Here we’d like to present a series of original design diaries for the AEG era of the game from db0 along with a new spoiler from Welcome to Deadwood
The Immovable Force, Unstoppable Object expansion sees the arrival of the 5th and 6th faction vying for control of Gomorra as they set up in force. One of those outfits, the 108 Righteous Bandits, include among their numbers practitioners of the martial art of Kung-Fu, which is our most radical endeavour to re-imagine the mechanic and make it work in a flavorful way that is nevertheless impactful in your games to see a significant amount of play.
While the skill check of Doomtown:Reloaded work almost identical to the way they used to work in classic, the Kung-Fu mechanic looks nothing like its predecessor, and if you haven’t yet seen Andy’s introductory article to Kung-Fu, now would be a great time to check it out. In this article, instead of going into the mechanical details, I’d like to address the deck construction and gameplay effects Kung-Fu will demand from its players and their opponents.
We always knew that we wanted Kung-Fu to be part of the mechanics of Doomtown, not only because it existed in Classic, but also because the wuxia stories fit so well within the Deadlands settings and the combat heavy environment of Doomtown itself. At the same time, we didn’t want it to work like any other existing skill but we wanted to promote the opposite effect in deckbuilding: An incentive to focus on low values in one’s deck.
This led us to our two initial mechanics, the Kung Fu keyword and the Technique actions. The Keyword’s value boosting allows you to build a deck with low values in your dudes without sacrificing consistency, while the Techniques being based on actions promoted a fast and surprising gameplay. It is noteworthy that initially we did not yet have the concept of Taos. Rather our initial concept was that Techniques would be usable by anyone, even without Kung-Fu, but they would get a significantly more powerful effect if you could also succeed with a KF pull as well.
Unfortunately in practice this sort of effect ended up feeling very mediocre. Not really any more exciting than a straight up shootout or noon action. The limit to their power level required in order to be playable by anyone yet stronger with KF, increased its opportunity cost, not to mention its card text. It just didn’t feel exciting at all. Fortunately in one of those brainstorming sessions an idea came to me to take an inspiration from fighting games and introduce some way to chain techniques together. However this would be absurdly difficult to balance out as more and more techniques come out, so there was a need to restrict them to sets we can playtest at the same time and proof for balance. The Taos were born.
A Tao is a set of Techniques that are not only balanced together, but we went into the extra effort to make them synergize as a whole. You’ve should have already been introduced to the combat Tao of the Zhu Bajie but we’ve also provided you with a taste of the Tao of the Jade Rabbit as well, which seems to have something to do with movement…
You may have noticed that each Tao Technique is not particularly impressive, however their capacity to combo can make one card lead to a devastating effect. Obviously Zhu’s Ferocity is nowhere as good as something as straightforward as Faster on the Draw, but combo three of the same Tao together and they quickly surpass any individual shootout action’s effects. A Longwei Fu jumping you with Raking Dragons in hand and 4 more Taos in his discard can quickly shut down all your shooters and finish you by wiping all your expendable weenies and tokens as well. And just imagine if he kept another Tao in hand for round 2 (assuming if you survived). Obviously, things can quickly escalate…
In fact, initial tests were quite scary. The 108 would seemingly jump in with one action in hand and just completely devastate whole posses, and then get out and do it again in the next shootout. But as we kept playtesting them we noticed something interesting: The size of the Kung-Fu player’s discard pile started becoming a very important consideration factor in fights.
Go against a Kung-Fu player after they’ve been hoarding actions and have 40 cards in their discard pile and you can be in for a world of hurt, as you might get hit with anything from 4 to 8 Taos in the same shootout, depending on your opponent’s Kung-Fu skill. However wait until their deck has just reshuffled and you now run a much lower risk of being dominated by their fists of fury. So smart players simply started bidding their time, getting more aggressive while the 108 player has a nearly full deck, and more defensive as the Taos started stacking in the discard.
That, along with some smart plays around hitting starting Taos out of their hand with Cookin’ Up Trouble, using peacemakers, or simply reducing their bullets and value to prevent techniques from working of comboing, quickly stabilized their power once more at a suitable level.
In the end, Kung-Fu, can be either immensely powerful or fairly wimpy depending on the state of the player’s deck. It has a natural ebb and flow to it that players will need to gauge and work around. Not only that, but cunning KF players will even start playing mind games by being belligerent as their deck is running out, even though they might be completely bluffing. I’ve once had a game where I was hiding for 4 turns, too afraid to go out, and only learned when it was already too late that for 3 out of those 4 turns, my KF opponent didn’t really have anything in their hand with which to hit me.
Kung-Fu is a completely novel mechanic for Doomtown and we’re excited to see how well it performs in the wild and what the meta repercussions will be. Let us know which way the tide turns!
We’ve already taken two design diaries to explain how Miracles support and Hexes disrupt thematically in the town of Gomorra. Now, with the release of Immovable Object, Unstoppable Force, we finally get to reveal the third and final type of spell available: Spirits.
With Miracles taking up the buffing aspect and Hexes focused on weakening, we already have the dude-affecting aspects of the game pretty much covered. Given that we try to make each spell type feel unique in its strategy and function, we didn’t want to make effects that would feel somewhere in between those two. So the challenging aspect was to figure out how Spirits could make an impact on the game without stepping into the territory of their counterparts.
The answer to this lies within the core mechanics of the game. Doomtown is ultimately a game about area control and maneuvering. While the poker mechanics provide an explosive and climactic way to handle conflict, the meat of the game actually relies in clever positioning. And for something so fundamental to the game, we haven’t really expanded on it sufficiently.
Spirits are the first (but won’t be the only) attempt to address that. Their effects are, in some form, tied into locations and this is their relating factor. They are, in practice, the spell-based area control strategy.
We feel this is sufficiently in line with the flavor of Spirits in the Deadlands lore and provides a unique way to affect the game state. Although this might conflict with Miracle or Hex effects at times, it’s grounded in a method that nevertheless retains their unique flavour.
To that end, we’ve also invented a new keyword, Totems, which is only there to avoid the need to repeat that these particular Spirits must be attached to locations. While normal Spirits work like the other spell, Totems take their area control effect to its logical conclusion as they are tied specifically to one location. For the loss of flexibility and maneuverability caused by this, they tend to have flexible, powerful, or blanket abilities.
How do Spirits affect the game state? They directly affect locations and dudes who are there or might go there in the future.
A good sample of this is Many Speak As One. While nominally it is a normal spirit that attaches to a shaman, its effect is tied to a specific location each turn, providing a way for shamans to take control of the town with fewer dudes on hand.
Similarly, Spirit Trail is the shaman answer to Shadow Walk and Walk the Path from Hexes and Miracles respectively. While it is tied to a single location only, it can be used for everyone who needs it, and its blanket adjacency means you can place it at your home and a second one at critical deeds (even your opponent’s) and get a free extra movement that bypasses the Town Square.
How do Spirits manipulate out-of-play cards? They cycle off cards from your hand to allow you to find the ones you need. They also allow you to look or setup your decks for follow-up effects.
Shamans rely on guidance rather than direct manipulation, so their out-of-play effects focus on increasing their throughput. This in combination with the first Eagle Wardens outfit can allow the shaman player to quickly find what they need each turn.
Spirit Guidance is the archetype for such spells and getting one on the first turn can mean you rarely have dead cards in your hand, especially if you manage to get out of your home to use the more powerful ability. In a game where you refill to your hand size maximum each turn, being able to play almost all your cards each turn is a significant advantage. But it also allows you to cheaply hold on to cheatin’ resolutions for next turn’s lowball and then cycle them out if it doesn’t happen. Cards such as these, greatly reduce the opportunity cost of heavy hitters in your deck, allowing for riskier, yet more powerful design choices.
The secondary out-of-play effects are not yet available in a Spirit, but you’ll see it appear soon enough.
How do Spirits support you in shootouts? Spirits will seek to gain the advantage by using token dudes and predictive effects to set up better hands or by allowing a reset of the shootout state.
While Spirits might sometimes enter into Hex or Miracle territory when tied to a location, the most common effect you’ll see is their ability to generate multiple expendable token dudes to help you fight. This provides both staying and fighting power and conveniently shuts down “Lose2Win” strategies hard.
Ghost Dance is the archetypical version of such a spell, providing you with a shooter on demand, allowing even the wimpiest of shamans to be scary, but of course it’s 2 cost, 8 value and 10 difficulty make it a bit harder to wield. On the other hand, there’s also its little brother, The Pack Awakens which will also provide you with expendable shooters, but at much lower difficulty and with a value that will succeed itself even with a Shaman 0. It requires that you bring the fight to the location of the totem of course, but with cards like Buffalo Rifle and Rope and Ride, this can be appropriately manipulated.
We have only barely begun to scratch the surface of what Spirits can do, and The Light Shineth and further expansions will heavily push Spirits to catch up with the other skills, providing even more awesome options to solidify your control of Gomorra.
Support the dudes.
In our first spellcasting design diary, we delved into the seedy world of Hucksters and explained the kind of disruptive tricks they employ to gain the advantage in Doomtown: Reloaded. In the process, we also explained our approach to clearly differentiating one skill from the other by focusing on three distinct areas of gameplay. If you missed it or just want to refresh your memory, you should go ahead and read the first design diary now.
Now that Faith and Fear is right around the corner, the news might have started arriving that the Blessed are starting to arrive in town, bringing their own style of support into the chaotic life of Gomorra. It is high time we explored what this will mean for you as a player.
We decided that the design guideline for Miracles will exemplify the more supportive areas of spellcasting: the buffing, healing, and divine assistance that feels thematically appropriate for their type. The Blessed will be evangelists, medics, and a generally amazing way to keep your gang going.
How do Miracles affect the game state? They focus on effects which directly buff or support your own cards and effects.
In this area, Miracles are almost the exact opposite of a Hex. They will shield or boost your dudes’ statistics (bullets, value, and influence), protect your dudes from being killed at all, or unboot your cards to get another use out of them. They will generally strengthen your position and make it more difficult to disrupt.
Soothe is one such card, where you can boot one of your supporting Blessed to unboot your more important dudes in the game, and due to the way the effect works, if you happen to miss the spell, your dude doesn’t even have to boot.
How do Miracles manipulate out-of-play cards? They tutor (‘tutor’ in card game parlance is the act of looking through your deck for a specific card) or set up the top of your deck.
Miracles tend to involve moments of divination and inspiration and as such they tend to bring you exactly what you need when you need it. A Blessed will tend to pull out little Miracles at opportune moments to turn the tide.
The Lord Provides is the first such effect and even though it includes a hefty cost, being able to grab a Sun In Yer Eyes or your single copy of Bottom Dealin’ when appropriate can be devastating. Effectively this card allows you to pay two ghost rock to store the potential for any action card in your deck.
How do Miracles support you in shootouts? They will provide an advantage by making your dudes much harder to kill, shutting down “Lose2Win” strategies and generally supporting “super-dude” strategies where your opponent will find it difficult to prevent you from making a good hand via bullet reduction and other underhanded shenanigans, thus forcing them to fight fair instead of trying to make you cheat out of desperation.
Holy Roller is the first Miracle which can provide an amazing advantage to a super-shooter. Give it to a good fighting Blessed and not only do you get some extra strength, but it allows you to fight solo without fearing ties or an opportunistic Taking Ya With Me. Not only that, but it can also serve as buffer to avoid cheating, by allowing you to go for a slightly lower hand rank and still have a chance to turn the table in the next shootout round.
Furthermore, due to their proximity to Law Dogs and generally being on the side of good, Miracles tend to have synergistic effects with hunting wanted dudes and abominations. So we have only barely scratched the surface of divine power as Faith and Fear spreads all over town.
By now you may have noticed a pretty obvious counter-effect of Miracles to Hexes. Where a Hex would decrease your bullets, a Miracle will increase it. Where Paralysis Mark will boot your dude, you can unboot them, frustrating the Huckster’s attempts to disrupt your presence in Gomorra. This, we feel, is a nice thematic rivalry between the two spellcasting types and should make for an interesting matchup with an archetype that is proving to be quite popular.
By now, only one spellcasting skill type remains hidden: Spirits. Since we’ve used two of the most obvious ways to affect the game on miracles and hexes, can you guess how Shamans will impact the town of Gomorra? We certainly can’t wait to show you!
Surprise and Opportunity
One of the features of Doomtown: Reloaded is the significant strength of action cards to change the outcome of a shootout. With the release of three new Saddlebags and the upcoming Pine Box, Faith and Fear, bringing more great shootout actions, we thought it might be a good time to explain why we first looked at the role and effectiveness of shootout cards.
In previous designer diaries, we’ve discussed how the change in deed costs, the increased focus of in-town deeds, and the new casualty rules actually promote conflict (small and large) as a primary form of conflict resolution in Doomtown: Reloaded. With more shootouts in the spotlight, it makes sense to have enough cards in the game that can serve as surprises and state-changers. This not only can turn the game to your advantage, but allows you to effectively bluff your capacity to follow through with your aggression, adding another layer to your tactics.
Initially, a lot of actions were returning iconic cards, lifted directly from the Classic game. Pistol Whip was the benchmark for a key shootout action in early testing. But we quickly ran into a familiar problem; Pistol Whip was simply superior to almost all other shootout actions you could put in your deck. But was that the problem, or was it something else? Not only can it nullify your opponent’s largest shooter, but it can also serve as an offensive, defensive, control, or softening up card. In short, it had such a universal utility that even though it had a hefty cost of booting a dude in a shootout and losing bullets, there were few games where it wouldn’t be useful. This makes it a really powerful shootout action.
However, this didn’t necessarily mean that Pistol Whip was too good. So, we decided to test another idea. If shootouts are a more critical part of the game, and shootout actions occupy a valuable slot in the deck, then let’s try bringing everything else up to the same level. After all, putting shootout actions in your deck is all about the “opportunity cost,” so the payoff needs to be good to make up for it.
What is opportunity cost? Simply put, the opportunity cost of any action card is the cost you’re paying for putting it in your deck over any other action card or card type. Compared to an easier-to-play card, the more restricted the window is for an action to be played, the more this opportunity cost increases. More plainly, this restriction means that a card has the possibility to further clog your play hand and stall your overall strategy if your opponent does not follow your gameplan.
Free and unrestricted action cards that are Noon plays tend to have the smallest opportunity costs since you can get rid of them immediately to make more space in your play hand. Reserves is a classic example; for a simple Noon play, you gain 1 ghost rock. You can always play it, and it is always useful.
As the situational difficulty to play a card increases, so does its opportunity cost. The opportunity cost of various types of cards, from lowest to highest, is usually as follows: cheap Noon actions, cheap dudes and deeds, cheap goods, more expensive deeds, shootout actions, and finally expensive dudes. Why are shootout actions at the higher end of the scale? It’s because getting into a position to use them requires you to create a table position that allows them to be played. You need to put your dudes in harm’s way in a shootout, where you then have a chance to play them, and even then, they need to make enough of an impact to justify all of their costs.
What happens if your opponent avoids all shootouts for two turns? Even if your actions cost you nothing, they clog your hand so that you cannot improve your situation. You are being penalized for having those cards in your deck, as opposed to some cheap dudes or goods. Similar considerations apply to cheatin’ resolution actions just as well.
So this leads us to two possible solutions for action cards: either their opportunity cost needs to be recouped via their effect, or it needs to be lowered.
The first case is the easiest; one merely improves the power of an action card until it actually feels worth holding on to, even for use in a shootout two turns later. The latter option can be achieved either by loosening the restrictions, or by widening the situations where a card will be useful, thus making it possible and worthy to play out of your hand earlier.
Looking at how easy it is to justify adding a Pistol Whip to literally any kind of deck, we speculated that it’s pretty much on the sweet spot of its cost/reward calculation. This makes it an excellent baseline around which to design other action cards’ power levels and variety of uses.
There is a second factor at work as well as opportunity cost. We want players to make choices about how to win their fights against what values they want. If shootouts are important to Doomtown: Reloaded, then there needs to be more ways to win them than just having a good draw structure. It’s not that draw structure isn’t or shouldn’t be important, it is. But there should be more to the resolution of shootouts than that, and having really effective shootout (and resolution) cards, means that you can win shootouts (and lose them!) by playing cards, not solely on the strength of your draw structure.
So let’s take Sun in Yer Eyes. The classic version merely reduced a dude’s bullets by 2. That looks like a decent effect on paper, but in practice there are just too many situations where it would not make enough difference. What if your opponent has two 2-stud dudes in their posse (not at all hard to do), or a 1-stud and a 2-draw? There are a lot more scenarios like these where a Sun in Yer Eyes really does not improve your situation, thus punishing you for choosing it over another card.
So we needed to widen its use and/or boost its power level. We achieved that by making it also turn the targeted dude into a draw, which immediately covered both scenarios mentioned above. It is easily more powerful than simply removing 2 bullets, but it also increased the number of situations it will combat, turning a 5-stud into a 3-draw, or even hitting an opponent’s only 0-stud, so that they have to make their hand with only 5 cards. With this change, we immediately saw a jump in usage for the card, even making it a staple for aggressive decks instead of the value-filler it was before.
Let’s take another action that we were testing, Unprepared, based on a classic card, Caught With Yer Pants Down. It gave a dude -1 bullet and prevented them from using their goods for one shootout round. It was OK if you had to fight a gadget-heavy deck and you could win the shootout in one round, but otherwise, it was too limited. Its transition into the new card, Unprepared, saw it boot all attached cards outright and prevent their use for the rest of the shootout. This immediately widened the scope of use to include anti-goods AND anti-spell. In fact, now that nearly all spells require booting to use, the new card acts as a deterrent to decks that pile spell after spell on one single dude, turning them into what is affectionately called “the railroad dude.” With Unprepared in circulation, this is now a weakness to be exploited rather than a strength. It’s a risk you have to be prepared to take and avoid in spell or gadget decks. And even if you survive the current shootout, your dudes and all their cards are pretty much out of commission for the rest of the turn.
But this still was not enough. Against non-spell, non-goods decks, Unprepared might as well be a dead card since -1 bullet is not strong enough to warrant inclusion. The opportunity cost was still too high. So we widened the scope once more. Now Unprepared boots the dude and prevents them from using any shootout abilities as well. Not only does this serve to counter dudes like Xiong “Wendy” Cheng, who can be brutal in an opposing starting posse, but it can preemptively protect against a suspected Point Blank or Pistol Whip.
Say your opponent sends their influence-heavy weakling to your important deed. You send a shooter to protect it. Unexpectedly, the weakling calls you out. You just know a Pistol Whip is incoming, so you Unprepared the opposing dude first, making them easy pickings. Even simply booting an opposing dude in the town square to prevent further movement can be useful. Unprepared has arguably just surpassed its opportunity cost.
This is the design principle you will see behind a lot of other action cards as well. Pinned Down serves to both reduce bullets and/or snipe at an important dude before they have a chance to run off after sacrificing an expendable dude. The Stakes Just Rose not only acts as a defence against Pistol Whip, but as a great boost card with a high bullet stud or draw somewhere else on the table. Cheatin’ Varmint can be used to punish cheating or to leverage your economic superiority, and so on.
With The Stakes Just Rose we also added another principle, we want cards that are worth playing not just for the penalty that they give your opponent, but for the boost they give you.
In New Town, New Rules we again expanded this design principle. One example is Make ‘em Sweat, where we went for a card that has offensive and defensive utility. It provides a nice value for those people striving for a Dead Man’s Hand deck, where shootout actions were missing, it allows you to use some of those expendable draw dudes to attack another player’s stud bullets, and finally, as is often the case, you can prevent anything that has booting as part of its cost from being used by a particular dude. None of those things on their own make the card outstanding, but together they can represent great versatility in a deck.
Similarly in Election Day Slaughter, we have added Tail Between Yer Legs, which you can use as a simple bullet reduction to bypass cards such as Hiding in Shadows, but also in more defensive scenarios, where you want to see what your opponent will commit to the fight before you do. This makes it an excellent choice for town square campers of all kinds.
If this applies to shootout actions then it also applies to resolution actions, including cheatin’ resolution cards. In the upcoming Faith and Fear, This’ll Hurt in the Mornin’ should provide great versatility in decks which would like to use 8s in the draw structure, as it is one of the few cheatin’ actions that provides great results both in lowball and in shootouts. If your deck is sufficiently legal, then you’ll generally be able to use its more powerful level and attempt to ace cards in your opponent’s draw hand. A great choice might be one copy of your opponent’s Steven Wiles, which would prevent them from playing any more in the future. Or you might hit those frustrating Unprepareds to give your Mad Scientist time to breathe. Of course, your opponent can always decide to pay you to keep those cards, but even then, a free swing of four ghost rock is nothing to scoff at. But this card also works wonders during shootouts as well, by disrupting your opponent’s cheating hand. It’s not as powerful as a Bottom Dealin’ but turning a five of a kind into three of a kind is usually more than enough to win you the critical fight.
Did we succeed in tweaking all action cards to perfection? Undoubtedly not, and we didn’t expect to. But hopefully the wealth of options that they now provide make them far more likely to get used in the game, rather than sitting in your collection or clogging your hand as you wonder where your design choices went wrong.
The 108 – Fu for You and Me!
By Andy Wroe – Play Tester
(Further editing by Db0 and Brett)
I joined the playtest team in 2014 when Db0 put out a call for more people to help out. The first thing I noticed was AEG weren’t putting out just one new outfit, but two, the second of which came as a complete surprise to me: the 108 Righteous Bandits.
I am not here to talk in-depth here about the different styles of play The 108 will be bringing to the game (surprises are good!) but I am going to introduce you to one of their main aspects: a completely new mechanic to Doomtown: Reloaded called Kung Fu.
Now for all you folks that played Classic, I am sure that you remember Kung Fu and are now having certain thoughts (I know I did). However, you would do well to forget everything that you know about the mechanic from previous versions. The name is the only similarity; Everything else is totally (and awesomely) different.
There are two characteristics that we need to be aware of in Kung Fu: the dudes and the Techniques (action cards).
I’m going to start by looking over a dude: Xui Yin Chen. She’s a value 4, 1-stud and 2-influence, who has a Kung Fu trait of 3. She also has a great ability in that she can boot to turn your posse into studs and gives them +1 influence during a shootout (great for taking control of locations and using their abilities such as Carter’s Bounties).
Traditionally, she would have a grit of 7. However, this is the first difference with Kung Fu. A dude’s Kung Fu rating is added to their value while in play. This is really important. So while her value is 4 when she’s in draws or pulls, her value in play is actually 7. This also means her grit is 10!
The other half of the equation is the action cards for Kung Fu, known as Techniques. While there are some standalone Techniques, many of them are broken down into sets called Taos, and the first set that we will meet is called the Tao of Zhu Bajie.
The way it works is that when you wish to play a Technique, you must choose a dude with Kung Fu and pull. If the pull is lower than the dude’s value, it succeeds; if the pull is equal to or higher than the dude’s value, it fails. Simple as that. This is why adding the Kung Fu rating of your dudes onto their value is so important. In Xui Yin Chen’s case, she will succeed any Kung Fu technique pull as long as you pull 6 or less.
Let’s take for example one of the technique cards, Zhu’s Ferocity. This is a shootout Technique that simply gives one of your dudes +1 bullets and one of their dudes -1 bullets. It also has a value 2, so it fits in nicely with the requirement of pulling below a dude’s value.
Now at first glance, it doesn’t seem that impressive, considering other cards are available such as Faster on the Draw, which doesn’t need a pull and does more. However, you will notice that it has a second section starting with the word ‘Combo’. If you meet the combo requirements listed on a Tao (in this example having your bullets be higher than the opposing dude you targeted), you may immediately play another Technique of the same Tao from either your hand or your discard pile. Yes you did indeed read that correctly; your follow-up card can come from your discard pile directly!
As awesome as that sounds, there are three things you have to remember when performing a combo: You have to stay within the same Tao (in this example, the Tao of Zhu Bajie), your next card cannot have the same name as the one you just played, and finally you may only combo a number of times up to your dude’s Kung Fu value. In Xui Yin Chen’s case, that would be three times, which is her Kung Fu rating, allowing up to four techniques to be played in a row … one for the initial card and then a maximum of three additional cards via combos.
So for a working example of this, Xui Yin Chen calls out Milt Clemons (remember Milt is a 2 stud, value 8 Sloaner) who foolishly accepts and is about to get Kung Fu’d to the face!
Let us assume we have Raking Dragons in our hand. This card allows you to boot an opposing dude in a posse and lower their value by 2. If you meet the combo condition of having a higher value than them, you can then immediately begin a combo!
Our Xui Yin Chen’s first action is to play Raking Dragons, booting Milt and lowering his value to a 6. As she now has a higher value than Milt (remember that she’s a 7 total with her Kung Fu), she can combo. Out of the discard pile, we fetch and play Zhu’s Ferocity, raising her bullets to 2 and lowering Milt to 1. Once more we can combo as we now have more bullets than Milt, so we could continue with Raking Dragons again, or another Tao of Zhu Bajie Technique, but not Zhu’s Ferocity.
Now in case you’re thinking “I only need two cards and I can keep repeating them!”, do not be alarmed. The limit is that you do not discard shootout Tao cards until after all shootout plays have ended, just before you draw for your shootout hands, thereby stopping people from repeatedly playing the same two cards back out of their discard pile.
This also means that while you might want to combo out of your hand instead of your discard pile, you might prefer to hold it back to begin a new combo with fresh cards in your discard pile in round two …
There are also some Taos that don’t have combos on them. These can be thought of as finishers. They will always end that particular combo run but are usually far more powerful. You’ll notice that very often such finishers get more and more effective the more Techniques of the same Tao you’ve managed to land before. They also allow you to play them straight out of your hand, but their effect is usually diminished without the appropriate setup.
It is also worth remembering that you play combos immediately after each other so your opponent does not get the opportunity to do anything between Taos unless they have a react, unlike with normal shootout actions.
So that is a brief look at Kung Fu. It’s quite a bit to take in initially, but it works really well when you get to play it, leading to some great and exciting fights!
Hopefully, you found this introduction helpful and you will fall in love with The 108 as much as I have! Just keep in mind that Kung Fu is merely one of the 108 Righteous Bandits tricks coming you way …
The philosophy of science
By now we’ve exposed you to the design guidelines for all spell types, as well as the tidal dynamics of Kung Fu. However, even though they’ve been in the game since the Base Set, we still haven’t taken the time to explore mad science in the world of Doomtown:Reloaded. It’s high time we cover that gap.
Gadgets are a big part of the Doomtown story. Not only are they a very cool aspect of the game, but they’ve always been immensely popular among the players. In Classic Doomtown, there was a whole outfit dedicated to them, but of course in Doomtown:Reloaded, they’ve been put to more practical use by the ranchers of the Morgan Cattle Co. and those do-gooders in the Law Dogs.
While mad science is a skill, it doesn’t exactly follow the same rules as the spells. Particularly, gadgets require quite more effort up-front to invent and put into play. However, as a tradeoff, you only need to pull for them once and afterwards you can trade them to the most appropriate dude to hold them. This is unlike spells where the original spellcaster needs to hold them until they leave play.
But the difference in how they enter play and attach is far from the only difference between gadgets and spells. The truth is that mad science does not even work within the same paradigm as spells. Rather than the three usual questions answered for spells (“How does it affect game state”,”How does it win shootouts”, “How does it affect out of play cards”), a gadget breaks out of the mold and provides its own answers.
Gadgets are multifaceted.
One advantage we aim to provide when you’re using mad science is that you’ll need fewer cards to provide the same amount of raw power you’d get from normal goods. Theoretically, this should allow you to dedicate less card slots for that purpose and instead cover some holes in your strategy, or find space for alternative tactics.
A prime example of this raw power is the newly released Yagn’s Mechanical Skeleton. By itself, it not only covers your needs for bullets, influence, and increased value on one dude, but and also serves as a hard counter for control effects. And if that wasn’t enough, the same card is well suited either for Horse decks, as well as gadget dude decks.
Similarly, the recent Personal Ornithopter, is suited for both constantly enabling your main shooter to join every battle, as well as allowing your squishier dudes to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
While this strength has not been utilized as much until now, expect to see more of it in the future.
Gadgets alchemize economic power into game advantage.
Gadgets (and their related cards) are the only type of card which can turn raw ghost rock into raw power. Normally, the only way to spend your money is to play more cards from your hand, or just pay for a dude’s upkeep. This leads to situations where you either don’t have enough money to play all the cards you want, or where you have more money than you know what to do with. An example of this a situation is where you play deeds, to the point where you can’t leverage the extra income and only care about their control points. However if you don’t put enough deeds in your deck, you’re constantly starved for playing all those other cool cards you want.
In contrast, a gadget player can easily include a ton of deeds in their deck and rely on repeat gadget abilities to efficiently put all that money to good use. Whether that is via cycling out their useless cards via Xemo’s Turban, running circles around their enemies using Mechanical Horse, or making sure an opponent always suffers in shootouts by keeping things tied through a Force Field. Mad scientists have a ton of these effects, and even a few of these gadgets in play can mean not a drop of ghost rock goes wasted.
Of course all these effects can be tricky to use in the fragile early game, so until a gadget player’s economy stabilizes via deeds, they can use cards like the Disgenuine Currency Press, or the Recursive Motion Machine to provide them with the funds needed.
Gadgets cross card type boundaries.
While spells will always be spells and Kung Fu will always be actions, with a few abilities here and there instructing you to make the relevant skill checks, gadgets have no problem crossing type boundaries and providing you with gadget dudes and gadget deeds. Not only that, but such cards tend to be quite above the curve to make up for the hefty costs of inventing. Thus, all gadget dudes until now have been Non-Unique, providing you with plenty of expendable bodies in the same value with great stats or abilities. Similarly all gadget deeds have been providing amazing value for money, either giving an instant return on investment, as in the case of Secured Stockyard, or aggressive control and built-in protection like with Miasmatic Purifier.
This allows a gadget player to utilize their mad scientists not only for their hearts but their spades and diamonds as well, never leaving their expensive skilled dudes with nothing to do.
On Gadget Power Level
That said, it is true that gadgets have not managed to do as well when compared to other strong competitive archetypes, despite being wicked fun to play and having a ton of fans. This has to do with figuring out the fact that it’s been quite tricky to discover where the golden mean lies in regards to the hefty costs involved in gadget-making. At times, their total costs (i.e. GR cost, deck building restrictions, booting a mad scientist, etc.) only net makes them into slightly more powerful cards than normal goods, which is just not worth it, if one appends the opportunity cost involved. An apt example being the comparison of Winchester Rifle or Pearl Handled Revolver to the core set’s Flamethrower.
It’s taken us a while to figure out where the power level of a gadget needs to stand before it can pull its weight in regards to its complete costs. And while previous gadgets are not by any means worthless, they simply have not received the synergies they needed.
With Dirty Deeds, Foul Play, and Bad Medicine, we are confident mad science will get the support it needs from cards like Marty, Janoz Pratt and Luke the Errand Boy, in addition to new gadgets invented to put the fear of science into your unfortunate opponents.
Treat or Blood Curse?
You may have noticed by now that each Doomtown: Reloaded game tends to flow like a mini-story all on its own, where the dude’s actions, goods, and movement around town are enough to provide character and texture to the whole experience. This is due to the unique way that card mechanics flow seamlessly into a story. Your burly Law Dog with a Shotgun waltzing into Charlie’s Place to get a Good Stiff Drink is not an abstract event, but rather a clear narrative sequence.
To stay within this thematic design of Doomtown: Reloaded, we wished to make the different types of magic skills – hexes, miracles, and spirits – operate in a functionally distinct manner from each other. We wanted the effects one could achieve when using these spells to have a common theme. We wished for a flavor that would seep through into your games via the actual mechanics employed, as opposed to merely through the art and flavor text.
So early on, we decided to make the skills functionally distinct from each other. Their cumulative effects would be expected to employ the theme of each magic type.
To this end, we decided on three main design questions for a magic skill:
● How does it commonly affect the game state? This question pertains to how the magic abilities will affect the cards already on the table in a way that promotes the win condition for your side.
● What is its out-of-play approach? This question attempts to answer how the magic will affects cards that are not yet in the game. Your deck, your discard, your draw hand, and even your Boot Hill are all valid targets for such effects.
● How does it support you in shootouts? Shootouts are a big part of Doomtown: Reloaded and no spellcaster worth their salt is going to enter a lead slingin’ contest without a few tricks up their sleeves. This question will answer what those tricks might be.
If you look at our initial selection of hexes, you may get an idea of what we decided the aspects of this skill type will be. But let us take the opportunity to elaborate.
For hexes, we decided that their design guideline will exemplify the seedier aspects of spellcasting. Hucksters, at least in Doomtown, would be mostly tricksters, manipulators, and disruptors. Thus hexes would need to display those attributes.
How do hexes affect the game state? They focus on effects that are in some way directly destructive or disruptive to other player’s cards.
Hexes will boot, discard, or even ace opposing cards. They will reduce dude stats, make them useless, and/or hit their supporting cards just as hard. They will generally be a nuisance and disrupt the opponent’s plans.
Of the cards available in the core set, Blood Curse and Soul Blast perfectly exemplify these effects. The former can hit your opponent in both bullets or influence, while the latter has the potential to either make them useless at home or get rid of them forever.
How do hexes manipulate out-of-play cards? They “cheat” cards between sections of the game. This shows the trickster-like nature of hucksters in Gomorra and their attempts to make their advantages appear out of thin air.
Ace in the Hole will cheat a card from your play hand into your draw hand while Raising Hell will cheat an abomination from your boot hill (or even your play hand) into play. Both effects strongly illustrate how hucksters manipulate the very essence of the game to suit their purposes.
How do hexes support you in shootouts? They will attempt to give you the advantage by limiting what the opposing player can achieve. Their bullets will be reduced, their items nullified, their dudes aced. Using hexes forces your opponent to rely more on a good draw structure and the luck of the draw than they’re otherwise comfortable with, and when the fates of fortune abandon them, your hucksters will be waiting with a Magical Distraction to put them down.
Now all this does not mean that spell types can never “cross borders” to other effects so to speak. But crossover effects will be few and far between and very exceptional indeed. We hope to throw the occasional curve ball, but just enough to keep you guessing. A peripheral goal with this, is to avoid too many overlapping effects. For example, we wouldn’t want to create a situation where multiple spell types have a similar influence reducing ability. In that situation, not only would the proliferation of influence reducing spells be abusable, but frankly it just would go against the flavor of spirits and miracles.
So now you have a better understanding about what hexes in Doomtown can do, but “What about miracles and spirits?” I hear you ask. Well, it wouldn’t really be fair to ruin the surprise and excitement of those spellcasters, but perhaps by excluding the effects of hexes you might perform some educated deduction to determine what kinds of effects would be fitting for miracles and spirits to work with.
Eventually, you’ll know first hand of course, but until then, players can have fun with their guesses, seeing how close to the mark they can get.