If Laughing Crow Liberated the Townsquare

I suppose half of my topics are created to rant and rave. If you can, please take my silence on all other topics as nothing less than complete satisfaction for the general direction the designers have taken my favorite game (Doomtown) in it’s current incarnation (Reloaded) - not only in keeping the “feel” of the original but also working out 99% of the bugs to create nothing more than the best LCG on the market (if’n sheer “popularity,” for what it’s worth, is the only index excluded from what constitutes “best”).

That said, I have been trying to find a use for Laughing Crow since she came out of Immovable Object Unstoppable Force. Has anyone here been able to include her in a deck in a meaningful way? Or, is everybody using Nicodemus Whateley in her stead because he synergizes so well with the mechanics that has become the Fortress archetype.

So I ask, What if:

What if, instead of Harry Highbender (A simple outlaw!) being the only way to get a Totem onto Townsquare, if instead Laughing Crow’s ability (the “you may attach any revealed Spirits, paying all costs” part) allowed you to do just that: play a Totem onto the Townsquare. If this were possible, her ability would synergize with Chief Stephen Seven-Eagles, as she would be able to play an important set-up role by securing Townsquare with protective wards for the Chief to make a bid for the game in a thematic fashion.

I think this would be cool not just for gamestory reasons (many many gamestory reasons…). Mechanically, I can make five arguments on how this would be a positive development.

  1. Interactivity
    It plays into the fundamental axiom that differentiates Reloaded from it’s predecessor: directly and intentionally incentivizing action in the Townsquare.

  2. Parallelism
    It would align with the recent change to Gadgets that the Mad Scientist still has to boot as a cost but may “play” or “attach” (via card effect) without having to necessarily control the location: similarly, the Shaman would still have to be unbooted as a cost in order to “play” or “attach” (via card effect) a Totem without having to necessarily control the location.

  3. Strategic Choices
    Players looking to utilize the Townsquare with the Crow and the Chief to build a win condition would have to decide between playing the Totem for defense or for offense: The Chief’s ability reads “While at the town square, Chief Stephen is worth 1 control point for each card attached to deeds you control” - and so: Totems attached to deeds = Control while Totems attached to Townsquare = Defense. Can’t have it both ways.

  4. Archetype Diversification
    Simply put, this would create a duality with respect to deck-making. Those who want to pilot a “light side” win condition could utilize Laughing Crow and those who want to pilot a “dark side” win condition could (continue to) utilize Nic.

  5. Coaster Prevention
    Laughing Crow costs 5 and has an upkeep of 3. For what her ability currently does, she seems overcosted, and, as a result, unless somebody can show me otherwise, ends up being excluded from Eagle Warden decks more often than not. Despite having a fair share of quotes and seeming to be a major player for the outfit in terms of the story!

So there you have it, my 2 GR.


Story-wise it sounds thematic and fun. Mechanics-wise it sounds like an absolute nightmare. Over the weekend I had the severe displeasure of playing both with and against a spirit fortress deck just because I had never done either before and I wanted the experience. What a terrible (but eye-opening) experience it was! Every time the spirit fortress deck won it felt like it had somehow cheated victory. Not fun…

Knowing how powerful totems can be, letting them attach to the TS without major effort (IE: Highbinder), sounds almost as bad. It’s not quite as bad, because if you are using the Chief as a win condition then at least you can move unbooted to the location and start a fight (along with what else you detailed, with totems having to be at deeds as well). But it still sounds awful. Totems are simply too powerful.

And if we look at recent tournaments, the Eagle Wardens (both homes) and 108 have been a majority of the top 8 decks. This would just push them more toward that trend. Imagine poor original Sloane vs a laughing crow/totem/TS deck…

Admittedly with 3 upkeep it would be tricky to get that deck going, but still. In the end, I’d take that over Spirit Fortress any day, though…

I really like Totems. Especially how the concept marries so elegantly to the mechanics!

But I think you mis-attribute the real power of Spirit Fortress - which is the Fortress itself. The archetype is strongest when applied to two deeds in particular which heavily dissuade immediate interaction - Maza and Whateley’s - by virtue of cheating adjacency and trivializing local movement rules (respectively) with their traits. Exploitatively even. But I would argue that attached to any other deed - or by extension any location that can be accessed by the opponent with unbooted dudes unbootedly - that they are much more tame because they are immediately contestable.

An original Sloane deck running against an Eagle Warden deck whose game plan was to attach Totems to the town square for victory would run similarly to most other match-ups: the deck that maintained control of the Townsquare would maintain control of the game state.

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Don’t get me wrong - I also really like the mechanics and the flavor of totems. But I think that only 1/3rd of the power of Spirit is because of the exploitative qualities of maza and whateleys. Those are nothing without the other 2/3rds - totems and Nicodemus himself. The deck usually doesn’t win unless it has all 3 going on. Tons of totems going on at both a maza and a whateleys estate? Who cares - they can have their 2 CP and good amount of influence and never really get anywhere. If spirit fortress wins, that win usually comes the turn that Nico is cast. The totems sometimes aren’t even used at all. On the chance they can get multiple unbooted guys to your deed and get through the horses tails, or on the chance they have a spot removal, they use those totems. But I think with most Spirit Fortress decks it’s a backup insurance plan… albeit an insanely powerful and reliable one. That’s why they do so well.

I completely disagree, though, that on any other deeds that they are somehow less potent. It usually tends to work the same way every time with totems - if you can get a couple or more totems on a location, it’s really hard to control that location. The key is either occupying those locations ASAP so they can’t get more than 1 or 2, or just choosing to stay away from that location. If that location were the town square? Well either you take the TS immediately and hold it off from any totem placements, or you’ll very very quickly come to a very difficult situation. Good luck winning by ‘just staying away’ from the town square.

Totems are just so different from actions that it would be hard to compare Sloane holding the TS to an EW shaman deck holding it. Imagine Sloane could take any SIYE’s or Pistol Whips from their hand, put it on the town square, then be granted access to play a copy of that card once a turn indefinitely. That’s what totems are, and that’s why they are so powerful. Sloane is limited to the cards in their hand. Over time, shaman are completely unlimited and can have 2 dozen totems on a location if they wish. Imagine casting one or two dozen action cards from your hand… every…single… turn. The reason they are not completely game-wrecking is because they are limited to deeds. Change that to the TS and you massively change the dynamic and the power balance. For the most part - you control the TS and you control the game.

I can imagine a specific totem whose text says ‘May attach to the town square’ - absolutely. It would be tailored for that, and balanced, but I can’t imagine the ones that exist doing that without the effort of finding, playing, and keeping Highbinder in the TS. That is a cost I’m currently comfortable with.

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Without Nic, all the Fortress can do is stall - he’s the key. Funnily enough, the Spirit Fortress deck I posted up on dtdb all came together following a game I was playing with a friend who had misunderstood totems when building an Eagle Wardens deck, and thought they could attach to the town square. After discovering his mistake he turtled at Cooke’s Nightcap and built all his totems there, waiting to get Nic out. I had Sister Mary with Dumbstruck who was able to walk in there and fight, ignoring the totems.

Seeing the strategy could work, after the game we brainstormed a deck around the idea. The Whateley Estate was the place to build for the opponent booting effect (Maza wasn’t out at the time). The deck was basically a Nic Bunkhouse rush, only Beyond the Veil made any deed a Bunkhouse so long as a totem was present. The totems made the location very difficult to effectively attack. It was an incredibly effective and annoying deck to play against, but as Beyond the Veil had been largely written off in online reviews I decided to post the deck to show what could be done with it. Someone picked up the idea and took it to an OP event and won, and Spirit Fortress became a thing.


Get out the pitchforks, folks!!! But yeah, I remember when you first posted that I originally thought it was a quirky, fun deck.

You know, there are many times that I wish Nico either didn’t exist, or better yet had a limit of 3 or 4 CPs like Doris Powell does. I don’t know, something like that. All I know is when someone wins via Nico it is never fun. Clown control, spirit fortress, nico bunkhouse rush… it always feels like you were cheated out of the game. They are all valid strategies and I can’t knock anyone who plays them, but that doesn’t stop how I feel playing against them.

EDIT: When I say clown control, I mean when they win via nico.

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Pr0digy, a lot of what you say about Totems being “extra daily free actions” applies as well to Hexes. Do you think, in comparing the two, that the trade-off between Mobility (Hexes) and Permanence (Totems) favors the latter over the former?

I’ve always thought there should be some sort of “Headline” rule for spells and/or attachments - for example Valeria Batten only being able to attach a single copy of Blood Curse and if the player wants to have a second copy they need a second Huckster. Such a rule would cut out some of the ridiculousness of attempting a siege upon a Fortress fortified by 5+ shootout Totems - thus forcing the Veil to have to contend with the movement rules (rather than cheat them) by spreading horizontally.

Back to topic, I think if Totems could attach via card effects to Townsquare, then I could see an original Sloane player (or really any player running the “default strategy”) making only as similar a strategic adjustment as they might make for a Slide match-up. After being able to identify the opposing strategy (and here I think seeing the Veil home would be sufficient), adjusting course by prioritizing control of Townsquare aggressively and early to prevent unbooted Shamans from getting an uncontested noon play there. In turn, the Veil player could respond by developing their own street and/or making real or feigned bids upon their opponent’s deeds - and what would ensue is a game very unlike how the current Spirit Fortress does it’s thing: ripe with daily movement and heated interaction.

An alternative, non-systematic approach would be to introduce a CP restriction a-la Doris Powell onto Nicodemus Whateley. Or add the word “non-token” to his ability. Or some other errata. But, I think issuing errata here would be more of a band-aid fix in this specific case.


Between hexes and totems, I am not sure there is any obvious favored one. Totems tend to be more powerful, so their limitations help to keep things balanced. The thing with Shamans, though, is that they can have the equivalent of both - spells (spirits) AND totems. That is another reason I’d see the ‘totems in town square’ idea as even more unbalanced. But as it stands things seem pretty well balanced.

I love that idea of a ‘headline’ type rule, ala uniqueness per dude, for spells and attachments. It would be interesting to see how that would play out.

And back on topic, we are often referencing the classic sloane town square control to the town square totems, but what about just about every other archetype? If you don’t have a deck that is 100% shootout ready turn one, it’s almost game over if the totem player slaps down totems on the town square turn 1. Gadgets, hucksters, blessed, and any other deck that takes a little time to build up will be at a severe disadvantage compared to simply going against the classic sloane town square campers.

I see it as a momentum issue. Original sloane town square campers have no real build up - they just immediately go to the town square and try to get control points and deny income from the opponents deeds turn 1. Other decks are slower to start out, but the longer the game goes the more powerful they get as they build up gadgets/spells/etc. Totems in the town square seem to potentially be the best of both worlds, instead of the typical trade off, where they could take the town square turn 1 (assuming they have totems/spirits in their opening hand) and then continue to become more powerful every turn. Although if it were Laughing Crow that allowed it, they would certainly have severe income issues so maybe it wouldn’t play out like that…