The following review is straight from my “KM3 Reviews Geeklist”. If you want more information about the methodology used in the review, or wish to check out some of my other reviews, please check out my Geeklist. KM3 Reviews - Play, Parts, and Practicality: Purchase or Pass?
The overall score is indicative of the game's rating for those interested in owning it. The "Play" rating is strictly for the gameplay.
Full Disclosure: The following game was received as a review copy.
Play (60%) – Essence & Experience
Logged Games – 5 logged plays (2 two-player, 2 three-player, and 1 four player game).
Mechanics – Dice rolling, worker placement, set collection, variable player powers.
Theme – Dr. Frankenstein’s day-to-day.
Gameplay – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a classic. Her novel has spurred countless films, television shows, and plays. The novel has also been the source of inspiration for other forms of works as well, board games being no exception.
The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein is thematically based on players taking over as the mad scientist himself. Players go around gathering body parts from the undertaker, conducting experiments with the help of the always trusty assistant Igor, and using every other resource possible to do the unthinkable and impossible. The game is played over a number of rounds (2, 3, or 4) equal to the players at the table. Each player will always have an equal number of turns to act. The player that accrues the most victory points, by leveraging their resources in the lab, will be declared the winner.
The mechanics of Demise of Dr. Frankenstein are very straight forward and work for the most part. The starting player rolls a number of dice (6 for two players, 8 for 3 or 4 players) and then groups the dice by numbers. The dice represent the actions a player can take. The actions in the game are as follows: (6) Curator, (5) Officer, (4) Clinician, (3) Trader, (2) Undertaker, and (1) Igor. Additionally, players can always remove a die to create a monster by paying 2 coins and the 6 required body parts, or gain 2 points and have the option of reshuffling all officer cards.
The curator action encompasses 9 different actions; some are improved versions of the other 1 through 5 actions, while other curator actions are entirely different from anything else and deal with point scoring and/or manipulating the game in some way. The rest of the game’s actions provide the necessary resources to make monsters, purchase creatures, or make the scientist more proficient in some form or another.
Once all players have taken a die and received a benefit, during the rolling round, all players check to see if the villagers were angered/see if all monster spaces haven’t been occupied. If the villagers aren’t at rage level 4/all created monster spaces aren’t occupied the next player in clockwise fashion gets the dice and rolls them, continuing play as previously described. If the opposite is true the game round is over. The next player gets the starting player token and becomes the first player to begin rolling the dice for that game round. If every player has had the starting player token, and the game round is over, the game ends. A minor complaint I have about these rules is that it creates for an endless number of dice rolling, artificially lengthening the game as each player has to roll, separate, and then take their action. The game’s mechanic allows for a good bit of randomization, but the entire process seems longer than necessary.
Thematically the game suffers from more than one or two disconnects. It is clear the game is more focused on mechanics. Still, the game’s theme isn’t pasted on, it’s just not fully fleshed out I feel.
The game does a good job about explaining the reasoning behind some actions not being available in the context of a rolling round, and the reason coins are required for maintaining more than four creatures during a round. For every excellent explanation, I found myself digging into and trying to explain other inconsistencies. Some examples include, seemingly arbitrary game end condition, point emphasis on acquiring creatures, the use of the term “officer” cards and how creatures are built from the officer card deck, instead of in a similar fashion to creating a monster, as they thematically simulate the knowledge acquired and needed to prepare bringing a surgically assembled human to life. Again these are mostly minor complaints.
A cool feature with the game is that the body parts come into little shapes and pieces and can be put together, like Lego bricks or Lincoln logs would be, in order to make the monster. An even cooler thing is that all of the interlocking pieces fit together in any socket, so player’s can create some funky looking monsters where their heads are where their legs should be, etc. I love spatial elements to a game like this. It makes me feel like I’m building something. One of the downfalls to this, however, is a complaint that I didn’t think about until another player mentioned it.
One problem a fellow player had with the game, that I didn’t notice but can now see, was the fact that once a monster is “made” it is instantly disassembled, in order to replenish the finite stock of body parts the undertaker has. This serves as a necessary mechanical aspect of the game but hurts the game thematically. I could see this being very anti-climactic for some players, and I wonder if there isn’t an easy remedy to fix this.
Thoughts – When I was approached by the game’s designer, Mark Hanny, to do a review of this soon to be kickstarted game I was intrigued. Up until now, all of my reviews have been solely from games I’ve went out and purchased myself. Games I researched beforehand and mostly knew what I was getting myself into. The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein was never on my radar before him contacting me. Since this is my first review of a game that I didn’t previously purchase I didn’t really know what to go in expecting.
The mechanics, while not my favorite, work. Lots of dice rolling means lots of action randomization. For the dice rolling parts that influence the moving game parts, like when rolling for specific body parts, the designer has ensured that players can offset that luck factor by taking the clinician action and modifying their dice rolls. Being able to modify a dice roll seems like a necessity and a sure fire mechanic these days in game designing. I’m glad to see it here as well.
One problem I have with the mechanics is the possibility that creatures are just too inherently powerful in terms of resources used for points provided. This is especially true in the 3 and 4 player games. I’ve only played 5 games, but it seems like any player that acquires 4 creatures in the first round of the game are pretty well set up. A player can spend 3-4 coins to score 30 to 40 points off 4 creatures in the first round alone. Most scores I’ve had with this game have been around 60-90. That’s a lot of points for 4 coins worth of work. This becomes even more of a problem with synergies with cards such as the coadjutor. For comparison, a standard monster creation costs 6 body parts 2 coins and nets as few as 12 points and as many a 18 (only ever witnessed with the engineer card). This isn’t as big of a deal if all other players are making sure to get creatures, which seems to be how things are balanced, since there are 16 creatures in the game and 4 max players. Creatures do stop giving out points after 8 creatures, but still I’ve found that to be a pretty solid performing strategy, especially if able to be performed very early on.
Another balancing comment, some of the officer cards in general seem more powerful than others. This could simply be because there is so much synergy between them. I don’t feel that they’re broken as much as just too synergistic if they come out and are acquired in a certain fashion.
Thematically I’ve discussed the issues and concerns I have about the game, but overall the game has enough theme that it makes sense. Being able to play a game with a unique theme such as this one around the Halloween time has been a blast.
The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein was a total surprise to me. I never had any expectations going in. For a gamer that tends to stick to publishers and designers he knows, I was somewhat shocked. I always expect and plan for the worse, but this was better than I thought it would be. The game has enough to like, and with some polishing it could be even better.
Play Score – 3 out of 5. Creatures seem really powerful in terms of resources spent to points gained. This doesn’t break the game’s balancing as long as players are aware of it. The mechanics work. The theme could be better incorporated but it is done well enough to not seem pasted on so much as not fully fleshed out. Players should have fun with the game. Players would have even more fun if they got to see their monster creations stick around in some way, shape, or form!
Parts (10%) – Box & Bits
Box – The game box is 8.25” x 2.25” x 11.1875”. I measured this myself so it’s probably wrong/not entirely accurate. The box is big enough to fit the base game components and the insert is okay.
Bits – My game came with the following: 1 rule book, 1 main board, 1 victory point board, 1 starting pawn, 32 officer cards, 1 villager token, 8 small dice, 1 large die, 32 player blocks (in 4 different player colors), 30 coin tokens (rulebook says 20), 1 Igor pawn, 4 “100 victory” tokens, and 36 body parts (rulebook says 30).
Thoughts – The components are clearly not the best of quality. A decent number of my bits had obvious production errors. The rule book had a bit snipped off at the bottom, the victory point tokens showed signs of crimping, and the blocks and body parts seemed to have minor production errors too. The body parts themselves are cool and interlock, but can be tough to wiggle out once put together. The game board and victory point board were made from a weird material that was super light and seemed like it could easily bubble/bend, not a thick game board like I’m accustomed to. The cards and coin tokens were some of the best components. Cards were sturdy, shuffled well, and appeared to be laminated. Cardboard coins felt thick and sturdy like other good published games.
I personally wasn’t a fan of the art style, some icons seemed to be too generic and the style itself a bit muted/drab. My personal opinion though. Box is serviceable, but nothing special.
Parts Score – 2 out of 5. Bits aren’t what I’m used to with big box publishers, especially considering the MSRP. The components are sturdy enough. They will stand up to multiple players. Box is suitable for storing game components. Production errors hurt the quality even more.
Practicality (30%) – Pass or Purchase?
Playability – The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein has a pretty static set-up, with the only random elements coming from what shows up as actions on the dice and what 3 officer cards are available. The 2 player game is not my favorite. It goes by too quick and leaves me wanting. The 3 and 4 player games seem to feel like full games. The 3 player game could suffer from some possible king making with the village rage aspect of the game’s pacing. The 4 player game was my personal favorite, and what I would recommend players play with.
Rules – The rulebook is two front and back pages, very condensed with more examples needed of certain rules and not enough of others. I found myself being able to play the game within minutes, but having to reference minor finicky rules like end of round and certain card clarifications. I still don’t have clarifications on all questions I have. Some of the rules also show inconsistencies. Referencing the incorrect number of body parts needed to perform an action and incorrectly listing the number of components that come with the game. It's clear a revision of the rules is in order. Better written rules will help the game.
Cost – When I asked Mr. Hanny about the kickstarter cost he said the retail would be $44.95 with a $38 early bird price for KS backers and $41 for standard supporters, which would include US shipping. Of course these prices may change. Currently the game can be purchased from the publisher's website, which redirects to an eBay page with a price of $39.95 with $14.65 shipping. Each game takes around 1 to 1.5 hours to play, pretty spot on as the box says. This game will take around 27 to 40 plays to reach the $1/hr gold standard of entertainment. The game probably will start to feel samey at that level of play, but should reach it without too much difficulty, given the time commitment.
Pass or Purchase – The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein currently doesn’t have an average board game weight on BGG. The game felt like it was definitely in the medium to medium-light category to me. The game had enough going on that it wasn’t a lighter game, and it clearly wasn’t a heavy or medium-heavy game.
Personally I probably wouldn’t have purchased this game if I didn’t receive a review copy, as I wouldn’t have known about it or saw it on my radar. Moreover, I have not backed any Kickstarter projects for various personal reasons. The game is interesting enough thematically and has enough substance mechanically that I can see people being interested in the product.
• Gamers that enjoy lighter games: Give the game a look over before deciding on purchasing.
• Gamers that enjoy medium-light games: Purchase if comfortable with price/theme/gameplay.
• Gamers that enjoy medium games: Purchase if comfortable with price/theme/ gameplay.
• Gamers that enjoy medium-heavy games: Purchase if comfortable with price/theme/ gameplay.
• Gamers that enjoy heavy games: Game may not have enough substance to be of interest. Give the game a look before deciding on purchasing.
Practicality Score – 3.5 out of 5. Game is accessible and can be played/learned within an hour or so, plays well at 3 and 4 player, probably too quick as a 2 player game. The rules aren’t the best written, but can be figured out. Some clarifications on cards are still needed. If clarifications and rules aren’t addressed, the game is still mostly playable in its current form.
Overall Score – 6.1/10. A tad higher as a seasonal Halloween game!
• Play (60%) – 3 out of 5 (1.8 x 2 = 3.6)
• Parts (10%) – 2 out of 5 (0.2 x 2 = 0.4)
• Practicality (30%) – 3.5 out of 5 (1.05 x 2 = 2.1)