Review: Tides of Madness

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Overview

Tides of Madness is a card drafting game for 2 players, ages 10 and up, designed by Kristian Curla, and published by Portal Games. Games are intended to last around 20 minutes.

Setup

Setup for ToM is minimal because the game has minimal components. All that is required is that you shuffle the deck of 18 cards and then deal five cards out to both players. The rest of the cards are placed face down to make your draw deck. And that’s all there is to it. Setup shouldn’t take longer than two minutes.

Gameplay

The goal of ToM is to be the player who has the most victory points (called VP in the rules) at the end of the game. The game is played over three rounds with each round having three phases, except for the last round which only has two phases. Before we go any further, let’s take a quick look at some of the cards.

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Sorry about the huge picture, my phone has no chill and I’d like for you to at least be able to see what I’m talking about on the cards.

All but three of the cards have a suit (seen in the upper left corner of the top two cards). There are five different suits. Each card also has an ability (seen at the top of the cards) which is usually ended with a number and star symbol that represents how many VP you stand to earn for fulfilling the requirements of the cards ability. The tentacles (seen on the left side of the top most card) represent madness and will net you a madness token if you play it during your turn. We’ll get to that presently though.

With that information in mind, lets head into the phases. As I stated above, there are three phases and those phases are: Drafting, Scoring, and Refresh.

The Drafting Phase is played thusly:

  • Each player chooses a card from their hand and lays it down in front of them.
  • The players swap hands and chooses another card to lay down.

Those two steps are repeated until both players have no cards remaining in their hands. It is then time to move into the next phase of play.

The Scoring Phase starts when both players are out of cards in thier hands and it goes a little something like this:

  • Players each take one madness token for each card they laid down that features tentacles on the lefthand side of the card. The player who gained the most madness during the previous phase then gets to choose whether they want 4 bonus VP or to discard one of their madness tokens (this is a valid option as reaching 9 madness tokens causes you to lose the game).
  • Next, players check to see how many (if any) of their cards’ ability requirements have been met. For each one that has, players score those points.

And that’s all she wrote. It’s on to the next phase.

The Refresh Phase is the final phase of the round and this is how it goes:

  • Players gather up all the cards they laid down in that round to reform their hand.
  • Each player chooses one card to keep and lays it down in front of them.
  • Each player then chooses another card from their hand and discards it from play entirely.
  • Both players then draw cards again to ensure they have five cards in their hands.

And that’s everything. Play continues through those three phases until the end of the third round, in which, the refresh phase is skipped and a winner is declared. It is entirely possible that one or both players lost due to gaining madness before the end of the third round.

Quality of Artwork and Components

Being a fan of Lovecraft and Lovecraftian themes (hell, my two favorite games right now are Eldritch Horror and the Arkham Horror LCG) this game really hits the spot for me on an aesthetic level. The cards are oversized and really showcase the great artwork on the faces of the cards.

The game components are quality work; the cards have a good weight, thickness, and finish. The rule sheet is a single, double-sided piece of cardstock made to look like a torn out journal entry or the like. Even the box is about the right size for the game. Could it have been smaller? Probably, but it really is fine how it is I think.

Verdict: Nay

Fawning over the artwork aside, I wouldn’t find myself recommending this one, at least not for you to purchase for your on collection. After a few plays I didn’t feel like the game was really all that engaging. It’s an okay game and, if someone you know already owns it and you have the opportunity to play, sure, go for it.

My only other though for this review is the madness token threshold of 9 that causes you to loose the game. 9 felt way too low. If you ever play, maybe you’ll see what I mean. Or its also entirely possible that I’m a bit of a reckless player.

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