Halloween is still two months away. Not that you’d know it with pop-up Halloween stores showing up in every empty storefront already. But today, I’m going to talk about two monster-themed games that are currently available to buy. We’ll start with
Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is a 2-4 player game from designer Dan Blanchett and published by Plaid Hat Games. The game takes about 20 years after the end of the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The idea is that a mysterious, heavily scarred figure is sponsoring a competition to figure out the late Dr. Frankenstein’s research. But the creature’s efforts to find a companion are being thwarted by Captain Robert Walton, who is back to fulfill his vow to destroy it.
The game takes place in Paris, which is represented on the game board. Players get a random character, a laboratory board, an anatomy card, money, 4 scientists, 3 assistants, and a score marker. Along with all the other bits and pieces, the whole game looks something like this:
Abomination is round-based, and during each round, you’ll follow the same four steps: Event, City, Lab, and Reset.
EVENT PHASE: The first player draws the top card of the Event deck, which has different effects based on the round you’re in. You could find an event, which is put into play immediately, either with an immediate effect or an effect that will change the rules for the round. You could also find an encounter, which could go after another player immediately, or could be triggered when someone enters a location (shades of Dead of Winter there). You could also find an Execution, which adds body parts to the Public Square, or a Lightning Storm, which allows people to charge their Leyden jars.
CITY PHASE: In turn order, players place their meeples around at various locations on the map. Some places will only take scientists, some cost money, and some require you to bump others and pay them in order to place there. Here are the locations, and what they’ll do for you:
- Cemetery. Draw three Cemetery Cadaver cards, and keep as many as you like (as long as you can pay for them). These will allow you to gain expertise or materials.
- Public Square. Cadavers will appear here after there is an Execution. When you place here (which costs a franc), you get one of the visible cards, gaining expertise or materials.
- Hospital. You need a Reputation of at least 7 to take and resolve the top card of the Hospital deck. If your reputation is at least 15, you can pay a franc to take a second card. Instead of gaining cadavers, you could Work – a scientist can be placed there to gain you money based on your expertise. A scientist could also Volunteer to gain 1 Humanity and 2 reputation.
- Morgue. After paying a franc, draw two cards from the Morgue deck and keep however many you wish, as with the Cemetery.
- Academy. Placing here could get you a franc and one reputation if you do a Lecture, or take a research card if you choose to Research. Scientists can do Advanced Research to gain one expertise and one face up research card, or they could Donate up to 3 francs for 1 reputation per franc paid.
- Slaughterhouse. Here, you get animal parts.
- Saint-Roch. Take a face-up Humanity card as you Atone for your sins. A scientist also gains one Humanity.
- Market. Here, you can sell bone material (2 for 1 franc), preserved materials (3 for 2 francs), buy uncharged Leyden jars (2 francs each), or buy/replace ice blocks in your lab for 1 franc each.
- First Player. Take the first player marker (which is the Creature). This also gives you an extra action once everyone else has passed.
- Docks. Take a Scoundrel card, pay for it, and resolve it.
- Dark Alley. Murder somebody. This gives you materials, loses you three Humanity, and puts a police marker on you (if you get two, you can’t place here anymore).
- Laboratory Board. Your lab has four things you can do that others can’t block you out of – scientists can Practice for one expertise; you can Give Blood for blood materials; you can Repair damaged monster parts; or you could charge up to three of your Leyden jars.
LAB PHASE: After everyone has placed their scientists and assistants, you move to the lab. This phase is performed simultaneously as all players can first try to build as many monster parts as they can. Then, if you have a completed body part (skin up), you can flip the switch. This involves losing the charge on 1-3 Leyden jars, then rolling two shock dice for each jar used. You’re looking for Alive results, as opposed to damage or loss of humanity. The last thing you can do is preserve any number of organs and muscle, taking them off your decomposition track.
RESET PHASE: If you don’t have an ice block, you’ll lose any stage IV materials to decomposition, as well as stage II blood. All other materials get downgraded a stage. If you do have an ice block, it is flipped to its half-melted side, or discarded if it was already half-melted. You’ll also refresh the board, take all your meeples back, and advance the Captain on his track.
When the Captain has reached the end of his track, or when one player ends a lab phase with all six body parts alive, the game is over. The player who has amassed the most victory points is the winner.
The really cool thing about this game is that it’s really leaning into the Mary Shelley original, rather than the more general tropey depiction of Frankenstein’s monster that is more based on the Universal monsters (see below). It’s set after the novel, but seems to adhere to the novel’s spirit. And that’s good, because the creature is really a lot more tragic than most depictions you see in modern media, especially games. This one looks quite grisly, and with a lot of the randomness you tend to see in highly thematic games. But it still looks like one I want to check out.
Horrified is a game designed by Prospero Hall and published by Ravensburger. It’s for 1-5 players, and is a cooperative game where players are trying to survive in a town infested by classic movie monsters – Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each monster has a different way to be defeated, and you have to beat all of them in the game in order to win.
At the start of the game, you’ll choose the monsters you’ll face. For the first game, it is suggested that you face Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. After that, it’s up to you – two monsters for a Novice game, three for Standard, four for Challenging. (Note: Frankenstein and the Bride and played together. Also, the rules acknowledge that Frankenstein is the Creature’s creator, but for purposes of this game, they’re just calling him Frankenstein.) I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that you can’t play with all seven at once. I’m sure someone will come up with that variant. Players get random heroes that start at specific places on the board. When set up, the game will look something like this:
Your hero’s badge shows how many actions you can take in a turn. For the Hero Phase of your turn, you can take those actions, as well as any number of Perk cards. Your action options:
- Move your Hero to an adjacent space along a lit path. You can take any number of Villagers with you.
- Guide a Villager from your space to an adjacent space, or a Villager from an adjacent space to your space.
- Special Actions are Hero specific.
- Pick Up items from your space.
- Share Items with other heroes in your space.
- Advance a Monster’s Task using an Item. Each Monster has a task you need to complete before you can actually Defeat it (which is another possible action using Items)
- For the Creature from the Black Lagoon, you need to find the hidden lair, then drive him away to defeat him.
- For Dracula, you need to smash his four coffins before you can defeat him.
- For the Frankensteins, you need to teach them what it means to be human, then make them meet so they’ll live peacefully.
- For the Invisible Man, you need to supply evidence, then trap him.
- For the Mummy, you need to break the curse, then entomb him.
- For the Wolf Man, you need to discover the cure, the cure him.
After taking your actions, move on to the Monster Phase. Draw a card from the Monster deck, and resolve all three parts from top to bottom, in order. It will tell you to draw a certain number of Items (the Items themselves will tell you where to place them). Next, there will be an event involving a Monster or the Villagers, and you can ignore it if the indicated Monster is not in the game. Finally, there’s a Monster Strike – indicated Monsters will move and attack. This is done by rolling dice, and could either activate a Monster’s power, or hit a Hero, causing them to lose an item or wind up in the hospital.
To win the game, you need to defeat all Monsters. However, if the Terror Level reaches its maximum, or if the Monster deck is empty and you need to draw a card, you lose.
Once again, Prospero Hall (a pseudonym for the team at Forrest-Pruzan Creative) seems to have done an admirable job in taking a license and building a good, accessible gateway-style game around it, as they have done with games like Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, Disney Villainous, and Jaws. This game looks like it pays homage to the classic Universal Monsters in the best way possible – by setting them loose and letting them terrorize a town. The movies these monsters pretty much established their tropes surrounding their legends, and even often eclipsed their source material in the public consciousness. And as glad as I am to see a game that honors the source material like Abomination does, it’s also great to see a game reveling in the absurdity of some of these classic monster movies.
That’s it for today – thanks for reading!