This article originally appeared in Pyramid #13
Published by Heartbreaker Hobbies
Designed by Brian Winter
Starter Packs: $7.95
Booster Packs: $2.45Before it gets lost in the avalanche of Magic wannabes, you owe it to yourself to give the Doomtrooper trading card game (TCG) a try. On its own, or as an introduction to the excellent line of Mutant Chronicles roleplaying and board games, Doomtrooper is a great game.
First, however, a short introduction to the Mutant Chronicles background. In the future, humanity is dominated by five ruthless, competitive megacorporations. Equally powerful is the Brotherhood, a religious entity as powerful as the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, capable of performing miracles that are a combination of psionics and magic.
As if the megacorporations and the Brotherhood weren't bad enough, there's something even worse lurking on the fringes: the Dark Legion, bent on enslaving the human race. The Dark Legion also commands miracles, but of a more demented, perverse sort, such as transforming you into a legionnaire in its growing army of the undead.
Not a happy place, this universe, but a great setting for the card game. Your 60-card deck consists of personnel from the megacorporations, the Brotherhood, the Dark Legion, or any combination of these groups (though usually emphasizing one or two of them).
Gameplay is simple to understand: each turn, you can perform three actions, and only one of these actions (the last one) can be an attack. The other actions generally are done to prepare for combat: bringing new personnel into play, equipping them, moving them in or out of cover, bestowing magical gifts to them, so on.
The combats themselves are quick to resolve: choose to make either a hand-to-hand or a ranged attack, play cards to affect the outcome of the combat, and then check to see if one or both of the combatants has been wounded. After two wounds, the cards is dead and out of play. There are some restrictions on the attacks, based on the logic of the Mutant Chronicles background (e.g., your corporate personnel cannot attack the sacred Brotherhood, and Brotherhood cards can only attack the Dark Legion).
After playing a few games, it becomes clear that a lot of the game centers around the Destiny Pool, the commodity used to bring new cards into play, modulate the effects of event cards and "spells" cast by the Brotherhood, as well as a host of other tasks in the game. After you learn how to bring the big nasties out quickly, you must then master the subtleties of managing your Destiny Pool to bring out these cards in the right amounts, at the right time, with the desired effect. You can easily squander Destiny Points on bringing out powerful cards too early, or focus on hoarding points when you should be taking opportunities to spend them to good effect.
Doomtrooper's game play, therefore, is fast and furious (an average game takes about an hour). It works well as both a two-player and a multiplayer game. In both cases, I've enjoyed some exciting struggles, and the game has always been well balanced.
How does Doomtrooper rate as a TCG on other criteria?
Variety: You can design many different types of decks, including Brotherhood decks designed to squash Dark Legion cards, megacorporation decks that depend on equipment cards over other resources, and Dark Legion decks designed for flexibility and fright value. All three strategies have been equally viable, as have combinations of the three. Other, more popular TCGs (Star Trek comes to mind) provide far less variety.
Deck construction: Not only can you build a wide variety of decks, but deck construction takes very little time (a maximum of 20-30 minutes, in my experience).
Card quality: The Doomtrooper cards are printed on good quality stock and well-laminated, ensuring that they will last through many games.
Artwork: The artwork on them is culled from other Mutant Chronicles products, and works 90% of the time. When it works, the art is fantastic: the card for the Pretorian Stalker, for example, can't help but strike fear in your opponent's heart when it's brought into play. In the other 10% of cases, the pictures simply don't work not a bad ratio, however.
Card sort: Unfortunately, the first print run had a bad sort, so that in a booster you could easily get three or four personnel cards from the same megacorporation, or an unhealthy predominance of Art cards (i.e., Brotherhood spells). Heartbreaker Hobbies has worked out this problem with the company who printed and sorted their cards, however, so the unlimited edition of Doomtrooper will not suffer from the same problem.
In short, Doomtrooper is one of the most successful TCGs, and is an easy way to learn about the excellent line of Mutant Chronicles products (including three terrific board games). What an interesting idea: a trading card game that gets people interested in buying non-card games. Perhaps there's hope for the hobby after all . . .
Article publication date: June 1, 1995
Copyright © 1995 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to email@example.com.