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Hayden Smith

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*NOTE* This an abridged version of my review and constitutes less than half of my original article, but covers the main points. For the full review, head over to

Doomtown: Reloaded is a unique Living Card Game (LCG) that wonderfully succeeds in its ability to implement dynamic and smart game mechanics within a weird west theme. Based on the Deadlands: Doomtown Collectible Card Game (CCG) of the late 1990’s, Doomtown: Reloaded is set within the Deadlands roleplaying universe… Different from being a CCG, LCG’s… have a standardized starter deck that comes with the base game and can be played entirely without expansions. Expansions are occasional, and are also standardized – so two players that buy the same expansion get the same cards… The game itself requires two or more players, and once players are accustomed with the game’s rules a single game only takes around thirty minutes. Having spent nearly a week with this game, I will attempt below to impart some sound advice and knowledge about three of Doomtown’s most interesting and unique features in an effort to inform those looking into buying or playing this game.
I first want to mention that Doomtown can be extremely rewarding for those with experience with playing card games like Magic the Gathering or Android: Netrunner, but it can also be overwhelming for those new to playing card games. The reason lies within the game’s abundance of rules, terminology, and mechanics. Players that are familiar with CCG’s or TCG’s will be able to become familiar with the game in under two hours, whereas newcomers will be looking at a steep learning curve that could result in up to three or four hours of study until becoming comfortable with its systems…
To begin the discussion on Doomtown: Reloaded, let me start by talking about the game’s various forms of currency – it’s first noticeable mechanic. There are three currencies gained and lost throughout the game: ghost rock, influence, and control… The interplay between these three currencies is one way in which Doomtown excels. The players begin with very little currency, and throughout the game the players build up the town and recruit more dudes – increasing currencies dynamically as the story expands. These three currencies develop depending on the playstyle and outfit (the main faction) the player uses to form their deck (more on deckbuilding later). A Doomtown player must constantly make decisions between spending ghost rock on recruiting more dudes to build a greater variety of influence, buying gadgets to improve the survivability of dudes, or buying deeds that will begin to accumulate ghost rock during the next round and provide the controller with control points… These three currencies must be wisely balanced and monitored with one-another in order for the player to be prepared for various scenarios and react intelligently. And while it is possible to rush your opponents at the start of the game and end up winning in less than a handful of rounds, a player is far more likely to succeed if they aim for playing the long-game and by focusing on growth rather than aggression.
As previously mentioned, “shootouts” are one of the most defining ways a player can win or lose these currencies – even all at once… Players draw a poker five-hand of cards and battle for the best hand. The player’s posse (a group of dudes the player can pick to be involved in the shootout) alters the way a player can form their poker hand. According to the attributes of their dudes, the player is able to discard cards and draw new ones, draw extra cards and discard the worst cards in their hand…, or both methods – even being able to repeat the actions several times in an effort to create the best possible poker hand. The difference in success between opposing player hands then determines how the losing player must dispose of their posse, either by discarding dudes or by acing (banishing) them from the game… Shootouts maintain poker’s famous tension that’s derived from the player’s reliance on luck, while introducing game-changing effects that can occasionally turn the tide of battle. Doomtown’s adaptation of poker within its game systems shows a remarkably keen understanding of game design fundamentals and exploring how to take existing, proven mechanics and add layers of depth without changing core gameplay. This system also allows players to have more control over the parameters of their poker-playing and its results, leading to an increase in a player’s engagement and sense of reward…
…Dude movement – the third unique mechanic – is fast and effective when the player has a plan, such as moving a dude from her home to support growing enemy forces near one of her deeds, or can be slow when the player is unprepared or too spread-out, such as a player trying to bring back her most tricked-out dude from an enemy deed to one of her deeds… Ultimately the player has to make decisive plans on where to send their dudes and keep them from getting too spread-out or else risk having them be picked-off one-by-one without the possibility of backup… mortality in Doomtown is ever present, and if a player’s navigation doesn’t complement their dude’s abilities or their outfit’s strengths she will surely be fighting an uphill battle – possibly even an unwinnable one.
… I also want to mention the enjoyment of Doomtown deckbuilding. The base game comes with enough cards and outfits for four complete decks with over fifty extra cards leftover. Each outfit – the Law dogs, Morgan Cattle Company, the Fourth Ring, and the Sloane Gang – emphasizes a unique form of play within twenty outfit-exclusive cards… Using these initial outfit cards, the player has the ability to add another thirty-two cards to their deck to balance and complement these styles, or create unpredictable teams by recruiting members of other outfits at an added cost. In addition, since poker-playing within shootouts and gambling phases are a large portion of the game, the player must also take into account the poker value of each card in their deck. High-value poker hands win shootouts and jobs, but low-valued hands determine which player acts first during each round… Having played with and built-various decks, this balancing act is as rewarding as any other deckbuilding CCG or LCG for many reasons. First, the game employs wonderfully diverse card mechanics so that two different cards never feel redundant… These sorts of relationships are common during deckbuilding and make the act of participating in the Deadlands universe rewarding to those with a playful imagination. Also because the game is a Living/Expandable Card Game, all players have the same cards so long as they own the same expansions, which puts players on an even playing field so that winning a game can really come down to a player’s ability to construct decks (plus a healthy dose of luck).
To reiterate: Doomtown: Reloaded is a wonderful LCG that takes the best components of resource management, poker, chess-like movement strategy, and deckbuilding, and crafts layers of added complexity onto those foundations. With the game’s wealth of rules, mechanics, and story, Doomtown is an intense and rewarding adventure for those familiar and enthusiastic about playing card games. However, these features create a steep learning curve that may overwhelm new CG players, so make sure you and your friends prepare accordingly…

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