It’s 1931 and a team of budding scientists (you and your mates numbering 3-5) head off on a dangerous expedition to traverse a mountain, a mountain of madness. The game is loosely based on the H. P. Lovecraft novella “At the Mountains of Madness”, in which a group of intrepid explorers – led by the narrator, Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University – head to Antarctica and discover dangerous secrets beyond a mysterious mountain range.
The board game honours this story loosely, with players working cooperatively to make their way up the mountain, discovering ruins, secrets and losing sanity as they go. And therein lay the charm of Mountains of Madness. Where other games use sanity loss as a numerical loss, Mountains of Madness turns it into a player trait that takes the game from mere board game into a sort of board game / party game.
Each turn players need to work together to complete the objectives of the mountain by flipping a tile and trying to match symbols / numbers on the tile to the cards in their hands. As the chosen tile is flipped so is a 30 second timer and so the game magic begins. A frantic mess of discussion ensues, to try and ensure everyone’s card contributions match those of the tile. If they match, you win that part of the trip, if they don’t there will be consequences (and there’s two per tile).
Sounds simple and it would be, if your party weren’t going insane and having to verbally or physically express themselves in an unusual manner. Yes in this game you draw different levels of sanity cards, read them, keep the information to yourself and only reveal your foible during the 30 second action phase, with hilarious results.
The higher up the mountain you get, the more insane your party will become, probably ending with you all on a level 3 insanity. At one point during our game I was laying on the floor yelling up to the table what I had to contribute to the party, whilst another player raved about months of the year and another lovingly stroked the player to the rights face, the entire thing was, well, madness.
Play Time: 60 min
Category: Strategy Game
* Double sided character board, both exactly the same, but for male and female artwork on each side, bravo designers, bravo indeed.
* You will laugh, a lot. The sheer silliness of some of the insanity cards is really fun (and there’s even a few blank ones to add your own).
* Fun. Fun. Fun. fun.
* It’s beautiful and challenging.
* Simple to learn, easy to teach and not too long.
* Great family game or indeed one for your regular board game group.
* Although Mountains of Madness is quite thematic (and gorgeous), I couldn’t help but feel it could be better. Just a tad more story to the missions, some flavour text to see you on your way. The ending, you just sort of… fly off the board and then get a tiny story based on your score. It just felt a little… less, to something that should feel so epic.
* Once you’ve played through numerous times and see all the insanity options in play, it might get a tad stale.
Mountains of Madness is a fantastic board game and one I would recommend without a second thought. The clever combination of suspense, confusion, cooperation and madness makes for a wonderful gaming experience. The only aspect that lets it down is replay value (if you play it a lot) and a slight lack of story. Don’t let that put you off though, Mountains of Madness is a great addition to any board game collection.