Corporations at war. An abandoned Earth in ruins. An invading alien force.... Good times.
Back in 1995, a glut of collectible card games hit the market - forty-two to be exact. This "glut" was a side-effect of being the minimum amount of time it took most game companies to design, commission, print and ship a competitor to Magic. Many of these games were blatant rip-offs of Magic with similar themes and mechanics, but there were a few that stood out from the rest. One of these was a game set in the post-apocalyptic universe of the Mutant Chronicles. Featuring soldiers and sci-fi, the game carved out a small but loyal following. Target Games printed the base game in 16 languages and followed it with six expansions (with a seventh designed) before closing their doors. The game was one of the stars of the new genre, and deserved more than its fate. Lucky for all of us the tide may be turning... let's take a look!
Doomtrooper had a leg up on most of its competitors. With the exception of Decipher's Star Wars and Star Trek they had one of the most established IP's to lean on. Mutant Chronicles was a big deal in the '90's if you frequented gaming stores in that era. First introduced in 1993 as a role playing game, it spawned books, comics even a notoriously violent Super NES game. So when Doomtrooper was released, gamers were familiar with the setting and eagerly picked it up. To give you an idea of the popularity of Mutant Chronicles and Doomtrooper, it actually spawned a sequel collectible card game "Dark Eden". I think this might be the only example of this in the history of the genre. So yeah - it was big.
Designed by Brian Winter, Doomtrooper can best be described as a simulation of military combat in card game form. In the game, you build a squad of doom troopers, usually based around one of the games factions, and a Kohort of the Dark Legion to do battle with your opponent. Your troops don't really fight as a unit, they represent warriors at your command throughout the game's universe, but because the game has a very "structured military" feel, it is many times incorrectly referred to as "squad based combat". In any case, the game centers on your warriors which are "mustered" into play by spending Destiny Points from a starting pool of five. By winning combat encounters or through card interactions, your warriors earn additional points. These points can be converted to Destiny Points, to allow for further deployments, or become Promotion Points. When one player reaches the pre-determined number of Promotion Points, the game is ended and victory declared.
This is a tough game to find today. Dead stock is almost totally depleted, and eBay usually only hosts a handful of listings for sealed product or even card lots. Fans of this game still form a rather dedicated fanbase, so it is tough to find anyone that wants to separate themselves from their collection. Your best bet is to set up a followed search on ebay and jump on product as it is listed, or try to trade for some on Board Game Geek. You aren't allowed to bid against me!
Here's the great news for Doomtrooper fans.... Doomtrooper is returning as a digital CCG thanks to the fine folks at Secret Cow Level, Cabinet and none other than Brian Winter himself! They have even launched a brand new website where you can sign up for beta access - so get to it! I'll follow up with a post about the new digital game with more details, screenshots and a review in the near future!
Doomtrooper is a very polished game - especially for 1995. It has a fantastic card design that doesn't look out of place beside modern games and the rules are very refined. It is no wonder that Secret Cow Level is taking the time to bring it back with resurgence of CCG's on digital platforms, but as a huge fan I am beside myself happy that they chose Doomtrooper. Brian Winter's design deserves more credit than it has gotten in the past, and he deserves a place beside the likes of Richard Garfield as someone that pioneered the genre we all know and love today. If you can find them, grab a couple of starter decks, pair up and prepare for the post-apocalyptic alien invasion when Doomtrooper returns this Fall!