Shooting Tin Cans - A Doomtown L2P Primer

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.


Deck Structure

I am defining Deck Structure as nothing more, and nothing less than the total combination of values and Suits that make up your deck. Understanding how Deck Structures work is a critical skill in Doomtown, and is important for you to be able to make accurate reads during the game. All decks have a structure, and the best decks have a structure that matches the deck’s intended play pattern. Some decks are very tight (lots of matching values and suits), and others are looser (e.g. a deck to make a straight might have many different values). An important concept in Doomtown is to have a sense of your opponent’s structure, as well as your own. Your structure will have an effect on your ability to make shootout hands, how your deck behaves during lowball, and how it performs other game actions (e.g. Pulls). As long as your deck meets the deckbuilding rules, you can develop any structure you would like for your deck, with the following things in mind:

  • Lowball - The player that reveals the worst hand in lowball gets to go first that round, as well as gaining money from their opponent. Both of these are important factors, but in my experience new players minimize the second of these effects. A player that starts 1 Dude with upkeep, and has a structure that consistently loses Lowball will only make 1 GR a turn (3 from Outfit card, lose 1 from Lowball, pay 1 Upkeep) until they play out some deeds. A player that starts 0 Dudes with upkeep, and has a very loose structure that always wins Lowball might be making a total of 4 (3 from Outfit card, 1 from Lowball). A deck that wants to go first in a turn, or benefits from increased production might want a deck that is looser.
  • Shootouts - The advantage of a tight or “stacked” deck is you are more likely to make a good Shootout hand with less stud or draw in the shootout. Such decks might cheat more often if they don’t have the Bullets to prevent it, but they will usually be able to make a high ranked hand. Decks that plan to get in shootouts often, particularly at the start of the game, might want a deck that is tighter.
  • Pulls - If your deck requires a Pull for any reason (e.g. to invent a Gadget), you need to keep that in mind as you deckbuild. Depending on how important that Pull is expected to be, you can decide on how many potential failures you include in your deck (if any). For example, if you are building a deck that consistently needs to Pull a 9 or greater, you might build only with those values.

As I mentioned previously, you can create any structure that makes sense to you and your deck’s goals. That being said, veteran Doomtown players have seen some structures come up again and again:

  • 16x3 - This is the tightest a deck can possibly be. To build a deck like this, simply choose 3 values for your deck, and include 4 cards from each Suit on that value. You’ll notice to do this you’ll even need one of your starters to be on value. While it’s rare for a deck to be an actual 16x3, decks on 3 values with only a few off-value cards are probably among the most common structures in Doomtown (at least as of this writing). These decks make Full Houses easily (even if sometimes they have to cheat), with minimal bullets and can be straightforward to play. They lose lowball to looser structures regularly, and cheat in lowball often. 16x3 decks can become weaker as the game continues, as they play out their cards and remove them from the structure. For example, late in the game a deck may have played ALL of it’s 10 of Hearts, and no longer have access to them in a Shootout. It’s important to track things like that during the game.
  • There is a variant 16x3 deck that is specifically on the values of A, 8, and J. This is because the specific hand of the two black Aces, the two black 8s, and the J of Diamonds is a Dead Man’s Hand, the highest ranked hand in Doomtown. In the early game, these decks generally make Full Houses as a 16x3 deck does. As the game continues, and the player plays out the cards that are not specifically in a Dead Man’s Hand, the structure gets “stronger” as it is more likely to get a DMH. Additionally, because of the presence of DMH in the deck, bullets are more beneficial to this style of deck than they are normally in a 16x3 deck. Eventually such a deck can “degenerate” to DMH, in which it is highly likely to get a DMH with every shootout hand. This can effectively lock an opponent out of Shootouts for the rest of the game, and is something to keep in mind.
  • Flush or Straight Flush decks - These decks are trying to make a Flush or Straight Flush, by including several sequential values all on the same Suit. Traditionally, Clubs have been considered the “best” suit for this, as after being played they return to your structure, however you can make this type of structure with any of the 4 Suits to varying degrees of success. Early in the game, these decks are “weaker” than 16x3 decks in a shootout as a Flush loses to a Full House, and it takes more bullets to make a Straight Flush consistently. Later in the game however, as off value cards are removed and the Flush player has more bullets the structure becomes stronger: Straight Flushes beat Full Houses AND 4 of a Kinds (the hands 16x3 decks generally make), and aren’t cheating hands. Decks like this often use the card Comin’ Up Roses for both the Resolution and Cheatin’ Resolution.

There are decks that use none of these structures, and use something else instead. Some “Landslide” or “Slide” decks (decks that win by overwhelming with deeds rather than fighting) don’t shoot well at all, because they have a very loose structure, but it helps them win lowball for an economic advantage, and in a pinch they might make a Flush with Diamonds. Make sure that your deck has a structure that works for it. While playing, try to identify your opponent’s general structure to help identify at what parts of the game they might be strong, and what times they might be weak. How many bullets are they likely to need to form a good Shootout hand? Check their discard pile - is a value or suit over represented in it, making it harder for them to draw a good hand? Knowing when it is safe to move around, and when you should stay put based on your opponent’s draw structure and your own is an important skill in Doomtown.


Reserved 2.

Playing Against Landslide

I wanted to review how to play against a specific strategy, Landslide, in this section of the primer. To be clear, I don’t think Landslide is broken. At the time of this writing, I actually think Landslide is quite weak, and maybe not even viable in a tournament sense. However, Landslide takes advantage of players who do not know its tricks, and is particularly the bane of new players everywhere. So let’s go through Landslide, and how to beat it!

What is “Landslide”

There is no specific definition in the community for Landslide or “Slide”, it simply refers to a strategy of dropping as many deeds as possible as fast as possible in order to overcome the opposing influence. For those familiar with other card games, Landslide is Doomtown’s version of a “Burn” deck. Some of the older versions of Slide were completely unable to shoot, but there are some variants that are able to shoot a bit. These decks usually have a high concentration of Deeds (Diamonds).

How Do I know I’m Playing Against Landslide?

Landslide gets a lot of power from catching the opponent offguard, so it’s important to identify a Landslide deck as early as possible in the game. Step one is to try to spot it in your opponent’s start. In older formats, there were some Outfit cards that gave it away immediately, but I don’t believe that to be the case at the moment. You can however, sometimes see it in the dudes your opponent is starting. High influence starts should be suspicious for Landslide, and any start greater than 5 I would label extremely suspicious. Starts that have no dudes with an upkeep cost are also a classic sign of a Landslide deck. In addition, study your opponent’s first lowball hand. If it has a high concentration of Deeds it may just be chance, or it may be a sign of Landslide.

How Do I Win?

A game against Landslide has a bit of a different pace. The Landslide player will drop several deeds, and you will be forced to take them. They will have started enough Influence that this does not put them in danger. Eventually as they continue to play more Deeds, you will run out of Dudes to cover them all. During this time the Landslide player will likely be consistently winning lowball due to their weak draw structure (effectively taxing you 1 GR a turn), and be gaining a lot of GR per turn from any deeds that you don’t take. There’s a few steps to get through this:

  1. Starts - Landslide is a deck that you can lose to in deck construction, which can sound odd, but is very easy to avoid. It’s important to start enough influence that you do not fall easily to just a few deeds. It’s hard to answer “how much influence should I start”, as it’s meta dependent. At the time of this writing, starting 3 influence is sufficiently risky that I would advise against it. 4 influence is seen as somewhat standard. 5 influence is quite good. For reasons that will become obvious later, it’s better if the influence is split up amongst your dudes, and not all on one.
  1. Careful Playing Deeds - Make sure that when you play a deed, it’s safe to do so. When you play a deed with CPs, but aren’t able to cover it, you are introducing additional CPs to the game. Remember, the Landslide player wins by overwhelming your influence with CPs. If you give them access to additional CPs that may be more than you can handle.
  2. Contest In Town Deeds - As your opponent plays out deeds, those deeds will also give them additional ghost rock, which will lead to more deeds and CPs. If everything goes right for the Landslide player, this will continue to snowball until the end of the game. It’s important to, as you can, move your dudes with influence to the deed so that you can disrupt the income it generates. This is why having your influence spread out on your dudes is helpful. Limiting your opponent’s income in this way will slow down the Landslide deck considerably.
  3. Out of Town Deeds - Deeds that are “Out of Town” are quite good against Landslide, because they give you additional GR per turn, without giving your landslide opponent additional access to CPs.
  4. Use Targeted Jobs - Use jobs like Kidnappin’ to attack your opponent’s influence. Most Landslide decks do not have strong shootout structures, and don’t have many bullets. Additionally, your opponent can’t just boot home to avoid the callout.
  5. Play Dudes with Upkeep Slowly - Be careful playing out dudes with upkeep too quickly. If you are consistently losing lowball, and trying to pay upkeep, and trying to develop your board it can be too much, and you’ll lose dudes to Upkeep costs. Obviously, hiring a dude only to discard him in a turn or two is not an efficient use of ghost rock. Try to pile up a bit of GR before playing things out.

Good luck!

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