Appeal of Prior Ruling/Anecdote: Hand Rank Modifications

I apologize in advance for this super long post.

In neither the official rulebook nor the text of the cards themselves can I find a basis for cards such as Cheatin’ Varmint to have a persistent, lingering effect on hand rank AFTER hand rank has been further modified by cards such as Bottom Dealin’ or Magical Distraction. Both of these cards use language that supports a complete erasure of all previous modifiers to the previous hand rank. Bottom Dealin’ tells you to “discard the cheatin’ player’s draw hand and REPLACE it.” Magical Distraction dictates that your draw hand rank “equals the value of your pull.”

There has been a ruling floating around that says that these effects only affect your “base hand rank,” but how is that to be intuited by any player not familiar with this ruling? The “How Long? How Big?” section of the official rulebook states taht “many card abilities resolve immediately and then are done.” I was unable to find any support in the rulebook for hand rank modifications such as Cheatin’ Varmint to persist beyond futher modification. The instructions simply say “lower a player’s draw hand rank by 2,” which would seem to follow the “resolve immediately and then [is] done” trope. However, there are a number of cards that do indeed escape the one-and-done trope. I’ve listed them below and capitalized the relevant portions.

Card texts that set a precedent for a persistent modifier (i.e. a rank modifier that occurs regardless of and in addition to any other changes in rank):
-Tommy Harden:If your opponent in Tommy’s shootout reveals a cheatin’ hand, raise your draw hand rank by 1 FOR THIS ROUND.
If your draw hand is also legal, raise your hand rank by 2 INSTEAD.
-Barton Everest: If you reveal a cheatin’ hand in Barton’s shootout, raise your draw hand rank by 1 FOR THIS ROUND.
-Calling the Cavalry: DURING THIS ROUND’S RESOLUTION, both players gain +1 hand rank for each Horse in their posse.
-Inner Struggle: WHILE THIS CARD IS BOOTED, reduce your shootout hand rank by 1.
-Putting the Pieces Together: WHILE THIS CARD IS UNBOOTED, increase your shootout hand rank by 1; IF NOT, decrease it by 1.

These cards explicitly state the duration and conditions of their modification. Regardless of adjustments up or down, we know that Inner Struggle will always decrease the player’s hand rank by 1 as long as the card is booted. The established rules of cards’ traits says that a trait is always on and active, therefore, we know Barton and Tommy will always modify a player’s hand rank no matter how it is adjusted during the shootout as long as their conditions are met. The cards below do not have any such conditions. They do not contain trait text nor do they mention a duration. They are all abilities. Any player reading the rulebook and the cards would come to the conclusion that once these abilities trigger, they are spent and their effects are (and should be) vulnerable to further modification even to the point of being completely negated by subsequent plays.

Card texts that DO NOT support the idea of a persistent hand rank modifier:
-Bottom Dealin’: Discard the cheatin’ player’s draw hand and replace it with the top five cards of your deck…
-Cheatin’ Varmint:
Resolution: Pay 5 ghost rock to lower a player’s draw hand by 2 ranks.
Cheatin’ Resolution: Lower a player’s draw hand by 2 ranks.
-Magical Distraction: Your draw hand rank equals the value of your pull (to a maximum rank of 11).
-Hex Slingin’: Discard a Hex from your dude in this posse to raise your draw hand rank by 2.
-Outgunned: If your posse has a higher total bullet rating than the opposing posse, boot your shooter to increase your hand rank by two.
-It’s Not What You Know:
Resolution: Lower a player’s draw hand by 1 rank.
Cheatin’ Resolution: Lower a player’s draw hand by 4 ranks.

I love this game and I only want to make it better. Part of that is making rules that are clear and easy to intuit based on a logical reading. I argue that the current ruling allowing card effects such as Cheatin’ Varmint to persist AFTER cards such as Bottom Dealin’ or Magical Distraction have been played has no textual basis. It makes the game significantly harder to teach to new players and restricts tournaments and official play only to the “Doomtown Elite” who have extensive knowledge of all rules forums present and past. If we want to increase the player pool, I don’t feel that is the direction we should move.

I am also aware that templating for this game hasn’t always been perfect so if the interpretation presented here conflicts with the intent of the design then maybe multiple errata of the unclear cards or an official rules edit/clarification is needed. I feel this ruling is too large to be relegated to a rules forum or FAQ.


Thank you Ducky for your passion and interest in Doomtown! Your concern on clarification has been relayed to Rules Team for response.

Per RT:

After resolution, hand ranks are a culmination of what the five revealed cards count for and any modifiers to that hand. So,

Final Hand Rank = revealed hand + modifiers

Let’s say you revealed a cheatin full house.

Your hand rank is currently 7

Final HR (7) = revealed hand (7) + modifiers (0)

You get hit by a hand reduction (the paid version of cheating varmint.

Final HR (5) = revealed hand (7) + modifiers (-2)

Your opponent decides that isnt enough to get the desired result. (Maybe he wants another dude aced)

He plays a cheatin res (since we used the paid version of varmint before, he hasnt used his cheatin res opportunity). He hits you with bottom dealin and you get a two pair (3)

Final HR (1) = revealed hand (3) + modifiers (-2)

This is because the hand rank that matters for casualties is always the sum of the five cards on the table PLUS the modifiers used by either player. The hand rank modifiers last for that round of the shootout, unless otherwise written on the card.

We are currently working on updating the various resource documents (rulebook, errata, faq, etc) and will ensure there is clarity regarding this topic.