The Doom That Came to Atlantic City Review
The Doom That Came to Atlantic City
is a board game with an eventful gestation. It started its life as a Kickstarter project which, despite raising nearly four times the requested amount, was eventually cancelled by the project's creator. That left its designers and its backers out of pocket and with no game.
Enter Cryptozoic, a boardgame publisher, who announced that they would pick up the game and send it to all Kickstarter backers at no cost.
But it was a lengthy process and I eventually forgot I was due a copy of the game.
Last week, this arrived...
As promised, Cryptozoic has delivered the game to backers of the ill fated Kickstarter.
The first thing that strikes you when you open the box, is the quality of the playing pieces. Underneath the stacks of Elder God character cards, the rulebook and the game board, you find those figures:
So what's the game about? Well, here is how Cryptozoic describes it:
The Doom that Came to Atlantic City board game invites players to assume the role of one of the Great Old Ones – beings of ancient eldritch power. Cosmic forces have held you at bay for untold eons, but at last the stars are right and your maniacal cult has called you forth. Once you regain your full powers, you will unleash your doom upon the world! There’s only one problem: you’re not alone. The other Great Old Ones are here as well, and your rivals are determined to steal your cultists and snatch victory from your flabby claws! It’s a race to the ultimate finish as you crush houses, smash holes in reality, and fight to call down The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!
In practice, you might notice that the game board you are going to wreak desctruction Lovecraft style on bears a certain ressemblance to another game board...
Yep. It looks very much like a Monopoly board. Except you start the game with it populated with houses and your Elder God characters gleefully romp around it and tear them down to open gates to very unpleasant realities.
The game comes with a very light 17 pages rulebook. You'll go through it fairly quickly. However, due to a couple of typos and print error on one of the Gate cards in the first edition, you'll probably want to visit BoardGameGeek to clarify a few rules before playing. All in all, they are quickly learned and even more quickly explained.
Players play as one of the Great Old Ones. Those start with 6 cultist followers (essentially a game currency), a special ability and can collect more abilities (essentially levelling up your character) and houses (another currency) during gameplay. Each Elder God has its own neat character card where you can keep track of your stuff:
A player's turn is essentially made up of 3 phases.
Just as in Monopoly, movement mostly consists of rolling 2 dice and moving around the board. Some cards might make you go counter clockwise and some other cards or abilities might allow you to influence how much you actually move (which nicely fixes some of the issues in Monopoly) but this is simple stuff.
Then there is the combat phase. It's essentially optional (unless you land on the exact same square as other players) and lets you steal away some of their cultists and gain a Chants card if you succeed. Again, this is a double dice roll for the attacker and defender and is very simple.
Finally, where you would buy deeds in Monopoly is the destruction phase. Here, you will attempt to destroy a house on the square you landed on (if it's one of the squares with houses). When you do, you get to keep the house. Destroy the last house on a square and you get to open one of your Gates. This gives you a Gate card (similar to the Monopoly deed cards) which specifies a toll to be paid (cultist or house) if another Elder God lands on your Gate. It also confers other bonuses and abilities as you collect more gates of a given colour.
Open your 6th Gate of fulfill the condition of a randomly drawn Doom card (an alternate victory condition which adds some variety to the proceedings) and you've won. That's it!
There are a couple of other rules relating to movement, running out of cultists, rolling doubles, and Tomes. But what you have above is the framework of the game and is really easy to learn.
We played two games this weekend. The first one, with 4 players (max number of players) and without using the Tomes took just over an hour. It was also the game where we were learning the rules. The second, with 3 players and using all the rules took around 40 minutes. The least you can say is that the game doesn't overstay its welcome.
It's also a game that's ruled by dice rolls and by the abilities you draw from the Providence pile (used to "upgrade" your Elder God or debuff someone else's). If you need your games to be driven purely by strategy, this won't satisfy you. But if you can enjoy a light hearted roll and move game which borrows some elements from Monopoly to turn them into a very different, much tighter game with more player interaction, then you're probably going to enjoy it quite a bit. The kids and I certainly did.
After 2 games, my 12 year old was begging me to play again. I think we'll play this one soon. And I certainly won't mind. While I try to play more "thoughtful" games with them too, we all enjoy those light breaks where we can just all shout in joy/frustration at a dice roll.
The fact that it plays in less than an hour means it can also be a nice warm up game or one to lighten things up between more serious gaming sessions.
The theme is a big part of why it works for me. Getting to stomp around the board causing chaos instead of being the good guys is appealing. And the fact that your Elder God thinks nothing of sacrificing cute little cultist meeples (until it runs out of them and gets banished for a while) for its downright evil deeds is part of the fun.
The art style is not quite sure whether it wants to be serious and Lovecraftian (the characters, their gate cards, the neutral gates and imagery around the board) or light hearted and silly (see the providence cards, the centre of the board, ...).
In my opinion, the mix works very well in the context of this game. You are this Elder God trying to destroy life as we know it, and yet it's all played in good fun. The art works and makes it that much more fun to play for me.
All in all, while this won't be the game I recommend to experienced boardgamers who want to put their thinking cap on, it certainly gets a recommendation from me for family playtime or when you just want to have a bit of fun.