So, last night the Manglers were down two players, and I decided it was time to force a new game upon those who showed up. (I recently finished a massive clean-up of the game closet, including cataloging most of the games, so I was itching to try something I hadn’t played.) So, it was time for The Doom that Came to Atlantic City.
I got this game from Cryptozic by way of Kickstarter. The game’s creators hired Erik Chevalier to run their Kickstarter for the game. He took in $122k and then disappeared with the money, as far as I can tell. Luckily, the folks at Cryptozoic Entertainment–who were completely unconnected to the Kickstarter–decided to publish the game and fulfill the rewards from the Kickstarter to the best of their ability. So, the Manglers were able to give Lee Moyer and Keith Baker’s game a shot (with cool minis sculpted by Paul Komoda).
The premise of the game is that each player is one of the Elder Gods, and you’ve been recently awakened by cultists. Your goal is to return to full power and destroy the world–or at least, Atlantic City. The game is based on Monopoly–similar board, Chants cards (I see what they did there), and roll and move mechanics. There are some amusing shifts in terminology: you get to pass Mi-Go instead of Go, and you get Banished instead of going to jail (which, as in Monopoly, can happen for rolling doubles multiple times in a turn). In your turn, you attack other players, destroy houses, and try to open six gates (by destroying all the houses on a property) before everyone else. There are a few twists: each player has a “Doom” card that gives them an alternate way to win, and each player’s avatar can acquire powers that make it easier for them to attack, defend, cycle cards, destroy houses, etc.
The game took us about two hours to play, but that involved some outside discussion and some rules checking. (There is a serious misprint on one of the property cards and some missing rules about when Banishment occurs.) However, BGG provided answers and we were able to play on without too much trouble. We did keep forgetting a few rules (like not being able to get rid of your last cultist voluntarily) and misinterpreted one rule (thinking that the count for rolling doubles carried over between turns).I think that games that last around an hour are definitely possible.
The beginning of the game plays much like Monopoly, with each player moving his elder god around the board accumulating property (by destroying houses and placing gates). It is a bit random, with everyone taking what they can. It doesn’t cost anything to try to destroy the houses on a property and place a gate (which can be done once both houses are destroyed), so property acquisition is a bit faster than in Monopoly, and the mid-game comes pretty soon.The game begins: Cthulhu followed by Hastur followed by Nyarlathotep.
In the mid-game, players start to accumulate the cultists, houses, gates, and/or cards they need to fulfill their victory conditions. As elder gods gain more powers, deciding when to attacck each other becomes a bit more strategic, and as more gates appear, the pace of the game speeds up. (If you start on a gate, you can move to another gate before moving the number rolled, so establishing a good gate system that lets you cycle through the Mi-Go space seems imperative.)
The end-game comes quickly. Once we realized that players were in striking distance of their victory conditions, the game only lasted a couple more rounds. In our game, there was definitely a bit of a piling on effect where we all tried to stop the player that seemed most likely to win, and it felt a bit like Illuminati with everyone pulling out all the stops. This makes for a tense and aggressive end-game, which may not be to everyone’s liking. (But, also seems true to the spirit of Monopoly where everyone comes away mad.) In the game’s favor, all three players were within one turn of winning at the end, so it stayed competitive throughout. I felt a bit like we all played like we were Cold War powers, stockpiling cultists and cards for our end-game run at victory, so when someone came close to winning, there were tons of cards played to stop him. I imagine that if we had used cards more in the early game, we wouldn’t have had such a card-nuking effect at the end.
Overall, I liked the game. The components are awesome, including well-sculpted minis for each of the Elder Gods and wooden meeples for cultists and houses. The board is suitably evocative for a tongue-in-cheek game of eldritch horror and real estate, and the cards have a likable, cartoon-y style with amusing flavor quotes. I want to play again and see how the next game goes. It doesn’t feel like a game of deep strategy–there’s a lot of luck here (rolling dice for movement, attacks, destruction) and random card draws for winning conditions and powers. But it’s not meant to be such a game, and I thoroughly enjoyed wrecking Atlantic City and establishing the new age of Hastur, Hastur . . . .