“What is it, boy? Whaddaya smell?” Pete looked back to see that Duke was no longer following at his heels, but had stopped near a ruined grave marker. The animal bared his teeth and growled at the slab of rock, the fur of his neck standing on end. “C’mon boy,” Pete ordered gruffly, but Duke stood his ground against the inanimate foe. Pete turned back, and placing himself between his dog and ancient gravestone, he bent down for a closer inspection. In the dim moonlight, he could barely make out the weatherworn letters, but he leaned in, squinting. An “L”... yes, definitely... and a “Y”. He ran his hands over the porous rock, feeling the markings. An “N”... So unshakable was Ashcan Pete’s focus, in fact, that he didn’t notice the soft sound of footsteps in the grass, or his dog falling silent behind him.

Slowly, the clues are coming together in your search for more information on Mansions of Madness . You’ve learned of the evil plots taking shape in the mansions and crypts of Arkham, and you’ve even had a glimpse inside the mind of the man behind it all. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the unlikely heroes standing against the encroaching darkness, and we’ll see how the tools at their disposal help them against the many supernatural perils they face.

Eight investigators, all from vastly different walks of life, have been brought together to face a terrifying supernatural threat. As a player on the “investigator” side, you’ll oppose the “keeper” player as he seeks to complete his objective. Whether you’re challenging him alone or with up to three fellow investigator players along with you, you’ll choose one of these eight brave characters to be your avatar on the board. For the keeper, the number of investigators in play affects both resources and the strength of certain minions, meaning that the difficulty of Mansions of Madness scales depending on how many intrepid investigators are teaming up.

We’ll take a look at that balance, along with a closer look at the keeper’s turn, in a future preview. Today, let’s look instead at the investigators’ setup process, including character selection.

To prepare for a game of Mansions of Madness , the keeper player has plenty of choices to make (as we saw last week ). But what are the investigator players doing in the meantime? Following the Investigator Guide, they assemble the map tiles to create the board, to which the keeper will add clues, obstacles, and items based on his story choices. Next, the investigator players read “The Story So Far,” a short narrative that explains the scenario’s backstory and objective (or at least as much as is initially clear).

Pay close attention to the story! More than mere flavor text, “The Story So Far” offers direction, sometimes quite subtly, for the investigators to find their first clues. Finally, each investigator player chooses an investigator and receives the corresponding Character card, Trait cards, and the listed number of Skill Point tokens. The investigators now have some setup choices of their own...

The front and back of “Ashcan” Pete’s Character card, showing his
Health, Sanity, and number of starting Skill Points
. Click to enlarge.

If you’ve chosen (or been randomly assigned) to play as “Ashcan” Pete, you’ll first notice three statistics on his Character card. His Health rating indicates how much damage he can take before he’s killed (after which his player chooses a new investigator, as long as the story isn’t in its climax). Pete’s Sanity rating indicates how much Horror he can witness before he’s driven insane and becomes a danger to his fellows (with some “help” from the keeper). Finally, an investigator’s Skill Points are a type of resource with which he can overcome certain obstacles (more on that follows).

Next, you will determine Pete’s attributes and abilities from his selection of Trait cards. From the cards available, you must choose one displaying Strength, Marksmanship, and Dexterity, and another displaying Intellect, Willpower, Lore, and Luck.

These seven attributes represent the unique makeup of your character. Additionally, the cards that display them offer special text abilities, which further distinguish you from your allies and makes every game a little different... even those in which you choose a favorite character again (instead of Jury-rigging, you might have chosen the Trait card with the False Trail ability ; this would result in a slightly less intellectual Pete, but one more able to evade enemies). With Duke trailing behind us, let’s move on to Skill Point tokens .

Attributes are used to overcome all manner of challenges, but most often they are pertinent to Attribute Tests. When prompted to perform an attribute test , simply roll a ten-sided die and compare this value to your character’s applicable attribute. If the roll is equal to or less than the attribute, you pass! If a challenge looks too daunting, you can also opt (before the roll) to spend one of your Skill Point tokens. Doing so will add your luck value to whichever attribute you are about to test, and this represents a feat of particular resourcefulness on the part of your character.

Attributes are also helpful in maintaining your sanity in the face of the many horrific sights you’ll encounter, and solving the puzzles that stand in your way... but we’ll take a closer look at those in the weeks to come. Keep checking back!

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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