Tides of Madness (and Tides of Times) is a draft game for two players (which by the way can both be bought for around $10. A absolute steal if you ask me!). You play three rounds where you start each round with five cards in hand. You pick one of these cards and pass the rest of your hand to the next player. Then both players turn the chosen card around. Next, you choose a card from the four cards you got from your opponent, pass the remaining three cards, etc till no cards are left.
All cards contain two elements of interest, namely a colored symbol and a point or ‘condition’. For example, there is a card where you get three points for each card with a red symbol (but this card itself does not have a red symbol but a green one).
At the end of each round you determine your score based on the values on the cards and the combinations you made. Both players then choose one card from the game and one card that they keep permanently (take them to the next rounds). You then draw two extra cards so that you have five cards left and you continue playing. Whoever has the most points at the end wins the game.
Tides of Madness is exactly the same as Tides of Times, with one small but interesting difference. The tentacles of Cthulhu are depicted on some of the maps. These tentacles are symbolic of the Madness that slowly gets its grip on you. For each card with the tentacles, you must take a Madness marker during the evaluation at the end of a round.
On the one hand, this is fine, because if you got most of these chips in a round you can choose from scoring 4 bonus points or ‘healing’ (i.e. removing) one of the Madness chips. Now you wonder why in heaven’s name you would choose to heal a madness chip if you could score points. Well, that is true. It is not entirely without danger to collect many Madness chips. If you have nine or more then the game is immediately over and you have lost.
I thought Tides of Time was a very charming two-person game, but the small addition of the Madness chips makes the game even more fun. It gives you both an extra chance to score points, but you also run the risk that it will be your downfall. You really have to be careful that you do not collect too many chips that you end up in trouble and where your opponent gives you with all the cards with Cthulhu tentacles, so you get your ninth chip and lose.
This really gives the game a new dimension. Even so much that if you already own Tides of Times you might just still want to buy Tides of Madness and never look back at Tides of Times again, as it just a little bit dull compared to this new game!