Tides of Madness – Portal Games – Review

"I could have never imagined such a smart game could fit into just 18 cards! The drafting and abilities are ingenious."

Theme and What is it?

Tides of Madness is a Cthulhu themed game of 18 cards.  You become an adventurer seeking information about the ancient Cthulhu knowledge.  This will be a challenge since knowing learning these things will drive you mad.

Gameplay Mechanics

This is a drafting, set collection card game with a few twists.  Each card has a suit, an ability, and sometimes a symbol indicating the information drives you mad.  The ability on the card determine the condition or sets you must collect to gain a certain number of Victory Points.

There are three rounds in which cards are drafted one at a time and then revealed.  When all the cards have been received by the players the scoring takes place and madness tokens are assigned.  If anyone reaches 9 or more madness, they lose the game.

The number of cards fluctuate in each round.  Some are removed and some are added each time.  To play the game well it is good to keep track of which card is where.  This is not so easy since there are 3 cards in each of the 5 suits.  There are also 3 other cards with special abilities that are not part of any suit.

At the end of each round players take note on who has the most madness tokens.  That individual either has the option to take 4 additional victory points or heal by discarding 1 madness token.  Play your cards well and you can rake in the victory points.  One of the card abilities gives you one victory point per madness token.

Initial Impressions

I had heard this was a good game but I was skeptical due to its small size.  I had no idea how a card game of 18 cards could be so intriguing.  I hadn’t known anything about Cthulhu at the time so thought I was looking at a giant sea monster on the front cover.

Game Build Quality

The components are all good quality.  There are 18 cards, a pencil, a notepad for scoring, and 20 madness tokens.  The tokens are sturdy cardboard and the cards are good quality.

Artistic Direction

The art is fantastic in this game.  It conveys great movement, rich colors, and expansive scenes.  The immensity of the beasts is portrayed in stunning compositions.  I particularly like how I never felt like I was playing a basic card game with suits.  The symbols and abilities where more like captions on artwork rather than artwork on a card game.

Fun Factor

I could have never imagined such a smart game could fit into just 18 cards!  The drafting and card abilities are ingenious.  This is one of those games you can play over and over, always needing to change strategies in order to succeed.

Age Range & Weight

This game is age 10+ and that is, in my opinion, accurate.  It has been my daughter’s all-time favorite game for a long time.  Out all the games this crazy-reviewing-board-game-mom has, this is THE ONE for her.  She was 13 when she fell in love with it and will still play it with anyone at the drop of a hat.

Conclusions

Tides of Madness is a power-house in a tiny package.  It is a great strategy game in under a half hour.  It is so simple yet so complex.  I’m not a Cthulhu fan but I’d be mad not to enjoy such a rich game.  Here is an example of great artwork meeting a wonderfully designed game in a small package. 

Bravo!