My love for Dungeons & Dragons is well documented at this point. I’ve spoken many, many times about how my very first D&D set was the lovely Basic D&D starter set in its iconic red box edition in the mid-80s. Full of wonderfully bizarre and unique monsters such as the Gelatinous Cube and Owlbear – alongside more ‘standard’ creatures such as the Red Dragon, it’s these monsters that players can take the roles of in Monster Madness, the latest expansion to the fast-paced dungeon combat game, Dungeon Mayhem.
Aside from being able to play as one of a selection of six monsters, there’s some other excellent additions to the basic Dungeon Mayhem game included in Monster Madness (and if you want to see my review of the base game, you can do so here – as well as a review of the first expansion, Battle at Baldur’s Gate, here). There’s a 5-6 player variant in which players can only attack the players to their immediate left and right, which – in theory – should stop players being eliminated too quickly. The box – as well as being consistent with the same appealingly quirky, cartoon style seen in the rest of the Dungeon Mayhem line – seems incredibly oversized considering it only contains six small decks of cards, but it’s designed to accommodate all twelve currently available Dungeon Mayhem decks. It even comes with illustrated dividers, coloured to match each deck, to make it easier to pick your character for your next game. It’s a brilliant package.
The game itself features the same quick, simple and addictive Dungeon Mayhem gameplay. As with the other decks that are currently available, the special powers and witty card names are nicely themed to each character, with wonderfully amusing illustrations on each. Iconography is as clear and easy to follow as ever, with player aids to assist with getting used to the special powers and abilities of each character.
Some of the new abilities are a little confusingly worded, however – and the FAQ included in the rules doesn’t address one or two of the issues that cropped up during play. It does mean that Monster Madness lacks the pick-up-and-play immediacy and simplicity of the basic game. Though having 5-6 players is initially great fun, it does mean that the game runs a little longer in practice, with the potential for it to be a lot more drawn out than you may be used to with vanilla (or Baldur’s Gate) Dungeon Mayhem.
That said, the fact that this can be entirely standalone without needing the rules of the basic game does give it some extra value. Though Battle at Baldur’s Gate does technically include everything you need for a two player game of Dungeon Mayhem, it lacks the full rules that are included with the base game and Monster Madness, so in theory you wouldn’t be able to play it without one of the other sets. Not so with Monster Madness, which has everything you need (including extra tokens for every single character – even the ones included in other sets).
I’ve really enjoyed getting to grips with the various characters too; the Owlbear, the Red Dragon, the Gelatinous Cube, the Mimic, the Mind Flayer and the Beholder are such a wonderful collection of iconic D&D monsters, all with their own quirks that totally fit their respective abilities.
Whether or not you start exploring Dungeon Mayhem with the basic game or Monster Madness is a matter of personal taste, but also potential group size – with the option to play up to six players right out of the box, along with a brilliant storage solution if you do decide to expand further – Monster Mayhem may well be the first port of call. Then again, the simplicity of the original decks and the more standard D&D character classes it includes may well be of appeal.
It won’t break the bank to invest in the full set of twelve decks in any case, when you’re ready to. Dungeon Mayhem is still a brilliantly fun and simple to play card game even when you’re on the side of the monsters, it seems. Monster Madness is a nicely comprehensive, well designed package and an excellent ‘expandalone’ title that’s well worth playing.
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