Howdy Cowpokes!

The fine folks from the Tombstone Epitaph requested a Trail Guide to Manchester, England, site of the wild n woolly 2018 Doomtown: Reloaded World Championships. The followin’ events are truthful, to the best o’ my recollectin’. This ain’t no rumour-rag like the Tombstone Nugget…

Friday: The Journey / Social Gatherin’

My trail to the Manchester World Championships began at Euros 2017 in Huddersfield, and continued through GenCon 2017. I had too much fun at both events. I resolved to make it out to Worlds this year to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and play a bucket-load of Doomtown!

Preparations began in January, when the Grand Ginger Pubah (David Lapp) announced dates and posted a preparatory thread on the Pinebox forums. Scott Wisely, one-half of the Scott and Heidi Tournament Organizing tour de force, organized accommodations and hospitality for out of town (and country and continent) players. Particular thanks again to Heidi Cook for wrangling slots in a Pathfinder Society game for Sunday evening and introducing me to Ian, Pathfinder Society Venture Lieutenant (pronunced Lef-tenant, ie. correctly. ;)) While my wife isn’t much for the cards, she enjoyed a great evening RPG session while I failed to scrub out of the DTR T8 to come join her!

May, 2018, rolled around and our train chugged into the station on Friday afternoon, a mere 20 minutes late. We found a veritable posse waitin’ for us. Heidi served as lookout for this operation, while Scott wrangled stray players from the station foyer. Russell Smith from London, David Hogg from York, Zac from California, and Christine and David Lapp were on site and lookin’ for trouble. Meanwhile 2/3 of the Danish Contingent (Anders and Benni; Mads was to arrive later by hired coach) were already playin’ Doomtown!

Our lodgings were convenient and comfortable, right by the train station. One major plus to the Bunkhouse was the kitchen facilities: it kept the drinks cold, and food costs down! We also later discovered around back of the lobby is a restaurant seatin’ area that is pretty well deserted in the wee hours of the mornin’. Oh, and the desk staff and security didn’t mind a passel of Doomtown players sittin’ down at the tables for some last minute practice.

After droppin’ our packs, we all needed refreshments. Prior to the organized social at 7 PM at the Port Street Barrel House, the Lapps joined us for a walk around downtown Manchester, culminatin’ in some forgettable Brazilian grub. The Lapps then rode off straight to the social, while I detoured via our hotel to quickly rejigger my gadget deck. I debated turnin’ in early to stockpile a gunslinger’s secret weapon (sleep), but I wanted to spend more time in the company of friends. Plus I needed to shake off a little Doomtown rust. Besides, the pub was only 5 minutes away.

A full hour later, I find the Port Street Pub and the Gadget challenge well underway. Lacking a Guide Horse, I missed a crucial street sign. Those not familiar with England may not be aware of the English practice of placing street signs on the corner of buildings, in places more-or-less visible from the street-corner, rather than posting them on traffic light fixtures. Those only moderately acquainted with England, such as your humble correspondent, might make the mistake of assuming that this is always the case, blithely overlooking the occasional sign posted somewhere in the roadway. The company was full of cheer and merriment, , and I am still managed to get 2 games in before the pub closed down for the night. At this point, the Danes, Zac, Adam, and I decided to get some food and play more Doomtown. Without locals to guide us, we made our way to a perfectly adequate chippie for some overly-dry lamb and decent chips. We finally booted to our respective hotels before Saturday’s big shin-dig.

Saturday: Deadlands, Guests, and yes, Doomtown!

After making up for some residual jet-lag, my better half and I wandered on down to Fan Boy Three for the morning RPG Roll Call. As a true blue Lawman at heart, I went straight for Marshal Lapp’s Law Dogs ‘n Cattlepokes table. Meanwhile my wife, a redblooded scoundrel, moseyed on over to Russel’s Sloane session.

I won’t provide a detailed account of our Deadlands hijinks since some of the game sessions relate to published and pending Pinnacle products, I don’t want to spoil any surprises. Second, writers far more eloquent than myself are handling the official story write-up for all the tables, and I certainly don’t want to steal their thunder. I do have a confession to make: before this past Saturday, I don’t think I’d ever actually played at a Deadlands RPG table. Thanks to these RPG sessions during Saturday’s events, I can now confidently say that Savage Worlds: Deadlands is a fun system!

I can say, however, that several familiar faces have found themselves drawn to Tombstone, for various reasons. Barton and the Gang, were after a big score. They’re also fallin’ in with the no-good, dirty rotten, yellow-bellied Cowboys. Meanwhile, the righteous forces of law and order have met the Earps, and have been dragged back into fightin’ for peace and justice. Oh, and a certain mad scientist, along with the Handsome Mayor of Priceless were along for the impending showdown.

To be honest, I didn’t rightly know what them 108 “Righteous” robbers were up to alongside them so-called “Eagle Wardens”. I heard rumours of a gun battle at the Bayou Vermillion rail-head, and I suspect they might have been involved in that. As for the Fourth Ring, all I knew is that, if it involved a Whateley, it ain’t good.

On the bright side, thanks to some mechanical ingenuity, initimidatin’ starin’, smooth talkin, and a good ol’ fashioned shotgun-butt, us big darn heroes managed to quell them troublesome Cowboys, at least for now. Last I heard, Virgil, Virginia, and Wyatt [Earps] were headin’ for a stroll on down to the OK Corral. Heard some ol’ friends from Gomorra might have been headin’ there too. Think I might join ’em, seems like a nice day for a reunion… For the record, at the point of me puttin’ down the Character Sheet for the cut-scene wrap-up to the session, Wendy was still alive. The same is true after the final ballotin’ for the Doomtown: Reloaded tournament on Sunday.

After a short break, a number of my compadres settled into a pre-tournament Doomtown tournament downstairs. I prefer to do my killin’ after dinner, so I signed up for some more Deadlands action with special guest Owen Lean! He kindly came down to Marshal one of his published Deadlands scenarios, “A Taxidermist’s Tail.” If you are interested in demoing Deadlands for a local group, then mosey on over to Pinnacle’s site and download this free Savage Tale:
https://www.peginc.com/store/the-taxidermists-tail/

The convention was also graced by special guest Ralph Horsley. You might know his work from Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, Shadows Over Brimstone, and other fine gaming products. Full credit to Heidi for pushin’ me to overcome my reservations and ask whether I could commission a playmat featuring a trio of Pathfinder Society characters (mine, my wife’s, and our Owlbear companion). Working with nothing more than a very general description and answers to three or four insightful follow-up questions, Ralph produced a first-class piece of art for a very reasonable price. I was absolutely delighted by the result, and would heartily recommend Ralph’s art and artistic services to any and all!

A common theme of my Doomtown experiences was fun and friendship formed at impromptu social gatherings, usually involving food. Saturday was no exception: after the RPG and Doomtown wrapped up for the night, all of us Doomtown folk were invited to a birthday celebration for two fine compadres from Fanboy Three at a downtown waterin’ hole. Various groups ended up splitting off to look for food on the way there, and we ended up snagging burgers next door to the bar. After fine conversation over some loud music (a genuine Manchester experience, so I’m told), my darling and I figured that some quiet sleep would do us both good.

On the way back to the hotel, though, we ran into the Danes and Zac headin’ searching for grub and yet more Doomtown! We agreed to rendezvous at a particular pub. Reconnecting about 30 minutes later, we grabbed pints and settle in for a game or two.

No sooner had we sat down with our libations than we were advised that the saloon was closing “in two minutes!” Rather than disabuse the innkeeper of his strange temporal notions, we decided to try and find a more hospitable locale to hone our skills. While ice-cream turned out to be a bust, the hotel lobby proved more than sufficient to our purposes. Similarly, the Danish (and American) Doomtown skills proved more than sufficient to take me down a peg or three! Hide smartin’ and head full o’ ideas, I bid adieu at some-point in the small hours of the morning, and bedded down to internalize some hard-learned lessons.

Sunday: Main Event Time

Powered by sausage rolls from a common high-street baker, I rolled into Fanboy Three ready to take on the world! Our gracious Pinebox Entertainment Representatives supplied actual, printed There Comes A Reckoning cards to replace my totally legitimate proxies. The fancy new Doomtown Totebag was a good purchase: fits my whole collection perfectly, and rocks the new alt-art No Turnin’ Back artwork by Charles Urbachas. Swag, there was also an (electronic) shootin’ gallery for between-round shootin’ stress relief and promotional Point Blank acquisition! Props to Robbie Campbell for bringing this interactive décor to the tournament.

1st Round: Graham Donkin. “Postatron: Rise of the Quaterman…. apparently” (Morgan Gadgetorium Mad Science + Hellstromme). A gracious opponent, but I confess I do not remember too much about the play details of this match. A lack of Force Fields hindered his build-up, as I successfully mugged gadgets and hang mad scientists. The shootin’ was over pretty quickly, so we had time for a friendly match afterwards.

2nd Round: Andy Wroe, “To Hellstromme and Back” (Morgan Gadgetorium Mad Science + Hellstromme). This one felt closer than the prior match, but I turned the tide of gadget shenanigans and locked down the match. I seem to recall there was only one Force Field on the board when I made my push, and I managed to lock it down. Once again, there was time for a friendly match afterwards, plus grabbing a sandwich from upstairs.

3rd Round: Robbie “Heartbreaker” Campbell, “Top 4 Sloane 3,J,K Town Square Shan Fan!” (Sloane CP Rush). Sloane that doesn’t accrue bounties can be tough for a Law Dog to deal with, especially when a canny opponent defends the Ol’ Fashioned Hangin’ with everyone except the bountied Allie Hensman! Strangely (but perhaps appropriately, especially given poor Sheriff Montreal’s experience) Sloane cp rush seems to be my deck’s nemesis. I was knocked out of GenCon t4 by a Sloane Gang all-clubs CP rush. I was done-in at Pax Unplugged in the finals by a Raven/Protection Racket CP rush. And now at Worlds 2018 in Manchester I fell hard against a classic Sloane Gang town square blitz. We reminisced about old times, and ponder the odds of finally meeting after the cut.

Interlude: At this point, second lunch! Thanks to Zac, we ran out to enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. While the downstairs gaming area was kept gloriously cool, experiencing a rare English Summer was a chance we colonials couldn’t resist. We found a lovely Tapas restaurant. The company, break, exercise, and balanced meal all were excellent complements to the day. Many thanks to mi compadre for the suggestion!

4th Round: Stephen Bushnall, the sharpest dressed dude of the day, in proper cowboy getup. “Worlds 2018 – First Top 8 Finish – EVER!!!” (Law Dogs A-2-3 LH)). I’m pleased to report my fellow Law Dog didn’t wither in the heat of his fancy duds. Full credit to my opponent: the only things sharper than his vest were his plays. I contributed to my quick demise, however, with an improvident strategic choice, an unwise tactical choice, and a gosh-darned stupid mistake.

Strategically, on Turn 2 or 3, I drew three deeds: B&B Attorneys, Town Council, and Pettigrew’s Pawnshop. I have the opportunity to Swinford cycle off of low-ball, and I know that three deeds is more than I want (especially against another aggressive deck). B&BAttorneys is the no-brainer to keep, but between Town Council and Pettigrews, I chose the cheaper deed, but playing out B&B. Big mistake: no sooner have I played B&B then Stephen played his own Pettigrew’s. He then proceeded to make bank off of the numerous goods he equips.

Tactically, I made a big play mistake when I chose to use B&B to up the bounty that I threw down onto his Thunder Boy, rather than remove the bounty he put on my Thunder Boy. I realized this on the next turn, but by then I’ve lost the opportunity to keep the opposing T.B. bounty-free. This negated the opportunity for me to copy my prior opponent’s plan of keeping bounties away from shootouts involving my opponent’s (wanted) Thunder Boy.

The killer mistake, though, was running an Ol’ Fashioned Hanging into a Thunder Boy equipped with a Legendary Holster. I had Unprepared, but Stephen was the Winner and therefore was ‘faster on the draw’. I also had a Mugging in hand, which was the job I meant to run. Stephen wisely chose to shoot before buffing Thunder Boy. By doing so, he upgraded his lowball win into a match win.

On the bright side: dying quickly left plenty of time for a friendly rematch!

Brief Interlude: Sugar Time via Cream Soda from the upstairs cafe. More importantly, I also to obtained a prized autograph on Erin Knight from the young lady herself! Also had the artist herself sign my new Avie Jokers. I feel a 4th Ring deck coming on, but for now, back to the tournament!

5th and Final Round of Swiss: David Woof, 108 Pure Slide (deck not posted to DTDB at time of writing). With each of us being 2-2 at Table 5, this was the nail-biter round for both of us. In many respects, this was my closest match all day. With each of us rockin’ 13+ Influence on some turns, and with me contributing 3 or 4 deed-based control-points to David’s ever-expanding town, every removal job was a tense calculation of benefit vs. cost. I saw the Judge around turn 4 or 5, which enabled me to threaten to remove 2-4 of David’s influence every turn from then-on (depending on whether I had a Hangin’ as well). The threat was equal to myself, however, since the Judge job would involve tying down 4 of my influence (x3 for Judge, x1 for Wendy) at home!

I think David sensed my anxiety about the clock, and full credit to my honourable opponent for not slow-playin’. While there were tough decisions to make, I felt he made them in a thoughtful but timely manner. I took down the victory just in time as I reached the TO’s counter to report when time was called! In our post-match debrief, we both agreed that it could have gone either way. My camping on his orphanage to potentially decrease my 2nd Bank plus an unbooted Judge to chess around town, I’m confident the deciding round would have been forced back another turn rather than flipping at Sundown.

One extra bit of random esoterica came to mind: if my memory served, this match played out similarly (though without Steven Wiles shenanigans or a Hangin’ Brute) to our Swiss match at Euros 2017.

Top 8!

Stephen Bushnall, redux. I was in equal measures disappointed, pleased, worried, and excited to sit across from Stephen once again. Disappointed because the regrettably inevitable blue-on-blue match occurred so early post-cut. Pleased, because I faced off against a sporting opponent whose deck I admired. Worried, because I’d just had my posterior handed to me in Swiss by this opponent and deck. Excited, because I wanted a chance to redeem myself after my epic blunders in our prior match! This game, revenge was indeed mine. As I recall, an early Legendary Holster play left my opponent starved for cash/deeds. Also, Unprepared works much better when you are the Winner!

Top 4!!

James (Joe) Merideth, “Decimating with 8s & Straights – Worlds ’18 – Top 4

Footage of the match can be found here.

Joe was an old friend from across the pond. We last formally squared off against each other back in November, in the t4 match at Pax Unplugged. A formidable and friendly opponent every time we play, I looked forward to this match. Not only would it be fun and tense, but I felt I had the upper hand, having taken out two other Regulators decks already this day.

Things nearly went very, very wrong.

My deck has good tools to take on gadgets. Mugging is the long-term solution that turns off some gadgets before a fight starts, while Unprepared and Faithful Hound are the heavy lifters come shootout time. Sun in Yer Eyes and Hattie are also good at blunting big studs without nasty abilities, of which gadget decks often produce an overabundance. When Force Field hits the table, I also know the importance of trying to fight with at least two means of FF shutdown in hand, thanks to Mad Scientists’ skill in making Slight Modifications to their gadgets. (Incidentally, the same tools can be good at dealing with spells; swapping out Faithful Hound for the advantage of not having to deal with Slight Mods.)

Gadgets can take a little while to tool up, and James didn’t seem eager to bring the fight to me. This gave me time to establish an economic base while fishing for those crucial Unprepareds/Faithful Hounds. When I had one of each, it was time for a Mugging. As expected, the Unprepared was hit with a Slight Mod. I then threw out bullet penalties on my opponent’s dudes, and we drew our hands. When deciding whether or not to aim for a cheatin’ 5-o-a-K vs. a legal hand, I weighed my casualty choices and saw my nice, unbooted sidekick. I was gutted. I figured I couldn’t risk cheatin’: the extra hand ranks wouldn’t help when my opponent could Force Field them back, while it also exposed me to the much nastier Cheatin’ Resolution on It’s Not What You Know. Further, a Coachwhipped dude with the Hound would spell doom for the remainder of the shootout, and possibly the game. So, I kept it legal and bit the bullet as my opponent Force Fielded, then dropped my hand rank. I then sprang my ‘cunning surprise’ second-round play, Faithful Hounding away the Force Field. And that, as they say, was that.

The Finals!!!

David Hogg, 108 Deadman’s Hand: “#2@ Worlds – Dead Man’s Handits 2: Aces and Eights Boogaloo.”

Footage of the match can be found here.

For the finals, the judges offered a choice between timed best two out of three or an untimed single game. Seein’ as how I was a greenhorn wanderin’ into Death’s domain, I figured I’d let Stone David Hogg decide which he preferred. Death only comes for a gunslinger once, and a straight-up faceoff at Town Square has only one ending. So it was indeed a single duel to the finish.

After the initial lowball (t1 @ 1:30), I looked through the discard pile to find a pile o’ Aces and 8’s. I believe my reaction was: ‘oh, bother’. Having been smacked about by Anders’ “Golddigger!!!” degenerating Dead Man’s Hand deck in previous warm-up matches, I knew the importance of forcing early pressure before my opponent could reliably pull three consecutive Dead Man’s Hands.

I got a lucky break t2 (@~5.30) when I started a shootout with only Phil against my opponent’s Asakichi Cooke. I have a Faster on the Draw, which limits my opponent to 6 redraw 2 to my 7 cards. A fair fight… but my opponent has a Pedro, where I’ve staked real influence in the fight. I dodge a bullet when my opponent only pulls 2 pair, rather than a full house. David had Pedro, Xiaodan Li, and Daomei Wang to cover the four casualties. Crucially I didn’t lose Phil, and I burned through my opponent’s “buffer” for subsequent shootouts.

I saw my key deeds early. My preferred setup for this deck is a 2nd Bank of Gommora on one side of my home, and B&B Attorneys on the other side of the home. Those provide a reliable supply of ghost rock, a stable and defensible number of control points of my own on the board, and bounty escalation against decks that chess around the board.

Speaking of decks with movement tricks, I’d recently experienced the 108’s ability to cluster at home in my R5 game vs. David Woof. I’d recognized that keeping Hamshanks bounty-free is a crucial piece of making my deck work, given how his annoying trait can gum up my bounty-placin’ / bounty raisin’ / Ol’ Fashioned Hangin’ tricks. I am pleased when my opponent starts manoeuvring lone dudes across the board. While it starts pulling my dudes out of town square, it also leads to opportunities to throw down bounties on high-influence targets rather than Hamshanks (e.g., @~10:50, @18:00).

Shortly after bootin’ Phil to help bounty-up Randall, my opponent drops Steven Wiles. This is a dangerous situation for Phil, so when David moves Steven into the Gommora Parish I need an exit strategy. Enter Mugging on Steven: ideally, I can get that dude discarded or booted home. Worst case scenario, I lose a Brute and save my Phil. While I don’t win the shootout hand (my Cheatin’ 5 ran into a Legal DMH), the loss is manageable and my dudes with influence live to maneuver another day.

The next day, I draw Wendy Cheng, and the Ol’ Fashioned Hangin’s can begin in earnest! One of the many reasons I like Ol’ Fashioned Hangin’ over Kidnappin’ is that the job’s leader does not boot. When combined with Wendy and a lowball win, I can lower the number of dudes I need to bring and boot home on an unopposed job. Over this turn and the next, Wendy performs yeoman’s service in this match, ultimately Hangin’ 4 influence and accumulatin’ 2 CP to tip the game in my favour.

The one remaining surprise is on the last turn, when (@ 28:15) David sends Daomei Wang to town square. I was sure he was going to start trouble at Circle “M” Ranch where booted Steven Wiles and booted He Fang were glaring at my booted Constance Daughtry. When I call out Daomei, my opponent’s last unbooted dude Forster Cooke boots in to join the posse. I’m thus able to safely use my Faster on the Draw to drop Daomei’s bullets. With the influence loss caused by the ensuing casualties, the game is over!

But not, as it turns out, the gaming. Every time I head out to a tournament, it amazes me that the Doomtown game and community are both so fun and strong that I’ll still want to actively seek out casual matches after what amounts to nearly 48 hours of constant Doomtown. Today is no exception. After congratulations all around and the final death toll is noted, Anders and I grab a table and have one last friendly match between two aggressive casual decks (Law Dogs vs. Des Row). Scores are settled and bodies pile high in the streets. I can’t remember who won in the end, but I remember it being fun. I even scored some sweet Danish jokers such as my Final Match opponent was stylishly sporting!

With others headin’ out in search of grub, I sheepishly make my way upstairs to the Pathfinder table to await the conclusion of the scenario that I am now ~3.5 hours too late to join. Strollin’ back to the Bunkhouse, we encounter the remains of a tasty spread and share great conversation until the wee small hours with Scott, Hedi, David, and Christine. Plans are made, secrets are revealed (I can’t wait to see that other Law Dogs Mad Scientist hit the table! :)) and good cheer rules the evening.

The Aftermath / Road to Euros 2019…

Alas, dawn comes way too early as there is a 6:15 AM train to Aberdeen to catch, With a groggy head and happy heart I stumble off down to the Railroad Station and out on the trail once more. The next week features chance encounters of Doomtown and Pub Quiz with David Avery in Aberdeen, more causal Doomtown, and chatting with David Hogg in York, and much scheming about what deck I’ll be taking to Origins in June now that the time has truly come to hang up my spurs on the World Champion 2018 Ol’ Fashioned Lawdogs.

Many thanks to each of you who came out: each of you helped make Doomtown: Reloaded Worlds 2018 the smashing success that it was!

This also seems the right place to express my thanks to our gracious hosts, Fanboy Three in Manchester, UK. If you are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend stoppin’ in. The store itself has a great play area downstairs for organized events (like our tournament). Upstairs offers more tables for RPG and boardgaming play. Their boardgame, roleplaying game, and miniatures gaming selections are extensive, and the staff are knowledgeable and friendly. There’s even an on-site cafe with excellent and inexpensive sandwiches and hot drinks.

I’ll close with a short list of ‘pro tips’ for those of you thinking of attending a similar get-together in the future:

1. Come on over! Seriously, do it. Of course, come on out for the main event, if you can, but also try to make it to the socializin’ at least one night. Sometimes after a long day of travel and Doomtown and deckbuildin’, I need to push myself to leave the hotel room and make it out to the pub. I’m always glad when I get there, however, and I hope you will be too. Sleep is also good, and there’s no need to stay until the wee small hours with us crazy folk who just can’t stop Doomtowning… but an extra hour or two among friends puts a shine on the whole event in my experience.

2. Join the Bunkhouse! If there’s the opportunity for shared billeting, I found it to be an enjoyable experience and a great way to keep costs down (and thereby make it out to more events!) It helps everyone if you can RSVP early, too.

3. Play Doomtown! If you haven’t had the chance to play many matches in the months/weeks/days leadin’ up to the Big Event, I highly recommend getting’ in casual games the day/night/morning before the tournament. Just shakin’ the rust off can be a huge advantage in mental readiness when the time comes for first-round pairings, regardless of whether you’ll be playin’ an old reliable deck or a new epic construction.

4. Pack at least one casual deck! Building on the above, I recommend bringing an ‘heir and a spare’ to events. This way, you and your opponent can mix things up if there is time after your round. You can also play more Doomtown without the repetition that sometimes comes from playing the same deck through the Swiss.

5. Get out and get food! If there is time, during the break try to find some sunshine and fresh air. Whether by yourself or with a friend, clearing your head, getting a little exercise, and fillin’ the tanks all help make sure a long day is a long, fun day.

6. Post your decklist! Mad props to my fellow competitors for posting their decks to DTDB after the match. Your thoughts/tournament reports are welcome reading, both for fellow competitors and for spectators at home. It helps keep the conversation going through the next big event, and hopefully will encourage useful discussions/deckbuilding thoughts for you too!

Now, if y’all will excuse me, I need to go pick up a warrant from Judge Somerset…