Originally published at: http://gomorragazette.com/2016/07/01/this-town-aint-big-enough-for-two-copies-of-that-alternative-play-formats-for-doomtown-reloaded/
by David Hogg
You’re probably aware by now of the sad news that after this October AEG won’t be producing any more expansions for Doomtown Reloaded. I still look forward to the remaining two saddlebags along with the last pine box, each offering new deck building possibilities. Likewise, there are still some current deck archetypes and themes that remain relatively unexplored. If like me, you’re sticking around in Gomorra, you might start worrying that eventually you’ll run out of viable ideas to play. Luckily alternative play formats or rules variants provide interesting ways to play Doomtown. Gencon this year features several Doomtown after hours events with funny-sounding names such as Bicycle, Derringer, and Doubles. I have taken part in quite a few multiplayer games, a recent Deputy event using Derringer rules, and also a Boot Hill event. So I figured I’d tell you folks about a few of the different ways that Doomtown can be played.
This isn’t an out-of-the- box idea, as the basic rulebook devoted a page to multiplayer and the standard rules generally work fine. Things get a lot more challenging and cutthroat when you have more outfits vying for control. Some strategies that work well one-on-one don’t fare so well when you have to fend off multiple opponents. Good luck holding on to the town square or successfully landsliding your way to victory! Fans of the chess and movement aspects of the game should definitely give multiplayer a go. Don’t try a huge game unless you’ve got an entire evening to spare. Simply adding a third player massively changes the dynamics of things.
Amassing more control than the total influence of all other players can take quite a while, so my local playgroup came up with a few house rules to speed the game along. In York we play with a victory points system. If a player has more control points than an opponent has influence, they get a victory point at Sundown. If you’re in a strong position you might claim multiple victory points each turn. Conversely, if one player has had a bad turn then multiple players might end up gaining victory points from them. The number of victory points needed to win equals the number of players minus one. Other groups play with elimination where having less influence than another player’s control points at Sundown eliminates that player from the game (and also removing all of their cards from play). Other house rules we’ve tried include limiting the ghost rock gained from winning lowball and switching the order of play each turn (there was a period when one player was playing a near-bicycle deck and often won lowball, so the turn order was nearly always the same). Give it a go, and if you encounter problems you can always tweak things so that they work for you.
Named so after the playing card manufacturer, a Bicycle deck has to be poker legal, i.e. you must have one copy of each value for each suit. Also called Highlander, 'coz there can be only one. Jokers are still allowed to increase your chances of getting a good hand. But in general, you’re looking at lower ranking draw hands, making lowball more open and shootouts more of a risk. This definitely shakes up your strategy as each deck begins on an equal footing, so which cards you include in your deck and choose put in to play has a far greater effect than they usually would. As each deck is poker legal, there’s not going to be any Cheatin’ going on unless someone plays Den of Thieves or packs Devil’s Jokers. By the way, as Jokers are ‘suitless’ and have a value of “Wild”, bicycle decks may run two Jokers. These can be the same or different types of Joker.
Also known as Highlander, this format isn’t as restrictive as Bicycle. You’re only allowed one copy of a card in your deck, but you’re not restricted by number of cards for a particular value aside from normal deck building rules. Double-Barrelled is a less restrictive variant of this, where you’re allowed two copies of a card. While Derringer still allows for familiar deck structures, it does mean that cards that don’t normally see play might get included to fill out the values. Once again you have to really think about the cards you include and how you’re going to use them. Otherwise you might end up with a hand full of cards that you just added to fill the gaps that don’t do anything helpful. It doesn’t really hurt landslide, but if your group doesn’t like playing that style of deck you can always agree not to.
One thing I noticed when building decks for the Deputy Event mentioned above was that there’s plenty of opportunity to cheat and far fewer Cheatin’ Resolutions around to punish it. This increased the value of anti-cheatin’ goods and dudes, so I included cards like LeMat Revolver and Quickdraw Handgun as off-values, as well as a copy of Signing Over the Stores to give me a better chance of getting them into play (along with other key goods). I also ran with Devil’s Jokers for the first time ever because of this. While Law Dogs don’t do so well in Bicycle, their anti-cheatin’ dudes put them in a good place for Derringer. Of the four games I played, the two that I lost were largely due to squaring off against Tommy Harden while my deck refused to give me good legal hands. The majority of players including myself had included a Shotgun and Legendary Holster in their deck. Reliable targeted dude removal seems like a good call for the format as your shootout actions are fewer and further between. With all the low value dudes in my deck, I was nearly undone by a Sloane huckster deck that got Puppet and Festering Grasp on Emilia Vivirias on the first turn!
This format prohibits decks from including dudes who have died in the story. Not a game to bring Law Dogs or The Fourth Ring to, but if you’re sick of Steven Wiles and Jake Smiley showing up everywhere or you cringe when Kyle Wagner sets up shop in the Memorial Ranch then give it a go. The 108 Righteous Bandits, Eagle Wardens, and Morgan Cattle Company currently have the best of it in this format. The remaining stories may change this. The Sloane Gang are also viable, although the loss of Makaio does limit some of their tricks.