Sunday, May 27, 2007

I killed 3 zombies and a hellhound, what did you do? (Theophrastus, Doom)

This week, Kozure, Ouch and I played a session of Doom.

Actually, we opened with a quick round of Theophrastus with Tili while waiting for Luch to arrive. Everytime I play this, I have to be taught the rules... which is unusual for me. Not sure why, but I can't make this one stick. Fun enough game, though. I tied with Tili for the win after drawing 95% yellow tiles in a round where the experiment was long on yellow. The result was that I had personally placed 3 of the 4 cards and spied the last. I did poorly in the metals and elements, but scored big in yellow.


Was I itching to play Doom until now? Not really. Generally speaking this is not my cup of tea. That, and the reviews for the game seemed to land heavily on the "get the expansion if you want to enjoy this game" angle.

Of course, you never know until you try...

A brief overview of the game: One player plays as the game master, and the others play marines. The game master is responsible for controlling the monsters and laying out the game board as the marines explore the space ship. The goal for the marines is simple (and familiar to players of the video game): fight your way to the exit, finding bigger and badder weapons as you go. The goal for the game master is even simpler: kill the marines. The game features a ton of plastic marines and creatures, as well as many modular "rooms" and "hallways" which get put toghether in various ways according to the scenario. It's all very thematic and cool looking. Finally, there are very interesting custom dice which handle range, ammo consumption and damage in a single roll (this would be the closest to a "clever mechanic" to be found in this game, but it's an excellent one and exactly what this type of game needed to avoid falling into the endless die rolling/ chart checking trap it could have).

Luch and I where the marines. At the beginning of every game, each player draws 3 special abilities for their characters. I was a forward planner (stop 3 gamemaster actions), stealthy (run through monsters and obstacles) and good at assaults (I could move 2 spaces AND assault AND attack 3 times instead of 2). Luch was a sniper (shoot through friends), healthy (start with +3 health) and ... I can't remember the third. The scenario started with a bang. The opening room had a number of hellhounds and zombies in it. We rushed for the guns and chainsaw and started working. We quickly discovered that the GM was able to continously add monsters to the room. This is when we discovered Doom Strategy Number 1: Kill what you need to and move on.

Over the course of the game, we discovered that a chainsaw in the hands of an assault specialist was a dangerous combination. I was dealing a lot of death as I'd run stealthily into a crowd and let loose. My powers, which seemed a little lame at first, were actually quite good. We settled into a routine where I'd open doors and Luch would fire at whatever was on the other side.

As the evening wore on, we realized we couldn't possibly finish the scenario. We called it quits and Kozure revealed what was left. I felt we had played a good game and couldn't quite figure out why all the BGGers said the game was so horribly unbalanced for the marines!... It hadn't been easy, but we were in control the entire time.

The explanation? In true gamemaster form, Kozure had been pulling some punches. He kept it challenging for us without deliberately killing us. I'm glad I didn't know it at the time, but in retrospect this was probably the best decision to ensure everyone had fun.

So, in the end I am surprised by my verdict. I really enjoyed the game! In fact, I'd probably buy it if it weren't so LONG to play. Really long. Our first, incompleted game, took 4 hours.

However, this is much to like. I was impressed by the scope in the game for tactical decisions. I enjoyed the fact that the three skill cards really change the strategy a player will use from game to game (and giving three ensures that no one is cought with a dud. I'm looking at you, Robo-Rally). Unfortunately, a game like this will always be inherently limited by the pieces provided (there are only so many types of creatures and rooms) since plastic is a lot harder to customize than cardboard. Of course, at 6hours per game, it probably would take a while to work through the scenarios provided anyway.

Since I got the distinct feeling that Luch is not a fan of the game, we may not see this one too often (especially considering the length of the game)... still, I hope I get to play it again.

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