Beware, this will not be a pretty sight!
Publisher: Fanistly Flight Games Designer: Jonathan Ying
Could it be, that I have already found my Scythe of this year? I bought DOOM The Board Game just before Christmas mostly to paint the miniature figures, but I had also watched a few reviews and play-throughs of the game in action and the consensus was that both the marines and the demon overlord can go at it in an all out slog fest. Which to me sounded great, and to top it off there was no campaign mode, just a load of missions you could pick out and play with a standard startup.
I have now played 2.5 games of DOOM as the demon overlord and I have to say it has been some of the most demoralising experiences I have had so far in my gaming adventures.
“You’ve played two and a half games? How?” I hear you ask.
Well, I played 2 games in a row last week, of the first 2 missions, and got my ass handed to me on a silver plate by the players playing the marines. So I re-read the rules and we did get a couple of rules wrong, but nothing that would have helped me too much. Hearing thoughts and opinions from other board game media, they said the first missions seemed to be weighted towards the marines. So for the next game, I pick mission 7 (a middle one), it gave me a lot of different stuff to use and also I get to bring out the big guy, The Cyberdemon. So, did this work out more in my favour, did we only get through half a game because I was stomping all over the marines, and in the end, they had to throw in the towel and plead for forgiveness?
They again walked right through my Cyberdemon, and anything else I tried the put in front of them. Until the point at which I made a decision (which I have never done before) and asked to stop the game midway because I wasn’t having fun anymore. Was this the right thing to do? For me, yes! For the guys who were playing the marine maybe not, because they were having fun, carving up my demons, picking up massive guns and rolling tons of dice. They were having a wail of a time, while I, The Demon Overlord, was sat pondering what mistakes I made which lead to this seismic beat down from these puny marines.
How could I have been so railroaded by humans when I am meant to be a Demon Master in control of an army of demonic monsters with brutish powers and an arsenal of guns that look like they come from the Syfy channel.
Maybe I’m a rubbish Demon Overlord
There could be a couple of rebuttals to this, I might be a really rubbish overlord and I should quit my day job and go look after goats in the mountains where I can’t bother anyone anymore. Or it could be a player count problem. I only played this with 3 players (me vs 2 marines) which to help scale the player count; each marine gets extra health, extra card in their hand and an extra main action. Which all adds to a very unbalanced advantage to the marines. On a normal marine turn they will play cards from their hand to perform one main action and any number of bonus actions, but with the extra main action and the increased hand size, they can almost play out their whole hand and have amazing turns that can be quite devastating to the overlord.
I watched a turn play out, where one marine has taken out all my figures and moved half way across the map only to pick up a great big gun (BFG) to add to his arsenal, (or to put it more precisely he gains 3 cards that added to his deck and are awesome). In my mind, marines don’t even start out weak, they have a deck of 10 cards that will give them their actions and defence. And these cards are quite good, plus a marine player can construct a deck to suit themselves for even greater effect. Added to the mix if they pick a gun that is just lying around (which are just even more awesome) that’s only 13 cards in their deck which in a game will cycle round very quickly every turn.
Glory, Glory Man U… Marines!
Then there are the glory kills. Each of the demons has a health limit, if it takes damage equally or more than their health, it dies. But it also has a staggering stat, if the demon receives damage to the valve or more of stagger target (which is normally 3 points below their health) then if the marines have enough movement, they can walk into the space of the demon and instantly kill it. Doesn’t have to roll any dice, play or discard a card, just move into the same space as the figure and blow a kiss towards it and it falls down dead like a premiership football player. The marine will get a red card, but it’s a red card of awesomeness. First of all, it heals 2 health for the marine, then they keep the card until they want to use its power of awesomeness which could be anything from; drawing extra cards or F@$k you, your attack does nothing to me this time. Add to the mix, The Chainsaw weapon, which has been in every game so far. This basically allows the marine to walk around the map reducing all demon stagger stats by another 4 points and for some of the demons that could be an instant kill without the marine even pulling the trigger. In one turn, I watched as a player walked his marine through 3 demons with chainsaw card actions, giving him a glory kill and a red card of awesomeness each time.
Here’s another problem demonstrating how tough it is for the demons to win, most of their objectives are to get 6 frags, which if you don’t speak the lingo for first person shooters, then it means killing the marines 6 times between them. It can’t be too bad, I hear myself say the first time playing. IT IS SO DIFFICULT! For a start, each marine has 10 health, and if you play with 2 marines then they get 2 more on top, big deal I hear you say. Well, it is. First of all the little demon figure doesn’t inflict that much damage and it can get negated quite easily by defence cards and red cards of awesome. If you are lucky you can pin a couple of wounds on a marine after an attack. The bigger figures will do more damage, but they are harder to spawn onto the map. So you will tell me I can keep piling on the damage and after a while they will perish! Not true, remember the red cards of awesome when a marine receives them, they help you heal up 2 points of health, plus also there are health packs dotted all over the map, which if you move over the space you instantly heal 5 health. Being that there could be 4-5 of them around the map, that’s 20-25 points of healing power, that is so demoralising when you have inflicted 6 or 7 damage on a marine and you can smell blood in the air and your first frag of the game. Only you find when it is your turn again, the player has done enough to heal back to full health and is just laughing all the way to the BFG.
Like neighbourhood kids with Nerf Guns.
And this last thing I want to bitch about on here is it felt so underwhelming to play the demon overlord. The map is all laid out in front of you before start so the marines can see where the guns are and the only thing that they don’t know about is what will spawn in at the spawn points. Also, there is no escalation incentive for the demons, in the way when the marines complete part of their objective there is nothing to aid the demon to try and spot this process. Maybe you get extra tokens but they are useless if you
don’t have any troops out on the map or any that would aid you at the time. The main way to get demons on the board is spawning and a lot of the time when you use a spawn point you have to discard it. In which case you can run out of spawn points and lest no way of getting demons on the map. When the marines are picking up awesome weapons and running around the complex like the neighbourhood kids with Nerf Guns. The demon lord is still the same as before, can only do and summon what he can when he started. Then the worst of it is that you can start to run out of spawn sites and then you start to run out of demons and by the time you know it you have one last chance to spawn out demons and still have to kill the marines 6 times. And that sucks.
Yes, the Overlord does have event cards he can play at points in the round but most them make little to no difference to your ability to defeat the overcompensating marines that seemed to jacked up before even entering the mission.
I remember playing Doom the video game, many years ago and struggle throughout every level, repeating a level multiple time to get the to end and fearing for my life each time I tried. From the view of the overlord this doesn’t seem to be the case for these marines, they seem to be having a party at your expense and drinking up the refreshing cool.
Alpha: Bravo watches out for the Cyberdemon!
Bravo: Don’t sweat it… (BLAM!) huh! That stings a bit.
Alpha: that looks like it hurt, you’re… you’re missing an arm, you going be OK?
Bravo: Yeah, Yeah no worries, it’s my turn now and all I will do, is walk in this direction and trip over this health pack that someone left lying around that will restore the left half of my body again, and as I stumbling around I be able to tickle this possessed Soldier with my chain saw, heal up the rest of these bullet wounds and be OK again.
Alpha: That’s good to hear as long as you don’t get killed, I don’t know what I would do without you.
Bravo: It would fine, I would respawn around here somewhere and still have my chainsaw to hand.
Cyberdemon: That’s it, I quit!!! What is the point… I have the biggest guns around here and they are pointless against someone who can just find a health pack and fix everything again. I am out of here, I’m going to take my uncle up on his offer to care for his goats up on the mountain and live the quiet life.
So if you haven’t guessed yet, DOOM is not doing it for me. If you want to play as the evil overlord prepare yourself for disappointment, but if you play as a marine you will have a fun time just like the video game, you will find the big guns and then you will become an unstoppable force. There is no risk for the marines to hold back, just run and shoot and then run into the demons for the GLORY KILL. If anything that is the only way you should play it. But for the overlord, its feels like you really have to think about your strategy and plan every movement to the full. I even feel like I should have held back in the last game played, wait it out, build up my army at the back of the map and let the marines come to me. But where is the fun in that?
The game gives me many feelings that I want to explore and change; first would be to play the game with the full player count, and see if that changes the dynamic of the game. Secondly, I just want to go through the game and discard all the health tokens on the board and cross out the “gain 2 health” on the red cards of awesome, plus not give the players the scaling card that gives them more health, cards and actions and see how that changes things up. But ultimately I feel like finishing painting the miniatures and then get rid of the game; dusting off Level 7: Omega Protocol, which in my mind, is one of the best sci-fi dungeon crawlers with a cool balancing mechanic.
Quick side note: In Level 7: Omega Protocol, when the marines do actions they build up fear tokens and these are then given to the alien overlord which he can use on his turn. So the marines have that balancing act of how much to push on their turn, keeping mind this is all beneficial for the evil one.
However, I will endeavour to play a couple games and finish painting the figures, but if game play doesn’t improve with me then it won’t make it into my collection.