I generally hate party games. Sorry, I mean welcome to my review of Mountains of… nah screw that, listen I hate party games. If I want to party I can just enjoy myself with a group of people. I can let loose without being handed a card explicitly stating for me to do so.
Some games are just pure party and I hesitate to even call them games. Others have tried to mix real game with party elements with pretty below average results. Just make a game. If the players playing it are fun, the game will be fun. If the players are loud, the game will be loud and if they aren’t, well, that’s fine too!
So I played Mountains of Madness and wasn’t terribly excited. I was told I was going to try and play a game while slowly going crazy. So I get a hand of cards of four different categories in assorted numbers. A tile will get flipped and as a group, we have to come up with the values on the tile. For example, we need to come up with 6-8 Guns and 7-9 Supplies. We must do this in 30 seconds and we can’t undershoot or exceed the range.
We also get a 2nd kind of card that must be kept secret. This is my “Madness” and it’s a level 1. During our 30 second timer I have to continue to tap my fingers on the table while we discuss what’s in our hands and play our cards. Easy. A couple of rounds in and a couple of successful challenges later, my madness gets upgraded.
I no longer have to tap my fingers but now I can only talk to or respond to the player to my immediate right. Now we have a problem. I need to communicate my cards to the player but can’t respond to direct questions. This means the player to my right must also speak for me. The big issue though, and something I don’t know about til later, the player to my right also has a card that says they aren’t allowed to speak at all. They can only gesture and make grunts and such.
Our 30 seconds went from a brisk conversation to a communication nightmare. The biggest issue is no body knows what madness any other player is dealing with. The other players at the table are being ignored by me and can’t catch the hint so they keep trying anyway. My silent communication partner hasn’t been able to adjust to her role as someone who HAS to be my mouthpiece and her own.
We failed that challenge and a couple of others after that. Our madness got worse and our challenges got harder. What I thought was a goofy party game was a clever test of communication and team work with game changing decisions placed upon the shoulders of each player equally. When it’s your time to be a leader, you have to make choices on how to spend your resources and which members of the team you’ll put at risk when you fail.
My main and only gripe with the game is that SOME of the madness cards are just unnecessary annoyances. Having to sit on the ground during rounds doesn’t actually change anything, it’s not more or less engaging, it feels like an inconvenience. However, being unable to say numbers and being forced to replace them with the corresponding month of the year, is both hard to pull off on the fly and confusing enough to make an honest hurdle to your team’s communication.
If all of the game’s madness cards were consistent with that idea, the game would be exactly what I wanted from it. I wont marry it, but I’d date it for a while and I have certainly purchased it.