Doom Machine (Digital Eyes) – Tabletop Games Blog

Release Date: 2020Players: 1 (only)
Designer: Nathan MeunierLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Nathan MeunierAge: 13+
Publisher: self-publishedComplexity: 1.0 / 5

I was ready. It seemed like an impossible task, but I was mankind’s only hope. I had to do what I could and fight my way through the ever-increasing number of machine parts, which were making the machine stronger and bring it closer to sentience. It was a matter of taking it one machine part at a time until I reached the core and was finally able to put an end to the Doom Machine by Nathan Meunier.

The theme is pretty incredible and reminds me a little of The Matrix or similar apocalyptic science-fiction settings. The illustrations by Nathan Meunier are also incredible and really bring you into the world this little game conjures up – and when I say little, I am talking about a mint tin game that consists of a deck of cards, two handfuls of dice and some tokens.

I’ve not actually seen a physical copy of Doom Machine, having only played it on Tabletop Simulator, but from what I can tell by having seen a photo of the prototype and knowing how big mint tins are, I do think it will fit neatly into your coat pocket, handbag or rucksack and as long as you have a little table, you can play it pretty much anywhere while out and about.

Now, I’m not a solo-gamer myself, preferring to play games with other people, but I have recently started to play co-operative games more often, and you could argue that all solo games are basically co-operative games, but you’re playing by yourself. So I approached Doom Machine from that angle.

The game is all about the dice. You roll them, manipulate them and then place them. That sounds like there is a lot of randomness in the game, which is compounded by the fact that the deck of cards, which represent the machine’s parts, are also shuffled every game and create more randomness. However, you have a lot of control over the dice and their values, and it is your choice which machine parts you attack, giving you a lot of control over the cards as well.

Each machine part requires a specific combination of dice to break through the defences and allow you to attack it. To help you with this, you can increase or decrease the pip value of up to three dice by one, and you can re-roll up to three dice once. That’s usually enough to get the numbers you need and weaken the machine parts.

Each machine part starts with a different strength, represented by one of the dice, and when you reduce that to zero, the card gets removed from the game and you get another dice added to your dice pool. That means, the more cards you destroy, the more dice you have to attack. So even though you’re not building an engine as such, it does feel like you get more and more powerful, while the Doom Machine gets weaker and weaker.

That simple mechanism creates a real sense of achievement and satisfaction. You feel like shouting “take that, you stupid machine” as you reduce another machine part to nothing. It’s a great feeling.

Of course, the machine isn’t idle and every round a new machine part is added. The machine grows and becomes stronger. As each machine part goes through its program, it can increase the Doom Machine‘s sentience and power, which in turn can make the machine’s attacks more powerful. It’s as if you’re dealing with a thinking machine that’s getting better as time goes on, adding to the sense of urgency you feel right from the beginning.

It’s actually quite amazing to see how the deck has been designed to create lots of subtle interactions between cards, which make the machine more effective overall and which help you decide which part to focus on. If you can destroy a key section of the machine, you can really slow it down.

You can protect yourself from the machine’s attacks by assigning some of your dice as shields, but of course, the more dice you use as shields, the less you have to attack the machine. It’s a real balancing act and very often a tough decision. I was always tempted to assign all dice to attacks, which left me wide open, and the machine took full advantage of that, killing me after only a handful of rounds. It’s clearly a strategy that I need to improve.

The randomness of the dice does add to the excitement. Even though you have a lot of control over the dice results, there are rounds when you desperately need certain pip values to attack a particularly powerful machine part, and when none of the dice are anywhere near what you want. That’s when you start to despair and get really worried. You will end up idling one round and simply assigning all dice as shields, just so you survive a little longer.

Doom Machine is a really tense and exciting game. The puzzle the deck of cards and the dice present is always changing and will keep you on your toes. Yet, it’s not too thinky and is something you can play of an evening, after work, when you’re tired, just to wind down. Just don’t expect to defeat the game on your first try – or your second – or even your third. It will take some time before you finally manage to destroy the doom core – and when you feel like you’ve mastered it, there are variants to raise the difficulty another level or two.

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Playthrough Video

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (
Dramatic Trailer Logo 01 by TaigaSoundProd (
Dark Viking by Frank Schröter (

Doom Machine (Takebacks) – Tabletop Games Blog

Release Date: 2021Players: 1 (only)
Designer: Nathan MeunierLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: Nathan MeunierAge: 10+
Publisher: self-publishedComplexity: 1.5 / 5

Humans were close to becoming extinct. No, this wasn’t some sort of natural disaster. It was what many films had predicted. An artificial intelligence had seized power and started to manufacture parts that it added to itself. The longer we waited, the bigger this monstrosity grew and the more powerful it became. If we did nothing, it would eventually become our Doom Machine by Nathan Meunier.

I have previously reviewed Doom Machine in digital form, and this time I am looking at the physical version of the game after having received my copy from the Kickstarter campaign. Of course, there is no difference in the rules or gameplay between the version I played and did a playthrough for and the mint tin copy I have received. However, playing a game online versus in real life is a different experience.

As before, your task in this solo mint tin game is to defeat a constantly growing machine, which is powered by the Doom Core, an AI that is slowly increasing in sentience and power. Starting with only three machine parts, every round it grows and grows and as it does so, it becomes stronger all the time, making your mission more and more difficult.

In order to deal damage to a machine part, you need to assign one or two dice in a specific configuration from your very limited pool of dice to it. At the same time, you also need to assign dice to your shields, because you only have so much energy before you die. Some machine parts require high-value dice, which would be great as shields and if your dice rolling luck is favourable, then you will definitely use them to deal more damage to your enemy – but of course, when your dice decide to plot against you, all you can do is assign everything to your shields and hope that you will survive another round.

Already, every decision feels painful and you have to weigh up when the time is right to strike and when you’re better served by saving your energy and focus on survival. The advantage of defeating a machine part card is that you will get another dice that you can use to attack or for protection. The disadvantage of cowering away and holding your dice above your head to take the deadly blows that the machine deals out on its turn, is that every round another machine part is added, which will make the machine grow stronger.

Time is definitely of the essence, but you’re no good to anyone if you die. It’s a tough choice and really helps you engross yourself in the setting of the game. You’re further immersed into the idea of a growing, living, thinking machine, because every machine part actually carries out its own programme. Every round every machine part executes the next step in the code, sometimes dealing damage, sometimes making the Doom Core more sentient or more powerful and sometimes activating adjacent machine parts another time.

As you execute the steps on the machine’s behalf, you really feel like the mechanical monster that you’re fighting against is becoming cleverer and stronger. You can almost hear the machine think. Some card combinations are just amazing and even though the deck of cards that represent the machine’s parts is shuffled and therefore which cards come out and in what order is random, it does feel like there is some sort of artificial intelligence at work, that deliberately chooses which part to build and attach next.

It’s really magnificent to watch the machine grow in front of you and you’re almost in awe of it, ready to throw in the towel and give up. Yet, even when the situation seems desperate, you just want to survive one more round – and even when you do finally die, which you will a lot, let me tell you now, you just want to set it all up again and play one more game.

After all, once you know how the game plays, setting up takes a minute or two and the game itself is usually over in 15-20 minutes, unless you make it all the way through and defeat the machine – and if eventually you do defeat it, you can increase the difficulty further to give you even more of a challenge. Also, the game comes in a standard size mint tin, so is really easy to take with you anywhere and its footprint on the table isn’t also particularly huge, so you should be able to play it in a pub and maybe even on a train or plane.

That brings me nicely to the components and how it feels playing the physical copy of the game versus the digital one. The deck of cards comprises your health tracker, the machine’s sentience and power tracker, the machine parts and the Doom Core as well as the rules. It’s really nice to have it all there in front of you, even though you probably won’t need to refer back to the rules once you played the game once or twice. The small dice that come in the tin are also really lovely and you can quite happily roll them inside the tin, if you’re out and about playing Doom Machine, so that you don’t lose them.

Doom Machine components

The only small annoyance I had were with the little wooden cubes that you use to track your remaining life and the sentience and power of the Doom Machine. There is nothing wrong with the cubes themselves, but as you can imagine, it’s easy to accidentally nudge them out of place. So losing track of how much life you had or where the machine was at in terms of sentience and power is quite possible if you’re not careful, especially if you’re out and about.

However, I don’t know what else could have been done. I don’t think dual-layer boards would really be a sensible solution here and using paper clips to track your health, etc. might have been an option, but they do tend to wear down the card. So it’s really just something you need to keep an eye on and be careful with. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker and there are other, much bigger and more expensive games that have the same issue of accidentally knocking cubes out of place by nudging the table, so I can easily forgive Doom Machine this tiny niggle.

Ultimately, this clever little solo game is amazing and the setting really comes across, engrossing players in this apocalyptic world where a machine with artificial intelligence tries to destroy humanity. There is definitely a huge amount of replayability and Doom Machine will keep you wanting more – I keep bringing it out in my lunch break and try my hand at finally defeating the mechanical monster.

Useful Links

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I backed this game on Kickstarter and paid for it myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (


Cake of Doom (Saturday Review)

Release Date: 2023Players: 3-6
Designer: Amar Chandarana, Pearl HoLength: 15-30 minutes
Artist: n/aAge: 10+
Publisher: Rainy Day GamesComplexity: 1.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): <1%Air (by volume): <10%

It was time to take over Earth. We had cunning plans, but then, we were also all trying to sabotage each other at the same time. We knew we had to convince a couple of different regions to be loyal to us and the rest would happen automatically. We also had a super secret weapon. We were going to bribe the Earthlings with Cake of Doom by Amar Chandarana and Pearl Ho from Rainy Day Games.

Cake of Doom is on Kickstarter now. Find out more>>

As their first self-published game, it’s no surprise that Amar and Pearl decided to go for a card game. The game is not in its final form yet. The rules and components for Cake of Doom are pretty much 99% there, but like with every crowdfunded game, some tweaks may yet be implemented and there is still a certain amount of card artwork to be completed.

I guess it won’t surprise anyone if I say that Cake of Doom is very much like many other card games. After all, it’s very hard to reinvent the wheel in a genre that’s already quite mature. So as a card game, Cake of Doom must work hard to stand out. There is a huge mountain of other card games already on the market and more regularly find their way to crowdfunding platforms.

Ordered Bidding

In Cake of Doom, there are two decks of cards: the cake cards, which you use to take control of a region of Earth, and the so-called mischief cards, which allow you to somehow interfere with other players or block them from doing so. Everyone starts with a mix of these different types of cards, which remind me a little of Exploding Kittens.

On your turn, you can play any number of mischief cards to steal cards from other players or otherwise mess with them. Next, you bid on a region. That’s the core of the game. You have to control two regions of Earth and the Doom region to win the game. Each region requires a minimum amount of cakes before it can be controlled. If another player already owns a region, you have to bid more cakes than the owning player played originally. So it gets harder and harder to steal regions from other players.

Also, other players have the opportunity to sabotage you with their cards at this point. Other card games can become quite chaotic at this stage, but Cake of Doom is different. To avoid a huge amount of confusion, there is a very specific turn structure. Players can each only play a single sabotage card to try and stop you. For every sabotage card played, you get the opportunity to block them with one of your block cards.

So far though, Cake of Doom feels like quite a common fare. It’s not too different from other card games that you may have come across. It’ll probably remind you of the aforementioned Exploding Kittens or Fluxx.

The Twist

Of course, the designers are acutely aware of how much competition they are up against. So Cake of Doom does offer a few things that make it different from other, similar games.

First of all, every player is randomly assigned a different alien character to play. Each and every one has a different ongoing ability, giving the game an asymmetric twist. Secondly, and I think that’s the biggest difference, the number of cards you draw after your turn isn’t fixed. Instead, it goes up each round. In the first round, everyone only draws one card. In the second, it is two, then three, then four and so on until round 10 – not that you’re likely to ever get that far into the game.

a selection of region and other cards from Cake of Doom (photo courtesy of Cake of Doom)
a selection of region and other cards from Cake of Doom (photo courtesy of Cake of Doom)

So Cake of Doom starts quite slow and sedate. The clearly defined order of play makes it feel very civilised and ordered. Then, as the rounds go on, everyone will end up with more and more cards. Suddenly, outbidding others with cakes becomes a lot easier. However, you do need to decide if you focus on cake cards or also draw some mischief cards. After all, mischief cards keep you safe from other players’ interference.

Overall though, there is never much chaos in Cake of Doom, despite the randomness of the mischief cards. You can plan pretty well ahead, which is helped by the fact that cake and mischief cards have different backs. So you can immediately see if other players have any mischief cards left to mess with you or block you. That makes the game much more predictable.

Little Agency

Unfortunately, you never feel like you have much agency in Cake of Doom. The game is over very quickly, in around 15 to 30 minutes. Given that players only draw very few cards to start with, everyone is heavily reliant on a good starting hand. So you’re always just reacting than actively making decisions. Eventually, players will be controlling two regions, so everyone else will do their best to steal regions from them. Again, you’re just doing what you can to stop someone else from winning and not making an active decision.

If you’re in the lead, you’ll only draw cake cards. That ensures that you get the third region without anyone else being able to stop you. It’s going to be obvious to everyone else that the game is lost and that you will win on your turn. It also feels like there is a first-player benefit in Cake of Doom. If everyone plays optimally, then the first player is the one who has the first shot at winning the game.

So, Cake of Doom isn’t for me. A game like Fluxx is much more my thing. As random as this game often is, it does give players more control. You can try and plan ahead. If you keep certain cards and build up your hand over a number of rounds, you can finish and win the game in a single turn. Bad luck may stop you from getting there, but you still feel like you have agency. You feel like you can do something to increase your chances of winning. Exploding Kittens is also very random, but even there you feel like you have some control and you can influence the outcome, at least a little. I don’t get that feeling when playing Cake of Doom.

Cake of Doom Isn’t Doomed

Now, this sounds like a criticism, but ultimately, Cake of Doom does achieve what it seems to set out to do: it’s a very quick card game with a fun setting. The illustrations are fun and the game itself, if you don’t take it or yourself too seriously, is really enjoyable. There is no promise of a deep strategy or difficult decisions. It’s all about spending 15 minutes with friends on a game that allows you to continue chatting. It doesn’t require you to pay too much attention.

So, if that’s what you’re after, then Cake of Doom is certainly for you.

Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.

  • I was sent a free review copy of this game by the publisher.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Sound Effects: – © copyright 2023 BBC

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Orbitalmelody by Lilo Sound
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