For those of you wondering what I’ve been doing, I have a big roleplaying project in the works. I’ll be making an initial announcement about that here in the near future, and I’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign later in the year to raise funds. In the meantime, when it comes to card and board games, 2012 is all about Lovecraft. Cthulhu Fluxx comes out this August, and I’m very excited about it. And right now a new company called The Forking Path is running a kickstarter campaign to launch a board game that’s been on the shelf for a few years: The Doom That Came To Atlantic City. The project description has left some people confused as to exactly what the game is and how it’s played, and I want to clear that up.
At first glance, you may notice a similarity to a certain real estate trading game. However, the gameplay is entirely different. Just as Gloom has you try to kill your characters instead of helping them, Doom challenges you to destroy the city rather than build it. You begin with a happy community filled with houses, and then you and your friends arrive. Each of you is playing one of HP Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones, and your goal is to smash houses, open gates, and destroy the world. But you each want to destroy it in your own special way. As Cthulhu, you want to make sure that pesky Shub-Niggurath doesn’t sneak in and destroy it first!
The abilities of your character are defined by Providence cards. Each Old One begins with a particular card, so Hastur always starts as the King in Yellow. By acquiring additional Providence cards, you have the opportunity to focus your strengths in a particular area – fighting other Old Ones, destroying houses, acquiring cultists, controlling movement, and more. Certain Providence cards can be played on your opponents. Everyone wants Membranous Wings… but no one wants to be The Cute One!
As an Old One, you make use of two resources. Cultists are your anchor to the world; when you lose your last cultist you are banished (removed from play) until you can rebuild your cult. You can take cultists from other Old Ones by defeating them in combat. The second resource is houses. You don’t start with any houses; you get them by smashing the houses on the board. Houses are a currency you spend to use Chants cards – one shot actions that let you modify die rolls or perform other special feats. Certain Chants cards also require you to sacrifice cultists. It’s tough to be a cultist.
The basic action of the game is simple. Travel around the board. Beat up other Old Ones who get in your way. Destroy houses. When you destroy the last house on a space, you open up a gate. The gate belongs to you, but you also get a special power based on the realm it’s connected to. A gate to R’lyeh helps you destroy things, while a gate to Yuggoth reduces the cost to play Chants cards. The more gates you have tied to a particular realm, the easier it is to use this ability. In addition, all gates belonging to a particular player are connected for purposes of movement. So when the game begins, the board is fairly straightforward. But as reality falls apart you have more opportunities to control your movement and make tactical decisions. But… how do you win?
The simplest way to win is to open six gates. The first Old One to open a sixth gate immediately wins. However, every player also has a shortcut to victory: their Doom. Looking to the Doom above, it can be acheived with only four gates, but it requires the sacrifice of 12 cultists. As a result, the player will want to find Providence traits that give him additional cultists, or focus on beating up other Old Ones and stealing their cultists. In addition, gates to Leng reduce the cost to use the Doom, so he’ll want to target the yellow spaces. Your Doom determines your optimal strategy. Should you gain powers you need to fight other Old Ones, or ignore them and enhance your ability to destroy houses? Is the ability to target specific spaces more important than a bonus to destruction?
While these factors do provide you with meaningful decisions, The Doom That Game To Atlantic City is a chaotic beer & pretzels game. The level of strategy is akin to Munchkin. You have choices to make and the ability to interfere or assist your friends, but luck of the draw and the die plays a big factor. The game can take surprising turns; towards the end of the game it’s technically possible for a lucky player to open three gates in one turn, if the dice are blessed and the stars are right. The tone is humorous, and it’s a game to play for fun – not a brutal strategic simulation. It’s designed for 2-4 players, and once you know how to play, takes between 45 minutes to an hour.
The game uses miniatures sculpted by Paul Komoda. At the base level these are plastic miniatures; the fancier version has pewter miniatures. Here’s the concept art and the figures themselves.
The Doom That Came To Atlantic City isn’t a game for everyone. It’s a zany game of Lovecraftian devastation set amid streets with remarkably familiar names. If this sounds like your cup of absinthe, check out the Kickstarter page here. The campaign runs through May, so if you’ve got questions, ask them here!