The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein is a game by Mark Hanny, published by Joe Magic Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players will be working to bring life to the monster that they create, much like Dr. Frankenstein. They will also be trying to gain victory points without angering the villagers who will destroy all their research and burn their inhuman creatures to cinders. The player that can best complete their experiments and gain the most points will be declared the winner.
To begin, the main board and the Victory Point board are placed in the center of the play area. Each player chooses a color. They then receive 2 coins, 1 arm and 1 leg for their monster. The remaining body parts are placed on the Undertaker box on the board. Coins are placed on the Trader box. The white Igor meeple is placed on the Igor space of the Clinician area of the board. The Villager meeple is placed on the number 1 at the bottom of the board. 2 wooden cubes of each player’s color are placed on the Victory Point board, one on each zero space. The officer cards are all shuffled together and placed in the middle of the play area. 3 cards are then drawn and placed face up beside the boards. The starting player is chosen and they are given the green starting player meeple. Play now begins.
On a player’s turn, they will take a certain amount of the small dice, depending on the number of players, and roll them. The dice are then placed in the corresponding spaces on the main board. Each player will then in turn order take one of the dice from the board and perform the action that is associated with the spot that it was taken from. Of course there are several different spaces to choose from but only the ones that were rolled will be available. When a 6 is rolled, the players can choose from one of the 9 spaces available in the curator area of the board by placing one of their blocks there. These spaces will provide everything from taking 2 coins to taking body parts without angering the villagers. When a 5 is rolled, the players can choose to pay a coin each to take up to two officer cards. The cards can give either victory points at the end of the game or provide an advantage during play. When a 4 is rolled, players can choose to place a block on one of the Clinician spots equal or lower than the Igor pawn. Having a block in these spaces provide victory points when the villager token reaches 4 and also helps to build a monster. When a 3 is rolled, the players may choose to take a coin from the store. When a 2 is rolled, the players can take a body part from the undertaker by rolling the large die and taking the corresponding part. Of course this will increase the villagers rage and move the villager token up 1. When a 1 is rolled, players can move the Igor token up or down by 1 space. They are then able to move a block to another area. If a player doesn’t like any of those options they have the ability to place a block on an open monster square with the lowest victory points. They then have to pay 2 coins and 5 body parts. They can also gain 2 victory points and may reshuffle the officer cards to place 3 new ones face up.
The game continues until one of two things happens. If the monster boxes are filled or when the villager rage reaches the fourth level. When that happens, the players finish their turn for the rolling round. They also must pay for having 5 or more creature cards. Victory points for the clinician are totaled and players are given their blocks back as are any in the curator area. Igor is placed back on level 1 as is the villager token. Players with 4 or more body parts must return down to 3 pieces. Players lose any coins over 3. Monster boxes are scored and blocks returned and the starting player token is passed to the next player. The game ends after each player has had a chance to be the rolling player. The player with the most victory points at this time is the winner.
This game comes with some very interesting and unique pieces. The victory point and main boards are really nicely designed and the artwork for these is pretty nice. It feels a little like Grave Business in that manner. The officer cards have some pretty nice artwork that is very thematic and works well with the rest of the pieces. The dice are nice and colorful. The player blocks, and body parts are brightly colored and look really nice. I like the interchangeable body parts for the monster. It feels a little like the game Get Bit in that aspect. The coin and victory point tokens are nice and I really like the designs for the coins. It actually looks like really currency. The best parts though are the pawns. The starting player pawn looks like a green Frankenstein’s monster meeple. The villager token is a little yellow German or Romanian looking meeple. The Igor pawn is white and looks like a little Igor meeple. These things are great and something that I wouldn’t have expected could be made to look as great as they do. All in all, the theme really comes through and everything looks really nice.
9 out of 10
The rulebook is a little bit difficult to work your way through. First let me say that there are only pictures of the components and the major icons found on the main board for reference. Usually I’m able to work through everything and find what I’m looking for fairly easily. However this is not the case with these rules. There is no bold text to break things up from one thought to another. It’s kinda like my first attempts at writing reviews. Lots of huge paragraphs with no breaks. There’s a lot of text to read through and you basically have to read through the whole thing to understand the game. It’s probably likely that I’ll wind up using a highlighter to separate things a bit. That’s not to say that the rules are horrible, just the lay out. I’d really have liked a better set up and more pictures and examples of game play. I will say that the rules are in color and there is even a section that gives some clarification about the cards. In any case, reading straight through is not that big of a problem. It’s when you want some clarification or need to look back about something that there becomes a problem. Not a deal breaker but a bit of a miss in my book.
6 out of 10
(Edit: The rules have been revised and are available on the publisher’s website. Many of my concerns have been addressed and now bring my rating up from a 6 to an 8. The improved rules will be available in the Kickstarter version that is being produced.)
Thankfully, the game plays a lot better than the rules might make you think. When it comes down to it, the game is quite fun and entertaining. It has a great worker placement feel that reminds me a bit of Dark Horse. Rolling the dice and taking actions based on the dice rolls seems a bit similar. However it is different enough to be really enjoying. I really like that the players have the power to control how long the game goes through causing the villagers to rage against the monster. The game is a little bit difficult on the first couple of plays, as you’ll need to go back to the rules for clarification on the iconography as well as what actions are available. That’s where I had my problems as I stated earlier. This led to a much longer game than it should have been by close to an additional 30 minutes. Players prone to analysis paralysis will have a field day with this game. There’s so much to analyze and choices to make that it’s going to happen. The game has a lot of potential once you get through those initial plays. Don’t get me wrong, I like the game but it took several plays for me to get to that point.
8 out of 10
The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein is a worker placement game of monsterous proportions. The artwork is really neat and gives that feeling of an old classic monster movie with a cartoon twist. The components are really nice and have some of the most unique pieces that I’ve ever seen. The game takes a bit of time to play especially in those initial games as the rulebook isn’t set up so great for a quick glance back at the rules. Player aids would have been nice and probably helped diminish the game time. Overlooking that the game is really nice and the worker placement aspect shines really well. Fans of worker placement games like Dark Horse should enjoy this one. It’s a game that I would recommend players give a chance to. With an improved rule book and player aids this could easily be a much better game. As it is now, it falls just a little short of it’s potential.
8 out of 10
(Edit: With improved rules, as stated above, my rating for this game improves to a 9.)
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Joe Magic Games at their site.
You can also back the game right now over on Kickstarter.