Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doom, despair, devestation, dastardliness and dinner

Andy, Donald and Gav turned up for last week's Sunday session. Dinner was going to be a French classic: chicken cassoulet. The recipie was a quick and easy modern version from Nick Nairn's Top 100 Chicken Recipes, suitable as ever for advanced preparation and last-minute finishing.

The dish was a great success, which was nice. I took special pleasure in the lip-smacking appreciation of my favourite spicy Italian bangers, which I believe were new to everyone else.

I was keen to have another go at the final Doom mission Donald and I had lost so pitifully last month. We were humped, again, even with 3 marines and a reduced difficulty level. Our humpage was of a degree less severe than the last time - we did get out of the first room, though only as far as the second area; but it was humpage in the extreme nonetheless.

Our defeat was so overwhelming that the question inevitably resurfaced of whether the marines can ever actually win. I confess that I too felt the sheer demoralisation of yet another complete and utter tanking. But of course, as the first defeated Invader I know only too well that the interdimensional horde isn't all powerful in Doom.

A quick web survey
I knew that we weren't the only group having issues with the power of the Invader in Doom because Andy and I had read and discussed threads on this very topic when we first played the game regularly a couple of years ago. So I headed off to Doom@FFG and @BGG. Sure enough, I found several threads devoted to this topic:
These threads demonstrate that the full range of results is experienced by new and dedicated Doom players. For those who're not going to click through and read the threads, some choice extracts are below.
"In my games, the marines always win except if I manage to separate them."

"I show no mercy and play event card after event card after event card. But they still manage to win some of the times."

"I find difficulty depends on who is playing what."

"I am generally lethal no matter what role I play, but some of my mates suck at playing invader."
And perhaps best of all, some concise and cogent tactical advice which shows up exactly where our marines are going wrong:
"- ADVANCE QUICKLY: Don't dawdle in a room trying to kill all monsters and taking all the loot. This ain't a dungeoncrawl where you're always stronger than the monsters, this is a survival game.

- CONSERVE AMMO: Don't waste your chaingun rounds on a trite for godsakes.

- STICK TOGETHER: Avoid splitting up or you'll be mincemeat. Try to position so the Invader player has difficulty to place new invaders."
Dawdling? Check. Wasting ammo? Well, not on trites, that's for sure; but I can remember insisting on using my shotgun when the assault rifle was the weapon of choice, so I can't claim a full grade there either. Splitting up? Check. So we fail on more than 2/3 of these points. In other words, our strategy and tactics are exactly as rubbish as our marines' appalling record would suggest!

Shape up or die?
We need some practical suggestions if Doom is to return to the table at all, let alone often enough so that Andy gets full value out of his Expansion set:
  • Let someone who's new to the role enjoy a taste of the Invader's power (somone who's not been the Overlord in Descent either), eg. Donald.
  • Rotate this role every game. Andy has played heroes in Descent, so he has some idea of how overwhelming the villainous powers can be. But nobody else has played either the Invader or the Overlord.
  • Play the next game at the easiest setting, and allow the marine players to choose their own skills. The matter of skills isn't just about power levels, it's also about individualising the marines, and creating marines and teams with different playing styles. So this should inject new fun into the process of selecting marines.
  • Follow the suggestion of BBG'er Cleitus the Black on that last thread linked above, and adopt the 'Fully loaded' mod as a standing houserule.
  • Reinstate the basic rule that players go in a set order. We've ignored this in all our games, but I find myself beginning to wonder if a fixed order of play for the marines might not prove useful; eg. by focussing minds and reducing dithering, or by generating proper drills for the different situations the game presents.
These suggestions apply equally to Descent. I love playing both these games in all roles, and I too have a vested interest in getting full value out of my investment in Doom's big brother.

Forces of darkness
Beleaguered humanity 0

Nuclear War
Having fallen prey yet again to the extradimensional invaders, humanity cleared its head by indulging its passion for weapons of mass destruction in Douglas Malewicki's 44 year old classic Nuclear War. I had recently picked up the Nuclear Escalation expansion which had been a regular feature of our games back in the Edinburgh days, so I was keen to introduce everyone to the delights of the expanded game.

My copy of the expansion features the new full-colour artwork, digitally remastered and/or fully revised. It's all very nice I have to say. I also have the new Nuclear Misfunction dice. I confess I prefer the elegant simplicity of the original compared to the cluttered design of the new one.

I was pleased to get all the new elements of Nuclear Escalation into play at my own table. They are a great addition to the original classic and I'd missed them. I wasn't quite so pleased when my hope of being the first player to launch a space platform failed because it was a killer satellite instead. D'oh! I think everyone else liked the new stuff too. And I'm sure whoever is first to use the cruise missile and the space platform to hit the same person with 3 nukes in the same turn will be an enthusiastic fan for evermore thereafter!

We got 2 games in. All I can remember is that Donald won the second with 47 million population. Does this mean that we all lost the first? I can't recall. Perhaps one of the lads might enlighten us all?

Forces of darkness 2
Donald 1
Beleaguered humanity 0

With tummies rumbling and dinner looming, we rounded off the session with a quick visit to the field of honour in Reiner Knizia's evergreen Ivanhoe.

The tabletalk was scabrous as ever while a bunch of underhanded, backstabbing landed thugs and murderers 'genteelly' competed for momentary favour with the mob and their overlord. Always a winner! Except that I can't remember who won. Was it me?

Forces of darkness 2
Donald 1
The Knight With No Name 1
Beleaguered humanity 0

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