is the second game from Titan Forge, a company that has been producing quality miniatures since 2011. Lobotomy went through the Kickstarter process back in August 2015, raising nearly $500,000.
Billed as a mix of survival horror, dungeon crawling and roleplay, Lobotomy is a cooperative game for one to five players. You play as characters trying to escape from the Melville City Psychiatric Hospital, and each character is as diagnosed with mind bending disorders. These disorders cause the character to not only think that they themselves are either a great alien hunter, or a famed action man, but warp their perception of the hospital and its staff. As you escape the confinements of your padded cell you become confronted with demons, killer clowns or sexy vampires intent on making your life a living hell. The worst of all of these is the Warden, who you see as a foul hellish demon who would rather take you to the basement for your Lobotomy than see you escape. A session of Lobotomy will see you set up and play through a number of different scenarios in which you will defeat monsters, collect items and achieve certain objectives to move the plot along. Think of it as a dungeon crawl through some of your favourite horror films.
The characters, like the scenarios and monsters, are lifted straight from popular horror fiction. You have the likes of Arnie Connors (Terminator) built for dealing damage, Dayle Walker (Blade) with a balance of attacks and swift movement and Ellen D. Ridley (Alien), who just loves the monsters. Each character has a special ability, a deck of four skills and a deck of memories that are again completely lifted from their associated fiction.
The characters are also diagnosed with two or three of the five mental disorders in the game, which will allow them to draw cards from those decks during gameplay. The base character is a bit lazy, though it allows for easy association between the players and their characters. However, the good thing is that the weapons and disorders allow you to build your character out in a number of different ways each time you play.
When we were handed a copy of the game the immediate impression was how heavy the box was. As mentioned above, Titan Forge are a miniatures company, and the base game of Lobotomy comes with over 70 of them. It also comes with 11 double-sided quarter board pieces to allow you to set up the board in a unique and modular fashion each time you play. There are also a variety of counters and tokens to place around the board.
There are a ton of cards in the box too. Big character cards for all the players and the monsters. Decks for each mental disorder, weapons, equipment, drugs and, as mentioned, a deck of memories and skills for each character. For dealing with combat and tests there are ten D6, a D4, a D12, as well as chaos and defence dice. A lot of craftsmanship has gone into creating the contents of Lobotomy, and the result is a really good-looking board game.
The set up of Lobotomy is quite fiddly. Some scenarios require a certain quarter piece to be placed on the board, but otherwise you select them at random and place them around the centre piece, where the characters solitary confinement cells are. There are also monsters to be spawned and doors, lockers and drawers to be placed.
Due to the way the spaces on the board are designed and the enemy placements are random, certain parts of the board can become unwieldy very quickly. Placing the furniture tokens also presents another issue. The boards are beautifully detailed, but thematically very dark. So much so that it becomes very difficult to see where to place the door and furniture tokens.
Lobotomy plays similar to other dungeon crawlers. As a group you explore the asylum, collect gear for your characters, fight monsters and aim for the overall objective of the scenario(s) you are playing. Because the characters are all a bit doolally, the more memories you can collect the more in control you can become of the situation. However, with new monsters spawning all the time any player that tries to go it alone can end up swamped and facing an insurmountable challenge. The group also has a limited amount of time in which they need to gather their shit and complete the objectives, as the Warden is making his rounds. And when he’s done the only way out for the group is by defeating him.
The pace for this game is really slow to begin with. As I said above, the first time I set up the game it took over an hour. I was playing it solo as three characters and it took me the best part of a day to play through a single scenario. I was taking breaks between rounds to take notes and do household chores etc. but still, it was a far cry from the 30-45mins the rule book suggests. And that’s because I kept having to refer to said rule book. At almost every action I would need to check something. What did Avoidance mean? What’s a power attack? How do I deal with a locked or barricaded door?
Yet there are also so many gaps and inaccuracies in the rule book. The earlier mentioned highlights on the board are shown as clear marks in the rule book, especially the ones for the body tokens. Yet on the board they are not the same. The explanations of the rules for some of the scenarios in the rule book contradict themselves. And the order of the rules in the rule book makes no sense either, so it leaves you flicking back and forth through it. Fortunately there is a revised version of the manual and the scenario guide in the works.
A lot of work has been done by Judgement Dave on Board Game Geek to help with this. He has created Map Cards that clearly show the placements of lockers, doors and bodies, and also a couple of Player Aid sheets for quick reference of the rules. If you are considering getting Lobotomy, I highly recommend you check out his supplementary materials. However, they are not taken into account for the purpose of this review.
Add to all the rule checking the amount of dice you need to roll. Consider this as a turn: You are equipped with a sledgehammer and there’s monster on your space. You roll to hit it as your first action, so roll 7 D6. Your attack rating is 5, and you rolled 6, 6, 5, 4, 2, 1, 1. The enemy had 1 defence and 4 health, so you didn’t get enough successes to kill it. So you roll to attack again. OK, let’s say you killed it with the second hit, so for your final action this turn you are going to search the locker that was here. Your imagination score is 7 (if you are lucky), so roll 7 dice again and check how many are a 4, 5 or 6. Can you afford some new equipment?
And that was just one character. You also need to keep check of skill cooldowns, health, insanity, health of the monsters on the board all while trying to aim for the scenario objectives. All of these things slow the pace down as you just have to think about so many things.
Escaping the Asylum
There is a good game in here, but it takes a lot of reading and understanding the rules before you get to it. Lobotomy is not a game that you bring along to a tabletop meetup, nor would you really bring it out when friends are round for a chilled night of gaming. Lobotomy is one of those games that you need to say, “we ARE playing this tonight” and you set it up before people come round so that they have no choice. However, if you have a group who become familiar with all the rules, and folk that don’t mind rolling a LOT of dice, then the balance of tension in Lobotomy works really well.
In the picture there we took on two scenarios, with the later being to defeat Frankenstein’s Monster. We were able to do it, despite two characters dying during the first scenario, with the Warden on the final space of the insomnia track. One more turn would have triggered the final clash, but all characters had managed to rush to Frankenstein’s Monster and unleash every attack skill they had to take him down.
It’s hard to argue with the quality of work that has gone into the design and production of the board, cards and miniatures. However, it is a shame that the same quality hasn’t been put into the rules and scenario guide. The version we got even includes a scenario that we can’t technically play as the associated miniatures weren’t included in the box. Once there is an updated version of the rule book released we would love to come back and take another look at Lobotomy as the underlying game is good and has plenty of replay-ability.
I could recommend Lobotomy, but not until they have released the updated versions of the rules and scenarios. And again, only if you like to roll lots of dice.
5 poorly formatted and over-complicated rules out of 10