Mountains of Madness - Get your madness right!
Mountains of Madness is among our favorite games! The universe is diverse and the mechanics of the game
have been dubbed powerful. This interview came out when the game was released. It is a little old, however, just like H.P. Lovecrafts short stories, some things only get better with age.
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s popular short story, At the Mountains of Madness, Mountains of Madness is a comes to us from Rob Daviau (Pandemic Legacy), and is beautifuly illustrated by the great Miguel Coimbra (Sea of Clouds, Nessos, Fairy Tile and coming next Fall Kitara). Mountains of Madness is a fully cooperative game with a pinch of real-time gameplay. In this game, players have to team up to reach the top of the Mountain and then escape safely, but the Mountain has more than one trick up its sleeve. The players will soon realize that as they climb further and further up the mountains, their teammates become more and more mad. At each step of the game, the leader must ensure that he has gathered all the necessary equipment in order to keep going. As a plus, they will get to witness the increasingly bizarre behavior of his mad teammates.
Rob Daviau took some time to answer a few of our questions about this new game.
IELLO: What makes Mountains of Madness different from other Lovecraftian games?
Rob: There are so many good ones out there and most do a very good job of evoking the details of the world. But they tend to have some common traits: they run long, they have a lot of writing, and they really favor those who know the source material. I set out to do something that had less writing, ran shorter, and could have casual players join in. At some point I realized that it was more fun for the PLAYERS to feel insane rather than the CHARACTERS.
IELLO: Why make a party game in a Lovecraftian universe?
Rob: I was saying that early on but it’s not really accurate. It’s more of a social game or a communication game. The core of the game is about how to communicate with ever growing restrictions. It starts out with a time restriction but then gets worse and worse (or better and better depending on how you look at it).
IELLO: You are mainly known for coming up with very immersive games. In your opinion, is this something key to make a great board game?
Rob: It’s not something that is a key for all board games or for all designers but it works for me. I get excited by a story and by a plot and my mind just works that way. I occasionally do something less story-based and less immersive but not always. At some point during the design process, you grow tired of the game you are making because it keeps having problems. I think it’s important to have an idea you love and are comfortable with from the very start to help get you through those design rough spots.
IELLO: Unlike many other cooperative games, there’s no king speaker in Mountains of Madness. Is this something you intentionally worked to avoid?
Rob: It was a lucky side effect of the design. With everyone talking for 30 seconds it’s hard for one person to take control. Also, with a rotating leader, it gives everyone a chance to be in control.
IELLO: How long was the playtesting phase for this project, and what were the usual reactions from players?
Rob: The game was started in the fall of 2014 but the A-HA moment came in January of 2015. I threw away the old version I was working on and had a new version ready to play by April 2015. I turned over the final game at GenCon 2016 so it was about 14-18 months once I had the key idea.
IELLO: What were your main difficulties in the development of this game?
Rob: I started out on the wrong path, trying to do something more traditional. I got lucky with a flash of inspiration about communication. I noticed that a group of people can agree on something and then all walk away with different ideas about the conversation. I mentioned “This feels like I’m going crazy” and then the game idea fell into place.
IELLO: Is the final game close to the prototype that you approached IELLO with?
Rob: It’s close but it’s better. IELLO did an amazing job of taking my game and tightening it all up to something I’m really excited about. The art. I mean the art is jaw-dropping. I couldn’t be happier.
IELLO: For a game of this kind, what importance do you give to the illustration work?
Rob: All games are experiences and the art is important to all games. As are the pieces, the rules, the box, even the font used in the game. You can play any game without real art but it makes a huge difference.
IELLO: In the last few years, we have seen more and more people getting into boardgaming as a hobby. Why do you think people are getting more interested in board games?
Rob: The market has always been quite big. In part, what I think we’re seeing, is more people buying hobby games rather than games from Hasbro or Mattel. Those companies have really focused on the very young or games that are very simple and people are looking for something more.
IELLO: This interview is coming to an end. Is there anything else you’d like to add about Mountains of Madness?
Rob: I’m really happy with how this game came out.
Geek and Sundry: Mountains of Madness gets madness right. It’s such a simple idea – take an easy task and make it harder – but the execution is flawless. While you might never feel the kind of dread playing Mountains of Madness that a Lovecraft story might elicit, and the game doesn’t exactly follow the original book to the letter, you will genuinely feel like you’re starting to go mad. And that’s a more Lovecraftian experience than punching Cthulhu will ever be.