News for September 2010
The Origins of Evil 34
A Mansions of Madness Designer Diary by Corey Konieczka
Mansions of Madness | Published 28 September 2010

For our first preview of Mansions of Madness, we’re pleased to present an introductory designer diary by Corey Konieczka:

I’m sorry. I tried to keep it secret. I tried to protect you. Unfortunately, I cannot contain myself anymore, my story must be known. This is your last warning; once you read the words below, there is no turning back...

For some time, I’ve wanted to create a modular board game that focuses on telling an immersive story in which everything happened for a reason. One of my main goals with Mansions of Madness was to create a game in which the story is not merely smoke and mirrors, but in which evil plots are actually happening behind the scenes. Also, I wanted a purpose behind each unique item that players discovered, rather than having them drawn out of a random deck.

At the same time, replayability and versatility were a must, so that players don’t always know what to expect. Every grand story arc would have many plausible outcomes, many possible side paths, and a depth of buried information. I wanted a game that made players feel like they were in a movie, with every clue uncovered helping them understand what is going on, and tension becoming tangible as they progressed towards the finale. My goal was to design a game in which every single element was about telling this story. A game that sucked players in and refused to let go. A game that hid reality behind a veil of theme, so thick that it could be an engrossing novel...

...and I think we’ve succeeded at this with Mansions of Madness.

Each story starts with an introductory narrative that gives thematic background information on the scenario. For example (and we’ll use a hypothetical story to avoid ruining the surprise of in-game scenarios), let’s imagine that our introductory story is about a series of murders that have been happening on a nightly basis for almost two weeks. The town is scared, and the investigators have been following clues for days. Finally, on a warm summer evening, their car pulls up to an enormous mansion. Somehow they know that here lies the final piece of the puzzle. They know that, one way or another, tonight will bring an end to this mystery.

While this narrative is laid out in front of them, the keeper is required to make a number of story changing decisions. The number of questions varies based on the story and its target playtime. Continuing on from our made up narrative, let’s imagine that the keeper reads his first question:

1: What is the ultimate reason for the murders?

  • A. A cult is working on a dark ritual that requires a murder every night for 13 nights. The mansion is their sanctuary and the center of their power.
  • B. The house itself is a manifestation of evil. It has been luring in victims for weeks, gathering in power in order to attract the great daemon sultan Azathoth.
  • C. The town’s inhabitants are all servants of Nyarlathotep. They have been duping the investigators and leading them towards the house to become slaves to his bidding.

The keeper decides to choose 1A, and takes the appropriate story choice marker (to remember this), and places it face down in front of him.

The first choice made by the keeper always determines the keeper’s objective for this session. He takes Objective Card 1A for this story, and reads it to himself. Let’s imagine that this Objective requires him to kill an investigator and place his corpse on an altar. The investigators on the other hand, simply need to kill the cult’s leader to stop the ritual.

The important thing to remember here is that this card is kept secret from the investigators! This means that even if they have played this scenario before, there is still a sense of suspense and mystery. In order to see the keeper’s Objective Card (and ultimately win the game), they will need to investigate the house and discover clues that will reveal the truth behind the mystery.

To conclude his part of setup, the keeper will go on to make a handful of other decisions as well, and these decisions will likewise affect various features of the game (depending on the requirements of the scenario). Based on his previous answer (1A), the keeper might now decide the following: Where do the cultists perform their ritual murders? Where is their next victim imprisoned? To what room does the secret passage in the study lead?

Based on the keeper’s choices, he then goes on to scatter items and obstacles throughout the board. While some Exploration cards are placed randomly in every scenario, others, along with the clues leading investigators to their objective, are placed according to the keeper’s initial decisions.

But who are the investigators, and what resources do they have at their disposal as they discover clues and other items throughout the mansion? Unfortunately for your sanity, you’re going to have to wait until our next preview...

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 (34)

Published: 10/1/2010 3:37:33 PM

Arkham Horror and Betrayal at House on the Hill are two of my groups most played games.  I'm very excited about the prospect of a hybrid of the two.  Looking forward to this and Civilization!

Published: 10/1/2010 6:32:58 AM

The more I read about it, the more I like it! As said in posts below, it's something between Descent and Arkham Horror but I will also add another to the possible list of influence - Betrayal in the House on The Hill.

Published: 9/29/2010 10:05:16 PM

Just hit me over the head, take my wallet, but please leave a copy of this game by my unconscious corpse. I'll wake up most pleased!

Looks awesome!!!

Published: 9/29/2010 12:08:45 PM

I hope it is not  a hack 'n slash game like Descent.  I hope there is much storytelling and investigation , as a Cthulhu game should have and there are fewer and easy battles.

Published: 9/29/2010 10:03:59 AM

I don't know how Corey does it but his games rock. This is looking great.

Published: 9/29/2010 8:49:00 AM

looking forwards to this immensely, will be nice to play an adult cluedo stylee game set in the CoC world we love...

Published: 9/29/2010 7:02:02 AM

I'm completely sold on this.  Always had a soft spot for Avalon Hills 'Betrayal at House on the Hill', and this game sounds very similar to that, but will have a Lovecraftian theme and FFGs spit and polish.

Throw in the story elements that make sense and belong (rather than it being random draw) - well, can't wait.

Published: 9/29/2010 1:20:29 AM

Why is everyone think it's a mix between Descent and Arkham Horror? It looks nothing like Descent at all. It's more a mixture of Arkham Horror and Betrayal at house on the hill.

I'd be glad if it's nothing like Descent. Way to much monster whacking.

Erich Zann
Published: 9/29/2010 12:07:50 AM

Tanks Corey,

your job sounds good.

I hope that next previews will reveil most particular about the investigators actions.


Published: 9/28/2010 11:12:38 PM

Wow, this game sounds freakin' awesome! Can't wait to play this.

Rufus Stone
Published: 9/28/2010 8:19:51 PM

Thanks for the preview Corey

The game does look very appetizing although it’s a shame there is no solitaire option available. Mind you, given the impact of the keeper's decisions on the way the game will play out, I think it would be a real challenge to introduce one.

Oh well, it wont stop me lining up for a copy upon release! :)

Published: 9/28/2010 8:04:19 PM

I'm liking the feel of an RPG with what appears to be an awesome board game. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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