The Doom That Came to Atlantic City
Publisher: Cryptozoic Games
Release Date: 04/02/2014
Get it Here: Cryptozoic Games
I can’t think of a board game with a more turbulent and dramatic history than The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. At worst, it highlights the dangers of crowdfunding and how easy it is to scam people with it. At best, it shows how truly good and noble a company can still be in this day an age of profit margins and stock prices being more important than employees. Before we get into the game itself, we should talk a little bit about the history itself because for those 1,246 people who were there since beginning, it’s hard not to think about all the drama that surrounded this game.
Back on May 7th, 2012, a new Kickstarter project emerged for a game called The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. The game was being published by a new company called The Forking Path, owned by one Eric Chevalier. It had a great creative team behind it. Sculptor Paul Komada, who did work on The Thing and The Cabin in the Woods designed the miniatures. Keith Baker (Creator of Eberron and Gloom) and art Lee Moyer (known for way too many things. Just know that he is talented and awesome.) were the people behind the mechanics and board design. It seemed like there was no downside to this game. Certainly I wasn’t the only one to think so. It got major press on every board game website out there, it raised over 122,000 dollars and two other Inside Pulse alumni (James Hatton and Shane Charleston) also backed this game with fervent zeal. It seemed like nothing could go wrong.
…but everything did. First Eric Chevalier claimed that Hasbro’s lawyers were blocking the game and they had to drastically redesign it. As a sometimes employee of one of Hasbro’s arms this sounded strange to me, as in the past several parodies of Monopoloy had gone out free and clear ala Ghetto-poly. Still, that was a long time ago and attitudes change. A while later we all learned the truth – The Doom That Came to Atlantic City was a scam. Eric Chevalier had basically run away with over one hundred grand in crowdfunded money. There was no work on the game. He just kept posting faux excuses and was lying even to the creators of the game. He posted some outright lies on the Kickstarter page about the game proceeding as planned only to eventually cancel it and walk away with all the backer money. All links to contact and websites for The Forking Path were shut down, a post-mortem of what went wrong never was published (as promised) and for nearly a year Eric Chevalier has been silent from the internet, having perpetrated the largest Kickstarter scam to successfully take backer’s money. You can read about all the drama on the actual Kickstarter page for The Doom That Came to Atlantic City and you probably should, as it is a glorious train wreck and also an example of how crowdfunding can go horribly wrong.
So after all this, how am I reviewing a game that was cancelled. After all, it was always a scam by the Forking Path, right? Well, no. In cancelling the game, all the rights of the game, figures and so on went back to the original creators. This allowed the triad of game designers to go to Cryptozoic Games, who are probably best known for their various licensed games (My personal favorite being the DC Comics Deck Building Games.) that range from Naruto to Penny Arcade. Obviously we don’t have access to any of the behind the scenes talk and agreements that were made behind Cryptozoic and the designers, but a deal was made and The Doom That Came to Atlantic City was guaranteed to see the light of day. Even more impressive, Cryptozoic did one of the most selfless things I’ve seen in this industry and that was give the original Kickstarter backers copies of The Doom That Came to Atlantic City FOR FREE. They didn’t have to. They were under no obligation as they were not the company that ran the Kickstarter scam. This was merely a kind act of goodwill towards the people originally burned by this game. Consider the game is $75 and there were 1,246 backers. If each backer got a single game that is $93,450 Cryptozoic gave up. That’s incredibly generous and speaking as one of those backers, I can’t help but be in awe of this act of generosity. Sure Cryptozoic gets some publicity and a huge amount of loyalty from people who thought they were otherwise screwed, but I don’t think they’ll get that much money back from it, so this was pure altruism at its finest. Of course, I myself went out and purchased Heroes United (which will be reviewed later this week) as a thank you so that Cryptozoic would get SOME of my money, but I don’t see everyone being that kind in return. In all, The Doom That Came to Atlantic City was released, the backers received their game, Cryptozoic received the kind of positive PR that most companies can only dream about and Eric Chevalier is pretty much persona non grata across the Internet. A win-win for everyone, more or less.
Of course, even though this long saga had a happy ending, what is truly important is whether or not The Doom That Came to Atlantic City is a good game. After all, if it played horribly and wasn’t any fun, then all of this would be for naught, right? Well, I’m happy to report that the game is a lot of fun and well worth purchasing.
The Doom That Came To Atlantic City is for two to four players, but you have a choice of eight different Great Old Ones and Elder Gods to play as. Your options are Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Hastur, Ithaqua, Shub-Niggurath, Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth, and Tsathoggua. Each Godlike being has its own different ability and usefulness does vary. Ithaqua for example is pretty good in a four player game, but worthless in a two player game to the point where the rulebook strongly advises you not to use him. Each figure is represented by a gorgeous miniature. The minis are plastic instead of the original intended goal of pewter, but who cares, because we actually have them. The figures just might be the best part of the game and as someone who loves to paint minis I would love the option of buying a second set from Cryptozoic to do just that. Alas, it’s not an actual option – yet. The miniatures are just some horrific and yet beautiful in an eerie appreciation for the macabre sort of way. For me, the minis alone were worth the purchase price of the game, but I’m not sure if other people will go that far in gushing praise towards the pieces.
Besides the miniatures, you have four kinds of meeples (wooden tokens) in the game as well. There are black cultist figures, green tentacles, brown houses and purple resorts. Each normal slot on the game board starts with two brown houses and the goal is to be the piece to destroy all the houses on a spot. To destroy a house, you roll a seven or high on 2d6. It’s pretty simple gameplay here folks. Do just that and you’ll open a gate to another reality on the spot. Open six gates and you win the game. While houses are a permanent fixture of the game, the purple resort meeples are only used in a variant of the rules where if you destroy a resort, you also get a classic Mythos tome card that gives you some special abilities. While the tome cards are gorgeous, the abilities they grant are minor, so the rules variant just means more pieces to keep track of. It doesn’t make the game any less fun – it simply means two need things to track and the good and bad that goes along with that.
The game board is gorgeous and an obviously delightful parody of Monopoly the second you look at it. You have eight sections, each a different color to represent an area of Atlantic city while said color coding represents what Mythos location corresponds to that section of the board. So for example, opening a gate on Canal Ave leads to Lost Carcosa while a gate on Maine Ave leads to Unknown Kadath. Instead of railroad locations, you have generic Gates. Instead of Utilties, Income Tax and the like, you have spots that cost you resources. Instead of the corner pieces of Jail, Go to Jail and Free Parking you have Dark Omens (which lets you draw an addition Doom Card), Syzygy (which lets you take either one of the two types of cards or an extra cultist and Banished! (which temporarily removes your character from the game).
The cards from Monopoly are also replaced with Mythos variations. Gone are Community Chests and in their place are Providence cards. Providence cards give you character piece extra powers. They might add to your rolls or manipulate your resources somehow. Regardless, they are mostly positive cards. Just remember you can only have three on your character board at once. If you get a fourth you must discard it or exchange it for one of your currently active Providence cards. Chance cards are replaced by Chant cards. These too are almost always beneficial. However Chant cards are one shots. Once you use them, you must discard them. There is no limit to the number of Chants cards you can horde though. Chants cards also generally require a sacrifice, be it a cultist a house, one of each or maybe even several of each. Generally the better the effect, the higher the sacrifice cost.
There are some card types unique to The Doom That Came To Atlantic City too. We’ve already talked about the Tome Cards. There are also Reference Cards which ensure each player has a truncated version of the rules. You have Gate Cards so you can see what a Gate allows you to do as well as the cost when you land on another player’s Gate. Think rent in Monopoly except you are paying in houses and/or cultists. Finally we have the Doom Cards. Doom Cards provide each player with a unique alternate way to win the game rather than opening six gates. You can earn extra Doom Cards by landing on the “Dark Omens” spot. Although the goals might seem complicated at first, they’re often much easier to make happen than the six Gate goal everyone shares in. In fact, EVERY game we have played has ended by someone completing their Doom Card. It’s kind of crazy. The Doom Cards really add a lot to the game and because everyone has a different one each game, strategies and events are never the same in each game.
Gameplay is much like Monopoly except a lot more streamlined and with less rules. Players travel across the board destroying (instead of building) houses, creating gates and trying to wipe out the city in a gran summon of the Great Old One (Or Elder God)’s power. You can aid, abet or actively attack opponents. Each game should take you between thirty minutes and an hour, depending on how many players you have. It’s a pretty rules-lite affair, especially compared to a lot of the euro-style games and tabletop RPGs I end up reviewing for the site. This simply means you can sit down and enjoy it regarding of your age or gaming experience and simply have a great time watching a little bit of New Jersey being sacrificed to things man was never meant to know or comprehend.
The game is incredibly fun as it is easy to learn and the production values are top notch. Again, I love the miniatures so much that I think they’re worth the cover price of the game alone and the fact the game is excellent just makes the overall package a fantastic deal. If you didn’t take part in the Kickstarter (which is probably a good thing considering how insane the whole affair was), you should strongly considered pre-ordering The Doom That Came To Atlantic City from Cryptozoic or your favorite board game retailer. It’s the best board game I’ve played in Q1 2014 and it’s definitely a front runner for our “Board Game of the Year” award come the end of the year. I honestly never thought the game would actually be released due to the flim-flam that then on via Kickstarter, so a BIG thank you to Cryptozoic Games for making this become a reality for backers and the designers alike.
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