Friday, October 27, 2017

Board-Gaming Review: Doom: The Board Game


"Now listen up you no-good, yellow-belly, sodden excuses for recruits!!! This is the UAC MARINE CORP!! Your missions will range from retrieval, to search and rescue, to seek and destroy. If you were expecting an afternoon of fun and games, then you should be booking your honeymoon to Beirut for this ain't it!
The whole gorram planet is crawling with demons so ugly it will make your frackin' mugs look like they could win beauty contests. You will be expected to be proficient in weaponry and multiple load-outs ranging from plasma rifles to shot guns to chain guns and yes, to big fracking guns too. You will be expected to be skilled in tactical combat, stealth manoeuvres and be able to stand your ground while Satan's hell hounds are taking a piss on your boots. So stay alert and stay sharp. From here on out forget the sweet names your mama gave you. Your designations are Alpha, Bravo, Charlie or Delta and you better get used to pain Marine cos you're in for a whole planet of it.
You make a wrong move and you die! You look the wrong way and you die! You so much as fucking blink and you die! This hell-ridden, demon-infested planet is gonna be the playground of your nightmares. Buckle up boys, we're not in Kansas anymore. This is Mars. This is DOOM!" - Marshall B Killjoy  - UAC Drill Sargent.

Fantasy Flight Quality. Sooo good!
I remember the original Doom FPS from the early nineties giving me a lot of insane, shoot-to-kill game-play and a lot more motion sickness. Not that it wasn't a fun game - it was brilliant but alas! I could only stomach about 20 minutes of it before being positively dismal and dizzy. Fast forward a few decades and those fine folks at Fantasy Flight have gone and removed all the stomach queasiness to present Doom: The Board Game - a one versus many dungeon-crawling tactical miniatures game for 2-5 players that looks like an average board game but feels like an arcade game.
Off the bat, let me say that I really like this game. It bears similarities to Descent and Imperial Assault (same designer - Jonathan Ying) but is much more streamlined and focused on quick skirmish-style missions as opposed to drawn out lengthy campaigns. One player assumes the role of the Invader while the remaining four players are the UAC marines, equipped with an arsenal of weapons including chainguns, plasma rifles, grenades, chainsaws and the ever powerful BFG 9000! The Invader has control of a host of demons ranging from Imps to Caco demons to Pinkys and to the all impressive Cyberdemon.

The all-imposing Cyberdemon. Don't piss him off!

But first, let's look inside the box...

The UAC Marines: packing the heat.
Components:
As this is Fantasy Flight you could only expect top-notch components and rightfully so. The box contains a lot of cards, mini cards, cardboard tiles, tokens and little chits and bits. Oh and three rule booklets. Yes, three. But don't be daunted by this because each booklet serves a purpose. There is the standard 'Learn to Play' guide which features as a quick set-up-and-go tutorial, an 'Operation Guide' that contains the setup for each of the 12 missions and a 'Rules Reference' guide for when you really need to reference rules. The Minis in the game, as with all Fantasy Flight games, are superbly sculpted and really deserve to be painted. They're just amazing. These minis demand a decent paint job and for guides on how to paint, check out the absolutely awesome work done by fellow game enthusiast Luke Paruman here.

Setup:
Setup is fairly straightforward. You layout the tiles according to the map setup for the operation you will be playing, along with the doors, portal, objectives, health packs and weapon tokens. As this is a One vs Many game, gameplay is asymmetrical with one player playing the role of the Invader (i.e. 'Overlord' like in Descent/ Imperial Assault) and the remaining (up to 4) players taking the role of one of four UAC Marines. Each marine has a starting deck of 10 cards which enable movement, attack and defence. The marines are all more or less similar with standard issue UAC cards but differ slightly with initial weapon load outs. Each marine also gets to choose a class card granting them unique abilities and then there a squad cards for when you're playing with fewer marines. 
The Invader player has a deck of Event cards which augments demon abilities during the round, a deck of demon cards with all the stats, health and attack values for these and a per-scenario Invasion card which lists which groups of demons will be spawning from portals. 
The Invader also has a scenario-specific Threat card which, much like the marine's Objective card, explains the events which fire for the mission as well as how/ when demons will be spawned from portals. The Invader also controls the Initiative Deck which gets shuffled to determine which player (Marine or Invader) activates next.


Gameplay:
The game consists of several mission which are quick to setup and easy to play. Unlike Descent and Imperial, there is no real 'campaign' mechanic here - its a quick and dirty fight and it works brilliantly. Marines have some or other objective to complete in each mission and the invader, well - the invader simply has to gain as many frags (kills) as is needed to win.
The one mechanic which made this game loads of fun was the 'glory kill' - If a demon is staggered (wounded to a certain point), a marine simply has to move into that spot and SQUISH! - the demon is dead and the marine has now earned a glory kill card which grants health and extra bonuses.

Game-play is asymmetric and each round is made up of a status phase and an activation phase. During the status phase the Invader prepares the Initiative deck which is basically a deck of cards consisting of either demons (one for each type of demon on the board) and one card per marine playing (or 2 if it's just one marine).
The Marine player draws his starting hand of 3 cards from his deck of 10 and the Invader 6 cards from the Event deck. Then the top card of the Initiative deck is flipped indicating which player's trun it is to activate. For the activation phase, the marine can play cards from his hand which consists of one action and an unlimited (but limited to cards in hand) of bonus actions. Without delving in to too much details, Cards will grant the marine movement and attack and are themed around the sets of weapons you selected on load-out. 
There is an element of deck-building for the Marine player as you get the full set of 3 cards (or 1 for grenades) each time you 'pick up' a weapon on the map and you can sort-of custom build your deck according to your needs. Attack is line-of-sight based, roll some dice and compare your rolls (plus whatever stats boosting you have) to the health value of the demon you are targeting. If you rolled higher, the demon takes damage. If you roll high enough, congratulations - you just roasted some demon!

The Invader player is no wuss either. He gets to activate ALL demons of a particular type and they can all attack (in sequence of course) so your marines could easily be swarmed/ chomped/ eaten. The Invader also gets to augment demons attacks with the event cards in hand and these can dish out a world of pain on the unsuspecting marines. Once the Initiative deck is depleted, the round is done and the status phase commences again.

Conclusion:
This Game is a great one VS many quick-and-dirty shoot-em-upper tactical mins game. It's loads of fun, has the potential to be more complex but minus all the complexity. It's a solid, great adaptation of video to boardgame and plays just as well with 5 players as it does with two.
My only gripes are that the details on the game tiles are very small and every few times we needed to check and double check for line of sight, cover and terrain. I really do wish they printed bigger, clearer tiles.
Also, I did find that the first 3 missions were extremely unbalanced and in favour of the marines and needed to house-rule a bit after consulting the forums on board game geek. I am hoping that FF brings out an app (like with Mansions of Madness 2E) to enable a full on co-op experience. Our gaming group of four would really like a four player-marine-only version. But all in all a very worthy buy. For purchases, check it out on RARU - Doom: The Board Game.

Components: 9
Setup: 7
Gameplay: 8
Replayability: 8
Theme: 8
Overall Score: 8

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