by David Orange
An effective demo BRIEFLY introduces a new player to a game. Demos should last no more than 15-20 minutes. What follows is a sample script for introducing Doomtown. This script uses the Learn to Play decks found at:
Preparation: set out boards and separate control point and influence tokens, along with the different ghost rock denominations. Pull outfit card, starting posse, and each faction’s starting hand. Set the starting influences diagonal from each other in the left center of the play space.
Law Dogs starting posse: Law Dogs Outfit, Clementine Lepp, Philip Swinford, Tommy Harden, Erik Samson, and Willa Mae McGowan. Start with 4 GR, 2 income, 4 Influence. Set the following cards aside to form your starting hand: Yan Li’s Tailoring, Winchester Model 1873, Sun in Your Eyes, Faster on the Draw, and It’s Not What You Know.
The Sloane Gang starting cards: Allie Hensman, Clementine Lepp, Lawrence Blackwood, Barton Everest, Jacqueline Isham. Start with 3 GR, 2 Income, 3 Influence. Set the following cards aside to form your starting hand: Charlie’s Place, Cattle Market, LeMat Revolver, Bad Company, and Samantha “Sammy” Cook.
YOU are conducting the demo. Use the paragraph breaks to allow time for the New Player (NP) to ‘breathe,’ take stock of the situation, and ask questions. Be aware of body language to slow down and let the NP know that you can take time to backtrack and clarify.
YOU: Howdy, I’m YOU and I’d like to welcome you to Doomtown. You are trying to gain control of a western town called Gomorra where cowpokes good and bad use guns, steampunk gadgets, spells of all sorts, and death is sometimes just a minor inconvenience.
YOU: In Doomtown, six factions vie for control of the town. Today, the local bad guys, the Sloane Gang, are in town, up to no good. Meanwhile, the Law Dogs have sworn to uphold the peace and thus put a stop to the Sloane Gang’s nefarious misdeeds.
YOU: This is a demo, where we will go through two turns or ‘days’ in Gomorra. The first day will introduce the cards and their attributes, as well as the four phases of each turn. The second day will culminate in combat via shootout.
YOU: You take the Sloane Gang, while I’ll take the Law Dogs. Go ahead and look through your deck. What do you notice that is familiar? Different?
YOU: Yes, we play poker here in Gomorra. 52 cards plus 2 jokers, with the 4 standard suits ‘numbered’ Ace through King just like you’d expect. Except Aces are low and Kings high. Notice that some cards seem to show up more than you’d expect? Yes, this looks like a regular deck of cards, but it sure ain’t yer dear ol’ Pappy’s poker deck.
What if I were to tell you to draw five cards off the top of a regular deck? Would you expect to get a good poker hand just by chance? Now, suppose you got to draw a whole bunch more than 5 cards off the top, you likin’ yer chances better? Suppose I told you that just like good ol’ Draw Poker, you could discard and redraw some cards. Better yet, discard and redraw from the deck you’re holding? Even better, no? Deck construction is important, and hold that thought as you’ll shortly learn why.
YOU: Each suit serves a specific function in Doomtown. Spades are the characters or Dudes that can move to locations and help you control the town. Diamonds are those locations or Deeds that grant abilities, income, and yes, control of Gomorra. Hearts attach to Dudes – either physical goods such as weapons, horses, or gadgets; or spells that certain Dudes can learn to use. Finally, Clubs are action cards that are usually one-shot abilities that you can use to spring tactical surprises on your opponent.
YOU: Now, what is the most important thing that you’d like to know about Doomtown?
YOU: Correct, How do you win a game of Doomtown? For all the card play and movement, you win by having more Control Points than your opponent has Influence. The blue circles on some cards represent Control Points, while the red circles on other cards represent Influence. Notice how I’ve stacked the Influence tokens in the right center of the board. Say I play Yan Li’s Tailoring. I gain 1 Control Point. No big deal, right? Now say during the game I gain several more Control Points. Notice how my Control Points exceed your Influence. That means you’d have to either gain more influence or take over some of my control points. That could mean a shootout. By the way, what’s a good way to remove Influence? Yep, shoot ‘em. Dead people usually don’t have much influence while taking dirt naps in a pine box six feet under.
YOU: Great, now we’re ready to play a couple of rounds of Doomtown. To ensure that we experience the most common situations, I’ve already hired our starting gangs and pre-built our opening hands. The Sloane Gang is your “Outfit Card,” It is your ‘home base,’ where your Dudes start and enter play. Each outfit has an ability that helps define your overall strategy and goals. The ‘18’ at the lower left is your starting money or ‘ghost rock.’ the ‘+3’ at the lower right is your income each turn. With your starting money you can hire up to 5 dudes for your starting posse, keeping any leftover change. I’ve already done that for you, so you can place those 5 dudes behind your outfit card. Those dudes all together have 3 influence and cost 15 ghost rock, so you have 3 ghost rock left over.
Most dudes are aligned with a particular faction. The enclosed star indicates dudes that work for my Law Dogs. Your dudes mostly have the crossed pistols of The Sloane Gang. Dudes lacking a faction symbol are drifters and are more willing to sign on with any faction. Notice we both have a gal named Clementine Lepp in our starting posses? She’s a barkeep and if you’ve got the money, honey, she’ll serve you any ol’ time. In game terms it means that we can each play a copy of a dude. But each side can only have ONE copy of that dude in play at a time.
Remember what I said about drawing and redrawing cards in combat, e.g. shootouts? For now, just know that Dudes with silver bullets are studs and will let you draw more cards in shootouts. Brass bullets are draws and let you redraw cards after you’ve drawn your initial poker hand. We’ll revisit this more when we get to shootouts during the second turn.
YOU: Each turn represents one day in Doomtown. Each day has four phases: Gambling, Upkeep, High Noon, and Sundown:
1) Gambling determines who goes first each day, using a game of lowball poker.
2) Upkeep is when you collect ghost rock from your deeds, and pay your dudes’ upkeep to keep them in play.
3) High Noon is when most of the game’s action occurs as players bring new dudes and goods into play, maneuver around town, use Noon abilities, and get into shootouts.
4) Sundown is when victory is determined. If no one has won, then everyone gets to draw new cards, unboot or reset their cards, and get ready for the next day.
YOU: Set aside your starting hand and posse, and go ahead and shuffle the rest of the deck a few times. Have you played card games such as Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, etc. before? In a regular game, you would now deal yourself five cards as your starting hand.
YOU: Now we can play through two turns of Doomtown. Remember how stacked your deck is? Well, Pardner that would be a mighty unfair advantage when going against someone who plays clean. So we start each day by playing a round of Lowball. It’s like regular poker, except the LOWEST hand wins. In this case, the WINNER gains the ante and also gets to go first, including taking the first action in a shootout. Place one ghost rock (the ante) in the center. I’ll do the same. Draw five cards off the top of your deck and reveal them face up. [WINNER] gets the ante and is the WINNER for this turn. [WINNER] gets this token to remind us that they go first.
(This demo will assume that NP wins turn 1 lowball and YOU win 2nd turn.)
🡪 NP indicates New Player actions that YOU narrate as you alternate with your own actions.
YOU: We now do upkeep and collect our ghost rock or income for the turn. Notice that your Barton Everest and my Erik Samson have a “1” in the lower right corner. That means these dudes require payment every turn, otherwise they become unhired. If you can not or will not pay them, then they immediately go to your discard pile. All dudes with “0” upkeep stay loyal and remain in play once hired. Since our outfits each produce three ghost rock each turn, that means we each gain two ghost rock for our stash.
YOU: Now we are in the High Noon phase of turn 1. There are six High Noon actions or plays: Shoppin’, Movin’, Actin’, Tradin’, Passin’, and Callin’ Out. Note that Callin’ Out is the ACTION that initiates a Shootout. Thus a Shootout isn’t a play unto itself, but the RESULT of a Callin’ Out noon action. This first turn, we will focus on the non-Callin’ Out plays. Turn 2 will see a Callin’ Out result in a shootout. If you choose not to perform an action, you can Pass. If BOTH players Pass one after the other, then High Noon is over, and we move on to Sundown. But if a player passes and the other player performs a non-Passin’ action, the turn continues and that player once again has an opportunity to make a play or take an action.
NP: Since you won Lowball, you get to play first. Go Shoppin’ for Charlie’s Place. It costs 3 GR, which you pay to the bank. Charlie’s Place gives you 2 GR income, which means if you control it at the start of your turn, you gain 2 GR in addition to the 3 GR from your outfit, minus any upkeep. Its blue poker chip enclosing a ‘1’ indicates that it confers a Control Point. Place its CP chip opposite my influence. Remember that gaining control points helps towards winning the game. Right now, I have nothing to worry about, but if that blue stack exceeds my red influence chips at the end of the turn, I lose the game and vice versa. Place the card adjacent to your outfit card (doesn’t matter which side).
YOU: I will use a Shoppin’ play to bring a Deed called Yan Li’s Tailoring into play. It is similar to Charlie’s Place in that it costs 3 GR, gives me 2 GR income, and also confers a Control Point. Likewise, I place it adjacent to my outfit.
NP: Next, you can do a Movin’ action to move Clementine Lepp to Charlie’s Place. Unlike some other card games, in Doomtown you can actually move your dudes from one location to another. In general, when you move a Dude, they have to ‘boot’ – e.g. for the most part, they can’t move any more that day. But there are three ‘free moves’ that do not require booting. You can move from your outfit’s home to an adjacent location on either side of the home. That’s what you just did with Clementine. You can also make a free move from your home to the town square. Finally, from the town square, you can make a free move to any other location in town that is not your home. You will need to boot if you return to your own home location.
On the other hand, you can move ANYWHERE in town (or even out of town if a deed indicates such), but you have to tucker yourself out getting there and thus usually end up booted. This is an important trade off. Taking your time getting somewhere leaves you mobile and able to respond later in the turn. But, your opponent can see you coming and prepare for your eventual arrival. Conversely, a sudden movement can catch your opponent napping, but you lose the flexibility of mobility and options later on in the turn.
Read the text on Clementine’s card. This text stands alone without being prefaced by a word like NOON or SHOOTOUT. That means it is a trait that is always active throughout the day when triggered. Notice that Charlie’s Place has two bold-faced words at the top of its box: Public and Saloon. These are Keywords that can trigger abilities or traits on certain cards. In this case, the Saloon keyword triggers Clementine’s trait. So go ahead an put an influence chip on her, and remember it counts as part of your total influence while she remains at the Saloon. Oh and notice that she can’t be called out there – everyone, good and bad, loves Clementine and the libations she dispenses.
YOU: Yan Li’s has a Noon ABILITY – it can give a dude an additional influence for the day. So I “Boot” Yan Li’s by turning it sideways to indicate that I’ve used its ability and can‘t use it again until next turn. I’m going to place a red influence chip on Philip Swinford. He’s lookin’ mighty fine as he now has an additional influence to her base of 1 influence. I now have 5 total influence.
NP: NP: Move Allie Hensman to the town square. Again, this is a free move and she remains unbooted.
YOU: Outfits can have traits or abilities like regular cards. I’m going to boot the Law Dogs outfit and use its ability by also booting my Clementine Lepp. I can now make a dude Wanted by placing a Bounty (1 GR coin) on an opposing dude. A dude can accumulate multiple bounties. If a bountied dude is discarded or Aced (permanently removed from play) by an opponent’s action, that opponent collects any bounty placed upon that dude. So this is one way to gain ghost rock. Clementine will place a bounty upon Barton Everest.
NP: Jacqueline Isham joins Allie by moving to the town square.
YOU: I’m not ready to engage in a shootout just yet. So I’ll wait and see what happens and PASS.
NP: Boot Allie to use her ability and gain a Control Point. While you now have 2 control points, I have plenty of influence, so I’m not in danger of losing, yet.
YOU: Once again, I Pass.
YOU: Now, boot your outfit and Jacqueline Isham. You’ll get either a ghost rock or control point IF Jacqueline is still in the town square during Sundown. So place a green chip on her to indicate the provisional status. While booted dudes are vulnerable to callouts (they can’t refuse as we’ll see next turn), I notice that the ladies are protected by Barton and his friends standing by at the ready at your adjacent home.
This first turn demonstrated the possible noon actions except Callin’ Out (we’ll get to that next turn) and Tradin’, which is simply transferring a goods from one dude to another. But for now, you pass, and that ends the High Noon phase and we move on to Sundown.
YOU: Now we come to the Sundown phase. We check for victory. I have 5 influence to your 2 control points. You have 5 influence to my 1 control point. The game continues. For Jacqueline Isham, I’d take the ghost rock for now. But you can sometimes apply pressure (or win a game) by taking the control point. Noon effects now expire, so I remove Clementine’s Influence gained via Yan Li’s Tailoring ability. Go ahead and discard Samantha “Sammy” Cooke and draw back up to five cards. I choose not to discard, and draw one card to bet back up to five as well. Dudes remain at their locations, but we unboot/straighten all cards. That ends the first turn and your first day in Gomorra. We are now ready for Turn 2.
YOU: This second turn will set up a Callin’ Out action that leads to a shootout. We will do the shootout two ways. First, straight up pure firepower using only bullets. Following that, we’ll mitigate the lethality with various tricks and stratagems. Once again, we each put in a ghost rock for our Ante and draw five card, laying them face up for your lowball hand.
[this narrative assumes that LD wins lowball]
YOU: This time, I won Lowball, so I get to take the Ante. We both gain two more ghost rock from our Deeds along with base 3 GR from our outfits, and still have to pay one upkeep. Thus we each gain four ghost rock.
YOU: Again, I put Yan Li’s influence on Philip Swinford, who once more has 2 influence.
NP: Barton Everest goes Shoppin’ for a nice shiny LeMat Revolver. Pay the two ghost rock to the bank and attach the weapon to Barton by placing it underneath so that the plus one bullet is showing. This indicates while Barton wields the LeMat, he has a total of three bullets. While the LeMat’s bullet is brass colored, it adds one bullet to the owner’s type. In Barton’s case, that means the LeMat adds one STUD bullet and in a shootout, Barton will now draw 3 additional cards pending other modifiers.
YOU: I boot my Law Dogs outfit and Philip Swinford to place a bounty on Allie Hensman.
NP: Move Barton Everest to Charlie’s Place. As before, this is a ‘free’ move from your home to an adjacent deed, so Barton remains unbooted and free to move elsewhere.
YOU: The Law Dogs believe in “Peace through superior firepower,” so Tommy Harden goes Shoppin’ for a spanking new Winchester Rifle. I pay a ghost rock and attach it to Tommy. Its +1 means that Tommy is now a 2 stud.
NP: Boot Charlie’s Place to use its ability on Barton. After downing a shot of liquid courage, Barton now has a total of five stud bullets. That means in a shootout, he’ll draw ten cards off the top without any further assistance. That’s like TWO hands to make one great one. YIKES! Put a +2 token on him as a reminder that the effects wear off during Sundown.
YOU: Patience is a virtue, and Tommy is a virtuous man. He will PASS.
NP: While liquored up, Barton starts consorting with some Bad Company. Playing that card gives Barton another three bullets, making him a fearsome 8 stud. In a shootout, absent any other modifiers, Barton would draw 13 cards off the top. Gulp!
YOU: I don’t like the way this is going, so time to put a stop to these shenanigans. Tommy Harden moves to the town square.
NP: Undeterred by the law watching her every move, Allie once again boots to gain another Control Point. You have a total of three Control Points.
YOU: This has gone far enough. So as a noon action, Tommy Harden calls out Allie Hensman. If a called out dude is unbooted, they can turn tail and run home where they become booted. Thus the advantage of cowardice is living to fight another day. Booted dudes, however, cannot refuse call outs. So while Allie’s ability is powerful (remember gaining control points is the path towards victory), it is risky as it leaves her vulnerable to callouts. She does, however, have friends to help her out. But in formal game terms, Allie accepts the callout. This now leads to a shootout. We’ll do this two ways – straight up and with tricks galore.
YOU: The first step is to form posses. Tommy is the Dude who initiated the callout and is the Leader. Allie, the called out Dude, becomes the Mark. Most dudes don’t like fightin’ on their own. So they round up a posse of dudes to help them dispatch the pesky varmints opposing them. The Leader forms their posse first, followed by the Mark. Dudes at the shootout’s location do not have to move, and can join even if already booted. Dudes at adjacent locations can boot to join the posse, and as such cannot join if already booted. Willa Mae McGowan and Erik Samson boot to join Tommy’s posse.
NP: Dudes at the Mark’s location do not HAVE to join a posse, but can do so, even if booted. In this case, Jacqueline Isham joins to help defend Allie. Barton, sauced up on Clementine’s hootch, boots and joins the fun. Note that Jacqueline has an ability that “when Jacqueline joins a mark’s posse… becomes a stud.” Jacqueline now becomes a 2 stud.
YOU: Now that posses are formed, starting with the WINNER, one can play cards that say: SHOOTOUT on them. Again, both players conduct shootout actions until both consecutively pass. We’ll first play this straight up without actions and both of us will pass.
YOU: First, each player declares their shooter, with the Leader declaring first. Generally, you’ll want your dude with the most stud bullets to be your shooter. I declare Tommy Harden as my shooter. Note that you can declare anyone in your posse as the shooter. They can be booted and don’t have to be the Leader or the Mark. Go ahead and make Barton Everest your shooter. Now we tally up those bullets. Your shooter gets their FULL amount of bullets. That would be 2 for me and a whopping 8 for Barton. Other studs in your posse contribute ONE additional bullet, no matter how many actual bullets they have. So Jacqueline Isham currently is a two stud, but since she’s in a supporting role, she only adds ONE stud bullet to effectively increase Barton’s total to nine stud. For my Law Dogs, Willa Mae McGowan and Erik Samson each add one draw bullet to my posse. Since Erik is NOT the shooter, he only adds ONE bullet of his type, in this case a draw. Allie Hensman has two brass or draw bullets, but will only add ONE draw bonus to support Barton. This means that AFTER we each draw our full allotment of cards, we can each discard and redraw one card (you) or one two cards (me) to increase our chances of making an even better poker hand.
YOU: You always draw a base hand of five cards. You then add your total stud bonus to the base five cards. So Barton gets to draw FOURTEEN cards. Tommy is a two stud, so he’ll draw SEVEN cards. The goal is to make the BEST poker hand possible according to this hand rank chart. In general, a full house (rank 7) is the minimum hand you should expect to see in a competitive shootout. Remember, however, that our decks are stuffed to the gills with repeated cards, so four or even five of a kinds are not only possible, but quite likely to occur. Now see what you have the most of. Discard one of the other cards and redraw one. I’ll discard and redraw TWO cards.
NP: If you have a Joker (or two), you can use those as wild cards. But even without Jokers, you should have a five of a kind. Remember, we said this wasn’t yer dear ol’ Pappy’s poker deck. Go ahead and keep your best poker hand, most likely five of a kind and discard the rest. Jokers are a one time use and are removed from the game afterwards. So for now, if you have a five of a kind, keep it and discard the other nine cards, including any jokers. If you discard Jokers, they can come back as you reshuffle and redraw your deck. Now that we each have our best five card poker hand, we lay them down and compare.
YOU: You have a five of a kind to my full house. Remember, there are only four suits in the deck, and at least one of your suits is duplicated. Thus, your hand is considered Cheatin’. Notice that Barton’s text is a trait, it happens automatically when triggered. He therefore increases Cheatin’ hands by one rank. So your five of a kind is now considered a Dead Man’s Hand – the highest possible rank. On the other hand, I start with a full house. Both Philip Swinford and Tommy Harden have applicable traits. Philip doesn’t have to be in the shootout for his trait to apply, so I discard a card and draw one into my hand. Tommy’s trait means that my hand is now equivalent to a straight flush. That is two ranks below yours, 11 to 9. Thus I must take two casualties. Discarding counts as one casualty, but acing (permanently remove from the game) covers two casualties. I can either discard two dudes or ace one dude. I will ace Willa Mae. Now we decide if we skedaddle back home (booted) or stay for another round. But each round at least one dude from each posse remains, we go through the same procedure of making shootout plays and choosing a shooter – it doesn’t have to be the same as initially – indeed, if you discard or ace your shooter, you will need a new shooter for the subsequent round(s). Now is a good time to send Allie home, since at home she (and those precious control points) are largely safe from further attacks.
YOU: But let’s reset the shootout as it was originally. What you just saw was how devastating stud bullets can be. It was very easy for you to get a top-flight hand that you knew that Barton could modify. If you were concerned about Cheatin’ punishment, you could keep your hand good, but legal, especially with using one or both of your Jokers. Now let’s try the shootout with some trickery and stratagems.
YOU: Posses remain as they were, and Barton comes swaggering in with a total of 14 stud bullets, backed up by a draw. Tommy has 2 stud bullets, backed up by two draws. But now, I play a Sun In Your Eyes on Barton. He loses two bullets, but more importantly becomes a draw.
NP: You can play a Shootout action if you have one or PASS.
[resolve as needed, main point is LD should easily win this, utilizing the Winchester’s ability].
YOU: I now play Faster on the Draw on Tommy to give him +1 bullets and a total of 3 stud bullets. In turn, Tommy chooses to affect Jacqueline loses who loses2 bullets and becomes a 0 stud. So now, while Jacqueline is still a stud, she can’t draw any additional cards as a main shooter. Nevertheless, she can add 1 stud bullet in a support role.
YOU: Tommy boots both his Winchester and himself to gain yet another bullet, for a total of 4 stud bullets.
So go ahead and keep Barton your shooter. You’ll draw six cards and can discard and redraw up to that many (all discards at once, then all redraws at once). Allie doesn’t help. Tommy is a 4 stud, so he’ll draw a total of nine cards, and Willa Mae and Erik mean that after your original draw, you can discard and redraw up to two cards.
YOU: Unless you top decked a full house or four of a kind (remember your jokers were either used or discarded last time), you’re now between a rock and a hard place. You keep either a pair, three of a kind, or if you’re feeling adventurous, two pair and then redraw as many as you discarded.
[check discard to see what you have most of remaining]
.Sooooo let’s play it out.
[Assume either cheatin’ FH or legal 3K for NP and a Legal FH LD]
Legal FH to Cheatin’ FH [LD 8, TSG 8 🡪 Tommy 10, Barton 9 🡪 LD 2GR to play INWYK LD 10, TSG 5 etc.] 5 casualties etc. (can play It’s Not What You Know to lower legal hand by 1 rank to ‘break tie’ etc.)
Legal FH to Legal 2P or 3K rank 8 to rank 3 or 4 🡪 lots of casualties
TL;DR 🡪 Card draw is king. Survive a round to deke out good cards/jokers etc.
Emphasize the importance of spuds/bullet catchers vs. influence/studs etc.
Also point out the role of winning Lowball and first actions etc.
Wrap up demo here-NP should have seen all of the phases of a turn and all of the noon plays (not Tradin’).
–> Still interested and you have time? NOW you can play a game
(give ’em the option to ‘seed with the deed’ or straight up).
PRACTICE THIS SOLO and with an experienced friend/opponent.
If you can do this smoothly, you will have an effective 20-30 minute demo that shows off the core mechanics and plays of Doomtown.
As a wise teacher once said, “Teach your first day of the year with the wisdom and insight of your last. Teach your last day with the passion and enthusiasm of your first day.” So it is with gaming demos.
Some topics to consider for longer or subsequent demos:
- Movin’ to out of town deeds or to an opponent’s deed
- Changes to control and production/income via deed takeover
- Experienced dudes and non-unique dudes
- Spells and Gadgets n pulls
- Deck construction