I got the first play of Doom The Board Game in, running through the tutorial mission from the Learn to Play book to get a feel for the rules. The game was played as a one vs one (I was Invader, with one Marine facing off). Total play time was a bit under an hour and a half including all rules queries and several distractions, with maybe 10-15 minutes set-up beforehand (including punching all tokens and tiles out, setting up the various decks and pulling models out). Based on this game, the basic rules are simple and streamlined, and very easy to pick up, with play being very fast paced (staying true to the source material). Despite the straight-forward rule set, the game still seems to offer sufficient tactical depth by way of initial deck customisation, as well as being able to set-up combos to string together frags.
The key pre-game options are via selection of the Action deck for UAC characters and Event deck for the Invader. The UAC deck is determined by which Marine is chosen, as each has an initial weapon load-out which determines the deck – these cards provide movement points and attack options to the Marine. The Invader chooses three themes and gets four cards from each to make their Event deck – these cards convey bonuses to the Invaders forces. The Invader also gets a Threat card, which determines what demons he is able to summon from different portals on the map. Beyond the scope of the tutorial mission there are also Class Cards for the UAC players granting special abilities, as well as cards that provide benefits to the UAC player should they have less than four players.
Some Thoughts on the Tutorial Mission
There seems to be two weird rule exclusions from the tutorial game, though, being glory kills and the rules for playing fewer than four UAC marines. The latter would have made sense given it felt like the one marine running around was having trouble putting sufficient demons down, especially after opening the door, which saw two imps, two possessed soldiers, and two cacodemons spawn. This was especially pointed when Invader played ‘Ambush’ and ensured the Marine went last. We also read the glory kill rules (although didn’t play them), and there would have been instances in the tutorial game where the Marine would have been able to comfortably string together two kills in a turn, which would have changed the game enormously even without the glory kill cards being used. Additionally, not having the glory kill rule in place meant position of the demons was significantly less important, as they couldn’t be insta-fragged when staggered.
Gameplay is straight-forward, with turn order random each round, with cards drawn from an ‘initiative deck’ which contain a card for each of the Invaders demon groups and each marine. The Marine activates by using an action card and can play one main action and unlimited bonus actions each activation. These actions generally provide a number of movement points and an attack, and each marine has the ability to just discard a card and sprint six squares instead. The Invader activates a demon group whose movement and attack are set on their card.
Combat involves the attacker rolling a set number of red and/or black dice (the black dice generate more damage), determined by the Action card played (for the Marines) or the demon group being activated (for the Invader). The defender then flips the top card of their Action/Event deck, with the card having either a number of shields (which each prevent one damage), a dodge cancelling all damage, or a special ability activation for the Invaders demon.
When a Marine is fragged they get a frag token (for tracking Invader victory condition) and then re-spawn at an active teleport pad, whereas demons are fragged permanently. In the tutorial mission the objective was simply for the Invader to frag the Marine four times (based on their being only one Marine), or the Marine to frag all demons.
Compared to Star Wars: Imperial Assault (“IA”)
As a one vs many board game, based on a popular IP and produced by Fantasy Flight Games, it seems apt to compare this game to other more established games of a similar nature. I’ve played as a Rebel player through IA’s core campaign, Twin Shadows and Return to Hoth, primarily in a four or five player setting (i.e 3v1 / 4v1), but haven’t played Descent for many years, so I’ll focus on the comparison to IA. The key differences as I see them are:
- Combat in Doom is much simpler than IA. In IA, having to choose dice, work out range and surges, compare to defence dice, etc can be quite time consuming and grows increasingly complex as the campaign progresses. Doom neatly circumvents by having pre-set ranges and dice vs card flip with limited options pre-set by the card played, with customisation completed via deck selection each mission
- Doom does not have progression mechanics like IA’s campaign mode does, so each mission is effectively a stand-alone experience. However, there is flexibility for customisation mission-to-mission via deck/cards the players select
- There aren’t formal skirmish rules in Doom, although the ability to customise previously mentioned, coupled with the game having mechanics for creating custom missions should make each play feel similar to an IA skirmish game
- IA seems to have a bigger tile set out of the box which feels limiting, although I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, so this may be a function of having played IA with multiple expansions purchased
- Doom’s line of sight mechanics feel a lot more intuitive and streamlined than IA’s
I think each game offers a distinct experience, with IA’s campaign mode and combat mechanics offering a greater level of complexity and engagement, which sets it apart and Doom’s fast and brutal, straight-up fight style. Another consideration would be IA’s skirmish rules, which obviously offer a different experience again, as well as having tournament support from FFG. For me, I feel Doom will offer a good ‘break’ game between IA campaigns given it’s more fast and action oriented play.
The tutorial game certainly whet my appetite to play this game, with multiple ideas for different strategies and combos apparent immediately after the game, as well as being excited to have more players at the table next hit-out. The fast pace of the game and potential brutality of attacks see it accurately reflecting the source material. The models included are of good quality, and I was surprised at the detail they’ve achieved on some of them for a board game. One quibble is that the Marines are difficult to tell apart out of the box, which could have been addressed via different coloured plastic or base markers, however this will be easily solved via painting them. I’m looking forward to further plays and getting into painting the models.
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