Published on May 9th, 2014 | by Nicole Jekich2
Review of Frankenstein’s Bodies Now on Kickstarter
For those who watched Young Frankenstein and asked, ‘Why not me?’, Frankenstein’s Bodies will give you the opportunity to let your inner mad scientist run free. This surgery-centric game is an ode to the body-stitching and limb-snatching genre like Operation but without the dexterity challenges. As a budding surgeon players will use their skills to create a patchwork creature to impress their mentor, Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Matching limbs for your specimen are in short supply so watch out for your colleagues who will try to snatch the body parts behind your back!
The copy of Frankenstein’s Bodies we received is the prototype stage and does not reflect finalized game materials or design. In the rules, however, the designer stated that all the visual art assets are complete and will be part of the final product. From my first impression looking at the body parts, characters and equipment art, Frankenstein’s Bodies seem far from finished.
The art featured in this game is teetering on the line between dark humor gore and realistic anatomy diagrams. What I mean is this game would vastly benefit from choosing a distinct art style to go with, either: 1) cartoon gore (like Locke & Key) OR 2) realistic vintage anatomy diagrams like the ones pictured below. Without a clearly defined style, Frankenstein’s Bodies is a game out there without a clearly defined audience.
The card design could also use some more attention. While after a couple rounds of play, we understood what the symbols mean and what each card does, the token symbols and arrows don’t support the action as well as a Euro game like Spyrium and they were not consistently placed in the same area of the card. The cards below feature a ‘cure infection’ card (third card from the left) and a ‘relocate master surgeon’ card on the far right both of which feature arrows in different places on the card. Does this mean that a player can remove just one infection token from play or is it all of them? It was hard to gather from the rules because the current iteration of the rules is very difficult to read. Well explained and written rules will be a vital upgrade Frankenstein’s Bodies needs soon.
I think it would better to have a (-1) in front of the symbol and then the arrow after it. For the master surgeon card, why are chained hands included to portray surgery? The academic hat that signals surgery skills should be enough and the arrow doesn’t dictate where to place the card which is on top of the board. There are a couple varieties of action cards, as noted by their colored border. Each card also has a supporting symbol in the upper right and left hand corners, which we found to be distracting and not needed. Since these cards can be played at any time, the ‘type’ of card only needs to be referenced for the action they perform and not when you can play them.
I want designers to make more games outside of the typical genres of zombies, farming, generic fantasy and Lovecraft. But while a diversified set of themes is needed, design cues in games are universal for a reason. Just like the controls on for controlling music and movies are the same across all devices and platforms, game design cues make it easier for people to learn and play your game.
Frankenstein’s Bodies is a very back and forth battle, especially in the two player game. The game fits up to six and would definitely benefit from more players. Players begin the game with five cards in hand and two empty operating tables. They then choose a starting player for the round, give that person the start player token and deal out a cards to form a pool to draw from. On each player’s turn, they can choose two cards in the following fashion: one card from the face up pool and one from the top of the deck; or two cards from the top of the deck.
That starting player may now play up to two cards from their hand including cards they drew on this turn. After that player chooses, the next player does the same and so on until everyone has taken a turn. Any cards remaining in the face up supply are discarded to the “disposal pit” and the first player token passes to the next person. During card placement, players can begin constructing their monster by placing body parts in their operating theater, can steal other players’ body parts, can thwart players stealing body parts, cure infection, play master surgeon cards and add bonus points to their bodies for scoring purposes.
The objective is the get the most points by connecting body parts of the same color/suit (there are four colors), the same gender and through quality cards which add bonus points. You don’t have to match gender/suit to place cards, but you score points only on parts that match. The more parts you own that match suit and gender, the more points you’ll get. To avoid players from stealing your body parts, players can protect them through master surgeon cards and deflections, which let the defending player choose a new target for the attacker.
At any time during their turn a player can announce to score their bodies and only their bodies. The game lasts through two deck shuffles, meaning that after players run out of the supply deck the second time, the game is over and the players score a second time.
Frankenstein’s Bodies is an eclectic board game with themes of horror, surgery and academia. The gameplay feels a lot like Munchkin, Boss Monster and Citadels where players are trying to build their structure and deter or downright fight away other players from taking or altering their structure. Compared to those well-loved card games, Frankenstein’s Bodies holds up pretty well in player interaction, theme and basic gameplay mechanics but lacks professional art and graphic design- something that might prevent a player on the fence from buying the game. Frankenstein’s Bodies is a great example of a game that presents a unique and infrequently used genre in board games that we’d like to see more of.
Frankenstein’s Bodies is currently on Kickstarter until June 7th. Visit their campaign page to find out more about the designer, Andrew Harman and the development of the game!