After several playthroughs of the new Doom board game by Fantasy Flight Games, I wondered if and how Fantasy Flight Games would be able to capture the spirit of the newest Doom computer game — id Software’s reimagining of a timeless classic that prides itself on fast-paced and bloody chaos. To my delight, the game did indeed capture the brutal action of Doom while also maintaining a set of balanced and well designed mechanics, in typical FFG fashion. In all, the game is very fun. Actually, it’s more than fun. It’s exhilarating.
The game plays out very similarly to Descent and Imperial Assault in that it pits 1-4 players in a team together against 1 “dungeon master” style player. Where Imperial Assault has up to 4 Rebels against the forces of the Empire, Doom has up to 4 Marines against the Invaders from Hell. The 1-4 Marines work together to achieve objectives and clear out entire areas of demonic spawn.
There are a number of aspects of the game that set it apart from Imperial Assault and Descent, so much so that it feels far more compelling than a simple “Hell Edition” skin. In this game, the Marines’ damage and movement speed is determined by the cards they play from their hand — cards that cycle and change with each passing round. This is a stark difference to Imperial Assault where Rebel characters have static movement and damage values. The addition of the initiative deck is another intriguing aspect of the game. Rather than a static turn order that we see in many similar games, the initiative deck facilitates a random turn order of both Marines and Invader demon groups each and every turn. This alone adds a whole level of design space to the game that the designers have well and truly explored, which I will mention briefly below.
Another thing that sets this game apart is the way defence against attacks work. Rather than rolling defence dice, a player has to discard the top card of their deck. Each card has a defence value which is only relevant for when it is discarded from deck in defence. This creates tense situations with players wondering whether the card they discard will have the defence value they need, and whether the card they discard will be a powerful card that they would’ve liked to draw into in the following round. Additionally, the Invader player has access to certain abilities that allow the rearranging of the top X cards of the action decks of Marine players, potentially teeing up a weak defence for a forthcoming attack. Both players have access to wide array of tricks to move further, hit harder, and tilt the game in their favour in various ways. For example, the Marines can take a magnum shot as a reaction to a demon attacking them — despite it being the Invader player’s turn. The Invader player, on the hand, can pull all sort of devilish tricks, like rearranging the initiative deck or enshrouding the area in darkness to decrease the range of the Marines’ weapons.
In terms of theme, the game is rich in it. The abilities of the demons feel both balanced and relevant, the glory kills are suitably brutal and suitably rewarded, and the health pick-ups and weapon pick-ups feel like an integral part of the game too. They can often be the difference between the Marines becoming overwhelmed by a demonic horde, and the Marines stomping through Imps like they were bugs to squash beneath their feet. The minis are simply gorgeous, which says a lot considering they depict various hellish monstrosities. The board pieces offer surprising variety given the cold and unforgiving nature of the setting. The game comes with an operation guide that features two overarching campaigns of six missions each.
For a fan of the Doom PC game, a fan of Imperial Assault-style board games, or for casual gamers just looking to stomp some hellspawn, this is a fantastic buy. The quality of the miniatures and the game’s immense replayability mean the price tag is well worth it.