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Mansions of Madness Two Player Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game with two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Can two investigators tackle the Mansions of Madness by themselves or will this dice-chucking board game make any pair of players go insane?

Mansions of Madness Review

5 out of 10

Is it Good For Two Players? : Not the best player count

Mansions of Madness is plain and simple an investment, and an expensive one in so many regards.  It requires a lot of learning of rules, potential house ruling, a lot of time to play, and most likely a lot of expansions to continue enjoying. When playing with just two, a lot of these issues are exaggerated.

It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to make that investment into this one of a kind board game.  If you do, there are probably great times to be had, especially if you become the Mansions of Madness guide for your gaming group, but for many, it’s probably not going to be worth it.

Theme: 8/10
Replayability: 4/10
Components: 4/10
Conflict: 0/10
Fun: 6/10

His Rating
6 out of 10
Her Rating
4 out of 10

Pros

A unique RPG style board game that can create some excellent stories if you let it

Extremely thematic with an app that provides pretty good flavor text and music

The app manages the things it does do quite well but could be improved in quite a few ways

Cons

Games are extremely long, taking about twice the time to complete as the estimated scenario length

Miniatures aren’t great and practically need to be rebased to be used in the game.

Easy to forget rules or effects

Requires a lot of upkeep from players that can easily take you out of the experience

Expansions are almost necessary to improve replayability, making the game pretty costly

Gameplay Experience:

Mansions of Madness Two Player Board Game Review

Mansions of Madness piqued our interest the first time we saw it and has been on our wishlist ever since.  It was hard to justify the price but eventually, a deal popped up and we grabbed it and finally added it to our collection.

This was an entirely new type of game to us so it took a while to get the rules down and even after multiple rounds, we were still having to correct some mistakes.  This game has a lot of rules and the problem is, it’s not like others where you can play it a few times to get them down pat.

To enjoy the game to the fullest you almost have to have a perfect understanding of Mansions of Madness before you even start your first round.  This is because the scenarios don’t change very much on repeat plays so after the first a lot of the excitement and fun of discovering something new is gone.

Well, we definitely didn’t have the rules down on our first playthrough, and we also didn’t do enough research on the best way to play with two players.  We had a pretty lackluster experience, lost terribly, and were already feeling pretty sour about the game.

As always though, when learning new board games, we found some rules we missed and went back in for another attempt the next day.  We still played two players the traditional way again and got a little closer to winning but failed at the last moment again. 

The story that unfolded the first time was kind of interesting, but we were rather disappointed with how little it changed on the second go around.  We also knew what to do this time so we played the game in a much more optimized way than prior.

At this point, the game was getting quite frustrating already and we were only two games in!  Maybe the game just didn’t work that well for two players, or maybe it just wasn’t the game for us.  After looking up some rules we saw some also recommended playing double handed.

So we went back into the Mansions of Madness for our third attempt at the first scenario with a ragtag gang of four characters instead of two.  As a result, we actually won. Sure, we knew exactly what to focus on and what to do, but hey, we still won.

Was it fun though?  Not really, the length of the game was still too long, there’s just so much luck, and the upkeep required by the players is a lot! Even though our feelings about this game weren’t improving much we had to give a different scenario a try.

To our shock, all of the three other scenarios in the base game are even longer!  We held out hope though that now that we had the rules down and knew to play two investigators each, maybe we could enjoy the next round a bit more.

Over 4 hours later though, that just wasn’t the case.  Sure the story was new and exciting but the fiddliness, countless dice tests, and insane amount of upkeep were just too much for us.  We were actually more excited about the round being over than the last two hours of the game. 

In Mansions of Madness you’re at the whim of the game, or shall we say the app, and maybe that’s the point, but often it can be the exact opposite of fun.  When things don’t go your way the game can just become frustrating because everything is mostly up to pure luck in terms of the app and dice roll.  You can strategize in a broad sense, but in specific areas like investigator skills, it doesn’t really matter.  This means you can’t strategize based on which character is best at certain things.

Mansions of Madness Investigators and Characters

On top of this, the app and all the game’s scenarios are just based on some internal round clock that you know nothing about.  Take too long investigating, you’ll soon learn you weren’t supposed to do that and the app will inform you it’s too late to succeed at the investigation (in a much more thematic way of course). 

In our opinion, this unknowable and somewhat unsatisfying end game timer is the main crux of  Mansions of Madness when you consider that a scenario often takes a minimum of two hours if not much longer.  This lack of control can make you feel defeated and question whether there is a point to the “game” at all.

Even with these negatives, looking back there were some funny moments and a few highlights during our games, but overall those minor moments just aren’t worth the work, time, or cost.  We can see how some people may actually enjoy a lot of what Mansions of Madness has to offer but this game was just not for us, and we couldn’t look past its more problematic aspects.

How to Play Mansions of Madness Rules Summary:

Mansions of Madness is quite a heavy game.  It has a lot of rules with most having a lot of nuance to them.  It is a struggle to learn this one, especially if you’re not familiar with dice chucking rpg style board games. 

Mansions of Madness has a group of investigators make their way through various scenarios to accomplish some sort of goal.  The game is guided by an app that will tell players what board tiles to lay, where they can investigate and take actions, and spawn various monsters.

Mansions of Madness Setup and Board

Each investigator has different stats that will be used to determine the number of dice they roll for skill tests (strength, lore, will, etc.).  They also have different damage and horror levels determining the number of times they can get hurt or take horror.

Mansions of Madness Skill Check and Dice

Damage and Horror are in the form of cards that also have temporary or permanent effects.  Sometimes they are drawn face down, but most often they are drawn face up.  Some interactions cause players to flip the cards they already have face down or face up.

Mansions of Madness Damage and Horror Cards

When a player takes either damage or horror equal to their character’s level, they become insane or wounded.  If they do it again they are then eliminated.  Becoming Insane or Wounded also comes with its own various effects that will continue to inhibit players.

The game is played out over alternating Investigator and Mythos Phases.  The Investigator phase is where you do stuff, and the Mythos phase is where a lot of bad stuff happens to you.

The Investigator Phase is where players take their actions. Each player gets two actions that can be used to move around, investigate, explore, attack, trade, pick up items, or interact with things on the board.  

These actions often require players to click on something on the app, which will then progress the story further by providing players with more information, items, or areas of the map.  Once all players have taken their turns the Mythos Phase starts.

The Mythos Phase is where the app has a lot of effect on the game.  Often some random event may happen that impacts a specific character, or players in a certain area of the board.  Next, depending on where players are in the game it may also spawn some new creatures or enemies.  

Then any monsters currently in play will activate, often moving towards investigators and attacking.  These attacks usually test one of the player’s attributes to determine the outcome.  

Once all enemies have been activated, players then have to perform a horror check against any monsters within range of them (testing whether your investigator is actually scared of that giant Star Spawn in the room with you).  This also results in players often taking damage or horror if they don’t pass a skill test.

Mansions of Madness Star Spawn Size Comparison

After the Mythos phase is over, it goes back to the investigator phase and players continue on their journey.  This continues until either players lose the investigation, complete their goal, or are eliminated. If one player is eliminated, that player drops all their items and is out of the game.  All other investigators will have one more Investigator Phase to try and win the game after an elimination, otherwise they all lose.

When a player becomes insane they may also get a unique win condition that alters the way to win, but they have to pursue that goal on their own and in secret.  Maybe their character has to be eliminated before the others succeed to truly win, or maybe they have to actually not complete the investigation to win.

Each scenario offers a unique experience, but all of them boil down to a race against the clock.  Players need to explore and focus on the right things to finish before the app (dungeon master) punishes them and makes the game almost impossible to win.

Conclusion

Mansions of Madness is a hybrid style game, taking a lot of RPG style elements, and mixing them into a board game format while also using a companion app as a sort of makeshift dungeon master.  

It doesn’t do any single one of these things particularly well but when you realize what it’s trying to offer you can see why it appeals to many.  Those expecting a more traditional board game experience are likely going to be overwhelmed and probably not enjoy it unless they have an experienced player to guide them along.  

If you know what you’re getting into though and have the right group that can embellish the storytelling (a lot), know the rules well, and roleplay a little we can see how it could be quite the gaming experience, with a lot of fun and laughs.

That’s the main problem with the game though.  It requires you to be extremely knowledgeable about it before even playing a single scenario to fully enjoy it.  This is almost impossible without spoiling the very limited number of scenarios included in the base game, which are best enjoyed the first time you play them.  

What we mean is you can’t watch playthroughs or do a trial game to solidify the ruleset.  You have to jump right in, and trust us, we almost guarantee you’re going to miss some big rules and details, either making the game too easy or extremely hard.

On top of that a lot like to house rule the game to make it more enjoyable but you won’t know which of these you would like to implement until you’ve played the game, so again once you’re at that point you have probably already made it through one or all of the scenarios.

We know, we know, the scenarios are replayable, (we played the first one 3 times), but they lose a lot of that wow and excitement factor upon those repeat plays.  Minor things do change but ultimately you know what’s going to happen and the most effective things to focus on, so, is it really as replayable as many argue?  

Sure, with new players to the game, or with the countless fairly expensive expansions, you can keep enjoying the game, but overall Mansions of Madness is not a great value considering the price.  That’s just based on the gameplay alone, once you factor in the poor miniature quality and the need to almost rebase them it’s even worse.

Don’t get us started on the miniatures and those ugly and unusable bases included in the game.  If a cheaper version of the game was offered without them the cost to enjoyment ratio would be a lot better in our opinion and it would be a much easier game to recommend.

Mansions of Madness Miniature Quality

Mansions of Madness is plain and simple an investment, and an expensive one in so many regards.  It requires a lot of learning of rules, potential house ruling, a lot of time to play, and most likely a lot of expansions to continue enjoying.

It’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to make that investment into this one of a kind board game.  If you do, there are probably great times to be had, especially if you become the Mansions of Madness guide for your gaming group, but for most, it’s probably not going to be worth it.

So count your blessings if you already have somebody to help you enjoy this game, otherwise be prepared for a journey through madness as you try to overcome the struggle to learn and play this one.

Is Mansions of Madness Good For 2 Players?

If you haven’t already gathered, Mansions of Madness isn’t the game for us, but looking at it objectively, it probably isn’t the best game for two players. As we said this is a game that has a lot of rules, is extremely long to play, and requires quite a bit of work from the players, and when playing with just two, a lot of these issues are exaggerated.  

To get the best experience of the game at this player count it’s probably best to play double handed, and or implement a few house rules but that alone increases the amount of work required from the players.  We have an entire post on the best way to play this game with two players here: How to Play Mansions of Madness with Two Players

To sum it up though, the game, more specifically the app does not scale the difficulty well in terms of player count, so playing a single character each, you are very limited in what you can accomplish.  You need to use more investigators to even have a chance most of the time.  

So, in a two player game you’ll be managing four characters, the app, board tiles, cards, and enemies.  It’s already easy to forget things when playing Mansions of Madness in general, but playing this way, now it’s almost guaranteed.

On top of all this upkeep, playing with just two limits the best feature of the game, the social interaction and storytelling of people at the table.  With more players, it’s going to be easier to embellish what’s happening in the game, make jokes, laugh, and have fun, especially with the right group.  

Sure you can still do this with the right pair of players, but you’ll both have to be on your game in terms of banter and your creativity to reach a similar experience to playing with more people.  

Overall this is a game that is best enjoyed by a larger board game group, and one that can get invested in the game and play it often, so rules become a nonissue and the game can flow with ease for all involved.

Pros:

  • A unique RPG style board game that can create some excellent stories if you let it
  • Extremely thematic with an app that provides pretty good flavor text and music
  • The app manages the things it does do quite well but could be improved in quite a few ways

Cons:

  • Games are extremely long, taking about twice the time to complete as the estimated scenario length
  • Miniatures aren’t great and practically need to be rebased to be used in the game.  
  • Easy to forget rules or effects
  • Requires a lot of upkeep from players that can easily take you out of the experience
  • Expansions are almost necessary to improve replayability, making the game pretty costly.

Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (BASE GAME) | Horror Game | Mystery Board Game for Teens and Adults | Ages 14 and up | 1-5 Players | Average Playtime 2-3 hrs | Made by Fantasy Flight Games
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (BASE GAME) | Horror Game | Mystery Board Game for Teens and Adults | Ages 14 and up | 1-5 Players | Average Playtime 2-3 hrs | Made by Fantasy Flight Games
Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (BASE GAME) | Horror Game | Mystery Board Game for Teens and Adults | Ages 14 and up | 1-5 Players | Average Playtime 2-3 hrs | Made by Fantasy Flight Games

We hope this Mansions of Madness two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


Mansions of Madness App

The current version of Mansions of Madness (second edition) does require an app to play. This app takes the place of a real human game master (dungeon master). It is free but you will need some sort of device available when playing the game. In our opinion, a phone is much too small and a tablet is probably the most optimal for playing the game, but you could always screen share a smaller device to a nearby TV or something.

Within the app are 3 additional scenarios that can be downloaded and played with the base game alone. This will stretch the replayability a little but cost around $5 each.


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