Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a Doctor Frankenstein? Did you spend your childhood drawing weird and wonderful creatures and monsters? If so, I think Hideous Abomination might be the game for you. It’s a lightweight card game in a cool, cube-shaped box from Tettix Games. Gameplay is simple, but with plenty of scope for strategy, with a bit of take-that fun thrown in the mix.
Making monsters is cool. That’s not just my opinion, that’s a fact (probably). I’m sure many of you played that game when you were kids, where you draw a part of a creature and fold the paper down, then pass it to your neighbour for them to add a part on, and so on. Afterwards, you unfold the paper and roll around in hysterics at the bonkers beasts you’ve made. In writing this review I found out something I never knew before, that that game is called ‘Exquisite Corpse‘, and now you know it too. Well, Hideous Abomination is like a deluxe version of that game, but with proper rules, scoring and no artistic skill needed.
The game is really easy to learn. You start with a torso card – pick the one you think is cutest or most disgusting, whatever floats your board – and then roll a die. That die will let you do things like take a body part card from the market on the table and add it to your monster, steal a part from someone else’s monster, or maybe even bolt parts onto your monster so no-one else can take them. You just have to follow the rule that says that loose ends (connecting edges) have to meet, and you can’t leave an unfinished arm/leg/tentacle/what-the-heck-is-that-bit-coming-out-of-its-neck?.
While you’re picking what parts to add to your own abomination, you can check the award cards in play. These show you which body parts will score at the end of the game. For example, the cards might show that you want as many teeth, horns, and legs on your creature as possible at the end, as those are what give you bonuses. That means competition for those parts is really high, and you’ll find yourself praying for bolts sometimes to secure those really good bits you’ve stitched onto your creation.
As well as these scoring cards though, you’re also competing to finish your monster first, and to have lots of body parts in the same colour, as these things score too. It’s daft, hysterical fun the whole way through, and if you’re playing with kids, the chances are a lot of the time they completely ignore the scoring cards. And that’s okay, it’s meant to be fun.
Judson Cowan is the man behind the monsters, and he hand-drew every single one of the 190(!) body parts. This game was never a quick “make a monster game to make some cash” affair, it was a personal project with a lot of care and attention to detail lavished at every step. The cards themselves are hard-wearing and feel nice to shuffle and play with. We’ve played it inside, outside on a picnic table, on the carpet with the dog, and just about anywhere else you can think of, and the cards still look brand new.
I have fun playing it whenever it’s brought out, which is often. The random scoring tiles mean there’s plenty of scope for someone who considers themselves a hobby gamer to enjoy strategy and planning, the die adds a nice random touch, and there’s a 33% chance of being able to bolt-on a good bit every time you roll. That’s important, as it means you’re as likely to secure parts as you are to steal them. There are simpler variants included on the rules sheet, and it’s a game ripe for house rules. If you have young children who’d get upset at you stealing their parts (and that’s really tempting at times, my inner Competitive Dad is strong), treat the stealing rule as a re-roll, or an extra choice from the market – something like that.
Hideous Abomination is what it is – a quick, funny, easy-to-play game. The illustrations on the cards are fantastic, and full of character. Disgusting enough to be monsters, but not graphic, so kids can happily play this too. It plays a lot like Castles of Caladale, a tile-placement game from Renegade Game Studios which flew under the radar for a lot of people. But instead of building castles without bits ending in empty space, it’s creepy creatures instead.
Hideous Abomination is an absolute hit with my eight-year-old son. Ever since our first play, I’ve not had the game on my shelves for a second. If we’re not playing the game, he’s making elaborate monsters on the table. There are some blank body-part tiles in the game, and those were pilfered and drawn on in the first day. Any time he sees family members, the game goes with him and they get taught, whether they like it or not. I’ve no idea how many games he’s clocked-up now with various people (and pets), but it’s safe to say it’s his favourite game in my collection.
It’s a great game, and one of those that truly transcends age and generational boundaries. Anyone can play it, and everyone will enjoy it. If you’ve got a family and want to take a step up from those very basic games, and want something with a lot of character from someone who really deserves the recognition, I have no hesitation in recommending Hideous Abomination. It’s monstrously good fun, and you’ll be supporting another indie studio.
Review copy kindly provided by Tettix Games. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Hideous Abomination (2020)
Designer: Judson Cowan
Publisher: Tettix Games
Art: Judson Cowan
Playing time: 15-30 minutes