Welcome to the “Club”
Welcome to the Cult of Cthulhu. You put in a lot of work to get here and you have earned your valuable place amongst us. As the newest member of a cult, your first task is to understand the teaching of our great lord Cthulhu. Here, read these tombs and texts. Now, they may be a little confusing at first. You may start to get headaches, memory loss, the desire to pull out your own teeth, or start feeling like Monopoly is a great game (only joking, love you Monopoly). Just press on and if…err… when you finish the texts, you will be a full-fledged member and can have access to all our power and knowledge, as well as the cereal bar in the back room.
Unlocking Insanity is a roll and write game by Petersen Games that puts you in the role of a new cultist seeking to understand the great tombs of Cthulhu. In doing so, you risk going insane and losing yourself to the texts. If you succeed, great knowledge will be yours. As you read over the text, you will be competing with your fellow initiates to see who can gain the most knowledge without losing their mind in the process.
In Unlocking Insanity, players write down dice scores on their brain score sheet into one of 5 different colored areas. Players are competing to get the highest score, but this can be more difficult than it seems. Unlocking Insanity follows a quick and effective turn structure with a player choosing and rolling two of the five positive dice, then randomly drawing and rolling a negative die. Each player will first choose and score one of the two positive dice that was rolled. Each dice represents one of the 5 colored areas of the brain and players will be working to roll and score values that will help them reach the needed positive score to land them bonus points as well as keep them from going insane. Players must also score the negative die that is pulled from the bag as well which can cause them to go insane if their negative score ever exceeds their positive score. If a section of their brain scores a higher total negative value than its positive value, you have gone insane and receive a penalty or, if you are the first to go insane in that particular color, a special bonus. There is something to be said for rushing insanity if you feel like the bonus will help you win later in the game.
Each brain section has a target positive number. If you hit this target exactly, you will double your points for that brain section. This creates a bit of tension as you do not want to go insane in certain sections, so your focus may be on keeping your positive score up. But, you also do not want to blow your chance at doubling your score. This tightrope of risk-reward as you wait for the perfect number on a die adds some fun strategy and luck to Unlocking Insanity.
The Finer Points of Going Mad
The various brain areas for scoring are all slightly different. They have varying amounts of space for positive or negative points to be placed and each has its own target score. This invites some fun strategy as you figure out how to maximize you and your opponents’ rolls. If you’re lucky, some of the “penalties” for going insane can be helpful. For instance, I had a penalty that subtracted two from my die rolls. This worked out for me in one section: I would have gone insane with my base rolls, but with my penalty, I was able to hit the target score instead.
The first-to-insanity bonus is also very helpful. I often found myself neglecting one brain area in order to maximize my score in others. My goal was to go insane first in that color, get the bonus card from insanity and hope that it would balance out my negative score in that area of my brain. There are a lot of strategies that can emerge which I really appreciated as I played through a few games.
Unlocking Insanity is a quick roll and write that you can tell is a Petersen game. It has its special niche of theme and risk-reward depth sprinkled into it. Even the box itself looks like an old dusty tomb containing otherworldly secrets — of course, they’re no strangers to making good Cthulhu games. Games play fast and cleanly and it was a breeze to learn and teach. This, however, does not mean it is simple to master. All roll and writes have luck in them but creating the balancing act of strategy and luck is key to creating a standout game. I believe the small incentive to go insane in a color first, coupled with the potential uses of insanity penalties to actually be beneficial adds enough strategy to make Unlocking Insanity a great addition to your collection. You would be “crazy” not to check this game out.
Genre: Roll and Write
Pros: Quick to Play and Teach, Nice Strategy Depth, Fun Theme
Cons: Somewhat Luck Based
Rating: 6/10 If you are looking for a roll and write title with an engaging theme, you will enjoy the simple madness of Unlocking Insanity.