A Game for Wizardry Fans: The Big Book of Madness

The Big Book of Madness

big book of madness review card game

© Iello

Do you like Harry Potter? How about all things Lovecraft? If you answered yes to either of these questions, I have the game for you. It’s time to embark on the adventure that is The Big Book of Madness.

In this deck building game, you play a student who has gotten bored with the daily challenges of wizardry school and has decided to go digging through the library. Buried deep in the stacks, you discover a mysterious tome and, of course, you open it. What you didn’t count on, however, were the horrible creatures trapped inside who have now been released. It is now up to you and your friends to defeat the monsters in the Big Book of Madness.

How to Play

big book of madness review card game

© Iello

The Characters

Each young wizard has a special ability and a different combination of starting element cards. Each character has a particular color which represents an element: blue for water, red for fire, yellow for wind, and green for earth. There is a male and female option for each element, so eight options total. The colors and starting deck configuration give you an idea of what element(s) you should focus on when building your deck.

Element and Spell Cards

As a wizard, you have your element deck and spell cards which you grow as the game progresses. Element cards let you perform actions, such as destroying curses (how you defeat monsters) and buying spells. Spells give you special abilities to aid you or your comrades. Most characters can only have five spells at any given time, which requires a strategy for the duration of the game.

Game Mechanics

This game is co-operative, so players are working together to defeat each monster. The game consists of six rounds, and each round provides a set of curses (challenges) based on the monster. At the beginning of each game, the book is assembled randomly along with the curse decks, so no play through is the same. The board is comprised of a space to keep the book, a round tracker, and numbered locations (containing curses) that players cycle through each round. There are no individual character tokens; instead, the book token is moved along the spaces and players take turns acting.

It’s a good idea for each player to focus on one or two colors when improving their element deck, as there are only six turns total per round to complete all curses on the board. Curses have nasty effects that are triggered if they aren’t cured before the book token advances to it’s numbered space. If all curses are completed by the time the book token makes it back to the beginning space, the monster is defeated and a win bonus is applied. If not, a penalty is applied and the game continues. The only monster you actually have to defeat is the end monster, however, it becomes harder to win if you keep losing rounds.

Another mechanic of this game is madness cards. A lot of the curses and monster lose conditions force players to take madness cards and put them on their deck. Also, every time you cycle through your deck (which happens a lot) you must add a madness card. A player always draws or discards back to six cards at the end of their turn, and madness cards can take up much-needed space. If a player ever ends up with six madness cards in their hand, they are eliminated from the game. If the madness deck ever runs out and someone has to draw one, the game immediately ends and all players lose. There are ways to either heal (return to madness deck) or destroy (discard from game) madness cards, which also adds a strategy element.

In the end, what you want to do is try to win as many rounds as possible and build the best element deck and spell arsenal you can in preparation for the final boss monster. The final monster is generally the most difficult and there have been too many times I almost lost on the last two or so turns. Defeat the boss monster and claim victory!


The Big Book of Madness is a fun, fast-paced co-op game that you can play with up to five people. Clocking in around 60-90min, it never feels like it drags and sometimes it can truly be nerve-wracking (in a fun way). The cool thing about this game, in particular, is that it comes with different difficulty levels so even after you feel like you’ve mastered the game, there’s still a challenge. So gather some friends, dust off your wands, and get ready to do battle with The Big Book of Madness!



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