Doom And Bloom: Survival! – The Only Things Doomed Are This Game’s Merits

doom and bloom“What the white-hot, flaming fuck???!??! SHIT!!!”

Normally, I intersperse vulgarities throughout my articles, as I think wit and vulgarity are not mutually exclusive, and also, because it’s funny to watch people squirm uncomfortably. In this case, I started with the phrase above, if you can call it that, because it is the verbatim thought that I had after playing Doom and Bloom: Survival! from Doom And Bloom LLC. I dropped $29.00 US on it on eBay, because I am inexplicably drawn to post-apocalyptic games, and also, it looks incredibly similar to a game I developed, although I’ll get into that later. Anyhow, after the first play, I realized that these people might be incredible at the art of survival medicine, but they are absolutely shit at making interesting games. This is easily the #1 disappointment of the year for me.  I had such super-high hopes but I was completely devastated because this game is utter, total shit from a “hobby game” perspective.

doom and bloom boardThe long and short of this game is that, depending on how long of a game you want, you need to visit one to three randomly decided cities, then go back to the main city in the center of the board, and get one additional city “quest”. Once you’ve done that, you need to get five to fifteen units of four “resources” each, and then two to six of one final “resource”, and then go to that final city. There’s nothing more to it. There’s some player interaction in that you can spend a resource screwing over an opponent, essentially costing them their turn, but that’s the extent of it. You can cut deals/negotiate as well, but there’s almost no identifiable reason to do so. The short version is that you should go to their Kickstarter page or Board Game Geek Page and look at the people who praised the game, then mentally note that these people are so entirely full of shit that they slosh when they walk. Yeah, some things are subjective, but this is objectively a repetitive, horrible game. Let me elaborate on why I believe this.

doom and bloom eventFirst, there are almost no real decisions, and by real, I mean any decisions that will in almost any way affect the outcome. It’s not that it’s random, although it is, because I generally like that. On  your turn, you roll a D3 die, and move that far. If you want to use a Fuel resource to go three extra spaces, you can do that. Then, depending on what kind of space you land on, you draw either an Event card or Attack card, which then requires you to roll to hit a bogey in order to gain a resource, or if there’s nothing of note on the space, your turn simply ends. That’s the game. You can spend resources to gain a +1 on those rolls, like using a gun resource to gain +1 when rolling against an Attack card bogey. It’s like a post-apocalyptic version of the lovechild of Zathura and Candyland. The sad thing is that it could have been truly great. Had they created tokens and had them laid face down or something on the board, limiting resources, or had they somehow made the “survivor” resource an active part of your adventure, or had there been some item cards to gain an RPG edge, this might have been good. But as it was published, it’s just too simple, to boring, and too big a disappointment for me.

It could be argued that Talisman or Prophecy are, at their core, roll-and-move adventure games, but if you were to compare these games, you’d soon find that where the aforementioned games have RPG qualities, deliver narrative, and provide you with the opportunity to really explore the environment, this game does none of that. All of the resource locations are printed on the map, so you always know what you’re going to find, more or less. The only question is whether you’ll be able to roll some dice and pass the test provided in order to gain that resource, and potentially some extras. While there is a very tiny bit of card play, it’s not meaningful in many ways. Most of the “Bonus” cards provide you the ability to dodge a raider attack, or worse, they provide a “catch-up” mechanic that simply gives you the same amount of resources as the next lowest player. It’s as if it was designed by the same crowd of people that developed the idea of giving trophies to losing teams or the folks that came up with the idea of a “mercy rule”. It’s a game, for fuck’s sake, and there’s going to be a winner or a loser. The game isn’t complex enough to need a catch-up mechanic.

In addition to the noted shortcomings, it also bears mentioning that many of the cards, of which there’s far too few, are duplicates. On top of that, many of the cards measure success of the test based on your position in the game; If you have the least fuel, you gain some fuel. If you have the least population, you gain population. That sort of thing is both boring and is quite telling that the designers wanted the game to always be reasonably close at the end, without having to develop the game itself more to provide varied strategies. If I had to point to the largest shortcoming with regard to the game, it’s most assuredly the fact that it’s a race game in an adventure game’s clothing; there’s no real adventure, and the game is set up so that you merely have to be the first to do certain things in order to win, but the things aren’t very engaging at all.

The shitty part about all of this is that the production is actually very good, with nice art, albeit a little dark (in color, not in theme) and some surprisingly good quality components. It is as good as anything that many established publishers have put out, from that standpoint. Even the cards are thick and well designed from a graphical standpoint. If anything, this is a great example of where the graphic designer was far better at his job than the game designer. It would have benefited greatly from some input from people not hiding in caves, eyeing their supplies, awaiting some cosmic doom, like perhaps any hobby game player, and especially from one that likes Ameritrash. As is, it’s just underdeveloped; if they wanted to create an expansion for it that adds something, like variable character powers, or some more adventuring aspects, maybe it can be resurrected.

Keep in mind that I have the retail version of the game, without the plastic miniatures and extra cards. My version has cardstock stand-ups which have changeable colored cross-braces, which I like. I almost always play yellow and it’s nice that I can choose a character and have a matching base. I’m not entirely sure that there’s anything in the Kickstarter version that would change the game, based on the posted Stretch Goals, so I think I can safely say that there’s not much difference between the versions aside from the aforementioned models and whatnot.

The one thing that really vexes me is that the publisher is a well-followed “survival medicine” site, which is shorthand for “prepper stuff” site and yet there’s nothing in the game that really talks about survival preparedness.  Instead of integrating things from the “prepper” world, and I mean specifics, what you end up with is a game that doesn’t even really attempt to teach anyone about survival, other than in very broad brushstrokes. They didn’t even really succeed in making a game that would serve their core prepper base, because it isn’t really even about preparation for a crisis, nor is it really about survival. It’s just a miss on every level. It’s playable, and it’s well designed for what it is, but they just really missed the opportunity to make it something better. I find it ironic that this game is the kind of thing you’d expect to be in “the bunker”, so that some entertainment exists post-civilization, yet this game would be one of the last to actually be there.

I’d like to take a moment to mention that about 3 years ago I developed a post-apocalypic game that had players running through the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, attempting to save their village. This game looks very similar to my game,  including the fact that there’s ports, event cards, and raider cards. My game, Beyond the Fall, was much deeper; The game was essentially a post-apoc version of Runebound in many ways. I was hoping that this game was like it, thanks to the visual and some mechanical similarities, but at the end of the day, it’s just didn’t live up to my expectations, although I really should’ve read the rulebook first, because that would’ve managed my expectations quite a bit.

If you’ve managed to get through the previous 1100 words or so, especially with the opening sentence being what it was, thanks for reading. Also, don’t buy this game unless you’re looking for a simple, simple pseudo-adventure game to play with your seven to ten year old. There’s no rough language or bloody art, so it’s definitely kid-friendly, and its simplicity is such that I can see that demographic alone being the one that might appreciate it.

Why Doom And Bloom Is A Flower In The Desert:
– Great components and art make this a nice game to look at
– Simple rules make it super fast to learn
– Turns last no more than 20 seconds, so there’s no downtime
– 90 minute play time makes this a quick game
– It might work with younger kids

Why Doom And Bloom Is A Blooming Failure:
– Almost no decisions make this a snore-fest
– This game is one step above Candyland in complexity
– This game wouldn’t work well with anyone over 11 years old.

I can’t recommend this strongly enough: Don’t buy this game. Not only will you be supporting and encouraging preppers who may very likely be sociopathic paranoids, but you’d be supporting a horrible, horrible hobby game. The components are grand, but the game itself misses the mark entirely. Don’t buy it.

1.5/5 Stars

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