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Going Beyond the Threshold with Mansions of Madness

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-boxBeyond the Threshold is the first proper expansion for Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition. This new, digitally enhanced version of Mansions of Madness was released last summer, and if you’re not already familiar with the game, then I’d recommend you start by reading my review of it here, as I’ll be assuming you know how the basic game works for the rest of this review.

Beyond the Threshold follows on from the 2 tile-and-figure packs released back in the autumn, and the first downloadable scenario released around Christmas. It expands the game in a slightly different direction than we’ve seen previously, but how well does it work? Let’s take a look!

Beyond the Threshold: What’s in the box?

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-contentsAs you might expect, a “tile-and-figure” box came with lots of tiles and lots of figures. The pile of plastic and cardboard in Beyond the Threshold, is rather more measured – 2 new investigators, 4 copies of a single new monster, and a mere handful of tiles. However, Beyond the Threshold offers a lot of things we didn’t see in the earlier boxes. There are plenty of cards to expand the decks: new horror and damage cards, new items and spells and new conditions (additional madness cards, along with a new “mesmerised” condition). There are also scenario-specific person tokens, and markers to implement the new “Key” mechanic. Lastly there are top-ups to your supplies of clue, wall, fire and darkness tokens.

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-thrall

It’s a bit strange when the Thrall is described as an old man with a beard…

The component quality is as good as the core game – the tiles are beautifully drawn, the miniatures well sculpted and the card-stock good, although the clunky black monster bases haven’t got any better. Although there’s less in the way of physical bits-and-pieces than the summer releases, Beyond the Threshold feels like it has a lot more game in it. The thrall is the only monster but it certainly catches the eye, and makes for a fun addition to the game.

Who are the new folk? A Handyman and a Shaman!

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-wilsonThere are 2 investigators in Beyond the Threshold – Akachi Onyele is a Shaman, and Wilson Richards is a handyman. At first sight, Wilson looks like a good, solid all-rounder, a physically strong character whose ability is a modified version of Agatha Crane’s from the Core set, allowing him to become focused every time he completes a Horror Check. Recently Michael McGlen the gangster has been my go-to monster-basher, but Wilson looks like an alternative well worth considering.

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-akachi Akachi has a rather more specialised skill set – strong mentally rather than physically, her specific power is to avoid having to discard clues. Up until now, clue discarding wasn’t really that big a threat, so she doesn’t immediately leap out as a powerful choice, but she has a good skill set, and there are new effects in this box which will target your clues, so she provides a good level of protection against that.

The miniatures for both the new investigators in Beyond the Threshold are good: not too much flash from the casting in my copy, and they painted up nicely, which is always a bonus for me, as the aesthetic of the game is a large part of the appeal.

What else have we got? Something on the Cards

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-cardsBeyond the Threshold also adds cards to the various decks available to players: a handful of new Damage and Horror cards, some new Items (Common and Unique), some more spells, and new conditions.

The new Damage and Horror cards will go into the existing decks, allowing for a bit more variety when taking damage, as well as incorporating new mechanics into older games. Likewise, the Items and Spells give the game more options when providing you with starting equipment, or spawning things on the map for you to find.

For me, the most interesting new cards in Beyond the Threshold were the conditions, and these came in 2 types: additional Insanity Conditions, and a selection of cards for the new “Mesmerize” state.

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-insanity The insanity conditions add variety and, more importantly, they make things slightly more feasible in terms of meeting your new win condition: a lot of people really weren’t fond of the situation in the base game where you could suddenly find yourself with an impossible win condition 2 hours into the game – obviously, unless you sub those cards out, this is still something that can happen, but it’s a bit less likely with the new additions, as the ratios are improved.

Mesmerise is something completely new for Beyond the Threshold, a state in which you momentarily lose control of your investigator, and may find yourself moving (towards or away from other investigators), starting a fire, or attacking another investigator before regaining control. Mesmerise is used fairly heavily in the new scenarios for Beyond the Threshold, but can also crop up in older scenarios, either via horror checks, or via Damage or Horror cards.

I was really pleased with the selection of cards in Beyond the Threshold: they add variety, and new possibilities. That said, Beyond the Threshold won’t ‘fix’ insanity for those who found the random calls for betrayal a game-breaker to begin with – it’s less likely that you’ll find yourself with a condition that is impossible to satisfy (or with a condition that requires you to betray your fellow investigators), but it’s certainly not impossible. For me, that’s fine, but your mileage may vary.

Beyond the Threshold of the Mansion: New challenges

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-silverwood Beyond the Threshold comes with 2 new scenarios: Gates of Silverwood Manor and Vengeful Impulses. As the lack of scenario content was one of the main complaints people had about the base game, this is probably the most important addition that this box provides, and it’s a relief that both of the scenarios are really solid.

Gates of Silverwood Manor is where Beyond the Threshold really goes to town – you are exploring a deserted Mansion, looking for clues to a series of recent disappearances, but this time the Mansion itself will fight back: not only are there multiple layouts and set-up combinations, but even within a single scenario, individual rooms will move around the map, or disappear altogether, being replaced by something different. I really liked this scenario, as it pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, making full use of the app. It’s relatively long, and fairly difficult, given the amount of damage and horror you’re likely to suffer as you go along, but a fun experience nonetheless, and with enough variety to play repeatedly.

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-vengeful The second scenario in Beyond the Threshold is Vengeful Impulses. Vengeful Impulses takes a much more traditional approach to the map, and sees you called to the house of a wealthy client, and asked to investigate which of his dinner guests may be out to kill him. The high-level of interaction with Person tokens and low amounts of combat make this scenario rather reminiscent of Rising Tide, the 4th scenario from the Core box, but Vengeful Impulses definitely has its own character: there is more variety to the map, there are interact tokens that give you different options later in the game, and above all, it has a much more manageable play-time. Not quite as exciting or innovative as Gates of Silverwood Manor, but still fun, and both of the scenarios in Beyond the Threshold are solid, and hold up to repeat play-throughs.

Mansions of Madness: The ongoing experience

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-in-progressWhilst it’s easy to focus on the new scenarios and new investigators, it’s always worth remembering that an expansion like Beyond the Threshold will make an ongoing impact on how the game plays the rest of the time. Even the existing scenarios can take on a slightly different twist as your investigators find themselves with new equipment, or suffering new afflictions – whilst I wouldn’t want to overstate this, it’s certainly nice to be playing an older scenario and find a new challenge or opportunity suddenly presented by one of these cards.

I’ve not yet come across Mansion tiles from Beyond the Threshold in existing scenarios, and as Beyond the Threshold only comes with a single monster, it’s unlikely to have much impact in the area of combat, but it still opens up possibilities for the future, and I hope we’ll see more of these tiles in the future.

Final Thoughts: Stepping Beyond the Threshold

beyond-the-threshold-board-game-comparison Overall, Beyond the Threshold is very different from the tile-and-figure packs, and what it offers is very different. If you don’t own the first edition products and want to play this a lot or with big groups, I’d still be tempted to go for one of the figure packs first, as they offer so much more variety in terms of player-controlled investigators, tiles to explore and Monsters to fight. That said, there’s still a lot about Beyond the Threshold that’s really good. It’s a lot more economical – a smaller, sturdier box at an accessible price-point – and within that box, you get nuanced enhancements to things like card decks which you’re going to be using every single time you play the game. The scenarios in Beyond the Threshold are both good (one of them is great), and this box does a lot with a little in terms of expanding your Mansions of Madness experience.

Personally I would still have liked to have seen another couple of investigators and monsters, or at least an alternative sculpt for the thrall, but as this would probably have pushed the price up significantly, Beyond the Threshold is a very solid little expansion all things considered.

8/10 – Definitely worth getting if you like Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition.

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James Phillips

I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits in my new life as a dad. I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Dice Masters and Destiny) when I can make it out of the house.Competitively. When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.

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