Shootouts and You

Originally published at:
by Doomdog

“It’s a card game in which you resolve combat with poker hands!” Shootouts and Poker are certainly two reasons to love Doomtown: Reloaded, and a great hook for selling/introducing the game to new players. The tense decision-making that goes into deciding which cards you discard when using your draw bonus is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of the game. You can’t beat the feeling you get when things pay off and you draw into the last card you needed for your Straight Flush/Legal 5 of a Kind/Dead Man’s Hand. Shootouts come with risks, especially in the early game, as you do not always know what cards your opponent holds that can influence a shootout or whether you can get away with Cheatin’ your way to a higher hand rank. New players often see their games decided on the first two turns with all-in dustups in the town square. A typical comment is, “well, it’s fun, but is that all there is to Doomtown?” Actually, not at all, as many of the top tier decks in the current tournament metagame that eschew shootouts in favour of control spells and/or landslide have shown. As such, it may seem odd to write about shootouts. I’ve seen, however, that shootouts are an element of the game that causes issues when learning how to play.

I’ve noticed that new players tend to accept every callout and oppose every job even when the odds aren’t in their favour. Why not accept every callout if shootouts are fun? Not all dudes are created equal. Dudes with influence keep you in the game, that’s why. The lower your influence gets, the easier it is for your opponent to win the game. If you send everyone into a first turn town square shootout and things go badly, you could end up losing all or most of your influence. Now, your opponent only needs to control one or two deeds to win the game. Heck, they can possibly end up taking over YOUR deeds. As deeds are also your source of income, getting into a situation where it’s a bad idea to play more of them can keep you stuck in a losing position. You really only want to risk your influential dudes in a shootout in a few situations:
• You believe that the odds are in your favour.
• When you’ve got one or two expendable dudes to assign casualties to if things go badly.
• When you have to fight to stay in the game.

Evaluating the odds of winning a shootout isn’t always easy, and is something that comes with experience. There are nonetheless some situations where reaching for your holster clearly isn’t the best idea. Sometimes it’s simply a case of looking at the relative bullet ratings of the dudes involved. When comparing Lucinda “Lucy” Clover’s 0 draw against Steven Wiles’ 3 stud, you’d put your money on Wiles winning the fight. Since Lucy also has an impressive 2 influence and a useful ability, she is best held out of fights or used only with plenty of support. If I controlled Lucy and didn’t have some sneaky way of evening the odds in my hand, I’d refuse that shootout and go home booted where Lucy’s influence still helps you stay in the game.

The cards that you have in hand along with what you think your opponent holds determine whether you should engage in a shootout or not. A hand containing Shootout actions, Resolution, and/or Cheatin’ cards can go a long way towards influencing a shootout in your favor. If your opponent has plenty of cards in their hand and plays aggressively, it’s a good bet they’re holding a shootout action or two. Pay attention during lowball and you can determine what cards your opponent packs in their deck. You can also check your opponent’s discard pile at any time to see what shootout actions and resolutions their deck contains to inform your decisions. This also give you a chance to figure out what structure and values they’re running, as well as how many copies of certain cards or resolutions they’re likely to have left in their deck. All this information helps decide how to proceed and what to expect from your opponent.

Another thing to take into account is who else can join the shootout, and whether they should. Dudes at the same location as the callout can join the posse, and unbooted dudes at adjacent locations can boot to join. If you can send a strong stud in to back up your posse, or move in an expendable dude (one with zero influence, or who is only there for one turn to get into a fight such as Bobo or Steven Wiles), you’ll have a better chance of coming out of the shootout with your influence and key dudes unscathed and hopefully have taken out some of your opponent’s important dudes. Having more dudes in a shootout means gaining more bullet bonuses. Bringing in more than one stud dude makes it harder for your opponent to deny you a stud bonus through Shootout actions. Remember, do not bring in a dude that you cannot afford to lose unless necessary. You may not want to leave all your dudes booted in one location unable to actively affect the game for the rest of the turn. If two dudes are in the shootout and things go wrong, then you’ve lost two dudes and excess casualties are ignored. If you go all-in then you could lose a lot more. After the first round of a shootout, some of your dudes can flee home booted while others can stay for round two. Dudes with influence might thus be better off retreating if you’re not optimistic about your chances going forward. Your better shooters can hold the fort and see if your opponent cares to risk their dudes for another round of the shootout.

Expanding on the last point, your opponent might send a weak dude to challenge your strongest dude and then send in backup if you accept the callout. They could also send a strong dude after your weak influential dude, trying to draw in your other dudes to boot them and leave them out of position. What I’m starting to touch on here is the wider strategic part of the game of positioning, manoeuvring, bluffs, and bully moves. While movement and board positioning are beyond the scope of this article, hopefully you can see that shootouts are just one of the tools at your disposal when playing Doomtown Reloaded. Any drifter can get into a shootout. The key to winning shootouts, however, is to pick your fights for maximum impact and to try and stack the odds in your favour.

Here are some cards that usually make their way into shootouts:


Sun in Yer Eyes

Play this card on your opponent’s biggest stud dude. Lowering their bullets while turning them into a draw dude, means that they will see fewer cards in their initial draw hand. This in turn gives fewer options for discards and forces tougher decisions as to how they use their draw bonus. Law Dogs (or anyone with a lot of Cheatin’ Resolutions) love bullet reducing cards, since it increases the odds of your opponent having to reveal a Cheatin’ hand. Just because you are facing a one-stud dude, does not make Sun in Yer Eyes an auto-play. Often, an opponent will hold out the ‘big guns’ to feint you into playing a Sun on your weenie stud and then use a movement effect (Stakes Just Rose, Pinto, Walk the Path, etc.) to bring in the heavy artillery.

Pistol Whip

Use it to remove a strong shooter protecting a weaker dude with influence, or to get rid of an expendable dude so your opponent will have to assign casualties to dudes that they care about. Remember to use your backups to absorb the booting and bullet reducing costs to Whipping an opponent home. It’s also handy on the defence if someone sends a lone gunman after your dude and you don’t fancy your chances when the lead starts to fly.

The Stakes Just Rose

This card brings in protection for an isolated dude. It also returns Pistol Whipped dudes to the fight. Better yet, it brings in an expendable draw dude while turning them into a shootout threat!


This card shuts down dudes with powerful shootout abilities or lots of goods and spells (we call these Voltron or Railroad dudes). Even better, booted dudes can’t pistol whip your dudes. Bullet reduction is always useful, as turning a two-stud into a one-stud effectively turns that dude into backup fodder. Remember it doesn’t negate any traits that dude has.

Make the Smart Choice

Target your opponent’s dude to lower their bullets and maybe remove them from the fight. Remember that lone dude? No Stakes Just Rose to bring in a buddy? Well, you can play it on YOUR dude to have them back out of an otherwise mandatory fight (e.g. a booted dude called out).

Hiding in the Shadows

If there's a shootout looming and you suspect your opponent has a hand full of Shootout actions that can ruin your day, or there's a powerful Shootout ability on a card in play such as 'Shotgun' or 'Xiong "Wendy" Cheng', Hide in the Shadows to cover your back.

Point Blank

Lots of actions result in booting your dude(s). If your stud makes it through the shootout unbooted, you can reap the reward of acing a dude before taking casualties. If that was their only dude, guess what, even if you lost the shootout on hand ranks, the shootout is over, and your dude remains to shoot another day.


A Cheatin’ Resolution that lets you ace one of their dudes pre-casualty. Again, this occurs irrespective of hand ranks, so if you play legal, you can remove their best shooter (evening the odds going forward in the shootout) or emptying their posse, saving your dudes from certain death.