Welcome to my Introduction of Doom! In fact, prepare yourself for a lot of Doom. It infests the creatures, artifacts, and places you will encounter throughout this game. That ominous adjective guides you, informs your decisions, and stalks your every move like a predator on the hunt. Will Doom just be another challenge to overcome, adding to your glory and riches? Or will it be your fate?
[Ed. note: This is a preview of a non-final, non-production prototype demo of the game. Our opinions reflect that of the game at the time we played it; the final product will feature some variation in game play, art, and components.]
How It Plays
There is quite a lot going on in this design, so in this How to Play Section of Doom, I will describe game play briefly, giving details in some of the more significant aspects. Essentially, Assault on Doomrock is a role-playing game without the Game Master of Doom. You will choose or randomly assign an archetypical character to each member of your adventuring party. Your group will then explore a random world to earn silver and acquire various items with the goal of defeating three groups of terrible and awesome monsters, each progressively increasing in difficulty. Win all three encounters, and your heroes will go down in legend. If the party falls in just one of these fights…well then, you know, Doom.
Characters also receive a unique Trait of Doom. These can be serious and intimidating like “Ridiculously Armored.” Or they can be silly like “Stinky” or “Epileptic.” Heroes begin this whole Quest of Doom with four special abilities based on their character type and their distinctive trait, which will be used in combat. All of these character types, traits, and abilities are represented by cards – as are almost all other elements in Assault on Doomrock. The ability cards describe how to apply their effects, and also display 1-2 die values needed to activate them, icons to indicate how often you may use them in a round of fighting, and whether or not they give you initiative.
The game is divided into two phases…of Doom. In the first phase, your party will explore the “map” – three cards depicting wilderness, mountains, or a village. You will preset this map so that the game begins with one card of each type. Then a deck of six additional map cards is shuffled and placed next to the three laid out, with a final Doomrock card at the bottom of the deck. A token marks the location of your party and this can move from map card to map card as you travel around.
Each card also has unique locations that you can explore or visit. Most of these actions require a payment of some sort. For example, you’ll usually have to spend a time token. These are collected based on a separate setting card which you draw at the beginning of a new adventuring phase. For example, you may receive eight tokens. When you have taken eight actions requiring these time tokens, the adventuring phase will conclude, commencing the battle phase where you must confront one of the game’s baddies and his vast minions…of Doom.
During the adventuring phase, the party can do one of Four Things of Doom – as long as they can pay the cost requirements. One, they can travel to another face-up map card for one time token. Or they can visit a card’s location to resolve its indicated action. For example, village cards have shops which are seeded with random item cards. The party can buy these items for the purchase price listed. Other locations may require the party to pay other tokens, such as heroism or secrets, or risk peril to health, in order to profit from its benefits. For example, the dark tunnels in the Abandoned Mine allows the heroes to discard a heroism token (useful later in combat) to make a loot roll. Another important location on many cards is the camp. Here the party can heal, generally for the price of a precious silver coin.
A third action in the adventuring phase is to explore, which expends one time token. Here the party simply draws an Exploration Card of Doom to determine their Fate of Doom. Although many times these are valuable. You might get a free loot roll, find an epic item, or gain some other advantageous permanent favor. Some have harmful effects, though, so tread carefully. After exploring, you remove one secret token from that card – when you’ve exhausted all of the secrets, you will receive some reward for fully searching the area.
Finally, your party can venture forth. This also costs a time token and allows the party to discard the map card furthest from the draw deck, shift the areas to fill the space, and replace it with the top card, prepping it with any necessary secret tokens and/or shop items if it’s a village card. The goal in all of this adventuring is to acquire items, bonuses for combat, silver, and maybe even to level up your heroes. Once the group has used up all its Time of Doom, and can no longer do anything for free, the battle phase begins.
Combat is conducted fairly abstractly as far as position. Heroes, bosses, and minions are represented by large tokens lined up across from each other to begin. When a token is touching one or more other character discs, all of those combatants are considered adjacent and engaged in melee. When tokens are separated, they are considered distant and must use ranged weapons or abilities if attacking.
Cards resolve all monster movement and attacks. The System of Doom uses customized decks depending on the creatures currently in battle. During their moves, each player activates two minions by drawing cards. These instruct how the activated baddie is to move and attack and how much damage to deal to the targeted hero. The boss then moves by similar creature card mechanic after his minions have finished.
For our heroes, fighting depends on their abilities, as well as their unique traits. Prior to a round of combat, each player rolls one die per ability card. You start the game with four and can earn more by leveling up. In combat, you can roll these dice up to three times. When you’re satisfied or can no longer roll, you then assign dice to your abilities. But abilities require specific values in order to employ them that round. So if you don’t roll the right number, you can’t use that ability. Essentially, then, your roles in Assault on Doomrock apply to a set-up, rather than testing them individually as you would in an RPG. Some abilities give you initiative, so that you can resolve them before the monsters move/attack. And many actions may only be used once per round. Alternately, if you roll a ‘1’ or ‘6,’ you may keep them to gain a shield token or heroism token respectively. Shields absorb a hit in combat and heroism can be helpful to modify abilities for greater results.
The combat phase is fairly straight-forward, mechanics-wise. The trick is to remember all of your Modifiers of Doom. Traits, passive abilities, and items all have various effects on combat results, as do the specific creature characteristics. But only if you can remember to apply them when appropriate! Keep those in mind and use them wisely, and you just might survive – even taking out the last, great baddie: the dragon. Overlook them or use them poorly, well then none will live to tell your tale or even remember your name.
If you survive the first adventuring and combat phases, you may draw a new setting card to move the story forward, and repeat the process. And likewise with the second setting. Win the third, final battle, and your boasts will know no end!
One Doom to Rule Them All?
Role-playing games are difficult to port to board gaming because the Game Master role is pretty critical to creating and driving the narrative. Because of that, GM’ing is often a thorny task and not all players are comfortable, or good, at it. On the other hand, that story element is hard to generate in board gaming because rules and mechanics can be more structured and restrictive. So a board or card game that adequately provides that RPG flavor without the tricky and/or tacky GM stumbling has a ton of appeal. That’s what Assault on Doomrock provides. But is it a game right for your Group of Doom, or perhaps Family of Doom? Well, that’s largely going to depend on your Style of Doom.
Assault on Doomrock has a clever card system that acts as the GM, deftly guiding the party’s exploits – as long as you don’t mind heavy doses of randomness. Role-players should be used to dice rolling, however, and so drawing cards is not so much different as to be a completely foreign concept. At the same time, this system does not railroad the players down some predetermined track. Especially in the adventuring phase, the group determines which activities to undertake. And while they are restricted to the four actions travel, visit location, explore, or venture forth, it’s no more limited than what a human GM would present in an RPG.
Another ingeniously simple mechanic that the system uses to mimic a human GM as best as possible are expose markers. Your character will randomly accumulate these tokens through various perils during the adventure phase, a range of abilities in combat, or from being attacked. Generally, you don’t want them. Whenever your hero is hit in battle, you must reveal all of the expose markers currently attached to him and add the results to that assault’s damage. Some expose tokens add +1 damage and these can add up. Others push you away from any melee engagements – which could be good or bad depending on the fight. Some are blank with no effect. You can also apply expose tokens to the enemy with different abilities and items, hoping to increase the pain you inflict on them with each successful hit.
The expose tokens are nice because they abstractly represent superfluous effects or collateral conditions that a GM might inflict on player characters in an RPG. It stands in for other circumstances like tired, injured, hungry, or various emotional states of mind which would affect a character’s ability to perform tasks. Especially in combat, where the expose markers are applied in this design. Of course, that assumes that players of Assault on Doomrock are “getting into the game” and role-playing it’s development.
Which is another strength of design. While the system drives game play, it still allows for plenty of story-building moments. The adventuring phase provides generic situations and locales in both exploring and traveling the map. This is just a basic structure. Players could navigate them as is and go through the base mechanics, still getting a flavor of role-playing. But a more adventurous and creative group will fill in the plot outlines to flesh out the story in order to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
Assault on Doomrock also understands exactly what it is – a fill-in adventure yarn squarely in the fantasy, role-playing camp. It has some quirky humor – as in the many references to ‘This’ and ‘That’ of Doom littered throughout the map, ability, and item cards. And it has some fun with the usual tropes endemic to the genre, like the Elven Masseuses on one exploration card. And while the baddies include typical dragons, wraiths, and beasts of…well…Doom, you must also beware the exploding tomatoes. Just trust me on that one.
To wrap up with my Conclusion of Doom, Assault on Doomrock is lots of fun with tons of ground to mine. Just the demo prototype for this preview was chock-full of characters, traits, abilities, items, and locations. The production copy will likely have innumerable combinations of ways to create heroes, equip them and take on beastly monsters. The card-driven, GM-replacing mechanics keep the story moving briskly, and are both clever and easy to use, yet not patronizingly simplistic. In fact, just the opposite – there are many details to include, work with, and remember. Be forewarned, it is extremely tough and randomness is off the scale. But if you want a creative system to quickly build characters and get into the heart of story-telling, role-playing, adventuring, and battling great beasts, Assault on Doomrock is a great Choice of Doom.
Assault on Doomrock is currently seeking funds on Indiegogo. The project has already funded and will continue through July 30. If you want to pick-up a copy, no Rogue, no matter what level, will be able to win this one for you, so you’ll need to make your way over to the campaign page to join the action. A $50 contribution will net you the game if you plan on adventuring to Essen this year, where you can pick it up yourself. Otherwise, it’s $60 shipped to the U.S. or EU. You don’t want to pass up this Deal of Doom!
This article is a paid promotion.