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Before starting the review, I want to address the fact that I don’t play a lot of card games or board games, at all. So if there is anything that can be represented better using board game or card game term, please point it out and let me know. Thanks in advance.
Now let’s get into the topic. Doomtown: Reloaded is a western themed card-based board game that also merged some poker culture into it. You are at the town of Gomorra, and you represent one of the four factions in the town. Your job is to use your resources to control the town as much as possible.

This is not an easy game to begin with, and it is not a pleasurable game to play before you understand what is going on in the game, so if you are new to board game and card game, be prepared that the learning curve for this game will be rather deep.
However, if you at least have some basic knowledge and experience about different board games and card games, this game will be relatively easier to pick up, you just need to remember some more Doomtown-specific terms and unique game flows before totally get the hang of it.
Also, although this game is marked as for “2+” players, the recommended number of players for this game is 2-4 before everyone understands the mechanics of this game, otherwise it will take way too long to finish one game.

This is a living card game with numerous additional packs available. However, in order to learn the basics of this game, the base set is more than enough. There are 2 packs of pre-built deck that represent 2 factions in the game, Law Dog and The Sloane Gang. It also comes with a lot of additional cards so if you want to play as the other two factions, you can use those cards to build your own deck. There are different kinds of chips that represent different items. Chips with numbers are Ghost Rocks, which is the currency in this game. Red chips are influence chips, blue chips are control chips and green chips are additional in case you want to mark something else. The base set comes with 2 game boards so technically 2 players can play using only 1 base set. However, if you want complete experience of every possibility, it is recommended that each player has its own set. It also comes with a rule book and a beginner’s guide that teaches you step-by-step how to play using pre-built deck. Although the guide is not crystal clear, it is pretty helpful for players to understand the basic flow of the game with the help of rule book. Never read the entire rule book before playing the game, otherwise you will be confused very quickly. This is the kind of game where rules don’t make sense at all until you actually play it.

Some Basic Terms:
There are several basic terms you need to know before playing the game. As we mentioned before, “Ghost Rock” is the basic and only currency in the game, this is something you need in order to buy, gamble and keep. Outfit is the faction you decide to play as, and after deciding which outfit you are going to play, you put the outfit card on “Home” location on your board. Dudes are people you have, regardless of gender. You need them to perform different actions and eventually, win the game. Deeds are properties you have, you can buy them by spending Ghost Rocks and place them down on “Deed” locations on the board and they will generate profit each turn. Spell, action and goods cards are used as assistances for your dudes or your hand. Discard pile is the pile that you put your cards in that can be used later on as your new deck. Boot Hill (or Aced) pile is the pile that you put your cards in that cannot go back to the game until the entire game is finished (perma-death).

Main Game Flow:
The game is based on “days”, and each day has 4 phases: gambling, upkeep, high noon and sundown. Before gambling phase, collect the amount of ghost rocks you begin with and return the amount you need to pay for your dudes to bank, the place where you put all you rest ghost rocks.
In gambling phase, each player antes up 1 ghost rock and draw another 5 cards as your gambling hard (don’t touch your play hand yet) to pursue a lowball according to hand ranks. The player with lowest rank wins this phase and takes all anted up ghost rocks.
In upkeep phase, players need to collect the amount of ghost rock they earned from their homes and deeds, as well as return the amount that they need to keep their dudes back to bank. This phase is basically a financial maintaining phase; you can choose to pay your dudes to keep them on the game, or you can choose not to pay them, and they have to go to discard pile with all cards attached to them.
Players will spend most of their time on High Noon phase as this phase will only end when all players choose to pass without any action. If a player chooses not to pass, then s/he could do one of the five actions in this phase: acting, which allows player to use one action card in the play hand or use an ability of one dude if the ability has the word “Noon”; moving, which allows the player to move one dude to an adjacent place without booting, or move to a non-adjacent place with booting, adjacency is indicated using green arrows on game board; shopping, which allows player to spend ghost rock to use cards from play hand; trading, which allows player to switch attached cards between different dudes if they control the same location together; calling-out, which allows player to use a dude to challenge one of other player’s dudes, if the other player accepts the call-out, then they will enter shootout section, otherwise the other player’s dude will run away and go home booted.
Finally, in sundown phase, check whether any player wins the game by checking whether one player’s control points is more than everyone else’s individual influence points. If true, then that player wins the game, otherwise, the game enters a new day beginning with gambling phase again.

Deck Building:
This is the most time-consuming, attractive and challenging part of the game besides core gameplay. It is not an easy task to build a deck simply because you want to pick cards with most useful abilities to you but at the same time, you want to get advantage in gambling as well as shootout draw, which pursues lowest rank and highest rank respectively. It’s totally up to you whether you want to build a balanced or extreme deck. But eventually, after building and using a deck that suits your style, you can feel how rewarding it is and you know that finally it pays off.

Personal Experience:
Since I barely played any board games or card games before, learning how to play this game is rather painful. I played with another friend with pre-built deck and followed the beginner’s guide and it took us more than 1 hour to finish it step by step. At that point we were still uncertain what we did in the past hour. Later, I played another game with 4 friends (yes, 5 players in total) and it took us 5 hours to finish that 1 game. It’s worth it, however, because we all learned a lot about how the game actually works from that game by reading rule books and explaining to others constantly. I played a few more games after that with 3 or 4 people and it took significantly shorter time to complete those games. So try to learn as you play instead of learn before you play. You will learn much faster this way.

Final Verdict:
If I have to give a grade out of 10 for this game, my answer would be (at least) 8. I took two points off because once you understand (at least most of) game rules, it will become one of the most addicting games you have ever played, but that deep learning curve certainly slowed players down quite a bit from entering that stage. This game is fun because of its extreme complexity as well as the fact that luck is sometimes important although it’s a skill based game, but it also turned many people away. Double-edged sword is just that paradoxical sometimes.
That would be only 1 point deduction. Where’s the other point? Art style is fantastic; game rules are complicated but solid; deck building is strategic but rewarding. However, the tutorial, also known as beginner’s guide, could be clearer. Yes, it tells you exactly what to do for each turn, but it doesn’t always explain why, which constantly makes the player confused. No one likes to play with tutorial and doesn’t know what s/he is doing.
Overall, this is a superb game that I recommend to all people who like strategic games as well as challenging games. I promise you won’t regret.

Gather up a few friends, take your time, play with them, argue with them, learn with them. Trust me, you will learn much faster than you expected.

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