Tower Of Madness by Smirk and Dagger Games Review

Theme and What is it?

An ancient evil has begun to unlock paranormal gates that link our world to theirs. It is your duty to seek out the portals and reseal them. You must investigate the source of these open gates and discover ways to shut them before the all-powerful Cthulhu breaks over to our world and consumes it. Even now, time is short. His influence and horror can be felt. Strive to stay strong of will and mind. The closer you get to Cthulhu’s realm will lead to a loss of sanity. Can you save the world without losing your marbles?

Gameplay Mechanics

Tower Of Madness is a push-your-luck dice game. It also involves a marble dropping element. Players take part in the current investigation by rolling dice to see, not only who is able to complete the investigation, but also who the lead investigator for the investigation will be. The lead investigator takes the investigation card at the end of the round and is awarded victory points equal to the points shown on the card. During a round, if any investigator is not able to complete the investigation, they must draw a horror tentacle from the tower. Any marbles that drop are given to that player or placed on the tower. Marbles are of four varieties. 1-Madness Marbles (red). Get four of these and a player goes insane. 2-Spell Marbles (white). A player can add a spell to their hand each time they get a spell marble. 3-Discovery Marbles (blue). These give the players three additional victory points for each blue marble. 4-Doom Marbles (green). If all three of these drop Cthulhu is released and the world burns. 

While players remain sane, they continue to take part in investigations. If the sane players are able to complete a preset number of investigations before the last Cthulhu marble drops from the tower, they stop the ancient demon from entering our world. Points are then scored by adding investigation totals and blue marble points. The winner is the player with the highest score.

If a player ever receives their fourth madness marble, they immediately go insane. There is no going back from this once it has happened, even if they drop below the four madness marbles. The insane player no longer takes part in the investigations to stop Cthulhu. Their only desire is his return. Insane players actively work to hinder the investigation.  They pull a horror tentacle each time it is their turn to try and drop all three Cthulhu marbles. If the final Cthulhu marble is dropped by an insane player, they are crowned “Doom Bringer” and Cthulhu rewards them by eating them last. Thus making them the “winner”. 

Initial Impressions

Taking the clock tower out of the box and getting it set up was a lot of fun and created anticipation to play the game. The clock tower with horror tentacles poking out set a great tone for the game, giving it a haunted, eerie feeling. That alone was so impressive, and it definitely had a wow factor. There were so many elements that brought the game together—pulling horror tentacles, worrying about marbles falling, attempting to score the highest dice combination to be the lead, and trying to stay sane. There was no doubt, I knew this game was not going to disappoint. 

Game Build Quality

Tower Of Madness has a real wow factor with the giant clock tower. Because it is so cool, it is naturally the piece I worry about the most. Although it is susceptible to wear and tear, it is actually a very nice component. It is made of a very heavy card board and it folds over on itself to lay down flat in the box. When you put it together the ends attach to each other by magnets, which is fantastic. The Roof is a little flimsy, but it also attaches together with magnets. The marbles are very nice and all of the player cards are thick. If you are careful with everything, I don’t see any issues with your components. But that is usually true with most games. Really though, it’s all about those tentacles, right? They are super cool and add a major effect to the game’s theme and story. 

Artistic Direction

Tower Of Madness gets two thumbs way up from me when it comes to the artwork. It captures the classic Cthulhu theme very well without feeling like a “me too” rip off. Cthulhu themes are popular for a reason. They are instantly recognizable and allow players to feel at home in a game. Tower Of Madness captures the “at home” feeling but still has its own creepiness and flavor. The artistic team responsible did a great job taking something very familiar and making it their own.

Fun Factor

I made it this far in the review without a Kerplunk reference. I should get some kind of reward! So maybe I am dating myself, but right when I saw Tower Of Madness I said to myself, “That’s Kerplunk on Cthulhu steroids!” That was all that my brain needed to tell itself before I was begging Smirk and Dagger to take my money. Let me tell you. Tower Of Madness did not disappoint. It was a thrill ride from start to finish. It moved quickly and had its ups and downs as each player tried to score the most points each investigation. Once one player went insane, it really heated up because the rest of us knew that our time to investigate had just decreased drastically. After the game was over, everyone was making plans on when to play it next. It was a huge hit. We even left it set up after we were done, just so people could see it when they stopped by the house.

Age Range & Weight

Tower Of Madness is rated 10+. The graphics are a little creepy and there is a Victorian style horror feel to everything involved in the game. It shouldn’t be too scary for kids, but parents will need to judge that for themselves. As far as game play goes, I think that as long as young players can read and understand the push-your-luck elements of the game they should really enjoy it. It can be a difficult game to make it through without your character going insane. Kids may need a little coaching once that happens to them because all of the sudden their objectives in the game completely change. There are marbles in the game, so care should be given if playing when infants and toddlers are around.

Conclusions

Once you have Tower Of Madness set up on your table you should take a moment to let yourself feel the overwhelming sense of impending doom. The huge tower and foreboding artwork has amazing table presence. Players will want to suspend their disbelief and get involved with all the cool elements of Tower Of Madness that pulls you into the backstory of the game. Let yourself become an investigator and feel the urgency as you struggle to reseal the otherworldly portals. This will make the game and all of the art work even more enjoyable. 

The time is drawing closer. Cthulhu’s vile tentacles are passing through to our world. Haste may be the only thing we have left to rely on. Keep your wits about you so you don’t lose all your marbles! 

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