News for November 2010
Your Host for this Evening's Horror 31
A preview of the keeper's turn in Mansions of Madness
Mansions of Madness | Published 10 November 2010

Gloria Goldberg tried to keep her breathing steady, but it was no use. Her heart was threatening to burst from her chest, beating a rhythm more frantic than the pounding rain outside. She stepped carefully, her probing arms navigating her through the darkness. A sound came from behind her; claws across the wooden floor. She spun around, but it was no use. The blackness was infinite. Then the lightning crashed, and she saw the shape come for her. Cold hands grasped her throat, pulling at her hair. It wasn’t until she fell to the ground that she realized she was still alive. But a feeling of foreboding came over her as she heard her assailant’s feet scurry off back into the darkness. Something more terrible than death was coming. She could feel it...

An evil plot is unfolding in Arkham, and a handful of unfortunate investigators have become wrapped up in it. A mysterious mastermind orchestrates the events, guiding his minions on their quest to bring about a terrible outcome. In our recent investigations into Mansions of Madness, the macabre board game of horror, insanity, and mystery for 2-5 players, we have seen how the keeper sets up his story for the game, how players set up their investigators, and what investigators can do on their turn. Today we’ll look at the keeper, and what diabolical options he has on his turns.

A bit of housekeeping kicks off the keeper’s turn, but his most important steps are as follows:

  • Gain Threat step
  • Keeper Action step
  • Monster Attack step
  • Event step

The Keeper Action step is the where the bulk of the keeper’s choices lie during his turn. But in order to execute Action cards (or perform other maneuvers that we’ll discuss later), the keeper will need to stock up on Threat - his “currency” for nasty tricks. A number of Threat tokens are generated each turn equal to the number of investigators playing. So in a 5 player game, the keeper would gain 4 threat (one for each investigator) during the Gain Threat step of his turn.

The options the keeper has on his turn (in other words, which Keeper Action cards he has before him) depend on which story is being played. During his setup the keeper gathers the Keeper Action cards (typically about 4 or 5) specific to the scenario. These cards have a variety of functions, and are the keeper’s key to completing his objective.

To activate a Keeper Action card, the keeper pays the appropriate threat cost (but doesn’t discard that card). Some Keeper Action cards enable him to draw Mythos and Trauma cards (which we’ll discuss later), while others allow the addition of minions and environmental effects to the game. As an example, let’s imagine the story gives the keeper the following cards: Summon Worshippers, Summoning, Command Minion, and Dark Ritual. Those four cards are placed face-up in front of the keeper, and he can spend the threat required to activate them over and over again throughout the game.

The keeper can play as many Keeper Action cards (multiple times) as he can afford. Some Keeper Actions allow him to draw Mythos cards, but he’ll have to wait to use them; Mythos cards represent “interrupt effects” that the keeper can only play during an investigator's turn. Like Keeper Action cards, the makeup of the Mythos deck is dictated by the story you’ve chosen to play, and each card has a Threat cost. Unlike Keeper Action cards, Mythos cards must be discarded after they’re played. So if the keeper seems to be hoarding Threat and Mythos cards, expect the unexpected! Your gear may crumble at the worst time, a painting may fly off the wall and toward your head, or you may even find yourself an unwilling puppet of evil!

Monsters only move as a result of Keeper Action cards such as Command Minion, but if an investigator finds himself in the same space as a monster during the keeper’s turn, combat may ensue.

During the Monster Attack step of his turn, the keeper may choose to attack investigators in any space they share with a monster. We’ll discuss combat in a future preview, but suffice it to say that simply beating the investigators down may not always be the best strategy. Instead, the keeper might let them live in order to inflict physical and psychological suffering on them. Trauma cards (such as Claustrophobia) can typically be played on investigators whenever they take damage or horror, and they’re a great way for the keeper to add insult to injury.

The final step of the keeper’s turn is the Event step, in which he places a timing token on the back of the top card in the Event deck. Each story has its own Event deck, and when the tokens on this deck equal the number on the topmost Event card, that card is flipped over and read aloud. This deck often serves as a game timer, since the final event provides a game-ending condition in many cases. More often, the Event deck serves to deepen the plot and provide exciting environment-changing conditions.

All together, the keeper has a number of compelling decisions to make on each turn, and it all contributes to the overarching feel of a cohesive and engaging narrative. Join us next time for another look at 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 (31)

Published: 11/11/2010 4:04:41 AM

Yes in Claustrophobia, breath should be breathe.

I wish FFG would higher a proofreader, l am getting fed up with the spelling errors in most of their games.

Published: 11/10/2010 6:22:05 PM

I guess this will be the game for our group when we don't feel like playing something time consuming like CoC RPG, yet don't want to settle for "just another round of Arkham". It looks great so far, I'll make sure to pick it up come release day, whenever that will be for the Swedish market. 

Tarot Mage
Published: 11/10/2010 5:36:42 PM

Re: "Claustrophobia" card

"I can't breath"?

"I can't BREATH"????


How about in exchange for the complete set of Arkham Horror figures, I'll proofread all the reading materials in this game to prevent mistakes like that one from making it into print?

...why yes, I did in fact graduate with a degree in English.   :D

Published: 11/10/2010 3:39:00 PM

Man, that sounds awesome.  Mythos cards yet again introduced to mess with the investigators.  I'm intrigued by the Keeper Action cards.  You'll have an idea as an investigator what the Keeper is doing, but never know for sure.

Old Dwarf
Published: 11/10/2010 3:34:37 PM

It would be nice...but the cold depths of February are Lovecraft

Published: 11/10/2010 3:28:09 PM

The summon worshippers, then use summoning and sacrifice cultists concept is AWESOME.

Published: 11/10/2010 2:15:37 PM

I cant wait for this game to be released...



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