Kaspar Dietrich

Kaspar Dietrich

by Fred Wan

Kaspar practiced.

Every morning, without exception, Kaspar made the time to train. The exercise helped to wake him up for the day to come, before the morning sun became uncomfortably hot. So, in the quarters he and his wife Daniella shared on the top floor of the Trinken House, Kaspar practiced his swordsmanship. Today he focused on fencing.

It had thankfully been months since he’d needed to rely on his bladework, but this was a reprieve, not a release. There would come a time when he needed to rely on steel once again, and when that moment came, he would not have the luxury of time to prepare in advance.

So he followed a daily routine to keep his skills sharp, and let his mind wander as repetition honed reflexes, starting once again with a response to an initial attack.

Riposte. Parry. Thrust.

Edeline Trinken kept a fine inn and was supportive of both his public efforts on behalf of Eisen, and his private, personal side projects as well. She was straightforward, brooked no nonsense, and spoke her mind. Of like minds, the two had built, if not a friendship, an understanding built upon honesty.

That honesty had prompted her, months ago, to conclude that he had no business furnishing his quarters. She’d simply declared that, for both the House’s reputation and his, she would take charge of the matter. The only concession he winnowed from her was to leave a large corner clear, so he could go about his morning routine without needing to go out. He didn’t want an audience while he practiced.

She considered the empty corner an eyesore, but conceded when Daniella firmly asserted that Kaspar needed the exercise in order to keep encroaching age from reducing his muscles to flabby uselessness. The two women had come to an agreement, and that was that. Kaspar once again gave thanks that his wife’s persuasive skills and wordplay rivaled his own puissant skill at the bladed arts.

Counter, elbow, feint.

Having colleagues, friends, and companions with good judgment mattered. So much hinged on being united in purpose, yet free to act. Like in the finally ended Theus-accursed War.

Kaspar snorted. His countrymen called him brilliant, lauded him, claimed he’d won engagements that should have been unwinnable. Even his foes—those who survived—honored him for leading his forces to victory. It seemed almost perverse.

The proclamations and medals meant nothing. The praise was hollow. His troops had relied on him to find a way to win, to bring them home. Every single one that was hurt, maimed, or killed became and would always remain his failure. That saving them all was impossible wasn’t the point. They’d fought, they’d won, for themselves and their families, and the glory and honor of Eisen. But even in hard-won victory, too many now had sorrows to carry. And, to his grief, the battles weren’t over.

Even now, as Eisen sought to heal, new and darker threats emerged. Ones that required a commander’s eye to fight against, because precious few among the living had the insight that came from experience.

He’d been a soldier, a leader, a hero. Neither he nor Eisen needed him to be that anymore, so he stopped. Both man and country needed him to take on new duties.

Close, engage, clash.

So much of Kaspar’s life was built on trust. It had to be. He therefore made a point of ensuring that people and things were worthy of that trust. Trust in his skills. Trust in himself. Trust in his comrades. And most of all, trust in his causes. Earning the trust of others was not easy, but it was attainable. It just required commitment and effort. It didn’t require a noble bloodline and its attendant high station.

Kaspar paused in his drill, left hand raised. He glanced at the ancient but still gleaming work of the fighting arts encasing his hand up to the elbow. His people, his nation, were right to be proud of their craft. His panzerhand had protected him and previous wearers for decades in countless duels and battles, but was still as functional and beautiful as the day it was forged.

His gaze wandered down to a box, sitting on his writing desk. He wasn’t a superstitious man, but the box seemed almost… accusatory. For a moment, his shoulders slumped. He could—he would have to—attend to it later.


Kaspar preferred a shorter blade than usually wielded by a swordsman trained in the eisenfaust style. He found something smaller to be easier to handle, to carry, and if necessary, to conceal. Short blades better reinforced the appearance of a successful merchant and dignitary, hoping to use his skills to return prosperity to his homeland. They complemented his training nicely.

Kaspar finished his routine. He glanced down, resentfully, at the gift box on his desk. He sighed. Time to clean himself up, get dressed, and deliver it.


Kaspar descended the stairs from his quarters towards the exit. He had obligations to meet.

“Kaspar, a moment.” called out a familiar voice.

He paused on the stairs, and turned to look upwards at Daniella, standing at the top of the landing. She glanced at him, frowned slightly, and joined him on the stairway. He looked down at himself, second-guessing his choice of attire.

“Am I not dressed appropriately?”

Daniella shook her head. “Not your clothes. Your bearing,” she gently chided. “You look like you have been asked to carry the weight of the world, and are making no secret that you begrudge the burden.”

“I’m sure Camille,” he lifted the box, “would rather have Mathieu back.”

Daniella ran a finger along the rim of the box. “The way you are sulking, you will just make it worse for her. And this,” she put her hand under his, lifting the box to eye level, “mght help give purpose to the pain.”

She lowered her hand again. “But you won’t be able to provide clarity if you’re so miserable that she has to make you feel better.”

She put a finger to the side of his cheek, turning his face to directly meet her gaze.

“Are you going to comfort her, or are you going so she can comfort you?”

Kaspar looked down and grunted, conceding the point.

“Precisely. If you can be bothered to pay your respects, don’t add to her grief. Weep on your own time, not on hers.”

She walked around him, inspecting both attire and posture, occasionally pulling on a sleeve or fixing a collar. Eventually, she patted him on the shoulder, signifying he’d finally passed this inspection.

“Kaspar, we are no strangers to this. Why does it bother you so?”

“We’d spoken a few times. Mathieu was eager to talk about bladework, and he was beginning to listen to me. He would have had potential for us. If only…”

Kaspar sighed, and headed for the door.

“Mathieu would have learned caution eventually. Now, all we can do is give Camille something to help with her grief.”


Kaspar gave his friend a hug.

“I’m sorry, Camille.”

“Thank you, Kaspar. I miss him.”

Camille Keiner’s meeting room was furnished in a manner befitting a woman of high station. Even distracted by grief, her gaze remained clear and her expression focused. Although he never regretted time in her company, Kaspar deeply regretted the events that brought him to her.

“What happened? Your message lacked details.”

After her servants brought a tray of refreshments, she waved them away, and gestured for Kaspar to sit. “You know that group Mathieu spent time with?” She crooked a finger, inviting him to take what he pleased from the tray.

Kaspar thought for a moment. “Young, wealthy, bored?”

“And with a tendency to dare each other to do more and more foolish things.” She sat down opposite him.

The moments stretched to minutes.

Kaspar waited. He had made the time to visit, he could certainly make the time to wait until she was ready to speak further.

“I wish he had followed your advice.”

He smiled wistfully. “About what? He asked a lot of questions.”

“Knowing the difference between panache and extravagance. And… .” Camille looked out the window, gathering her thoughts. Her brow furrowed, and her mien hardened. “Knowing when to seize the initiative and when to hold back…and being daring purposefully, instead of whimsically.” She took a freshly sliced apple from the tray. “You know they picked fights with other youths?”

Kaspar nodded. “Mathieu was a very talented duellist. Sadly, he knew it.”

“They thought themselves swashbucklers. Going to places, starting duels over petty slights, making daring escapes. Dilettantes amusing themselves. He began making a name for himself. But he wanted more excitement. They recruited a sorcier, relying on magics that invoked evil spirits. With her help, they became even more adventurous, confident that they could always escape.”

Kaspar nodded. He’d clung to the hope that he was wrong about what happened. Sadly, his instincts had been right.

“While carousing at some noble’s estate, they got into a ‘friendly duel’ with some other youths that turned bloody. The other group had more friends than Mathieu’s. The sorcier opened a portal so they could escape. Someone fired a pistol at them while they were retreating.”

She grimaced. “The sorcier was killed while Mathieu was entering the portal. It’s been days since.”

Kaspar closed his eyes. What a waste. With the sorcier who opened the portal dead, Mathieu would be condemned to wander through the walkway with no way out. Even if Mathieu stumbled out, it was well known that there was something unnatural about those portals, and that there were… things, predators and tempters, living within them. Mathieu was at the mercy of that place, and its inhabitants. Doomed to search in vain for an exit until chance or fate took mercy on him, or finished him off.

Another victim of taking sorcery for granted. All because leaving through a door wasn’t stylish enough.

“I’m sorry, Camille. I should have forced the issue, made him understand.”

Her eyes narrowed in consideration. After a moment, she gave a dismissive wave, turning away both his protestation of guilt and his apology.

“You never could have stopped him. He was enjoying himself too much. If you tried, he’d simply have stopped listening to you.”

Kaspar found he couldn’t bear looking into Camille’s teal grey eyes. He turned away, staring out a window into the street. Even though she was burdened with loss and wasn’t angry at him, Camille had an intensity about her. A formidable woman, even at her worst.

The two grieved. They discussed the possibility that Mathieu might still be found, and that if he was, the hope that the scars on body and soul could be healed.

Eventually, Kaspar produced the box, pushing it across the table to Camille. She looked at it, then inquiringly at Kaspar.

“If Mathieu emerges, we’ll find him and bring him back. But this,” He sat back. “It’s for you. I know how much this hurts, but the suffering doesn’t have to be in vain.” He nodded at Camille before departing her estate.


Camille opened the box, and inspected the gift contained within. She ran her hands over the contents, apprising it. Inside was a simple but finely crafted object, forged of steel and varnished a deep black.

A Prophet’s cross.


Kaspar knelt and prayed before the chapel’s humble wood-end altar.

“Forgive me.”

Faces haunted Kaspar. Of people who served alongside and under him, along with those who fought, suffered, and perished at his command. He remembered dreams unfulfilled, kindred left mourning, and battles that were not done, not for him, and not for those he commanded.

Kaspar wept, silently and without shame. Someone had to remember the fallen, particularly those whose passing would go unheralded. Who better than the person who could have saved them?

“I’m sorry.”

Kaspar’s mind turned to reverie. To his country and his cause.

Eisen… the nation had seen better days, but its people remained unbroken. They just needed opportunity. And he would give them the opportunity. To be fed, to prosper, to be spared the whims of fate, and to be protected from the various things that were awakening.

So he fought. And sent others to fight and die. And mourned the repeated failures.

Kaspar continued to pray.


Kaspar’s meditations were interrupted by a knock at the chapel’s door. He rose, and exited to greet Otto and Rosine, two of his associates. The two briefed him as they headed back towards the Trinken House.

Otto adjusted his spectacles. “Makepeace said he’ll buy as many casks as we have to sell, and he’ll pay even more if the next shipment is stronger. He’s a strange one, but he pays well!”

Kaspar nodded. The Avalonian trader was eccentric, and his antics were even more unusual than his name, but he didn’t seem… dangerous. Just strange. Doing business with him would generate useful funds, and would make it easier for Kaspar’s operatives to keep tabs on him. He turned to Rosine, flanking his other side.

“I sent Phillip and Terrel to investigate the complaints the merchants had that their food stocks were raided by unusual looking animals. Those weren’t animals, but they won’t bother anyone anymore.” Her lips curled upwards, happy to be sharing the news.

“Any other rumors?”

She produced a note. “We’ve heard several reports of sailors and fishermen being attacked by some form of aquatic beasts. They claim the monsters appeared from nowhere.” She glanced at Kaspar. “When we’ve dealt with them, I’d like to study one of the corpses.”

Kaspar considered for a moment. “Send Uwe. We’re past the point of subtlety anyways.”

The three approached a corner of the street. For a moment, Kaspar paused, looking back at the church. He’d given his due to the dead and his failures. Time to turn his attention back to the needs of the living.

Kaspar planned.

And prepared.

7th Sea: City of 5 Sails Playtest Preview

7th Sea: City of 5 Sails Playtest Preview

We are Ketal and Hastur, two French playtesters for 7th Sea: City of Five Sails and we are honored to discuss this upcoming expandable card game from Pine Box Entertainment. Here we present the City Deck, one of the core mechanics of 7th Sea: CIty of Five Sails. As previously noted, in this game, players will deploy characters whose goal is to control the City of Five Sails. To do so they’ll try to take control of the 3 main city locations which are the Forum, Docks, and Bazaar.

The locations, by themselves, do not have a lot of differences between them. At the beginning of each turn, however, a card drawn from the City Deck will come into play for each of those 3 locations. This bit of randomness means that each game will be truly unique, and players need to be aware of how the revealed cards can benefit them or their opponent. Cards can be one of the three following types: Mercenaries, Attachments, or Events.


 The first type of card that can appear at the locations are characters which either already live in the City of Five Sails or have just docked for a short stay. They may be pirates, robbers, or local celebrities. Recruit Mercenaries by Exhausting or turning sideways one of your own characters at the same location. Note that Exhausted characters cannot perform further actions that require Exhausting, such as Claiming a Location or initiating combat. In exchange, however, the newly recruited Mercenary will join your crew and will even be able to act this turn.

At the same time, Mercenaries aren’t totally free. The Mercenary will ask you to pay a cost which is visible at the top-left of the card. Hopefully, your characters have a high Influence value, which allows you to reduce the cost of the Mercenary they are Recruiting. You will need to plan carefully, since your influential characters are good at taking control of Locations and preventing your opponent from doing so for your victory. Will you send them to risk their lives to hire some fresh blood, and by doing so, maybe let control of the city slip between your fingers?


The character we can introduce is Takama Siad, a Healer originating from the Maghreb region of Théah in the 7th Sea universe. With a cost of 3, she’s not too difficult to hire on for your crew, but with a 0 for Combat and Finesse values, she’s not much of a fighter. Her 2 Influence value, however, makes her an interesting character that can take control of locations, or even Recruit other Mercenaries. What makes her special is her ability: every time a Duel takes place in her location, Takama Siad can heal a wound from your participating character. This ability can occur only once per turn, but in the long run it can help you keep your character alive longer so you can keep your grasp over the City of Five Sails!


 The second card type able to appear at your locations represents all the goods passing through the City of Five Sails. Weapons, armor, even magical artifacts are some of the items we can find at these locations. With sufficient funds, everything is obtainable. It’ll be about making the correct purchases to equip and empower your characters or to prevent your opponent having access to these coveted goods!

A character can have only one weapon, one armor, and one attire. Characters can, however, possess as many Attachments as you want to multiply their abilities and let you have access to more possible Actions. Attachments can give you direct stat bonuses, grant you new Techniques to use in Duels, or even grant powerful actions to take during your turn! Obtain Attachments the same way you Recruit Mercenaries, by Exhausting your Character to Recruit the item to that Character, paying Cost minus Influence. Attachments remain with a character until they leave the game. Attachments are a way to boost your characters for the long haul. Since there are not many easy ways to destroy them, attachments are reliable investments to tilt the game’s balance in your favour!



For a low cost of 3, this versatile Attachment lets you increase the Influence value of the buying character. As previously stated, Influence lets you reduce the cost of recruitments and help gain control of Locations. That’s already a huge advantage. But furthermore, Smuggled Item possesses an incredible action. Destroy it, and you can buy another Attachment on any Location for free, or even play without cost an Attachment from your hand! Yes, you need to be clever and shrewd to survive in the City of Five Sails. Keeping an ace in your sleeve to play with perfect timing can be THE turning point of your game.


 The last type of card that can appear at the Locations, and often the most devastating, are Events. Even if you are here to contest the control of the City, the city was here long before your struggle for control and will exist long after. An array of colorful figures run the city despite any and all attempts to challenge the established order. Event cards depict… Events (the name is on point isn’t it?) that occur in the city at the same time you are jostling for a position of power within the City of Five Sails. Events can be linked to monstrous creatures, mob uprisings, or even just to a specific character from the City itself. In any case, these revealed Events will greatly influence what happens within the game.

Mechanically, Events can give a particular action for the first player who triggers it, or simply cards that will change the game’s rules for their particular location. You will need to adapt and adjust to emerge victorious in a city where everything can change each turn.


In the 7th Sea universe, sirens are real and their melody is still confusing and deadly, able to drive mad even the toughest or the smartest sailor. To reflect this, Siren’s Scream is an Event that lets you Exhaust one of your characters at this Location to Exhaust all of your opponent characters at the same Location. But since it self-destructs this way, you’ll have to use it first! Even if exhausting your character to do the same to a single opponent can be useful, wouldn’t it be better if you waited to see if another opponent character moves to this Location? But what if your opponent triggers it first? Siren’s Scream poses huge dilemmas and serious headaches for the players with the luck (or not?) to see this Event appear during their games.


The City Deck is a real plus for 7th Sea: City of Five Sails. It’s a simple way to give more value to your character movements, to the three different Locations, but especially it’ll make each game a unique experience. Randomness is already present in our decks along with drawing cards from shuffled decks. Each turn, the vagaries of the City Deck will potentially enhance or disrupt each player’s plans for that and subsequent turns. An all-mighty weapon? A fearsome mercenary? Or a game changing event? Everything can happen and you’ll need to adapt each turn to all the new arrivals because even if you don’t need all of them, you’ll sometimes need to fight to get them because you can’t let your opponent lay hands on them!

Another good thing about it is the fact that the City Deck will change over time! Through player decisions at online or in person Organized Play events, new cards will go in, some others will go out. Thus the City Deck provides an effective means to give more lore and especially more life to the game. Since this deck will never stay the same, your games will also change over time.

 We are really eager to help the development team polish the game into the evolving tabletop experience that everyone will enjoy playing. For now, we’ll simply say Au Revoir, as we still need to play our 654th match-up between us. We hope we’ll quickly meet you around a game table!



What to Expect from 7th Sea: City of Five Sails

What to Expect from 7th Sea: City of Five Sails

A 7th Sea: City of Five Sails Playtest Article

I’m Max, one of the playtesters on the new 7th Sea: City of Five Sails card game under development from Pine Box Entertainment. Today I’ll provide a partial overview of what you can expect from the upcoming game. 

But first, let me introduce myself, a game player from a rainy ol’ island known to you all as England. I’ve been playing card games for the last 12 years – I started, like most, with Magic: The Gathering and did my time travelling around for Grand Prix and Pro Tour Qualifiers. In 2012, I discovered Android: Netrunner, and the whole game changed, as I discovered LCGs in a big way. Since then, I have played almost all of them in some way, shape, or form. I’ve also done my time with some non-LCG games throughout the years, primarily Pokémon and AEG era L5R. So, don’t be surprised when, for context, I reference various other card games. So, with the boring introductions done and dusted, let’s talk 7th Sea: City of Five Sails, and some of the features you can expect. Please note all mechanics are still in development and you may find changes in the final product.


Approach cards are fundamental to 7th Sea: City of Five Sails for determining initiative for the turn. They also set your starting Panache – the stat that determines how many cards you will draw at the start of the turn. If you are familiar with the Game of Thrones LCG, this is similar to the Plot Deck. Although the effects are less dramatic, Approaches tend to enhance your game plan for the turn rather than define it. 

You’ll be coming to your games armed with 7 of these Approaches selected, forming their own mini-deck. You choose one Approach each turn, and then you’re off to the races (or a deadly back-alley brawl, at the very least)!


You won’t face off against your opponent in some imaginary, theoretical battlefield. Oh no, you’ll duel it out at three locations across the City of Five Sails. These are less like the Deeds in Doomtown, and more like planets in the old Warhammer 40,000 Conquest LCG. 

At each of these locations (The Docks, The Forum, and The Grand Bazaar) you will deal Neutral Cards from the Search Deck (more on that below). Control these locations to earn “Hero Points,” and also use them as the base to launch your noble (or nefarious) plans. 

“Search Deck” (Playtest Term)

The Search Deck really sets 7th Sea: City of Five Sails apart from other games. Between you and your opponent sits a Neutral Search Deck. This deck is fixed, it will be the same for everyone playing the game around the world. During the game you’ll be dealing one card per Location each turn. 

The Search Deck contains events, characters, and attachments for players to lay claim to. Some decks rely on the Search Deck to get their game plan going, whilst some for the most part operate independent of it. All players, however, will need to be aware of what is coming out of it each turn, as it really is full of treasures. Even if you don’t want a particular revealed card, you might just want to stop your opponent from getting their hands on it.   

Skulking and Scheming

The heart and soul of the game takes place in the Skulking and Scheming phase. Here you will tussle with your opponent at each location, with you and your opponent alternating taking actions.

These actions form the core of the game, ranging from challenging your opponent’s characters, playing Risks (action card), and moving your characters around Five Sails in an attempt to dominate the city! The alternating action taking (I go, U go in classic gaming parlance) is core to the game. To reference the short lived Star Wars Destiny game, sequential flow makes the game feel fast and engaging to play. 

Riposte, Parry, Thrust

Combat in 7th Sea is, dare I say it, flippin’ fantastic. You see, every card in your deck has a Riposte, Parry, and Thrust value (RPT from here on out). 

Once you and your opponent are locked in combat, you’ll alternate playing these cards in a deadly, swashbuckling duel. Play a card with 1 Riposte? Deflect a damage, and send it back to your opponent. Parry? Get that damage away from me! Thrust? I’ll take the hit, but I’m slinging some of my own damage back at you. Combat only ends when there is no more damage ‘incoming’ at either player, and some of these combats become epic battles of back-and-forth card play.

Just like the Poker Hand mechanic in Doomtown, this combat system drips with theme. You feel like a Musketeer or a swashbuckler every time. It also makes deckbuilding both fun and challenging. Maybe there is a really powerful card, but its RPT values aren’t great, or there’s a lower powered card but when you’re in combat, its high RPT values allow you to dominate and win the battle. Oh, and yes, some cards have points in each RPT stat, and you get to use all of them when you play them into a duel. 

Concluding Thoughts

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the game as it currently stands. I’ve not delved too deep into the details, as we’re still thrashing some of them out during playtesting. Hopefully this has let you know some of the things you can expect. At some point, I hope to share with you all more insights about 7th Sea: City of Five Sails’ Factions, along with tips about deckbuilding and general game play strategy. 


A Legacy Reexamined

A Legacy Reexamined

by Robert Campbell with Konstantinos Thoukydidis

After our interview with the current and previous design team, Playtest Lead Robert Campbell spoke to previous design team member Konstantinos Thoukydidis to discuss his design process, favourite cards and more. Known by his online handle of “db0” to many community members, Thoukydidis also provided us with a haul worth of any of Silas Aims’ robberies: a cache of old design diaries considered lost when AEG’s Doomtown articles were taken down. Our thanks to him for his previous design work, the articles, and partaking in this interview.

(The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity)

Q: How did your design process work – did you tend to start from theme or mechanics?

The theme was mostly handled by the story team but a lot of the time they did get ideas from the card names I thought to go with my card designs. Typically, I started from the card design. Quite often that started from me wanting to either cover an existing gameplay hole or provide a new archetype to play with, such as experimental gadgets, grifter tech, or sidekick tech, and so on.

As I was thinking of card ideas at all times, I usually kept a massive document of potential ideas to choose from. As I would implement ideas out of it, I would prioritize new ones from that document as per the needs of the game and its various archetypes.

When addressing overall weaknesses in the game, I tended to be more reactive. It’s not always easy to see problems in the metagame, due to the small scale of playtesting and us leading the published cards by 2 sets or so. So I had to pay a lot of attention to the meta and address potential issues before they started frustrating the community too much. If I waited until a deck archetype dominated to take action, it would take too long to fix without nerfs. I believe it’s primarily this aspect that allowed us to avoid any bans during my run as lead designer.

When promoting new archetypes, I usually had the concept running in my head and new ideas to fit that archetype would pop-in constantly. However, setting up something new can be quite tricky, as seen by how difficult it was to get experimental gadgets off the ground. My plan there was typically to start with overall useful cards of an archetype, that would work good enough outside it. Then I’d start adding more and more synergies, where a deck built around it could form when a lot of synergistic cards could be added together.

Q: Which card design are you most proud of?

I feel like Yagn’s Mechanical Skeleton (also a sample where story used my card concept without much changes btw) was a very important card as it put gadgets on the map, but also elegant enough in its design to easily slide into most gadget builds while also supporting quite a few possible archetypes (horse tech and gadget dudes to name two).

As simple as this card looks today, it was also something out of a “proof of concept” card for me, as I was hearing a few people in discussions complaining that “gadgets can never be good due to their extra costs over other skills.” I set out to prove them wrong because another way to look at the cost being too high, is that the effect is too weak. So I set out to design a gadget which provides such bang-for-the-buck, that one cannot undervalue its usefulness-to-cost ratio. As it turns out, I managed to strike (imho) precisely the golden balance of gadget-cost/usefulness as I didn’t have to tweak the card almost at all before it went to print.

An interesting point about Yagn’s however, is that it crystalized for me the direction to move for a core aspect of gadgets.

Note: you can link to my design diary for gadgets here if you want.

(EDITORIAL NOTE – this is now archived in one place with other original design diaries. For the gadgets, search for: The philosophy of science )

 Namely, multipurpose; whereas other goods tend to cover one aspect of your gameplan (shootouts, influence, control, etc), gadgets are allowed to do more than 1 thing at once in the same card. Therefore they save you card space in your deck for more versatile cards. Yagn’s handles this like a pro, providing Shootout strength, Shootout defense, Influence, anti-Control, and ‘Tech’ in one card. 

Q: Are there any cards you designed that you feel were underutilized?

Hmm, quite difficult to tell as I’m omniscient so I can’t really know if I’m just not seeing it myself. I want to say I expected Signing Over the Stores would see a lot more play as the benefits it gives out of one card are massive. It has a big risk (Job in the town square) but it also gives massive benefits: 3x “Tutor” effect + cost reduction + unboot on non-defense. It worked amazingly well for me in my playtest builds, but I never saw it hit the table against me. But as I said, maybe I just wasn’t playing in the right meta. A deck built around this and someone like Byrne could be quite brutal.

Q: Are there particular cards or decktypes that were a pleasant or unpleasant surprise to you?

I definitely did not see Spirit Fortress coming! The initial design was that the Totem player would be spreading spirits around, but combining cards like Nicodemus opened a can of worms! Fortunately as far as meta-warping effects go, it was not a disaster like something that caused an unchecked landslide would be, and people could tech against it enough until we could provide more tools to deal with it in later expansions.

I also did not foresee the Showboating becoming such a linchpin card! We did playtest for that exact scenario but we deemed it too weak to base a deck around. How wrong we were!

Q: What are some of your favorite cards you designed and why are you fond if them?

Hmm, I would like to say

  • Calling the Cavalry for making Horse Tech not just viable, but a force to be reckoned with.
  • Morgan Regulators for giving MCC straight up fighting power and for being a card with such a powerful meta effect, that just its existence is enough to scare people out of making non-interactive slide decks.
  • Behold White Bull for walking an extremely fine line with an effect that can be inherently unfun to face, using a stat that is otherwise useless in shootouts, and going through a ton of playtesting arguments, to provide a finisher for an already really difficult-to-design kung-fu Tao.
  • Travis Moone for being the first Grifter and the way I managed to cut through the Gordian Knot that was at the time the two bitter arguments in the design team over having Mulligan at all, or not. To be fair, if I would design TM against today, his ability would not require a boot 🙂
  • And of course, the Fixer who is literally based on a ‘shopped picture of myself at a Heavy Metal concert 😀

Q: What did you enjoy playing for casual matches?

That would totally be my “I Can Dance All Day” deck which I was running since “beta” days. It plays to Doomtown’s strengths by masterfully playing the maneuvering game, but also not being afraid to duke it out at the right moment.

Q: What did you enjoy playing for competitive matches? 

I honestly was not much into competitive matches as there was no scene where I was. The only tournament I played in was the Final  EU Marshall event where I played a near-bicyle deck in a vain attempt to not do to well in the ranking. 

But given my previous experience, I always liked to play unconventional and new decks in tournaments and attempt to disrupt the meta. AKA I could always win with jank, but jank that I trained myself to play to perfection!

Q: Are there any questions/topics you wanted to bring up that didn’t come up from the interview questions?

On Game Design in general:

In case anyone was wondering why I kinda dropped off the face of the earth after AEG cancelled the game: Even though I love the game to death, I was also doing a massive amount of effort when leading DTR design. On top of the aforementioned design duties, I was project-managing the playtest teams, writing articles, crafting the OCTGN client for online gaming (and PT), discussing the game on Facebook (a lot of arguing why Gadgets don’t really suck), and of course, just playing online now and then. It was kinda all-consuming for me for 3 years, so when the game got cancelled, I was so burnt-out that I honestly didn’t even want to think about the game anymore, nevermind play it. I have still not really played a DTR game since that time.

For people who want to get into game design, as rewarding as it is, you need to make sure you’re not overdoing it. Stick to your role and try to get other people to handle other parts.

On new DTR design:

I like the direction the game is going, even though I’m really out of the loop lately. One thing I worry is that I see a lot of the same mistakes we did with the gadgets back in the day, where we were effectively creating slightly better versions of existing goods, with a massive increase in costs (booting, skill check etc). I have not played with the new gadgets of course, but this is just my impression on reading the cards and comparing them with the early gadgets with had like the flamethrower.

on DTR design in general:

When I joined the DTR team, I was not really there to design, so I didn’t have that much input from the get-go. Initially I was there just to provide the playtest client. I kinda took over when other devs dropped out and AEG realized I was decent at it. Unfortunately, because I was not there from the start and we had very little time to adjust the game once I joined, a lot of the rules of DTR stayed the same from the Doomtown Classic. 

I really wished I had pushed further for some things like mulligans and more factionalization. One thing that I don’t like about Doomtown is how you have all those cool dudes in your deck, but in 80% of the game, you’re stuck playing with your starting posse only. Making the faction leaders discount was my last attempt to make them see some play. 

Had I been designing the game from scratch again, I would have really liked to find a way to make more dudes hit the play each game. I also think the economy of DTR is very old school design and it could be significantly streamlined to allow for more card playing and less worrying about Ghost Rock upkeep and so on.

Thanksgiving the First Peoples

Thanksgiving the First Peoples

Pine Box Entertainment maintains a Discord Channel for Doomtown fans to discuss the game. Our players are a lively and diverse group of people. One of our playtesters and online tourney organizers summarized a recent discussion of Indigenous Peoples and their role in Doomtown. He also followed up by interviewing two of the more active participants. We therefore present this article to our larger readership.

(The following has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.)

* * *


Thanksgiving and The First Peoples in Doomtown
Article and Interviews by Joe James (Prodigy)

Last month there was a fascinating discussion about Indigenous Peoples Day in the Doomtown Discord general chat. The discussion had two main topics: the real history of Thanksgiving and the Indigenous Peoples of the colonial North American Northeast, and the representation of the First Peoples in Doomtown. I learned just how ignorant I was about both topics, and was very moved by the conversation.

To the first topic, I can now say that the history I learned about Thanksgiving as a child was heavily edited to favor the Pilgrims. Most of us know, by now, the terrible things that Christopher Columbus did, and why there is a move to change away from the national day in his namesake, and toward Indigenous Peoples day. It should not have surprised me, then, that there is much of the same whitewashing when it comes to the history of Thanksgiving. Whole books have been written on this, so I won’t get into all the details. Instead I encourage everyone to do just a little research on this topic, so we can help honor the memories, even if just the smallest bit, of the tribes who endured great suffering and loss. 

On the second topic, we discussed the First Peoples in Doomtown. For those not familiar with Doomtown, the game is set in an alternate history in the late 19th century, and the First Peoples are one of the six factions you can play. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw one of the Doomtown players, who has Native American ancestry, make the following quote: “The representation in art and narrative in Doomtown: Reloaded makes me feel seen, and while not everything from it is perfect, most of it resonates with me. That is huge, especially when what I am used to seeing from gaming HURTS me.” 

Again, I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyone who knows the Doomtown community (Pine Box, the former Doomtown: Reloaded team at AEG, and the players alike) knows you cannot find a more genuinely good group of people. There are plenty of other game companies out there who have their hearts in the right place, but I wondered why Pine Box had so much success in their portrayal of indigenous peoples in their game, while so many others fell short? Into the conversation stepped someone from Pine Box to help explain.

It is these two individuals I interviewed for this article: Tamsyn Goodnow from the Pine Box team, and a Doomtown player named David Gordon Buresh. I hope this article, and these interviews, help put Thanksgiving more into perspective, showcase some perhaps-unknown successes of the Pine Box team, and also inspire other game designers to do better by the minorities that play their games or have minority portrayals in the games themselves. 

Tamsyn Goodnow

First, can you tell us what you do with Pine Box? What are your roles and responsibilities there, and how long have you been with them?

My two primary focuses at Pine Box are as a layout designer (I handle cards, rulebooks, packaging, Drive Thru Cards print files, etc.) and asset manager (essentially, I try to help keep our digital files in well sorted order so we can retrieve things easily). But on top of that, I also work on the flavor and art teams for Doomtown: naming cards, writing flavor text, selecting art, etc. 

I’ve actually been with Pine Box from day one! As an active member of the fan community, I was more than thrilled to join the team when we had the opportunity to continue Doomtown. Imagine, getting to continue a game that I first was acquainted with in elementary school. So surreal! 

What is your connection and/or personal experience with the indigenous peoples of North America?

My family history is very European through and through as one side has a lot of Scottish background abd tge other side rooted in the Chesapeake Bay and Appalachia for centuries with folks from all over). I’m from the Appalachia region of North Carolina that isn’t all too far from the Eastern Band of Cherokee. Although I’ve never lived there, my parents met while working for the outdoor drama Unto These Hills that the tribe had been performing for decades. 

So I grew up visiting there every now and then, and it made a big impact on me. In school by and large, the indigenous peoples of North Carolina are treated in the past tense like they’re nothing but historical fact. Seeing the local signage written in the Cherokee syllabary, visiting their cultural center and museum, all those things really opened my eyes to the disconnect between the lived reality still going on today, and the way American culture writ large doesn’t discuss the first peoples of this continent in a contemporary fashion.

How do those connections and/or experiences, along with other relevant life experiences, help shape your work on the design team?

As I touched on in my previous answer, it really shaped that I need to look past the viewpoint of non-indigenous peoples to try and capture more accurate representation. My eyes were opened in Cherokee, NC simply by listening to and respecting the perspective I encountered there. So if I’m naming a first peoples character, I try to come up with that character’s background, give them identity and specificity: are they Hopi? Navajo? Choctaw? What language and naming conventions would be predominant in their culture? Are they from the local area the game is exploring, or visiting from another part of the continent? 

To do that, a large part of what I do is go to the best sources possible for that information, such as websites provided by the Navajo Nation. And there are so many languages still being spoken just within the US today! You can find great resources put together by folks who actually speak these languages, who practice these naming conventions. Who practice them today, not just centuries ago! So a lot of what I’m really trying to do is what I did when visiting Cherokee: listen, acknowledge, and respect. 

I think most people would agree that having diversity among any team, whether its a design team of a card game, or a whole company itself, is something that should be sought after – both for the representation of different groups, as well as the rich ideas and experiences that can help shape and grow a successful team or company (among plenty of other reasons). However, with small companies like Pine Box, there is only so much room for diversity. What is your advice for other game designers, or teams of any kind, to mimic the success Pine Box has had so far? 

That really is such a difficult hurdle with a small team! But I go back to what I was just saying above: research, and listen. Those are key. Don’t just go on your assumptions you already have. Seek out the voices you need to represent, and truly listen to what they’re saying. 

I also find it useful to think about how I want to be respected and understood when it comes to where I’m from and who I am. So while my life experiences as a queer woman from Appalachia are of their own unique perspectives, I can take how I want people to respect my views on those lived experiences, and try to give others that same type of respect on theirs. 

And always be ready to learn, because you will make mistakes; to err is human. But if you’ve already built a great foundation of respect, you’ll find it’s much easier to rectify those mistakes! 

Are there any areas where Pine Box falls short, or could improve more on?

Just speaking about my own processes and what I bring to the cards, I’ve been reflecting on how I want to use the backgrounds I create for these characters to expand folks’ understanding of the richness and diversity of the various peoples, cultures, and nations of this continent, but with a game that’s set in the late 19th century, is most of our audience still operating under the assumption that this is all history? Am I helping make that leap to understanding that these cultures, peoples, and nations are still here today? I mean, so many Americans still think the Mayans just vanished! So I feel like I’m still struggling to really make that connection for most folks to look up from the game, and want to take a look at things today. It feels very elusive. 

Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with the readers on this Thanksgiving Day article?

If, like myself, you’re not from an indigenous culture and are interested in learning more about the complicated legacy (to put it mildly) around this holiday, and gaining a more well rounded understanding of the perspectives of various indigenous governments, peoples, and people today, I’d highly recommend as a starting point that you look up what nation(s) and/or culture(s) are most local to where you live. See what perspectives you can find from their online resources about how they mark the day. Try to look for publications by those nations and their people, and learn from those perspectives. 

David Gordon Buresh

Tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from and what is your ancestry? What sorts of games have you played, and what are a few of your favorites?

My name is David Gordon Buresh. I am a writer, game designer, and game design consultant. I am from Vermont, which is where my mother’s family comes from. My maternal grandfather was St. Francis Sokoki Abenaki and my maternal grandmother was from the Sault Ste Marie tribe of the Chippewa people. I was raised as part of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki, and I have ties to the Nulhegan Band of the Abenaki. So, in short, I am a mixed race Native American person, living in New England with a whole lot of passing privilege. As a writer, I review games for the Cardboard Republic, Thus I have an extensive background in playing games, and have since I was a young child. For favorites, I am partial to Final Fantasy 6, Cribbage, and Legend of the Five Rings, though that last one is definitely a complicated relationship.

When did you start playing Doomtown, and what drew you into the game?

I FIRST started playing Doomtown back during its first run, in the late1990’s. I did not stick with it, as I did not have a community for it and it did not hook me as tightly as L5R. When Doomtown: Reloaded came out, I tried it a couple times for a review, which was positive. It was not until L5R went on hiatus in 2015 due to its sale to Fantasy Flight Games that I started playing it regularly at my friendly local game shop (shout out to Pandemonium Games in Boston). What drew me into the game was the strategy of placement, movement, and building a board. What truly surprised and delighted me was how Native American characters were depicted in the art of this game, something that is still not very common in the gaming hobby at large.

Can you talk a little about your perspective of the First Peoples in Doomtown (flavor, mechanics, artwork – anything you wish)? What are some things Pine Box got right, and what are some things they could improve on?

To explain my perspective first, I am a mixed race Native American living in New England, far from the area depicted by this game and not related to the peoples shown in this game. That being said, it was amazing that my first impression of the First Peoples showed them as a people with English names. Chief Stephen Seven-Eagles is named Stephen. That’s huge. You have Marcia Ridge (whom I saw as being, like me, mixed race Native American) and Butch Deuces alongside characters named Black Elk and Bloody Teeth. And then you have Jackson Trouble, which is a name that is both Native American (Trouble) and English. The first impression of any game is always going to be names and art, and Doomtown: Reloaded gets it right. Mechanically, I like how the First Peoples are focused around strong Influence, and are just good at holding their territory. This resonates massively with the push in indigenous communities to reclaim what has been taken from us by colonization, and to establish our own place which is indisputably ours. Seeing Geronimo as a Shaman, also, was an awesome correct choice made by Pine Box.

For what Pine Box can improve on, this is a lot harder of a question. From a Native American perspective, I would be interested to see more Native American characters in groups who are not First Peoples, and possibly show them even tapping into mystical options which are not Shaman. As my Aunt puts it, my tribe, the Abenaki, became Catholic in the 1600’s because the Jesuits showed up with wool; if all you had was buckskin to keep out a New England winter, you’d convert for wool too.

As a white male of European descent, I was completely unaware (but not surprised) of the problematic nature of indigenous peoples representation when it comes to games, be it board games, card games, or roleplaying games, just to name a few. Without calling out specific games or companies, what are some examples of things they’ve gotten wrong?

Hoo, this is an expansive topic, and one which I really do not have space here to go into. Honestly, start with almost any other game set in the Wild West, especially miniatures games. You can even look at some older versions of Doomtown and Deadlands. If you want specific to Native Americans, many games depict them as either A) magical, B) dead, C) dressed in buckskins and feathers, or D) some combination of the above. But you don’t have to just limit it there. Indigenous-coded monsters and non-humans are so commonplace in fantasy that it is genuinely easier to identify the games where monsters and non-humans are not inherently “tribal”, “savage”, or “primitive”. Colonialism is so hard-baked into the adventure formula that it really is inescapable.

What advice do you have for design teams and game companies who wish to do better by their players who have historically been overlooked or misrepresented?

As I said earlier, I can only speak to my own experience. However, the first and most important step is including these people in your creative process. Include them early, solicit their feedback, listen to their feedback, and pay them for their work. Hire sensitivity consultants who come from the communities and groups you wish to depict in your game.

Do you have any other thoughts to share for this Thanksgiving Day article? 

As a Native American who lives in New England, our history of Thanksgiving is very different than the one most people are told. For many Native Americans in the United States, this is not an uncommon experience. Often, our stories are told to us by others who are not part of us, and many of these stories are structured in a way where we are a footnote to our own history. So, to anyone else reading this article, I would like to leave you with the three statements we rally behind in the United American Indians of New England, which should always be the starting point for any depictions of Native Americans in your stories.

We are not vanishing.
We are not conquered.
We are as strong as ever.