Design, Semantics, and the Problem of 108 Worldly Desires & Companhurst's

Originally published at:
With the preview of Companhurt’s for Ghost Town (which is a Core deed for 108 that says you are considered to have the least rock among players in cases of ties), and the subsequent revelation to many players of how the 108 Worldly Desires works in a tie (unlike other 108 cards, the outfit in particular actually already works when tied), there has been, so to say, a bit of a ruckus. The phrase in question on 108 Worldly Desires causing the hullabaloo is this:

“if you have the lowest ghost rock among all players”

This phrasing is proving to be non-intuitive for many players in the case of a tie, and the reasons for this disconnect in denotation and connotation are outlined below:
1) “The” is used to denote specificity, and often to connote unique specificity; while “the” can refer to one or more of something, we often use “the” vs. “a” to specify between a singular item and an item that is but one among many. For example:


“a car” vs. “the car”


We expect “a car” to be any car, and “the car” to be a specific, singular car.


2) “You have” is non-intuitive in that it is used to refer to the singular in Doomtown, whereas you can meet this requirement while being part of a plurality, i.e. by not truly being singular in having the lowest, but part of a collective number of players each having the lowest (i.e. you could say in that situation “we each have the lowest”).


NB: While “you have” could be plural from a grammatical stance, within the context of Doomtown, it always refers to the singular controller of a card. It cannot be plural because a card can only be controlled by one player at a time; there is no joint controllership.

When you combine the connoted uniquely singular nature of both “the lowest” and “you have,” it gives the effect of this being an instance where it is checking that you, and you alone, have the lowest ghost rock against the comparative “all players.”

Thus, when you are at a tie, and the card does not specify “if you have the lowest ghost rock, or are tied for the lowest ghost rock, among all players,” it can very much be read by players that you do not meet this qualification in a tie, because, if in the case of a tie you were to declare at the table, “I have the lowest ghost rock,” it would not seem incorrect for another player to correct you with the statement, “No, we each have the lowest ghost rock.”

However, it is true that these are not truly mutually exclusive, and from particular angles of denotation, the ruling is not incorrect. It is, however, entirely non-intuitive for many players, and thus is a failure in accurate design, because the English language usually connotes that when you declare you are “the” lowest or highest of something, you are not tied for it.

And then, to add to the game a deed (Companhurst’s) that, to many players, appears to be addressing the tie situation for this outfit (and thus the deed’s mere existence implying to those players that “having the lowest” would not normally apply in a tie for the outfit), but to have that deed in fact be entirely redundant to the outfit in a tie, is again non-intuitive, and a further obfuscation. It can easily lead to disappointment and confusion when players not “in the know” have decided to start with Companhurt’s for 108 Worldly Desires, especially when they wouldn’t have started the deed otherwise.


Actually, this deed enables other cards that clearly do not work in case of ties: Shizeng Lu (“While your stash has less ghost rock than each other player”) and Natalya (“if you have less ghost rock in your stash than each other player”). I agree with you that 108 Worldly Desires could have been worded better (“If no other player has less ghost rock in their stash than you”, for instance). But I’m not convinced there will be that much disappointment: Companhurst is a saloon and Forster is just going to love it.


But are you REALLY giving up starting 6 people so you can start a saloon? Cut your starting rock from 19 to 16? I mean, I just don’t see it being worth it personally.

You do cut your starting rock by 3, yes, but you also gain one production, which can be huge in decks that start a lot of upkeep (like mine).

I don’t think it’s something I’m personally going to start for a bit…but I feel like there might be a good deck idea lurking for it.

If you start Companhurst’s and Clementine, that’s 6 Ghost rock for 2 influence that’ll be safe from most shootouts and +1 production. Not too bad. You can still afford a decent starting posse with what you have left over.

yep, working on a 108th slide deck that takes advantage of this.

It really is extremely unintuitive and unnecessarily confusing.

How hard is it to simply state, clearly, one of 2 states:

  1. You have the lowest GR among all players
  2. You have the lowest GR among all players, or are tied for the lowest

Done. No confusion at all. Why does it have to be so hard?