Board Game Battle – Star Wars Imperial Assault vs Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth vs Mansions of Madness
We have a triple threat match this time as we have three heavyweights from Fantasy Flight facing off. The reason that they get to face off is because all of them have app integration.
What this means for all these games is that you don’t need to have someone playing the bad guys. Too often in a pseudo dungeon crawl you can have a situation where it feels like the one person running the monsters is up against everyone else and more facilitating their fun than having as much fun themselves. There are then games like Gloomhaven where no one has to run the monsters, but everyone still has to do stuff on the monsters turn. In these games, you get an app that does that, it tells you the rules for moving the monsters and what you have to deal with them. Or where to place tiles and what the puzzles are.
Let’s meet the contenders.
Imperial Assault is a Star Wars game where you are playing adjacent to the main characters, since you wouldn’t want to play as Luke and have him die before he can blow up the first Death Star. You, instead, play around the edges of the Star Wars world and the big stories that are happening in the original trilogy. It uses it’s app to help you know when to activate storm troopers and other troops out there, but you still have to go through, when someone activates and see which of the moves that they need to do.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth
JiME, as I’ll shorten it to, takes place between the movies, I believe, and it gives you an interesting combination of characters to play with. You can play as Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, or Aragorn from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but they also have created two separate characters for the story as well whom you can play as. In my opinion, I get why they picked some main characters, but I’d have preferred if all the characters were side characters who no one has heard of because they aren’t in the books, and you run across characters like Gimli, Legolas, Bilbo, and Aragorn. The app, in this case, runs a ton for you. You build your board, you put down markers, and you have you cards and character information in front of you, but when you’re interacting with a marker or fighting a bad guy, the app helps walk you through what you need to know. With the map, it also will be unique each time.
Mansions of Madness
Welcome to the world of HP Lovecraft. It’s almost impossible to a Fantasy Flight Board Game battle without mentioning something to do with Lovecraft. In this one, you take on a role of an investigator and you try and find your way through a mystery as you’ve been called to a mansion or somewhere else where something mysterious to do with the elder gods is happening. The app helps create a unique setting every time you play through the game or at least a few different ones, for each scenario. It also gives you those tokens to interact with that you place on your unique board and as you delve into the story being told. It also controls the monsters, letting you know what they can do or whom they will go after. It also keeps track of when the end game is coming up for you.
I should point out that all of these borrow from each other, though, Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth, borrows a lot from both of them. You can kind of tell the order that Fantasy Flight put them out because of that. JiME works well, and I like the campaign aspect to it, which you get in Imperial Assault, but you don’t get in Mansions of Madness. I also like the combat in JiME, it works well, and comes directly from Mansions of Madness. It’s simple and clean and lets you know what to do, whereas with Imperial Assault there’s more that you have to dig through to make the combat work.
I do think what separates them the most is the story. Now, I like all the worlds that they are set in. Lord of the Rings is a great fantasy setting. Star Wars is an iconic Sci-Fi . Lovecraft is synonymous with horror. So Fantasy Flight has basically everything covered that I like. I would say that JiME, thus far, seems to have the weakest story. Now, I don’t think it’s all that week, I guess I should say, JiME feels like you should be playing something more epic than you are because you have Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn, and to a lesser Bilbo, you want to play through the trilogy or The Hobbit, but instead you’re off dealing with bandits. Imperial Assault would have had that feel, but you get to see moments with Vader, you are playing through parts of the movies, but because you’re the E-Team (not even good enough to be the B-Team), it doesn’t matter if you die, and it doesn’t matter if you orbit out from the main Star Wars story for a while. And with Mansions of Madness, you’re playing a single story at a time, and there isn’t a particular story that people really expect when they are getting something from Lovecraft, they just know Cthulhu.
JiME gets the early advantage because it takes mechanics from both and it’s able to counter the moves. However, it ends up throwing some predictable moves when it comes with the characters that it has. It gets bounced, but puts up a good showing. We get down to Imperial Assault which throws some strong nostalgia haymakers but eventually tries a complicated move with it’s bad guys and gets caught.
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Mansions of Madness
The champion of the app companion Fantasy Flight games is Mansions of Madness which has done so much creative with it’s game and it isn’t just in Mansions.
Now, I will say, I’d always be glad to sit down and play any of these games. These are three of the top contenders out there to take down Gloomhaven, Gloomhaven is just too good, but I’m going to be getting these to the table coming up here on Malts and Meeples.
Have you played these games? Which one is your favorite?
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