Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Recent Trend - Part 3 (the final part).

The last two posts I've made were commenting on a trend I had noticed in my gaming habits a few weeks back. In the span of three weeks, I had played A Game of Thrones, then Fury of Dracula and finally Doom: The Boardgame - all Fantasy Flight games and all rich with theme. This week's blog is about the last of the bunch I played, Doom: The Boardgame.

Doom is similar to Fury of Dracula in that it pits several players working as a team against another lone player trying to thwart the groups efforts. In Doom, up to three players are acting as the Marines, and another player is controlling all the invaders. Like the previous games mentioned, Doom: The Boardgame is dripping with thematic elements and it has some similar elements to those other games that enhance the game play, increase the overall intensity and drive the game forward.

Doom is based on the series of computer and video games of the same game and the design is such that is includes rules to simulate the experience of playing a computer game. In most first person shooter computer games, your character typically has several "lives" so if you meet an untimely death, you don't need to start the game all over again. Doom: The Boardgame is similar in that aspect as collectively, the Marine players can die ("fragged") by the Invader player a total of 6 times before the game ends. Like the video game, a sound strategy is often to take a risky action - knowing you may full well die, as you'll be able to then come back - or "re spawn" as it's called, in a better location. Most of the time however, a Marine's death is something to be avoided at ALL costs.

The Marines start out in a single room and must slowly explore the adjoining rooms and corridors to find their way out of the current "level" they are on. Only the new areas they explore are added to the actual game board (along with any new creatures) - another feature taken straight out of the computer and video games.

In the Doom computer games, alien invaders seemingly appear out of nowhere, often from corridors that you know were all clear just moments before when you were in them. This creates a level of fear and uncertainty no matter where you are, as you know there is no safe haven until you reach the end of a level. This element also makes every action of the Marines a crucial one as time is always against you and standing around and wasting it is a really bad thing to do.

Doom: The Boardgame incorporates this thematic element very nicely through the use of the Invader deck of cards. The Invader deck has many cards with a particular alien creature on them that can be spawned by the Invader player on his turn. They can be placed ANYWHERE that the Marine players don't have clear line of sight to - which is usually everywhere else on the exposed map except for the current room(s) the Marines occupy. Half the excitement for the Marines is not knowing which direction they should head and what will be waiting for them when they get there. The Invader player also scores an additional frag each time he cycles through the deck as well.

The other half of the excitement for the Marines (and the Invader too actually), comes from the combat. The Marines are all unique, each having several special abilities (cards) that they receive at the beginning of the game. They may be able to heal fellow teammates, gain extra movement and combat dice or any other of a multitude of cool attributes that can help them defeat the Invaders. Giving each Marine a personality makes each game a different experience for the Marine players too. The dice used in combat in Doom are also very cool as a single roll determines the range, damage and ammo usage for each weapon in a very clever way. There is nothing like the adrenaline rush a Marine player can get as he takes down a huge Cyber Demon knowing that a miss would most likely mean he himself would get wasted.

There are also a lot of special tokens that are used to mark new weapons, ammo, keys, encounters and other fun items on the board. All of these things help to create the atmosphere of a claustrophobic and deadly Mars research facility that the Marines desperately need to escape. Fantasy Flight took some flak when the original game came out as it was touted as being way too hard for the Marine players to win most of the included scenarios in the game. The expansion addressed all of those concerns and added new monsters, corridors and optional ways to play to an already tremendously fun game.

Eventually, the Marine players will learn the layouts and key spots of the included scenarios and be more likely able to "waltz" right through the levels, but the beauty of the design is that the Invader player is free to create his own maps and create his own story line for the Marines to follow. This is very similar to your typical RGP (role playing game) and undoubtedly this design aspect will have crossover appeal to some of those RPG gamers as well.

All in all, Doom is a very solid entry into Fantasy Flight's "large" box line of games. It is an intense experience for both the Alien and Marine players due to the rich thematic elements that contribute to the overall experience. I definately would play it whenever I can round up 3 other players who are also looking for a fun way to spend 3 or so hours in an completely immersive game.


So there ya have it. Three weeks, three theme heavy games. If I were to rank the games for my favorites, I would have to place Fury of Dracula in first place as it is extremely well done in all areas and the game play is like none other. Next, I would place A Game of Thrones just slightly over Doom and only because I absolutely love the source material for it. I ran two games of the 9 player variant for it - A Feast for Crows, over Memorial Day weekend and it was a huge hit. Doom: The Boardgame brings up a VERY close third position in the rankings but I can see that changing back and forth depending on my mood.

Hope ya enjoyed my insights, see ya next time!

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