Doomtown

From Academic Kids

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

Contents

In a Nutshell

The game set 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 involved complex deck construction and deep strategies and was designed with multiplayer in mind. The sheer amount of card draw in the game made luck much less of a factor while the chess-like strategy of movement really rewarded the better player. In some instances players could literally take the same time to think where to move their "pawn" as in chess.

Doomtown was heavily story driven as well, with a detailed and intruiging storyline that affected cards and playstyles. An example was the fear level that changed with each expansion and allowed of disrupted playstyles. Doomtown also held storyline tournaments in which players could decide the storyline immediately, a notable example of which is in the finals of a major storyline tournament where the Sheriff Coleman was killed by the hands of a Sweetrock Hired Gunman. The sheriff was killed in the storyline (resulting in new events and action card) and the sheriff was later revived as a living dead in his experienced version to avenge his own death.

Doomtown, as of 2000, if officially defunct.

The game in depth

Doomtown's, like most collectible card games, had two places where a player could show his skill and creativity, Deck construction and playing skill.

Terms

The game uses this terms to keep track of things. Some of these exists on some types of cards while others are produced or mentioned in the game.

  • Ghost Rock (GR): The money of the game. Used to buy stuff and pay for already existing stuff.
  • Upkeep: Either Positive or Negative. Positive gives that much GR per turn, negative costs GR 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 better poker hands you can make. There are two types of bullets: Brass and Stud, with Stud being the better one.
  • Outfit: The faction a character belongs to. Drifter is someone without an outfit.
  • Draw Hand: A Hand of Poker.
  • Shootout: The combat phase of the game
  • Cheatin': A Draw hand that has a combination of cards that cannot exist in a legal poker hand (such as five aces). Cheatin'! action cards punished Cheatin' draws with much greater potency than a normal action card.
  • Boot: When something is used, it is usually booted to simulate it.
  • 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 wasn't reshuffled in it when the deck depleted.

Deck Construction

There are five types of cards in Doomtown: Actions, Dudes, Goods, Deeds and Jokers. Each of those cards used a specific Poker suit: Spades, Clubs, Hearts, Diamonds and Joker. Players used a variable number of each type of card (depending on their focus) to construct their deck. Furthermore, each card has a number (From Ace to King, 1-13). In some types (Dudes and Goods) the power of the card is analogous to its number while in the others (Deeds and Actions) the power is reversed analogous. A deck resembled a poker deck but with one difference, players were allowed to put multiples of a specific combination of suit-number (at the risk of making their poker hands illegal. This way players not only had to put the best stuff in their deck, but also to judge what kind of cards to include so as to draw good poker hands.

Restrictions

  • Each deck must be exactly 52 cards plus up to two Jokers
  • There can be up to four copies of a single card in a deck
  • Each deck must have be based on one of the Outfits.

Types of Cards

  • Deeds: These are used for two reasons. To provide income and to win the game. These all had the diamond suit and the best deeds are low number. Deeds have three defining stats
  • Dudes: These are your gang. Ranging from old style, wild west desperados and lawmen, to lovecraftian witches and mad scientists. Each dude belongs to a specific outfit or is a drifter (as in available to all). Dudes are used to conduct your business and disrupt you opponent's plans. Dudes are expendable.
  • Goods: These are further divided into three categories: Goods, Spells and Events. Goods are the normal stuff your dudes will equip and use. From Horses and Shiny new hats to Death-Ray contraptions and Mystical Bullets. Spells are only used by the different spellcasters, Hucksters, Shamans and Blessed. Events are not "goods" per se, but random stuff that happen in town. Players include events and hope they "happen".
  • Actions: These are all the nasty surprises you will play on your opponent(s). They are divided into Noon Actions (The ones you could play on their own) and Shootout actions (The ones you used in "Battle").
  • Jokers: You can only have up to two Jokers in your deck (you're not required to) and there are various Jokers to choose from. Others just work as expected while others have secondary abilities but work on restrictions (only in shootouts etc).

Deck Focus

Players usually focused their deck on doing one thing, and there were many to choose from. Also, some outfits are better equipped to doing one thing than the other (All outfits have some kind of special ability). For example, Blackjacks, the games' outlaws usually had very offensive abilities and their dudes had vary good shootout stats. Here are some popular deck types, players could easily mix two or more of these to make something unique (such as spells and combat to create a shootout deck that relies in spells)

  • Shootout: These decks focused on hunting down and killing the opponent's most influential characters and then winning the game with one or two Control Points. Usually chock full of action cards.
  • Spellslinging: These decks focused on using one or two characters packed with spells to manipulate the game. For example, one could reduce the opponent's influence with spells until the end of the turn to win.
  • Hiding: These decks focused on pumping out more contol points than the opponent could handle and win without much bloodshed, in effect "buying the town". The Sweetrock Faction was notorious for this. Other variations of this type include using other methods to win without bloodshed such as the Collegium's first outfit ability.

Rules

The game is played in turn, each turn consists of three phases and in each phase players play one action each until they all pass. When all phases are complete a new turn begins.

Phases

Each turn is divided into these three phases:

  • Lowball decides who goes first in the game by playing a game of lowball poker (where the worst hand wins). The winner gets some GR from the other players. In this phase, very illegal decks (such as decks consisting mainly of one suit of cards) get punished because they cannot manipulate their hand to a non-cheatin' draw. During Lowball, players also gathered money from upkeep.
  • High Noon is the main part of each turn. Here players can buy deeds and goods, recruit new dudes for their gang and promote their strategy while disrupting the opponents. In this phase each player performs an action in turn going clockwise. An action may be anything from movement to recruit to a pass. (This was in difference to the old way or Card Games like Magic:The Gathering where one player would perform anything he could in his turn and then the other.) When all players passed consequetively, the turn ends.
  • Nightfall everything is prepared for the next turn in this phase, mainly by unbooting it.

Movement

Movement was a major part of the game. Much like chess where you have the weak and stronger pawns, in doomtown you had dudes of variable use. As the town was build, your dudes would move from one place to another and actually do stuff. You could visit the saloon for a drink and then move to the haunted manor to challnenge the creepy warlock to a gunfight. The game was literally lost and won on movement. You could have a deadly hand for a shootout but it would be useless if you couldn't catch the yellow bastard that kept running around town.

Winning/Losing

The most unique thing in Doomtown was that you could not lose...ever. You could end up in a situation when you couldn't do much of anything (for example by losing all your dudes), but it was still possible to even win from such a situation. The game was won the player who at the end of the turn had more control points that the highest total influence of a single opponent. This was, in a later rules revision, by mistake changed to the lowest total influence. Some players used the new one while some used the old one. It didn't matter in 1 on 1 but in multiplayer, the former was more realistic but the latter provided much quicker games. Control points are acquired by controlling deeds that provide them. Deeds are controlled

Uniqueness

Due to the game's strong storyline, everything inside was unique. That meant that players could not have the same dude or deed in play. There was an exception for particulaty common archetypes (such as the random drifting gunman or the dingy saloon) but everything else was one shot. This uniqueness carried on to the Boot Hill. Thus if you had duplicate dudes in your deck and one copy died, you coulnd't bring in the second one without some card effect. Due to this uniqueness the game employed an effective card memory. Any changes that happened to a card, stayed even if said card was reshuffled into the deck and later brought in by another player.

Shootouts

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

The shootout has 2 phases, the shootout phase and the draw phase. During the shootout phase, players perform shootout actions either from their hand or printed on cards. Cards like "Sun in Yer Eyes" and "Out of Ammo" give an idea of what was played. Shootout actions were used to determine your posses combat potential for the round, either by increasing your bullet rating or reducing the opposing posse's (Bullet Rating being an abstract measure of firepower and generic combat prowess). During the draw phase, each player draw as many cards from his deck as his bullet rating allowed (with brass bullets allowing changes and silver or "stud" bullets allowing bigger handsize) and then tried to form the best poker hand he could. Due to the weirdness of deadlands, it was possible to have some very strange draw hands like a five of a kind or a Dead Man's Hand (the best hand you could have). Each poker hand had a rating from 1 (high card) to 10 (Dead Man's Hand) and the difference between the hands of the players was the number of casualties the "losing" player suffered. After that, any player could either chicken out or stay for another round.

Usually, the trick of the game was to make your opponent's most crucial dudes (usually those with high influence) enter a shootout. Various cards existed that allowed you to do that like "Ambush" and "I Don't Like Yer Looks"

Storyline

As mentioned before, the game is set in the horror-western world of Deadlands, the weird west. The game told the story of the town of Gommora. A town seized by ghost rock fever (like gold fever...only worse) where many factions vied for control

The Setting

Gommora is a town that sit by the California Maze (Callifornia itself has collapsed from an earthquake). The Maze is filled with mesas which in turn are filled with Ghost Rock, the most precious substance in earth. Gommora 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 lawdogs just don't have the manpower to stop everything. Things are beginning to weirden out as the more occult factions arrive for their own agendas, and horror quickly begins slipping into the town.

Players take the role of the faction itself, manipulating their assets to contol Gommora for themselves. That saloon won't sell out? Burn it! and These guys are giving us trouble? Lets "silence them" are much more common quotes than one would expect.


The Outfits

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

  • BlackJacks: The outlaws of the game. Constantly robbing the populace and with a grudge against Sweetrock. Blackjack was their original leader
  • Lawdogs: The Lawmen of the town. Usually it consisted of a sheriff and his deputies. They hunted down wanted dudes and dispersed justice.
  • Collegium: Mad scientists used Ghost Rock to power their gadgets. These guys could dispense some serious hurt if you let them.
  • Sweetrock Mining Company: The capital around those parts. They employed shady tactics to win the town and were very aggresive about it.
  • Whateleys: Lovecraftian family involved in witchcraft and demonology. Very nasty.
  • Sioux Union: A coalition of many different indian tribes. They are the primary enemy of the whateleys in the original storyline.
  • Maze Rats: The Chinese were involved mainly in piracy. They raided the mines of the californean mesa and used Kung Fu powers
  • Texas Rangers: Did I mention that the civil war rages on? Well, these are the Agents of the South. They like the living dead
  • The Agency: Some would call them the US Marshalls. In reality they are the occult agents of the northern states. They are here to cleanse Gommora under the guidance of the Ghost.
  • Lost Angels (Formely the Flock): They think they are the chosen of God, but the reality is much more sinister. They use their miracles to bring forth apocalypse.

Experience

Another merge of the storyline is a trick Five Rings Publicing borrowed from Legend of the Five Rings. Dudes and even Deeds would become experienced as the storyline progressed. These experienced cards could be a completely different card, stat wise, but were the same card for uniqueness purposes. Sometimes an experienced card would be just a slightly better version of an older one, sometimes it would be greatly changed (such as some characters becoming Harrowed, which is a kind of living-death) or Abominations with funky abilities and somethimes an experienced version could even become worse (Such a the Leader of the Sweetrock who went insane)

Story Arcs

The original story arc, started very peacefully but started getting progressively nastier until it climaxed with the arrival of the Demon Knickevin. 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 who was almost razed to the ground. This allowed the next story arc to begin at a lower base but it didn't have time to be fully fleshed out before the game abruptly stopped.

History

In the two years of Doomtown's life it created a very loyal following of players and as well as providing ample source material for the Deadlands setting and telling an excellent story. Although it is now defunct, the fans of the game still find ways to expand and support the game they love.

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

Doomtown started in the Summer of 1998 and emplyoed the then new Rolling Thunder System. The factions were released separately in small packages called Episodes. This gave a much deeper storyline that could otherise be possible (each episode progressed the storyline to accommodate the new outfit and expand the story)

  • Episode 1&2: Basic Set - Blackjacks, Lawdogs, Collegium
  • Episode 3: Sweetrock
  • Episode 4: Whateleys
  • Episode 5: Sioux
  • Episode 6: Maze Rats
  • Episode 7: Texas Rangers
  • Episode 8: The Agency
  • Episode 9: The Flock

After episode 9, the Rolling Thunder system was deemed innefectual and thus the game want back to the old release system of one expansion per 3-4 months.

Ghost Town : The Death of a Game

At some point Wizards of the Coast bought Doomtown's rights from Five Rings Publicing which was at the time mergind into AEG. WotC took the game and effectively killed it by producing nothing for half a year and more. Although the game had excellent sales in Both Europe and US, fans figured the game had died when they stopped seing updates.

When AEG took Doomtown into its folds again, they started with renewed vigor to produce it. Unfortunately most of Doomtowns following had moved away already (Most to the new game of AEG, 7th Sea) and many stores refused to bring it again, already burned by a backlog of unsold rolling thunder expansions. The revival failed and the game was officially stopped.

The Present

Doomtown carried some of the most loyal fans a Card Game has seen. After the game stopped, fans kept it alive by holding their own tournaments and building their own expansions. Also, since CCG Workshop started functioning, Doomtown was immediately ported into the system and it is possible one of the better fleshed out games.

Unfortunately, since the Western Settings don't gather as much attention as the Fantasy or Science Fiction settings do, it id s hard to come up with support for a new revival of the game. Artwork is hard to come by as well and that doesn't help the fan expansions' approval.

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