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Mystery Mansion Board Game Review and Rules

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How to Play

Objective

To be the first player to leave the mansion with a treasure chest that actually contains treasure.

Setup

Place the foyer room face up in the middle of the table with the front door card next to the double doors on the foyer card. Place all of the other room cards face down off to the side.

Setup for Mystery Mansion

Without looking at the numbers on the bottom of the chests, randomly put one cobweb or treasure token in each treasure chest and close each treasure chest.

Shuffle the clue and search cards separately. Deal five search cards to each player. Put the two decks of cards to the side.

Each player chooses a pawn and places on the front door card. The players choose who will go first.

A Player’s Turn

During each turn the current player will take three actions. The player can choose from the following actions to perform during their turn:

  1. Roll the door dice and move through the mansion.
  2. Play a search card from your hand.
  3. Play a clue card from your hand.
  4. Travel through a secret passage.

Players must perform three actions on their turn. They may perform the same action multiple times during a turn.

Moving Through and Building the Mansion

To move through the mansion a player has to roll the door dice. If they roll a “Locked” that action is wasted since nothing happens. To move, the player will have to roll the dice again. If the player rolls “Open” on the dice they can move into the next room. To begin the game all of the players will have to roll the door die in order to move into the mansion. Once in the mansion the player can use the door die to move to any adjoining rooms if they roll “Open”.

Movement in Mystery Mansion
The green player has rolled an open. They would get to move into the mansion.

Players can also choose to move to an unexplored room if they roll “Open”. Players can move through a door that doesn’t have a room attached to it which lets that player add the next room to the mansion. The mansion has three different floors including the basement, first floor, and second floor. Players choose which floor they would like to add and then randomly draw one of the corresponding room cards (basement-flat cards, first floor-shorter boxes, second floor-taller boxes). When adding a new room to the mansion a couple rules must be followed:

  • New rooms can only be one floor lower or higher than the room that it connects to.
    • Basement: Only another basement or first floor can be built next to a basement room.
    • First floor: A basement, first floor or second floor room can be built next to a first floor room.
    • Second floor: A first floor or second floor room can be built next to a second floor room.
  • At least one door on the new card must match up to one of the doors on the room that it attaches to.
  • The new room must share an entire wall with the room that it is being attached to.
Building the Mansion in Mystery Mansion
So far the players have added three rooms to the mansion. To the left they added the bath which is a second floor room. To the right they added the laboratory which is a basement room. On top the players added the kitchen which is a first floor room.

If the room drawn cannot be properly placed, the player draws a new room card and tries to place that room.

If the new room is a level higher or lower than the previous room, the player places a staircase on the lower level room. This staircase is used for the entire room so another staircase doesn’t need to be added to a room that already has a staircase.

After the room has been placed, the current player automatically moves into the new room without requiring another action.

Once a secret passage has been added to the game, the player has to use one action to move along a secret passage but doesn’t have to roll the dice to move through the secret passage. Once entering the secret passage the player can move to any other room that also has a secret passage.

Playing Cards

Mystery Mansion has two types of cards.

The most common type of cards are search cards. Most of the search cards picture various types of items located around the house. If the player is currently in a room that has one of the items pictured on a search card, that player can play the card to perform a search. The item pictured on the card doesn’t have to look just like the item in the mansion but has to be the same type of item. For example if the card features a chair, any style of chair in the mansion would count. If a player plays a search card in this way the player gets to take the top card from the search deck as well as the top card from the clue deck.

Searching Mystery Mansion
The green player is currently in the kitchen. They play a search card that features a sink. Since the kitchen has a sink in it the player will get to draw a clue card as well as another search card.

During the game players have no limit on how many search cards they can have. Other than cards that picture items there are some special types of search cards. Each time one of these cards are played the player gets to draw another search card.

  • Steal A Search Card From Any Player: Randomly take one search card from a player of your choice.
  • Change Places With Any Player: The player who plays the cards places their pawn in a room occupied by another player and then moves that player’s pawn into the room that they were previously in.
  • Move To Any Occupied Room: The player can move their piece to any other room occupied by another player.
  • Lose One Action Of Your Turn: Lose one of your actions for the current turn. The player does get to draw a new action card though.
  • Oops! You’ve Been Waylaid. No Clue Here: Play the card to get it out of your hand and be able to draw a new search card.

In addition to search cards there are clue cards that are acquired when you search a room. Any clue card that says that it has to be played immediately is automatically played when it is drawn. Playing one of these cards doesn’t count as an action. There are two other clue cards that must be played immediately.

  • Cobweb Card: Worthless card that is discarded immediately.Cobweb Card in Mystery Mansion
  • Treasure Card: All treasure cards are removed from the game when they are played. Randomly take one of the treasure chests and place it in the room that was just searched without anyone looking at the numbers on the bottom of the chest.

    Treasure Card in Mystery Mansion
    The green player searched the kitchen and found a treasure chest card. A treasure chest is placed into the kitchen.

The following cards are cards that are put into your hand and you need to use an action to play them.

  • Key Cards: Key cards give players the opportunity to claim and move treasure chests. See the section on Claiming and Moving Treasure Chests for more information.
  • Steal A Treasure: This card allows a player to steal a treasure chest controlled by another player. The player playing the card must be in the same room as the player that they want to steal a treasure from. The player you stole the chest from must give you the chest and the key that corresponds to that chest.
  • Steal A Clue Card From Every Player: When played this card lets the player steal one clue card from every other player. They must choose the cards randomly. If you steal a key card, you now control the key to a chest but you need to go to the room that the chest is currently in (the room that the player that controlled it is currently in) to claim it.
  • Secret Passage: When playing this card the player can create a secret passage between two rooms in the house (can’t place in the foyer). The player who played the card must put one of the secret passage pieces on their current room and can then put the other on any other room except for the foyer and the front door. The player then moves through the passage to the other room. In future turns any player can use the secret passage doors to move to any other secret passage room without having to roll the door die.

    Secret Passages in Mystery Mansion
    The green player played a secret passage card. They place a secret passage in the kitchen (their current location) and they place the other in the room in the top right corner. The green player would then move to the room in the top right corner.

Claiming and Moving Treasure Chests

Once a treasure chest is added to the mansion, players can try to claim the chest if they own a key card. The player has to move to the room where the treasure chest is located. They then play their key card and look at the bottom of the treasure chest. If the number on their key matches the number on the treasure chest, the player claims that treasure chest. Other players can steal the treasure if they play a card that steals the treasure or the key card that belongs to the treasure chest. Once the player has reached the front door or the foyer, players can no longer steal the treasure chest.

Keys in Mystery Mansion
This player owns the four key so they would claim this treasure chest if they go to this room.

The player moves with their treasure chest through the mansion after they have claimed it. If a player has a treasure chest in their control they can’t use secret passages. Players need to move the treasure chest to the front door before they are able to open the treasure chest and see if they won the game. Once the player has taken the treasure chest out of the mansion they can open the treasure chest to see if they have won the game.

Winning the Game

When players open their treasure chests there are two different outcomes. If the treasure chests contains a cobweb token, the treasure chest is empty and the game continues as normal. The treasure chest is discarded and all of the players continue playing the game looking for the treasure chest that actually contains treasure.

Empty Treasure Chest in Mystery Mansion

If the treasure chest contains one of the treasure tokens, the player who opened the chest wins the game.

Winning Mystery Mansion
The green player has opened the treasure chest and has found treasure. The green player has won the game.

Review

First created in 1984, Mystery Mansion is a board game that I have heard of before but until recently had never been able to play. In Mystery Mansion you play as an adventurer, robber, or greedy relative that is for some reason searching through a mansion to find the hidden treasure. The one unique thing about Mystery Mansion is the fact that you build the mansion while playing so two games shouldn’t play the same. While Mystery Mansion has some interesting mechanics, the game ends up being another average Milton Bradley roll and move game.

Mystery Mansion’s greatest strength is building the mansion itself. As you move through the mansion you add a new room to the mansion whenever you enter a new room. This mechanic means that it is very unlikely that you will ever play the same game twice. While this build as you go mechanic has become pretty popular in board games today, back in the 1980’s it was a pretty novel idea. You have to give a game credit when it tries something new that is actually a clever idea.

The best part about building the mansion is that the rules for building the mansion are quite simple. All you have to do is match doors and walls with the previous room while making sure that the new room only goes up or down one level. I really like the different heights of the levels which make the mansion come to life as you move up and down levels.

Unfortunately outside of the mansion building, Mansion Mystery doesn’t have much else to offer. Mystery Mansion is another completely average Milton Bradley roll and move game. Basically you play cards and roll the die in order to move around the mansion. Mystery Mansion relies heavily on luck since there is little strategy in the game. Players need to just get lucky to get the right cards to find and control the right treasure chests to win the game.

Even though the mansion building aspect of the game is the most interesting part of the game, due to how the game is set up it just isn’t used that much. For most games you won’t add that many rooms to the mansion. There really is no reason to expand the mansion to more than like seven rooms. The only real reason to add rooms to the mansion is to add rooms that include items that don’t exist in rooms already in the mansion. After there is a room with every type of item already in the mansion there is no real reason to add additional rooms because they will just make your path to the front door even longer.

Due to the mansions usually being pretty small, most of the treasures will end up being put in rooms pretty close to the front door. This makes it quite easy for players to take the treasures to the front door. This means that the game could theoretically end very quickly. If everything goes perfectly, a player could win the game in five to ten minutes if a treasure goes out right away, the player gets the corresponding key card, and the treasure chest is one of the chests that have a treasure hidden inside.

On the other hand the game could take quite some time. In the game I played the game took around 60-90 minutes. This was mostly due to the players not finding the treasure chests that actually contained the treasure. The first four treasure chests that were taken to the front door were empty. The game came down to the last three treasure chests before someone finally won the game. Mystery Mansion could easily be a really short or a really long game with there being no way to tell which one it will be.

The searching mechanics in the game are an interesting concept but don’t really add a lot to the game. Thematically it does and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you are looking for a hidden treasure you would have to search behind and under various objects in order to find clues to the treasure chests. It doesn’t make much sense thematically when you keep searching in the same area and sometimes find something and sometimes you don’t find anything.

The searching mechanics mostly adds luck to the game. The more search cards you have the better your odds of finding a matching object in any given room. This means that the number of cards that you have in the game can become really important. Since there isn’t a hand size limit you could end up with a lot of search cards which will give some players an advantage in the game. The other problem with the search mechanic is the fact that it is sometimes hard to see whether you could use a particular search card in a given room. Some of the objects in the rooms are really hard to see and tell what they actually are.

The biggest problem with the game though is probably the clue cards. The clue cards are kind of rigged. A lot of the cards are just cobwebs which are worthless cards. The treasure chest cards are also kind of worthless since while they put treasures onto the gameboard, the player that draws the card gets no advantage over the other players. The other clue cards are really powerful though. The steal treasure cards are powerful since they let you steal treasures from other players. The steal a clue card from every player card is the most rigged card though since you could end up getting multiple keys which could let you pick up a bunch of treasure chests.

Overall the components of Mystery Mansion are kind of disappointing. I like the idea behind building your own mansion but the rooms could have been better made. I like that the different levels are different heights. The problem is that the rooms are made of pretty thin cardboard and the items in some of the rooms are really hard to distinguish. The plastic pieces are decent even though the treasure chests tend to not want to stay shut.

While this review of Mystery Mansion is for the 1984 edition of the game, Parker Brothers actually updated Mystery Mansion a decade later in 1995. Despite having the similar name, Electronic Talking Mystery Mansion sounds quite a bit different than the original Mystery Mansion. The electronic game ditches the randomized mansion mechanic which is a shame since it is one of the best parts of the original game. Instead the game uses an electronic device that randomizes what a player finds in every room. The electronic version doesn’t sound at all like the original version of the game since it ditches the search cards, and even the treasure chests. The electronic version sounds like a more streamlined version of the game for better or worse.

Final Verdict

Mystery Mansion is a decent game with an interesting mechanic. Building the mansion is fun and a good idea that quite a few games have actually utilized in recent years. Unfortunately outside of building the mansion, Mystery Mansion is a very generic Milton Bradley roll and move game. You just move around the mansion hoping to get lucky enough to find and control one of the treasure chests that has actual treasure inside. Since there is really no strategy or skill in the game, luck is going to determine who ends up winning the game.

If you generally don’t like Milton Bradley games or roll and move games, you probably won’t like Mystery Mansion. If you like Milton Bradley games though and you like the idea of creating a new mansion every game, I think you should enjoy Mystery Mansion.

If you would like to purchase Mystery Mansion you can purchase it on Amazon here.

2 thoughts on “Mystery Mansion Board Game Review and Rules

  • June 1, 2018 at 10:52 am
    Permalink

    Think.
    Why would one of the players extend the mansion, making the exit further away from one of the rooms?
    (There is an answer countering the “why bother?” remark made in the review.)

    Reply
    • June 1, 2018 at 12:23 pm
      Permalink

      I haven’t played Mystery Mansion is over two years so I may be missing something with this comment. The only reason I could see for adding more rooms to the mansion after the first seven or so would be to build a path for yourself back to the entrance. I am guessing that I didn’t originally mention this in the review because I believe the mansion we created didn’t really have any rooms that didn’t have a pretty direct path back to the entrance. I don’t see a reason to build rooms further from the entrance as it will likely just make your path to the entrance longer and it would usually be better to visit the rooms closer to the entrance. I guess you could add a room so you can visit a specific type of room quicker but since you draw the rooms randomly there is no guarantee that you will draw the room you want.

      Reply

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