Pocket Madness review
Just when we think we’ve had enough of Lovecraft on the tabletop, another game comes along that makes us want to snuggle right up in Cthulhu’s tentacles again.
Pocket Madness is a lightweight spin on the Rummy formula dusted with a sprinkling of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.
Players lay down melds or runs of the lavishly-illustrated tarot-sized cards to take ownership of a matching monster with the former (although we’re pretty sure Shoggoth isn’t a big fan of being told what to do) or cause their rival cultists to lose their minds a little bit with the latter, reflected by the acquisition of radiation-green cubes.
The gameplay and theme are hardly revolutionary, but there’s something to the pure and simple execution of Pocket Madness that won us over.
The vibrant artwork is artistically striking and charming with its storybook style and fonts, combined with the clear layout and quirky design of the components and rulebook.
The deck is splayed across the table – which is both massively satisfying as a visual flourish and quick to set up. The layout doubles as a gameplay element – players can draw up to three cards at a time from the end of the spread, with seventeen of the cards remaining hidden facedown, adding a gentle push-your-luck factor as you decide whether to risk advancing closer to the end of the round and gaining unnecessary chaff in your hand in order to pick up a potentially vital card and defeat your opponents.
Each monster’s ability is well-balanced, being useful without becoming overpowering, with the chance to offload cards vital if the deck is about to run out. When that occurs, madness tokens are dished out for every unique location still held by each player, which can rocket unlucky players towards the game-losing count of 10 – although clearing your hand halves your current madness and gives all other players a token, providing the chance to spring back from an unlucky run of draws.
Pocket Madness won’t change the face of the tabletop by any stretch, but it’s nevertheless an endearing combination of two steadfast favourites delivered with solid execution. If you’re after something easy and light with a bit more character than a plain pack of cards, keep this in mind.
Genre: Card game
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the April/May 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.