Busting makes me feel good. A guide to breaking the Spirit Fortress

Originally published at: http://gomorragazette.com/2016/01/08/busting-makes-me-feel-good-a-guide-to-breaking-the-spirit-fortress/
by Dan Knight

It appears that the Spirit Fortress has arrived and is causing a headache. This week’s “How To Beat” request comes from David Orange of the Maze - aged 54 and loose change. He writes:

“Dear Dan, I recently had my arse handed to me by this fun-sucking, slow torture of an NPE (negative play experience), what am I doing wrong?”

Well David, let’s see if I can set you straight.

Spirit Fortress is a very strong example of a “Turtle” deck. Turtling has been around for as long as there have been card games. The basic premise is to stack a load of defensive cards and hide behind them (Like a turtle hiding in its shell,we gamers are a very literal bunch).

Turtle decks are essentially gear checks. Unlike slide, where general strategy can get you the win, to really break a turtle open you’re going to need specific cards. If you don’t run those cards, your win potential plummets. This isn’t to say you can’t break the fortress without them, it’s just a lot lot harder to do so.

Occasionally players whine “why should I be forced to pack a silver bullet card in order to win?” with regards to gear checks. This argument doesn’t really track well in Doomtown: Reloaded as the gear check can be met quite easily with numerous cards, none of which are considered silver bullets. A silver bullet card is a card with one specific design principle in mind,e.g. a very narrow single ability card with a sole purpose to stop another card or keep a strategy from working. A theoretical example would be a card with the ability of “Noon, Boot: Discard all copies of Paralysis Mark from play”. None of the cards that you use for bunker busting are that narrow (in fact there is no card in Doomtown:Reloaded with that level of specificity) and they are already useful in the decks they would normally be found in.

Gear Checks are also good for a changing meta. We’d be playing a pretty boring game if players didn’t need to change up the cards in their decks or alter strategies every now and then.

What Exactly is Spirit Fortress?

A typical Spirit Fortress deck is run out of the Eagle Wardens - Beyond The Veil outfit. Typical cards include 4 each of Red Horse’s Tail and Fire of Nanahbozo, along with at least 3 each of Nicodemus Whateley and Whateley Estate. It tries to win by stacking up totems on a single deed (usually Whateley Estate), hiding all of its dudes at that location, and then drops Nico for the win.

Here is a closer look at the typical Spirit Fortress cards:

Beyond The Veil: Provides 1 Influence to every dude that player controls at a deed with a totem. If the Fortress starts 5 dudes with at least 5 total influence, that doubles to 10 when they all hide. Add in a couple of Ancestor Spirits or later game dude drops beyond the initial starting posse and it can easily top 15+ Influence. This is how the deck stays in the game, even against Slide.

Red Horse’s Tail: The first totem that fuels the outfit. It has a phenomenally good send home effect in shootouts that targets grit. Unlike most other send home effects in the game, this is useable every turn, making shootouts a headache.

Fire of Nanahbozo: Another Totem that triggers the influence from the Outfit card and a very nice Shaman skill increase. This boost is extremely useful as it allows Red Horse’s Tail to consistently hit higher grit dudes.

The Whateley Estate: This deed is the most desirable for building the fortress. It forces opponents to boot when moving there, making it harder to start a fight. While Red Horse’s Tail can also boot dudes, The Whateley Estate means that they don’t have to use the Tail and they can instead use that totem for its send home ability.

Nicodemus Whateley: This is the win condition card for Fortress decks. Having 15 influence is all well and good, but it’s not going to win any games, as they need control points. Nicodemus allows a Fortress deck to gain handfuls of CP (usually 7or 8 in a single turn).

There are other cards you’ll see that help reinforce the above-mentioned cards. Flight of the Lepus for example sends home Cheaters. Pack Awakens / Many Speak As One to make some tokens in case a shootout does break out that they can’t avoid. The former even gives the token the Harrowed keyword to sop up even more bullets. However the above 4 cards are the key pieces the Spirit Fortress relies upon to win.

General Strategy:

I’m only going to cover some simple tips here and things to look out for as beating the fortress is more about the cards you use.

Occupy Fort Street: As soon as you see your opponent starting to build their fortress pile your dudes in there. This is not as easy as it sounds, since if you aggressively go after one deed, the Fortress player can just drop another and start building again. This isn’t necessarily bad, but will depend entirely on what totems have been played and where. If you can force them to split the Tails you limit how much send home they can bring to bear at any given deed.

Take care with your own deeds: There is no reason why the Fortress deck cannot use one of your deeds to start building. Where possible, try and limit yourself to only the most essential deeds. Try and stick to out of town cash like Jackson’s Strike or somewhere that’s easy to defend. You don’t need to rush control points out as the Spirit Fortress is a slow deck, so you can take your time to build up.

The Gear Check:

Here we go then. This list is by no means complete, it’s just a collection of cards that do the job.

QUATERMAN: Man, I love this little guy. He can’t be moved by card effects making him immune to Red Horse’s Tail and any other send home the Fortress might have. He also can’t be booted by cards, so he is the ideal candidate for walking into the Whateley Estate to kick arse and take names.

Dumbstruck: A noon play that prevents opposing abilities from moving or booting a dude. Sadly, it doesn’t stop The Whateley Estate from booting dudes as it only prevents abilities, and not traits.

Scoop Hound: Yet another movement prevention. You need to win lowball for this one as it’s a shootout play. She is also a sidekick and prevents dudes joining a posse too.

Sword of the Spirit: Super buff a dude with a melee weapon and make them immune to opposing spells… including totems.

Pinto: If you do get sent home, just move yourself back in.

Personal Ornithopter: Ditto, but slightly harder to play as it’s a gadget. It does, however, provide you with your own shootout avoidance.

A Slight Modification: If you’re going gadgets this is an easy include. Simply cancel the totem.

Morgan Stables: Combine this with either of the above horses and not only can you move your dude back into the fight, but depending on your build you can take an immediate action before they use another Horse Tail.

Rope and Ride: Staying with the Horse theme, this little gem lets you drag your target out of the Fortress. If they want to defend their compadre, they have to boot and move after him and by the way, also vacating the Fortress.

Flight of the Lepus: Used in lowball, it kicks up to three opposing dudes out of the fortress - super helpful if they are building on your deed as you can move in and get ready for their return.

Any Shaman: An interesting thing to note about totems is that any Shaman can use them. If you are also playing Eagle Wardens, you can simply use their own Red Horse’s Tails against them. You also get the skill benefit from their Fires of Nanahbozo as it buffs all Shamans.

Paralysis Mark / Leon: In order to play a totem on a deed, they have to have an unbooted Shaman at that location. Keep them booted and they can’t play totems.

Spot Removal: There are not many problems in Doomtown:Reloaded that can’t be solved with a Kidnappin’. Before Nicodemus gets to the Fortress, he enters play at home. Just hold a removal card until he arrives and you can quickly eliminate him. The Fortress deed is probably adjacent to their home and they can come back to defend him. It means, however, leaving the Fortress and all of their totems behind.

Phantasm: Another way to mess with Nicodemus. If you send him home via Phantasm, he loses all of his control points.

Plasma Drill: I haven’t had a chance to test this one yet, but I’m putting it here as it’s certainly at least worth considering. While The Whateley Estate is a bad target for it, if they have to build the fortress on a deed with production, a well timed plasma drill can destroy the entire Fortress with a single Noon action.

Blight Serum: This is an interesting one. If you can force them out of the fortress, dropping Blight Serums on it is highly entertaining as they can’t move back in.

Tummy Twister: This is another interesting option. You need to see them early on to be useful and before they start playing too many deeds. But you can use them to keep them out of locations by threatening to increase their upkeep.

Deliberate Infection: Similar to Tummy Twister, if you catch them cheating in lowball, you can put some economic pressure on them.

Abram Grothe (yes the Core Set one): I kinda feel sorry for Core Abram. He has this amazing Holy Ground based ability that is nearly impossible to use in a Law Dogs deck. But wait, Fire of Nanahbozo has the most amazing line ever. “This deed gains the Holy Ground keyword”. This is difficult to pull off as their dudes need to be wanted and then you need to avoid the Red Horse’s Tails. That said, you can wipe out every opposing dude in one play if done right. This isn’t the most efficient way of meeting the gear check, but Abram needs some love :slight_smile:

As I mentioned above, this list is by no means definitive and there are lots of other options out there. I do hope that it provides you with enough choices for a variety of decks out of each faction.

Sample Deck:

Here’s a sample Horsey deck that should fare well against the Fortress:

Morgan Stables (18 Wealth, +3 Production)
Starting 4 + 2 Influence, 2 draw Bullets, 5 GR, 2 Income

♠ Dudes (15)

1x A Irving Patterson (S) 1x A Jake Smiley (S) 1x A William Specks (S) 1x 3 Funtime Freddy 1x 3 Mazatl 1x 3 Ramiro Mendoza 1x 5 Travis Moone (S) 1x 6 "Lucky" Sky Borne 1x 6 Dr. Arden Gillman 1x 7 Androcles Brocklehurst 1x 7 Nathan Shane 1x 8 Jon Longstride (S) 1x 9 Jarrett Blake 1x J Warren Graves 1x K Lillian Morgan (Exp.1)

♣ Actions (12)

4x 3 Rope and Ride 4x 6 Horse Wranglin' 4x 7 Run 'em Down!

♦ Deeds (10)

1x 3 Hustings 2x 3 Yan Li's Tailoring 1x 6 Flint's Amusements 1x 6 Killer Bunnies Casino 1x 6 The R&D Ranch 1x 7 Blake Ranch 1x 7 Cattle Market 1x 7 Maza Gang Hideout 1x 7 Quarantine Tent

♥ Goods (15)

4x 3 Shotgun 4x 6 Roan 4x 7 Pinto 3x 9 Stone Idol

Jokers (2)

1x Joker (black) 1x Joker (red)

I’ve opted to go for Shotgun abuse out of the Stables. After moving into a fight, use the Stable’s ability to kill a guy before they can Horse’s Tail the dude home. The deck starts 2 guys with 2 bullets and the sneaky 3 copies of Stone Idol means reliably killing value 5 or lower dudes ( e.g. most of the Fortress starting posse).

Mazatl is a cheeky little addition that uses his ability to move to a totem to get into the Fortress from anywhere even while booted, and since he’s a shaman he can also use the totems when he’s there.

Specks is a great starter in any deck that plays out Ranches as he lowers their cost by 2. Since we’re running loads of Ranches and Horses, we may as well add in Lillian to tutor out actions from the discard pile if necessary.

We have an effective 12 horses with 8 actual ponies and 4 Horse Wranglin’. The discount from the outfit offsets Wranglin’s cost, made even better when Diamond Lil arrives in town.

I went for Run ‘Em Down as the Nico killer. In a Horse deck, it essentially fulfils the same role as Kidnappin’ on the same value. Keep some Horses in town square, then hit Nico with this as soon as he arrives for an irrefusable shootout. It’s not a job, so you don’t go home when it finishes, and you don’t need to be unbooted to use it. You can also move booted dudes with it. In a Horse deck it’s a lot better than a dedicated removal card.

Quarantine Tent is almost an auto include with this Outfit, since we’re on 7s anyway, letting us use it twice - amazing if we get a pair of Shotties on the table.
Arden is a little hit and miss with his ability, as we have a fair few spades and quite a few 3s so he won’t always fire. Even so, he’s not there to be a 100% success, he’s just there as a plan B. Plus he fits the deck’s draw structure.


I don’t have the slightest clue what you just said, but I LOVE it, Dan.

What a well thought out and comprehensive rundown. This site needs more of this kind of material.


Agreed! Also, Spirit Fortress needs to be the name of the next Warden Outfit.

1 Like