A Glimpse into PAX East: We’re Doomed!

Around a table in an opulent room, world leaders like myself scramble to gather the resources needed to build a rocket to escape the planet before it’s too late – and the influence they’ll need to get themselves a seat on said rocket. This has been made more difficult by the sudden robot uprising stealing resources, severely hampering the project. My own efforts to gather resources have been foiled by other leaders, who fear I am planning to nuke them to improve my odds . . . but now I’ve got free reign so that I can nuke the robots for them. The required amount is finally in my hands, the table waits for the nuclear fireball . . . . and I commit everything to the project instead, cementing my position as a Master Diplomat and earning a vast amount of influence. Looks like I’ll be waving from the rocket, and the rest will be dead losers, in We’re Doomed! from Breaking Games!

Wearing a Media badge has its perks, and at this year’s PAX East that included getting an invite to the launch party Breaking Games was throwing for We’re Doomed! at the Omni Parker House Hotel, which was just about the perfect choice to host a game about selfish world leaders trying to save their own skins. There were drinks, snacks, very shiny pins, and a very educational and fun video on how to play the game. Speaking of which . . .

For those who can’t or don’t have the time to watch right this second, here’s the deal: the game is 15 minutes long, and unlike all those somewhat hazy estimations on most board and card game boxes this is about as ironclad as it gets, because those 15 minutes are measured with an hourglass. Flip the glass, begin play, keep going until all the sand is in the bottom.

Everyone is competing for two things, Resources and Influence. Players can contribute Resources towards the Project to build a rocket to escape the planet, but building a rocket that can fit everyone at the table is ruinously expensive, so there are likely to only be enough seats for a few people (it is, of course, possible that no seats get built and everyone dies). Players can create Resources, create Influence, steal Resources, steal Influence, or Nuke other players to remove them from the game (which takes a lot of Resources).  When time runs out Influence is counted, and players get seats on the rocket from highest Influence to lowest until seats run out. Everyone who got a seat escapes to safety and wins the game. Everyone who didn’t is a dead loser.

Everyone is a leader from a certain type of government that gets a bonus to one of the actions; for example, I kept ending up as the leader of a Corporatocracy, who was able to Propagandize (steal Influence) without having to spend Resources. Spicing things up further is that the first player every round (the one who contributed the most to the project and/or convinced enough players to vote for them) draws an Event.

Some of them are immediate and public, and some of those are bad for everyone, like the robot uprising I mentioned above, which stole a whopping 24 Resources from the Project when it was drawn and continued to steal 2 more every turn. Sometimes they’re specific, and a little more silly: my friend Jason got to receive 3 Influence, but only for as long as he could keep the event card touching his head. He was suddenly being offered a lot more high fives. Others are hidden, made to spring on your unsuspecting fellow world leaders, like the Master Diplomat card that ended up winning me that particular  game.

Designed by Mike Horton, I would describe the design of the game as very tight; there’s basically no chaff that you could get rid of here. The different government types offer advantages, but are very simple. Events can be a little more complicated depending on which ones you draw, but I say complicated to mean ‘will burn up more game time’ rather than ‘difficult to understand’, and burning up more game time is a feature, not a bug.

While you might not have had time right now, I’d really recommend watching the above video before playing. Yes, you can read the rules, even download them for free on the BG site. But as with, for example, the app for Secret Hitler (also manufactured by Breaking Games), the media presentation they’ve put together pretty much covers everything, and gets a few good laughs too. After watching the video every table at the launch party immediately dove into playing without a noticeable hiccup.

As for actually playing? It’s a ton of fun, and a great party game. The hard time limit makes play frantic, assisted by the fact that you have to fish your Resources and Influence out of their respective bags instead of an easy-to-reach pile. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of split-second decisions that often blew up in various faces, and almost every event landed perfectly and enhanced the game (only one was a dud, because it required a target player to have tokens they didn’t possess when it was drawn).

It’s also a game that really wants to be played multiple times in a row (after resetting the game, the first person to flip the hourglass and start a new game gets to be the first player to act). First of all that means you’re going to get to see more of the Events, which will make that particular aspect of the game shine. Second, it will give you a chance to gain horrible revenge for the actions taken in previous games. With that 15 minutes per game, with maybe an additional 5 or so tacked on to count Resources and reset things, it’s very easy to get two or three games in a row before anyone even needs a break.

Horton mentioned at the party that We’re Doomed! casts a comedic but somewhat concerned eye at the current state of the world. It’s all too easy to picture the real-life influential and powerful bickering among themselves for a scant few chances at salvation while the world burns (or is overrun by robots). But hey, if we’re all doomed anyway, might as well have some fun along the way, right? So, influential reader, give Breaking Games and Mike Horton’s We’re Doomed! a look, and try not to end up among the dead losers!

So begins my coverage of the games that I ran across at PAX East 2019!

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