The Big Book of Madness Board Game Review

If we talk about classic board games or tabletop games like Monopoly, or Chess, most people will think all games are competitive. We will try to beat each other in order to win the game.

Nowadays, there are games that can be played cooperatively. In these kind of games, we will try to work together with other players to beat the game.

The Big Book of Madness is one of those. It is a deckbuilding game for 2 to 5 players, which can be a good way to spend some time with family or somebody close to us.

So, what is The Big Book of Madness? How do we play that game?

Those are probably just a few questions that came to mind after hearing about the game. Well, in this article, I’m going to share with you my review for The Big Book of Madness based on my experience and what I can find from the internet.

Hope this helps. Is The Big Book of Madness game going to be the best cooperative game?

Click or tab on any sections from the table of contents to jump right to that part. Use the red arrow button on the bottom right corner of the screen to head back to the top

Overview

Game’s Title: The Big Book of Madness
Genre: Deck Building, Fantasy Theme, Sorcery Theme, Cooperative, Hand Management, Variable Player Powers, Player Elimination
Designer: Maxime Rambourg
Artist: Naiade
Publisher: IELLO
Number of Players: 2 – 5 Players
Playtime:  60 -90 minutes
Age Range: 12+
Official Website: The Big Book of Madness (www.iello.fr)

Release Year: 2015
Initial Price: $40

Content (Base Game):
Rulebook (1)
Main Board (1)
Invocation Marker (1)
Round Marker (1)
Active Player Token (1)
Element Tokens (4 x 4)
Grimoire Cards (17 cards, 88 x 127 mm):
4 Cover Page Cards
12 Interior Page Cards
1 Final Page Card
Magician Cards (8 cards, 88 x 127 mm)
Spell Cards (56 cards, 75 x 75 mm)
20 Basic Spell Cards
36 Library Spell Cards
Madness Cards (35 cards, 44 x 63 mm)
Element Cards (136 cards, 44 x 63 mm)
18 value- 1 Cards x 4 Elements
10 value-2 Cards x 4 Elements
6 value-3 Cards x 4 Elements
Curse Cards (48 cards, 63.5  x 88 mm)
12 Multi Curse Cards
9 Single Curse Cards x 4 Elements

Expansion:
The Vth Element (2020)
Evil Santa Promo Card (2015)
Golem Promo Card (2015)
Mime Promo Card (2015)

About The Big Book of Madness Game

This next video is from Rahdo Runs Through YouTube channel. The video displays how the game works for those who wants to know the experience on playing this game.

The game takes place in the wizarding world like Harry Potter. There is one school where students can learn  to become the greatest sorcerer.

This school has the largest magic library, hidden in the basement and where some of the most powerful spells are locked within. One of them is called as The Big Book of Madness.

The teachers have warned their apprentices not to open that book. Yet, some of the students decided to do the other way. As it turns out, it is not a book of spell but a prison trapping a lot of magical creatures.

In this game, as the students players will try to seal them back but the only spell they know  are just basic spells. While trying to hold those monsters, players will also try to learn more powerful spells that can help them survive and beat the monsters.

Each of these 8 students that we can choose to play with has different unique starting ability. They were trained to control all of the 4 elements to cast spells but they are better with some elements than others.

The core of this game is a deck building card game. We start with just very basic elements and over the course of the game we can upgrade our deck of cards with higher level elements while at the same time trying to get rid of those lower level ones.

These elements are necessary to defeat the monsters, defend ourselves from the curse, learning and casting spells and also curing ourselves from becoming mad. Players will have to work together cooperatively or lose the game completely.

If we try to play selfishly, there is no chance on winning the game. There will be a lot of player interaction. We may need those elements from other players or we can give what we have to help them.

Can we survive against a series of monsters and reach the last page of The Big Book of Madness and seal it? Or the monster successfully drive us mad with their curse?

The Big Book of Madness game was one of the recommended games of Spiel des Jahres in 2017 for Kennerspiel des Jahres award, probably one of the highest award for board and card games.  It was originally developed in French, in which there were some translation error into other languages.

In 2020, the publisher released The Vth Element as the first big expansion for The Big Book of Madness game. There were several promo cards for more Grimoire Cards.

Components

The Big Book of Madness game comes with a standard square box with 25.3 x 25.3 x 6.8 cm as its size. I used my friend’s copy of the game, so I’m not sure how it was delivered originally.

The box has a black plastic insert. It is actually a nice one because the insert is customized to provide specific spot for each of the components. Not only that, it even have a room for our finger to lift the cards from their spot, for each spot.

However, some people complained that the developer didn’t put some thoughts to provide more space if anybody want to sleeve all of the cards. On the other hand, the box itself is very big with more rooms that all of the components.

Even the contents from the expansion can fit in the base game. But that is if we remove the insert.

Another complain is about using 4 different sizes of cards and some of them are not very common size. Some people may decide not to sleeve them or alternatively, they choose to remove the insert.

I think we can actually put some of the cards below the insert. It has enough rooms even if we sleeve all of the cards. If not, we can at least put the contents of the expansion into the base game this way.

Rulebook

The first thing we find from within the box of The Big Book of Madness game is the rulebook. Like other games with big square box, the rulebook tend to have almost the same size that fit the footprint of the box.

It is a 12 page colorful rulebook. Based on the credits part, OriGames.fr did the graphics concept and the rules development.

As I said before, the game was originally developed in French. If we check the forum, the developers admitted to have some translation error and things that rulebook didn’t explain in detail.

We might want to check their FAQ page for each components. Some of them have Errata. I will probably try to mention some changes in this article.

Here are the links where we can download digital English RULEBOOK and the English version for FAQ. The official website has the French version for both files.

Here is the table of contents of the rulebook that came with the game.

Cover (Page 1)

Story (Page 2). Several short paragraphs to explain the theme and setting of the game.

Introduction & Contents (Page 2 – 3). The list of components for the game. We can find everything we need to play the game that comes with the box.
Madness Cards (Page 3).  Explanation of how the Madness works in the game.

Setup (Page 4 – 5). Step by step setup for the game. The page 5 give full illustration. This part also explain how we compose the Grimoire Book, the higher level spells and the number of Madness cards based on number of players.

The Round Track (Page 4). This explains how the round track works as the difficulty setting for the game as well.

Detail for Magician Card (Page 4). What we can find from the front side of the Magician cards.

Detail for Grimoire Book (Page 6). How to read the Grimoire Book.

Gameplay Overview (Page 6). This part explains in general what will happen during the game, the basic player’s turn and what the player will be doing to win the game.

Concentration Phase & Exhausted Spell Page 6). The first phase of each player turn, where the active player will have to refresh their exhausted spell. Right below that, there is an explanation of what the exhausted spell means.

Monster Phase (Page 7). This part explains how the Invocation Marker works, how the new monster appear, setting up their curses, how to apply the curses and what will happen at the end of the round. At the bottom, there is an example and further explanation of how to end the round with remaining curses.

Detail about Curse Cards (Page 7).

Action Phase (Page 8 – 9). This explains all of the 5 possible actions that player can do in their turn, assuming they have the required elements. Page 9 gives example and further explanation of how destroying the curse works at the top right corner of the page.

Detail about Element Cards, Support and Support Pool (Page 8). What the element card means and how does support works in this game.

Recuperation Phase (Page 9). This explains the last phase of player’s turn when they have decided not to take any further action, the hand limit and moving active player token.

Win and Lose Condition (Page 10). This explains one way we can win the game and several ways to lose.

Play Modes (Page 10). This offers another difficulty setting to make the game even harder.

Vocabulary and Various Effects (Page 10 – 12). In this section we can find further explanation for certain keywords that we will find from the game.

Tips for Beginners (Page 12). At the top right corner of the page.

Credits (Page 12).

While the rulebook has a great presentation aesthetically. somehow it sacrifice a bit of its functionality. The illustrations really helps but I think some space can be used to give more explanation.

The fact that they need to release a FAQ and explain how each card works means that there are a lot of things missing from the rulebook.

I do think the rulebook needs the table of contents because the information feels a bit sporadic. We have to keep looking back and forth between pages because one thing from this game was explained in different pages.

It is possible that some readers may miss some details because we can’t just read them in order.

Invocation Marker and Round Marker

After the rulebook, we can see the other components of this game, each of them is placed in their dedicated spot. I will start with the top left corner of the box, assuming that is the right orientation.

There is a big spot but it contains just a zip lock plastic bag of two markers. The spot is too big just for this but it was intended to hold some other tokens. More about these tokens later.

The first marker is the INVOCATION MARKER. It is a nice wooden marker with a shape of a book. They even give some darker brown color for the cover of the book it represents.

I don’t know why but the Big Book of Madness itself has a red or crimson color for the cover but they use different color for this marker. Well, it is still appropriate thematically because the setting is in the library. So, this is like another book, flying around and will open some curses of the monster that players will have to deal with in this game.

The shape itself doesn’t contribute anything to the gameplay but it does help the theme. It just offers some production value. We can always replace this with other game pieces like coin.

I think it is heavier and thicker than any generic wooden pieces that I have seen so far.

The next marker is the ROUND MARKER. This is probably my least favorite components of this game. I know that the book says it is supposed to have a shape of witch’s hat but it feels very generic and out of place.

Unlike the Invocation marker, this one is made of plastic. For the blue color they choose, I guess they want to make it very contrast to the board, especially the round tracker where it will be placed. The board does have some blue color but we can tell they are different.

Like the Invocation marker, the shape of witch hat doesn’t do anything to the gameplay. We can also replace this with other game pieces.

The base diameter is about 1.5 cm and I think it is slightly bigger than the spot of the round track. It is also a bit slippery that one time, I bumped it and make me lose track of which round I was in.

Active Player Token & Element Tokens

The next thing we can find from the game box that really eye catching is probably the sheet of cardboard tokens. It has a white background color, makes it very pop up among other things in the box.

At the top, we can see the ACTIVE PLAYER TOKEN. It is very big with a round shape and about 7 cm in diameter. The front side display the same art as the cover of the box while the back side only displays the title of the game.

I think I prefer the back side because, again, in the game with rather dark theme, the ivory color of this token’s back side is very eye catching. The art and the shape doesn’t do anything to the gameplay but the existence of this token is very important.

This is not a first player marker but the active player marker. There is a way in this game that allows the non active player to take action or even several players at once. Without this token, it is very easy to lose track which player is the active one right now.

At the bottom part of this sheet of cardboard token is the ELEMENT TOKENS. There are 4 elements in this game, AIR, WATER, FIRE AND EARTH and we will get 4 tokens for each element. However, these tokens will not be used by the players but they will be used by the curse.

To defeat a curse, we need to spend a number of elements, either from multi element or the same type elements. One of the curse can add the cost to defeat and to mark the additional cost, we put these tokens on the curse cards.

Personally, I don’t like how they use it. We can instead use the ELEMENT CARDS with the value 1 and place them on the curse cards. More about ELEMENT CARDS later.

It is not like we are going to use these tokens every game. That will happen only if we face the curse with this specific ability to add the cost. Even if that curse appears in the session, there is always a chance to defeat that curse first before it activate its ability.

So, for me, these tokens stays in the sheet and we can use that spot for other things. Maybe the small cards from the expansion.

But, as I said, it is meant to be punched We will have to place them in the spot for markers alongside the previous two markers of the insert.

I think we can even put them in the same plastic bag as the markers. Only the active player token will not fit in the bag but fit in the spot of the insert.

Main Board

The next component is the main board. It is a folded board with the black back side facing up right below the cardboard sheet for tokens.

If we open it, the size is 28 x 39.5 cm (19.7 x 14 cm when folded). On this board, we will be placing the Monster Cards or The BOOK, their curses, the markers and the Madness cards.

Those are just components of the current round or session. The game setup requires more space for other cards outside this board. Each player will have their own table space to play.

There are 4 sections of this board. The first one at the top left corner is the ROUND TRACK. This is where we will be placing the WITCH HAT MARKER.

The three columns, marked with 1 to 3 are the difficulty setting. The small card icons that we can see there indicates the number of extra curse we will need to deal with in the game.

Every session always consists of 6 rounds or 6 monsters., indicated by the number of rows.  So, we will only move the Round Marker in one column for each game session start from the top row.

The second section, the top middle part is the main one. This is like the altar where the students place the Big Book of Madness and open it. We will go through six pages of the book, each with a monster that we have to deal with.

The altar has enough room for two pages or two Monster cards. More about Monster Cards later.

The third section of the board, at the top right corner illustrate the pit. This is where we will be placing the deck of MADNESS CARD. What it means is, over the course of the game, the students will start to lose their sanity by getting more of these madness card in their hand.

Once the madness card deck runs out of cards, they lose their sanity and the game. Thematically, they probably jump to that pit and die.

The last part of the main board is the bottom part where we will be placing the curse of the monster for each round. Each monster will have at least 3 curses but depending on which round we are currently in, there will be 1 or 2 extra curses that we can see from the round tracker.

The number from 1 to 5 in this section is where we will be placing the INVOCATION MARKER.  They also indicates the player’s turn order. When the marker moves to the next number, that means it is the next player’s turn.

The blue card spots right below number 2 to 5 are where we will be placing the CURSE CARDS. If there are no curse cards when the Invocation marker arrives to that spot, no curse will happen to the player. Otherwise, all players will suffer the curse.

In this game, one player will start at spot number 1 and that player can try to dispel the curse at number 2 spot. If that player succeeds, the invocation marker move to that number 2 spot without triggering any curse effect.

Assuming the player has the resources or elements, they can also defeat the curses on the other 4 spots. So, players can try to plan ahead how to deal with them in this round over the next 5 turns. We can work together and decide which player will defeat which curses.

From spot number 5 before moving to number 1 again where the new monster will appear, there is a sixth spot for the result. If we can defeat all of the curse before the marker reach this sixth spot, we will get some bonus. Otherwise, all of the players will suffer additional effects.

Small Cards

Under the spot for the Main Board, we can find two spots for small cards of The Big Book of Madness game. There are a total of 171 cards with this size that come with the base game.

The size of the card is a bit weird, not commonly used, 44 x 63 mm. In other games, usually the size is either 43 x 65 mm (Mini Chimera) or 45 x68 mm (Mini Euro). Some people on the forum claimed that Mini Chimera can fit but not always.

The Mini Euro sleeve will definitely fit, but it won’t fit the insert, which has the size of 47 x 70 mm. I think the best solution would be to use the Mini Euro but trim the sleeve about 1 or 2 mm.

If we are okay about storing the cards below the insert, the space between the two slots can actually fit the small cards with sleeve. The spot for markers also have rooms enough for these small cards but we may have to tilt them a bit, not vertically.

These small cards are the one that we will be playing the most through hand management. We will also shuffle these cards a lot so using sleeve is actually recommended, at least for these.

I think the sleeve does help to make the card a bit bigger. Some may have problems with shuffling small cards.

All of these cards have the same back of the side even though there are two main types, ELEMENT CARDS and MADNESS CARDS.

Madness Cards

All of the 35 Madness cards are of the same copy. We will place some of them on the Main Board at the top right corner section or what I call as the Pit as a single deck.

Depending on the number of players, we will only use just some of them.  Here are the details.

2 Players: 20 Madness Cards
3 Players: 25 Madness Cards
4 Players: 30 Madness Cards
5 Players: 35 Madness Cards

When this deck runs out of cards, the players lose the game. So, it kind of serves as a timer of the game that we can still prolong.

The front side has a picture of a lady, I think, hanging upside down by one of her leg, even though the orientation of the picture suggests otherwise. Either way, I think in the game, the card orientation doesn’t really matter.

I think the picture illustrate someone that has gone mad. She is tied in the patient room of psychiatric hospital.

The art is great and maybe for some people can be a bit scary.

For the Madness deck, we will not shuffle these cards. But this card will go to the player’s deck which we will shuffle them a lot.

In any deckbuilding game, not only we have to add more powerful cards into our deck but we will also have to remove the less powerful one. That way the stronger cards can come out more often.

In this game, there are less powerful cards but this Madness cards are just simply useless. They will take some of the starting hand limit of 6 and if we have all Madness cards in our hand, we can’t continue playing. The game goes on for the other players though.

So, there is an element of player elimination in this game, because of these Madness Cards.

Element Cards

These are the essential cards that we can use in the game to take any action. As I said earlier, there are 4 elements in this base game, Air (White), Water (Blue), Fire (Red) and Earth (Green).

Each card will have one of those 4 icons, and a number that indicates the value of the element. The value can be either 1, 2 or 3.

Each different character or magician starts with 12 of these cards but different combination. All of them except one card have the value of 1.

One character can be very powerful in one or two elements but weak for the rest. Choosing the right pair of character that can complement each other is recommended to win the game.

There are 136 element cards that come with the base game and each element has the same number of cards. From 34 cards for each element, 18 of them are value 1 cards, 10 are value 2 cards and 6 are the value 3 cards.

In this game, we will not get more value 1 cards other than the starting deck of the character. We can only buy the value 2 or 3 cards from the market, or in this case, the library.

These cards are considered as limited. If the market has no more cards, we can’t buy them again. This may not be an issue for lower player mode but it will for the 5 players.

In 4 players, each character can just try to specialize in one element. This will be a problem for the 5th player.

Some people complained about the designs for element icons. I do agree that for some people they can get confused between the Air and the Water. It is vertical line for the Air and horizontal line for the Water.

The Fire and Earth are not a problem but if we can tell from the color. The shape is also similar between the two.

Some people on the forum said that as color blind, they have no problem with the game. I think the background of the art does help to tell the difference.

In other deckbuilding games, we will add more action cards. However, in this game, we only add the ammo. The action comes from other cards like Spell cards.

Big Cards

This is the last part of the insert, the lower left part of the box. There are 3 more type of cards in this section.

At the top is a bag of plastic with the Big Cards. These cards have the size of 88 x 127 mm. If we try to use the Tiny Epic compatible sleeve, the sleeve is short by 1 mm for the length.

There are two type of cards of this big cards. One is the character or magician sheet and the other are cards to create The Big Book of Madness itself.

Again, like other slot in this insert, even if we can find the right sleeve, it will not fit the insert. Also, at the top part there is a hole for our finger so we can lift the cards from the insert.

Magician Cards

There are 8 Magicians that we can choose to play with. A pair of male and female characters will represent each of the 4 elements.

By represent it means that character will have 1 value-2 cards of that element, out of 12 starting deck. Even male and female of the same element will have different set of starting cards.

Some people complained that these characters don’t have name. We can only refer them as Fire Male or Blue Female. All of these character cards have horizontal orientation.

There are 3 things we can find from the front side of the character cards aside from their illustration, At the bottom left are pictures of the 12 starting cards for that character and the amount of cards at the bottom. It will always 12 cards to start.

Right above that, we can find the unique ability for that character. All of the 8 characters will have different abilities.

Here are details of each magician.

Female Water Magician
Ability: You can have up to 5 cards in the support.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 2 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 2 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 3 Cards, Value-2: 1 Card
Air Element Value-1: 4 Cards

I think the older print of this game still says that the Water Lady can only have up to 4 cards. The FAQ states as the Errata, we can have 5.

She is already strong enough with Water and Air. The other characters that can complement her are those specialize in Fire and Earth. That would be the Earth Guy or Fire Lady.

Because she has a lot of support space, she can have 11 cards by the end of her turn. She need to keep getting more Water elements to make sure that she can always put other cards into the support.

Maybe having just the Ice Spell will not be enough for her. If we can we should get her Frost Mirror, Cool Head, or the Artic Circle Spell. The Glaciation spell will give the maximum effect by the Water Lady and this one can replace the Combustion Spell.

Male Water Magician
Ability: During your turn, you can treat one value-1 Air card as any Element of your choice.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 2 Cards, Value-2: 1 Card
Air Element Value-1: 3 Cards

His ability gives a lot of flexibility for him only. The other characters can take the benefit of that ability, even if he puts his Air Card in his Support. This also only works during the Water Guy’s turn.

But, at the same time, he could get the benefit from the air card of other character’s pool. Other players will have to constantly put their value 1 Air card in their support. The Water Guy can provide the Water card with Ice Spell.

However, that means, he can easily get a total of 4 for any element which will be enough to defeat a single element curse. It will be helpful as well against any multi element curse, especially those that will add more Element tokens.

As good as it sounds, this ability only works once per turn. We can’t rely too much on the Water Guy.

Based on the starting deck, the Water Guy has the most balance card. He could easily team up with anybody to specialize the second element. Probably not with those who are strong in Water like Water and Air Ladies,

With Earth Guy or Fire Lady focusing on Earth and Fire, he can choose the Air as his second. Maybe with Earth Lady, we should let the guy choose Earth as the second element.

Fire element if the other player is the Air Guy. Earth element if the pair is with Fire Guy.

Female Fire Magician
Ability: During your turn, you can refresh 1 exhausted Spell in front of you or another person.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-2: 1 Card, Value-1: 3 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 4 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 2 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 2 Cards

This one is definitely strong in Fire as the first to specialize and Earth as the second. She will need help from other magician that are strong in Water and Air. That would either be one of the Water Magicians, the Female Air Magician or the Earth lady.

Her ability to refresh the spell can be very helpful for the teammate and herself. She could actually cast the same spell twice.

I think this will be very helpful for refreshing Spells like Ice and Telepathy that can help other players. We might want to play her AFTER other characters with those spells.

They can refresh their spells themselves on their turn. After they have used their spells, the Fire Lady can come in to refresh again. However, it will be a waste if we only play with two characters, because right after her turn, that other player’s again.

Either the Fire Lady should build some Air as well to use her own Telepathy to the second player or we need a third player.

Unfortunately, this ability can’t be used to refresh the neutralized spells.

Male Fire Magician
Ability: During your turn, you can discard 1 Madness Card from your hand and draw 1 card.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-2: 1 Card, Value-1: 3 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 2 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 3 Cards

This Fire Guy is rather balance between 4 elements. Obviously the Fire element should be the first priority but the second one, he has options between Air or Water. He will need help from Earth magicians.

With Earth Guy, the Fire Guy will need to focus on Air while the teammate can focus on Earth and Water. While with Air Guy who is strong in Air and Earth, the Fire Guy can focus on Water.

With Water Guy, both of them can have flexibility for the second elements. Probably Water-Earth for Water Guy and Fire-Air for the Fire Guy.

His ability lets him discard 1 Madness card from his hand but not from support. From the FAQ file, if he discards, he must draw 1 card. And if the deck is empty, that will trigger reshuffling the discard pile. which will add more Madness Card.

As long as we can cure Madness card from time to time, we probably don’t need to use this ability. Another way to look at the ability is, it is a bit of push our luck mechanism. Maybe the next card we draw will be very helpful or just another Madness card.

If we only play with 2 characters, this ability can speed up getting those madness card. So, we can suddenly, at the end of the game, drawing a lot of Madness cards. We really do need to be careful with this one.

Female Air Magician
Ability: Draw 1 card each time you destroy a Curse.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 4 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 1 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 4 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 2 Cards, Value-2: 1 Card

For the Air Lady, her ability can be activated multiple times per turn, and even in another player’s turn, as long as she is the one to destroy the curse. Like the Fire Guy, this can make her get more Madness card faster because she will run out of cards more often.

The difference is, since she has to destroy a curse, she will also get a value-2 card. So, it is not going to be as problematic as the Fire Guy.

With that ability, she may not need the Growth Spell at all or other Earth type spell. She may start with a value-2 Air Elements but Air is probably not her strongest one.

Fire or Water would be her next choice. The Earth would be the first thing she need from her teammate, either the Earth Guy or Air Guy. With the Air Guy, she might want to give up her Air and focus on Water and Fire.

Male Air Magician
Ability: During your turn, you can draw 1 card. If it is a Madness Card, cure it. Otherwise, discard it.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 1 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 5 Cards
Water Element Value-1: 2 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 3 Cards, Value-2: 1 Card

Aside from the Air element, this guy is strong in Earth, probably stronger that the Air but very weak with Fire. As mentioned earlier, we can pair him with the Air Lady, assuming we are willing to ignore her Air element.

Maybe the next candidate to pair him with is the Fire Guy or Water Guy. His ability is another push you luck thing. If we do get a lot of Madness cards, this can be helpful.

Otherwise, we could be discarding the very powerful Element cards. What’s worse is the more we use it, the more Madness Cards  we get because we will be recycling our deck more often.

Some of the curses will force us to add Madness Cards to the top of our deck. That would be the best time to use this ability.

Female Earth Magician
Ability: During your turn, you can exchange 1 or 2 cards in your hand with the same number of cards in support.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 1 Card, Value-2: 1 Card
Water Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 4 Cards

The FAQ file says, as the Errata for her ability that the Support refers to Support Pool. So, it is not just her support. Also, we can only do it once per turn and only in her turn but with different other players.

Even though she is the Earth Magician, Earth is probably not the strongest here. Based on her ability, we might want to develop her into magician of Air and Water. The Air is her strongest and Water can help put cards into her support.

Without anything in the Support, we cannot activate her ability. If we follow the updated rule, as long as other player can put cards in support, she can always make use of them.

So, with Air and Water, she could use Ice to put her Water card into her support, then use the Telepathic Spell to let other player take action. The other player can use the Walter in her support to cast Ice for the right card.

So, she can be very flexible. If she does focus on those 2 elements, the Fire Lady or the Earth Guy are probably her best teammate.

Male Earth Magician
Ability: You can have up to 6 Spells.
Starting Deck:
Fire Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Earth Element Value-1: 4 Cards, Value-2: 1 Card
Water Element Value-1: 3 Cards
Air Element Value-1: 1 Card

This one is definitely strong in Earth but weak in Air element and we have a choice between building him as Fire or Water Magician. We can pair him with the Earth Lady or Water Lady and build him as Fire Magician.

With the Air Lady, we can still build both of them for both Water and Fire. His ability let him have 6 Spells while other characters can only have 5. Unfortunately having many Spells will not help if we don’t have enough elements to activate them.

The way new Spell works is that they will be chosen randomly. Some spell can be very useful but other can be a waste. The problem is that there is no way to tell. We can only dig the available Spell, learn from the lower level before finding out the higher level ones.

I guess that is the purpose of this Earth Guy. The sixth Spell is not so we can cast the Spell but to find other Spell without sacrificing the essential ones.

That means, we might want to build him as 3 Element Magician to unlock spells of those 3 elements. Let the other character focus on one. Even so, there is still no guarantee on getting the useful Spell.

We might end up wasting our turn.

So, those are the 8 starting characters that come with the base game. We really need to understand how each of their ability works.

Some abilities can be useful but others if we activate recklessly, can slowly make us lose the game. I guess, even though they started as specialist in one or 2 elements, in the end, their elements can be meaningless.

We can always build them into Magician of other elements. Maybe thematically they are really freshmen of the school, not necessarily an expert of that elements.

Still, this is part of the replay value of this game. The game requires at least 2 players. We can have like 50 combinations that we can try for 2 players but of course, we might not want to try bad combinations.

Even with full player counts or 5 players, we can still try a lot of combinations out of those 8. There will be more from the expansion.

Grimoire Cards

The next part of the Big Cards are the Grimoire Cards. So, to create the Big Book of Madness itself, this game uses  these big Monster Cards and design them so it looks like a book.

There are three type of Grimoire or Monster Cards. The first type is those that will be the front cover of the Big Book of Madness. There are 4 cards, represent 4 different monsters for this type and each game session we will only use one of these.

Then, the second one is the cards that will become the internal pages of the Big Book of Madness. There are 12 Monster cards, each represent one monster, that come with this game and can become one of the internal pages.

Every session, we will only use 5 of these. Since each card represent just a piece of paper of the Book, we can set them in any order.

That gives us a lot of replay value. Each time we play, we are going to face a different set of monsters.  The last one is just for the back cover of the Big Book of Madness, which is one card.

Like the Magicians, some people complained that the designer gave no name for these Monsters. While the art for each monster is nice, these card are the only way we can see them in action. There are curse cards but they don’t illustrate anything for the specific monster. More about Curse Cards later.

The Front Page Cards will have the cover of a book with a keyhole as the art at the back side of the card. Once we flip it, like opening the Big Book of Madness, we will immediately see the Monster.

Each of them have a great art of the monster at the top of the card. At the bottom they have 3 Elements and an ability that will affect the players.

The element doesn’t mean that the Monster will do the same as the player but instead it indicates the curse cards. We will need to spend those elements in order to defeat or dispel the curse.

The Monster’s ability or the rulebook refer as the Monster’s Arrival Effect will affect the players but we can prevent their curse’s to affect us. From the Front Page Monster, the effect may not be a big deal.

But Monsters from the internal page will have their own effect and that can make the game harder. At least, it can make us fail to deal with their curse.

After we deal with the first monster or the front page monster, we will have to deal with monsters of the 5 internal pages. These internal pages is similar to the front page, except for the back of their cards.

The back of the card display 2 possible result for dealing the previous monsters. First is for the result if we manage to eradicate all of that monster’s curses and second is the result if there is even just one curse left.

If we succeed, we will get a reward, but if we fail, we have to suffer the consequences. Even though we were dealing with the previous monster but the result is based on the next one.

So, this is a nice system in the game to create a lot of replay value. From the same monster we are dealing with, the consequences can be any of the other monster that come with the game.

The current monster can be more difficult but the next one can be easier and with less impactful consequences or vice versa. That can change our strategy between game session. In this game, failing mid games may not be a bad choice because we only need to beat the last one.

With that system, the last page of the Big Book of Madness only have the last consequences. Either we win or we lose with extra arrival effect at the top which is very easy to forget because we tend to look only on the left page.

It is very easy for the developer to add more Monsters to this game, either as the front page or internal pages.

At the bottom of the consequences page of the internal monster, we can see the three Element icons that the next monster will have as the curse. So, the game gives us a hint what the next monster will be.

Two monster can have the same 3 elements for their curse but none of them will have the same order. That means, we can probably make a guess of which monsters we are dealing with next. Even the consequences are different.

We know what the coming consequences are. Even if we fail, we can mitigate the effect a little bit or somehow makes them irrelevant. For example, some of the monsters will force us to discard card with specific element. It doesn’t matter if we don’t have that.

At the same time, if we succeed, the bonus may not applicable to our conditions. For example, some will allow us to cure or discard Madness card from our hand or discard pile which we may not have that.

So, the suggestion is, don’t just focus on the current monster and its curses. We should also think about how to leverage or mitigate consequence. If we are about to end our turn and that is the last one for this monster, we should prepare ourselves.

Some people complained that the rule doesn’t say about the order of the curse that we need to put on the Main Board. They are always placed starts from the element on the left, than the middle or top and finally the right one.

So, this is not another variable for different setup. That comes from the order of the monsters and the difficulty setting which will add multi element curse or curses for the round.

Monsters Detail

These are the details for every monster that comes from the base game. As I said, they don’t have official name, except for one so what I write down here is what I understand from the illustrations.

Monster 1 (Red Bees)
Type: Front Page
Arrival Effects: Each Player places the top 2 cards of their deck in their discard pile.
Elements: Air – Water – Fire

This means, even the next recuperation phase, players will already add 1 Madness card.

Monster 2 (White Mushroom?)
Type: Front Page
Arrival Effects: Destroy as many Madness stack as the number of players.
Elements: Fire – Air – Earth

This is the only effect with scaling based on the number of players. It is still less impactful for 2 players.

Monster 3 (Blue Musical Guy)
Type: Front Page
Arrival Effects: Each Player receives 1 Madness in their support.
Elements: Earth – Fire – Water

At least, this will not take the hand limit of 6 later. Other players can also help each other curing these Madness.

Monster 4 (Green Slime)
Type: Front Page
Arrival Effects: Each Player discards 1 card.
Elements: Water – Earth – Air

We can choose which card to discard and preferably the card that the player will not focus on collecting.

Monster 5 ( Green Goblin)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player discards 1 value-3 card.
Elements: Fire – Air – Water
Success Bonus: Each Player draws 1 card.
Failure Penalty: All players discard all Earth cards from their hands and support pool.

This is another one where the penalty is probably not that bad, considering that the next monster will require no Earth cards. Except, of course, if this one comes later in the game or in higher difficulty level with more multi element curse.

Still, we will need it to cast some spell. In lower player count, we can just wait and draw again in next turn but for full player count, no player will get to use this element until next round.

The success bonus is a bit tricky. Not that we have a choice. But it will make recycling the deck faster. It will also more impactful with higher player counts.

The arrival effect is a bit annoying but can be mitigated easily. It is just one card but we might need that card to defeat the curse. The effect is more impactful as well in higher player counts, assuming each of them have one in their hand.

Monster 6 (Green Squid?)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each Player adds 1 Madness to their hand.
Elements: Water – Fire – Air
Success Bonus: One player of your choice gains any 1 Spell in the Library.
Failure Penalty: Destroy 4 Madness from the Madness Stack.

We might not want to fail in the previous round of this monster. Destroying 4 Madness is huge, especially for lower player count, like a fifth of the available madness cards.

With that penalty, we can also lose the game immediately. Especially because the next monster, this one, it’s arrival effect will force each player to take one more Madness Card to their hand.

For 2 players, that would be 4 + 2 out of 20 and for 5 players, that would be 4+5 out of 35. It is just slightly higher but more impactful for 2 players.

On the other hand, the success bonus can be more impactful for lower player count. We still get the same 1 additional spell but with lower player count, that player who gets the spell gets more turns to play.

Also, if this comes early, the number of casts for that spell multiplied the effect. The problem is, we don’t know which spells are we getting for this session because they are chosen randomly.

Make sure we choose the available spell carefully. Trying to dig everything is a bit of a gamble.

Monster 7 (Red Spider)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player discards 2 cards.
Elements: Air -Earth – Water
Success Bonus: Each Player may destroy 1 card from their discard pile. A player who does receives 1 higher-value card of the same Element into their hand.
Failure Penalty: Each player receives 1 Madness into their discard pile.

The arrival effect of this monster is nothing special. In fact, we can also use this chance to discard Madness cards. Just make sure that the next one is not the Green Kraken. See below.

The penalty from failing in previous round is also nothing special but it can still make us lose the game immediately.  We do need to take advantage of the success bonus from the previous round.

But it will only happen if we do have cards in the discard pile with some element cards. If it is a value 1 then we get value 2 and a value 3 for a value 2 card. So, if this one comes early in the game, we can immediately get a value 3 since all character starts with a value 2 card.

Monster 8 (Red Samurai)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each Player places 1 Madness on top of their deck.
Elements: Water – Air – Earth
Success Bonus: Each Player cure 1 or 2 Madness from their hand an/or the support pool.
Failure Penalty: Each player discard their hand, then draws 5 cards.

The arrival effect of this monster is nothing special but it can still make us lose the game. For the Air Guy, he must use his ability when dealing with this monster.

The success bonus of this one can be very strong with higher player count. Each player can cure up to 2 Madness cards. So, if a player has already 2 Madness in their hand, they need to put some so the other player can choose to cure it.

The penalty is not a big deal. Unless of course, we don’t have enough Madness cards left, which we can immediately lose the game.

Monster 9 (Green Chimera)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Destroy all cards in the support pool.
Elements: Water – Earth – Fire
Success Bonus: Each Player chooses up to 2 cards from their discard pile and places them on top of their deck.
Failure Penalty: All players discard all Air cards from their hands and support pool.

This is another one where the penalty is probably not that bad, considering that the next monster will require no Air cards. Except, of course, if this one comes later in the game or in higher difficulty level with more multi element curse.

Still, we will need it to cast some spell. In lower player count, we can just wait and draw again in next turn but for full player count, no player will get to use this element until next round.

For the success bonus, we will not get anything if we recently just recycle the discard pile into a new deck. On the other hand, if we have no deck, this is a way to prolong from recycling our deck and get more Madness.

Clearly, we need to choose the one to help us beat the next curse.

The arrival effect of this monster is probably one of the worst, assuming we already have a lot of cards in the support. That could be 15 cards for 5 players.

The destroyed cards can be element cards of any value and Madness cards which can make us lose the game immediately.

Monster 10 (Green Kraken)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player places all Madness from their discard pile and support on top of their deck.
Elements: Fire – Earth – Air
Success Bonus: Each Player may discard one value-1 card. A player who does receives one value-3 card of the same Element on top of their deck.
Failure Penalty: All players discard all Water cards from their hands and support pool.

This is another one where the penalty is probably not that bad, considering that the next monster will require no Water cards. Except, of course, if this one comes later in the game or in higher difficulty level with more multi element curse.

Still, we will need it to cast some spell. In lower player count, we can just wait and draw again in next turn but for full player count, no player will get to use this element until next round.

I think, its arrival effect can be very dangerous but very easy to mitigate. We just need to be careful using Spell that let us discard some cards, and use it to discard Madness. Otherwise it is very unlikely for players to discard any Madness at all.

The problem is if we let the Madness card goes into our support at the time this monster arrives. If the total Madness card that goes to the top of our deck is 6 or more, that player can be eliminated next round.

We also might want to succeed on beating the previous monster. This one will give very high benefit if it comes early in the game. On the other hand, if it comes later, we may no longer have that value 1 card.

For the Air Guy, he must use his ability when dealing with this monster.

Monster 11 (Eyed Hand?)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: One player of your choice discard all cards from their hand.
Elements: Earth – Air – Fire
Success Bonus: Each player who has a free support slot places the top card of their deck in their support.
Failure Penalty: Each player destroys the top 2 cards of their deck.

We might want to succeed the round before this one. The success bonus we get is like double the benefit from avoiding the penalty. But the success bonus only happens if the player has one free slot and that will happen to all of the players.

Of course, the card can be another Madness card. At least it will not take the hand limit and other player can cure it.

As for the arrival effect, the FAQ says we can choose a player that doesn’t even have any card.  That is possible if we keep using the Telepathic spell on to that player.

Or at least, we can soften the blow by spending some of the controlled player’s card if not all of them. We can also use this chance to help if any player has a lot of Madness cards in their hand.

Monster 12 (Sorcerer Guy)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Place 1 Madness under each Curse. The player who destroys the curse places the Madness in their discard pile
Elements: Air – Water – Fire
Success Bonus: Cure all Madness in the support pool.
Failure Penalty: Shuffle all destroyed Element and the Madness cards. Starting with the active player, deal them in clockwise order to the discard pile of each player (maximum 3 per player).

This one has probably the most interesting arrival effect. The Madness cards that we will put under the curse are taken from the Madness stack. The rules or FAQ doesn’t suggest anything but it means, we can also lose the game if there are less than 5 Madness cards in the stack.

So, we need to check the failure penalty which is also very unique that indicates this monster will come, then be prepared to cure any Madness cards during each player’s turn. The arrival effects becomes worse in later round.

At least we should try to win the previous round, and put the Madness cards into our support. Just to make sure that the success bonus can cure at least to make up to 5 Madness.

The clarification part of the rulebook says that if we fail to destroy any curse during this round, those additional Madness cards will be destroyed. The next round will become tougher but if it is in final round, we should be able to destroy all of the curse anyway.

For the failure penalty, the worst would be to get back those destroyed Madness cards. It doesn’t matter if we always choose to cure the Madness. We will more likely to get the value-1 cards. The problem would be, we may get the cards that are not the character’s specialty.

Monster 13 (The Twins)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player who has at least 1 Madness in hand or support adds 1 Madness to their hand.
Elements: Earth – Fire – Water
Success Bonus: Each Player may destroy as many cards from their hand as desired, then draw the same number of cards.
Failure Penalty: All players discard all of their support cards, then receives 3 Madness into their support.

This one has probably one of the worst failure penalty that can happen in this game. It gets worst for the Water Lady. Not that she will get more Madness cards but she will lose 5 cards from her support.

If we trigger the failure then, on its arrival, all of the player will get one more Madness cards. That means, 4 cards for each player. We can immediately lose the game, especially if this comes towards the end of the game.

This will also make it tougher to beat this Monster. But that is what the card says in the copy I got. The FAQ says differently. Only one character will suffer the penalty.

The players can choose and agree which one to take the damage. We can even choose the player without any card in their support but still get 3 Madness cards.

Then the risk of losing immediately is there, but very less powerful with the new rule.

There is also a change for the success bonus. From the card that I got, we can only destroy the card from our hand. But the FAQ states that we can destroy the card from discard pile as well.

With the original rule, that means we will only get back up to 6 cards in our hand. But the new rule will allow us to draw as many as we destroy. That also means, we will draw more cards, and chances are one of them could be the Madness card which will trigger the arrival effect.

Of course we still have a choice not to destroy any card and not drawing those cards.

Monster 14 (Fire Skull?)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player destroys the first 2 cards of their deck.
Elements: Earth – Air – Water
Success Bonus: Each Player receives one value-2 card into their discard pile.
Failure Penalty: All players discard all Fire cards from their hands and support pool.

For this Monsters, we need to be careful when recycling our deck right before its arrival. Otherwise, we could be destroying very valuable cards or even the Madness cards.

The FAQ says, even if we don’t have any cards in our deck or less than 2, it forces us to recycle the deck. The failure penalty that comes before the monster’s arrival can be mitigated easily.

Even if we don’t, there is no curse with Fire element for this Monster. That would be different if we play with higher difficulty level or in later rounds.

Still, we will need it to cast some spell. In lower player count, we can just wait and draw again in next turn but for full player count, no player will get to use this element until next round.

Clearly for the success bonus, we need to either the card to help us destroy this monster’s curse or to replace some cards that might get destroyed because of its arrival effect.

The clarification part of the rulebook says that we are allowed to check the cards in our discard pile but not our deck. So, if we can keep track, we may figure out which cards are still in the deck and has the chance to be destroyed.

Monster 15 (Evil Ivy)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Destroy a total of 3 Spells of the players’ choice from all players’ spells.
Elements: Fire – Water – Earth
Success Bonus: Each Player cures all Madness from their discard pile.
Failure Penalty: Each player places 1 Madness in their discard pile.

The arrival effect of this monster is probably the most dangerous one, especially for lower player count and if the monster comes in earlier rounds.

They should have add some player scaling rule. Three spells out of 2 players is big.

The success bonus that happens before facing this monster is also not that good. There are limited way of how we can discard Madness cards from our hand.

On the other hand, the penalty is very common but it can make us lose the game.

Monster 16 (Red Dragon)
Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Each player discards their entire deck.
Elements: Air – Fire – Earth
Success Bonus: Each Player who has a free support slot chooses 1 card from their discard pile and places it in their support.
Failure Penalty: Each player discards 1 value-2 card.

At first, I misunderstood the Arrival effects as every player discards all of their cards from their hand. That is not the case here. We will only have to discard our face down deck and put them into the discard pile.

At most it will only makes us get Madness card faster. It is possible that we just recently recycle our deck right before this monster. We might want to try avoiding that.

For the success bonus, there will be times when we don’t have any cards in the discard pile because at the end of our turn, we just recycle it. So, the effect is like two folds if we manage to keep some cards in the discard pile, holding on from drawing cards.

We don’t need to always use all of our cards in hand. For this monster, if we are about to run out of decks. we might want o keep what is in our hand. We just need to spend the value-2 cards so if we fail the previous monsters, we simply ignore the effect.

I guess the success bonus is more impactful for higher player counts. Also, the success bonus can be a bad thing as well. According to the FAQ, we must put some cards to the support if we can.

If we do have cards that can help defeating the curse in the next round that would be nice. But it could be just madness cards.

On the other hand, the penalty is not a big deal.

So, those are the details of the Monsters. Checking the consequences first from the next monsters is probably recommended before even the first player making their move.

Depending on the player count and when they are going to appear, some can be more difficult than others. Those are just the Monsters. Each Monster can summon curses which comes in the form of Curse Cards.

Curse Cards

These are the next one we can find right below the Big sized Cards. There will CURSE CARDS which have the standard size of 63.5 x 88 mm.

These are cards that we will put on the bottom part of the Main Board. Each round or each monster will summon from 3 to 5 Curses.

Like other components of this game, this one also has a dedicated spot in the insert and with a hole so our finger can lift the cards. Use the hole at the top of that section because the bottom one is for the last type of cards at the bottom.

The game comes with 48 Curse Cards. These cards have the element symbol on them which indicates the specific element that we need to spend in order to destroy these Curses.

12 of the cards requires multiple elements and the other 36 are nine cards for the four single element. For all of them, we need at least a total of 4 elements to destroy them.

Each of them have ability, just like the Monsters and we can find it at the bottom part of that card.  They are also unique from one to another, with some similarities between each single elements curses.

The 12 multi element curses have almost unique ability for each card. However, these abilities will be triggered only if we have not destroyed them the moment the Invocation marker landed on that Curse’s Spot.

So, unlike the Monster’s arrival effect, we can still prevent the curse’s effect from happening. At the back side of each card, we will only see the symbol of elements.

That is because, in the game, these cards will be drawn blindly. We know which element the curse will have but we don’t know which abilities that will hit us.

The thing is, we shouldn’t treat these curse as if they are the Monsters, even though the effect can be similar. The rulebook even suggests that sometimes we should let them hit us but still try to destroy the curse after it has hit us.

We should think the overall strategy of the round. Maybe we can let a curse go and suffer the not significant penalty.

Here are the effects or abilities of the curses.

Each player receives 1 Madness in their discard pile.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: All of them
Number of Cards: 4 of each element.

This is the most common curses. It may not be a problem in earlier rounds but in later round it can still make us lose the game immediately.

Each player destroys the top card of their deck.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: All of them
Number of Cards: 1 of each element.

This can be anything from any value of element cards to Madness cards. It is possible that the card is the one element that the player doesn’t focus on but still need to activate the spell.

Each player places the top 2 cards of their deck in their discard pile.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: All of them
Number of Cards: 1 of each element.

The worst of this is if the card is Madness cards and we are about to fight against the Green Kraken Monster. Otherwise it will just make recycling the deck faster.

Each player discards 1 (Element) card.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: All of them
Number of Cards: 2 of each element.
Fire (Earth and Air)
Earth (Air and Water)
Water (Earth and Fire)
Air (Water and Fire)

These cards can come out later or in other player’s turn. However, if we let that card hit us, it may prevent us to do some action.  Which is why we need to make sure, that when we trigger the effect, the next player still can perform their planned action.

Each player places 1 Madness on top of their deck.
Type: Single Element Curse and Multi Element Curse
Elements: Water and Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 of each.

Like other similar, effect, we can lose the game immediately because of this curse. We have to destroy it first or make sure there will be enough Madness cards in the stack.

Each player places the top card of their deck into the discard pile of the player on their right.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: Air
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

With 2 player, they simply exchange cards, take the card from the top of the deck and place it to the other player’s discard pile.

Each player places the top 3 cards of their deck in their discard pile.
Type: Single Element Curse
Elements: Earth
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

If the player has no deck, this will trigger reshuffling the discard pile, adding the Madness card and then take the top three cards from the new deck.

Each player destroys one value-2 card of their choice.
Type: Single and Multi Element Curse
Elements: Fire and Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 of each.

For this one, the FAQ states that this will only affect the card in player’s hand, not from the discard pile or support. If they have no cards in hand, they simply ignore this curse.

Destroy 4 Madness from the Madness Stack
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

This is like the failure penalty of the Monster number 6 (Green Squid?). As mentioned before, 4 Madness cards is huge, especially in 2 player mode. So, if both of them will happen, we can immediately lose the game.

Each player discards their hand, then draws 5 cards.
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

This is like the failure penalty of Monster 8 (Red Samurai). At most, this will only make recycling the deck faster and get more Madness cards. The difference is that it can also affect significantly the next player.

That would be a big deal if we already make a plan for the entire round.

Each player discard their entire deck.
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

This is like the arrival effect of the Monster 12 (Red Dragon). We will immediately have to get one Madness card for each player which we could lose the game immediately as well.

It will be less impactful if the player only have a few cards left in their deck.

Each player discards all cards from their support.
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

This is similar to Monster 9 (Green Chimera), except this only discards the cards. Still that could be 15 cards in 5 player mode. At least, there is a chance to prevent this effect to hit us.

To mitigate, the player who goes before this Curse can try to spend all of the cards from the support. Any player have access to all of the supports.

Add 1 (Element) Token on all other curses. Players must send 1 additional (said Element) to destroy the Curse.
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 4 for each token.

These are the only way we use the element tokens that come with this game. There is no guarantee that they can show up and even if they do, we can prevent them at all.

There is an Errata for the earlier version of the printing. The earlier version has one more sentence that says if we manage to destroy this curse, the affect on other curses will be removed.

The new rule says the effect is irreversible and last for entire round. So, if we failed to destroy this first, the entire round could be in jeopardy. We can let other type of curses hit us but not these.

Each player neutralize 1 of their Spells. The spells are available again as soon as the next Monster is revealed.
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

I think this is the one that got changed from the original design. If I understand correctly, in the original one, the effects will be removed immediately after we destroy the curse. The FAQ states something similar as the copy that I got, just with different word.

First, we still have the chance to prevent the effect from affecting us by destroying the curse first. However, if we fail, it is not a big deal.

Since we can choose which spells, it is not much of a threat. From the starting 4 spells I would probably go for Combustion and Growth as the next one. Ice and Telepathy are more useful than those two.

The way neutralize means we flip the Spell card. We will flip it back when the next monster arrives.

Shuffle all destroyed Element and Madness cards. Starting with the active player, deal them in clockwise order to the discard pile of each player (maximum 3 per player).
Type: Multi Element Curse
Elements: Multi Element
Number of Cards: 1 Card.

I think this is similar to the Failure penalty of Monster 12 (the Sorcerer Guy). We can see this in two ways. The curse is dangerous if we destroyed some Madness cards before and we will get it back.

On the other hand, those Madness cards are returned and therefore we can cure them to place them back into the stack, prolonging the game. But chances are, we will not destroy Madness cards all that often.

We can get some value-1 element cards but they could also be some higher value element cards. Depending on the situation, we might want to get hit by this curse.

The rulebook says that we are allowed to check all of the destroyed cards. We can probably take advantage of that.

Those are all of the curse cards that comes with the base game. The next is the last components of the game.

Spell Cards

At the bottom of the insert’s bottom left corner, right below the spot for Curse cards. there is spot for the last type of cards, Spell Cards. There are 56 Spell cards that come with  the base game.

These cards have a weird card size, which is 75 x 75 mm. There are a lot of other square cards but with different size than this like 65, 70, 80, or even 76. I think there are sleeve that can fit the width but we need to trim the length.

Again, like other components of this game, we might not be able to fit those cards back to the insert if we sleeve them. I think the problem is not the additional thickness from the sleeve since this one can just push their stack up.

The cards above them that might need another spot.

In this game, Spells are like additional form of actions that players can do by spending some of their element cards, aside from the normal 4 actions that any player can do from the start. The fifth possible action is to activate these spells.

Players, regardless of the characters will start with 4 basic spells, which cost just 1 value -1 Element card to activate. The starting spells are Combustion (Fire), Ice (Water), Growth (Earth), and Telepathy (Air).

Once we have activated these spells, the spells will get exhausted and we need to refresh them before we can activate them again. The Concentration phase of each player will do this for their spells or we can use the ability from the Fire Lady.

Each player can also have up to 5 spells, except for the Earth Guy, which his ability allows him to have 6. Therefore, since we are in the Magician Library in this game, the Library offers some spells that players can learn.

Only after we learn these spells, we can activate them. We can learn them and add as our fifth Spells or sixth or we can replace our starting spells.

From the 56 Spell cards, 20 of them are the starting basic spells to support 5 players, with each has 4 of the same set of spells. That leaves us with 36 spells that we can learn, 9 for each Element which all of them are unique.

Those nine spells can be broken down into 3 of 3 different levels of Spell. So for each element, we get 3 level-1 Spells, 3 level-2 Spells and 3 level-3 Spells. For each game session we will only use one from each level or just 12 new Spells, chosen randomly. That gives us a lot of setup variability.

All of the Basic Spells will have white color border for the card while the Advanced Spells will have black color. The basic spell has no cost to learn but still have cost to activate.

To learn new spell in this game, regardless of which level the spell is, we still only need to spend 2 of the corresponding elements. The problem is, before we can learn the higher level spells, we need to learn the lower level first.

So, it’s like the to learn the level 3, we need to spend a total value of 6 of the corresponding element. That way, the game offers another layer of difficulty or consideration when taking an action. Do we try to learn those spells or focus on with the other 3 basic actions.

That is not all. We choose the new spell randomly, but the higher level spell will be placed face down. So, we really don’t know if the spells are worth it or not. Or, we might not have the chance to learn it even if we reach the highest level spell. It is like adding a push your luck element to the game.

The interesting part of the spell is that there is a way to multiply the effect by spending double or triple the base cost to activate. That way the effect can be double or triple as well.

So, even if the spell get exhausted after we activate them, we can still get more results with a single action. On the card, the number within the white circle means the variable that can be multiplied. The depicted number one is just the base cost or result. The limit for multiplying is always 3 times from the activation cost.

Spell Cards Detail

Here are the details for each Spell Cards that comes with the base game of The Big Book of Madness.

Combustion
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: None
Effect: Destroy X card from your hand.

One of the starting basic spells which allow us to remove the cards from the game session into a destroy pile. This is a good way to make the deck thinner, removing lower value cards.

This can also be used for destroying the Madness cards but it can make us lose the game sooner. This spell doesn’t allow us to destroy cards from support or discard pile. There are other spells for those.

However, we can spend the Fire element cards from the support pool to activate this. With the multiplication rule, we can destroy up to 3 cards from our hand.

Ice
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: None
Effect: Place X number if card from your hand into your support.

One of the starting basic spells which allow us to make use of our Support cards. This is very essential, especially if we are trying to focus the magician with just one or two elements to learn.

But the player that focus on Water Element can put their Water element card to the support using this spell to help other player.

With the multiplication rule, we can put up to 3 cards into our support. That means, for the Water Lady, she still have 2 slots available.

Growth
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: None
Effect: Draw X number of card.

One of the starting basic spells that allow us to draw more cards. We can draw up to 3 cards if we have a total value of 3 for the Earth Element.

We have to remember that drawing more cards is not always the best idea in this game. It will make recycling the deck even faster and get more Madness.

But sometimes, we may need other elements and the only card we have is the Earth Element card. Maybe we get a better one, a worse one or even the same Earth element card that we just spent.

Telepathy
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: None
Effect: One other player takes X number of action.

One of the starting basic spells which allow us to choose one of the other player to take action during our turn. With this spell, we can give that player up to 3 actions.

They are not allowed to activate their unique ability unless otherwise stated. The active player who cast the spell has to wait for that player before taking another action.

Usually this is a good way to destroy the curse early. We ask like the last player to destroy the first curse because that player has the resources. As the consequences, that player will not be able to perform many actions during their turn. The targeted player will not refill their hand after activating their action,

However, as the active player we can substitute those action. So, this spell introduce a great interplay between players instead of just playing in linear order.

Power of the Inferno
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: One player can discard X number of cards and draw X number of card.

From the FAQ, the drawing part is a must but the discard part is only if the target has any card to discard. So, if the target has no card in hand, they simply perform the drawing action.

With this spells that player can discard and draw up to 3 cards. Drawing more cards can lead to recycling the deck and getting more Madness.

With this spell, we can use it to help other player with too many Madness card in their hand. Instead of letting them destroy them, put them into recirculation can save that player from elimination.

Concentration
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Destroy X number of card from your discard pile.

I think this one can replace the Combustion spell. With the Combustion, most of the time we are limited to destroy just up to 6 cards in our hand.

The discard pile, however, can hold as many card as we want. There will be times when we only have one value-1 Fire element card left in our hand. That would be ideal to check our discard pile and destroy cards from there.

Just make sure we cast the spell while have any card in that pile, before recycling the discard pile into a new deck.

Warm-Blooded
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Discard X number of Madness. Then, for each Madness you discarded, draw 2 cards.

For this spell, we do need to discard the Madness cards first in order to draw. With the multiplication rule, we can discard up to 3 Madness cards and draw 6.

I think this will be useful only if we start our turn with that many Madness cards. Otherwise it will only make recycling the deck faster and eventually get too many Madness cards.

Moreover this only works for the caster not the other player. It is really not a spell we need to keep.

Cauterization
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Heal up to 2X number of Madness Cards from your discard pile or support.

The FAQ has errata for this spell which change the word from Heal to Cure. This is probably a must have, especially for player that focus on Fire.

Usually we can cure 1 Madness by spending a total value of 2 from the same element. With this, the cost is reduced to 1 per Madness, assuming there are at least 2 Madness.

This actually works great with the Warm-Blooded Spell above. But that means we need two slots while we can use the slots for other spells.

The FAQ page also says that the Cured Madness can come from other player’s support but not their discard pile. So, the second player can just put Madness into support and any Magician with this spell can wipe them.

We need 2 elements for 2 Madness. It is possible to cure just one but we still need to pay 2 elements which would be the standard way.

Regeneration
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: One player cures X number of Madness from their hand, then draws X number of card.

In theory this could help the other player to cure up to 3 Madness cards from their hand. That targeted player then draws the same number of cards.

The problem is, the cost to cure is the same as standard way and the drawing means making it faster to recycle their deck, getting back those Madness again.

This can be handy if one player is very unlucky to draw a lot of Madness cards. But in general, those same cost to pay can be used for other things.

Adrenaline
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Draw 2X cards, then cure X number of Madness cards from your hand or support.

The FAQ makes it clear that the support means support pool or other player’s support as well.

I think this is a good replacement for the Growth spell. Instead of just drawing 2 cards per 2 elements, we can also cure Madness cards which can even come from another players.

Ideally this will be for character who develop their Fire element but not Earth at the same time.

With the multiplication rule, we can draw up to 6 cards and cure up to 3 Madness by spending the total value of 6 Fire Elements.

Aura of Fire
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Cure X number of Madness from your hand, then receive X number of value-3 Element in your discard pile.

In regular action, that same amount of elements can get us one value-3 element as well. So, with this spell, we get curing Madness cards as additional result. So, it is not a bad deal.

The FAQ page says, we can still get the value-3 element even if we don’t cure any Madness. If the value-3 card only works for Fire element, then the spell is useless without any Madness card.

Otherwise, if we can get the card from other Element by spending the Fire, that would still be a good deal but very situational.

Circle of Fire
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player cures X number of Madness from their hand or the support pool.

This is definitely a must have, especially with higher player count, assuming the spell is available for the session. With just a value-3 Fire elements we can cure multiple Madness cards at once.

Of course, we need to have at least 2 Madness to make this worth it and that can comes from any hands and support.

Purification
Element: Fire
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player cures all Madness from their hand.

This one will be more powerful in higher player count. With just 2 player mode, we can’t multiply the effect. But that also means, the effect is only up to 3 other players. or best in four players.

It is still very powerful and a good deal, if the other player have at least 2 Madness in their hand. That is not uncommon near the end of the game.

It is a good deal but to actually make the most of it, we have to let some Madness cards in our hand, not curing them from time to time. In 2 player mode, that will be easier to control. Alternatively, in higher player count, one of the other player must have and can activate a Telepathy spell.

Torrential Rain
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of player shuffles their discard pile and support into their deck.

The FAQ states that the targeted player will get no Madness cards for recycling their deck. The trade off is only that we also need to reshuffle the cards from their support.

So, this is a good spell that can mitigate getting more Madness cards from drawing too often. I could be wrong about this but I think the spell works for the caster as well.

If that is the case, we can still cast up to 2 Water elements for 2 players. Maybe it will be better if we just cast one by one. That will give more flexibility.

The best time to cast this would be when the player is about to run out of cards from their deck. We are not allowed to check the deck but I think we can still predict how many cards left. Just make sure before this spell, we also spend cards from the support.

Cool Head
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Place X number of card from your hand in support, then draw X number of card.

This one can replace the Ice Spell. With the same cost, we can draw cards which, of course, can lead to get more Madness cards.

The FAQ says that we can still draw cards even if we don’t put any cards in the support. If we do have free slot, it is a must but otherwise, it is like the Ice and Growth Spells are combined but with lower cost.

Frost Mirror
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Place X number of card from your discard pile in support.

This one can also replace the Ice Spell. It is better because we are not limited to the cards in our hand. The discard pile can hold more cards. Some curse even force us to discard.

We can even do combo like getting higher value element card first, then immediately take them from discard pile into support.

Glaciation
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements.
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Destroy X number of card from the support pool, then replace it with X number of higher value card.

This is a very strong spell, especially if we try to upgrade from value-2 element card into value-3 element card. The best part is that the spell can upgrade any card from any support pool and not limited to just one character per round.

This can be done up to three cards from up to 3 players. If somehow other player can put the Water element themselves to their support, that can be used to upgrade any elements.

The Water magician must always put some Water Element to their support, which then can be used by other player to put their cards into their support. Then, the Water Magician can upgrade.

It sounds very good in theory, but I guess that will be too much to do for the Water magician. Unless the other player can make up for that, so the Water Magician can focus on doing just one task, it is probably not a good strategy.

I think the strategy would be easier with higher player count more than two.

Ice Touch
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player draws 1 card, then places 1 card from their hand in support.

This is one of the spell where if we multiply the effect the result is affecting more other players not the cards. It will not be very useful if we only play as 2.

The FAQ page says that even if the target has no free support slot, the target still draw the card. So, the effect can be considered as two separate action.

That means, maybe we can let the other player replace their Growth spell. But the Ice Touch is limited to just drawing 1 card.

Raining Frogs
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player shuffles their hand, support and discard pile into their deck, then draws 5 cards.

This is similar to Torrential Rain spell. This one is more expensive, can only affect other player and includes their card in hands. Like the previous spell, this prevent the target from getting more Madness for recycling their deck.

The multiplying effect is for more player so, it is not very good with just 2 player. This one is good if the target starts their turn with very bad hand but at the same time, there is no guarantee not to get the same bad cards.

So, it is very situational, only good when the time is right.

Arctic Circle
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player places X number of card in support, the draws X number of card.

The FAQ states that even if the player have no free support slot, they still draw the card from the deck. If that is the case, this can replace the Growth and Ice Spell not just for the caster, but the entire team.

If this is available, it is a must have. The spell is definitely more efficient in 3 player because with just the minimum cost, it can still affect all of the players.

Of course, like other spell that let us draw more cards, the potential for getting too many Madness and can lose the game immediately is there. The cost is high as well and we have to flexibility to choose which player to draw and which will not.

This is where we need to plan the actions for the entire round carefully. Probably it will be better if the caster is the first player of the round.

Tsunami
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player who has at least 1 free support slot, draws X number of card then puts it in support.

This is not a good one because we really don’t know which card we are putting in the support. Getting Madness card is also possible. If we don’t have any cards in deck, it will force us to get more Madness cards.

If this is the last spell available, I think we can just ignore it. Of course there will be times when this can be a good way but very situational. For example, in the last turn of the last round.

This last player only have Water elements but there is a chance that the other player can draw element cards that can defeat the last curse. It is a gamble but either we lose now or give it a chance.

Ice Cocoon
Element: Water
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player discards all Madness cards from their hand, then draws X number of card per Madness discarded.

The FAQ page says that the number of cards that the player can draw is counted individually. If a player doesn’t discard any Madness card, that player doesn’t draw anything.

This is a good way if somehow we get into a situation where we have four or five Madness cards in our hand. It gives us a chance, but it doesn’t really solve the problem.

Unless we have a very powerful spell that allow us to cure from discard pile, that kind of situation will come back again. We discard madness, and draw more cards, recycling the deck again.

The next time, we can probably get 6 Madness cards and get eliminated from the game. Make sure we have like Cauterization (Fire) Spell before we learn and use this spell.

Sands of Time
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Choose X number of card from your discard pile and place it on top of your deck.

This is a must have spell. It doesn’t let us draw card immediately but we know for sure what we are getting when we do draw cards.

At least, we are not going to get eliminated suddenly. I think this one can replace the Growth spell from the same element. Choosing card from discard pile can be great because the pile can have any number of cards.

This also slows down recycling the deck which prevent us from getting more Madness cards.

Essence of the Earth
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player chooses 1 card from their discard pile, then places it on top of their deck.

This is like the Sands of Time spell but for other players. The difference is that multiplying the effect only allows more players to choose just 1 card as well.

I don’t think it is worth it to have this spell in the limited slot for spells but if it is the only available one, this can still help other players. Not only to get the right card but to slow down recycling the deck.

Stone Skin
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Destroy X number of card from your hand or the support pool, then receive X number of higher-value card to your discard pile.

The best part of this spell is that this can replace the Combustion spell not just from the owner of this spell but for all players. All we need is for other player to always put some element cards into their support.

With the same cost, we can even get the same number of higher value cards as additional effect. If the Earth Magician have this, they may not need the Fire at all.

This is a must have and the activation cost is also very cheap.

Abundance
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: One other player draws 2X number of cards.

This is also a good one to replace the Growth spell from another player but maybe from just one player. The cost and result ratio is about the same, just one for one.

But this allows the other player to draw up to 6 cards to a single player. Remember that this will also make recycling the deck even faster.

Bark Skin
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of player may destroy an identical pair of Element cards from their hand and/or the support pool, then, add one value-2 card of the same Element to their hand.

So, the effect of this one is more powerful in higher player count and more flexible with more support. But at the end we will only get a value-2 card.

This spell will work only in earlier rounds of the game where we still have some value-1 cards. It helps to make the deck thinner but unless we can get rid of Madness cards, that is not always a good idea for this game.

The FAQ doesn’t say, but I think we can also destroy 2 Madness cards with this spell without getting any value-2 cards. Maybe like the end of the game where we know for sure there are enough remaining Madness cards in the stack.

But by that time, we may already destroy this spell.

Taking Root
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Place x number of value-2 card on top of your deck.

This is not a bad spell. We can get the same value-2 Earth cards by spending the same cost. The difference is that value-2 card, instead of going to the discard pile, it will go to the top of our deck. This gives us a lot of control especially if we buy several cards at once.

The second thing, we can buy other value-2 elements as well by spending Earth elements. That would be ideal in a 2 player mode where one player usually will focus on 2 elements.

There is a problem though. The spell is only useful if the cards are still available in the market. Maybe in lower player count this will not be a big deal but in higher player count,  it is very easy to run out of cards. Then, at that point, this spell will become useless as we need to go for value-3 cards and this spell doesn’t help for that.

Telekinesis
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player draws X number of card.

This definitely can replace the Growth spell not just the owner of this spell but other player’s as well. The effect is also more powerful with more players.

Like other spells that allow us to draw more cards, there is a chance on getting too many Madness cards. So, we have to be careful when activating this spell.

It is always recommended to plan ahead not just the active player’s turn but the entire round or even the next round when using this spell.

Flowering
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Place x number of value-3 card on top of your deck.

This is the upgraded version of Taking Root spell from the lower level one. If we do have the level 2 version, we should upgrade into this one, especially when the market no longer have any the value-2 card.

Like the Taking Root spell, the cost is the same as if we just collect a single value-3 Earth card. But this spell allows us to put the new card on top of our deck and we can also buy other elements with the Earth card.

This give us more control of what we are drawing from the deck.

Earthquake
Element: Earth
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Cure all Madness in the support pool, then draw 2X number of cards.

While this can be a very powerful spell but that is if we have use all of the support slot for Madness cards. The effect is greater with more player because the spell can cure Madness card from any support.

If there is no Madness cards in any support, the effect is less valuable. We can still draw without curing Madness but it will be more expensive than using other spell.

Aspiration
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Receives X number of card in your hand from another player’s hand, or from the support pool.

This can be handy spell but if we plan it correctly for when to use it. This is like taking some cards from another player.

The FAQ states that we can get up to 3 cards from different players or combination of different sources. This spell is a good one when we are the last player of the round or the game.

In general, getting the cards from the support pool is not very useful because any player always has access to it. However, there are different ways to look at it.

Some curses will force us to discard cards from the support. Another situation is that we can let the other player to put more cards to their support. But then, we have to make sure that we can use spend it.

This can also help if the other player manage to get some cards that are not their elements.

Breath
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Give X number of card from your hand or from the support pool to another player’s hand.

This is the opposite of the Aspiration Spell. Instead of taking the card, this can give the card to another player’s hand. We can take it from our hand or the support pool.

This will be good with long term planning for the entire round or so. For example, if we know that one player will have to deal with Multi Element curses, we can just give ours to them. That is assuming if we don’t have any card in support or ways to put the cards there.

I guess this is a good replacement for Air Magician’s Ice Spell. But only if we know for sure to whom we give the card. Or, if our support is already full.

Opposite to Aspiration, this spell should be used by player who starts early in the round.

Mental Control
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 1 Element
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player takes 1 Action, then draws 1 card.

This is an upgraded version of Telepathy. Not only we let other player take one action but we let them draw 1 card as well. Since the cost is the same, we should just replace Telepathy with this.

The FAQ states that if we let more than one players take additional action, it has to be done one by one. Let the first player do action and draw card before the next player do the same.

Levitation
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player draws up to six cards to their hand.

At first, I think this will add another 6 cards for the targeted player. But that is not the case based on the FAQ page. This will only replenish the starting hand limit of 6.

If the targeted player already has 6, the spell has no effect. That means, this will work nicely with Telepathy spell. We can let the other player take action during our turn and then we replenish their hand.

Whoever play in the last round probably must have this spell. If that player has at least a value-3 Air card for each player, they can have 3 additional actions.

Like in Telepathy, this will not very powerful with just 2 player. We can’t multiply the effect.

Tornado
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Exchange X number of card with another player.

This only works for cards in both players’ hand not the support pool. We also need to exchange the same amount of cards, not differently between giving and receiving.

The FAQ doesn’t state anything but I think we can also exchange Madness cards. Maybe one player get very unlucky and draw 5 Madness cards in their hand.

The sixth card is probably enough to cure one of them but that player may also need that element card to activate some spell. This is probably a good spell in the last turn of the game or round.

Eye of the Tornado
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 2 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each player discards X number of cards from their hand, then draws X number of card.

This is a dangerous spell to use since this affects all of the players. This can make recycling the deck even faster and get more Madness cards.

The FAQ states that even if a player doesn’t have any card in their hand, that player still need to draw cards. That is probably the specific situations where this spell can be useful.

After a player has spent their cards not in their turn, this spell can let that player draw. But I think there are better spells than this for that purpose.

Daydream
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Each other player chooses X number of card from their discard pile and puts it in their hand.

Before we cast this spell, we need to make sure that the other players have some cards in the discard pile. This allows other players to have cards more than their starting 6.

I think the cost is very expensive in 2 players. This is definitely better with more.

Avatar
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: Tale X number of action using only cards from the support pool, without discarding them.

This is also the spell that will be more powerful with more players, assuming each of them can put some cards in the support. With more cards, we can do different kind of actions with just spending value-3 Air element.

The rulebook says that each card can only still be used for one action only from the possible 3. However, the FAQ says otherwise.

This is a very strong one if all players can put some element cards into their support and keep it. Then, every turn, the player who has this spell can get up to 3 additional actions.

Illusion
Element: Air
Cost to Activate: 3 Elements
Cost to Learn: 2 Elements
Effect: X number of other player refreshes all their Spells, then take 1 Action using their cards, without discarding them.

The FAQ says that to take the action, the targeted player can only use cards from their hand without discarding them. So, this requires very specific situation or we don’t use the full benefit of this spell.

The FAQ also says that this spell will not refresh neutralized Spells.

That one action can actually be very powerful if that player do something like using Telepathy. This can be a very complex turn for involving a lot of players. I don’t know if the Telepathy by the targeted player of this spell can use it on the player who cast this Illusion spell.

The most powerful will be to use Avatar Spell but that will involve 2 level 3 Air spells which is impossible based on the official set up rule.

Those are all of the components of The Big Book of Madness game that comes with the base game. Understanding each of them can help us win the game.

Next, we can learn how to play.

How to Play

Now that we already know the components of this game, the next question is how to play The Big Book of Madness?

The game can be played with 2 up to 5 players. Officially this does not support solo player but we can still play this game alone by controlling two characters with 2 player setup.

The next video is from Watch It Played channel for how to play The Big Book of Madness with the publisher IELLO. This is an old video, probably displaying the original version of the rule so there are things that they have officially changed. Hopefully this can at least give a better illustration of the setup and the gameplay.

Setup

The setup for this game can be found in the rulebook page 4 and 5. That setup is for the base game only. If we want to include the expansion, we need to check the rulebook for the expansion.

First, we place the MAIN BOARD on the table, in the middle so everybody can at least look at it.

Second, depending on the number of players, we set aside a number of MADNESS CARDS into a single stack. Then, we put the stack on the main board at the top right portion of the board face up. Here are the number of cards for each player count.

2 Players: 20 Madness Cards
3 Players: 25 Madness Cards
4 Players: 30 Madness Cards
5 Players: 35 Madness Cards

Third, we need to separate each CURSE CARDS according to their element type.  The Multi Element Curse has its own deck. We then place these 5 separate stacks face down right beside the Main Board.

Fourth, we also create 8 stacks of ELEMENT CARDS. These should be separated between each element types and the value. We place these stacks face up also near the Main Board or where all of the players can reach.

We only do this to the Value-2 and Value-3 Element cards but not the Value-1.

Fifth, each player takes the 4 different BASIC SPELL CARDS. The basic spell cards are the square cards with the white border. The four of them are Combustion spell, Ice Spell, Telepathy Spell, and Growth Spell.

We then put these cards on the table in front of each player face up. Also, we need to make room for the fifth spell. If we use the Male Earth Magician, we also need a space for the sixth.

Sixth, each player can choose their MAGICIAN. It is recommended to choose a pair of Magician that can complement each other so the team will have a balance number of Element Cards.

We take the Magician card and put the card on the table alongside the Spell cards. Also, make sure we have rooms at the top and left side of the Magician cards for the support. We will be placing some cards in those spots.

Seventh, each player then take the starting ELEMENT CARDS as indicated by their Magician Card at the bottom left corner. Each player will start with 12 cards.

Most of them are value-1 Element cards except for 1 value-2 Element card. We can return the rest of the value-1 Element cards to the game box.

Once we get the 12 starting cards, we shuffle them and form a deck of cards for each player. We, then put these cards on the table, near the Magician cards face down. Make sure each player spare some room for their own discard pile right next to their deck.

Eighth, we now need to compose the GRIMOIRE CARDS or The Big Book of Madness itself. The first thing to do is to take the Final Page card, the one with just a single copy and without any giant Monster illustration on it.

We place this card at the right side of the altar or Lectern part of the Main Board with the side that shows the cover of the book facing down. Next, we need to shuffle the 12 Interior Pages and pick 5 randomly.

Then, we place those 5 cards on top of the Final Page so that the side that display the giant Monster art will be facing down. We can return the other 7 Internal Pages to the game box.

The last thing for this Grimoire cards is the Front Page or Cover Page. We shuffle the four Cover Pages and pick one randomly. Then, we put the chosen card on top of the 5 Internal pages so that the side with the Front Cover is facing up.

The one that shows keyhole should be facing up. We can return the other 3 cards to the game box.

Ninth, we need to choose the LIBRARY SPELLS. From each element we take randomly one of each value-1, value-2 and value-3 Spells and return the rest to the game box.

Then, we place the value-3 spell at the bottom facing down with the value-2 spell on top of it. For the value-1 Spell, we also place on top of it but face up.

If we do it correctly, we should have 4 different stack of spells, one for each Elements. We, then put these stacks on the table, near the MAIN BOARD or where every player can reach.

These 12 spells will be available for players to learn during the game.

Tenth, we place the ROUND MARKER, or the blue marker on the top left portion of the Main Board. There will be three columns that indicates the difficulty level for the session.

We can choose either I (Easy), II (Normal) or III (Hard) and place the marker to the Row number 1 of the chosen column.

Eleventh, we place the INVOCATION MARKER, on the bottom portion of the Main Board, right at the sixth space. It is the red box without any number but a circulating arrow icon.

Twelfth, we place the ELEMENT TOKENS on the table near the Main Board. We will use this only for some of the Multi Element Curses.

Thirteenth, we need to set a space for DESTROYED CARD PILE. Everytime the game tells us to destroy some cards from our hand, deck or discard pile, the destroyed card will go to this pile, not to the game box.

Every destroyed element cards and Madness cards will have a chance to comeback into play again.

Fourteenth, we can choose the first player, and give the ACTIVE PLAYER TOKEN to that player.

Fifteenth, each player then DRAW 6 CARDS as their starting hand from their own deck. We are not allowed to show the cards to other players but we can discuss some strategy between players.

That is the setup and we are ready to play The Big Book of Madness.

Gameplay

In The Big Book of Madness game, each player take turns in clockwise order, starting with the one who has the Active Player Token. The game will be played over 6 rounds facing one Monster each.

Each round there will be 5 turns so depending on the number of players, each player can have different number of turns. The starting player of the next round can be different as well.

In each player turn, it is made of 4 Phases.
1st, Concentration Phase
2nd, Monster Phase
3rd, Action Phase
4th,  Recuperation Phase

After a player has done completing all these 4 phases, it is the next player’s turn. We pass over the Active Player token to the player to our left and that player can begin their turn and do those 4 Phases.

The game will continue this way until  we see the last page of The Big Book of Madness. If we can defeat the last monster and all of its curse, we seal the book and win the game. Otherwise, we lose.

There can be some Player Elimination during the game but the remaining players will continue, skipping the eliminated player’s turn. Unless, there is no more Madness cards in the stack and we lose the game immediately.

During anytime in the game where we have to draw cards but our deck is empty, we have to add 1 Madness card to our discard pile. Then, we shuffle the cards from discard pile to form a new deck of cards.

Concentration Phase

This is the 1st Phase of each turn. The Active player will refresh all of their Exhausted Spells.

That means, we rotate the Spell Cards back to the right position and the spells are ready to be used again during the Action Phase.

Monster Phase

This phase starts with Advancing the INVOCATION MARKER. We move the marker to the next spot in ascending order or on the board that will be in counter clockwise order.

In the first turn of the game, the marker goes from the Invocation space to the spot number 1. What that means is we open The Big Book of Madness, revealing the first Monster.

At this point we also need to advance the ROUND MARKER to the next row. The first round starts with the top row.

The next thing that happens is we apply the ARRIVAL EFFECT of the Monster. The arrival effect is the sentence that we can find below the Monster’s illustration.

For the Final Monster, there will be a second effect that we can find from the top right page of The Big Book of Madness.

After we have applied the arrival effect, we will need to draw the CURSE CARDS. Which Curse we have to draw from depends on the Round Track and the three element icons of the Monster.

The Round Track, depending on the difficulty and the current round we are in will tell us how many Multi Curse Cards we have to draw. This can be from zero card up to 2 cards.

Proceed to the next paragraph if the Round says no Multi Element Curse. We draw the Multi Element Curse Cards and put them on the Curse Space of the Main Board, the one with the card shape and size with blue color. Always start placing the Curse card on space number 2.  Space number 3 can hold two Curses.

After the Multi Element Curse, we then draw the Single Element Curse cards following the order of the Element Icons of the Monster from left, the middle and the right. If no Multi Element Curse, we place the Single Element curse from space number 2.

We put the Curse Cards face up on the Main Board.

If the Invocation Marker lands on space number 2 to 5, we need to apply the effect of the Curse. That is assuming the Curse is still available on that space.

Read the sentence at the bottom portion of the Curse card to find the effect. If there is no Curse card on that space, the player immediately proceeds to the next phase or Action Phase.

If the Invocation Marker lands on the Invocation Space or the sixth space with the recirculation arrow icon, we need to apply the effect of either the SUCCESS BONUS or The FAILURE PENALTY.

What determines that is we succeed if we manage to destroy all of the Curses when the Invocation reach this pace. If there is even one Curse remains, we failed.

We can find the effects on the right page of The Big Book of Madness. Whether we succeed or failed, that indicates the end of the round.

At this point, we move the Invocation marker to the space number 1 immediately, and proceed to the next round. We remove the remaining Curse from the board and reveal the next Monster.

After applying the Arrival effect, moving the Round Marker, setting the curses, the Active player will proceed with the Action Phase.

Action Phase

Action Phase is the third phase of each player’s turn.  The action that player can do can be one of these five possible actions.

Activate a Spell,
Learn a New Spell,
Acquire an Element Cards,
Destroy a Curse,
Cure one of their Madness Cards

To do any of those actions, the player will have to pay the activation cost by spending their corresponding Element Cards from their hand or the support pool. By spending it means they discard the cards and put the cards into their own discard pile.

If the Element cards they spent came from the other player’s support, that cards will go to that other player’s discard pile, not the active player. Player must also pay with the total value of the elements at least the same or higher than the activation cost.

Players may do multiple actions in their turn as long as they have enough Elements but each action has to be done one by one. Excess Elements spent on an action are lost, can’t be carried over to pay the next action.

Once the active player can not or do not wish to take any other action, that player will proceed to the next phase or Recuperation Phase.

Action 1: Activate a Spell

In this sorcery world, the first action we can do is to activate a spell. This can be done only if the spell is not exhausted.

After we cast the spell, then we need to rotate the Spell card 90 degrees clockwise. This is to indicate that the spell has been used, therefore EXHAUSTED.

The exhausted spells will be refreshed again automatically when the player enter the CONCENTRATION PHASE in their next turn. The Fire Lady has the ability to refresh one of any player’s spell during her turn.

To activate a spell, we need to pay the Activation Cost. The activation cost is the one on the bottom left corner of the card. It is either a total value of 1, 2 or 3 of the corresponding Elements.

Some of the Spells’ effect can be multiplied if we pay double or triple the minimum activation cost. In those spells’ card, we can find a number 1 in a white circle that indicates a variable.

We can only multiply up to a variable of 3. By doing so, it is considered as still a single action. We are not allowed to take other action between applying the effects of multiplied spell.

Some of these effects will target a single player but we can multiply the effect. On other, the multiply effect is to target more players, each with the same effect as written on the card.

Do check the FAQ page or the COMPONENTS section, specifically details for Spell cards of this article, to find out more about each spell. Some of them can be confusing or ambiguous.

Each player starts with 4 Basic Spells and can have up to 5 or six spells. They can activate all of them during their turn, assuming they have the required element cards from their hand or support pool.

Remember that activating a spell with multiplied effect is still considered as a single action. However, casting the second spell means another action. If we overpay for the first action, it cannot be used for the second spell or other action.

We have to do it one by one, pay, then activate, then pay again for the second spell and activate.

Action 2: Learn A New Spell

In the Action Phase, a player can also LEARN A NEW SPELL as the action from the LIBRARY SPELL. With the setup, there will be 12 new spells that we can add to the player who buys them during the game.

If the Library has no more spell to learn, nobody can learn anything else during this game.

We can only learn the spell card that is facing up. That means, the lower level ones need to be learned first, before revealing the Level 2 or 3 of the corresponding element.

This can be done by any player. One player can learn the new level 1 Spell then the other player can learn the Level 2 or 3.

To learn a new spell, we need to pay with the total value of 2 for the corresponding elements. We discard the element card or cards to the right discard pile, and we take the spell, place it alongside our other spell face up.

Then, we reveal the next level spell by flipping the Spell card. Remember that we can only have up to 5 or 6 spells in our possession.

If we already have the maximum number of spells, we need to destroy one of the existing one first before adding a new one. We can destroy any spells regardless of its condition, ready, exhausted or neutralized.

Just make sure that we no longer need the spell before we destroy it. We can immediately cast the new spell in the same turn we learn it. Again, the excess elements from learning new spell cannot be used to activate the spell because they are considered as two separate actions.

Action 3: Acquire an Element Card

This is the one action that makes this game as a deckbuilding game. What it does is we add more Element cards by acquiring them from the display or the market.

The market provides 8 different stacks of either value-2 or value-3 for the four elements. By getting these higher value cards to our deck, we build our deck with stronger cards.

The next time we draw, instead of drawing cards with a value-1, we get the stronger ones in our limited starting hand of six. We will need these stronger element cards to do more actions.

To acquire these higher value Element cards, we need to spend the same Element with the same total value. We then, place the acquired card to the discard pile.

For example, to acquire a value-2 Fire Element card, we can spend 2 value-1 Fire Element cards or the same single value-2 Fire Element card.

For the value-3, we can use a combination of value-2 and value-1 or just another single value-3. Or, we can overpay with two value-2 of the same element.

Remember that a single action means acquiring just one element card. If we want to purchase more, that would be considered as separate actions and we have to pay for each individually.

The excess payment from acquiring the first can’t be used to acquire the next. No multiplying here like activating a spell.

Also, these value-2 and value-3 cards are considered as limited supply. If there are no longer cards in the display, we can no longer do this action or we have to acquire other elements.

We are not allowed to refill the supply with the destroyed cards.

Action 4: Destroy a Curse

The next possible action we can do during Action Phase is to DESTROY A CURSE. Any curse always require a total value of 4 elements whether from a single element or multi elements if we want to destroy it.

To do that, we just need to discard the corresponding element cards to the right discard pile. After that, we remove the Curse card from the Main Board and return it to the game box.

BONUS. As a reward for destroying a curse, the player who destroy the curse will get a value-2 Element card of that player’s choice and we place it to the player’s discard pile.

We can take it from the supply if there is still card available. Otherwise, we will get nothing.

Destroying a curse can be done by any player during the round. Even if the Invocation Marker has passed through that curse’s space.

One player can also destroy multiple curses in a single turn. That is assuming the player has the resources to pay each action individually. The excess payment from destroying a single curse cannot be used to destroy the Multi Element curse or vice versa.

Action 5: Cure One Madness Card

The last possible action that we can take during the Action Phase is to cure One Madness card. We can do this to Madness card in our hand or in the support pool.

Any player can cure Madness from any Support. If we cure the Madness, we return the Madness card into the Madness Stack. This will prolong the game because if the Madness Stack runs out of card, we immediately lose the game.

This is different from Destroying a Madness card by activating the Combustion spell. Destroyed Madness card will go into the destroyed pile not the Madness stack.

To cure, we need to spend a total value of 2 from the same element. We discard the element cards to the right discard pile.

Like other action, we can cure multiple Madness cards during our turn but they are considered as separate actions. Some excess payment to cure one Madness cannot be used to cure the other or for different action.

 Recuperation Phase

This is the last phase of any player’s turn. If the player choose or can no longer do any action, they can proceed to this phase.

At the end of our turn, we can only have exactly 6 cards in our hand. So, in this phase, either we draw more cards or discard excess cards from our hand. The cards in our support do not count towards this limit.

If we have to draw more cards and we have no cards in our deck, we have to ADD 1 MADNESS card to our discard pile. Then, we shuffle the cards and make a new deck, and draw up to 6 for this phase.

If we have to discard some, we are NOT ALLOWED to discard MADNESS CARD. We can only discard element cards during this phase.

If after drawing or discarding cards, we have all 6 Madness cards in our hand, we are ELIMINATED from the game. In that case, we can no longer participate for the rest of the game.

It doesn’t matter even if we have some element cards in the support that can cure this Madness.

We return all of our cards to the game box including our spells. The other players continue the game.

Which is why, we have to cure these Madness from time to time. It is not necessarily going to make the game easier for the other player because they have less number of Madness, Element cards and Spells.

With the Recuperation Phase, that is the end of the Player’s turn. Pass the Active Player token to the player on the left and the new player starts their turn with Concentration phase.

Win and Lose Condition

To win the game, we only need to defeat the last monster by destroying all of its curses. It doesn’t matter if we failed during previous rounds or monsters.

However, preventing to suffer from each of those monster’s Failure Penalty can really help us defeating the last Monster. Also, destroying the curse along the way can give us a free value-2 Element cards.

There are several ways we can lose the game.

First, if we have to draw Madness Card but the stack is empty. This can happen during any part of the game. We have to keep checking the remaining Madness cards and try to mitigate running out of cards by curing some along the way.

Second, as mentioned earlier, we lose if we fail to defeat the last monster. It doesn’t matter if we manage to defeat the previous 5 Monsters.

Third, we lose if all of the players are eliminated from the game. This is if all of the players end their Recuperation Phase with 6 Madness cards in their hand.

More Difficulty Setting

For those who feel the game is too easy, they can increase the difficulty level from the Round Track. We can use the second or third column.

The rulebook suggest another variant to the setup to increase the difficulty as well. Here are their suggestions.

Terror Mode. In this mode, each player starts the game with a Madness card shuffled into their deck. This Madness card comes from the Madness stack.

That means, each player starts with 13 cards but the number of Madness cards from the stack has been reduced.

Nightmare Mode. In this mode, each player replace their starting value-2 element card with the value-1 of the same element.

That means, we still start with 12 cards but less powerful. I think we also need to apply the Terror Mode setup for this or we can mix and match.

That is it with how to play The Big Book of Madness game. We can try playing with different player count, and different combination of starting characters.

Some of the combination can be another way to increase the difficulty.

My Experience, Thoughts about the Game

The Big Book of Madness is an interesting twist from the regular deckbuilding game out there. So far, I have only played Hero Realms, Ascension, and Volfyirion and this one is totally different from those.

Those games are competitive games while this one is cooperative. But that is not the twist of how the deckbuilding works.

In this game, we only buy the resources while the regular deckbuilding game they allow us to buy more Action cards. When we draw action cards, we get to activate the action immediately.

That is not the case here. The actions we can do are in Spells, separated from the cards we put in our deck. The problem is that the spell can only be used once per turn. So, that is very limiting.

In regular deckbuilding game, the card can allow us to draw another card and that other card can also give a chain of reactions. If we are looking for that kind of experience from a deckbuilding game, The Big Book of Madness is certainly not the one.

However, this game has a feature that make the deckbuilding become more interesting. It is the ideal of reserving the card from their Support. With the support feature, we can take some of the cards out from the recirculation and we can use it when the time is right.

However, since it is mostly just resources but not action cards, the support feature alone is not going to make this game interesting. What makes them interesting is the idea of using the cards from other player’s support.

So, with this feature, not only we should be focusing on our cards or situation, but also other player’s. This is what makes the Big Book of Madness an interesting cooperative game.

Another interesting cooperative element is that one of the spells allows us to give other player an action in our turn. With this feature, we don’t play in linear order. Players may not need to wait for their turn that long.

However, it is not always a good idea. It is because even if the other player can take additional action, that would consume all of their resources they need for their next turn.

There will be times when we have to use it, being tactical in the game trying to deal with unpredicted situation. However, most of the time we do need to play strategically where we need to plan for the entire round.

The Spells are what makes the game more interesting because it allows us to do more actions with different effects. Some even have the ability that can makes us win the game.

However, it always feels like a bottleneck. Even if we do get the right spell, we can only activate once per turn. Learning or getting that spell itself is another gambling.

There is no guarantee that the powerful spell will come out in this game. We already have too many things to spend the Elements on. Just trying to dig or reveal what will be the next spell is very wasteful.

If it turns out a very powerful one, then it pays off. Otherwise, we probably will just lose the game. Another thing is that we can only have limited number of spells.

So, if we try to learn just to reveal some of the spells, we may have to sacrifice some spells. Even the basic spells can be very useful. So, the idea of separating the cards that we do deckbuilding and the action by using spells is kind of challenging to the point it can become frustrating.

The characters, each with unique ability doesn’t do that much. Even some of them if we keep using it recklessly, can makes us suddenly lose the game.

For example, the power to let us draw more cards or discard some cards. Unlike regular deckbuilding game, trying to get cards that allow us to draw more cards usually become very essential to win the game.

That is not going to happen here. The more we recycle the deck the more burden we have from getting more Madness cards.

That means, to really make use of some of the character’s unique ability, we also need to mitigate the effect. That introduce another layer of strategic play where not only we have to plan for the entire round, but also how to deal with the character.

Of course we can just ignore it, and think of them like just the same character. Even their starting element cards are not that significant. If we want we can build the character to a totally different elements.

Those are just half the aspects of this game, related to what the players can do. There are more things what the game will do from Monsters and Curses.

As I said earlier, we need to make long term plan for the entire round. Right after the arrival of the new Monster, we can simply trying to plan what each of the player should do, play in strategic level.

This is where the interaction between players will come the most. We can discuss whether each of them can handle some of the curses.

If somehow, it is not possible, we then need to have another plan. Usually this is by trying to draw more cards and hopefully get the cards that we need. Then, the game becomes very tactical if the result is not as good as they want.

Since the game always have 5 turns every round, with different player count, the game will offer different experience. With just 2 players, they can get several turns within the round while with 5, each player only gets 1 turn.

Regardless of the player count and the difference experience that we can get, I think they are pretty much balance. With 2 players, we can do more actions from more turns but less number of cards in the support and spells.

There is always a bottleneck aspect that will prevent any player to do too much, like 6 starting cards.

I think the bigger problem is about the quality of interaction between players.  This game has very big issue with alpha player that will try to take control of every player’s action.

The reason is because, there are too many things that happen in this game to the point it makes the game like a puzzle. With too many limitations, we have to exactly do certain things, especially in the last round.

It is very easy for some players to just say that they know the best of how to win this game. That can lead those player to force the other to follow their decision.

Some people have said that with higher player count, some of the players will feel like they don’t feel included in the game. It is just a decision of one or two players.

Even the publisher have said that the designer thinks the game is best at two players. So, it is probably not ideal if the players don’t have the same level of experience with the game.

The game doesn’t do that much to mitigate the alpha player. They only have rule for forbidding the players to show each other their cards. But eventually with the discussing, they can easily figure it out.

I mentioned earlier that there are a lot of things that we need to learn about this game to play as how it was intended. It is very easy to overlook some of the rules.

For example, regarding paying the cost for several actions individually. It does makes the game even harder and easy for players to cheat. Then there is a problem with translation, and some ambiguity of certain cards.

Even I only check them out because I know where to find and because I’m writing this article. The chances are, not everybody will try to do that .They just play based on their understanding from what they can find in the box.

The Big Book of Madness offers a lot of variable to get a lot of different setup everytime we play the game. But there is a problem as well with the randomness and some are unbalanced. Some of them can become too difficult for certain player count.

This game offers a lot of interesting ideas. Sadly, some of them can cancel each other out or hurt the overall experience.

Expansion and Accessories

Here are some expansions and accessory related to The Big Book of Madness game that we can get to improve the playing experience to this date.

Mime Monster Card (2015)

This is the promo card that was given away when the game was released. Somebody on the forum pointed out that there was a time that we can purchase this from BGG Store.

On their IELLOUSA.com page, we can purchase this card with $2.99.

We can actually see the art of this monster in the last page of the rulebook. So,  they actually already have this right from the start. This is also an internal page Monster that we can shuffle and pick 5 from alongside other Monster from the base game.

We can also check the detail from the FAQ page. Here is the detail for Mime.

Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Silence! No Player may speak until the next Monster Arrives.
Elements: Air – Fire – Water
Success Bonus: Each Player may immediately activate a spell available for purchase without spending Elements.
Failure Penalty: Shuffle All Players’ Spell Cards. Starting with the active player, deal them in clockwise order, one at a time, until you run out of Spell.

The FAQ states that if a player ever speaks during this round, even the slightest intelligible word, we immediately lose the game. Not just that player get eliminated.

We are still allowed to make sounds and do some gestures. Showing the cards has always been forbidden. Also, this rule applies until the next Monster arrives not until we have defeated the last curse.

The success bonus that happens before this Mime Monster arrives is a bit weird because we are supposed to activate spells not during our turns but between rounds. The spells stays in the market, not exhausted, ready to be learned after this bonus.

This also only works if there are spells in the market left. The player doesn’t need to have the required elements to activate the spell. I think we can also decide freely which spells to go first, as long as all players agree.

This also means, with more players, we get more benefit.

The failure penalty will be very annoying. The worst case scenario is that one player can have the same spells from all of the other players even with just 2 players.

If this happens early in the game, it may be more difficult to win the game. This introduced totally different effects from any monster from the base game.

Golem Monster Card (2015)

This is the other promo card that was offered at the game’s release. Like the Mime, the Golem is also an internal page Monster that we can mix and match with Monsters from the base game.

On their IELLOUSA.com page, we can purchase this card with $2.99.

The art is also on the last page of the rulebook and we can find out more from the FAQ page. Here is the detail.

Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Add a second Multi Element Curse to the Space number 2 of the Invocation track.
Elements: Earth – Water – Air
Success Bonus: Each Player draws up to 6 cards in their hand.
Failure Penalty: Don’t turn the page or move the Round Marker. Do move the Invocation Marker to the space 1, apply the current Monster’s arrival effect, and draw three new curses (or fill the spaces. The Active player begins a new round.

This is probably the most complex Failure Penalty. It means we have to redo the current round but only drawing the curses from the Monsters, I think. We add no Multi Element curses.

However, since we failed to begin with, there may be some left over curses from the first try. That is how redoing this round can be more difficult.

The Success Bonus seems very useless because if the player already has 6 cards, they simply ignore this bonus. This is why we need to check the consequences before taking action of the round.

With the bonus, we can actually spend the other player’s card by using the Telepathy or similar spell. The bonus will then replenish the cards. That is essential to avoid the Failure Penalty.

The arrival effect of Golem introduces something similar to the Sorcerer Monster. Instead of placing a Madness card below the curse, we add another Curses in the space number 2.

So, even if we can defeat the first curse of space 2, there is still the second curse. Both can be Multi Element curse or just the one from this effect, depending on the current round and difficulty level.

If we fail, we will suffer two consequences and for the entire round, we now need to defeat 6 curses. This can be very hard to beat, if we draw a very powerful curse as the additional one.

Evil Santa Monster Card (2015)

This is also an internal page Monster card. It was offered as greeting card for Christmas in 2015. Unlike the previous two, there is no art for this in the rulebook but the explanation can be found in the FAQ file.

On their IELLOUSA.com page, we can purchase this card with $2.99.

Here is the detail for Evil Santa.

Type: Internal Page
Arrival Effects: Shuffle all cards in the support pool and players’ hands. Starting with the active player, deal them in clockwise order back to player’s hand.
Elements: Air – Earth – Fire
Success Bonus: Choose a player. Each other player places 1 card from their hand on top of the chosen player’s deck in any order. Then, each player except for the chosen one draw 1 card.
Failure Penalty: Each player draws a random card from the player’s hand to their right and places it on their own discard pile.

This is a fun one. Even the penalty is not that big deal. In fact, the success bonus is a bigger problem than the penalty because it can make recycling the deck even faster.

The arrival effect is also not a problem if this one come out early in the game, even less impactful with just 2 players. But if this comes near the last round, this could be very annoying.

We don’t lose any card but it is possible that one player can get all of the element cards that they can’t use. This is a problem if we try to focus on just 1 or 2 elements for one player.

With cards from the support pool as well, then it is possible to get more than 6 cards. However, if we can’t use any of them, at the end of our turn, we still have to discard them down to 6.

Wooden Lectern

This is the official accessory for the Big Book of Madness made by The Broken Token. This is a standee to hold the big cards or The Big Book of Madness cards, so in the game, it will not stay flat on the board.

This wooden lectern can be assembled and disassembled easily. IELLO offered this for $9.99 before shipping but we can probably get it a bit cheaper from the producer website.

I think it will be a problem for higher player count if one or some of them sit behind where this will stand. Not only it will be hard for them to read the book but to reach other components like Element cards, Madness card or Spell cards.

If we play mostly with 2 or 3, this can be a great accessories. This can reduce the table space and we can use the Grimoire cards portion of the Main Board for other components like Spell cards or the Dark Book from the expansion.

Of course, we can always replace this with other card stand or holder.

The Vth Element (2020)

This is the latest and the first big expansion to The Big Book of Madness game, released in 2020. As the name suggests, it introduce a new element to the base game which is called as the Dark Matter as one of the module.

The second module is the Phobia, which can be played separately. The initial price for the expansion is about $19.99 in a long rectangular shape and has its own insert.

Here is the list of components of The Vth Element Expansion.

1 Rulebook
4 Magician Cards (Big Cards)
16 Phobia Cards (Small Cards)
5 Dark Matter Tokens
20 Dark Book Cards (4 Cover, 12 Internal, 4 Final Pages, Standard Card)
12 Dark Curse Cards (Standard Card)
28 Dark Matter Cards (Value-1, Small Cards)
13 Grimoire Cards (3 Cover and 10 Internal, Big Cards)

The digital file for the rulebook can be found in this link.

The Dark Matter Module

Like in the base game, the new element adds more Monster cards, Curse Cards, Tokens, even new characters that start with this Dark Matter cards. The twist is there will be another book beside The Big Book of Madness itself, called as the Dark Book.

The rulebook says, that Dark Matter is not like the regular 4 elements. There is only value-1 card for this element which will have its own stack. To earn the element, we need to discard two cards with different elements and the Dark Matter goes directly to our hand.

The Dark Matter can only be used to destroy the Dark Curse and to use the Dark Book. Destroying a Dark Curse won’t allow us to get more Dark Matter as the reward. However, a total value of 2 Dark Matters can become a substitute of a value 1 of another element.

To make it simple, the Dark Book is like the spell that we can activate using the Dark Matter. The difference is, it comes in a form of a book, similar to how the Big Book of Madness itself.

The rulebook refers it as Charms and each time, we will have left page Charm and right page Charm. Because it is not a spell, there is no variable and therefore the effect can’t be multiplied.

We can activate the left page Charm multiple times by discarding the Dark Matter until we activate the right page Charm which we have to flip the page. So, after activating the right Charm, we have another set of two charms again.

The expansion comes with a total of 20 Dark Book page, which 4 of them are the front page, another 4 as the back cover and 12 internal pages. Each game session, we only use 1 of each so that gives us a lot of setup variability.

The new 4 Magicians represents the 4 regular elements. They start with 1 Dark Matter card but the total card for starting hand is always 12 cards. Their unique ability are related to the additional modules.

The total Monsters we have to deal with for each session is still 6 with cover. We can start with 3 of the new Monsters, with Dark Matter as the lowest difficulty level.

Phobia Module

Phobia is like the Madness cards, except it will give the owner some effect that will make the game even more difficult. So, each of these 16 Phobia cards has tells us the effect at the bottom of the card.

For example, one of the Phobia cards will prevent us to Cure any other Madness cards before we cure that one. Another example, is we will get 2 Madness cards everytime we have to recycle our deck.

With the base game, this will replace about half of the Madness cards and we place it face up on the Madness stack. So, we may find a set of different Phobia cards for each session, except if we always play with 5 players.

The difference between this new module and Madness card is that everytime a player get this card from drawing, it will go straight to their support. If all of the support slots have been filled with this Phobia cards, the player will be eliminated from the game.

With the additional effect, some can be very hard and choosing to destroy them may be a good idea. Otherwise, if we cure it, it will go to the bottom of the Madness stack and eventually come again during the game.

Conclusion

The Big Book of Madness is a multiplayer cooperative game for 2 to 5 players with a lot of interesting twist as a deckbuilding game. We can also play solo but we have to control two characters by ourselves.

Players are magician students who have to deal with a series of Monsters from The Big Book of Madness itself. Unless they can defeat the last monster to seal the book, they will lose.

In this game, we still build a deck, trying to put more powerful cards over the course of the game. However, those cards are just resources without any actions unlike most deckbuilding game.

The Elements or resources that we get, can then be spent to do actions like activate some spells. So, the  way we do action is not based on the card and therefore, there will be no chain of reaction from one action to another. It is still possible but very limited.

Instead, the game offers a way for players to have a lot of interaction and interplay between each other. One of the spell allow us to give one action to another player. This way, players don’t just take turns in linear way, waiting until their turn again.

Another interesting deckbuilding element in this game is the idea of reserving the card. Here, we can take some important card out of the recirculation so we can use it anytime we need.

Also, these reserved cards can be used by other players as well. So, we are not just focusing on what we can do during our turn but how we can help other players in their turn later.

The problem with this game is the fact there are too many interesting things we can do but very limited actions we can do. It feels like we need can only do certain specific actions or otherwise we will lose the game, like a puzzle.

It is very easy for alpha player to try taking control of the entire gameplay, forcing other players to follow the alpha’s decision. Some people may not enjoy when that happens. That makes the game is less as cooperative multiplayer game but more a solitaire game.

The interesting interaction where players can discuss their long term plan, both strategic and tactical play is there. However, it will only work if the players share the same level of experience on playing the game.

There are a lot of aspects in this game that I think we need to learn about each of them in details. The game is considered as a bit hard and if we play recklessly, we will have no chance on winning the game. Even some of the rules are very easy to overlook.

The potential for interactive gameplay is there, but it can be very frustrating. If that is the kind of cooperative game your are looking for, then you should try to play The Big Book of Madness.

More Games

If this is not  game for you or you might be looking for more great games, you can try checking this article. It is my review for Rahdo Runs Through YouTube channel about board games.

I haven’t played a lot of these tabletop games whether card games or board games. Here is the list for games that I have written a review for previously.

The Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game (Competitive, Civilization Building, Set Collection)
Hero Realms
 (Competitive, Card Game, Fantasy Theme, Deck Building)
Fleet (Competitive, Card Game, Auction, Fishing Theme)
Goblins vs Zombies (Tower Defense, Card Game, Fantasy Theme, Card Game)
Imperial Settlers (Civilization Theme, Engine Building, Competitive)
One Deck Dungeon: Forest of Shadows (Dice Rolling, Fantasy Theme, Cooperative)
Peloponnes the Card Game (Auction, Competitive, Civilization)
Tybor the Builder (Civilization, Card Drafting, Competitive)
Villages of Valeria (Civilization, Fantasy Theme, Action Following)

Keep checking this website or the complete list here. I might have added review for more games.

Final Words

That is all I can share with you about The Big Book of Madness game. This is an interesting game and I have to thank my friend for lending me his copy.

I probably have missed something. Please don’t hesitate to point that out and share what you know related to this game and I will update this article.

I keep saying that these tabletop games can be a good way to spend some time without looking at the screen of our gadget. If we do have someone close, that we can play with, there are games where we can play cooperatively just like The Big Book of Madness.

So, what is your experience on playing this game? If you know other games similar or even better than this, please do share via the comment section below. I would love to learn and play that game, assuming I can get a copy.

This article is just my notes about what I can find from the internet. Hopefully this can help anybody who reads it.

Thanks for reading.

 

Mark M.

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