Recap: Exploring the Madness
This week I got in some good games, including my first play of Mansions of Madness in over eighteen months and another game of Brass. Mansions of Madness, despite the in-depth and often complicated rulebook, is largely an experience game. And we had a great experience.
Mansions of Madness. Quick spoiler warning: I played Fall of House Lynch. If you are trying to remain completely unaware of the story, you can skip on down to the Brass recap. For everyone else, let’s trudge forward into the eldritch horrors.
I ran the game as the keeper and chose the objective where my maniacs try to summon a Shuggoth and then the Shuggoth tries to escape. The early game was very exciting. The characters had to deal with a maniac and solve a puzzle, and they discovered the first clue relatively early. My first attempt at collecting a sample resulted in a dead maniac.
But as they approached the second clue, the hallway caught fire and that stymied them a bit. Horror was already a little high, and the players were perhaps too reluctant to brave the flames. So, of course, I used Uncontrollable Urge to move them into rooms next to the fire, so that they would have to go through it. I found that devilishly fun. While they were doing that, my maniacs managed to get their acts together and acquire the needed samples. At one point, they probably could have killed the maniac with the second sample, but elected not to – they decided to put out the fire instead.
The game was fun, exciting, thematic, and tense. At least until the end. The events moved faster than the players did. They knew they were supposed to go to the garden, but before they got there an event occurred that raised a named zombie. And then, when the second to last objective was revealed, it unlocked all of the doors, announced that the players must kill the Shuggoth and then set a timer for the Shuggoth to escape. Essentially, it totally morphed the game from a tense hunt for clues to one big “attack the monster” fest. Although it was still enjoyable, that quick shift was jarring and seemed a bit out of place.
Brass. My favored strategy in Brass is to build a cotton mill next to one of the starting ports and then sell off to the foreign market as soon as I can. If I’m quick, I can often get two foreign sales, which really helps my starting income. For whatever reason, I thought I’d go a different route this time and focus on flipping ports for points and creating coal and iron foundries.
I only built one or two ports and thereafter abandoned that part. Ports are difficult to get flipped and require that they be in tandem with a cotton mill. That additional requirement pushes them (at least the early ports) beyond viability. My coal mines and iron foundries, on the other hand… now those went like hot-cakes.
A few other players decided to tech early in the game. Not a bad choice at all. But that really opened up the iron market. I made quick use of it by building numerous foundries and getting quick rebates. In fact, I had built all but one of my foundries in the canal period and the last one was built very early in the rail period. Similarly, I built coal mines as often as I could – sometimes shipping the coal immediately and getting a quick flip. The quick flips meant that my income was high and I only ever took one loan during the game.
During the rail phase, I was able to pivot into getting points by building numerous rail connections and angling for some shipping spaces. Unfortunately, some other players had the same idea, so I only achieved one ship on the board. Still, those points aren’t anything to sneeze at.
In the end, I was very happy with my strategy, though I did come in a (relatively) close second place. I continue to enjoy Brass and am always looking forward to another play when I’m looking for something meaty and economic.