News for January 2011
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A look at puzzles in Mansions of Madness
Mansions of Madness | Published 05 January 2011

A hiss that sounded half serpentine and half feline jolted Jenny Barnes from her concentration. She looked over her shoulder but saw only shadows down the hall, dancing to the music of the wind whipping through the curtains. She scowled and turned back toward the tangle of wires that barred her from opening the mysterious door. Afraid of getting electrocuted, she parted the wires carefully, trying to trace a cohesive path. But then the hiss came again.

Determined not to let her mind play tricks on her, she kept her eyes on the colored wires. However, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone...or something was watching her struggle with this elaborate electronic lock. Watching and laughing.

In Mansions of Madness, players explore many different locations where sinister individuals are hiding their deadly secrets. These individuals often resort to extreme methods to protect their secrets, such as creating elaborate puzzles to challenge the minds of those they see as inferior. Yet many investigators possess cunning wits, and manage to solve even the most daunting these mental traps. However, the question must be asked, what is worse? Being defeated by such a puzzle, or being devoured by the shapeless entity that lies beyond the locked door?

Our delve into the many workings of Mansions of Madness, the macabre board game of exploration, storytelling, and investigation for 2-5 players, has thus far shown us how to construct the story, how to equip investigators, the makeup of an investigator’s turn, and how the keeper operates. Today we’ll take a look at one of the game’s most unique aspects: the puzzles.

Puzzling Situations

During their exploration, investigators are bound to come across a situation where they must think their way out. Brute force can only get you so far when you are dealing with an evil presence that fights its battles in the mental arena. Some investigators are better off with a gun or an axe, while others opt for brains over brawn. The latter type of investigator excels when it comes to solving the traps and locks that will surely plague their way.

Puzzles can come into play through exploration or attempting to move through a door. As we mentioned in our preview of the investigator’s turn, one of the available actions to investigator players is exploring. When exploring a room, it is possible for an Obstacle card with a puzzle to be revealed, forcing the active investigator to attempt the puzzle before continuing their exploration. Likewise, if an investigator attempts to move through a door, it is possible that the door is locked and can only be opened by solving a puzzle.

When a puzzle card is revealed, it will explain how the puzzle is set up. Puzzles come in three main types: wiring, lock, and rune. Players can attempt to solve the puzzle by using puzzle actions. These actions include swapping adjacent puzzle pieces, rotating puzzle pieces 90 degrees, or discarding a puzzle piece and drawing a new one. The number of puzzle actions a player receives is equal to his investigator’s Intellect. Needless to say, the more intelligent an investigator is the quicker (fewer turns) he can solve the puzzle. Investigators can also use Skill Point tokens to add their Luck to their Intellect when trying to solve a puzzle, as explained in our investigator preview.

Figuring it Out

Here is a detailed example of how to attempt a puzzle:

Now that you know how to tackle the many puzzles that await you in the crumbling manors or ominous cemeteries, prepare yourself for the other dangers that lie behind those locked doors. We haven’t yet seen monsters, combat, or the true dangers of insanity...

(A completed rune puzzle)

Check back in the coming weeks for more on Mansions of Madness!

Mansions of Madness is a macabre game of horror, insanity, and mystery for two to five players. Based on the beloved fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Mansions of Madness tells a story in which one player takes on the role of the keeper, a malevolent force working to complete a sinister plot, and all other players take on the roles of investigators, the unlikely heroes who gather to oppose him.

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Comments (27)

Published: 1/6/2011 2:36:02 PM

I guess I'm not surprised that there are a few detractors when it comes to the puzzles.  I, for one, feel that this added mechanic allows the game to far surpass my initial expectations when this game was announced.  My only concerns would be set up time for puzzles as well as storage after the game.  As Keeper, you would have to make sure that each puzzle piece is correctly placed.  Also, I imagine there are more rune puzzle pictures than the one showed, so you may have to keep them all separate so you are not digging through all the pieces when a puzzle comes up.  A little extra storage work may be necessary to make sure the game's pace can be kept up as much as possible.

These few concerns don't bother me, but I can imagine others pulling their hair out.

Published: 1/6/2011 9:52:29 AM

As far as 'immersion' goes, tile puzzles sound as engrossing and thematic to me as playing solitaire using a tarot deck.  It's a little too literal when an investigator needs to solve the 'puzzle' to help disrupt the evil plot.

Clues in AH are abstracted as round green tokens.  In MoM clues are useful pieces of information helping the plot.  Puzzles in MoM are abstracted as tile puzzles.  Wouldn't it be nice if puzzles where not abstracted - figuring out the plot by following the clues already helps you solve the case.

Things I find fascinating about MoM so far:

1. It appears to be a game where expansions have been better planned than with AH, meaning better balance, more sustainable with more unique settings outside of the mansion.  I never want to make another tuckbox or shuffle 1000 doll-sized cards again if I can help it!

2. The design moves closer to the original Call of Cthulhu RPG experience which is always a great trend.  The keeper/player distinction, the setting, plot organization, fewer deadly monsters at once, investigators are cooperative.  Also it's interesting how MoM balances the keeper's power,  helping new keepers understand the importance of restraint for both fairness and enjoyment.

3. It claims support for as few as 2 players.

4. Figurines are nice to have - bonus!

This is the first board game I've found that tries to accomplish all of these things.  Here play with this tile puzzle?!?!  The benefits still far outweigh this single sticking point, and .  Looks like a groundbreaking game.

Published: 1/6/2011 1:36:40 AM

Jerusalem Jones wrote:

"I think dvang hit this on the mark. The puzzles are meant to be solvable, but also to take up time (like a real puzzle, such as a locked door or a journal cypher). This style of mechanic makes the players do the legwork, and not just roll a die and wait an arbitraily random period of time. Even after enough games have been played for a player to know the solution for a puzzle, the time still must be spent to physically solve it. It will be very interesting to play this game when it comes out, to say the least."



I just wanted to add that while it is meant to be a delay mechanism that can be solved, it is also entirely possible for the puzzle to not have a solution due to the pieces not being present in the draw pile.

This adds further delays and frustration to the player.

So while people could easily memorize every puzzle in the game, it doesn't mean that the puzzle can be easily solved or even solved at all. Its a pretty major departure from what people are thinking is going to be a silly component to the game design. It worked quite well for us when we played it.

Published: 1/5/2011 8:21:49 PM

Very interesting, sounds really immersive.

I'd love to try it!

Published: 1/5/2011 7:58:36 PM

The puzzles are also a really good way of getting the players to burn their clue tokens, sometimes unnecessarily because they don't want to get delayed and/or are too far from someone that can help. 

I am a big fan of the puzzle mechanic.  The wiring puzzles in particular I really like.

Published: 1/5/2011 4:45:33 PM

Not to mention you'd better not choose a character with an intellect of 1/2 for this job...

dare you to win the game that way.

Could end like: "what 'r you doing, monsters are upon us!!!" " hey..relax, still working on my puzzle..." 

I like those kind of additions to game anyway. Very exciting!

Published: 1/5/2011 3:45:01 PM

Looks cool... but maybe some downtime issues?

Published: 1/5/2011 3:43:37 PM

I think dvang hit this on the mark. The puzzles are meant to be solvable, but also to take up time (like a real puzzle, such as a locked door or a journal cypher). This style of mechanic makes the players do the legwork, and not just roll a die and wait an arbitraily random period of time. Even after enough games have been played for a player to know the solution for a puzzle, the time still must be spent to physically solve it. It will be very interesting to play this game when it comes out, to say the least.

Published: 1/5/2011 3:15:35 PM

Does the player have to solve this alone without any input from the other players, or can other players at the table chip in with some advice?

Published: 1/5/2011 2:49:59 PM

I don't think I'd term it cheesy.  Consider what solving puzzles like this does for the game:

1. Immersion. Although they are relatively simple enough puzzles, they help add to the "feeling" of being your character.

2. Adds randomization to each game.  Not only which puzzles are where are different, but each puzzle is different and randomized by the piece draw/placement. So, each puzzle has replayability in and of itself.

3. Delays the players.  The whole goal of the puzzles, it seems, is to delay the players. Notice how, with 4 puzzle actions in a turn, Jenny was not able to complete the puzzle.  She is delayed there (prevented from continuing to explore the room) until she completes the puzzle.  If another player comes along, they can assist her (leading to more co-op play) by using some of their actions to move the puzzle along. This does, however, then use up that player's actions and delays them too.

I suppose you could make up a method to randomly determine how many turns it would take for a player to solve a particular puzzle (roll a d5, etc).  This method seems more interesting than that, however, and can involve at least a little bit of actual player skill/intelligence as well as game immersion.

Published: 1/5/2011 12:33:56 PM

Now that's looking interesting. It's going to be a very interesting product. I hope I will get a chance to test it at my FLGS. :)

Published: 1/5/2011 11:22:40 AM

Cheesy.  I like the rest of the game description up until this point.  Hopefully puzzles can be skipped entirely.

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