In Frankenstein’s Wake, Reviewed!

 By Guy Shalev.

Ok, WordPress ate my review once, so this one will be shorter…

Image Incorporation:

I’ll begin with what annoys me the most. The pictures which attract the most attention in this game are those of Frankenstein’s students. Those pictures were not part of the Image Set provided by Jake, not one of them.

There were exactly 5 pictures from Jake’s image-set used in the game, and the use of them had been far from optimal as well. While the pictures perfuse the game with the right feel, the headers of the game also do a lot in this regard (Not unlike Polaris).

You’d think the pictures showing scientific procedures involving bodies will be used near the places in the text speaking of bodies (Experiments and Gathering Materials), while they’re seemed to be placed randomally in the text, a poor choice.

Additionally, many of the images are from the sets Jake picked his images, but are different images. You could have taken out the images of Jake and just as easily have used other images, which kinda seems to beat the theme of the contest, where overall the images which should shape the game are those provided to you, and not images of a certain shape and size to be alternated in and out as you wish.

Playability:

The game’s goal is to be complete, like a board-game, a game to be taken out, rules explained in a short manner and for a game to begin, progress and end in one sitting. I feel the game largely succeeds in this endeavour.

I would have liked outlines for creating your own characters, but I understand why you chose not to, especially considering the time limitations of the competition.

I’d have liked more explanation and/or examples of personal Traits being changed, especially to how you use dice from “Negative Traits”, and while I can see you using “Vulgar” to intimidate someone, I would have liked it in the text.

You copy/pasted something which makes little sense, in your search for completion: Conduct Research regarding Burning. If I burn, then I should gain one, because I have no excess successes. I know this is not true, since if more than one player competes on Research, you could have 3 Excess Successes, and the opposition wins with 4, and when you burn you gain 3 Research points. But you don’t know it at this point in the text (and I believe the resolution mechanic could have been mentioned earlier in the text), and thus it makes little sense.

I would have also liked more hand-holding on competing scenes when one Researches for example, because nothing stops me from being in the library and getting what I need while you also get what you need from the library. I can hand-wave it as both wanting the same books or something like that. But I think examples for such occurances is key.

Regarding the board, it’s unclear what many of the boxes should hold, whose. And writing names under each would have solved this problem quite easily.

Unlike the image-set use which I’m not happy with, I feel the game is almost completely complete, and these are my nitpicks of what could be fixed regarding it, and all that could be fixed regarding such that I found.

Overall:

I like the goal of a game you whip out and begin playing, and finish playing in one evening. I also like the theme which to me has heavy influence from My Life with Master and perhaps even “A Night in Lonesome October” by Roger Zelazny, which is one of my favourite books overall.

I think the game can end too quickly and the disparity between players can grow too fast, and that competitively bringing the scenes to head (which end Role-playing and bring about dice rolling) can be detrimental to fun, but can also cause new tactics. But you gain some and lose some when you marry board games and competition with RPGs, I should know.

I’d have liked if the free RP was a bit constrained, and if more advice was given regarding certain scenes (Research when multiple players compete, as noted above).

I really like the Epilogue mechanic containing key-words from the Material cards you use, and it reminds me fondly of the “B Movie” card game which uses the same mechanic for its’ end-game narration.

I am also quite fond that while the dice-size does not matter for success (You have %50 of gaining a success, since any odds is successful), a bigger die increases your chance (dependant on who rolls highest) of narrating the scene’s outcome, while having the lowest die (before rolling anything) decrees who sets up the scene (which can also be used competitively, especially when it comes to refreshing attributes).

I like the spirit of the game, and some of the mechanics. But there are also some things that I think could have been better, regarding feel and regarding mechanics.

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Published in: on March 5, 2007 at 5:06 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Guy,

    Thanks for the review. I agree that I ended up using Jake’s image set more as loose inspiration than anything else. So a low rating there is definitely deserved, even though without the image set I don’t think I ever would have had the idea to base a game on the same subject.

    I almost included the rules for making your own characters, but ended up not having time to. I would definitely include them at the end of a revised version, since they’re relatively straightforward.

    I also did not have the time to include as many examples as I would have liked. I envision that you could use negative personal traits to subtly or indirectly enhance chances of success despite their bad effect in a scene – like being paranoid could help you sneak into a morgue or convince a patron of the urgent necessity of your researches.

    Sounds like the text needs some reordering. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Including names on the game board is a great idea. I’ll definitely add them.

    The role-playing is a bit loose right now. I’ve been considering adding a trun order or something where each player in turn gets to narrate something using a skiil or trait. If you don’t want to, then pass. But imposing a structure like this removes the competitive aspects of closing a scene off early before everyone gets a chance to narrate all they like. Thoughts on how to resolve this issue?

    Thanks again for the review, Guy. It’s good to know there’s things to tinker with, but that the overall skeleton is firmly in place to outside readers.

  2. I’d make a rule where you can’t close a scene before anyone had a chance to portray their character, at least.

    Another option is to go round-robin, where you can only bring up 1 Trait/Skill per “round”, and you can’t close during the first round or two, but then again, if you’re the first person on the third round, and you close after bringing up an issue, you’re ahead by one.

    Perhaps add some mechanic which makes it cost you to close a scene.

    But eventually, someone has to close it, which can bring a reverse-competition. Perchance the 21 matches game, where the one who takes the last HAS to close it.

  3. Hmm, how about using the rounds like you mention and after the first round is done, if any two consecutive players pass then the last player who narrated a skill or trait must close the scene. I can see that this allows a player to pass and then narrate further if everyone else chose to, creating a little oneupsmanship as play proceeds.


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