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Subject: CCG Journey Week 32 - Doomtrooper rss

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Mike Haverty
United States
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Fifteen years after seeing it on the shelves of a game store in Grenoble, France, I finally get my hands on and play a game of Doomtrooper. Thanks, CCG Journey!

The Game
I was just getting into CCGs in late 1994 or early 1995 I guess, while living in Kuwait. I had some Magic cards and had just started playing with the teenaged son of a coworker who lived in our building, when we took a trip to Grenoble in the spring. A friend of ours from Oklahoma State was there for a semester studying French, and her landlord was kind enough to offer us a free room while we visited. They had a good sized house on the hill where they rented out four rooms on the 3rd floor to students. They even had us down for dinner one evening where we had rabbit stew and some of the family wine. Good times.

But back to business. I had asked Betsy to see if there were any game stores in town I could check out. She came through for me and we trekked down there while out and about. I can't even remember the place now, but they had Magic, Jyhad, Galactic Empires and Doomtrooper. I liked the sound of all of those, but especially Doomtrooper with its sci-fi-goth artwork. The astute reader will recall from the Jyhad episode of the CCG Journey that I ended up getting Jyhad on that trip, and for whatever reason I never did get around to trying Doomtrooper out.

Fast-forward 14 years. I got a Doomtrooper deck from someone, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't even recall who it was. It might be Dan Manfredini, designer of AEG's Monkey Lab. We do prototype exchanges with Dan's group in Austin, and at one point we noticed he was using Spycraft and Spoils cards as backers in his card sleeves, so with his permission we looted them and put other less desirable cards in their place. When we met at BGGcon last year, he gave me a pile of various CCG cards that he thought we might be interested in, and I want to say this single Doomtrooper starter deck was among them. Then, just last month or so, I was in a local sports card store that also carries a very small selection of CCG stuff, and spotted a sealed box of Inquisition boosters on his rack. He was asking $20 for it; since I was buying some other stuff from him, I offered him $10 for it and he countered with $15, which I took.

So, I'm the proud owner of 1 Unlimited starter and 1 box of Inquisition, heh.

The Decks
I didn't want to open the Inquisition box till I actually tried out the game, in case I really didn't care for it, so we sat down with just the single starter deck. Fortunately, Doomtrooper has Beginner Rules which is basically a shorter, simpler game. You take a starter and evenly divide the warriors and everything else, making two 30-card decks out of it, and that's that. (More to come on this below, though.)

The Play
Game play is actually pretty simple and quick. You start the game with 7 cards and 3 D (destiny points). D is your currency/resource, used to pay for anything with a cost. You do NOT generate any automatically. Instead, you have 3 actions per turn and one of the actions you can take is Meditate, which generates 1 D for you. Other actions are playing a warrior, equipment or fortification, and attacking. You can do any of these in any order and any number of times, except attack which can only be performed once and ends your turn.

Combat is pretty straightforward as well. Each warrior has F (fight) and S (shoot) stats; when you make an attack, you declare which tactic you are using. Each warrior also has a single A (armor) stat; meet or exceed the opponent's A to wound him. Get wounded a second time and you're dead, scoring for the opponent. Both attacker and defender can hit each other in an attack, and killing the opponent scores for either. When you score, you earn the victim's V (value) in Promotion Points, toward the 15 needed to win. V is also the card's cost, so an interesting effect here is that playing more expensive warriors, which are generally better warriors, also makes you vulnerable to giving up more PP if they get killed.

We each spent a couple turns getting warriors out and familiarizing ourselves with the cards in hand before starting to fight. It seemed pretty apparent that you would normally only attack enemies that would result in you wounding them and not vice versa, though things can change during an attack with the use of specials (event cards); most of the time, though, you hit what you go after. I got out to an early lead and killed three guys worth a total of 10 PP. John slowed me down by getting a SMG attachment on a warrior that made him untouchable to me in Shoot combat, and I didn't have any Fight stats high enough to beat him there, either.

In the beginner rules, the game ends if either player is decked, with victory going to the higher PP total. Since I had a lead and was slowing down now that he had a buffed up guy, I thought I'd try running out my deck. Doomtrooper uses a "fill to hand size" mechanic, so I was trying to use extra cards from my hand even if I didn't need to, plus using my allowed one discard at the end of each turn, so I could draw as many cards as possible at the start of my next turn when I refilled to 7 cards. I thought maybe three turns to deck myself, with these thin beginner rules decks. Unfortunately, John dropped a "CAP 7000P" on one of his warriors. The CAP is a frakkin' airship/vehicle that DOUBLES the S, A and V of the attached warrior. This guy started steamrolling my warriors and I was really regretting discarding a Dark Symmetry gift card earlier that lets you spend 10D to discard an equipment; at the time it seemed waaay too expensive, but I would have loved to spend 3 turns meditating so I could get rid of that behemoth.

A couple turns later and it was all over but the cryin' -- not that there was any cryin', I don't think that's in the Doomtrooper credo

The Decks - Part Deux
Wait, what's this? Part Deux? We both found the game interesting enough that we wanted to play a full game using the Standard Rules at a later date. So, I went home and spent a couple days opening and sorting my Inquisition box and built two full 60 card decks. Apparently, Inquisition focuses on the Brotherhood and Dark Legion. There were plenty of DL guys, but the Brotherhood half of the set was mostly Art cards and not all that many warriors.

I ended up making one deck that was 10 Dark Legion and 5 Capitol warriors, with an appropriate mix of support cards. I tried to focus on just a couple of the Apostles as far as Dark Symmetry cards go (DS is sort of like Art spells for Brotherhood, but they are permanent abilities that can be used repeatedly, rather than the one-shot effects of the Art), avoided Heretics, and tried to get warriors and equipment that kill on one hit.

The other deck was about 9 Brotherhood and 7 Mishima warriors, with plenty of Art cards and a variety of utility and combat support cards. I put several Shadow Warriors from Mishima in there (they have the Doomtrooper equivalent of First Strike), but otherwise tried to keep this deck fairly well-rounded.

Both decks got a couple relics (geez, some of those seem powerful) -- I downloaded the 2nd Edition rules, which removes the necessity of using Noted Collector cards to make relics playable -- and both decks also got an Industrial Complex and a Factory, which generate extra D every turn.

The Play - Part Zwei
The standard rules are not that dissimilar to the beginner rules, but seem like they could affect gameplay significantly:
* Play to 25 to 40 PP for victory. Decking does not end the game unless both players run out. In the 2E rules, going three turns without having a (combat capable) warrior in play forfeits the game, though.
* After killing a warrior, you can take the reward in any combination of PP and D, which seems like it would allow the players to adjust the tempo of the game, perhaps going for D early to get bigger guys out and escalate the conflict before rushing for PP to end the game.
* Attack restrictions. Doomtroopers (anyone who's not a Dark Legion warrior) cannot attack other warriors from the same corporation, nor can they attack the Brotherhood, who are ostensibly fighting the good fight against the Dark Legion. To this end, Brotherhood can ONLY attack Dark Legion, and as the baddies the Dark Legion can attack anyone including other DL.
* Speaking of which, players now keep their warriors split into two groups: the Squad that holds all their Doomtroopers and the Kohort that holds all their Dark Legion. In general, warriors in one cannot assist/benefit warriors in the other, and permanents like fortification cards generally only play to one area or the other.
* Cover. You can turn a warrior face down to put in cover, which gives him a +3 A bonus. For the cost 3 actions, you can even deploy a warrior directly into cover without letting the opponent see who it is.

So, the core gameplay is still the same, just a few wrinkles that deal with theme and a couple new mechanics. I gave John the Dark Legion deck, cuz that's his thing, so we shuffled up and went at it.

John opened up with a Martian Banshee (a Capitol warrior). I had a couple warriors in my hand, but spent my turn building up some D (I don't know why, but in both games we started with 3D instead of 5D like you're supposed to -- how the hell did I misread that?). On his second turn, John gained some D and sabotaged me for 2 more D since I didn't have a warrior out. (I had read through the 2nd Edition rules and decided we would use the "unlimited sabotage" rules.) I finally dropped a Shadow Warrior from the Mishima Corporation.

Then it started to go to hell for me, heh. John brought out the Callistonian Conqueror, a beefy guy with one-hit-kill capability, which he promptly used on my Shadow Walker as I had no boosting specials in hand to save him. In fact, my hand had several Art cards but did not match the one Brotherhood warrior I had. I spent the next couple turns gaining D and discarding one card a turn to get more draw, while he got out a Free Marine and equipped him with a rocket launcher called the "Deuce" which not only gave him a big + Shoot bonus, but also lets him destroy a vehicle or fortification as an action.

I finally got out Doctor Diana, who has decent stats in addition to the ability to heal. She survived a round because John used all three actions of his next turn to play "Loot & Pillage" for a 20D gain. I got out a Mentor and a Cathedral, which gives my (absent) Brotherhood warriors +2 A. The pummeling continued the next round with the play of a Zenithian Slaughtermaster, who killed my Doc that turn and the Mentor the next. John finally started taking his rewards as Promotion Points, so he was at 8 PP at that point.

The next couple turns were more the same. I was crippled by not getting many Brotherhood warriors in hand, which made the Art cards in my hand dead weight. John dropped Algeroth, who has an ongoing effect of letting him play equipment of any faction on his Dark Legionnaires at any time and without action cost. That wasn't what was killing me, though; it was his two one-hit-killers with good stats.

I finally drew a "Reassignment" and may have made a poor choice. I could have gone after one of the beefy Dark Legion guys (the Slaughtermaster, as John had played "Eternal Curse" on his Conqueror, making it immune to specials), but decided to send the Free Marine and his rocket launcher away. This let me play a Necromower vehicle without having it blown up the next turn, and in fact I got one attack in with it, wounding the Martian Banshee, only to have a timely "Heist" take the Necromower away and give it to the Martian Banshee. If this were Modern Warfare 2, John would have unlocked the Cruelty achievement (kill someone, take his weapon, and then kill him again while using it). *sigh*

A few more turns like that and John hit the 30 PP goal we had set for the game. I don't think the Dark Legion deck was overpowering, per se, but that the Brotherhood deck was too weak. I think I mentioned above that I didn't really have that many good Brotherhood warriors; I think I devoted too much deck space to Brotherhood support cards (including Art cards) for what I had, resulting in marginally playable hands all game long. I need (a) more Doomtroopers from any/all affiliations, and (b) to make a balanced corporate deck focusing on solid playable warriors and support cards.

The Verdict
Well, obviously we enjoyed the game enough with the beginner rules for me to bust open my Inquisition box and make decks for a standard play, which we also enjoyed. We're both interested in trying again after I make a new deck to take on the Dark Legion. I have a couple potential trades with people including Doomtrooper cards, so hopefully it will be easier to make another couple decent decks with more stock in the future.

The rules are pretty straightforward, play is pretty quick once you know what's going on, and I like the way resources, card draw and actions are used. I think the card/rules templating could be cleaner (for one thing, there is no difference in font/location between game text and flavor text, which is a huge "what the...?" when reading cards the first time), but all in all it's a pretty smooth playing experience. We didn't get to see the use of cover because I frequently only had one warrior in play (you must always have at least 1 warrior not in cover) and John never had a need to put his guys in cover, so I think more balanced decks will give us more interesting games, too.

For now, Doomtrooper is a keeper and I give it a rating of 6.

Notes on the Journey
Total plays (plays since last report).

World of Warcraft = 33
Magic = 20
Game of Thrones = 13
VS = 11
Harry Potter = 7
Doomtown = 6
Conan = 4
Jyhad = 4
City of Heroes = 4
Epic = 4
Mystick = 3
Lord of the Rings = 3
Warhammer = 3
BattleTech = 3
TMNT = 2
Legend of the Five Rings = 2
Shadowrun = 2
Star Wars = 2
Doomtrooper = 2 (+2)
The Spoils = 1
Cyberpunk = 1
Gridiron = 1
Wyvern = 1
Spycraft = 1
Kingdom Hearts = 1
Echelons = 1
OverPower = 1
Hyborian Gates = 1
Arcadia = 1
Fantasy Adventures = 1
On the Edge = 1
Shadowfist = 1

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The Galaxy is Just Packed!
United States
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Hey thanks for the great review! Glad you enjoyed the game!

Bit of an Easter Egg: The Doctor Diana card is named after my wife, Diana! After seeing the cover for the Cybertronic sourcebook...

I made sure the Target guys used that pic and named a "Personality" card after my wife. 10-ish years later, after I stopped working for Target, I picked up a copy of 3rd(?) edition Warzone and found out they used the same name for a line of medical robots. So, while the Dr. Diana in the CCG is a single human, in the mythos she eventually became a legion of robots. cool

Also, you can apparently play it online again, although I have not yet tried!

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