- Chris BaylisUnited Kingdom
DARK HARVEST:- The LEGACY of FRANKENSTEIN
2-6 Players 10+ Years 40-60 Minutes
Published via Kickstarter by YAY Games
Designed and illustrated by comedic book* author Andrew Harman
Create the best two monsters for Victor Frankenstein and become his top rated 5 star student.
To begin with, the components, including the strength of the box, are of exceptionally good quality, which is necessary because this is a game you will most likely be playing again, and again.
Frankenstein is running a sort of training school for wannabe body builders. To this end he has set up several laboratories, complete with cross-pattern, butcher's block-style work benches capable of holding up to 6 different body parts each. The cross bench has been specifically designed for each separate part, Head, Torso, Left Arm, Right Arm, Left Leg, Right Leg.
As body parts aren't likely to be available at the local Walmarts players have accept that the bits they need may not always be an exact or direct match, thus you may find yourself putting together pieces of males and females of mixed race - there are 2 different genders (of course) and 4 different races - represented by colours, Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. For colour-blind players the colours have been created as different shaped symbols.
Apart from collecting Body Parts each player's laboratory has zones where Master Surgeons can operate.There are six zones of which there are four different Body Parts covered. Two on each side are for the Arms and Legs on each Bench. There is one Head and one Torso zone that cover both benches. What Master Surgeons do is protect the Body part to which they (the Surgeon) are attached from being stolen for use in opponent's laboratories. However, it is possible to bribe Master Surgeons away from these positions, so nothing is ever entirely safe.
The game is played using cards. Each player begins with a hand of five cards dealt randomly from the deck and then on their turn they take 2 cards - from those on display and/or from the draw pile - and they play 2 cards, thus ending each turn with 5 cards in their hand - cards on their laboratory displays do not count as being held. The player with the most points when the game ends wins and points are scored twice during the game - at the end of the play and once during play. On a player's turn they may request a scoring, gaining points for how their laboratory is at that time, as long as the deck hasn't run through completely once. If it has all players must make their scoring then, before the deck is shuffled again for the final time.
How many points you score depends on a number of things, such as the body parts you have positioned on your benches, plus there are a couple of additional scoring possibilities on the second (end game) scoring. If you have a complete body, all the same sex, all the same gender. It is not possible to score twice at the game end, on your very last turn, because the rules state that you must make your first score before the deck runs out for the first time - if you don't do it voluntarily (obviously it is best to do it when you have a good score on the board and before your opponents remove body parts from your tables.) you have to do it before the cards are reshuffled. The game ends in one of two ways either the deck expires for a second time or one player completes both bodies. If one player completes their two bodies then the round should be completed so that all players have had an equal number of turns.
There are several different types of card in the deck; body parts, Master Surgeons, Body Quality (you can place bonus points onto your body parts to add to your score), cards that allow you to move parts from one body to another, cards to prevent your parts being involuntary moved (don't you just hate it when someone just randomly moves your parts around?) and cards to remove infections. Parts remaining on the display after a round are discarded to the Disposal Pit, other cards are discarded to a discard pile. This means that when the deck is re-shuffled there are less cards in it and so the second phase will/should be shorter than the first. At times during play it is possible to retrieve body parts from the Disposal Pit.
Amongst the cards are Surgery cards which show specific body parts plus a bone saw and a large red arrow. These cards are used to remove parts from one body so that they can be placed onto other bodies. You can move a body part from one of your benches to the other, to another player's bench, or from an opponent's bench. When body parts are moved from one body to another unless a Master Surgeon is involved or you are moving parts in your own laboratory then those parts will become infected - an infection counter is placed on the body part. Infected parts have a zero score value. I may have missed it in the rules and if I did I apologise but commonsense says that a body part can only be infected once at a time (ie if an infected part is moved from one body to another it remains infected but doesn't get an extra infection - that's how we played it), but parts can be re-infected after being cured.
The rules are laid out in a friendly way that is easy on the eyes and even easier to read over eight pages of text and illustrations, all so you can begin playing within moments of reading them through once. It's a fun game from start to end. There is player interaction, back stabbing, gory bits, decision making, card play and tongue-in-cheek humour, all of which goes towards making this a tasty entertainment.
My understanding is that this is Andrew and YAY Game's first published boardgame and I must say that it is an impressive inaugral production for both. This isn't a unique game, becasue there are many games that involve monsters, creatures or heroes being formed by collecting or modifying body parts - heck most online MMO games allow you to reform the appearance of your avatar. Old time gamers, like myself, could easily theorise that Frankenstein's Bodies has a semblance of similarity to an old party game known as Beetle, where Beetle body parts are collected by die rolling and complete Beetles assembled to complete the game. This is otherwise nothing like Beetle and should you read anywhere else that it is, then you will be ill advised to believe it.
The artwork, by the designer, is gruesome and bloody but in no way is it offensive or upsetting. In fact it is a lot better than some artwork I have seen in other games, so I would not be surprised to hear of Andrew being asked to illustrate games for other designers.
Andy Harman's Frankenstein's Bodies is inspired by Iain Lowson's role-play world Dark Harvest: the Legacy of Frankenstein
* Andrew Harman's Books
The Sorcerer's Appendix (1993)
The Frogs of War (1994)
The Tome Tunnel (1994)
Fahrenheit 666 (1995)
One Hundred And One Damnations (1995)
The Scrying Game (1996)
The Deity Dozen (1996)
A Midsummer Night's Gene (1997)
It Came from On High (1998) (aka Beyond Belief which was a working title)
The Suburban Salamander Incident (1999)
- [+] Dice rolls