*About 60-90 Minutes
The Big Book of Madness is a cooperative game. The idea behind the game is that everyone is a magician that has gone into the library's restricted section and opened up the "Grimoire" book of monsters. In the Grimoire book, there are 6 monsters you have to fight to win. You don't have to defeat any of the first 5 monsters, but you have to defeat the last monster. Throughout the game, you fight monsters of the 4 types of elements, learn spells, and take on Madness cards. On your turn, you first move the "Invocation" marker (a book) to the next Invocation space, and take any consequences that appear on the card, then you use what element cards you have in your hand to either attack the Curse card, activate a spell you have, buy bigger elements cards, or learn a new spell. There are 5 turns between all the players, going clockwise, in a round to defeat each monster's Curse cards. You attack the monster by playing the needed element cards shown for the Curse card. Activating a spell means, discard the needed element to use one of your spells. Each player starts knowing 4 spells You can learn more spells by using your element cards. Each Magician can only hold up to 5 spells, so you may have to replace an old spell for the new one. Buying bigger elements means that you use 2 or 3 of the same elements to add a 2 or 3 of that element into your discard pile. At the end of the round you move the Round marker up the track. If your magicians defeated all Curse cards by the end of the fifth turn, you get a reward according to what the book says and you turn the page, or if you haven't defeated it, then you get the book's listed consequence. Once you have turned the page, you add the new curses depending on the difficulty you picked earlier. Your repeat this process until the last Monster, and if you defeat all its Curse cards you win the game.
Favorite Number To Play With: 2 or 4, not yet played it with 3.
Favorite characters and Why: The white girl or white boy, because they remind me the most of Harry Potter characters, Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood. Also I like their specials of drawing a card and discarding madness.
Least Favorite Character and Why: The green guy who allows you to hold 6 spell instead of 5. In a 4 player game I find that you are trying to fight curses so much that I don't have the opportunity to buy many spells. In a 2 player game this card could be more powerful, but I tend to play other characters because they have a special I like more.
Mechanics I like and Dislike- As a 2 player game I think all mechanics work nicely. As a 4 player game my group has won 1 of 4 games which was partially due to strategy, but I think having only 5 turns per a round is hard too.
Strategies As a 2 player game: On your first game, you try the easy of the 3 rounds so you can win pretty easily. Then I would suggest moving up to the 2nd or 3rd difficulty by adding Multi-Element cards sooner. Also I would suggest each player picking 2 elements to try and build up for and learning new spells with the corresponding colors.
Strategies As a 4 player game: As I said above my group has won 1 game as a 4 player game. So here is what we have tried and lost at a few times: trying to beat each monster to obtain more elements worth 2, trying to keep all elements equal in your deck, and getting rid of madness by curing it or destroying it. Strategy we have won 1 time with: losing to the first 4 monster's curses to prepare for the last monster's 2 Multi-Element curses and 3 others. This allowed us to buy more 2 and 3 element cards early on and then when we got to later monsters we had more elements to work with. Also I think when playing with 4 players each person should pick 1-2 elements and build up in them so when that element comes up your team relies on 1-2 players for it.
Favorite Art or Pieces- I love the Invocation mark, aka the open book piece, to mark the turn. I think it is an awesome thought out and designed piece to add to the game. I also really like looking at all the player cards and seeing how unique and magical the Magician cards look.
Final Thoughts: The game plays differently with 2 or 4 players. In the strategic way you play and build your deck, I think when you play 2 player you need to bump up the monster level from 1 to 2 or 3 because it is way too easy to build up elements. I wish the characters were known as Witches and Wizards, not Magicians. I think it sounds like you are doing tricks or illusions, compared to fighting curses and monsters.
7 out of 10 Stars
Favorite Number To Play With: I think the two player game is the best, because you get more turns to get things done and you don't sit around as much not doing anything. With four people, you usually only get one turn per round and that makes it a lot harder to do what you need to do.
Favorite Character And Why: The Red Guy who can discard a madness from their hand and draw a new card. It keeps you from losing card space to madness.
Least Favorite Character And Why: The Green Guy where you can have up to 6 spells, because I'm bad about buying spells to use, so this card ends up being useless to me.
Mechanics I Like And Dislike: I dislike that in a 4 or 5 player game you usually only get one turn per round.
Favorite Art Or Pieces: The book token is amazing, and the artwork on the cards.
Strategies: For a four player game, we found it is best to ignore the first monsters and build up our decks, so that we can successfully beat the last monster and win the game.
Final Thoughts: I liked this game more than I thought I would. It's cooperative, so that's a point in it's favor already, but I enjoy the concept of playing cards and defeating the monsters. I just wish it gave you more turns as a four player game so you could actually fight more monsters during the game without losing.
7 out of 10 Stars