Jake Smiley is a crutch

This isn’t a knock on anyone’s decks, if anything it’s more so one on Design, but I really dislike how much of a crutch Jake Smiley appears to be.

Just give some reasonably priced/startable dudes with adequate influence plzkthxbai.

Some factions are just not meant to have that cheap influence. Them’s the breaks :wink:

That’s a terrible rationale when it’s a core mechanic of the game. Plus we do have cheap psuedo-influence anyway in this crutch, so it’s not even a particularly meaningful faction trait. All it does is shoehorn him as a must-have into many starts, which is boring and unimaginative from a deck-building perspective.

I’m not even talking about generally cheap influence. But enough influence on dudes needed for standard strategies of the faction that they can be started and not put yourself at a huge early game risk.

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Jake Smiley is there exactly when you want to do something weird or interesting and you run out of GR to pay for normal influence. Not all decks need him, but he’s there for those that do. It’s exactly because he’s only “pseudo-inluence” that he’s this affordable.


I think he’s a crutch, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad for the game. He opens up a ton of possibilities and make tons of decks way more playable by existing.

I mean, could you imagine how many cool decks couldn’t exist without Jake? Or how similar starting posses within a faction would be to make sure you don’t just lose to Slide on turn two?


That’s bad design, IMO. It would be much better to allow for such exciting and varied starts without needing such a mandatory dude to make them “work”.

You are basically asking for an alternative to Jake Smiley, right? But if we had one, we could play both, or several. You sure this wouldn’t cause a balance issue?

Like, five 3-cost 1-influence dudes, some have 2 infl, some are studs, some have skills, and some have other useful abilities - a posse to dream of!

Ok, Smiley is a solution for those decks who can’t put on the field 3 or 4 influence. But for 2 gold he is also a way for those decks that doesn’t need him to gain 2 influence.

In my opinion sometimes he feels more like an stalling mechanism than a solution to a problem, more than a way to not to lose than for winning the game. Also him having a card blocks alternatives to solve the problem because he is there already.

That needs to be evaluated on a card-by-card basis. Smiley doesn’t inherently promote balance in any way, shape, or form. He only promotes the appearance of balance due to lack of competition for what he offers. I.E. He standardizes starts, and we all know how well Chess is balanced.

Some of the most startable dudes across all of the factions came from the base set. The likes of Tommy Harden, Phil Swinford, Arnold McCadish, Irving Patterson, etc. None of them have broken the game. Additionally most of them still see fairly common starts because they have little competition for what they offer.

Phil is a prime example. 3/0 for a 1 draw, 1 influence, with a relatively bad trait is nothing game breaking. Why does he see play? Not because he’s a compelling and fun starter, but because LD influence is expensive and LD Outfit economy is the weakest amongst the factions.

Just for giggles consider something like a 4/0 with 1 draw, 1 influence, 0 skill (either Blessed or Mad Scientist), and with a similarly lowish value. Maybe with some kind of Zoe-like, thematic restriction on how they can use the skill (so that it’s not a no-brainer starter for decks running that skill type).

Would that break the game? Testing would be required, but probably not. Would it allow more varied starts/strategies without relying on a bland, vanilla placeholder-for-influence-dude? Yes. I get a compelling choice on starting a skilled dude to further my particular decktype or I can have a slightly cheaper non-skilled dude if I don’t need a skill that maybe will sometimes improve my hand quality. That’s an interesting choice.

My complaint is that Jake Smiley furthers the design paradigm of “bland is safe and balanced”. Sure. Maybe. But is it fun? I’d much rather Design pushed the boundaries with dudes and allowed a large variety of startable options.

Currently choosing which dudes I start is often a frustrating choice. I can’t start what I want, and not because I have (in my opinion) pie-in-the-sky ideals of what I want but you just literally can’t fit in key needs to make some decktypes work properly. That’s not good. The decision on who I should start should be an exciting choice, not a frustrating one.

Deck building is exciting right now, because we are starting to get lots of viable options across many different values. I feel starting dudes, particularly LD starting dudes in my own personal experience, have lagged behind the curve in that regard.

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I would agree. Some argue that Smiley is there to allow starts that can’t field enough influence. This fails to address that starts that can field enough influence just got a very cheap loss-blocker as well, he’s not just limited to the constrained starts.

If you don’t need the extra influence to reach a safe level, all you’re doing by adding smiley is providing you with a “lose less” dude instead of someone who can promote your win condition. It means you’re wasting either a skill slot, or a grifter slot, or just a better shooter like Isham. Sure you won’t lose easily, but if all you’re using smiley is as a cheap expendable dude, might as well start a cheap draw-shooter instead.

Only decks like landslide really want all the influence they can get their hands on. For the rest, going above 5 is usually a sacrifice they need to defend in some way.

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Wait what? Philip is one of the best starter dudes in the game, I’d rather drop Tommy than Phil. His trait wins games! A lot of games!


With the prevalence of heavy shooting decks it has been, in my experience, fairly uncommon to see an opponent cheat, myself not to cheat, and to have a card in my hand that I want to cycle. It’s pure luck on lowball when you most likely have a hand you’ll want to manipulate. In later turns I usually don’t have too many terrible cards in my hand that I want to mill for a random other one. YMMV

I can probably count on one hand the number of times his trait has been triggered and worth using in the last dozen games I played with him as a starter.

Well, my experience with him has been very, very, VERY different.

Fair enough, but a bit of a discussion for another thread on the merits of Phil. I used him purely for demonstration purposes.

Generally the argument for Jake seems to boil down to: “He lets starts/strategies that wouldn’t be viable without him have a chance to work.” My counter-argument is very simple: “Give those alternate strategies the tools they need to work, if that is the intent.” One may argue that Jake is that tool…but again I refer back to such adjectives as bland and unimaginative and boring.

Designers can’t foresee all strategies and wacky starts people might attempt. We do aim to provide tools to promote each faction’s core strategies though. Smiley is there for everything else, or for those we haven’t yet managed to develop adequately.


I think Jake was introduced to the game to make games last longer than a couple turns. He’s good at what he does, and I believe that what he does is needed. That is, being able to start studs and skill dudes and not lose to the first Kidnappin’.

I think the problem is not Jake, but rather the Design’s approach to make dudes without influence. Benni, Ebenezer, El Grajo, J.W.Byrne, Isham - if they had 1 influence, there would be no need for Jake Smiley.

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They would also be undercosted :wink: Well, maybe not Ebenezer :sweat_smile:

As compared to Clint Ramsey? Probably. To Valeria Batten? Not by much.

Valeria batten is slightly undercosted as well. But also keep in mind that drifter dudes are always supposed to be slightly worse than comparable faction dudes.