Here is a companion post that will go along with The Gunslinger's Path. It's an old post, but it has some things to consider regarding land slide and making hard reads!
In any game, you’ll make what are generally referred to as “reads.” A read is an educated guess made in anticipation of future actions based on what your opponent has shown and done so far. A read should be more informed than a pure “guess,” but is not a “reaction,” which is when your opponent has fully performed an action that you can then perfectly respond to. The goal of a good read is to preemptively thwart your opponent’s actions to your benefit. You’ll find reads in any game, whether it be Street Fighter, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Windjammers, Magic: The Gathering, Chess, Agricola, or even Rock Paper Scissors. Making successful reads is usually one of the main distinguishers between average players and good players (and even between good and great players).
In Doomtown: Reloaded, one of the key aspects of the game is making what I call “The Hard Read.” The hard read is different from a typical read in that it is a full commitment to thwart something and gain the upper hand. When you make a hard read, you are committing to thwarting a strategy using the entirety of your deck’s tools, and deciding you’ll wing it from there should the situation change. Unlike smaller “reads” which tend to be less committal, a hard read is all in. You will generally have to make a hard read at some point in the game against any deck type in order to gain the upper hand.
One of the hardest reads (double entendre intended) you’ll make as a newer player is asking yourself, “Am I facing a (land)slide or not?” There are multiple reasons for this: 1) While “pure” landslide may work better out of certain outfits, there are a ton of creative ways to do slide out of many outfits. This means slide can technically be done out of any outfit. 2) You don’t have much time to make a hard read, as slide can get going very quickly. 3) You may not know your opponent (for example, at a tourney in a new meta).
In addition, landslide is the type of deck style that tries to hit a critical threshold of “pressure” on its opponent to win. If you thwart it early, you can really neutralize landslide, but if you give it enough breathing room, it can hit you very suddenly. Most games against landslide will be intensive with respect to the “chess” aspect of DTR, and may not have many shootouts. As a point of clarity, I’m going to talk about the more traditional “camping” style of landslide where an opponent sits at home, purchasing more dudes (for influence) & deeds and tries to overrun you through a slew of cheap deeds. Since this style is pretty well-known and straightforward, I think it makes a better discussion starting point for newer players as it hasn’t changed evolved much. There are more aggressive variations that have begun popping up, and I would encourage experienced players to provide their insights on the matter.
With all that said, I want to give newer players a couple of tips regarding landslide, and how they can make some educated guesses about when to pull the trigger and make the hard read that they are being slided.
FIrst, let’s cover outfits. Certain outfits are going to be better for sliding than others, but always keep in mind that any outfit can run a landslide strategy. The most obvious choice is the Morgan Cattle Company base outfit, with its ability to drop discounted deeds. The 108 Righteous Bandits base outfit, however, is equally adept at providing a slide player movement options which can be tough to counter. The Sloane Gang’s Protection Racket can be interesting, as the slide player can use Clementine Lepp at a Saloon to fulfill the outfit requirements and keep her relatively safe. This list is certainly not exhaustive, so you should always try to keep abreast of any sneaky slide tricks players can use.
Second, let’s cover starting gangs. In general, a slide player is looking to maximize upfront influence to “tank” the control points (CP) they are giving the other player. This is because a smart slide player knows the opposing player will take over as many deeds as quickly as possible, racking up their CP count. The goal of a slide player is to tank that initial burst of CP, then drown their opponent in further CP as they become powerless to stem the tide. In addition, be cognizant of both your starting upkeep and your opponent’s starting upkeep. If your opponent has 0 starting upkeep, it should be a tip that they are looking to maximize income. If you overload your posse with upkeep, it’s going to be very difficult to generate income to purchase the things you’ll need over the course of the game.
Third, let’s cover lowball. A slide player thrives on dominating lowball with a weak draw structure. This is important because if a slide player is winning lowball 100% of the time against you, they effectively have an outfit with 4 production, and you will have an outfit with 2 production. This means that you will have to be very careful with your resources and not make frivolous purchases. Make sure when testing a deck that you consider how well it handles only making 2 ghost rock from your outfit for the entire game.
Based on what’ve I’ve talked about above, let’s list some key things to consider to set yourself up for success:
- If you see an outfit that is very good at landslide, consider changing your starting gang to consist of dudes with no upkeep and at least 1 influence so you can “choke off” as many deeds as possible. Certain dudes are invaluable against landslide, such as Hiram Capatch for 108, who can help your 0 influence dudes choke off ghost rock production to starve a landslide deck. While this may put you in a weaker shooting position, landslide tends to be something you need to commit against early.
- If you see an opposing starting gang overloaded with influence, especially with very little consideration towards shooting, be wary. Dudes like Androcles Brocklehurst are very potent for landslide. A good general threshold is if the starting gang has 6 or more influence, be very cautious.
- This is probably the most overlooked part of making the hard read against landslide, but reading your opponent’s lowball hand is one of the most key things you can do. Let’s go a little further into this:
1) First, make sure to count the number of deeds in your opponent’s lowball hand. Most “normal” decks aren’t going to run an abundance of deeds, and if your opponent is pulling 3 or more deeds in their first lowball hand, that could be an indication of something fishy.
2) Second, also look at the stats of the deeds. If you see only (or a majority of) 2/1/1 deeds (meaning 2 cost deeds with 1 production and 1 control point), alarm bells should start going off. If you see three or more 2/1/1 deeds, you should question why someone would run that.
3) Third, as an extension to the above, really look at everything in your opponent’s lowball hand. For example, if you see actions like Rumors, or dudes with massive influence, be wary. Another good tip-offs include a complete lack of hearts, running “The Evidence” (to counter Fred Aims), or an abundance of cheap Attire to pump influence.
4) Fourth, consider your opponent’s lowball hand rank. If the opposing player shows a high card, or even a pair, that should be suspect. Most decks that are aggressive or capable of shooting generally make solid hand ranks in lowball (usually a 3 of a kind or two pair). If you see a really weak hand rank, keep that in mind. Additionally, if your opponent pulls a flush of diamonds in lowball (rare, but it does happen), it’s pretty much a dead give away.
5) As a note, lowball hands are public information. It’s perfectly good form to ask your opponent to clearly display all their lowball cards so you can look at all of them. I would recommend showing all your cards cleanly, and to think about what your own lowball hands are giving away in terms of information.
One major caveat is that you’ll never be able to make the “perfect” read 100% of the time. Sometimes, your opponent’s deck with only 8 deeds will have 4 show up in a lowball hand, or maybe their deck is designed to start with high influence for other reasons. It’s unfortunately more of an art than a sceince, but it’s still important to try and hone this skill, as it will really help you in any game you play, not just DTR. Reading your opponent’s deck is equally as critical as playing your own deck properly!
Alright, this will hopefully give you some insights about why reading an opponent's deck is important and how to think about it!
Cheers and I hope that helps!