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Why the DOOM Boardgame deserves to exist

Rubbish knock-off licensing seems to hound every mega popular entertainment property out there. (Exhibit A). Among the most questionable products are boardgames based on video games – but the DOOM boardgame might just be an honourable exception, as Liam Maguren discovers. 

I’ve written about DOOM three bloody times for The Spinoff. I thought I had covered everything worth covering until Douglas Moore – a Gandhi-level guru of boardgame paraphernalia – turned my gaze towards DOOM: The Boardgame. Designed by Jonathan Ying and based on Bethesda’s 2016 game, Doug invited me over to show me why the boardgame deserved to exist.

Doug, how do you play this game and can you explain it in one simple sentence?

With great prejudice.

Fair enough. Do I play by myself as a one-man killing machine – like the videogame?

You will always need at least two. One ‘Marine’ player versus the ‘Demon’ player who controls the hordes. But you can (and should) bring as many more gun monkeys as you like! I call marines gun monkeys because my demon controlling tastes are more refined.

So I/we get to kill imps and cacodemon and such – like the videogame?
Oh lawdy yes. Demons by the portal-full. But you’re thinking too small. This game goes as far as bringing out the mighty Cyberdemon! All of which are presented with some of the most beautifully detailed models currently available.

Even you, marine.

What about the weapons? Are they awesome – like the videogame?

If by awesome you mean each one having unique action cards that cater to different playstyles, then yes. They are awesome.

…including the chainsaw?

Oh yeah. We got chainsaws. And it works in this game just as well as you’d expect.

OK, I’m getting sweaty. Let’s play it. How do we set this thing up?

For the tutorial, like this:

My goal, playing as the demons, is going to murder you until you are dead. Four times.

FOUR TIMES!?!?!?

Oh yeah. You see that teleporter looking thingy behind you? That’s a teleporter. If you get fragged, you just respawn there on your next turn. Speaking of you, your goal will be to genocide all these demons here, and the other ones that get summoned once you open one of the doors.

So you get to control ALL these demons and I only have this one marine?

Let’s be fair. The recruitment process in hell is… well, hell. Yes I have a big pile’o’dudes, but unlike you, they don’t come back. Nor do they have the big pile of combat cards you hold in your hot, hairy little hands. All I got is orders to move ‘n’ shoot. Oh, and I’ll cover the arena in darkness every now and again.

…sweet then. So what kind of cards have I got?

And what’ve you got?

You’re not allowed to look at my cards but here’s what I’ve got.

Whoa, what just happened?

Well, I went first (turn orders each round are randomised), moved my soldiers up, and shot you in the face. I rolled a two on the attack dice and you flipped a card from your deck to see if you could defend it (you couldn’t), so you take two damage.

Shit. Is it my turn now?

Not yet, good sir. Another invader card got flipped, so it looks like you’re gonna go last this round.

Goddamn it.

I’ll just go ahead and make these imps jump around like idiots and then you can shoot my guys dead till your heart’s content.

All right. I’m ready to smash your worthless minions into paste. How do I do that?

Well, unlike the demons, you perform everything through the cards in your hand. Many of them can move you around, and most will cause bullets to pour out of your guns. And don’t worry about using up your cards. Once all your cards have been drawn and spent, you just shuffle the pile and draw all over again!

So… if I play these cards…

Yep, that’s a solid… two damage on my imp. Good job! You may wish for more impactful turns in the future.

That’s the round over, yeah? So how do we start the second—

Well, I activate my possessed soldiers, who just stand there and unload on you. Looks like you died, bruh. Maybe you should’ve used what was left of your movement last turn to take cover.

Goddamn shit. But now I get a fresh man and some new cards and now I’m going to sprint to that imp who killed me and suckle on the sweet, sweet teat of vengeance. I’m allowed to do that, right?

Well, yeah if you have the right car—

YES! FEEL MY WRATH!

Oh snap, he’s dead. Well, only four more guys to in this area. NEXT ROUND.

Oh good. I only got hit twice that time. Let me slam a shotgun into this guy’s face!

Ooh, only two damage again.

NO! So close! He’s on the cusp of death! Guess I’ll wait for my next—

I mean, you could just use your movement to step into his space and snap his neck for a glory kill.

You… you mean… like the videogame?

You betcha. THE DOOM BOARDGAME IS METAL AS FUCK!

How to glory kill in DOOM: The Boardgame

THIS GAME IS AMAZING!

And that was just a taste. Outside the bubble of the tutorial, there’s a literal manual of missions to play. Each one of these has different map layouts, weapon pickups, and objectives (for you gun monkeys at least – the demons are usually on frag duty).

So they actually thought this through as opposed to making a DOOM Monopoly cash-grab. How long would it take to bust through all those missions?

If you dedicate a night a week to the game, you’d probably get through them all in a few months. That, of course, is assuming that everyone stays on the same team and doesn’t switch classes or weapons each time. And there are a loooooot of class cards to explore.

Why does this feel so… DOOM-y?

To me, it comes down to some of the simplest changes they made that other board games don’t fiddle with, namely the randomized turn order and the marines’ action cards.

Since you don’t just have a ‘movement speed’, a ‘damage stat’ or even a place in line like other games would use, you can’t plan your turn ahead of time. Every time your initiative card comes up, you have to make snap decisions. Each turn feels more like impulse than a carefully laid strategy. This resonates so much with the source material, as the pace of DOOM is so fast and frantic you barely ever have time to stop and think. You just have to keep going. Keep moving. Keep shooting. Even if you take a few hits in the process.


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