Bridging the Gap from Legend of the Five Rings to Doomtown: Reloaded
by David Lapp
"What about Doomtown appeals to you, as an L5R player?"
Welcome, Samurai of Rokugan! Bayushi Jinn-Ja here. The Gazette approached me about answering the above question, as one of the many players who crossed over from L5R to Doomtown. This article focuses on explaining Doomtown: Reloaded to L5R players by presenting the game as something you may enjoy while awaiting L5R’s reboot in 2017.
To give a brief history, I learned L5R many years ago, after buying a Toturi's Army deck. I later built a Ratling deck out of Crab. At the time, there were only 4 options for those little guys. My dedication to Scorpion began in Diamond and I started playing in tournaments in Lotus. Community involvement for me really started with Celestial, and I've been attached in a way that no other game has come close to ever since. Until Doomtown: Reloaded.
Backtracking to the late 90s, I've always loved Deadlands, an RPG setting that encompasses Doomtown, which was a short-lived CCG that held my interest prior to getting into L5R. For other classic players’ references, my favorite was Sioux straight flush degenerators. I also built super units, trying to win via Curses and influence reducers. Second was Blackjacks, which could be compared to Mantis Kalani's Landing in L5r. While my fave Deadlands outfit was the Coalition, I only built that deck for the theme. For Reloaded, I love both Oddities of Nature and Sloane Gang; albeit the ‘control town square’ lacks an L5R analog.
So in a way I find myself asking, "what about L5R appeals to you, as a Doomtown player?" Both answers can be broken down to three similarities: Story, Community, and Mechanics.
When one asks L5R players what drew them to the game, they usually respond with “the story.” Unlike any other CCG, players could earn the ability to shape the story of Rokugan through playing in Koteis, Winter Courts, and Store Level events. This separated L5R from every other game in the last 20 years. Doomtown Reloaded’s initial fictions first reintroduced a few surviving characters from Deadlands: Doomtown’s apocalyptic Storm, and followed up with the formation of new factions that vie to control the town of Gomorra. Events got real and grabbed my attention with Election Day Slaughter’s eponymous action card from Reloaded’s third expansion serving notice of big events taking place in Gomorra. New fictions in the rulebooks and on the AEG website continue to tell the story behind the cards, including “Meet the New Boss,” with its shocking reveal of Gomorra’s new mayor. At this year’st Gencon, players had their first chance to affect the storyline, represented by the card “A Fight They’ll Never Forget.’ Through the 4 qualifier events, players voted on which characters would live and die. Every player had the opportunity to vote, not just the winners, which shaped the subsequent stories of The Fourth Ring going after the Morgan Cattle Company ranch and the fight between the Law Dogs and the Sloane Gang. I personally found this pretty exciting while playing in the main event, and it reminded me of what was great about L5R.
What really kept me around in L5R was how great the community is. The camaraderie amongst the players and passion they have for the game has no equal. Doomtown’s Facebook group has added over 1,200 players since Reloaded’s launch (compared to classic). At Gencon this year, John Andrew hosted the Thursday night Hogkillin’ event of Bicycle Multiplayer. Last year, the Gazette had a social gathering after the inaugural tournament for the community. While the game is still relatively new, the ‘Sheriff’ events this year (similar to Koteis) gave players unable to attend Gencon the chance to win alternate art cards, pop out wooden outfits, tins, and play mats. I attended four Doomtown: Reloaded Sheriff events this year, and like Koteis, a group of us went out after (for anyone who knows me, that almost always means a trip to a brewery). Like L5R, AEG actively reaches out to the community. The Design/Rules/Story Team and playtesters continually take feedback from the community and use this to shape the tournament scene and storyline for years to come.
Rokugan veterans can appreciate similarities between L5R and Reloaded. Like Clans, there are currently six Factions: Fourth Ring, the Sloane Gang, Law Dogs, Morgan Cattle Company, 108 Righteous Bandits, and The Eagle Wardens These six factions keep the game balanced, while a total of thirteen alternate outfit cards (and more on the way) allow for variety within the game. Similar to L5R, Doomtown plays like a board game. Besides winning shootouts, Doomtown players need to control the board. Movement is key, and the game plays much like chess in a lot of ways. Determining whether you want to get into a shootout, and the position that leaves you in afterwards parallels an L5R player’s decision as to whether or not to declare an attack.
Since the release of the game, I draw in new players by explaining what factions and play styles had L5R analogs. For instance, Crane Honor players may gravitate towards a ‘Dudes and Deeds,’ deck, in which you try and avoid fights while flooding the board with deeds to gain control points. Lion Blitz players may prefer Sloane, who aim to control town square and gain control points on their dudes quickly. Dishonor players may like the concept of Law Dogs, in which you make people ‘Wanted’ and punish them for it. Many aspects of Fourth Rings appeal to control players while their spells may attract Phoenix shugenja players. Like comparing Force, battles are won through comparing poker hand ranks. Those poker suits are also similar to L5R: Spades are Dudes (personalities), Hearts are good and spells (attachments), Diamonds are Deeds (holdings), and Clubs are Actions (Strategies). AEG has provided online links to the rulebook, along with the guided tutorial that comes in the base set.
I leave you with some comments from my L5R teammates on Dynasty that reflect their thoughts about Doomtown: Reloaded:
"The combat mechanics are simple and intuitive (everyone's heard of poker hands even if they've not actually played the game) but the game itself is surprisingly deep - it's common for player mistakes to determine the outcome of a game.
I was demoing it last weekend, and had a great game against a totally new player. That combination of accessibility and depth is great. And deck building has even more flexibility and options than L5R."
"A lot of people don't focus on the movement game and therefore lose. That's what I like about it. It's not just a deck builder and best deck wins."
"I have always liked rigid deck construction rules in games. I greatly enjoy how suit/value allows for the printing of potentially niche-y yet ridiculous cards (lookin' at you, fives, eights, and tens) and, though it pains my shriveled Rokugani heart to say it, the marriage of flavor and mechanics in DT:R is worlds beyond L5R."