Hello! The guide will start after a quick disclaimer!
I am going to attempt to write a guide to help new players understand the strategy behind a game of Doomtown. I will be trying to tie in information from a variety of guides written before, and I want those authors to get all the credit they deserve. I reviewed these articles while writing, and they were a great help: Gunslinger’s Path, Fighting Landslide, Deckbuilding Tips, Key Concepts: Influence. I’m sure I’ve taken more good ideas from others as well. If anyone wants to be credited for anything or in some other way, please just let me know.
This guide will assume you have just gotten in your demo game, and maybe a few learning games. You have a vague sense of the rules. From here, we need to take the step from knowing the rules, to developing a winning strategy.
How To Win
Fundamentally, Doomtown is an area control game. You control locations (Deeds) which are worth Control Points (CPs), and at the end of a turn in which you have more Control Points than your opponents Influence, you win the game. It’s extremely important to note that while shootouts and jobs can be used to force opposing dudes off of deeds, or to reduce your opponent’s influence, shootouts are not required to win the game. Some decks are built to lose every shootout. Your main goal should always be: how do I get more control points than my opponent has influence.
How to Wager
In reverse, you lose a game of Doomtown when your opponent has more Control Points than you have influence. To make a poker analogy, every time you put a Dude in danger (like in a Shootout), you have wagered that Dude. If you put a Dude with influence in danger, you have wagered that Influence. It is important to make good wagers - put influence in shootouts or dangerous locations only if the potential upside is worth the risk. It is common to see new players accept every callout, oppose every Kidnappin’, and match every movement to Town Square. When you move your Dudes in to danger, identify what you hope to gain by doing so, and make sure the potential gain is worth what you are putting at risk. You do not want to throw good money (your Dudes with influence or important abilities) after bad (a Dude that was caught out of position, or that you cannot effectively defend).
Example: At the start of a turn, your opponent plays a Kidnappin’ on your “Thunder Boy” Nabbe, sending all of their available Dudes. You may think that you need to defend this job to win the game - Thunder Boy has one of your influence, and might be your best source of Stud bullets. Some of the time, it is correct to not oppose the job and let Thunder Boy be discarded. You’ll reduce your Upkeep cost by one (improving your economy), and you may be able to take advantage of your opponent being booted. It will depend on the situation, and making the correct read is a critical skill in Doomtown.
Making the Read
As you play, you should be looking at your opponent’s board position as well as your own. Try to figure out how YOU would win if you had their cards instead of your own. What Deeds does your opponent need to control? How many Dudes can they get there? Do they want to fight? Knowing answers to questions like these can help you decide what to do with your own plays.
This process of evaluating your opponent’s board position, and how they plan to approach the game, should begin as soon as starting gangs are revealed. Did your opponent reveal no upkeep, minimal or no stud, and six influence? You may need to plan to play against a Landslide deck. Did your opponent reveal 2 upkeep, and 2 different stud shooters? That start doesn’t sound sustainable, so expect them to come out swinging.
Continue to make these reads as the game continues. If your opponent is moving to your location with several dudes, look at your hand. Do you have a Cheating Resolution, or Shootout Actions? These will make you stronger in a Shootout. Look at your opponent’s discard pile for powerful actions, and to check what values their deck might be on (more on this later). Sun in Yer Eyes on 3, Pistol Whip or Rabbit’s Deception on 5, and Faster on the Draw on 6 can all be game changing if played in a shootout. Is your opponent on these or other strong shootout values? Is their hand full, or mostly played out?
Closing the Game
To oversimplify, most games of Doomtown end with a process players refer to as Chess. In contrast to the early game, when CPs in play are low and influence is high, in the end game, there are sufficient Control Points (CPs) in play that at least one of the players can win if they control enough of them. This could happen because Dudes have died, and influence totals are lower, or it can happen because Deeds have entered play and there are now more available CPs to take. Usually, it is a combination of these two factors.
Often, during “chess” control of deeds will change rapidly as players alternate moving dudes around to gain control of deeds. If a player moves to contest control, another player may simply boot away to take a different Deed rather than fight. In this part of the game it is important to track what Dudes with influence can still easily move (even more important than usual), and how many CPs are needed to win for each player.
A player that believes, rightly or wrongly, that they will lose the Chess portion of the game may attempt to start a large shootout instead. If successful, it can ace a lot of opposing influence a) reducing the amount of dudes around to claim deeds and b) making it possible to win with less CPs. A player who is winning the movement game will likely try to avoid this, or sacrifice a few dudes rather than pile in. Remember: shootouts are NOT required to win the game. Keep identifying how many CP you need to win, and how you can get them.