This review is based on a review copy supplied by Digisprite games. I also backed the game on KS which I have since received.
Over the last couple of years Dundee has been having a bit of a renaissance: the new V&A has opened up, I’ve heard lots of good things about various restaurants and cafes and the game development scene is on fire. Dundee has long been home to a vibrant computer game scene, and that has recently translated into a couple of boardgames coming out from two different companies: Blind Wizard Brawl from Wrench Games and, more recently, Doomsday Bots from Digisprite games.
Ain’t no tower high enough
Doomsday Bots is the debut game from Digisprite games and falls into a category of games that I absolutely love, that of the small box. I’ve been a big advocate for small games done very well so was happy to back a local company doing something that looked pretty interesting. I had a chance to play it down at Expo and the folks at Digisprite were nice enough to send me a copy for review (thanks for their patience as it took me a little longer than I intended to get it reviewed).
The art for the game grabbed me immediately: beautifully drawn with a wry sense of humour. The box comes with a bunch of dividers, very handy, and some nice thick tokens as well. The only disappointment with the components of the game are the little standees that represent each player’s robots. These feel ill thought through, and the art is small and mostly obscured on the standees (Edit: the final versions are much taller and you can see the art on them better).
It’s the Climb
It all starts at the bottom of a large steampunk tower. At the top resides an evil genius and you are sending your robots in to grab this evil genius’ super weapon and make it out the door, all because you want to take their place at the top of the tower.
Conducting a quick draft you assemble your bot to climb the tower, keeping any bits you don’t use back to build another robot later when your early efforts inevitably explode. You get bonuses from assembling your robot along particular aesthetic lines, but mostly I just go for whatever looks cool. Once built your robot will have points in 3 stats (Intelligence, Power and Speed) that will assist them in their ascent.
Proceeding up the tower you pick your way through the various rooms, pitting your robot against the myriad tests that the tower presents or firing off a shot at another robot. A quick roll of a d20 plus bonuses from your robot and you are proceeding up the tower or contemplating whether to pick the bit that has just fallen off your robot before going further. There is no restriction on how broken your robot can be before they finally succumb, leading to funny moments akin to the black knight in Monty Python.
Once you reach the Boss, their challenges are revealed. The bosses I’ve seen all have 4 tests attached, some of which might require a particular stat, or just going at it with whatever one is your highest. There is a slight element of co-op here, as the Boss is very difficult to face on your own and the numbers required. Once the Boss is defeated their weapon falls to the ground and you can scarper down the tower with it, hoping to be the first to emerge with it in your hands.
End of Line
Doomsday bots doesn’t really pretend to be any more than it is: a silly race game about crazy robots. That said I did feel like it just need a little more punch to be something that I would pull out again and again. Whilst building your robot is fun, I never felt like there was enough variety in the cards and mechanics to pull of some truly funny combos and the opportunity to counter draft seemed limited.
The game itself is very random, coming down to dice rolls at every turn and not really giving you much in the way of significant choices. Whilst there are some combos to be had out of the drafting at the start, some cards definitely seem more powerful than others, though I haven’t played enough to break that down completely. The semi co-op nature of the boss fight feels oddly out of whack with the rest of the game, though it can make for some fun brawls at the top of the tower.
I really wanted to like Doomsday Bots more than I did. I think it’s ok, but not much more than that. That said I think the art is superb, the overall package is good and the team at Digisprite ran a good campaign within excellent communication and delivered on time. I look forward to what they will do in the future.