Further Reflections on Doom

After my last session I had some pretty harsh things to say about Doom: The Boardgame. Now, with a little more time to reflect on things, I wonder if I’m sending the right message here.

I stand by my opinion that Doom is, at best, unbalanced. And with 3 Marines, the game seems quite seriously out of whack, both in terms of play balance that is quite probably completely broken and in terms of keeping everyone in the game all the time. I also still think the scenarios included in the game, with the exception of the intro scenario, are significantly too long and/or too unfocussed and/or too repetitive (there is stuff you know you should do – like go back to pick up a big weapon in an area you missed – but you just can’t bear to do it because it’ll take too freaking long and be boring). And the game is definitely more fun for the Invader.

That all sounds kind of harsh; and maybe it is. But I am still conflicted because Doom: The Game System really is rather good, and it’s a game concept that is appealing and deserves to be done well. Had the final stages of development and playtesting been better managed, this could have been a very solid game. The first playing (with 2 Marines) was a lot of fun, and in fact that version of the game may be not be totally out of control, play-balance wise (it still seems to heavily favor the Invader, but it’s close enough that I can also visualize reasonable fixes that might work – just pick some good Marine cards and give the Marines some extra ammo), and it does a better job at keeping everyone in the game at that number, so perhaps Doom just needs to considered an exactly 3-player game. Maybe. And the new scenario on FFG’s web site actually looks like a substantial improvement over the ones in the box.

To use the lingo from my 2004 in Review article, Doom is definitely a serious choke. But it’s also got a core of a rather good game. This was brought to mind while I was reviewing some content for Wizard Kings, a game I love but that also has some serious scenario problems out-of-the-box. Now, Doom is no Wizard Kings – Doom does have some systemic question marks while Wizard Kings does not – so I feel no compelling need to cut Doom the same kind of slack. But, like Wizard Kings, once Fantasy Flight or the net has developed some more scenarios that address the balance issues and cut down the playing time, Doom may well deliver on its potential. The new scenario FFG has published may be the first step in the right direction.

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