Based on the Iconic computer-game franchise of the same name, Doom is a 1-vs-many miniatures board game from Fantasy Flight Games, in which 1 invader pits his armies of demons against the other players’ Marines, intent on re-taking their Space Station. Can it capture the success of its digital cousin? And is it worth getting? Let’s find out!
Doom – What’s in the box?
Doom comes in a fairly hefty box, but it’s one that comes absolutely rammed with content. There are 4 miniatures for the Marines, and a whole heap of miniatures for the demons, all the way from the expendable little swarms of Imps up to the massive, multi-part cyber-Demon.
The miniatures in Doom are decent quality- with clear character, and a fair bit of detail to them – as noted, the Cyber Demon comes in pieces (you need to attach the head and arms), but by-and-large, the work required is minimal. The different demon types are all fairly distinct, and you shouldn’t have too much difficulty telling them apart.
Doom is played on a map, made up of modular terrain tiles, as set out in the operations book. The tiles are double-sided, representing Space Stations, and a more organic surface, presumably hell itself. The interlocking joints are the same as on Fantasy Flight’s highly successful Descent game, and make for a sturdy game-play experience, although I do worry a little about the long-term wear and tear of clipping the cardboard joints together and then taking them apart again.
I got fed-up with not being able to distinguish the Marines from a distance and borrowed some bases from another game. A spot of paint would also do the trick
As well as the miniatures and the tiles, Doom comes with lots of cards and tokens. The tokens are all fairly clear and self-explanatory, whilst the cards provide both quick-reference for common game elements and a tremendous amount of customisation.
As you’d expect from a Fantasy Flight Game, the component quality in Doom is really solid all round – I couldn’t really wish for anything better from a cards/tokens perspectives, and the miniatures are decent – my only real gripe would be that some of the Marines are a bit hard to distinguish from a distance.
So what do we do? Kill!
Doom is a game of Monsters vs Marines, and the basic objective is always going to be to kill the other side. For the Invader (the demons’ controller), that will often be the end of it – kill (“Frag”) a certain number of Marines and you win the game.
Marine objectives in Doom do tend to be a bit more complex: find these objectives, take them to teleporters, investigate an area etc. Ultimately though, most of what you doing is still going to be about shooting demons, because you can’t do a lot until they’re gone, and once you have killed them, life will get a lot easier.
On a Marine’s turn, he plays cards from his hand to move his figure around the map, and to attack demon figures. He can play one Main Action, and any number of bonus actions (although typically you only get 3 cards in hand per round, which stops turns from going on too long).
Attacks will have a range (how many spaces away from the target you can be), and indication of the number of custom dice you will roll – dice come in 2 types: red and black, with the black ones being harder to come by, but more powerful when you do. Many action cards also provide movement points, which are what your Marine needs to get around the map.
The Invader in Doom activates one type of demon at a time, exhausting (turning sideways) their reference card to move each one up to its standard movement speed, and to attack according to the stats on their card. Where the Marines need to use their hand of cards to perform basic actions, Demons activate for free, using their cards for upgraded abilities: boosting their own attack or defence, performing additional attacks, manipulating the decks of other players, or generally trying to tweak things to their advantage.
Each round you create a randomised turn-order deck, containing one card per marine, and one invader card for each type of Demon the invader controls – this means that whilst everyone gets a go every round (unless all the Demons die), it’s never quite certain who will activate first, which forces players to weigh the risk/reward of leaving their figures near to opposing miniatures, or out-of-range.
Who’s going to win? Probably the Marines!
Playing as a Marine in Doom is fairly straightforward and pretty good fun: you move, you gun down the demons, and you do the things you want. As well as a number of hit-points needed to kill a demon, monsters in Doom also have a “stagger” value, a level of damage, beyond which a Marine can just charge in to their space and finish them off with a “Glory Kill” – aside from reducing the damage needed to remove a demon, “Glory Kills” also draw the marine a card, allowing them to recover health and gain a special ability (draw some cards, re-roll a few dice).
As the Invader, Doom is harder – you start off with a fair few demons, and can probably crank out a good number of them early on in the game, which may even mean fragging a marine or 2 in the early rounds. Over time though, your forces will start to wane, as the spawn points which put your demons into play are all exhausted and removed. A lot of the cards that the Invader has at his disposal to balance things out have slightly complex timings, and you’ll often find yourself thinking a few minutes later “if only I’d played X just now…” – Victory for the Marines isn’t guaranteed, but the Invader will need to play very well to prevent it.
Doesn’t it get stale? Not at all!
One of the things which impressed me the most about Doom, was the sheer amount of variety and replay value that gets rammed into box. There are 2 campaigns of about 6 operations which you can play, to ensure a variety of scenarios, but the scope for you to tweak things yourself feels almost limitless.
Each Marine’s starting deck in Doom is made from 4 generic Marine cards and 3 cards each from 2 weapon sets. When you start, you’ll be best off with the “standard loadouts,” designed to ensure a balanced squad which can cover all the bases, but once you are more familiar with the game, you can customise the kit given to each marine, to accommodate your favoured style of play.
Each Marine also gets given a tactic card, to represent their particular abilities, and once again, Doom comes with 6 suggested “Fire-Teams” (combinations of tactics), but once again, experienced Doom players can mix-and-match their own fire-team based on personal taste.
The Invader chooses 3 sets of tactic cards each game, with each scenario coming with a suggested list, but again, like so much of Doom, there is complete freedom to use a different set, as the players wish.
All of the above is just the customisation within the standard parameters of the missions described in the Doom rulebooks. However, the game comes with a wide variety of cards for different spawning configuration, infection types, and objective structure – provided players go into it conscious of the likely impact on the balance of the game, the scope to customise these aspect of the game pushes the variety to near-infinite: substitute swarms of little demons for a few heavy-duty models, replace a 1-and-done spawn pattern with a set-up that refreshes the demon-supply over time – the choice is yours.
Hate, Kill, Destroy Please!
The people I play games with most often could easily be described as “nice” – most of them prefer cooperative games, none would ever consider bending the rules to win a PvP game, and the less direct confrontation, or sense of one player picking on another, the better.
Into this gaming idyll, I periodically come crashing with a new review game, explaining that no matter how dire it is, I probably need them to play it again, so that I can review it properly. (Do we really have to play another game of Yamatai? …)
I’d picked up Doom because another friend had mentioned an interest in it, and was expecting a bit of friction in getting it to the table. After introducing the tutorial, though, I had active requests for it on 2 of the next 3 nights, and even one friend volunteering to take on the role of the Invader (allowing me to see life from the perspective of the Marines, and go on a glory-killing rampage with a chainsaw…)
In a lot of ways, I was expecting this game to be similar to The Others, another tiles-and-miniatures 1-vs-many game with a sci-fi/horror theme. However, whilst Cool Mini or Not may have a slight edge in the miniatures department, the sheer amount of extra gameplay, cleaner mechanics, and overall a more enjoyable gameplay experience in Doom is staggering.
Doom: Final Thoughts
Doom is a great game, with high-quality components, interesting gameplay, and a truly impressive amount of customisation options.
It is mostly about clashing with your fellow players in an explosion of shotguns and blast grenades (well, dice and cards), so you might want to be a bit careful about bringing this out with people who are sensitive about being picked on, but given how readily our group took to it, I’d say that the gameplay is generally good enough to overcome these obstacles.
Gameplay does feel heavily stacked in the Marines favour, and as an invader, you’ll need either a player who is very familiar with the cards and willing to be ruthless or (failing that) someone who doesn’t mind losing, but this is still something that can be mitigated with experience and/or the odd house-rule.
Overall I’d rate this 8/10 – it’s not necessarily our type of game, but we were all hooked.
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.