Doom Machine aims to deliver an intense solo experience, pitting the player against an ever-growing array of nightmarish machine parts. Up on Kickstarter right now (and hugely funded), Doom Machine features stunning visuals and a dice-placement gameplay core that is quick and percussive, giving it the potential to make good on its aims. But does Doom Machine have enough going on to keep a player interested, even though it all comes in a mint tin package? Let’s check it out as we preview Doom Machine!
We received a preview copy of Doom Machine for our consideration. We weren’t otherwise compensated. Images are either of that prototype or from the Doom Machine Kickstarter campaign.
Solo board games are something of a strange subject for me – since I play games primarily for the social aspect, for a solitaire-only game to really grab me, it has to be a compact, engaging experience that doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing the work that a video game could be doing instead. The game that so far has epitomizes this concept for me is Deep Space D-6, a fantastic dice-placement game that has been my go-to for solitaire gaming. What makes it work is that there is little to no mechanical overhead to ‘running’ the game, and the mix of strategy and luck keeps me engaged for its quick playtime.
Well, Doom Machine does all of that in an even smaller, tighter package. Setting it up takes no time – set out the trackers, draw 10 random machine parts to stack on top of the Doom Core, and then get to using your dice to try and dismantle the nightmare construct before it manages to kill you. But each turn, the machine will grow and change, and if the dice don’t go your way, well, it’s into the Populace Grinder with you.
On your turn, you’ll role your dice, possibly use some limited dice manipulation effects to fine-tune your numbers, and then assign dice to either attack the machine or shield you from its harmful effects. Once that’s done, any active machine parts (and there will usually be plenty) will trigger, doing all manner of unfortunate things like harming you, repairing the machine, or raising the Power or Sentience of the machine. These effects trigger on predictable cycles, so you’ll know what’s coming as you spend your dice, but the effects of the machine stack, and even with unbelievable luck, you’ll definitely find yourself getting pummeled by the thing as it buzzsaws through your shields and becomes ever-increasingly complex in its operations.
However, every time you manage to smash a component, your pool of available dice will increase, and if you can manage to survive the assault long enough to expose and destroy the Doom Core, then you’ll win. But don’t get used to it, because Doom Machine is a mean game, perfectly happy to kick you into submission. Over and over.
The bottom line is this – I love this bastardly little game.
The tiny footprint of the game and the simplicity of its mechanics somehow takes the sting out of losing to it – you didn’t spend 15-20 minutes setting up, and your session isn’t going to last much longer than that anyway. I love manipulating and placing dice in general, and here there’s just enough mitigation that you never feel truly helpless even though you’re at the whims of the d6’s, nor does it feel like those whims mean there is no strategy to be found here. On the contrary – all that randomness happens right up front, and none of it affects what the machine itself does, so how you spend your dice is highly strategic.
Doom Machine absolutely delivers on its promise – a tense, tight, often nasty little game that looks amazing – the aesthetics here are phenomenal, and there’s an awesome level of morose theme in every card’s name and art. Even the actions the cards take makes a certain morbid sense given what the art depicts, and if you stop to think about the nightmarish machine for a minute, the horror of its operation is shockingly visceral.
The Doom Machine Kickstarter campaign is in full swing and doing very well. If you’ve got any interest in solo gaming or have room in your collection for a mint tin full of dice and nightmare fuel, then I highly recommend heading over to the campaign now and snagging yourself a copy of Doom Machine.