Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 16 April 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Game: Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Dan Blanchett

Year: 2019

Abomination: The Heir of Frankentein is inspired by Mary Shelley's classic novel, but it is not about Frankenstein's monster. It is set twenty years later, in Paris, and a mysterious benefactor has emerged in the scientific community, never showing his face, claiming to possess the late Frankenstein's research.You are each scientists, experimenting in the same dark rituals as those before you, haunted by Frankenstein's monster and trying to cover your tracks - making a name for yourself in the scientific community, donating to the church and all the while, trying to summon life from your table.

Abomination is a worker placement game for 2-4 players. If you're squeemish, or not a fan of macabre themes, then look away now. But, if you like your game theses a little bit twisted then you might discover that there's a lot of fun to be had with the story of Abomination.

Each player starts the game with one scientist worker and 3 assistants. Each worker spot on the board has space for 1 worker - some spaces are reserved for scientists, others can be used by either worker type, or might have a better ability when you use a scientist meeple. Each turn will involve each player placing all of their meeples. Your goal is to gain resources, as well as improve your 3 stats: Humanity, Reputation and Expertise. Here's where things start to get a bit horrible. The resources you are collecting are body parts. Organs, blood, bones and the like, mostly human, but sometimes animal. You can harvest from the freshest of corpses, bu murdering someone, and then there's a degrading scale of freshness down to visiting the graveyard where you might only find bones.

These 'resources' can then be used to create body parts for your 'creation'. You'll be wanting a head, a torso, 2 arms and two legs, and those are all made out of different blends of 'ingredients'. Body parts are constructed in the next phase, and must first be started (getting the bare bones, so to speak), then completed (add a little flesh and blood) and then brought to life by throwing the switch on your leyden jars. Having a monster with all 6 body parts alive will win you the game, and if no-one can do this, the winner will be the person with the most points at the end of 12 rounds.

Abomination is a big game! The box says 60-120 minutes, but be warned, it could easily take you a lot longer. With two players, playing very fast, we were done in around 90 minutes, but for many it will take longer. With that said, it doesn't feel too long - it's a really interesting game, that really changes in feel with your changing priorities throughout. The theme has also added a whole lot of fun for us at the table, giving us numerous memorable quotes ("a bad roll might cost you an arm and a leg!") - you can really play into the macabre here!

Not everything your doing is bad - giving lectures at the University will improve your reputation. Donating at the hospital will improve your humanity. Managing all three of these dials can seem hard to achieve at first, but eventually you'll get at least two of them to pretty high levels. High morality has certainly been harder to come by, since there's just not enough time to do good deeds, but you'll need some so that you don't lose victory points and reputation.

Abomination is a bit of a game of two halves. The worker placement phase can be calculating as you try to manage your resources to have just the right mix to accomplish actions in the next phase of each round, but in many cases, such as the morgue and the cemetery, whether you get the resources you need can be a matter of luck. There's also some luck in the events that occur each round. Being the first player is often good because you have control over the events, but sometimes there's a bad story element thrown in there and you just had no way of knowing if it would be good or bad. So far, this luck keeps things interesting, but the monster making phase of the game adds another dose of luck into the mix.

Once you have a few completed body parts on your table, you might want to start thinking about bringing them to life. Creating life is a resource intensive and risky business. You'll need to buy leyden jars (generally by selling pickled organs at the market), charge those jars and then throw the switch at the end of your turn. Each jar you discharge gives you two 6-sided dice. Dice results are either life, damage or blank, and later in the game some dice with slightly better odds can be obtained. Roll a life symbol and you can bring a body part to life. Roll damage and the number of damage symbol musts be evenly distributed around the body parts you have. Two damage tokens will make you arm (or leg, or head) fall off and you'll have to start again. You want to have enough body parts to spread damage around before you start to roll, but there is always a risk, even with re-rolls provided on cards, that your hard work will go to waste. I rolled pretty even odds in all of our 2-player games, but Amy had rotten luck and, as such, I won the game every time. In some games Amy way even evidently doing a much better job at being efficient in worker placement and resource management - she got all of her body parts complete before me, but bad dice luck just ruined her chances.

As the benefactor of fair dice, I have found my games of Abomination to be fantastic. Worker placement wouldn't be listed as one of my favourite mechanisms, but this game is so tight with a really core strategy, that it is focused enough for me to really enjoy making an efficient machine. The theme totally elevates this and makes it something really fun for me too. While the luck has been a let down for Amy in particular, I'm fortunate that it hasn't been an issue for me. It is a shame that the end of the game is the most luck driven part, so bad luck can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. In our house, that hasn't been an issue because we loved the overall gameplay enough to want to play again, but I can see it being a deal breaker for some groups.

If you're looking for a really thematic game that both horrifies you and makes you smile then Abomination is the most thematic thing I've played in quite some time. With puzzly mechanisms and meaty gameplay too, it's one of the best titles I can recommend for heavier gamers from the last few months. For the Yellow Meeple, it's an 8/10.

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK & Plaid Hat Games.

1 comment:

  1. Great overview and review! I've only played the game solo so far (playing 2 players) but I could see that it was thematic and lots of different types of player interaction. I really enjoyed the game and can't wait to get it in front of other people.