Designed by Dan Blanchett and published by Plaid Hat Games, Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein pits 2-4 players against each other to see who can complete the late Dr. Frankenstein’s research and build the best monster over the course of 12 rounds. In order to do this, players will send out their scientists and assistants throughout Paris, gathering body parts, improving the players’ reputation and scientific knowledge, while still trying to maintain some semblance of their humanity by not being too evil.
By acquiring body parts, players can extract blood, muscle, organs, and bone which they will then use to build their monster, one limb, torso, and head at a time. Finished body parts can then be charged with electricity to make them alive by rolling six sided dice acquired by spending electrified leyden jars.
Players score points when they start a body part and again when they finish it. Points are awarded based on the freshness of the materials used. There are four sections on a player’s board where cubes representing materials are placed, the first being freshest while the fourth is least fresh. Usually, the location on the board where the material is collected dictates its freshness. Materials extracted from murders are the freshest, while materials extracted from corpses dug up at the cemetery are not very fresh at all. At the end of each round, unused materials on a player’s board decompose and move to the next highest space on the board. Materials on the fourth space are discarded when they move off the board.
At skin level, Abomination is a worker placement game combined with resource management. But at its heart, the game is so saturated with theme and atmosphere that it is an experience as much as a game. Even though it is clearly not cooperative, it still sort of feels like Dead of Winter, another Plaid Hat Games game. There are event cards that feel like Crossroads cards, and the artwork is gruesome and gray. And the unapologetic embrace of the darkness of the subject matter of the game is refreshing.
Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein provides several strategic decisions without fostering analysis paralysis. The choices are meaningful but not overwhelming. There is not too much player vs. player meanness. The balance feels right. The dials on the player board provide another layer of planning while building your monster. Committing murder provides fresh materials, but also reduces your humanity, which ultimately causes significant victory points reduction. And without doing research, you will find yourself lacking in the knowledge to create the more sophisticated body parts.
My only real complaint for Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is the same as for Dead of Winter which is that it seems unnecessarily long. I think it could have been shorter. I don’t know if the second part of completing the monster (putting skin on) was necessary as implemented. I liked the adding blood part there, but I feel like having to use just blood at that point would have sped things up. Future plays may mitigate this concern as more efficient strategies surface, and I guess if players want a shorter game they can implement a house rule. Still, this game has plenty of good stuff and I find myself wanting to play again very soon.
If any of this seems intriguing to you, I think you are going to like it. If you have a queasy stomach and aren’t into horror or worker placement games, you probably won’t want to play this one. And that’s o.k. Thanks for reading. Keep nerding on.