Doom: The Boardgame

Fantasy Flight Games (and Id), 2004, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up. In the boardgame version of Doom, from one to three players take on the role of marines and one player plays "the invaders". The invader player picks a scenario to play from the scenario booklet (or simply makes one up), consisting of some "mission" that the marines have to complete and a floor plan of some section of the Mars base where all this hell has broken loose (I'll assume you know the basic premise behind Doom, as supplied by the original video game). Each room and corridor is laid out with various monsters for the marines to fight and assorted pieces of equipment to aid them in their endeavors. The adaption is quite faithful insofar as all of the familiar monsters and equipment from the video game are reproduced here (right down to the good ol' BFG). Then it becomes your basic tactical slug fest. The players move around and shoot at the monsters, and the monsters move around and shoot at the players. The floor plan (and denizens within) are gradually revealed as the players begin to open doors and explore around. Combat is accomplished via a fairly straitforward die-rolling scheme. When monsters are killed, they simply vanish from the board (possibly to be replaced via cards that the invader player draws on his turn). When a player is "fragged" (IE, killed), it's pretty much of a non-event. They lose any armor they had acquired beyond their starting allotment and not much else. They then resume the game more or less in the same area in which they were killed. For each "frag", the invader player collects a little token, and if he amasses six such tokens before the other players complete their mission, the invaders win.

The rules are long and extensive (it took us over an hour to get through them the first time), but pretty well written. I don't think we had more than a couple of instances where we got into any serious debates over situations that we weren't immediately sure how to resolve. The pieces are attractive and nicely produced. The tokens and map pieces are thick cardboard, printed on both sides. The figures are sturdy plastic (although the colors they come in don't lend themselves very easily to custom paint jobs).

My impressions? Well, this is a good game. We had fun playing it. However, it is wholly unoriginal. It is almost a complete clone of the old Space Crusade/Space Hulk game of yore. And frankly, I don't see anything in this game that improves over Space Crusade, and at least a couple of areas where it is inferior. First of all, there are too many "video gamey" elements in Doom for my tastes- things like not being able to even pick up a med-kit if you are already at full health, and this business of getting killed and then immediately reappearing basically where you left off. In the first scenario, I lost as the invader player because I did my job too well. When the two space marines arrived at their goal (and my hoarde of monsters), I fragged both of them right away. And being the clever sods they are, they then "reappeared" themselves past my little gathering of beasties and waltzed out the door to safety. As for Doom's "Campaign Play" option, I think Space Crusade accomplishes "player permanance" much better with its scheme of earning point and advancing ranks (and in Doom, the invader player doesn't get to join in on the fun - he stays the same forever). So, yeah, it's entertaining and well crafted, it's just been done better elsewhere.

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