Upon looking through some of the search queries that you all have typed in, one came up that sounded pretty interesting: “Mansions of Madness vs. Arkham Horror?” Both games are set H.P. Lovecraft’s incredible world full of demons and cultists and Cthulthus, and both are made by Fantasy Flight Games, but which is better? It is a hard question to answer for these two titles considering they play so differently, so I took the coward’s way out and asked colleagues of mine who I have played these games with multiple times. Let’s see what they have to say.
Before jumping in fully, you might brush up on this review of Mansions of Madenss we put up last year. Unfortunately, we don’t have a full review of Arkham Horror, but if you are here reading this then chances are you have an idea of the games anyway.
For us, Mansions is the more complex game, mainly due to the “dungeon master” type element. It requires a greater sense of awareness of the game, something that can only be gained from multiple playthroughs. These playthroughs are hard to come by because individual games take quite a while to complete. Combined with the fact that there are more than one story line, it is quite difficult to get comfortable with the play style. That said, once you get the feel for the game and what the game master is capable of, it is really fun to team up with the other players.
That leads nicely to our feeling about Arkham. The fact that this game is team based from the ground up makes it much more approachable to new players. The rules are much more scatter shot, but I never felt all that confused when playing it. There is the added plus, in my opinion, of the expansions that allow for an ever growing world to play in and get involved with. The game feels more balanced than Mansions, and thus, when we get our asses handed to us by the Elder God, it is aggravating, but doesn’t crush me the same way as Mansions does, probably because there is a face to put to a Mansions loss.
So, if your question is which game is “better”, we would have to say that Arkham Horror is the better game for mixed groups of new and experienced players. Mansions is something that should only be approached by those that have a high degree of board game experience.
But that’s not the opinion of everyone. Here are a couple of quotes from people on our social network pages:
Arkham Horror is a fantastic and thought provoking adventure that takes too long to set up, too long to learn, and is impossible to introduce to anyone who isn’t already a die hard fan of complex board games. I have a copy that I’ve played exactly one in two player fashion because that’s the only amount of people I can get interested that live near me. And by live near me I mean with me because I forced my wife to play it. I think she was eaten by something.
Mansions is MUCH easier on pretty much every level. I picked up Mansions at PAX East this year and was able to start playing with people I had never met in about 10 minutes (if that).
As for me, I find that both games are in the upper echelons of complexity for the average board game person, and neither game should be the first stepping stone for someone coming from Monopoly or Sorry! Those looking to take the leap towards these two titles ultimately might find a better game in Arkham Horror, not because the rules are any simpler than Mansions or the game itself is “easier,” but because the team aspect of play makes it a wholly collaborative game rather than a game that in the end makes you really hate one of your friends for a while. The anger-at-your-friends factor is not a deal-breaker for Mansions, as it is really fun to play and is quality through and through, but having weathered multiple play-throughs of both, Arkham Horror‘s difficulty and penchant for player-failure always brought up the excitement of tense moments without any of the residual frustration that comes from your friend doing the same thing over and over to block your progress (as you will see a lot in Mansions).
It kind of comes down to a decision between a Pandemic-esque game and a Dungeon & Dragons-esque game. If you want a title that rewards collaboration among everyone playing, where you win or fail together, Arkham Horror is your game. If, however, you don’t mind that one of your friends will have control over all aspects of the “bad-guys” of your game, then Mansions of Madness will be fine for you. The real problem in comparing the two games is that neither are bad, and if I got a call asking me to come play either of the games, I would say, “Yes.” If you have the money, pick them both up, and alternate game nights with each.
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