Mansions of Madness board game review: A Mysterious Masterpiece

My pocket knife feels like it’s extra. it would just add to my weight if I needed to run. So, I take it out and hold it up just to look less horrified to the other investigators. I can practically hear their heartbeats. Everyone is quiet. Listening. The wooden floor creeks and the lightning reveals moving shades beneath the doorway. In absolute silence, just as everyone is evaluating whether to shout out “run!” loud or not, the door busts open and more than a dozen fangs with a crippling scream jump out and stare into my eyes. Its teeth look like they have been washed with blood. It almost looks like it’s smiling.

Just half-way through my life flashing before my eyes the priest pushes the abomination back into the other room and blocks the door with a closet immediately afterwards. The others are scared but I can feel them staring at me. They are all alright but the horror in my eyes is just as visible to them as it is poisonous to my sanity. I feel a cold shiver down my spine and move away into the next room with my pocket knife. My athletic background allows me to move further away than my colleagues and so, I find myself a room just bright enough to check my skin for wounds.

There appears to be some sort of chest in the back of the room I have chosen. It looks immovable but if I can take a peek inside the lock I may be able to open it. A large seal on the lock tells me that it probably contains something of value. I didn’t sign up for fighting monsters in the first place but I might as well find something more proper than kitchenware for the occasional need to do so.

I can’t tell whether the others have already gone mad or not. I can’t even tell how long I have before either dying by the claws of one of these cursed animals or losing my mind. I just don’t know how much more I can take and these rooms seem to never end. This might be the last building we visit before one of us loses it. I also said that about the last one we searched. It might kill us but trying to solve this mystery has stretched further than I could have ever imagine upon accepting the job.

The fog stretches thick and visions are blurred, the darkness is filled with unimaginable horrors from the other side of the gates. Those who were lucky, are already dead. We’re this town’s last hope and we will not go down without a fight. Even if I go insane at the sight of one of the devilish creatures, I will not stop looking and moving forward until I have my answers. We’re too far in to back out now.

About Mansions of Madness


Have you ever wished you lived in a mansion? In today’s game, we’re going into a whole town of haunted mansions and looking around for clues to solve a mystery as ancient as the great old ones themselves. In Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, Lovecraftian RPG moves to a whole new level of depth and immersion.

This thrilling adventure can be played by up to 4 other players cooperatively and depending on the scenario you play it can take anywhere between 90 minutes to a few hours. The solo experience is refreshing and just as terrifyingly manages to make your hands shiver all throughout the session.

Mansions of Madness was initially released in 2011 as part of the Arkham franchise and it was a fairly interesting game even back then but it wasn’t the most replayable RPG because it simply gave the game master way too much to do. They had to keep track of all the stats and the enemies and the positions on the map etc. and mistakes were made that might have completely ruined a scenario. However, all of that changed when Fantasy Flight introduced the 2nd edition in 2016. A new thematic horror masterpiece designed to be backward compatible with all the original game’s components.

From the team behind Eldritch Horror, Mansions of Madness 2nd edition is in many ways an upgrade over the original but their primary difference is not in the box. The newer variant was released with a companion app that changes everything for the better. I know some of you out there might hate companion apps but trust me, this game is one of the few ones that is better because of it.

The app generates your mansions and tells you how to set your map tiles up and where to place your tokens, it keeps track of the monsters on the board and their hit points, as well as providing players with tons of interaction opportunities that could vary from solving a puzzle to unlock a secret passage to speaking to a little frightened child about how her friend was captured by demons.

The combination of the very well-produced game components with the app just makes the mysterious atmosphere of the title so much more engaging. Now that all the players are working together and basically all the tasks of the DM are handled by the companion app, which you can download for iOS and Android free of charge, you get a chance to discuss your decisions with the other players and call out for their help in desperate times. It’s also not difficult to learn since most of the instructions are going to be provided in real-time by the cards in the game or the app so it’s quite the party game if your party is into H.P. Lovecraft.

Prepare to Face the Unimaginable


You and your up to 4 other partners will fight for your life as well as your mental health in this game while trying to reach an objective that is chosen for you. You will be able to spread out and search the mansion for points of interest, gather around to join forces in a fight or help your companions with their task at hand.

Once you have the app installed on your mobile device and the players gathered around the table, you’re ready for setting the game up.

1. Choose Your Investigators

There are a number of investigators to choose from and each of them comes with their own unique stats and a full on backstory on the back of their card. The different stats show the number of custom dice that you’ll be throwing for all your endeavors.

2. Decide on the Scenario

As aforementioned, the game can be played through a variety of scenarios that vary in difficulty, plot and of course playtime. The beginning scenario which is not surprisingly the easiest one, would take you about 60-90 minutes to play. Keep in mind that this is an RPG and is set up pretty quickly so the first scenario is impressively compact.

3. Set Up the Board

In accordance to the application’s instructions, place the map tiles (there are a million of map tiles by the way and they’re all double-sided) and the tokens that go on them. The app will also briefly instruct you about what each token is and how you will come to interact with it.

4. Assign Starting Items

The app will tell you what each character starts out their adventure with and you will assign those items to the player. When everyone has all their starting items, put the rest somewhere safe and accessible.

5. Good Luck

As I said, very quick to set up. You’re good to begin exploring the haunted mansions of Arkham. The app will guide you through the more complicated areas and even if you don’t learn your way around, there’s only bloodthirsty nightmares on your tail and nothing else to worry about.

Fates Worse than Death


There is a supernatural threat that needs to be eliminated and investigators are hired to first find a way and second solve the problem. In their way they will be assisted by a variety of items, spells and people and they may have to travel far distances to find the answers to their questions. The spells all have unexpected side effects that once used, will affect the player in a usually undesired way. You can push other entities away which is a fun mechanic and a semi-safe plan B for when things get really heated up. The investigators and the monsters are all beautifully presented by a set of detailed miniatures and the map is seemingly endless, providing near infinite adventuring potential.

The gameplay happens through a cycle of two main phases. The Investigation phase is the players’ chance of making their desired actions, which can be either to move their in-game character, use abilities or investigate for clues. The next phase however, the Horror phase is when new threats lurking about the shadows show their faces. In the horror phase, monsters may attack, conditions might change and you may suffer unfortunate consequences. Once all players have passed their horror check, investigation phase begins anew.

Whatever that you do in this game, will have inevitable consequences. Furthermore, whatever happens within the scenario, is going to affect your character in one way or another. Being prepared is important but it’s not enough. You have to be able to think fast and run faster at times. The supernatural enemies that you will have to take down along the way don’t just physically damage you. Wounds can eventually lead to death that is for sure, however, facing these unfathomable terrors might also drive you insane. Once you go insane your personal agenda might be altered completely or if you’re already mad, you will die.

As you move forward with the narrative clues will be revealed that will help your seeking of truth. They can take many forms and the locations are different every time thanks to the app, so the game is much more replayable than its 1st edition. A lot more enjoyable and a lot scarier too.

More Mansions, More Mysteries

Fortunately for its fans and thanks to the makers’ effort in keeping this game fresh and lively, Mansions of Madness has seen quite a few expansions. From minor changes and bonus cards to all new map tiles and game mechanics, Fantasy Flight has masterfully managed to make their RPG masterpiece even better with these content-filled expansion packs.

5. Beyond the Threshold


This expansion packs provides you with the opportunity to explore the areas beyond the mansion walls. It introduces a couple of new locations to the game as well as two new scenarios. The expansion pack also features two new investigators to add to your team.

4. Streets of Arkham


This expansion offers three new scenarios, new Mythos events, and even a brand-new digital puzzle. Improvement tokens and elixir cards are featured as new components of the game and they are quite impactful within the course of the story. Also included in this pack are new map tiles, new types of challenging enemies and four additional investigator cards.

3. Sanctum of Twilight


Two new investigators join your fight against the Silver Twilight, the hidden secret of Arkham that is destroying the town from within. The introduction of new spells, items, mechanics, and a new monster along with two fresh scenarios to play, make this exciting expansion pack worth checking out.

2. Path of the Serpent


This expansion pack takes our investigation team all the way to the dark mist of the Amazon forests. Deep in the heart of the jungle are remnants of ancient civilizations and their dark traditions. A curse of the serpent threats those who manage to survive the hidden traps and earthly enemies. Three new scenarios, all new investigator cards and enemy types, as well as new game mechanics and dangerous environments to explore all in a single purchase.

1. Horrific Journeys


This expansion takes the four new investigators far away from Arkham and the haunted mansions. With each of the three new scenarios presenting a narrative of a terrible mysterious crisis that needs to be solved in the midst of a voyage. Air bound, on land or in the Atlantic, it’s your job to once again figure out the source of the problem and with all the hardship you must overcome, solve this horrifying mystery.

Final Thoughts

To all fans of RPG, Lovecraftian horror, the Arkham franchise and even thematic board games on a whole, Mansions of Madness is a true gem. Does it shine as brightly in your collection? Let us know your thoughts on this game, in the comments!

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