‘Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein’ Will Get You into the Halloween Spirit

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Twenty years have passed since the scientist Victor Frankenstein met his end in pursuit of the Creature he had made himself, an abomination crafted from the desecrated parts of a multitude of corpses, both human and animal. The year is now 1819, and a sinister darkness has descended upon the city of Paris. A mysterious benefactor, one with off-putting coloration and an array of ghastly scars, has created a competition to determine which studious soul can unlock the secrets of Frankenstein’s research. The prize? Unlocking the very mystery of mortality. For this secret patron, however, the real prize is of a more personal nature. It wants what its own creator dared not provide: a companion as reviled and abominable as itself, to forever end its miserable solitude. Are you up for the challenge? Will you be the heir of Frankenstein?

What Is Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein?

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is a competitive worker placement game for 2-4 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 90-120 minutes to play. It’s currently available at your local game store as well as from Amazon. The suggested retail price is $59.95 for a copy of the game; however, you can usually find it cheaper through online retailers. Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein was designed by Dan Blanchett and published by Plaid Hat Games, with illustrations by Palamarchuk Mikhail and Tony Sart. Plaid Hat Games also offers a free companion app that provides voice overs for all of the in-game story text. It can be accessed here.

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein Components

Here is what you get in the box:

  • 1 Paris Board
  • 1 Event Board
  • 4 Laboratory Boards
  • 8 Shock Dice
  • 4 Anatomy Cards
  • 6 Character Cards
  • 15 Encounter Cards
  • 19 Event Cards
  • 16 Humanity Cards
  • 16 Research Cards
  • 16 Scoundrel Cards
  • 52 Cadaver Cards
  • 1 Captain Meeple
  • 1 First Player Creature Meeple
  • 16 Scientist Meeples
  • 12 Assistant Meeples
  • 42 Francs
  • 4 Ice Block Tokens
  • 16 Leyden Jar Tokens
  • 170 Material Cubes
  • 30 Monster Body Part Tokens
  • 28 Damage Markers
  • 4 Player Score Markers
  • 6 Bonus Objective Markers
  • 1 Bribe and Bump Track
  • 4 Event Markers
  • 12 Police Markers
  • 4 Player Reference Cards
  • 24 Alive Markers
Paris gameboard
The Paris game board. Image by Michael Knight.

The gameboard features the city of Paris with various locations where you can earn francs, expertise, and even gain materials from dead bodies to build your monster. 

lab board
Every player has their own laboratory board. Image by Michael Knight.

The laboratory board keeps track of your humanity, expertise, and reputation as well as where you keep your materials and the body parts you have created.

anatomy card
The anatomy card has two sides. One is for starting a monster part and the other for completing parts. Image by Michael Knight.

Anatomy cards let you know the requirements for creating monster parts and the victory points you can earn. 

event board
The event board for the game. Image by Michael Knight.

The event board keeps track of turns and shows the current event or encounter in play for the round. 

event cards
Samples of event and encounter cards. The monster card goes on top of the deck to hid the cards below. Image by Michael Knight.

You draw either an event or encounter card each turn which make each game different. 

character cards
Which character will you play as? Image by Michael Knight.

You randomly select a character card at the start of the game. Each character has a unique ability.

cards
Scoundrel and cadaver cards. Image by Michael Knight.

Scoundrel cards feature people you can hire at the docks. Cadaver cards can be obtained at four different locations on the map.

dice
The two types of dice used to try to bring parts to life. Image by Michael Knight.

Dice are used to try to bring your monster parts to life. Gaining expertise lets you upgrade from gray to blue dice which have a greater chance to bring a part to life and are less likely to cause damage. 

tokens
A pile of tokens for the game. Image by Michael Knight.

The game comes with several different types of tokens including francs, police markers, and alive/damage tokens. 

monster parts
The monster part tokens are used to create your monster. Image by Michael Knight.

Monster part tokens come in six different types. Once side is the muscle side and the other is the skinned side. 

How to Play Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

You can download a copy of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to be the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. 

Setup

Start off by placing the Paris board in the center of the play area with the event board above it. Remove the Leopold the Vast cadaver card from the rest and set it aside. Then sort and shuffle the remaining cadaver cards and create four decks (cemetery, morgue. hospital, and public square). Place the cemetery and morgue decks face down at their locations on the Paris board and the other decks face down off to the side. Place all the other decks off to the side of the board, then draw a number of cards from the hospital deck equal to the number of players and place them in a face up stack at the hospital. Next shuffle the scoundrel cards into a deck and place them off to the side of the Paris board near the docks location. Deal 3 scoundrel cards face up onto the dock area. Shuffle the research cards into a deck and place them near the academy location and deal two of these cards face up onto the academy. Now shuffle the the humanity cards into a deck, placing them near the Saint-Roch location and deal two of the cards face up onto this location. Create an event deck by randomly selecting 6 event and 4 encounter cards. Shuffle them together and then collect two more event cards and place them on top of the event deck. Cover the deck with the event cover card.

Next place the captain meeple on the first space of the story track. Place the bribe and bump track on the Paris board, with the side face up showing the number of players. Randomly select 4 of the 6 bonus objective markers and place them face up on the Paris board while returning the other two to the box. Now create piles of markers, tokens and cubes according to their types: Leyden jars, ice blocks, francs, materials (divided by colors of cubes), shock dice, damage markers, alive markers, monster part tokens (sorted by type), and police markers. 

Each player now takes a laboratory board, 1 random character card, 1 anatomy card, francs equal to the number of players, a player reference card, and 4 scientist meeples, 3 assistant meeples, and a player score marker all matching the color of the laboratory board. Set the attribute dials on the laboratory board to 0 for humanity and 1 for both reputation and expertise. Each player sets 1 scientist and 2 assistant meeples on the designated spaces on their character cards while setting the remaining meeples aside for later. Players place their score markers on the 0 space of the score track on the Paris board. Finally, randomly determine who will be the first player and give them the first player creature meeple. You are now ready to play. 

game setup
A 2-player game setup and ready to play. Image by Michael Knight.

Gameplay

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is played in a number of rounds which are each divided into four phases: event phase, city phase, lab phase, and rest phase. Let’s take a look at each phase in turn. 

Event Phase

The first player draws the top card from the event deck and selects the side which corresponds with the current round. Event cards are read immediately and put into play. For encounters, the first player reads the cards and notes the trigger. If the trigger is now, the first player can choose the target unless only one player meets the requirement and resolves the card. For location triggers, the first player holds onto that card and does not trigger it until another player places a meeple at that location, even if on a subsequent round. Some event cards also have additional effects. For executions, draw 1-2 cards from the public square deck, depending on the number of players,  and place them on that location. For lightning storms, players charge their Leyden jars by flipping them to the charged side. Some cards direct players to go to an entry in the rulebook to read a selection. 

City Phase

During this phase, starting with the first player and continuing clock-wise, players take turn placing meeples until all have placed their meeples or been forced to pass. During their turn, a player takes one of their meeples from their character card and places it on a location space on the Paris board or on their laboratory board and then resolve that space’s effect. Some spaces require only scientists while others require the player to pay a number of francs indicated to place the meeple on that space. If a meeple is already on that space, a player must bump that meeple before placing their own meeple on that space. To do this, move the other meeple to the first open space of the bump track and pay the owner of that meeple the indicated number of francs. Once the bump track is full, no other meeples can be bumped and no more meeples may be placed on occupied spaces. 

Lab Phase

Unlike the previous phase, all players complete the lab phase simultaneously. During this phase, the complete the following actions in order: build a monster part, throw the switch, and preserve materials. You can build as many monster parts as you wish and are able. To do this, consult the anatomy card. Look at the ‘Start a Monster Part’ side if you want to build a monster part. Flip over to the ‘Complete a Monster Part’ side if you want to add skin to a muscle part you have already built. Each body part has various requirements. First check to see if your expertise  level meets or exceeds that requirement. If you have sufficient expertise for that body part, then discard the number and types of material cubes shown for the material requirement. Also take note of the decomposition stage of the materials you use. Once the materials have been spent, then either add the body part to the operating table on your laboratory board or flip over an existing part to the side with skin on it to complete it. You gain 1 expertise level for each part you build or complete. Check the anatomy card to see how many victory points you earn based on the part and the decomposition level of the materials used.

After you have built or completed any monster parts, you can then throw the switch to bring some parts to life. To do this, flip over 1-3 of your charged Leyden jars. Roll 2 shock dice for each jar. You can also play any research cards you have to mitigate the effects of the dice. For each damage (lightning bolt) result, place a damage marker onto one or more parts on the operating table. If two damage markers are on a part, downgrade it and remove the markers. A muscle part is discarded, a skin part is flipped over to the muscle side, and an alive part loses its alive marker. If any dice results cause you to lose humanity, lower your humanity dial by one only no matter how many of those results you rolled. Finally, for each alive result you rolled, place up to one alive marker on any skin sided parts.

Now you  can choose to preserve some of your materials. Move any number of organs (purple cubes) and muscle (brown cubes) materials from spaces on your decomposition track to your preservation space. You can have no more than 9 preserved items at a time. These can later be sold at the market on a later turn.

laboratory board midgame
A laboratory board with materials and body parts in various stages of completion. Image by Michael Knight.

Reset Phase

This phase has four actions which take place in turn. The first phase is decomposition. If you don’t have an ice block in your lab, discard all materials on stage IV of the decomposition track and all blood material on stage II, then move each remaining material in stage I through III one space to the right on their track. If you have an ice block do not decompose materials but flip the solid ice block to the half-melted side and return a half-melted ice block to the supply. 

Next you refresh the board. Discard and then replenish all cards at the hospital, docks, academy, and Saint-Roch. The hospital is always replenished with a number of face up cards in a stack equal to the number of players. Discard all cards at the public square, but do not replenish them. Then discard any event card in play, as well as any corresponding event markers. Now collect all the meeples on the board and return them to your character card. Finally, advance the captain meeple 1 space along the story track. 

Game End

The game ends when the captain meeple reaches the last space of the story track or when one or more players have brought their monster to life with all 6 body parts alive at the end of the lab phase. Players also earn additional victory points each monster part with an alive marker, for completing bonus objectives, points according to their humanity, reputation, and expertise dials. The player with the highest humanity also earns extra victory points if the game ends due to the captain meeple. After all victory points have been calculated, the player with the most points wins. 

Why You Should Play Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

There are a lot of things going on during a game of Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein. Yet the way the rounds are divided into four phases keeps gameplay organized and everyone engaged i the game. While the rules are somewhat involved, the player reference cards and anatomy cards keep all of the information players need close at hand so they don’t have to continuously refer back to the rulebook. The event phase throws some randomness into the game and can force players to change their plans. For example, areas of the city may be closed during the round or there may be high costs involved. Encounters further the story and this is where the voice-over app really adds to the game. Rather than having the first player read text, a professional voice actor can do it for you with sounds effects. Even just having the app open during play provides some background spooky sounds which add to the ambience of the game. 

The city phase offers a lot of choices. Even if another player chooses the space you wanted, you can still bump them, for a price. However, the ability to bump is limited. At the start, each player has only one scientist and three assistants. Assistants are not as useful as scientists, so you want to build up your reputation so you can recruit more scientists. Early in the game, you also want to increase your expertise since you need at least 3 to start a monster part. While the main focus of the city phase is acquiring materials you can then use in the lab phase, it is also important to earn some francs by working at the hospital or selling preserved materials at the market. You will need francs to purchase supplies such as Leyden jars and ice or to hire scoundrels to do your dirty work for you. At the same time, you need to keep your humanity from sinking which can cost you reputation and victory points. Therefore, players must really balance their actions and focus on earning as many victory points as possible in order to win the game. 

Once you have used your scientists and assistants to scour the city, it is time to work on your monster in the laboratory. This is where you have to decide what materials you will use to make various parts. The fresher the materials used, the more victory points you earn. You need to start and then complete six different monster parts in order to bring your monster to life. So this adds up to 12 parts. With only 12 rounds in the game, you need to average one part per round if you want to accomplish your task. Trying to bring parts to life by throwing the switch is a risky venture. In fact, you are more likely to inflict damage on your monster than to bring it to life. That is why it is so important to build up your expertise so you can unlock those blue dice which have much better odds then the gray dice. Of course, any damage inflicted can be repaired by a scientist during the next turn’s city phase. But if a part takes 2 damage, it is downgraded, costing you time and materials later, but also providing an opportunity to earn more victory points. The reset phase then just gets the game ready for the next round. 

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein takes some time to play. While the game suggests 90-120 minutes for a game, plan on it taking longer for your first game as everyone is learning the rules and taking more time deciding where to place their scientists and assistants. Though while the game is lengthy, it seems to go quickly because players are constantly engaged. They all listen to the results of the encounter phase, they take turns placing their meeples for the city phase, the lab phase has players working simultaneously on their laboratory boards, and all players decompose their materials and can help set up the board for the next round. There really is not much down time for players during the game. 

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is a beautiful game. The artwork on the boards, cards, and even the monster part tokens all have a gothic feel and add to the theme of the game. The dials on the laboratory boards to keep track of your stats is much better than using a token on a track which can get knocked aside, especially since there is a lot of movement on these boards as you manipulate material cubes and part tokens. Add the voice-over app and you have a complete thematic gaming experience that is perfect for the month of October or anytime for that matter. Plus the limit of 12 rounds adds a sense of urgency.

I really enjoy playing Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein. It does a wonderful job of combining worker placement with resource management and rewards players who think a round or two ahead. In fact, it melds these game mechanics seamlessly with the theme. It also requires players to be flexible since they may not be able to execute their plans due to an event, encounter, or because another player placed a meeple on the space they needed. The age suggestion of 14 and up is appropriate due to the many decisions in the game as well as the theme of stealing corpses or even using murder to gain the materials to create your monster. I am always impressed with the quality of the components of products by Plaid Hat Games and this is no exception. The company has even provided rules for solo play as well as the Igor variant for shorter games. This reduces the number of rounds from 12 to 8 and each player starts with more reputation and expertise as well as 2 charged Leyden jars and two monster parts already on the operating table. I highly recommend Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein as a great addition to any game collection for teenagers and adults.

If you are looking to play this game, Amazon has it in stock and can get it to you within a few days depending on where you live–just in time for your Halloween-themed game night. For more information, visit the Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein page!


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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