story scenarios, each of which has several options that the Keeper may choose from. For example, in one scenario, the options are that the cultists may want to recruit new members, or they may wish to summon something from the beyond, or they may merely want to lure investigators in to the mansion to be devoured. These options influence the placement of the clues and items throughout the mansion.
The mansion itself is represented by arranging modular room tiles as directed by the scenario setup. In addition to room tiles, the game comes with figures to represent the investigators, more figures to represent various monsters, several decks of cards, and a huge assortment of chips and tokens to represent things such as fire, darkness, corpses, ladders, and so on.
The greatest drawback of this game is possibly the setup time. Not only must the zillions of tokens be organized and distributed, the mansion must be constructed, the Keeper must search for specified cards and place them in specified rooms, certain other cards must be removed from the game, and the decks must be shuffled.
If it’s not too late at night by the time all this is done, then the Keeper may read the introduction to the adventure. He must read this without paraphrasing, for it may well contain the first clue the players will need if they are to prevail. If he were to leave the clue out, the players may spend the entire game fruitlessly exploring the wrong side of the mansion. They would almost certainly be justifiably upset when the game suddenly ends with a Keeper victory. (I would, ahem, never allow such a thing to happen.)
The combat system is a bit tedious. It relies on drawing cards until one is drawn that matches the investigator’s weapon type. Then a die roll, as instructed by the card, determines the outcome.
Setting these gripes aside, Mansions of Madness is a good game for those who like complicated games with lots of flavor text. If you liked HeroQuest, you might well like Mansions of Madness.
A Touch of Evil
A Touch of Evil is set in a creepy village in the early 1800′s. The village is under assault from a villain, who may be a werewolf, vampire, scarecrow, or
headless spectral horseman. As in Mansions of Madness, players are put into the role of investigators. Unlike Mansions of Madness, there is no Keeper. Villians operate according to rules printed on their villain cards. Villains’ actions are sometimes triggered by drawing event cards, and sometimes by the advancing of the shadow track. As the game progresses, the shadow track counts down toward zero. If it reaches zero, the villain wins.
Each investigator’s main goal is to discover the whereabouts of the villain, in order to initiate a showdown. In order to do so, investigators must collect investigation tokens, which are used to purchase Lair cards (and other items.) The Lair card designates a place for a showdown, as well as the cost (in investigation tokens) to begin the showdown.
An investigator may enlist the help of two of the six town elders during a showdown, but beware! Each elder has at least one dark secret, and may even be in league with the villain! Choose poorly, and you must defeat not only the villain, but the rogue elder as well.
The first player to defeat the villain is the winner.
I really enjoyed playing A Touch Of Evil. It’s less complicated than Mansions of Madness. There is one fixed board representing the village and its surroundings. There are fewer tokens to deal with. Although, now that I think about it, there may be just as many, if not more, cards to deal with. Fortunately, setup only requires shuffling those cards and resetting the shadow track.
By far the least complicated game of the three, Witch Trial puts players into the roles of lawyers. Certain townsfolk will have the misfortune to be accused of various misdeeds, such as displaying atrocious manners, wearing a hat in the theater, or smuggling. Players will prosecute or defend each character. This is done by playing cards which represent evidence, witnesses, or motions. This influences the jury in finding the accused to be guilty or innocent.
At the end of each trial (or before, if a plea deal is reached) the victorious lawyer collects his court fees. You see, the object of the game is to collect the most money before the cards run out.
Witch Trial is one of my favorite games to bring to parties. The rules are easy to learn, and much entertainment is had in inventing explanations for how certain pieces of evidence fit into each case. (“Eugenia the Lewd wasn’t just wearing a hat in the theater— she was smuggling in that hat!”)
Best of all, it is now available for free. You’ll have to print and cut out the cards, of course, but it may be worth it.