The Board Games of the Year – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition

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2016 turned out to be one of the biggest years for board games. We saw some of our favorite developers hit the shelves yet again with a couple of fresh faces thrown into the mix. It was hard to choose just a couple of games to spotlight on the list, but here is just one that you need to play. Stay tuned for the full list coming soon.

Many gamers want an RPG experience, but don’t have the time or ability to set up a lengthy campaign. Games like Betrayal at House on the Hill and Pathfinder Adventure Card Game mix in the narrative elements of RPGs with their games. Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a standout addition to the expanding genre of the storytelling board game. There are few experiences like taking some friends inside one of these cursed houses and trying to get back out again. This year, we found ourselves returning to an old haunt only to find the future waiting for us.

Fans of Arkham Horror will find plenty to love in Mansions of Madness Second Edition. It features the same cooperative setup that is the hallmark of the Arkham Files series. Much of the game is handled by an app that can be downloaded for free on smartphones, tablets and laptops. The addition of the app streamlines the gameplay experience. The app walks the players through character setup, slowly reveals the map as the scenario progresses, and even underscores events with spooky music and sound effects. The whole table tenses up when the app is sent into the Mythos phase, where the app inflicts narratives twists, summons monsters to threaten players and hurts the players health and sanity.

The app opens the game up to groups that are looking to dip a tentacle into the pool of tabletop RPGs. The app performs a lot of the heavy lifting that a good Dungeon Master does through advancing the plot, enhancing the mood and telling players what to roll and when. Setting the players against the app puts all five minds on the problems at hand. It also means the app plays ruthlessly and doesn’t forget modifiers, conditions or tools at its disposal.

Players still have the tactile thrill of hoping for the right amount of successes on a dice roll or desperately scouring their equipment cards looking for one last bonus to push an action over the top. Small variations in the included scenarios provide a bit of replayability. Integration with expansions to tell new stories is as easy as going into the app’s options menu and checking off the boxes for the new add-ons.

Over the years, Fantasy Flight games has come out with some pretty great games connected to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. It’s tempting to say that just as many people become fans of the setting through the many, many games that involve the Mythos as those who read the original short stories that Lovecraft wrote.

Mansions of Madness Second Edition is an excellent addition to the line because it skillfully walks the line between board game and RPG. The app also offers a glimpse into a future where games are integrated beyond what comes in the box to provide an immersive experience for everyone at the table. Rather than a distraction or source of angst, apps like this include digital technology into the process of play. We’ve been telling spooky stories by firelight for centuries. Mansions of Madness Second Edition makes that flicker of light a digital one that’s no less captivating to experience.

What’s your favorite storytelling board game? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit Fantasy Flight Games

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