First plays of Tower Of Madness, more King of the Dice and a return to Lotus – Tabletop Gaming Weekly

The big game that I got to the table this week was Tower of Madness from Smirk & Dagger Games. This game takes the Kerplunk mechanic and adds a Cthulhu mythos themed game to it.

I broke out Tower of Madness at EZY Mode and during that same event I also played King of the Dice and Lotus. In addition to the games played I also taught a few games and plenty of other games got played that I wasn’t involved in.

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. Some games mentioned in this post were provided by publishers for review purposes.

First thoughts on the marble based board game Tower of Madness

Three players playing Tower of Madness a marble based game from Smirk & Dagger games.One of the things that has been great about gaming at EZY Mode eSports Lounge is that we are getting a lot of new gamers out. This includes experienced players who I’ve never seen out at public play events before as well as people totally new to hobby board gaming. This past weekend we had a good mix of both.

Due to having so many new gamers show up, I’ve started bringing more and more gateway games to the event. This ties in well with last week’s article about modern gateway games, as most of what I brought were games that were listed in that article. Along with those I brought something new that I thought would also be a good modern gateway game; Tower of Madness.

Tower of Madness is published by Smirk & Dagger games and was designed by Curt Covert himself. It was released last year. I remember seeing it at Origins but I think the actual release was at Gen Con 2018. I managed to snag a review copy off Curt at Origins 2019. I taught and played Tower of Madness three times at last weekend’s event.

Playing the board game Tower Of Madness where Cthulhu meets KerplunkWhen I first saw Tower of Madness I was very worried it was nothing more than Kerplunk with a Cthulhu theme. I’m very happy to say that it’s much more than that. In fact, the tower itself is only a small, but important part of the game. Tower of Madness is actually a push your luck dice game. It’s only when you fail in your dice rolling that you pull tentacles from the tower and deal with any marbles that fall out.

I also thought it was cool that the marbles aren’t all bad things. While there are red madness marbles, which if you get four of those you go insane, and there are the green Cthulhu marbles that can end the game if they all come out before the players have won, the other marble types are not only positive but also more numerous than the bad marbles.

I’m going to be doing up a full review once I’ve played the game a few more times. So far I’m impressed that the game is more of a gamer’s game than I thought it would be. At the same time, I’m a bit disappointed by the actual tension and fun the tower provides. We’ve found that most pulls nothing drops, and then when some marbles do fall you often get a ton of them at once. Another odd aspect is that when you pass on your investigation but don’t roll high enough nothing happens. So you pass, but not good enough to get points, and that’s it. It’s more fun to fail in that case because at least you get to pull a tentacle. Finally, we’ve played three times and so far no one has gone insane, so we haven’t even gotten to experience that part of the game.

We played Tower of Madness two player and it worked.One other interesting thing that came up is that Deanna and I tried it two players. See the game says it plays three to five players but we had a good time playing with two. Deanna actually prefered our two-player play to an earlier five-player play. So it’s odd that the game says it only plays three to five, and I wonder why.

As for other people’s thoughts, the first game we played, with five players, everyone thought it was okay. One of the players noted they thought that there could be a good game there but that it needed more playtesting. I also heard complaints about not having enough components to track everything. The second group I taught was the complete opposite, they absolutely loved the game and were using their phones to see where they could buy a copy by the end of the night. The third play was that two-player game between Deanna and I, which was quite fun.

Right now I’m not going to be telling anyone to rush out and buy Tower of Madness, but I’m not going to talk anyone out of it either. For now, I think Tower of Madness sits in the Try Before You Buy category.

King of the Dice is proving to be rather popular with adults

I picked up King of the Dice at Origins 2019 as a game to play with my kids. I’ve played King of the Dice with my oldest daughter so far and she really enjoyed it. I haven’t had a chance to try it with our youngest yet. One of the things that I was curious about with this game is that if adults would enjoy it. I had a feeling it would be a great gateway game for non-hobby gamers and I got to test that theory this past Saturday.

Saturday after our first game of Tower of Madness, three of the five players from that game moved to another table with me and I taught them King of the Dice. I thought it would be interesting to transition from one push your luck dice game to another one.

Playing King of the Dice a push your luck family board game from HabaIn King of the Dice, players are rolling a set of six dice trying to match the pattern on various citizen cards that are laid out in a row in the center of the table. Each citizen is worth points, and above each citizen is a territory card. Both citizens and territories are colour coded and if the citizen matches the territory above it when someone claims the citizen they get both cards. The dice, in addition to having the numbers one to six on them also have the sides colour coded either red, blue or green. The patterns required to claim each citizen are unique and include a bunch of different patterns, some more difficult to claim than others.

To me, King of the Dice is a better version of Roll for It. Now Roll for It is marketed to adults, whereas this game is marketed at families. It’s part of Haba’s new Game Night Games line. This was my first time playing the game with only adults and I have to say it went over really well. People even dug the cartoony art style of the game. I remember at least one player was somewhat shocked by how good the game was and all four of us agreed that the actual push your luck dice mechanic was better in this family game than Tower of Madness.

While I only played King of the Dice once, I left the game set up and later in the night one of the players I taught the game to was teaching a group of people who showed up later in the evening. I checked in with them and was told that, again, everyone really dug the game.

So it looks like I need to add King of the Dice to my list of great gateway games that came out in the last three years.

Lotus, the card game, continues to be a solid thinky filler.

Last week I mentioned Lotus from Renegade Games, as a great modern gateway game, which is why I brought it to EZY Mode last Saturday. While I did sit down and play it with four players, none of them were new to gaming. It was the first time playing for the other three players and I think the game went over pretty well. The only issue is that EZY Mode serves adult beverages and one of the players may have been past the point in learning any new game at that point.

Playing the card game Lotus from Renegade Game Studios.I’m happy to say that I still really dig Lotus. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played my copy. It was talking about it last week that got me hyped to play it again and the game did not disappoint. I also realized that when I was explaining the game last week that I was a bit off on the scoring.

In Lotus, players are building flowers. Each turn the players can play two petals, cycle the cards in their deck, or play a guardian (which is a cute little insect meeple). The various flowers each have a different number of petals. The way scoring works is that when a flower is completed the person who finished the flower gets all of the cards used to make the flowers. These are worth one point each. In addition, the player who has an area majority based on their guardian markers, plus guardian symbols on the cards, either gets five points or gets to activate a special power. There are three of these special powers. One lets you play three or more petals a turn, another lets your hold more cards in your hand, and the last unlocks a special elder guardian that counts as two guardians when scoring.

Except for the fact that we had one player who had a bit of difficulty grasping the nuances of the game, our single play of Lotus went well on Saturday. I think I’m going to keep this one in rotation for a little while as I think it’s the perfect weight and style of game for that venue.

A wide variety of games got played at our event on Saturday.

A crowd shot from our EZY Mode game night.These were only the games I played on Saturday. Many other games got played at the event, I taught but did not play in a four-player game of Terraforming Mars with four new-to-me gamers. That actually went much better than I expected. I saw multiple rounds of Modern Art being played. A local game designer, Roger, was there showing off one of his own games. A group played Elder Sign near the end of the night.

I brought Sagrada and Go Cuckoo and both got played at some point. Deanna tried out a new to her game called Siberia, which she strongly recommends and insists I need to try. I even brought my copy of Zenteeko to help promote my review and giveaway and that got played by a group of three players who seemed to like it quite a bit.

Overall it was a great event. We continue to get more people out each month and I’m especially happy to see a lot of faces I’ve never seen out before.

So there you have the games I played for #WhatDidyouPlayMondays. How did you do this week?

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2 Responses

  1. Regarding the Tower of Madness. It sounds like you may not be distributing the marbles well in the tower (leading to ‘no drops’ and ‘mega drops’) So try an alternate way to load the tower. Place the bottom half tentacles first, drop in half the marbles, then the top tentacles and the rest of the marbles.
    Otherwise, it is likely your tentacle pulling strategy. You don’t want to avoid marbles, so unlike regular Ker-plunk, don’t pull out tentacles in layers. The wise strategy is to pull from all over throughout the game for a controlled fall.
    Give those things a try and see how it impacts play!

    – Curt

    1. Hey Curt,

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment. The games we played all ended due to the green marbles coming out before we have even gotten to the last location. What do you think of adding the green marbles last?

      One other question: As I noted in the article we tried the game 2 player despite it being listed as a 3-5 player game. Is there a reason you don’t recommend it at two?


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