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Doomlings

Will you be cold blooded or parasitic? An apex predator or dragon hearted? The world is doomed, but that’s no reason not to evolve, acquire new traits, and compete for dominance!

Currently on Kickstarter, Doomlings is a light card game full of natural catastrophes, new ages, and lots and lots of traits.

Gameplay

You start by creating the age deck. The age deck has nine age cards in it and three catastrophes, while the birth of life card is placed on top. Each player takes a gene pool card and places it in front of themselves with the side showing five facing up. You will rotate this card and/or flip it as your gene pool size changes. The smallest it can be is one and the highest is eight. Each player is then dealt five trait cards.

Each round is started by drawing a card from the age deck, and then each player takes a turn. The first round of the game always begins with the birth of life card. Each regular age card will have some special rule that you must follow for the round, such as restricting which traits you can play or allowing you to draw extra cards. A catastrophe starts first by affecting everyone’s gene pool size, then having some special effect such as forcing you to discard a number of cards. If this is the third catastrophe card drawn this game, you apply the card’s world end effect as well and the game ends.

On your turn, you play a trait card from your hand into the space in front of you on the table: this is your trait pile. Traits come in five different colors and some have actions that trigger when you play them from your hand. Actions can include having someone discard a card from their hand or trait pile, swapping cards between players, or letting you steal a card. Each trait card has a number on it, showing how many points it is worth at the end of the game. Some point values can be affected by what is in your trait pile, while other traits can affect opponents’ piles and their points. Some traits will affect your gene pool size as long as that trait is in your trait pile. If the trait leaves your trait pile, you must readjust your gene pool size accordingly. Some traits are special and are called dominant traits. These tend to have extra strong abilities. You may only have two of these in your trait pile during the game. They cannot be stolen, discarded, or swapped by actions or events.

After you play your card, you must ‘stabilize’. This means getting your hand to the right number of cards. The number is determined by your gene pool size. If you have too many cards you must discard down. If you have too few, you must draw up.

Once everyone has taken a turn, the role of first player is rotated, a new age card is drawn to replace the old one, and the game continues. Once all three catastrophe cards have been drawn and the game ends, the players count up the point values of all the traits in their trait piles, apply any end game effects shown on them, and the player with the most points wins.

Doomlings

Review

Doomlings is a fairly light card game, but it offers some really interesting card interactions, as well as some great back-and-forth player interaction. The rules are quite easy to teach, and the cards themselves carry a lot of the weight on how individual actions or age cards can affect play.

There is some 'take that' in Doomlings, but it never feels overly mean. Some cards will have you stealing from other players, but there are plenty of cards with other effect types, too, to balance things out. Also, the fact that dominant traits cannot be affected ensures that your plans can never be completely knocked off course.

Dominant traits also add an extra element to the decision making process in general. They can often influence what other traits you want to lay down, so you want to choose carefully before deciding on a dominant trait to add to your trait pile, as you’re only allowed two.

Because of the player interaction, while Doomlings can be played with two people, it is at its best with more: more trait piles to manipulate, more players to choose from when stealing, more end of game abilities to take into account.

The game’s theme is well done and amusing. We enjoyed reading the names of all the age cards and catastrophes, the artwork is colorful and fun, and the flavor text enjoyable. Some of the iconography isn’t intuitive, but typically the text on the cards gives you enough information anyway.

Doomlings is certainly a game that will evolve a little as you become more familiar with the cards in the deck and how to make the best use of each one. But even on a first playthrough you can start to develop strategies for making the most points out of your traits and see neat ways cards can combo off each other. Check it out on Kickstarter and enjoy a little doom yourself!

Pros: Card interactions, artwork and theming, player interactions

Cons: Not at its best for two players, some unintuitive iconography

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.