Big Book of Madness' featured art.
Image: IELLO (Art by Xavier Gueniffey Durin)

The Big Book of Madness is a fun deckbuilding game that allows 2-5 players to band together and try to beat the monstrosities coming out of an accursed tome that has been opened by a careless student with suicidal tendencies. The book is very titular as failing to close it shut by defeating all monsters, and a final boss, will drive you mad and make you lose the game. Well, there is no need to dwell on that – for now.

The important thing is that the monsters are here, they are throwing around curses that need to be dispelled by casting the right elements in the magic vortex. In the game, you will collect elements, channel powerful spells, manage your hand and build your deck as you go along. Our The Big Book of Madness review will cover this and more.

How to Play The Big Book of Madness 

The Big Book of Madness is played with 2-5 players. In the game, you will all pick a spellcaster, a character with their own powerful base ability, and a unique combination of elements. Each character has the elements assigned to them specifically.

All elements are denominated in values of 1-3 and you will spend those to activate spells, defeat curses (and thus the monster round), and purchase more potent spells or even stronger cards. Or, you may choose to share your cards in your support pool and let other players use them, too. The elements you have to include Wind, Fire, Water, Earth, and Dark Matter if you are playing with the expansion, The Vth Element

For each round, curse cards will be laid out across the board, all of which are coming from the book itself. To defeat a curse, you need to pay the cost in elements, which is usually 4 of a kind, but as the game advances, you will have to also pay costs in multi-colored elements, which can be hard to come by unless you are making use of other players’ support pool.

Luckily, you can share cards with your teammates if you choose to, and they can use your cards to tackle the curses and let you win by defeating a monster. Again, to defeat a monster, you simply dispel all the courses in a round. 

You can also use the spells that you are given access to at the beginning of the game. These spells – or rather spell trees – can be improved, picking from several randomized packs, which will change and evolve after every setup of the game.  

As the game goes along, the rounds will get harder. Letting a curse hit you is not always too bad – you may have to take Madness (or Phobia if you are playing with the expansion), but this is alright.

You can afford to suffer a handful of madness cards that will be stuck in your deck. These cards will unfortunately always end up in your deck and hand one way or another. And to think of it, this is pretty standard for deck-building games as the game tries to water down your deck through the introduction of low-value or bad cards

These are obviously a clever way to slow you down, increase the difficulty, and have you think and worry not just about collecting the right symbols but also whether you will have the right hand each round. Each player has six cards in their hand, and if one of those ends up being a Madness, well – it’s not the best feeling, but then again there are ways to play around this as well. 

You can return the cards to the deck or burn them out of the game. But if you end up in a situation where you have to award a Madness (or a Phobia card) and there are none left – you automatically lose again! 

Still, there are many ways to manage your hand and the bad cards. You can cure them by using two elements of the same suit, or simply toss them in your support. Careful, however, because if the main Madness stack runs out, the book has won and you have been defeated. The game plays in six rounds and you can shift the difficulty to make the game a little more challenging or easier. 

Why You May Love The Big Book of Madness? 

The Big Book of Madness is a game that has come up with interesting, efficient, and varied gameplay and design. There is always, it feels, a different angle to approach the game and we have played this title dozens of titles to know that it is fun every time. You can try a different strategy, push the boundaries of what is reasonable or “strategic” and have tons of fun walloping curses and monsters as you go around. 

The game feels like you are having a challenge every time you sit down and you can further increase the difficulty, such as never letting a curse slip through or start at a higher difficulty right off the bat. Overall, I feel that this is a game that offers a lot to the player and will make for a great cooperative board game in your collection.

Why You May Not Like The Big Book of Madness? 

One specific idiosyncrasy to the game is that if you have more players in a single session, you will probably have fewer turns per round. This means that you need to now strategize as a part of a bigger unit and not really have that much of an impact. Perhaps you drew a hand that just doesn’t work in this particular case and now have to add cards to your supply and let your teammates take it from there – or perhaps your cards just fall short by the odd-color

It can feel a little underwhelming to see yourself sit on the lines and feel that you have lost a turn, but even then, I will contend that The Big Book of Madness is fun and all you need to do is stomach your pride and remind yourself that there is a way to help and enjoy it. 

The Big Book of Madness Final Word

The Big Book of Madness is one of the games that bring a group of players together and have them really think about beating the game. There is no room for selfishness in this one, as you will have to share the resources you have and use them as a team. The best part is that it always feels rewarding to help a teammate, share a card, or just contribute in some small way. For this alone, The Big Book of Madness is one of the games that feel cooperative to the core and makes it fun to play no matter how much you have helped – or hindered your teammates’ progress. 

Buy The Big Book of Madness on Amazon

Stoyan Todorov

Stoyan entered the hobby over seven years ago and his collection has been growing at a pace his spouse has described as “concerning.” Willing to push the boundaries of the connubial bliss to its extremes, Stoyan is here to bring you the latest updates and developments from the world of board games.


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