Tower of Madness

Tower of Madness

I initially saw this game in a post by Tantrum House shortly after Gencon. It appeared to combine two items that are dear to me: Kerplunk (a childhood game favorite of mine) and Cthulhu (a dark theme that you simply can't go wrong with). I HAD to try it. 

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 About 

  • Designer: Curt Covert
  • Publisher: Smirk & Dagger Games
  • 3-5 players
  • 30-45 minutes
  • Dice rolling
  • Action
  • Press your luck
  • Take that
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Setup 

  • Place the tower on the base tray.

  • Insert tentacles in the holes outlined in green. The tentacle sticks exit the hole directly opposite the one it entered (not outlined in green).

  • Place the yellow marble aside. Pour the remainder of the marbles into the top of the tower.

  • Gently shake the tower back and forth to distribute the marbles and place the roof on top of the tower.

  • Place the Unnatural Influence tokens on the table.

  • Deal 2 spell cards to each player. Put the rest of the spell cards on the table to form the spell deck.

  • Give each player an investigator and a tracker board.

  • Set aside the location card named The Clock Tower. Shuffle the location cards and deal face down a number of cards depending on player count. Place The Clock Tower face up on top of this deck.

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Gameplay

The game is played in a number of rounds equal to the number of locations in the location deck.  

During each turn:

1. Reveal a location card:

  • Read the card name, discovery points and special rules out loud.

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2. Each player takes their turn with play proceeding in clockwise order:

  • Investigate the location by rolling a set of 5 dice. On every roll the player must lock at least one die and keep rolling until all 5 dice are locked. To succeed a location the player must lock a Gate (1), Heart (2) and Mind (3). The remaining two dice are locked into the discovery dice slots.

  • The first successful investigator of the round marks the total of their discovery dice on the discovery track with the yellow marble and becomes Lead Investigator for the round. Any player can claim Lead Investigator by beating or matching the current Leader's discovery dice total.

  • A player who is unable to lock a Gate, Heart and Mind fails the location and must draw a tentacle from the tower. Any marbles that fall take immediate effect and are placed onto the player's tracker board (Blue: 3 points, White: Draw a spell card, Red: If you have 4 or more you become insane, Green: When the 3rd one falls Cthulhu rises and the game ends).

  • If an investigator rolls exactly two 5's in a single throw they may take an available Unnatural Influence Token. These tokens all have a special ability that can be used once before the end of the round.

  • Players can also play spell cards but must follow the timing listed on the card.
  • If the player has gone insane they no longer take their normal actions during their turn. Instead they simply draw a tentacle from the tower in attempt summon Cthulhu. The player may still cast spell cards using the insane ability in lieu of the sane ability.
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3. Award discovery points to the lead investigator for the round: 

  • After all players have had a turn the Lead Investigator wins the location and it's discovery points. If no investigator was successful the location is discarded (If everyone fails the final location it must be faced again).

  • Pass the first player token clockswise, return all unnatural influence tokens and begin a new round.

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End Game  

  • If the final location in the deck is successfully completed before the third green marble drops the investigator with the most discovery points wins the game.

  • If the third green marble falls as a result of an insane player drawing a tentacle from the tower, that insane player wins the game.

  • Otherwise no one wins

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My thoughts 

  • The components are good quality. The only component I struggled with was the tower as it holds together magnetically but sometimes pops open. To solve this I flexed the tower outwards in both directions prior to putting it on the tray and had someone hold it together while dropping the marbles in. When I put the roof on the tower I made sure the connection seam was not placed on the same seam as the tower. For the first few games I had someone hold the tower closed when pulling out a tentacle but the more we play the less it seems to be a problem.

  • Setting up the tower is a little bit tedious because you have to take the time to put all the tentacles through the right slots. If you're playing the game because it reminded you of Kerplunk this isn't going to bother you one bit. Plus it looks really freaking cool when you're done. The remainder of the components take virtually no time at all the prepare. In the end, the set up time is appropriate for the length of the game.

  • The game is quick to teach and easy to learn. The rule book is actually very detailed and includes lots of photos to help you along the way. I think the most challenging thing about the game is remembering that you have spells and when you can use them, something you will quickly get accustomed to.

  • Even though the game is somewhat co-operative at first, there is still opportunities to hinder your opponents. There are rules in place to ensure that no one player gets picked on too much in one round which is nice if back-stabby games aren’t normally your thing.

  • It’s interesting that once you go insane your objective changes completely. I love that instead of eliminating a player, that player simply starts working against all other players. All insane players are trying everything in their power to be the first person to summon Cthulhu thus dooming their opponents to a loss. You also have no way of knowing if you will go insane. Everything could be going in your favour until you drop enough red marbles to go insane on a single turn.

  • There is not a terribly huge amount of decisions to make during gameplay but there is enough to make it enjoyable. You can choose to play more conservatively in order to increase your chances of solving the location or you can press your luck a bit more in hopes of solving the location with a higher investigation total. You also get to choose which spells you cast and who they target.

  • It's important to remember that not all marbles are bad so if there's no chance of winning Lead Investigator it's likely in your best interest to draw a tentacle and hope for more points or spell cards.
  • I like that the game has two win conditions, one for a sane win and one for an insane win. This isn't too uncommon for games based in the Cthulhu mythos. It is an aspect of Lovecraftian themed gaming that I enjoy. I don't mind that it's possible for everyone to lose either. It just makes sense that if Cthulhu is accidentally summoned during a game, EVERYONE is going down. 
  • The game has a balance of hand management, press your luck and take-that mechanics without introducing player elimination. The game would be great for families, gateway gamers, during light game nights or as a filler between heavier games. I might not recommend the game to anyone that dislikes luck based games or anyone that enjoys exclusively heavy games.

Where to buy

Always try your local gaming store first but if you have a case of the Buy It Nows you can click one of the links below: 

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If you've played the game, are looking forward to playing the game or have any thoughts you'd like to share, I would love to hear them. Leave me a comment in the section below. Thanks for reading. 

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