Review: Mountains of Madness
What’s it about?
1931. During an expedition to Antarctica, scientists have exposed the vestiges of an ancient city of gigantic proportions behind a chain of -to all appearances- impassable mountains. Players must work together and communicate well to successfully scale the mountain, find mysterious relics and then escape from the accursed place that you have found yourself in. Above all, you must be careful not to lose your health and most importantly your sanity…
What’s in the box?
Lots and lots of lovely things! Cards, cards and more cards. There are a lot of cards. There is the main game board, location boards, a sand timer, an evil looking die and plenty more. Have a look:
- 1 Mountain Board
- 5 Double-sided Character Boards
- 1 Airplane Figurine
- 1 Sand Timer (30 seconds)
- 1 Sled Board
- 6 Leadership Tokens
- 1 Penalty Die
- 36 Encounter Tiles
- 66 Madness Cards
- 11 Relic Tokens
- 48 Equipment Cards
- 11 Relic Cards
- 15 Injury Cards
How Does it Play?
The goal of the game is to recover relics hidden on the mountain and then escape. Sounds easy enough. Well…it isn’t.
As members of this strange expedition, you will face challenges whose horror you cannot fully comprehend. By using the equipment on your cards, you must work together to overcome these horrifying challenges. Do your best, since time matters! Each challenge overcome makes the road to victory easier, but if—despite your best efforts—you do not succeed, you will suffer injuries or even lose your sanity. The closer you get to the summit, the greater your madness will become. And as madness seizes each member of your team, it becomes that much harder to communicate with each other, as you head towards your inevitable demise…
If by chance, you manage to escape, you will need to assess your team. At the end of the game, if you have more Relic cards (Specimen, Ruin, Knowledge) than Injuries, your expedition was a success and you win the game. If the opposite is true, the expedition turned out to be much too costly for the few discoveries made and you lose the game. But that is nothing compared to losing all hope of surviving in this hostile terrain.
The game is broken up into the following phases: Movement, Encounter, Resolution, Draw and Rest. Let’s take a look at each one.
During the movement phase, the leader will decide which direction to move the expedition in. When you first begin the game, you can only select a space on the bottom row. Once you start moving up the mountain, you can move to any adjacent space, including back down. You can discuss with your group on what the best direction is to take. Once the movement has been agreed upon, the leader will place the aeroplane on that space and take the tile from it and place it facedown where all the group can see it easily. This now triggers the next phase.
This is where things get…hectic. The leader turns over the tile that was selected earlier and the sand timer at the same time. The group now has 30 seconds to complete the challenges listed on the tile. For example, the tile might list 10-12 guns and 14 crates. Players will need to discuss what cards they have and what they will be playing. All within 30 seconds. The cards they have in their hands will have a symbol (guns, tools, books and crates) and a number ) from (2 to 6). they need to play cards to meet the title requirement. If they are above or below the number when the cards are revealed, they fail the challenge. Any cards that are not played facedown to the table when the timer runs out are ignored. Well, why not just play them immediately? Good question. The thing is, once a card is placed on the table…nobody can talk. If they do, the group loses a leadership token. Oh, and there are madness cards…
Madness cards only come into effect while the timer is active. They cards alter the way you can interact with the group members. They can make communication difficult or eat up your time by forcing you to do tasks before playing a card. Once the timer runs out though, the player cannot discuss their madness. It’s like it never happened. Players begin with a level one madness but as the game progresses, level two and three cards will begin to appear.
Once the timer has run out and the madness has faded, the leader determines if the challenges were successes or failures. If you successfully overcame at least on the challenges listed on the tile, you gain the listed reward. For every failure, the leader must choose either to give a player a new madness card. If they already have a madness card then they have to take the next level up version and go a little more insane. The leader can also roll the penalty die if they don’t want to give a card. Rolling the die can lead to three possibilities: Accident, Confusion and Loss of Confidence. All not good.
The draw phase is very simple. The leader deals out cards until each player is back to their hand limit.
The rest phase is the only optional phase of the game. Here the leader can decide if they want to take all the leadership tokens back from the discard area, at the cost of permanently removing one of the tokens from the game. The equipment deck is also shuffled with any cards in the discard pile. Watch out for those injury cards!
So that is a game round. Players keep doing this as they progress up the mountain collecting relics. In order to win the game players must reach the final tile and have equal to or more relic cards than injury cards combined. One way to win! Many ways to lose. Yes, you can lose if all the leadership tokens are returned to the box. You can lose if there are no injury cards in the deck when you need to draw one. You can lose escaping with fewer relic cards than injury cards. Who said it was going to be easy?
A quick word on the leadership tokens as we’ve mentioned them a few times. These tokens are like a currency. You can choose to use them during each phase to make things a little easier. You could discard one token to say add an extra 30 seconds to the timer in the encounter phase.
The components to this game are top notch. The board is wonderful and the tiles are nice thick. The cards of a good quality and what limited artwork there is in this game is faithful to the theme. Even the player token is fantastic. A lovely little aeroplane. The leaderships tokens are weighty, poker chip type things and the sand timer is also of good quality and quick big too. Easy to grab and see! The player boards are double-sided, with one side being male and the other female. A nice touch.
Overall, this is a solidly put together and good looking game.
This is a fantastic game. It’s a party game at heart and a really fun one to boot. The madness cards really make the game shine along with the limited time to get the challenges completed. The horror as players madnesses creep into the game can be unnerving. When asking a fellow player what cards they had, they screamed and remained silent for the remaining 30 seconds. It didn’t help that another player kept looking under the table for something each time they played a card. Couple that with the person to the right who was high fiving everybody it seemed we were doomed to fail. We did. But it was hilarious. There is a massive collection of madness cards meaning that the game has a huge replayability factor.
This is a must-have party game that plays best with the full player count of 5. The only thing we would put against the game is that you do really need a good group to get the most out of it. If anybody gets uncomfortable acting out or being silly then this is not for them and would a detriment to this wonderfully crafted game.