Mountains of Madness, a game by Iello, is based on the H.P Lovecraft novel At The Mountains of Madness. There have been many games based on Lovecraft’s work, but Mountains of Madness is unlike most before it. Mountains of Madness is a co-operative board game for 3 to 5 players that focuses on communication.
The components for Mountains of Madness are solid, made up mostly of card which is thick and durable. There’s a large fold-out board, which shows the mountain, with sections dedicated to different terrain types. The terrain type sections are filled with double-sided card counters that hide that areas challenge. Also included are some poker chips, a small airplane miniature, a sand timer and some character play-boards. Everything is of great quality with clear writing and symbols. The text is large enough to be seen from around the table and the artwork is extremely fitting for the setting and really captures the haunting feel of the game.
The aim of the game is to move from the bottom of the mountain and escape via the top, completing challenges along the way. Challenges are completed by turning over the terrain sections on the board and putting together the cards required to meet the objectives. Objectives are a simple matter of collecting the listed equipment types in the amount listed on the tile. There are four types of equipment, Crates, Tools, Weapons and Books. Each tile lists two types of required equipment, along with either a number or a range. The players have to play cards together to meet the required number or range. Sounds simple right? Players only have 30 seconds to do this and can’t show their cards to each other. Cards are played facedown on the sled card and once a single card is placed, or the timer runs out, players have to stop talking and can only play cards facedown from that point onwards. Once all cards are played, the leader turns them over and counts the totals.
If both numbers are met, the challenge is successfully completed and a reward is earned. If one number is met, the players still get the reward, but also suffer a failure. If both numbers are missed, it’s a straight failure. The consequences of failure are either drawing a madness card, suffering injury, losing equipment cards or losing leadership tokens.
The aim of the game is to escape the mountain with more relics, which are earned through rewards, than injury cards, so keeping injuries down is key. Leadership tokens can be used for a variety of options, like getting another 30 seconds to talk during a challenge, rerolling the result of a challenge failure, or being able to ignore one player’s madness card for a round. Madness cards are what really drives the fun for Mountains of Madness and what makes the game so challenging.
There are three levels of madness cards, and they are compulsory actions for when the timer is running during challenges. Madness card start mild, like No Silence where you have to fill silences in your speech with ‘uhhhh’ or Cheerleader, where you mist high-five all players at the start of the sand timer. The madness cards ramp up to cards like Unsure, where you have to confirm what another player says after everything they say, or Methodical, where you have to count off your words on your hands as you speak. Blank cards are also added so that you can write your own madnesses for your games.
Other challenges crop up as you gain relics in the form of edits to your player board. These edits can stop you doing certain actions or cause effects on the cards in your hand. The colours of the equipment requirements in the challenges also change the higher up the mountain you climb, while the colours of the equipment cards in your hand stay the same, so they won’t match, which further messes with your head as you try to find the cards required before you can finally reach the final three challenges to escape via the top of the mountain.
There are several ways to lose Mountains of Madness, but only one way to win, and escaping via the top of the mountain doesn’t always equal success.
Mountains of Madness relies on your players getting in to it. The madness cards and their adverse effects on communication is what makes the game challenging and enjoyable. If your players are shy and not feeling it, it will hamper the communication and cause frustration rather than enjoyment. The poor communication is intended to be more amusing than frustrating. It’s a great communication test and I could see it getting use in leadership and team building courses, as well as on the tabletop among friends. The rules are fairly straight-forward and most are displayed on the cards, the player boards and the board itself, letting the focus be on the challenge rounds and the carnage that they cause.
The Bottom Line:
Mountains of Madness is an incredible game with the right group having the right attitude to it. If everyone gets into the madness cards, then it’s a lot of fun. It’s challenging, but in an interesting way and you only really only have yourself to blame if you fail. Fans of anything Lovecraft or Cthulhu-esque will have a lot of enjoyment and roleplaying groups will find it awesome. If your players aren’t really interested in acting out, then there are other cooperative games they will probably prefer. The Mountains of Madness game components are great, solid, durable and easy to read. If you’re looking for a challenging co-op game that emphasises communication, and you’re willing to get into it, then Mountains of Madness is for you.
Get this game if:
You want a challenging co-op communication game.
You want a fun quirky experience.
You like to act out in your games.
Avoid this game if:
Your group don’t want to act out during their games.
You don’t like a challenge.
This copy of Mountains of Madness was provided by CoiledSpring Games.
Have you played Mountains of Madness? What did you think? Which is your favourite madness card? Did you create you own madness cards? Let us know in the comments below.
Mountains of Madness is challenging, but enjoyable so. A co-op game based solely on communication that relies on everyone acting out the madness cards. Won't be for players who don't want to get into the game, but anyone willing to accept the madness cards will have a lot of fun. An interesting game with great components and very apt artwork.