Boxed Culture: Comparing Cardboard – Mansions of Madness

Comparing Cardboard

Mansions of Madness

Typically on Boxed Culture I really do not do many board game reviews. There are plenty of wonderful other board game reviewers and I do not really feel like I would offer anything significant to their discussions. I have a few I like more than others but what it really boils down to is who you enjoy listening to more and whose opinions line up with yours. So instead of reviews, I was thinking it may be helpful to talk about editions of games. Many games have multiple editions due to the nature of licensing, designers and other aspects of the board games world that cause changes. These Comparing Cardboard articles are meant to be a place where all the aspects of the various editions of a chosen game are considered and discussed to help you understand what you are getting yourself into when buying any version of the game!

For those who have never played Mansions of Madness, I will give a quick overview. The game centers around investigators trying to discover the strange happenings in the Lovecraftian universe. Each scenario builds a location and story for the investigators to complete. Clues, monsters, and mystery surround each locale and it is up to the investigators to figure out and stop any crazy happenings!

As I mentioned previously, the investigators are the main players in this game but who and what sets up the mystery brings us to our first difference:

The Keeper


Much like Descent and the new Conan game that was released recently the first edition of this game was only partially co-op. The Keeper was the person who was assigned to control the eldritch horrors and intrigue in the game and was a player who could win instead of the investigators. Before the game starts, the keeper reads through a brief set of questions and makes some choices. These choices cause the game to set up in a certain way that makes replayability a bit higher. The main problem is that the game slows down a lot and becomes very clunky when the keeper is playing due to more necessary mechanics and the possibility for a Keeper play to suffer from analysis paralysis (taking a long time to make decisions). In addition it makes the game get competitive to no end.

The new edition handles the Keeper player with the app. The app makes all the decisions for monsters, facilitates fighting without the need for extraneous decks of cards, and does general housekeeping for most of the non-players mechanics. It is a beautiful and elegant solution to the Keeper problems that the first edition suffered from.

Speaking of elegance, we are able to see our second large difference with the two editions of the games:

Component Overload


As we know, many of the highly thematic Amerithrash Lovecraft games come with TONS of components. Multiple card decks, character sheets and standees, enough tokens to put a choking hazard on the box, and many more things that take up tons of table space. This also holds true in the first edition of Mansions of Madness. The board is made up of tiles much like many other exploratory games of this ilk and there are about 5 or 6 different decks to cover the gamut of all types of interactions in the game. There are also all the character sheets and items to clutter the table even more. As if all of that were not enough, this game also has awesome miniatures (a pretty unique feature to most of the FFG Arkham Files games), so we can expect those to be somewhere around the table as well.

In the second edition, most of those card decks are gone as the app handles a lot of what the cards were doing before. This is nice because it allows for less of a clunky feel when dealing with combat and mythos and all the bad stuff that’s happening during the course of the game. I will say however it is nice to see all those mechanics in play. The app does A LOT of stuff in the background to the point that if you have played the Keeper in the first edition you start to wonder if it is now missing some of the interesting mechanics. I am pretty sure it is not but you can never trust technology.

The app is the biggest change in the second edition, but there are few other things as well:

The Small Stuff


On the left we have the First Edition character cards and on the right we have the second edition character cards.

All of the monsters and characters have had their stats adjusted to be more in line with the second edition play style. This means that there are all new character sheets and monster tiles for the changes in the second edition core set. Both editions still use dice to do ability tests but the special abilities are a bit different now. Instead of each character choosing traits, they just start the game with a set trait. This is kind a sore spot for some people due to customization of their character but it does add to that smooth feel that the second edition is going for. One of the small changes that has a huge impact is the ability for FFG to release new scenarios digitally. This means that FFG can constantly create new content without the need to release new components to support them!

I personally really enjoyed the second edition of Mansions of Madness. I generally dislike one vs all games so changing the Keeper to an app is a great change for me. I would say you could call this version streamlined, meaning that it plays more smoothly than the first edition but some of the aspects of the game are less easy to understand in the second edition due to the app controlling a lot of the game. For example, when and how you can start a fire on the board or how moving around and and blocking doors with barricading affects monster movement.

Final Words

If you liked first edition but disliked the one vs all, play this game. If you want a good new Arkham Files game, play this game. If you are looking for what first edition offered with new content you are going to be disappointed. This is not an expansion, it is a new experience. If you have any comments or noticed anything I left out, let me know. Otherwise see ya next time!


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