Presence and State as Powerful Effect Parameters

Howdy folks.

I’ve been doing some thinking about trade-offs in generated card effects that I wanted to share with the community. This came out of some discussion I had with a few European players as to whether Sun in Your Eyes is “balanced” or not (I think it’s fine). The general idea I’d like to contribute is two ways a card’s generated effect can be saddled with a constraining parameter: Presence and State.

I will define this as roughly “Risk as a function of board location.” Two really good examples of this are the original Fourth Ring home and the 108 dude Bay Yang Chen, both of which bestow powerful effects (card cycle, card advantage) but which require the player to put their dudes into “risk” (i.e., leave the safety of home).

I will define this as roughly “Advantage as a function of board state.” Two really good examples of this are the action Point Blank and the goods Jael’s Guile, both of which remove dudes from play (acing, discarding) but which require the player to first position themselves correctly (i.e., have an unbooted stud or an almost-all-booted opposing posse).

Those general ideas posited, I’d like to share some imagining around a few cards whose effects I feel are powerful enough to justify saddling them with such parameters as a way to preserve their essential mechanical contributions to the game while also making it so the generating of such effects are not “free” - that the player must either accept risk or earn position in order to benefit from them.

-Sight Beyond Sight
-Worldly Desires

Even without his trait, Randall’s cost to attribute ratio is top-tier, and then, he grants a powerful effect which doesn’t require meaningful interaction - he can sit at home with two other dudes and continue to provide card advantage. So! What if his text instead read “While Randall is at a location with two or more opposing dudes, your maximum hand size is increased by one.”

Sight Beyond Sight
This card that shares a powerful effect with the dude Nathan Shane and the action Burn 'Em Out, but without any of the drawbacks (being in or starting a shootout, having to boot or take on bounty, etc). You can sit at home to cast it without any interaction, and it’s difficulty is reasonably easy. So! What if the text read “Noon Hex X, Boot: X is the value of an opposing booted dude at this location. Look at one or two random cards in that opponent’s hand. You may ace this card to ace a non-unique card you looked at.”

Worldly Desires
This home, now banned, had a powerful effect that allowed it to effectively win lowball on a near-constant basis, undermining the game’s base economical assumptions, with only a token of a drawback which had little if anything to do to with interaction. So! What if the text read “Repeat React: After you draw a draw hand, if none of your dudes are at home, draw an additional card into your draw hand and then discard a card. You can only use this ability once per draw hand.”

These three changes turn an essentially “free” powerful effect into one which must accompany a modicum of risk on behalf of the player (well, their dudes), creating opportunities for interaction to disable their effects. In short, they must now be “earned.”

-Calling the Cavalry

Calling the Cavalry
This card, as well as hand rank manipulation in general, is proving to be perhaps stronger than originally anticipated. And this card specifically, although possessing the Headline drawback, still proves difficult to counter or play around. So! What if the text read “Shootout: During this round’s resolution, both players gain +1 hand rank for each unbooted Horse in their posse. One dude in your posse may immediately boot their attached horse to become a stud until the end of the shootout.”

This card, though perhaps seeing less play in the last year due to the major overhaul to Paralysis Mark and the “Hex Control” archetype generally, still allows the player what amounts to almost “free” hand rank manipulation. So! What if the text read “Discard an unbooted Hex from your shooter to raise your draw hand rank by 2.”

Arguably, the power of this card grows with each released set; as the number of “answers” to other strong shootout effects grow in number (like counters to Sun in Yer Eyes), the number of “answers” to this card remains narrowly static. So! What if the text read “Choose a dude. For each unbooted dude in your posse that exceeds the opposing posse’s number of unbooted dudes, you may boot the chosen dude or one of their attached cards. Cards booted this way lose all traits, abilities, and bullet bonuses.”

These three changes turn an essentially “free” powerful effect into one which must accompany an effort of resource and board management on behalf of the player, creating opportunities for interaction to disable their effects. In short, they must now be “earned.”

Anyhow, that’s my two-cents. Hoping this topic is viewed less as “errata 6 cards please” and more as just some food for thought when designing new cards in how “powerful” a card’s effects are in relation to how “loosely” they are able to be played, and how that feeds into the underlying design axioms this great game sits upon. Cheers!


An always interesting topic with lots of opinions. I like your thoughts about what you call the presence cards. I appreciate the idea that powerful effects or boons should involve some sort of risk.
I also agree that the mentioned cards are very good - stable “go to” cards. Fx Unprepared does indeed get better and better, but also equally important as a way to counter certain decks IMO. But it’s not more of a go to shootout action then Coachwhip is as a CR to me.

I like all the cards mentioned. I don’t think the right path is to downgrade/ nerf existing cards, but to expand deck options instead. Other variations of Unprepared or counters to it or to hand rank manipulation as we’re seeing with the new Shan Fan card is great.
I would be more cautious about introducing effects that ace or discards dude as shootout actions. We all love to draw a hand of poker. It’s always tough to get hit before even getting to that step :cowboy_hat_face:

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Unprepared is fine, ban all non-Cheatin’ hand rank modifiers.


Good topic idea. Reward without risk is indeed an issue and is therefore one of the first thing I look for when making a “serious business” deck.

I’m with @forkbanger on Unprepared not being outrageous - it is necessary to some extent. Gadgets can cope with it perfectly fine (they can play as many Slight Modifications as their opponent plays Unprepareds), as can hexes to a lesser extent (via Shadow Walk). Plus the meta shifts - none of the top 4 at the 2017 Euros were playing Unprepared! Voltron Blessed has the biggest issues with it due to 1) no counter card 2) intrinsic tendency to stack cards. I would like to see them get a thematic and balanced way to play around Unprepared at some point.

I like the suggested tweak to Sight Beyond Sight, but wouldn’t require the opposing due to be booted.

I’m not 100% opposed to hand rank manipulation but would prefer Outgunned to be the benchmark of what a “fair” hand rank manipulation card looks like. Callin’ the Cavalry is a bit too strong and I agree with @jordan_caldwell’s suggested alteration to Hex Slingin’ (which would still be very playable).

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Presence is actually a design response to ‘no risk spot removal’ from Classic, e.g. Lynch Mob. Classic also had 1 on 1 irrefusable, no one else may join actions that were effectively no risk as well.

DTR pretty much requires all ‘you want a reward, put someone in harm’s way’ for any significant action. An opponent may decline to oppose, but that is part of the calculus of risk/reward that makes DTR so challenging.


Generally in the design of DTR, the rewards of any card tend to be tied to the risk you have to put yourself in and likewise, the risk you are in increases the benefits of the cards you can use in those situations. Therefore the reward benefits from low to high are so:

Target Anywhere < Target Adjacent < Target Same Location < Target in Shootout.

This is why effects from shootout actions are significantly more powerful than anything outside of them, because not only do you have to run the risk of getting into a shootout, but also if your opponent avoids it, they are dead cards clogging your hand.

Now of the cards you mention, you have to remember that all of them went through playtesting and their effects were tweaked according to relevant feedback. That is to say: the power of their effects was already modified in mind to the risk you are taking. Unfotunately, like in all games, it’s very difficult to be perfectly balanced, but you also have to remember many of the cards you mention have gone through periods where they were dominating and then lost it.

Hexslinging is a great example: A card which was considered OP, until people realized that it was rather Paralysis Mark that was the issue, dropping its power considerably along with it. Likewise, horses were very rarely played and “Horse decks” were seen as kind of a running joke. Calling the Cavalry is a necessary card to translate your horse investment into power, and unlike many others, it has a lot of counterplay. You have to remember that neutering it will likely destroy horse archetype as a whole.

Other than that, be aware that the risk/reward is already part of the calculation in DTR design :wink:


I think horses work fine without Calling the Cavalry, though I appreciate I’m in a minority there.


I fixed this for you


HEx Slinging is still really strong, but not op anymore because of other hand rank manipulation cards, including FF that was never bad, but gadgets overall were. When it comes to CTC I think it is considered by everyone the strongest Headline/ hand rank manipulation in the game.

I can imagine a three dimensional matrix similarly:

X (Presence): Target Anywhere < Target Adjacent < Target Same Location < Target in Shootout

Y (State): No State Req < Leader must Boot < Target must be Booted < Leader “More Unbooted” than Target

Z (Power): Remove Dude from Board < Hand Rank Manipulation < Card Advantage < Bullet Manipulation

…something like that.