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Abomination: The Heir Of Frankenstein Review

Abomination The Heir Of Frankenstein

“If I Cannot Inspire Love, I Will Cause Fear!” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Unlike many worker placement games in the Euro category, Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is a truly macabre strategy game based on Mary Shelley’s famous Frankenstein. It is among the highest contenders for the best thematic euro game thanks to its sequel based back story and brilliantly illustrated gothic game board artwork; and with its decks depicting dead bodies in gruesome conditions and the game’s questionable humanity, it has earned its gory reputation and a parental guidance warning.

The story follows on some 20 years after the monster had disappeared into the darkness, only to re-emerge as “the creature” who enlists a group of scientists (the players) who have to choose their play strategy in a race to build the perfect companion… do they sacrifice their own humanity to create a monster from fresh body parts by immoral means, or source human and animal matter in various states of decomposition to preserve what is left of their integrity and hope this will help them gain the advantage?

It is certainly a game which has inspired a love of thematic board games (and caused a little fear) in our gaming circle!

The Creation Of A Monster

Abomination is played in rounds, and each round is made up of 4 phases; The Event Phase, The City Phase and the Lab Phase where players work on creating a new monster, followed by The Reset Phase.

During the Event Phase, the top card of the pre-shuffled Event deck is read out to all players. This short phase introduces new round rules either by an event that takes place or an encounter with the creature, that may affect all or a single player. It will include some flavour text which adds depth to the new rule, and may also refer the player to read from the accompanying book, which further adds to the thematic story based scenario affecting that current round. It is written authentically and enhances the unfolding drama by affecting certain actions or spaces that can be occupied on the board.

The City Phase is the worker placement chapter of the round. Each player in turn order can place their main scientist meeple and two smaller assistant meeples on the Gothic City of Paris game board in the various buildings and public spaces. There are some spaces that only the Scientist can visit, while other places will have varying gains and resources depending on whether the assistant or scientist is played there, with the Scientist reaping a greater reward.

It is during this phase that players are attempting to collect the most body matter resources as well as gaining or losing influence, expertise and humanity which are attributes necessary to receive bonus actions, although sacrifices are often required as the need for resources outweighs the need for morality. As the game progresses there is the opportunity to add a third assistant meeple to the team or upgrade an assistant to scientist through bettering these attributes.

By placing meeples at the cemetery, hospital or morgue you may collect decomposing human resources in the form of cubes representing blood, bone, organs and muscles which will be required to start building body parts in the lab. You can go to the market place to buy and trade goods, for example Leyden Jars which are necessary to store electricity to bring the newly formed creature to life. You can also visit the Academy or Church to gain benefits, the docks to enlist unscrupulous helpers to obtain resources, and when all virtue is lost, the Dark Alley provides the opportunity to harvest the freshest resources… but at a cost!

Once all meeples have been played, players progress to their Labs for the penultimate phase, where they now use their expertise level and body matter to start constructing and building on skinless limbs, torso and head to make the creature a companion. If lightening has been stored in any of the Leyden Jars you can take to the dice to try and bring life to your completed parts, but with electricity comes the risk of causing damage to your hard work and harvesting, and that is for the fate of the dice roll to decide.

Players simultaneously complete their Lab Phase in order to progress to the final reset phase of the round. Players who were prepared or resourceful enough to trade for ice at the market get to preserve their remaining resources for another round, and then all players reclaim their meeples, dispose of any deteriorated resources and refresh the cards on the board, ready to proceed to the next round.

The game plays out over 12 twelve rounds or until one player has brought their fully re-formed creature to new life.

Artwork & Components

There’s no denying that the artwork on the cards and components is both gruesome and graphic. That said, considering my ordinarily squeamish disposition, I don’t find the game in any way offensive, and have not been deterred at all in bringing this game to the table. In fact, it’s something we boast about when selling this to our unaccustomed gamer friends on game night, as it is this uniquely grimacing attribute that makes Abomination a standout Gothic Horror game, rarely seen. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but we are yet to find someone who has refused to play it.

Moving passed the gory nature of slit throats, missing eyes and decomposed corpses, and you have a beautifully drawn game board, with great attention to detail and good quality, well-illustrated card components that I am sure will withstand a lot of play. There is a slight issue with a lack of cubes the more players you have, but resources are limitless so you can find an alternative or make a note if you need to.

Final Thoughts

We love this game. It’s so true to the theme that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was based on a sequel of Mary Shelly’s own hand. Because of this we especially love the narrative in the book – there are so many event scenarios and choices that you can play this game a whole bunch of times and read something new in every game that brings with it a new twist to play. This affects the strategies you will need to plan on a round by round basis, as does a change in player count and their game play, so you never play the same game twice.

Abomination cleverly integrates worker placement with a race to win. If you get to the point where nobody has successfully brought their creature to life by the end of the 12th round, then it is the victory points that decides who wins. This adds tension, because it’s not as simple as having the most completed monster, the dials with all the bonus attributes of your character will count in the end, so even if you have the most completed body parts, you may not win if someone else has behaved more humanely than you. And yet, this is a euro game which also includes the element of luck – somewhat unusually, players find themselves at the mercy of the dice. Discharging your leyden jars to bring your body parts to life introduces the element of chance and sheer frustration.

In the end, Frankenstein’s monster may not be the only tortured wretch in the game, but Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein will certainly bring a new edge to your gaming and is one of the most absorbing and authentic themed board game we have played to date.

That concludes our thoughts on Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein today click here!

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