The Cardboard Hoard: Initial Thoughts on Abomination - The Heir of Frankenstein
I had the chance to demo Plaid Hat’s latest title, Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein, at Origins last month. I didn’t get to play a full game, but played it for over an hour with three other players, and was definitely able to get a feel for how the game plays. The theme is very well done -- especially if you are a fan of the book -- although the concept of the game is quite macabre, and could be a turn off to some. This strong theming and the hint of story-telling found in the game is not a surprise if you are familiar with Plaid Hat Games publishing style.
The main board is rather grey and lifeless. It didn't have much table presence, despite its considerable size, and also didn’t match the aesthetics on box art. Each player has a player board, and each has three dials to track stats, along with a number of areas to store resource cubes, tokens, and body parts. The body part components that you piece together on your player board are a nice touch, and allows you to visibly see your progress throughout the game. We ran out of resource cubes when we played, but I am not sure if the demo copy just didn't have enough, or if that is a potential issue when playing with the max count of four players.
The game is a fairly standard heavier worker placement game. You have one scientist meeple and a few assistant meeples that you get to place each round, with the scientist having access to more locations and getting better payouts. While the game is a worker placement, there is a bump mechanism that allows more than one player to use a space by bumping the previous player at the cost of the bumping player paying the bumped player for the privilege.
You collect resources -- bones, tissue, and blood -- and upgrade them into body parts. You get more points if you use fresher ingredients, which are, not surprisingly, harder to come by. In between each round, the ingredients decompose and lose value, although you can acquire blocks of ice to prevent this. There are also event cards that change things up each round. The goal is to collect an entire body out of parts, and to use electrical jars -- another resource you collect -- to shock the body parts to life, which requires dice. A successful dice roll will animate a body part, but a failed dice roll will harm body parts and can force you to discard them.
You also have three dials on your player board, representing morality, knowledge and reputation, which you need to manage. Some actions will increase or decrease them. Some actions cannot be taken until you reach certain thresholds. There are also bonuses if you can get the dials to certain levels, and penalties if you let your morality drop to low -- for example, by murdering people for fresh body parts, which is one of the available worker placement spaces on the board.
While the gameplay was fine, nothing about it jumped out at me as particularly new or groundbreaking. The strongest aspect of the experience was how well it integrated the Frankenstein theme throughout the game -- in the game’s mechanisms, in its components, and with its storytelling elements. However, the actual gameplay felt a bit repetitive, and the worker placement did not have enough tension, as more than one worker could go visit a location using the bump mechanism.
It is the heaviest Plaid Hat title I’ve ever played -- I would say it is a solid medium-heavy game, similar in weight to another Victorian era worker placement game, Trickerion. I’m happy to see Plaid Hat push itself into heavier games, especially with their focus on interesting themes and story integration, but Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein just fell a bit short of the mark for me.