Review: Mountains of Madness – cold teeth of Antarctica
Perhaps, someone will look back on our decision and say it was foolishness. We have no map or no idea what awaits us on the sharp slopes of the mountain. But our curiosity will not let us turn around and not to at least give it a try. Only the peaks of the old crumbling buildings peek from cap of the snow with monstrous temple far above the ancient undiscovered city. It is between its walls, that we can find treasures, that are incredibly valuable. From our point of view, it is clear: it is worth to risk our lives!
Lots of danger and snow expect us to arrive in board game Mountains of Madness, which was prepared for us by the very popular designer Rob Daviau (Pandemic: Legacy, Seafall), and illustrations were handed over to the experienced hand of Miguel Coimbra. Whole game was brought to France by the IELLO company in 2017 and then published for the whole world.
Already from the snow-covered box, you can feel the frost and mysterious atmosphere of the huge building shown on the lid. From the inside, players pick up a board, that shows arrival under the mountain, path to the discovered ancient city and escape through the top. Mountain is reaching from shore to the top. There the player will be waiting for the aircraft. Players complete map of the mountain in the center of the table by equipping it with a variety of cards and pieces. Above all, individual locations on the hill are filled from randomly shuffled pile of encounter tiles. They have a gradually increasing difficulty (four types with increasing threat – coast, mountain, city and edge of madness) as players get higher and higher. On the map, they put also piles of equipment cards, relics, three levels of madness and an hourglass.
Each player chooses one hero and takes his board. Participants will also receive a set of equipment cards randomly from a shuffled package. Depending on the number of team members, everyone may get one madness card (only in more than three players). Then team chooses their leader, who will take control of the plane and sleigh with six leadership tokens for first round. Next to the board, dice and relic tokens are placed and everything begins.
Game takes place in rounds, which are always divided into five phases. At the beginning of each round, team of explorers will first move. Current commander of the voyage, who has sleigh in front of him, decides about this. But he can accept advice from whole team as this all should be a team effort. In the first round, he chooses from the lowest row of coastal tiles, on which the adventurers begin their pilgrimage and thus mark current position with an aircraft miniature. In the following rounds, team of alpinists can move to any of the six surrounding positions.
If there is a tile in destination of current movement, commander takes it in front of himself and the whole team moves to encounter phase. Team will have to fight with rival from this tile or (in case the position was empty) with numbers printed on the board. At the beginning, one of the participants in the voyage must turn the hourglass and start measuring time to respond to an unexpected situation.
Players have the opportunity to talk during time measured by the falling sand. But its will not be as easy. From the start, they may receive madness cards as weight of the mountain starts crawling up onto their mind. Nobody can show them to other team members. His madness is his secret. During this phase and only then must he follow instructions printed on his current madness card, that restricts his communication.
In the face of a situation, players have to agree what cards they will use to meet its requirements. To overcome the dangers, there is always needed some combination of tools, crates, books and, of course, weapons. These equipment cards have players from start in their hands, each card has type and number printed. Sum of these cards then must be within given encounter range. However, all agreements can only be made until one of the participants plays first card on the sleigh. At that point all the voices must be silenced and rest of the card placement must be completed without further consultation.
If at least one of two tests compared with values on cards is successful (value increases and it is harder to meet it as heroes are climbing higher), they get a reward printed in the bottom right corner of the card. It can be a chance to explore other part of the mountain, heal themself, but also to improve the equipment deck with new card. But especially, completing encounters can get players closer to finding relics. But there are no benefits for visiting some locations twice (there is no reward for second encounter). As a result of a failure in one of the two tests, someone will get a madness card. The expedition leader determines, who gets it. If that player already is mad, then he will replace this card for a higher level madness (up to level three). Instead, leader can choose to roll a dice instead and not get a new madness (this option is mandatory, when all players are at level 3 of madness). Dice adds injuries to equipment deck, removes some equipment or forces them to destroy leader tokens (place in the box).
After that, players draw cards back to their maximum hand limit. But if the stock of cards is empty, it is not possible just to shuffle the drawing deck! To do this, leader has to sacrifice one leader token (irreversibly placing it in the box), allowing him to shuffle all discarded cards to create new draw pile. But he also can return all leader tokens, that were set aside on the sleight.
Then the next round begins, in which players try to continue and keep heading towards the summit. Only when the plane gets to the third special escape box (with its own encounters), players can celebrate victory. Meanwhile, however, they may encounter a much more infamous fate, if they lose last of their leader tokens or draw last injury from wound deck. Entire team will evaluate the success rate according to the number of relics obtained, but will first deduct number of injuries. If the result is at least four, then their expedition was really successful. However, this evaluation does not affect win itself.
Mountains of Madness are a team struggle to survive on the hillside of an inhospitable mountain. It is a cooperative adventure game, that tries to build everything on the feeling of threat. That’s why there are cards of madness, that let players tap their fingers on the table, bans them from talking to others, cheat other players when speaking numbers, forcing them to scream and otherwise express themselves. It is all about capturing the mountain influence on their morale. Through this mechanism, the theme of loneliness on the mountain gets under your skin and also provides great laughs for the whole group.
Why? Because at the same time, these elements have the effect of making you feel like playing a party game. And that’s exactly what’s going on here. Do not count on some serious experience. If you take the appropriate teammates for this type of game, then you will enjoy plenty of fun and laughter. There is really a lot of madness cards to choose from. Unfortunately, because of this squeegee, a lot of players are disappointed as they probably expect a completely different type of game.
But party cooperative game? You should write this one in your books, because this combination is quite unique! In addition, it is not a stupid card or a dice rolling fest. This game wants a little thought and planning from you on top of having fun. Winnings alone are not so difficult, but not overly simple. There are tiny hints of deckbuilding, but mostly it’s about trying to play a set of cards with the right sum. This is the only time, when players can communicate properly.
Back to the atmosphere. Players are mad only within the main encounter stage, where they have to act based on their card without showing it to others. Outside of this stage, they have to look normal and play, as though they do not remember anything crazy at all. This schizophrenicity for all involved is a source of real laughter. Still, you need the right team of teammates to enjoy that.
Although it has a lightweight gameplay and emphasizes the funny note, it retains a solid complexity of rules and options. This makes it difficult to learn the game for beginners, which can be a minor disadvantage for this target group of party people. The player always has only one card of madness in hand, so it does not have to be difficult to remember their limitations. But the important thing is for everyone to live in their roles and trust the story.
But be aware that this party game is definitely not a matter of twenty minutes. On the contrary, you can reach the top of the mountain and get safety home only after one hour of true effort. Since players are involved in decision-making for most of the time, there is not a major influence on the number of participants in the team. Additionally, these numbers will affect the game at the beginning and thus balance the match in different numbers.
Mountains of Madness can be compared to Dungeon Fighter with its recklessness. Unfortunately, it will not have a bed of roses, but it is a great shame. It is absolutely unique and original game. All this is enhanced with a wonderful processing. A lot of people sweep it out of the table like a completely inadequate fun filled with silly gestures and pantomimes. But we played the Mountains of Madness and its amazing!
Review: Mountains of Madness – cold teeth of Antarctica
If you are looking for a game that you can take at a party and really play it, then you do not have to look any further. Mountains of Madness is a wonderful cross-breed of party game and solid strategic fun. In addition, they are all packed into a cooperative gift coat, which definitely does not want players to look for any differences. This game must really be played to win. And the better news is, that it's great fun in the right company. However, it should be emphasized that the game takes over an hour to finish and has longer rules at the first glance. Mountains of Madness is a truly original and fun game.
Reader Rating0 Votes
smart mix of cooperation and fun
plenty of interesting madness cards, that players have to observe
great in higher numbers of players
you can expect something different by the box and author's name