Doomtown

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Doomtown
Designer(s) David Williams
Publisher(s) Wizards of the Coast, Five Rings Publishing Group, and Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Players 2-6
Age range 10+
Playing time Approx 45 min
Random chance Some
Skill(s) required Card playing
Arithmetic
Basic Reading Ability

Doomtown (originally Deadlands:Doomtown) is a collectible card game, a companion to the Deadlands roleplaying setting.

The game sets itself apart from other CCGs by having each card also serve as a playing card and resolving certain in-game situations with a hand of poker, thus accentuating the Old West atmosphere of the game. The game involves complex deck construction and deep strategies, and was designed with multiplayer (three or more players) in mind. The sheer amount of card draw in the game makes luck much less of a factor, while the movement rules (in the style of board games such as chess) reward intelligent strategy.

Doomtown was heavily story-driven as well, with a detailed and intriguing storyline that affected cards and play styles. An example was the Fear Level that changed with each expansion and improved or disrupted play styles. Doomtown also held storyline tournaments in which players could directly influence the storyline. For instance, in the finals of a major storyline tournament, Sheriff Coleman was killed by a Sweetrock hired gunman; the sheriff was subsequently killed in the storyline, resulting in new events and action cards, and a later experienced version was Harrowed (revived as a living dead) to avenge his own death.

Discontinued in 2000, a flier from the 2014 GAMA Trade Show revealed that 'Doomtown Reloaded' will be released in August 2014.[1]

The game in depth[edit]

Doomtown, like most collectible card games, has two places where a player can show their skill and creativity: deck construction and playing skill.

Terms[edit]

The game uses the terms below to define the game mechanics. Some of these terms are printed on certain cards, while others are produced or mentioned in the game during play.

  • Ghost Rock (GR): The money of the game. Used to buy or pay upkeep on items, dudes, etc.
  • Production/Upkeep: Production gives that much GR per turn, upkeep costs that much GR per turn to keep.
  • Influence: Some Dudes have some and it shows how much the town populace knows/fears/respects him. Used to prevent the other player from winning and to control deeds.
  • Control: Some Deeds have some and it shows how important the structure is to the town. Used to win the game.
  • Victory Points: Like control, but it is won in game and cannot be taken away.
  • Bullet: The combat prowess of a Dude. The higher it is, the more cards you can use to make a poker hand. There are two types of bullets, Draw and Stud (affecting the hand similarly to draw and stud poker).
  • Outfit: The faction a dude belongs to. Dudes with that below to no specific outfit are called Drifters.
  • Pull: Drawing the top card of your (or sometimes an opponent's) Deck. This is used to determine if Spells/Gadgets are successful, or other game effects.
  • Draw Hand: A Hand of Poker.
  • Shootout: The combat phase of the game.
  • Cheatin': A Draw hand that has two or more cards with the same rank and suit (such as two aces of spades), not counting jokers. These hands are "illegal" and may be punished by Cheatin'! action cards.
  • Boot: When something is used, it is usually booted (turned sideways) to indicate that it has been used.
  • Fear Level: This changed with each expansion as storyline progressed. The higher this is, the nastier the town.
  • Boot Hill: The graveyard of the game. Different from the discard pile in that it isn't reshuffled into the deck when the deck becomes depleted.

Deck Construction[edit]

There are eight types of cards in Doomtown: Actions, Dudes, Goods, Events, Deeds, Spells, Improvements, and Jokers. Each of those cards uses a specific Poker suit: Spades (Dudes), Clubs (Actions), Hearts (Goods/Events/Spells), Diamonds (Deeds/Improvements). Players use a variable number of each type of card (depending on their focus) to construct their deck. Furthermore, each card has a rank (from Ace to King, 1-13). In some types (Dudes and Goods) cards with high rank are generally more powerful, while in the others (Deeds and Actions) cards with low rank are generally more powerful. Each Doomtown deck resembles a poker deck, but with one major difference: players are allowed to include multiples of a specific rank-suit combination, at the risk of making some of their poker hands illegal. This way, players not only have to choose cards with useful powers, but also have to choose cards that will allow them to draw good poker hands.

Restrictions[edit]

  • Each deck must be exactly 52 cards plus up to two Jokers.
  • There can be no more than four copies of a card with the same name in a deck.
  • Each deck must be based on one of the Outfits.

Types of Cards[edit]

  • Deeds: These are used for two reasons, to provide income and to win the game. Deeds have three defining stats - control, cost, and production/upkeep. Some deeds have actions or restrictions on them
  • Dudes: These are your gang, ranging from old-style Wild West desperadoes and lawmen, to Lovecraftian witches and mad scientists. Each dude belongs to a specific outfit (except for drifters). Dudes are used to conduct your business and disrupt your opponent's plans. Dudes are often expendable.
  • Goods: The normal stuff your dudes will equip and use, from Horses and New Hats to Death-Ray contraptions and mystical Bullets.
  • Spells: Used by the different spellcasters: Hucksters, Shamans and Blessed.
  • Events: Random stuff that happens in town. Events are not played directly, but take effect when they appear during gambling phase. Only one event per player can resolve each gambling phase.
  • Actions: These are all the nasty surprises you will play on your opponent(s). They are divided into Noon actions (playable on their own), Shootout actions (played during a shootout), and Reactions (played in response to another action).
  • Jokers: You can have up to two Jokers in your deck. There are various Jokers to choose from - some are simply wild cards, while others have secondary abilities but restricted usage (e.g. only in shootouts) or only when making a 'pull'(a one card pull to determine the outcome of something within the game.

Deck Focus[edit]

Players usually focus their deck on doing one thing well. There are many viable goals to choose from. Some outfits are better equipped for some goals; for instance, Blackjacks (the game's outlaw gang) usually have good shootout stats and other offensive abilities. Here are some popular deck types. Players may mix two or more types, such as a shootout deck that partly relies on spells.

  • Shootout: These decks focus on hunting down and killing the opponent's most influential characters, so that they can win the game with just a few Control Points. Usually full of action cards.
  • Spellslinging: These decks focus on using one or two characters packed with spells to manipulate the game. For example, one could use spells to reduce the opponent's influence until the end of the turn, again enabling a win with just a few Control Points.
  • Hiding/Turtling: These decks focus on pumping out more control points than the opponent could handle, and winning without much bloodshed, in effect "buying the town". The Sweetrock faction is notorious for this. Another variation of this type is the Collegium's first outfit ability, which gives control points for building Mad Science gadgets.
  • Flooding: Overwhelming the opposing player by putting as many deeds as possible into play as quickly as possible.

Rules[edit]

The game is played in turns ("days"). Each turn consists of three phases. In each phase, players play one action each until they all pass consecutively. (In contrast, in Magic: The Gathering, each player may perform as many actions in a row as he can.) When all phases are complete, a new turn begins.

Phases[edit]

  • The Gambling Phase is a round of lowball poker (where the worst hand wins). The winner gets some GR from the other players, and wins initiative, i.e. he gets the first action in the various phases of the turn (actions then proceed clockwise). In this phase, very illegal decks (such as decks consisting mainly of one suit, or mainly of one or two ranks) get punished, because (unlike in shootouts) they cannot manipulate their cards to avoid an illegal hand. During Lowball, players also gather money from production, and must pay money for upkeep (or discard some of their cards that require upkeep).
  • High Noon is the main part of each turn. Here players can buy deeds and goods, recruit new dudes for their gang, move dudes around to take control of other deeds, start shootouts, and generally promote their strategy while disrupting that of the opponents.
  • Nightfall is the end of each turn. The game may be won during this phase. Otherwise, each player prepares for the next turn; booted cards are unbooted, play hands are refilled. The player with the most influence at nightfall is rewarded with an extra bonus card for his play hand.

Movement[edit]

Movement is a major part of the game. Your dudes must move from one place to another, and their ability to do so is based on the physical arrangement of the deeds. Your deadly shootout hand may be useless if you can't catch your opponent as his dudes run around town disrupting your business.

Winning/Losing[edit]

As the game progresses, a player may end up in a weak position (e.g. losing all his dudes), but it is possible to recover from such a position. The game is won when, during Nightfall, one player has more control + victory points than the highest total influence of a single opponent. (In a later rules revision, a variant called for beating the "lowest total influence". It doesn't matter in two-player games; in multiplayer games, the former is more realistic, while the latter leads to quicker games.) Control points are acquired by controlling deeds that provide them. Deeds are controlled by the player with the most influence at the deed; if there is a tie then the owner of the deed controls it (even if they're not involved in the tie). Some goods also have control points. Victory points are given by meeting a condition of a card. For example, the Law Dogs outfit grants a victory point each time their controller kills a wanted dude with more than one influence OR puts a wanted dude in jail. Some jobs earn victory points as well.

Uniqueness[edit]

Due to the game's strong storyline, dudes and deeds are unique; if one copy is in play, you cannot play a second copy. Some exceptions are made for particularly common archetypes, such as the random drifting gunman or the dingy saloon. This uniqueness recognizes Boot Hill as well; if one copy is in Boot Hill, you cannot play a second copy. Due to this uniqueness, the game employs card memory; if a dude or deed is changed (e.g. a dude's influence is permanently reduced), discarded, and played again (even by another player), then the changes remain in effect.

Shootouts[edit]

Doomtown has a unique form of combat. Each player has a gang, which usually consists of dudes from his outfit and drifters. There are many cases when a player wants to control a location, or just kill an opposing dude. This is accomplished by entering a shootout. The default way to do this is to call-out the opposing dude, who may either refuse and chicken out or stay and fight. If he stays, both players gather a posse of their dudes and enter a shootout.

The shootout has two phases, the shootout action phase and the draw phase. During the shootout action phase, players perform shootout actions, either from their hand (e.g. "Sun in Yer Eyes" or "Out of Ammo"), or printed on cards in their posse. Shootout actions are used to determine your posse's combat potential for the round, either by increasing your bullet rating or reducing the opposing posse's bullet rating. During the draw phase, each player draws as many cards from his deck as his bullet rating allows: five cards, plus extra cards for Stud bullets, plus the option to discard and replace cards for Draw bullets. Each player tries to form the best poker hand he can. Due to jokers and Cheatin', five of a kind is possible. The Dead Man's Hand (Ace of Spades, Ace of Clubs, Eight of Spades, Eight of clubs with a Jack of Diamonds as the fifth card) is ranked highest. Each poker hand has a rating from 1 (high card) to 10 (Dead Man's Hand), and the losing player suffers a number of casualties equal to the difference in ratings. (In case of ties, each player suffers one.) After that, any player can either chicken out or stay for another round.

Usually, the trick of the game is to force your opponent's most crucial dudes (usually those with high influence) to enter an unfavorable shootout. Various action cards allow you to do this, such as "Ambush", "Don't Like Yer Looks!" or "Massacre".

Storyline[edit]

The game is set in the horror-western world of Deadlands, the Weird West. The game tells the story of the town of Gomorra, a town seized by ghost rock fever (like gold fever, only worse), with many factions vying for control.

The Setting[edit]

Gomorra is a town that sits by the California Maze (large parts of California which collapsed during an earthquake). The Maze is filled with mesas, which in turn are filled with Ghost Rock, the most precious substance on earth. Gomorra becomes an immediate boomtown, and many key players of the world arrive to take control of the territory.

As with any boomtown in the wild west, the only law is the law of the strongest. The law dogs just don't have the manpower to stop everything. Things are beginning to get weird as the more occult factions arrive with their own agendas, and horror quickly begins slipping into the town.

The Outfits[edit]

The game has ten outfits, each working in a different way than the others.

  • BlackJacks: The outlaws of the game, constantly robbing the populace, and bearing a grudge against Sweetrock. Blackjack was their original leader.
  • Law Dogs: The lawmen of the town. Usually consists of a sheriff and his deputies. They hunt down wanted dudes and disperse justice.
  • Collegium: Mad scientists who use Ghost Rock to power their gadgets. These guys can dispense some serious hurt if you let them.
  • Sweetrock Mining Company: The big corporation around those parts, with lots of capital to spend. They employ shady and highly aggressive tactics to win the town.
  • Whateleys: Lovecraftian family involved in witchcraft and demonology. Very nasty. They are the primary users of Hexes in the game.
  • Sioux Union: A coalition of many different Indian tribes. They are the primary enemy of the Whateleys in the original storyline. They are the primary users of Spirits spells in the game
  • Maze Rats: A band of pirates, mostly Chinese. They raid the mines of the Great Maze and use Kung Fu.
  • Texas Rangers: Agents of the South (the Civil War is still dragging on). Their general policy toward the supernatural is "shoot it or recruit it".
  • The Agency (A special branch of the Pinkertons): Agents of the North. Under the guidance of the Ghost, they aim to cleanse Gomorra of occult influence.
  • Lost Angels (replacing the similar Flock, which was eliminated from the storyline): They think they are the chosen of God, but the reality is much more sinister. They use their miracles in an attempt to bring about the Apocalypse.

Experience[edit]

Another feature of the storyline was borrowed from Legend of the Five Rings. Dudes and even Deeds would become experienced as the storyline progressed. These experienced cards count as the same card for the purpose of uniqueness. Sometimes an experienced card just has slightly better stats; sometimes it is greatly changed (e.g. Sheriff Coleman becoming Harrowed and defecting from the Agency and Law Dogs to work with the Texas Rangers); occasionally, some stats are notably worse (e.g. Howard Findley, the original leader of Sweetrock, went insane).

Story Arcs[edit]

The original story arc started relatively peacefully, but started getting progressively nastier until it climaxed with the arrival of the Demon Knicknevin. The final expansion of that story arc saw the death of many prominent characters (such as the leaders of the Sioux and Whateleys), along with almost half the characters in existence until then, and the destruction of an entire faction (The Flock). The demon was defeated, but at a great cost to the town, which was almost razed to the ground. The next story arc began with this reduced base, but was not fully fleshed out before production of the game was discontinued.

Awards[edit]

In 1998, Doomtown won the Origins Awards for Best Trading Card Game of 1998 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Card Game of 1998.

Expansions[edit]

Doomtown was first released in the summer of 1998 and employed the then-new Rolling Thunder system. The factions were released separately in small packages called Episodes. This allowed the storyline to be finely detailed, as each episode progressed the storyline to accommodate the new outfit and expand the story. Each expansion also has a symbol next to the artist credit line. This allows collectors to identify the set.

Episode(s) Outfit(s) Symbol
1&2 Basic Set - Blackjacks, Lawdogs, Collegium None
3 Sweetrock None
4 Whateleys Club
5 Sioux Club
6 Maze Rats Club
7 Texas Rangers Diamond
8 Agency Diamond
9 Flock Diamond

After episode 9, the Rolling Thunder system was deemed ineffectual, and the game went back to the more common release system of one expansion every 3–4 months.

Episode(s) Released Symbol Notes
Pine Box 1999 Heart First base set, reprints from above, New cards in starter decks
Shootout at High Noon 1999 Inverted Triangle Learn to play set, two exclusive cards
Mouth of Hell Early 1999 Spade
A Reaping of Souls Mid-1999 Thin cross
Revelations Late 1999 Omega
Boot Hill May 2000 Looped cross AEG base set, all reprints, 1 exclusive card per starter
Ashes to Ashes June 2000 Hollow star
Eye for an Eye September 2000 Four dots in a diamond formation
Do Unto Others January 2001 Greek cross Fixed set
Mob Justice March 2001 None Web Released, missing home[2]

Cancellation & Beyond[edit]

Wizards of the Coast bought Doomtown's rights from Five Rings Publishing (when they purchased FRPG as part of the TSR buyout[3]). WotC produced the 9 episodes, the Pine Box base reprint, and the first 3 expansions. When their contract with Pinnacle ended, WotC chose to end their production. Although the game had good sales in the United States and Europe, fans figured the game had died when they stopped seeing updates.

AEG purchased the license to publish (from Pinnacle Entertainment Group and WotC) Doomtown and restarted production, but a good deal of Doomtown's following had already moved away. AEG worked diligently to get a base set into print and spent a great deal of capital to create the "Boot Hill" set, which was unfortunately a set of reprints and only 9 new cards with the remaining outfits getting their own "clan" weapon that had identical mechanics. AEG overestimated demand, and made too large of a print run, which was complicated further by a warehouse accident that led to some of the product becoming damaged and unsellable.

To this day, AEG holds the license for Doomtown. John Zinser, president of AEG and a fan of the mechanics, has repeatedly promised to bring Doomtown back to the market in some form (by some accounts "tying it in with a blockbuster Western film.") Shane Hensley, the creator of the Deadlands setting, has refused to discuss licensing the rights for Doomtown to anyone else stating that the rights belong to AEG. He has also staed that he is a fan of the CCG and would love to see AEG bring it back.

After the game stopped, fans kept it alive by holding their own tournaments and building their own expansions. Doomtown was also quickly ported to the Gatling engine. However, the Gatling engine proved to be slow and occasionally suffered from internet instability and to this day it is difficult to actually find a game of Doomtown there. Unfortunately, the site(CCGworkshop.com) that hosted the Gatling engine, is no longer online.

A Doomtown plugin exists for online play at LackeyCCG and for OCTGN.

A fan group, "Harrowed Entertainment Group" is running events and creating unique prizes, as well as honoring The "Champions" who have won major events in a fan set "Saints & Sinners" (formerly called "The Champions Project".) This is done with permission from AEG, as long as it is made clear it is a fan project.

Fans continue to hope that AEG will keep its word and put Doomtown back into print. Some write to AEG and John Zinser annually, asking him to keep his word and to bring Doomtown back, even if in a minor way. There have been rumors and "leaks" that something is in the works since 2011. There was a comment made on Boradgamegeek that it was in the works for Gencon 2014 [4] but hasn't been officially commented on. At an interview at Gencon 2013 Shane Hensley, creator of the setting said twice about Doomtown, "Look for it." [5]

On March 20th 2014, AEG announced a reboot of Doomtown called "Doomtown: Reloaded". It is due to be released in August 2014 and will distributed as an "Expandable Card Game". According to the website, this will be fixed packs with no randomization. Initially there will be four factions; Law Dogs, The Sloane Gang, Morgan Cattle Company, and The Fourth Ring, there is no mention of any further factions being released at a later date. Initial product images show a similar, but altered card template, but a completely new card back. [6]

External links[edit]

  • Doomtown forum - One of the last active communities/repositories on Doomtown.
  • Doomtown.info - An Archival site that is also home to the "Harrowed Entertainment Group".
  • House Atreides - One of the only websites actively stocking & selling Doomtown.