As if there weren’t enough Lovecraft-inspired board games out there, right?
I was actually completely uninterested in this game for that reason. I’ve played Eldritch Horror, Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, Mansions of Madness, and a few other games and expansions with content torn from the mad world of Cthulhu, so what could this possibly add to the genre?
Well, it turns out, there is room for one more. See, Mountains of Madness is far more silly than the name and graphic design lets on.
The game does take inspiration from the book on which it is based, including quotes and snippets from the text throughout the rulebook and on various game components. Players are a team of scientists on an expedition to recover valuable artifacts and relics, but upon arriving at the Mountain realize that something is terribly wrong and they must escape as soon as humanly possible.
To do this in game, players will move their airplane one tile at a time up towards the mountain peak, facing challenges along the way.
The challenges are simple: players must play cards of four types – tools, cargo, weapons, and books – in specified ranges. So, a challenge might require 8-10 books, or 13 weapons, or “12 or 14” tools. Your cards range from 2 to 6 (although “Arcane Equipment” valued at 10 can be added eventually), and you’ve got to communicate with the other players so that you play the right cards in collaboration – not too high, not too low. You only have 30 seconds each turn to talk about what cards you have, figure out what to play, and then play it.
The real catch, though, comes in the Madness, and this is what makes the game fun. Each player starts with a low-level madness that directs their behavior during the 30-second timer. Perhaps one player must sing everything he says, and another can only talk to a player she is touching.
Over the course of the game your madness will increase, requiring more silly actions and more frustrating communication barriers. Maybe you can’t say numbers, or can only talk to someone making direct eye contact.
It’s all kind of goofy, ridiculous, and also quite challenging, and if you can get into the spirit of things it is hilarious (albeit stressful) fun.