News for January 2011
Order from Chaos 27
A look at puzzles in Mansions of Madness
Mansions of Madness | Published 05 January 2011

A hiss that sounded half serpentine and half feline jolted Jenny Barnes from her concentration. She looked over her shoulder but saw only shadows down the hall, dancing to the music of the wind whipping through the curtains. She scowled and turned back toward the tangle of wires that barred her from opening the mysterious door. Afraid of getting electrocuted, she parted the wires carefully, trying to trace a cohesive path. But then the hiss came again.

Determined not to let her mind play tricks on her, she kept her eyes on the colored wires. However, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone...or something was watching her struggle with this elaborate electronic lock. Watching and laughing.

In Mansions of Madness, players explore many different locations where sinister individuals are hiding their deadly secrets. These individuals often resort to extreme methods to protect their secrets, such as creating elaborate puzzles to challenge the minds of those they see as inferior. Yet many investigators possess cunning wits, and manage to solve even the most daunting these mental traps. However, the question must be asked, what is worse? Being defeated by such a puzzle, or being devoured by the shapeless entity that lies beyond the locked door?

Our delve into the many workings of Mansions of Madness, the macabre board game of exploration, storytelling, and investigation for 2-5 players, has thus far shown us how to construct the story, how to equip investigators, the makeup of an investigator’s turn, and how the keeper operates. Today we’ll take a look at one of the game’s most unique aspects: the puzzles.

Puzzling Situations

During their exploration, investigators are bound to come across a situation where they must think their way out. Brute force can only get you so far when you are dealing with an evil presence that fights its battles in the mental arena. Some investigators are better off with a gun or an axe, while others opt for brains over brawn. The latter type of investigator excels when it comes to solving the traps and locks that will surely plague their way.

Puzzles can come into play through exploration or attempting to move through a door. As we mentioned in our preview of the investigator’s turn, one of the available actions to investigator players is exploring. When exploring a room, it is possible for an Obstacle card with a puzzle to be revealed, forcing the active investigator to attempt the puzzle before continuing their exploration. Likewise, if an investigator attempts to move through a door, it is possible that the door is locked and can only be opened by solving a puzzle.

When a puzzle card is revealed, it will explain how the puzzle is set up. Puzzles come in three main types: wiring, lock, and rune. Players can attempt to solve the puzzle by using puzzle actions. These actions include swapping adjacent puzzle pieces, rotating puzzle pieces 90 degrees, or discarding a puzzle piece and drawing a new one. The number of puzzle actions a player receives is equal to his investigator’s Intellect. Needless to say, the more intelligent an investigator is the quicker (fewer turns) he can solve the puzzle. Investigators can also use Skill Point tokens to add their Luck to their Intellect when trying to solve a puzzle, as explained in our investigator preview.

Figuring it Out

Here is a detailed example of how to attempt a puzzle:

Now that you know how to tackle the many puzzles that await you in the crumbling manors or ominous cemeteries, prepare yourself for the other dangers that lie behind those locked doors. We haven’t yet seen monsters, combat, or the true dangers of insanity...

(A completed rune puzzle)

Check back in the coming weeks for more on Mansions of Madness!

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 (27)

Published: 1/11/2011 3:34:52 AM

This is the first news item about this game that makes me think less of it, actually. This mechanic looks like it takes focus away from the main experience.

I'll happily stand corrected if this is not the case, but it seems to me that the mechanic is really detached. =/

Published: 1/9/2011 7:03:03 PM

Awesome!!! The FFG Cthulhu licence returns to it's roots! For those not feeling comfortable with this new addition to the game, remember that before Arkham Horror, there was Call of Cthulhu the role playing game. Chaosium's Arkham Horror was an addition/extension designed to complement an existing range of material.

Richard Launius masterfully executed the theme of the RPG (not the mechanics) and source material in the original game. Kevin and Richard subsequently reworked the board game for a new generation of board game players, some of whom may never have played (or even seen) the RPG. 

Mansions of Madness has much more in common with the RPG than Arkham Horror does. I think I can speak for most (if not all) of us when I say the last thing I would want is an Arkham Horror 'clone'. MoM is going to scratch an entirely different gaming itch than AH does. It will be down to the gamer to decide if it needs scratching for them or not. For me, it's a no-brainer... This game can't be released fast enough!

Published: 1/8/2011 7:05:19 AM

at first i was gonna buy this just to use the figures in AH but more and more i think this will become our go to CoC boardgame AH just takes too long especaly with all the expansions this mechanic is really exciting not just for MoM but may take the puzzles out for quick and easy rp games too


Published: 1/8/2011 4:31:27 AM

Dvang wrote:

I don't think that the puzzles will ever be unsolvable. I think there will always be available pieces, or ways to swap tiles, etc, to solve a puzzle."

Not according to one of the designers (Tim Uren)  whom I played Mansions of Madness with at Arkham Nights.

Puzzles can be potentially unsolvable.

You don't have access to every possible piece for a puzzle, only X amount of tiles are offered and placed into the draw pile.

So its not just a matter of intelligence to solve a puzzle, or memory of a puzzle from previous plays. There are times that will arise when a puzzle simply doesn't contain a solution. And you only find this out after exhausting a few turns and burning some clue tokens (or whatever the equivalent is called in MoM).


Published: 1/8/2011 1:06:46 AM

I think that any group that does not want to "waste time" with the puzzles won't have to.  It seems to me from some of the other previews that the Keeper will set clue/item locations that players will have to track down, but that they probably will not have to grab every single clue and explore every possible encounter card.  If you come across a puzzle and don't want to interact with it, explore somewhere else.  You probably could also house rule that you can draw a different encounter card to replace the puzzle. 

I for one am looking forward to this game immensely - even more so now with this new unique game element that really puts some distance between this game and "Descent" or "Betrayal at House on the Hill."

Published: 1/7/2011 9:12:04 PM

Please pardon me if I'm breaking a rule by saying MoM is the AH version of Descent. That said, it is possibly the coolest game ever designed!

However, I have to agree with Insanimo: I expect the puzzle aspect to cause unneccesary delays in the game. I have friends who really dislike the prolonged actions in Descent:Altar of Despair, and I imagine they'd feel the same way about MoM's puzzles. I personally like Descent's prolonged actions: they add a role-playing flavor to the boardgame, and if a player doesn't like being delayed a turn or two, he can finish any map without attempting the prolonged action.

As long as the puzzles aren't necessary for completing the victory conditions in any given MoM game, I'm excited for them!

mi-go hunter
Published: 1/7/2011 6:28:37 PM

My god, this game looks better after every new update!

Published: 1/7/2011 3:10:01 AM

@dvang: good catch - the text does say swap _adjacent_ pieces.

Published: 1/7/2011 1:06:42 AM


I don't think that the puzzles will ever be unsolvable. I think there will always be available pieces, or ways to swap tiles, etc, to solve a puzzle.


First, I expect there are many ways to solve the puzzles.  That said, I wouldn't be surprised if you can only swap tiles that are next to each other, so no swapping of 1 & 3. 

Published: 1/6/2011 6:56:20 PM

Am I mistaken or could the wiring puzzle have been solved in four steps?

1) swap tiles 1 and 3 in the top row

2) swap the two lower tiles in the right column

3) rotate the new bottom right tile by 90 degrees

4) draw the indicated new tile and use it to replace the (new) third tile in the top row

Anyway, I'm not sure if I like these puzzles - I mean _I_ do like this kind of stuff, but I'm not sure anyone in my usual game groups will. It seems to distract quite a bit from the actual game.

Will other players have to wait while a player tries to solve a puzzle?

Tarot Mage
Published: 1/6/2011 5:35:25 PM

The more I see (and read) about this game, I really think "Mansions of Madness" is going to show up on a lot of "Best of 2011" game lists.

I'm even willing to say that it's a strong contender for "Game of the Year." :)

Published: 1/6/2011 5:10:32 PM


The more I read, the more I want to know!

There's something nefarious about this game.

Bring some more!

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