If this game goes wrong, I plan to personally blame Rick Thornquist.
Why did I buy this game? Being a Macintosh guy, I never thought much of Doom (Marathon came a little later, but seemed to me a much superior game). I think I played HeroQuest once 10 years ago and didn’t think much of it either. I was fresh from my modest disappointment with War of the Ring and its overdone plastic. Doom had a lot going against it.
For the one or maybe two people out there who are unfamiliar with the premise of this game, you are a Space Marine battling demons who have escaped into our dimension. You do this in classic dungeon-crawl format, with 1-3 Space Marines teaming up against 1 Invader player. You shoot stuff, read some flavor text, and try to find colorful keys. The core good idea here is a set of dice that allow you to settle matters of weapons range, ammo consumption, and damage by simply rolling the appropriate dice for each weapon. A green die provides range but not much damage, a blue die give you damage but not much range, and a yellow and red die give you some damage (the yellow a little more range and less damage, and vice versa for the red) and can potentially consume your ammo. So, for example, the pistol has a yellow and green die, which gives it range but not much damage, while the shotgun has a red and blue die, which makes it lethal but short-ranged.
I was the invader player in this game. In your first game, I think the invaders are actually easier to play than the Marines, and so I might recommend that a less experienced player take them. You don’t have quite as many options, you have fewer resources to manage, and generally you’re just looking for opportunities to play cards rather than hoarding for the right moment, although you do want to save a few powerful cards for clutch situations. The Marines have a lot more tough choices, with more tactical options and a lot of pressure on the by-now legendary tight ammo supply.
With a couple rather minor provisos, I quite enjoyed the game. It’s very simple but provides interesting tactical decisions. At least with 2 Marine players, it was definitely tough on the Marines, but tough in a way that left me hankering to try again, rather than just feeling like the Marines were roadkill. The story may be different with 4, and we’ll have to see if the Marines can improve their play enough to make it a game, but for now it’s in a good zone.
Downsides? For me personally, I could live without the testosterone-fueled “my gun is bigger than your gun” Doom theme. The descriptive text the Invader player is reading is thick with death and implied gore that really seems more embarrassing than evocative to me as an “older” gamer. The game is just a nice dungeon-crawl shoot-em-up, and this flavor isn’t adding a lot. I always felt the whole Doom II computer game ambiance was a little adolescent (Doom III may be better – I haven’t played), and would have been on balance a lot happier with a theme based on Bungie’s far classier Halo, or even Marathon. But I assume (and can only hope) Doom was cheaper as a license.
My only other complaint (and it’s fairly minor) was that it seemed like there was a bit of overkill in the weapons selection. True to the computer game, you have some 10 weapons available, but some of them seem superfluous. You’d have to be awfully desperate, for example, to waste your incredibly valuable ammunition on the pistol since it uses the same ammo as the shotgun and assault rifle (and at the same rate) and does negligible damage. There isn’t that much difference between the assault rifle and the chain gun, and you would simply never use the plasma gun if you have the BFG. The problem is, I think, that there isn’t enough variation in ammo consumption – virtually everything consumes ammo at the same rate. If there were a couple ammo symbols on the high-damage blue die, things might make more sense, with weapons that do more damage consuming more ammo. But there isn’t, so there just isn’t much trade-off between some of the weapons, and some could have been deleted I think.
Anyway, more so than many games, another couple plays will be needed to make sure it isn’t too tough on the Marines (I’m highly suspicious this would be the case with 3 Marines), and to make sure the game holds up. But I enjoyed it and look forward to trying it again.