The Last Jedi! (spoilers within)

Hey everybody!
I went to see The Last Jedi last night, and I have to say, I was really blown away. Considering, at its core, it’s a very straightforward movie, there was a hell of a lot going on! This blog post will contain spoilers, so please turn back unless you’re willing to take the risk – but suffice it to say, I really liked it!

The Last Jedi

The movie picks up almost immediately where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey meeting Luke on Ahch-To and returning his lightsaber. Luke is initially very reluctant to teach Rey anything, but eventually offers her three lessons. During their time together, Rey learns that Luke almost killed Ben Solo during their training, as he had seen the corruption Snoke had managed to inveigle into his student, but stopped himself. However, Ben turned on Luke alongside a handful of students at the Jedi temple, killing the others and leaving to join the First Order.

The Resistance is on the defensive against the First Order fleet, being hounded across the galaxy due to the First Order’s ability to track their ships through lightspeed. Realising this, Finn and a mechanic named Rose decide to infiltrate the First Order star destroyer tracking them, and disable the device in order to allow the Resistance the chance to flee. In order to do so, they travel to the casino city of Canto Bight on Cantonica, but are apprehended by the police and imprisoned. There, they meet the slicer DJ who offers to help them, and after a hectic breakout, manage to flee the world. DJ gets Finn and Rose to the First Order flagship, but betrays them and they are once again captured.

During a First Order attack on the Resistance, however, General Leia was seriously wounded, leaving command of the fleet with Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. She and Poe clash over the vice admiral’s apparent lack of determination, and when Poe discovers she is seemingly intent on abandoning ship, he leads a mutiny against her, as he is desperate for Finn and Rose to get through and disable the tracking device. However, Leia stuns him and the extent of Holdo’s plan becomes clear: she intends to allow cloaked transports to flee the Resistance flagship, providing a decoy for the First Order to continue to follow.

Rey, communicating through the Force with Kylo Ren, decides to leave Luke and return to known space, intent on turning Ren from the dark side. She allows herself to be captured by the First Order, and Ren takes her to Snoke, who chides her foolishness for thinking she can turn him. As Snoke laughs in triumph, seeing Ren using a lightsaber to destroy “his true enemy”, Ren uses the Force to bisect Snoke with Luke’s lightsaber. The two kill Snoke’s guards, then Ren offers Rey the chance to join him in ruling the galaxy. A Force struggle ensues, and Rey leaves to rejoin the resistance.

The main Resistance forces are making their way to the old Rebellion outpost of Crait, but are discovered by the First Order and largely destroyed. However, Holdo sets a course directly for the First Order flagship and jumps to lightspeed, destroying her own ship and tearing a chunk out of that of the First Order in the process. In the confusion, Finn and Captain Phasma duel, with Finn managing to best his former boss before he and Rose escape the ship.

The Resistance reconvenes on the salt mining world of Crait, but so few remain and soon the First Order arrives in force. After an initial bombardment, Luke seems to appear within the base, and heads out to confront the enemy. Ren, now Supreme Leader of the First Order, orders every gun to blast him to pieces, but he emerges unscathed, at which point he goes out to duel his uncle. However, it soon appears to be nothing more than a Force projection, Luke allowing the remaining Resistance leaders time to flee from the mine with Rey and Chewie aboard the Falcon. Exhausted by the effort of projecting his consciousness across the galaxy, Luke dies.

The film ends with the confirmation that the Resistance is more than the surviving band of freedom fighters, but the idea that you can fight the First Order.


Like I said, there is a lot going on in this movie, for what is essentially a two-story arc of the Resistance’s flight from the First Order, and Rey’s search for training. That isn’t meant to do the film a disservice, as I thought it was actually really very good. There was so much happening, though, I feel that I need to go watch it again to really take it all in.

Much like my initial thoughts on The Force Awakens, I didn’t really feel like this movie fits with the others, either. Though I’m sure that will change in time! It feels like a really good film, don’t get me wrong, and I really did like it, but it definitely felt like a world apart from the others.

In common with the last movie, it also has a lot of throwbacks to the original movie trilogy, this time to Empire. The Resistance base on Crait felt exactly like Hoth, and there were at least a couple of shots that directly reference similar shots to the Battle of Hoth. It seemed quite silly that a random soldier dude has to make reference to the fact that the white stuff is salt, not snow, as if just to differentiate. Later on, there is a sequence where Chewie flies the Falcon through the salt mine, which is almost entirely lifted from the Death Star attack during the Battle of Endor – right down to the same music playing. The Canto Bight casino feels like the Cloud City shots we never got to see, etc etc. It’s not as obvious as episode VII, don’t get me wrong, but it still feels a little like this sequel trilogy is being propped up by the original three, and I would prefer to see more entirely new stuff, if I’m honest.

The Last Jedi

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room here. Leia survives the film, while Luke becomes one with the Force. I was really perplexed by this, and I don’t really know where we’re going from here. Of course, we knew earlier in the year that Leia had a larger part to play in IX, but with Carrie Fisher’s death almost a year ago now, and Kathleen Kennedy stating that she will not be brought back for episode nine, I can’t really see how they’re going to get round this. Leia is too pivotal a character to be killed off-screen, but the only thing I can think of here is that the opening crawl for the next movie will start with something like “General Leia is dead.” I suppose it’s too early to be speculating with what could happen, but I was fully expecting them to give her a similar death to Oliver Reed’s Gladiator demise.

On a related note, though, I was quite pleased to see Luke dying to save his friends, but not being killed in battle. I mean, Luke is my favourite character, so I’m biased here, but I’d always thought he wouldn’t just go out like a chump, as he’s too powerful with the Force. That he managed to project himself across the galaxy to provide the distraction for Leia and co to flee, then just goes into the Force, it really was the best way for him to go.

There’s so much to talk about with this movie, I’m really looking forward to seeing it again and just becoming more familiar with it as part of the ongoing saga. There is definitely a lot going on – it’s possibly the most action-packed of the films so far – so I’m sure I’ll be devoting many more blog posts to it in the months to come!!

New LotR deluxe expansion announced!

Hey everybody!
Well, it was with some trepidation that I’d been waiting for the big announcement for Lord of the Rings this weekend, as I was beginning to feel like the sky was about to fall, and the game would be announced as ending. The whole Harad cycle seems to have been really stalled, and I’m sure it’s taken almost the whole year to get not very far with it (pack five has just been released, more than a year since the deluxe came out). While the big announcement has yet to be made (at the time of this writing), I’m so glad that I was wrong, and that another announcement was made yesterday for a brand new deluxe expansion for the game!

The Wilds of Rhovanion sounds just wonderful. In many ways, it feels like something of a return to the Lord of the Rings of the early days. Accompanying a band of refugees north from Harad to Dale, we go along the Anduin and through Mirkwood once again, before being given a quest by King Brand that leads us deep into the Iron Hills. The feel of the Shadows of Mirkwood and Dwarrowdelf cycles is definitely there for me as I read through the description, and I am hugely looking forward to getting my hot little hands on this expansion in the new year!

The player cards coming in this expansion seem to have a focus on Items, denoting the powerful trade links of Dale. It looks like it should be a really interesting box, with cards that allow you to move items among your fellowship and so forth. It’s already got me thinking about my decks, and going back over the Items of the game to see what I’ve been overlooking all these years!

Overall, very cool to see the game continuing like this, and I’m very happy to see we’re off to the north-east of the map, somewhere I’m not overly familiar with. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the game, I’m sure!

As regards the bigger announcement due later today, a lot of people seem to be under the impression we’re getting an app. I’m not entirely sure why, as the previous games from FFG to have such treatment tend to have an app to convert it from competitive to cooperative. Elder Sign has Omens, though, so maybe we will be getting another such thing? I’d prefer it be something for the physical game, if I had a choice, but I guess we’ll just have to see!

Chapter Approved 2017

Hey everybody!
I picked up the new Chapter Approved book for Warhammer 40k the other day, and was so impressed I just had to come here and briefly ramble about how good it is! Choc-full of good stuff, it’s definitely worth picking up for fans of the game, I have to say!

Chapter Approved

The book is divided into sections that follow the three ways to play, with new rules and missions for each of Open Play, Narrative Play, and Matched Play. Under the Open Play section, we have the rules for Apocalypse games of 8th Edition, and three missions specifically for that, along with the now-famous vehicle design rules that allow you to build your own land raider, along with some datasheets for chapter-specific land raiders to inspire you. Want flamers on top of flamers? Then the Angel Infernus might suffice!

Narrative Play holds the rules for both Planetstrike and Stronghold Assault, each with six missions, and each with a host of stratagems warlord traits and force organisation charts. Not content with all of that, however, there are also rules that allow you to link both together in a campaign! Here are also rules for some of the classic battlefield terrain such as the aegis defense line and void shield generator.

The most exciting part of the book, for me, is Matched Play, which features six new Eternal War missions, six new Maelstrom of War missions, a nice little feature on making your own objective markers, and then updated rules for all of the armies that haven’t yet had a Codex release. There are eleven army entries, and each one gets at least one unique warlord trait, relic, and stratagem. Of course, it’s not a perfect solution for going up against a full Codex army with your Index list, but it should be enough to keep going until you do get that Codex.

On a side note, I really hope GW keeps the pace going with the Codexes in 2018…

Finally, the Appendix features Battlezone rules, covering the Sector Mechanicus and Death World Forest, and has four pages of Empyric Storms stratagems that can cause all sorts of twists and turns to your games, giving psykers and daemons buffs as the Warp decrees. There are rules for ladder campaigns, and finally, the updated points values that everybody has been so keen to find (yes, Forge World models are also in here!)

This book is an amazing supplement to the game. When it was announced, I thought it was going to be amazing, but then with the news that it would have updates for various armies etc, I felt that it might make the game too cumbersome, having yet another book to bring along for a game night. While that is partially true – if I want to use the Webway Portal stratagem when playing my Dark Eldar, I probably need to bring this book as well as the Index, and have a rulebook on hand in case weird things crop up, I feel that the benefits to this greatly outweigh the negatives. The sheer amount of choice as to how you play your games that this book provides is just phenomenal, and I can’t thank GW enough for this.

It’s apparently going to be the first of this kind of annual supplement, much like the General’s Handbook for Age of Sigmar, which will seek to rebalance points and such where necessary. I find this both good and bad, as I worry a little as regards how much they’re going to tinker with the rules in the 2018 edition. I do appreciate the time that is being taken to re-evaluate the game, of course, but there is a part of me that is concerned about how far this will be taken.

However, if we get more missions, more interesting rules for scenery and stuff, then I’ll be happy!

To sum up, then, if you’re playing 8th Edition right now, you need this book in your life. It’s just a rules book, there’s no real fluff in here, but it’s very much worth getting your hands on!!

Warhammer 40,000 news!

Hey everybody!
It’s the Warhammer 40,000 open day today in Nottingham, but I’m at home moving furniture about so couldn’t make it. However, catching up with the news over on the GW Community site, it looks like a tremendous time ahead for the game! Let’s take a look, and then I’ll catch you all up with what I’ve been doing of late, as well! (Spoiler: it isn’t what you might think…)

First of all, following its release yesterday, Necromunda has already got the next gang expansion lined up: House Orlock!

House Orlock is made up of miners and engineers who use ingenuity and grit to solve the various problems of the underhive, whether they’re making sure mining quotas are met or are just working out the best way to neutralise a charging Goliath ganger.

Exciting stuff, I have to say! I think this is actually the best-looking gang so far, and I can definitely see myself going for them – I was planning to go for Escher because I thought the Goliaths look slightly too over-the-top, but these chaps look like they could be exactly what I want in a gang! If nothing else, they are sporting some truly amazing facial hair…

In addition to a new gang, there’s a new book coming out with their rules, and new terrain tiles to further help expand the game! Looks like GW are truly making this a wonderful gaming experience! However, the new Hive Scum are being released in resin, which is not something that I’m looking forward to experiencing. Might have to pass on them.

I’ve not actually had the time to pick up my preorder copy of the game, so need to try harder and get my stuff soon…

While we’re on the subject of Necromunda, have you guys seen this video from Warhammer TV? 3D combat is, of course, what Necromunda was famous for, and while the new boxed game doesn’t have any multi-level terrain, the Gang War book apparently does. Anyway, I got on a real scenery kick earlier this year, building loads of stuff for an Armies on Parade board that never really got off the ground, given that I ended up moving house and all the rest of it, but I do still have a few kits lying around, and have recently managed to consolidate all of the stuff I had built up, following the move. Now that GW are releasing new terrain, and this has cropped up, I’m hoping that we’ll continue to see stuff like this into the future – and, indeed, more videos to inspire all manner of build options!

Back to main-line 40k, now, and the mythical Myphitic Blight Hauler is finally coming out in time for Christmas – and it’s just £15! Having decided to build a Chaos force that is predominantly these lovely chaps, I’m definitely going to pick up this demon engine for the army, and it just looks so cute!

It’s an easy-build kit, and we’re getting more for both Primaris Space Marines and the Death Guard – I actually think it’s a really great way of continuing the Dark Imperium box by having these things available as well. I’ve often thought it’s a bit weird how there are starter boxes with the push-fit models, then if you want anything more added to your force you need to level up your modelling game. Plenty of people are put off by the assembly of these things, and instead have picked up the likes of X-Wing, so having almost a complete range of easy-to-build kits can allow someone to assemble quite a decent army even when they’re an absolute beginner. Sure, it might not look as great to experienced gamers, but I think this is a problem that a lot of commentators seem to forget – experienced gamers are not GW’s intended audience for these kits. Of course, such folks will no doubt buy them anyway, but I don’t think these kits are intended for anybody other than those people who want to spend as little time at the hobby table as possible, and more time at the gaming table. A lot of people are complaining about the Redemptor Dreadnought coming out, due to its mono-pose look – well, luckily for you, you can actually buy a fully-customisable version already! So leave the easy-to-build one alone and move along!

Urgh. Rant over, anyway.

Speaking of Primaris Marines, however, we’re getting two new Lieutenants, one each for the Blood Angels and the Dark Angels, that have all the usual regalia of each chapter, to accompany their respective codex releases in December. Wonderful! I don’t actually have a Blood Angels force, but I have been trying to build a Deathwing army since GW made their first and only foray into the whole Black Friday thing a couple of years ago, and this is the first thing I wanted to talk about when catching you all up with my hobby progress of late!

My Deathwing force has been in a state of partial completion for about two years now, although to date I’ve only got about seven terminators and the venerable dreadnought actually finished. I had some time off work not too long ago, and spent a day building a land raider crusader for them. I love the Deathwing photo spread from the old Dark Angels codex, and have been vaguely modelling my force on that, so definitely wanted to get the big tank for my force.

When I spent some time trying to work out all of the points costs for this force, I think it came in somewhere around 1500 without the land raider, which initially surprised me for such a small force. However, I’m guessing that these chaps will do a lot more damage than otherwise expected… I have got two Vanguard Detachments, due to 3/5 of the old Command Squad now being deemed as characters in their own right, but I am wondering if I really need Belial in the force anymore. He used to negate scattering after you deep strike in, but scattering isn’t in 8th edition, so he’s mainly there for fluff. I suppose we’ll just see how the army evolves!

I’ve already mentioned my Chaos force that I’ve been assembling, of course and wanted to point out the other half of the army – Thousand Sons! I was very taken by these chaps when they were released about a year ago, and had thought about getting some for a Kill Team, but only recently pulled the trigger and picked up a box. Well, I enjoyed putting the Aspiring Sorcerer together so much last weekend that I’ve since bought a second box, as I think I’m going to have at least one Patrol Detachment in my Chaos army of Thousand Sons!

I just hope we get some plastic Noise Marines at some point…!

Finally, we have this handsome fella. I’ve been flirting with Tyranids for so long now, they were almost my first army (but lost out to Necrons), and a couple of times over the years I’ve found myself buying bugs without any real thought to making a force, but just having something utterly alien to paint. Very much like Lizardmen from Warhammer Fantasy, I think I’ve been drawn to Tyranids because they were part of my first exposure to 40k (Space Hulk, of course), and the fact that you can paint them with some really outlandish, almost venomous colour schemes.

More so than that, however, I feel that there is just something so utterly 40k-ish about Tyranids: while Chaos is probably the most over-arching enemy across the majority of 40k literature, I always find myself enjoying far more the books that throw space marines against the big bugs. Shield of Baal is definitely one of the best settings I’ve come across, and books like Warriors of Ultramar and Space Marines Legends: Cassius have proven just how much I enjoy these things.

Since the codex has been released, I’ve been scrabbling about, sorting out my Genestealer Cult models, as well as looking for the other Tyranid models that I’ve bought – I have a Maleceptor kit somewhere, and need to find those Zoanthropes that I built up a while back, too.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on building up the Tyranid Warriors from the Shield of Baal: Deathstorm box, as well as purchasing more reinforcements in the shape of the old Start Collecting box (I do want a Trygon as well, but that Hive Tyrant model looks so damn good!)

I suppose it’s somewhat inevitable, given the fact that I’ve been recently thinking about my Cult models as well, that I would have moved towards building a force – however small – of the bugs those cultists worship. I’ve not properly worked out a list just yet, but I think it’s going to involve a Hive Tyrant surrounded by Warriors, a Broodlord surrounded by Genestealers, and a psychic contingent of Zoanthropes and at least one Maleceptor. I can start thinking about Carnifexes and Trygons further down the line, I think…

I’m really happy to have started in earnest with building some Tyranids to go alongside my Cult. While it has previously always felt a little like a distraction from my main force of Necrons, I think I have enough on the go nowadays that adding one more faction isn’t really going to harm anything!

And who knows? Maybe if plastic Sisters of Battle ever happen, I’ll be adding yet another faction to the never-ending roster!

Deliverance Lost

Hey everybody!
I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy lately, having read book 18 in the mammoth series: Deliverance Lost.

Deliverance Lost

The book follows on from the events of the dropsite massacre on Isstvan V, and details the activities of the Raven Guard, under their primarch Corvus Corax, as he attempts to rebuild the legion. I’ve admired the Raven Guard colour scheme when I’ve seen it in stuff like the Kill Team box set, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a fan of the XIX legion. However, after reading this book – well, I’m not about to start building a new army, but I do think I have a better appreciation for them.

As Corvax and his marines escape the Isstvan system, we discover that the Alpha Legion has managed to infiltrate the loyalists, and there is some really wonderful misdirection throughout the entire novel, as we follow the spy, “Alpharius”, as he gathers intelligence for Omegon, who has placed himself close to Deliverance, the heartland of the Raven Guard.

I think it’s widely known that Corvax obtained knowledge of genetic manipulation from the Emperor in order to rebuild his legion, especially since all of the Primaris hullabaloo that brought out other instances of people other than the Master of Mankind building space marines. Corvax obtains access to the primarch project itself after an elaborate set-piece trap sequence, which seemed somewhat out of place, but was nevertheless entertaining. Postulating that they could mix Raven Guard geneseed with primarch genetics to produce space marines that have the superhuman powers and enhanced growth rate of the primarchs, the Raven Guard begin to re-create their numbers, but this is sabotaged by “Alpharius” and his introduction of demon ichor to the genetic material, which causes the new recruits to spawn demonic talons and such. While thousands of marines are successfully made, it’s an unfortunate stumbling block on the road for Corvax, and I did find myself quite sorry for the poor guy as his continued attempts to re-build are thwarted!

While the Alpha Legion spies all seem to have been outed by the end of the novel, an interesting question is posed by the fact that, if the Alpha Legion has successfully infiltrated one legion, how many more have spies within them now? There is a lot here that has an impact within the wider storyline of the Heresy, and I particularly liked the idea that nobody was quite sure if the Raven Guard were still loyal to the Emperor at the beginning. The undercurrent of fear is shown to be quite the effective weapon, and you can easily believe that Horus doesn’t actually need to march on Terra quite yet, as the mistrust that he has sown among the Imperium is doing so much work for him already.

This is a really good novel, and one that I was surprised at because I hadn’t been expecting to enjoy it quite as much. I think the inclusion of the Alpha Legion helped here, for sure, but even without that, I was suitably intrigued by the Raven Guard that I’ve found myself looking forward to seeing where they get to next.

Until then, however, it’s time to join the Ultramarines properly, as the Battle of Calth beckons!

Still Alive!

Hey everybody!
No, this blog is not dead, though it may have seemed like it the past couple of weeks, as I’d simply not had any time to post anything since my Halloween game day blog, featuring the awesome Mansions of Madness. It’s been quite the busy couple of weeks, all told, as real life has intruded to quite an alarming degree!

Among other things, I got engaged and have moved my wife-to-be in with me, which has precipitated a great deal of work around the house! I only moved here in August, and have still had a lot of junk that was put away with the idea that I’d properly get round to it later. Well, later is now, as I need to try to make some room and whatnot! Exciting times are most certainly on the horizon, at any rate!

With life evolving around me, I’ve been thinking about how I want to continue with this blog. I’m going to continue with it, make no mistake, as I enjoy sharing my ramblings and musings with the internet far too much to just stop after more than three years at the keyboard. However, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to have quite as much time to devote to things as once I did.

I’m still going to continue with rambling about books I’ve read, and I’ll still be talking about games that I play, but I don’t think it’ll be feasible to continue with quite so much regularity as I have been. Every Tuesday may no longer be game day, but I will still be putting out content here! Whether anybody still reads my blog posts, I have found it to be a great way to inspire myself, either to read more books and explore new titles, or just to keep myself painting miniatures and get an army finished!

This may all just be screaming into the void, but I thought it would be a good thing to post about these upcoming changes, at any rate. So, stuff is still going to be gracing the web from my own little corner here!

Thank you for your attention, you may resume your morning!

Mansions of Madness

Hey everybody!
Happy Halloween! While I don’t really go in for all the spooky stuff personally, I always try to feature a thematic game here on my game day blog, and today’s offering is something I’ve been wanting to get round to for a long time – let’s enter the Mansions of Madness!

Mansions of Madness

(This blog is about 1st Edition, which is currently the only edition that I have played).

Mansions of Madness is an utterly fantastic game. I need to tell you this right at the top, because this entire post will be coloured quite significantly by my love of this game. It was released back in 2011, I picked it up a year later, and had my first game with it around Christmastime. As usual, I played with my regular gaming buddy Tony, and we played through the first scenario, The Fall of House Lynch. While we were certainly enjoying playing the game, despite taking time to actually learn the ropes as we went, once the game was over we had a sort of joint moment of awe at what we’d just experienced. Despite the fact that this game took place almost five years ago now, I can still remember, quite vividly, both of us sort of leaning back from the table when it was over, and letting out a simultaneous “whoa” at how good this game is. Immersive just doesn’t seem to cover it. The game was spectacular – it was incredible, in the very truest sense of the word!

Okay, so enough with the rhapsodizing, let’s take a look at the game.

Mansions of Madness is a one-vs-many game that has its closest parallel (for me) in Descent, where one player takes on the role of the Keeper, while the rest of the group play as the standard stock of Arkham Investigators. The Keeper is an interesting role because, unlike the Overlord of Descent, he is part antagonist but also part DM, and I feel sometimes that people might miss the subtlety of this. Sure, as the Keeper you’re trying to defeat the Investigators, but there is a responsibility to ensure that the story that the game is trying to tell is told. If you play as the Keeper and sit there brooding evilly all game, then it’s not going to be a great experience. I’ve always played this game as the Keeper, so I guess I have more to say about this part than that of the Investigators.

Mansions of Madness

Let’s start with the board. Mansions of Madness is a scenario-based game, and you get five of them in the core set. The board is modular depending on each scenario, with room tiles placed as shown in the set-up guide. It is then the Keeper’s responsibility to “seed” cards in the rooms according to his own set-up guide. Each scenario has up to six distinct parts where the Keeper can make a choice – does he pick choice A, B or C for part one? These story choices determine which Clue cards are seeded into the rooms. The rooms also include items that the Investigators can claim, but many also have traps or locks to overcome before they can be discovered. The set-up guide is crucial for ensuring the cards are placed so that they are encountered in the correct order – locks are no good on the bottom of the pile, after all!

Mansions of Madness

Once the cards are placed, the Investigators set about exploring the Mansion. They’re trying to solve a mystery that is read out by the Keeper at the start of the game, and Mansions of Madness is one of the relatively few board games where flavour text simply must be read during the course of the game! It certainly helps with the theme, and relates to what I was talking about earlier, where the Keeper is part-DM in his role. The Investigators don’t actually get to know ahead of time what they need to do to win, so it’s critical to pay attention to the story, and not just charge about trying to gather up stuff. Though, like any good RPG, it’s always good to get stuff! It’s really cool how the Investigators get to actually make real-time choices about what to do, based on the story being told, and not just some random whim.

Something that really blew me away when I first played this game was the fact that the Investigators will often come across some locked item, either a door or a suitcase, and in order to overcome this obstacle, they need to solve a real, actual puzzle. Normally in these sorts of games, a player would just roll some dice and add a modifier to determine this, but no! There are a variety of different puzzles that you have to physically solve, such as the wiring puzzle shown above. Harvey Walters can have an Intellect of 7 (more on this shortly), meaning that he has up to 7 moves in this puzzle. Moves include rotating a piece 90º, swapping adjacent pieces, or removing a piece entirely and drawing a new one. In the above example, I actually managed it in 5 moves, which is fine for Harvey, but other characters might not fare so well!

Mansions of Madness

When you set up your Investigator character at the start of the game, you take the character’s card, then choose one of two Strength cards, and one of two Intellect cards, which give you the total stats for that character in the game. It’s an interesting way of mixing things up and, while you can’t alter your stats over the course of the game like Arkham Horror, it’s still a nice way of ensuring Investigators don’t always feel the same right out of the box.

The Keeper can interact with the Investigators in a variety of ways, using a currency of threat points. Over the course of each round, the Keeper gets a number of threat counters equal to the number of players, and he can use these to pay the costs on a number of different cards, such as the Mythos cards or Action cards. These can be played to either slowly increase the madness, or to suddenly go all-out and really spring the traps of the mansion!

Several of these cards do direct damage to the Investigators, and in true Arkham Horror-style, the Investigators can be both physically and mentally crippled over the course of the game. However, it’s not all shadowy-Keeper versus the Investigators, as there are a variety of monsters lurking in the dark places of the mansion, and the Keeper can use these to attack the Investigators head-on. Unlike in other Arkham-universe games, the monsters in Mansions of Madness are actual miniatures, though they also come with cardboard chits that slide into their bases for that classic Arkham Horror feel.

Mansions of Madness

The combat system in the game is card-based, which I seem to remember was somewhat in vogue around this time, with a few big games featuring cards rather than dice to resolve attacks. Dungeonquest has a similar kind of system, off the top of my head…

Mansions of Madness

So, rather than simply rolling dice and adding modifiers for strength, you determine what class of monster you’re attacking – humanoid (blue), beast (brown) or eldritch (green) and determine what weapon, if any, you’re using to go at it. You then draw cards from the appropriate deck until you find a card you can resolve – that is, a card that describes an attack with the type of weapon you’re using. There is still a dice element involved, as the cards will often ask you to test your Strength or something, but it’s overall a very different implementation of playing a board game.

You’ll no doubt notice that the cards above are split in two – this is because the same cards are used if an Investigator attacks a monster, or a monster attacks an Investigator. In my experience, it can be quite common for these decks to cycle through at least a couple of times over the course of a game, though subsequent expansions brought out more of them to add some variety!

Mansions of Madness

In addition to all of this, there is also an Event deck going on irrespective of what both Keeper and Investigators are up to in the mansion. This Event deck consists of five cards, one of which is drawn after a set number of turns has elapsed, and its effects are resolved by the Keeper based on the story choices he made during the set-up. In the Fall of House Lynch scenario, the Objective card is revealed when the fourth event card is drawn, and this Objective then determines what happens. It’s an interesting way to keep something of a timer on the game, ensuring that you don’t end up just endlessly wandering about durdling, but in all of the games that I’ve played, I have never felt like these cards got in the way of the flow of the game.

Indeed, the whole game in general just flows very smoothly. For sure, it flows much better if you have experienced players – particularly an experienced Keeper – but despite the weight of stuff in the core set box, it does actually feel quite streamlined and, dare I say, intuitive when you start playing. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bajillion moving parts in this game, and it can be something of a nightmare to deal with, but if you just sit back and immerse yourselves in the story, you will be rewarded beyond your imagination!

I hear that Second Edition has streamlined the game somewhat, not least by relegating the role of Keeper to an app. I thought it surprising the new edition finally added actual new Investigators to the pool of Arkham Horror denizens – Agatha Crane, Carson Sinclair and Father Mateo join the ranks of Harvey Walters, Jenny Barnes and “Ashcan” Pete! I was initially dismayed to learn that the Keeper had been removed, and it strikes me that the app feels more like playing a video game than a tabletop board game. I haven’t actually purchased the new edition, but I’m nevertheless intrigued as to whether the new Investigators will make the shift into those Arkham games that I do follow!

Interestingly, there was an article published on the FFG website earlier this year that talked about Mansions of Madness – and more broadly about Arkham games in general – and their family-friendly theme. It’s not something I’d thought about before, but these games can actually feel like a horror movie when done right. Is that the sort of thing you want to play through with your kids? Mansions of Madness has a rating of “ages 14+”, while Arkham Horror is 12+, which I’m really surprised by. Though I suppose the threat in the older game is somewhat more magical, whereas games of Mansions often involve blood-crazed maniacs trying to hack off your leg with an axe, and the like. There’s something more visceral, I suppose, and it can be quite terrifying to younger children if you have a good Keeper…

At any rate, I cannot recommend this game enough, certainly at this time of year!!