The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein Game Review

drfrankdemise_top

The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 60 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Worker Placement

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Create your monster before the villagers attack your castle!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

People just don’t understand the level of dedication it takes to be a mad scientist. You’re treated as an outsider, never invited to lecture, and are forced to hire second-rate lab assistants. The pay is abysmal, as well. What makes it worth while is the chance to practice some really interesting science. Of course, the angry villagers who are always mobbing you with torches are a nuisance, but one cannot have it all.

The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein, designed by Mark Hanny and published by Joe Magic Games, is comprised of 1 Main game board, 1 Victory Point game board, 1 Starting Player tile, 32 Officer cards, 1 Villager meeple, 1 Igor pawn, 8 small standard six-sided dice, 1 large standard six-sided die, 32 Player blocks (in 4 different colors, 8 per player), 42 Body Part pieces (includes “Head”, “Arms”, “Torso”, and “Legs”), 20 Gold tokens, and 4 “100 Victory” tiles (used when the player scores more than the Victory Point track can record). The component quality is excellent. The game boards are solid, the cards are thick and durable, and everything else is made of solid plastic. The Body Pieces all fit together like a puzzle, allowing players to really “build” their Monster.

Setting Up the Lab

To set up the game, first place the Victory Point and the Main game boards in the middle of the playing area, side-by-side.

drfrankdemise_boards

Second, give each player 8 Player blocks of the same color. Each player then takes 2 of their Player blocks, placing 1 on each of the 2 “Zero” spaces on the Victory Point track found on the Victory Point game board. Any Player blocks not selected are returned to the game box.

Third, place the Igor pawn on the left and top-most space with an image of Igor under the “Clinician” section found on the Main game board..

Fourth, place the Villager meeple on the space with the value of “1” on the Villager Rage track (which is not labeled). The track can be found at the bottom of the Main game board and is easy to identify since it’s the only track with a villager next to it.

Fifth, give each player 2 Gold tokens, 1 “Arm”, and 1 “Leg” Body Part pieces. Place all remaining Body Part pieces in the “Undertaker” section found on the Main game board. Place all remaining Gold tokens in the “Trader” section found on the Victory Point game board.

Sixth, shuffle the Officer cards and draw 3, placing them face-up next to each other above the game boards to form a row. Place the remaining Officer cards face-down next to the row of face-up cards to form the draw deck.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who should be the first player and give that individual the Starting Player tile.

Tinkering With the Dead

The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein is played in rounds with no set number of rounds per game. A typical game round is summarized here.

Step 1: Roll Dice

The Starting Player takes all 8 small six-sided dice and rolls them. The rolled values are then matched and the dice placed to the corresponding numbered Influence spaces found on the Main game board. It’s perfectly possible that 1 or more Influences spaces will have 2 or more dice. Some Influence spaces might have none.

drfrankdemise_dice

Step 2: Every Player Takes 1 Turn

The Starting Player now selects 1 Influence space to activate that still has at least 1 die. The die is then removed and the player resolves the Influence space effect. Possible Influence effects are as follows:

Influence Igor (1)

By influencing Igor, the player can alter the pawn’s current position and attempt to position themselves to score points. The player can then take 2 actions, both of which are optional. All actions are tracked using the “Clinician” section.

drfrankdemise_clinician

Option A:

  • May move the Igor pawn up or down 1 space in its column on the “Clinician” section.
  • Move 1 Player block already in play to any legal space on the game boards. “Legal” means any space not currently occupied by another opponent and not to an empty space below the row that the Igor pawn is currently occupying on the “Clinician” section.

Option B:

  • May move the Igor pawn up or down 1 space in its column on the “Clinician” section.
  • Upgrade a completed Monster by placing it on the Monster scoring track (found at the bottom of the Victory Point game board). When doing so, they must return 1 Body Part piece (of the player’s choice) back to the “Undertaker” section.

Influence the Undertaker (2)

Influencing the Undertaker allows the player to roll the die they just took and match the rolled value to the “Undertaker” section found on the Main game board. Each rolled value matches 1 or more Body Pieces the player collects. For every Player block the player has on the “Clinician” section, they may adjust the rolled value by +1 or -1.

drfrankdemise_undertaker

Caution should be taken when visiting the Undertaker. Whenever a player visits this section and influences the Undertaker for spare body parts, the Village Rage track value will increase by +1.

Influence the Trader (3)

Influencing the Trader allows the player to take 1 Gold from the “Trader” section found on the Victory Point game board.

Influence Clinical Research (4)

Influencing Clinical Research gives the player 2 actions.

The first action allows the player to place one of their Player blocks on any open “Clinician” section space that is on the same row as the Igor pawn or above it. These spaces will count as victory points at the end of the game and give players a few bonuses.

The secondary action allows the player an alternative to building their Monster if they have 1 Player block in each of the columns (blocks do not need to be in the same rows). If the player does and they have 1 “Head”, 1 “Torso”, and 1 “Arm” or 1 “Leg”, they can build their Monster, placing a Player block on the lowest open space of the Monster scoring track found on the Victory Point game board. This method does not cost the player any Gold.

drfrankdemise_monster

Caution should be taken when building a Monster. Whenever a player brings their Monster to life, the Village Rage track value will increase by +1.

Influence Officers (5)

Influencing the Officers allows the player to buy up to 2 Officer cards for 1 Gold each. Any of the face-up Officer cards can be purchased or the player may draw a card. Once purchased, the cards are taken by the player and placed in front of them. The row of face-up Officer cards will not be refilled from the draw deck until after the player’s turn.

Officer cards include helpful gadgets and individuals that will provide bonuses. The Officer cards also contain Creature cards, which are not the same thing as the Monster the players are attempting to create.

drfrankdemise_officer

Influence the Curator (6)

Influencing the Curator opens the door to lots of actions, but only if the actions have not yet been taken by an opponent. The player takes their Player blocks and places it on any of the 8 actions that have a free space (do not have a Player block). The player than takes the action.

drfrankdemise_curator

Actions include the following.

  • Collect Body Pieces without enraging the villagers
  • Gain +1 victory point for every Gold and Body Piece
  • Reduce or increase the Village Rage track value
  • Take 2 Gold from the Trader
  • Build a Monster by discarding 4 Officer cards
  • Purchase 2 Officer cards for only 1 Gold
  • Pay 1 Gold to collect a Body Piece or discard 1 Body Piece for 1 Gold
  • Place a Player block on any open space in the “Clinician” section regardless of the Igor pawn’s current row

Influence No One

If none of the actions look particularly interesting to the player, they can also take a die and then perform one of the following actions.

  • Build a Monster if the player has 1 “Head”, 1 “Torso”, 2 “Legs”, and 2 “Arms” by paying 2 Gold (scoring points for doing so).
  • Gain +2 victory points and then optionally reshuffle the discarded and available for purchase Officer cards.

Step 3: Take Another Turn, In Reverse Order

After every player has had a turn, the last player to select a die goes again and this time the turn order is reversed.

Step 4: Check Village Rage

The Village Rage track is now updated. If the Villager meeple is located on the “4”, the game temporary stops and every player calculates their score. If not, the Starting Player tile is passed to the next player in turn order sequence and the dice are rolled again, repeating step 1, 2, and 3.

drfrankdemise_villagerage

Scoring Big Monster Points

Scoring occurs when the villagers gather together and burn down the homes and laboratories of the mad scientists. Unluckily for the villagers, the mad scientists survive. Players now count up their points earned so far to determine how successful they were before being attacked by the angry mob.

  • Points are earned from the “Clinician” section
  • Points are earned from the Monster scoring track
  • Points are earned by feeding the “Creature” Officer cards

Then the game is reset. Any Officer cards not purchased are discarded, 3 new Officer cards are drawn, all Player blocks are returned to the players except those that are keeping score, the Igor pawn is moved back to its original position, the Village meeple is moved back to its original position, discard down to no more than 3 Gold and 3 Body Pieces, and discard any fully constructed Monsters.

Meeting Your Demise

When the Village Rage level again hits “4” and all players have had a chance to be the Starting Player, the game comes to an end. The game is scored one last time and the player with the most victory points wins.

To learn more about The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein, visit the publisher’s website.

Final Word

We’re listing this game with a moderate learning curve for the Child Geeks for two reasons. First, there are a lot of actions. Keeping track of what each does can be difficult when you first learn how to play the game. Second, the game itself never suggests to a player how they are doing, meaning players will need to keep track of how all those actions are tied together and influence opponents, as well as the player. Many of our Child Geeks felt overwhelmed at first until they had a round or two completed. After that, the game is more or less the same throughout, with the only changes being the choices. According to one Child Geek, “Once you learn how the game is played, it’s pretty easy. You just have to hope the right dice are available when it’s your turn.” Another Child Geek said, “What I really hate is when other players make the villagers angry when they really don’t need to.” Ah, the Villager Rage track. That was both a source of entertainment and frustration for the Child Geeks. They learned quickly that it could be used to spoil the plans of others or increase the length of the game to work on longer objectives. When all the Monsters were built, the Child Geeks collectively agreed to approve the game.

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While my oldest son considers his options, my other son corrects me by reading his Officer card

The Parent Geeks enjoyed the game pretty much from the start. According to one Parent Geek, “The game gives you a lot to consider, but each choice makes sense in regards to what it provides. I think it’s very intuitive.” But not all Parent Geeks thought so. One Parent Geek said, “It took me awhile to get the hang of the game – what everything does – but after that, things went real smoothly.” Only one Parent Geek didn’t care for the game. According to her, “The game is too busy. Too clunky. I feel like I’m attempting to move a big rock up a bigger hill with only a stick.” Interesting imagery! When all the votes where in, the majority of the Parent Geeks liked the game well enough to approve it.

The Gamer Geeks were mixed when it came to their approval. According to one Gamer Geek, “This game is unrefined. There are a lot of neat ideas, but they just don’t come together. The whole thing reminds me of a messy room.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Great concept, but poorly executed. It’s kind of sloppy.” But not all the Gamer Geeks thought so. According to one very supportive Gamer Geek, “There’s a lot of great things happening here. Lots to do and lots of different ways to win. I like games that give players a big field to run in. Makes me feel like I have absolute freedom to play the game I want.” Another supportive Gamer Geek said, “This is a fairly sophisticated game when you think about it. The player is challenged to keep thinking about several different methods of winning the game. Each has their own pros and cons and each is somewhat connected. This is a great game.” The Gamer Geeks just couldn’t agree and were happy to agree to disagree when all the games were over.

I’m very much in the Gamer Geek’s camp when it comes to this game. There are a number of things I dearly love and an equal number of things I do not. It makes one feel like you are in a strange love/hate relationship when playing it. It’s not that you are disappointed, but nor are you entirely thrilled. Several of our Gamer Geeks used the terms “clunky” and “unrefined”, but I don’t think that is correct. More like “busy” and “overly ambitious”. The game has some fat to it that I think could be cut to make it more streamlined, providing a smoother experience. And yet, the game is fun and challenging to play. So perhaps I’m just being picky?

Honestly, it’s a bit aggravating. While attempting to be as objective as possible with a critical eye, one cannot help but easily identify faults, while at the same time take note of the many aspects that are worthy of praise. It leaves me pondering if I should even place a value statement on the game when I cannot conclude for myself if it’s worthy of my collection or if it should be given to a family in need. And yet I know that if I gave the game away, I wouldn’t be happy about it.

New players are going to have a tough time getting up and running with this game. The rule book is sometimes flat-out wrong, missing information, or doesn’t explain some concepts with enough detail. The game only comes together once you get it on the table and start playing it. Then you’ll be all like, “OH! NOW I GOT IT!” It’s a strange eureka moment, to say the least, as the game will suddenly feel very straight forward. It just take a bit to get there. I started to created a FAQ for the other players and that helped a lot. I suggest you do the same, especially when you start to interpreting the rules instead of following them.

So, where does that leave us? Simply put: a good game that is close to being great. For what it is and the fun it provides, it’s worth playing. If a casual gamer or inexperienced player were to sit down and play the game, I’m sure they would very much enjoy themselves. For Gamer Geeks and experienced players, they’ll note pretty early that something is note quit right with the game play. Both groups will play the game, however, and that is the most important point to make. Here is a game that engaged all our groups, despite not pleasing all of them. Do play The Demise of Dr. Frankenstein when you have a chance so you can make up your own mind..or head…or arm…

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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