23 November 2019
You’re creating a monster, for a monster, and trying not to become a monster in the process
When it comes to meepleplacement Euro-style farming games we’re often treated so some pretty vanilla options. Literally working the fields or factory to gain our resources. How about a game where you have to find body parts instead?
Abomination plays out as a medium to heavy Eurogame, and before we get started it’s not for the faint (freshlyprocured) hearted. And not for the grizzly reason you might expect.
This game is long. In the test games we played with four players went over four hours and the two-player games were three hours apiece. It all comes down to the busywork of the game. Each action taken by placing a meeple requires a resolution. This resolution requires turning some of the dials, and taking a mixture of tiny resource cubes and placing them at the right stages on the decomposition track. Each player does this for all seven of their meeples, each. There is potentially 12 rounds of this, and this is only the first (albeit longest) stage of four. So, if you’re picking this up as a light bit of a fun after work, you might want to look elsewhere.
I write this only as a warning, beyond lies a good bit of fun. The theme is strong. Players collect organs and muscle which decompose each turn, meaning they are less useful when building a monster part. It’s grizzly enough, and you don’t even know where the “materials” come from yet. Visit the hospital, cemetery, docks, or even just a dark alley for a bit of murder to begin your supply chain. Naturally these locations have a cost of humanity, or other stats, which are presented on we beautiful dials. The whole board drips with it's gothic theme.
The story elements are powerful and fun I wish there was more of it. The event and encounter cards which are used at the start of every round add an element of difficulty to the board, changing its state (for example, a protest at the Academy means it’s off -limits, or you have to pay additional for dog catcher “materials” at docks).
The encounters begin with the first player reading the card and choosing (or being instructed by the card) the person who it applies to. A choice is then offered, some which may be moral good, others dubious, and a result is read from a certain page of the rulebook. This little choose your own adventure element saw the most people smiling around the table when I played. The writing is legitimately very good and extremely well pitched. Equally, in the somewhat rare execution stories, new events are triggered making you feel like the board is alive and you didn’t even have to use a Leyden jar.
The issue comes in when we get to flipping the switches to jolt your creature alive. A bad roll can see you downgrading and discarding parts, if you’re unlucky and run out of space on the monster to send these damaging currents. Any two bolts on a part means that part gets downgraded or thrown away. For a game that rewards careful and strategic placement for the first part of the game to then become a game of, usually modified, luck does feel cheapening. This element of chance at the end feels like the game pulling the story and the strategy away from you as you approach its climax. In the end, it's a bit of a shambling horror.
CHRISTOPHER JOHN EGGETT
PLAY IT? MAYBE
Designer: Dan Blanchett
Artists: Mikhail Palamarchuk, Tony Sart