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Review: Deep Madness

Basic setup required to start the first
Scenario of Deep Madness.
Deep Madness is neither a well-designed game system nor a very fun game game to play. Ironically, its core systems and game loop lack both depth and refinement, making for a arbitrary, tedious and ultimately a very boring experience for a table of five players. 

We gave it two full sessions and ended up bouncing off of it completely. Hit the jump for a short review.

Whatever the game's ultimate failings, I will, however, say that the fundamental idea is a good one. Deep Madness as a game system presents like a streamlined Arkham Horror with simplified dungeon crawler combat (think Descent). And the idea of releasing that with a ready-made library of horror/sci-fi expansion (with liberal hat-tips to popular movies and books in the genre) content seems pretty smart.

The wheels fall off rapidly, however, as players in a six-player game frequently end up waiting nearly half an hour to perform their one-minute turns and a blizzard of tokens begins to blanket the board (and on the player/monster cards), sending alpha players repeatedly back to parse a rules book pockmarked with odd little symbols while non-alpha players, who have already given on parsing the shambolic board/token design and retreated to their phones to mash the like button and/or swipe right, passively concede their turns to the alphas.

Which, frequently is just as well, because the worst-designed part of the system is the defeat/failure conditions, which frequently occur with no warning, early in a session and without any real opportunity for players to attempt to avoid or resist them.

Excessive reliance on RNG (dice, blind-draw decks, random tokens, etc.) makes the overall game design feel amateurish/unpolished and ultimately ends up guaranteeing that success feels as arbitrary as failure. 

In summary, arbitrary, tedious and ultimately pointless narrative and gameplay designs render the core game and its numerous expansions little more than a bucket full of high-quality figurines and a freezer bag full of strange little tokens.

As an all-in Kickstarter Backer, I unfortunately have to conclude that there is just not much to recommend Deep Madness as a game system.

This review was originally published on BoardGameGeek.com as a 2/10 user review.