Taking the Gyrocopter View: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Started in Business 

Taking the Gyrocopter View: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Started in Business 

by David Avery

Arthur Dingler, an Austrian inventor and resident of Deadwood, operates an autogyro service (Dingler’s Whirliwigs) for visitors and denizens of the town. From this lofty position he gives Deadwood’s prospective Entrepreneurs an eagle’s-eye view along with a short-term glimpse into the future. In the Deadlands plot point book, The Last Sons, Arthur is one means for a posse to obtain access to Devil’s Tower.

The first and most obvious decision for Arthur is whether or not to keep or get rid of your opening lowball hand. This is particularly important as Arthur raises the stakes on the first low ball by adding an extra ghost rock to the pot. So, if you can win it, you probably should. If Arthur sees a high card or a pair, you probably should leave it there and hope for early economy boost. If you are not that lucky, Arthur gives you the opportunity to change your first lowball hand in one of two ways. 

Shuffle back in – In addition to avoiding a crushing lowball defeat you may also want to shuffle those five cards back in to ensure key cards stay in your deck. Nothing frustrates a Doomtown player more than watching cards significant to their draw structure or game plan go to discard after lowball. Arthur lets you fix this for at least the first turn. He also provides limited protection for your jokers. A Joker might win you low ball, but normally you want to save them for shootouts later in the game.

Discard – Many Entrepreneur decks rely on playing goods. If they can’t draw those goods into their hand, they then rely on the card game staple of playing them from their discard pile. Arthur helps these decks by giving you a ten-card starting discard pile: five from his ability and five from your first lowball hand. This hopefully lets you find the goods you are looking for, thus getting your deck off to a good start.

 Maggie Harris is an engine for most horse-based decks, whether they are robotic or normal. She can, however, only lasso horses found in the discard pile. Even if your first five cards contain a horse, Arthur can seed the discard pile with the next five cards to corral plenty of horse flesh to power the inevitable calling of the cavalry

This deck by Harlath uses Arthur to set up Maggie and Irving to power a fast escalation. Try it using Arthur in your starting posse instead of Henry Moran.

Morgan Stables allows a cunning, but ultimately cowardly, Entrepreneur player with a legendary holster to rush in and bushwhack some hapless dude. But this strategy only works if you can get your hands on the corrupting leatherwork. Doomsday Supply can help by letting you grab the holster from your discard pile even in a shootout.

This deck by AtotheJ can be updated from it’s Top 4 GenCon finish in 2019 to accommodate the most latest Doomtown expansions and swap out Kyle Wagner for Arthur.

Gadget decks can also use discard pile interactions. The Smith and Robards and Gadgetorium outfits both need gadgets in hand to perform. But if you don’t draw a gadget in your starting hand, you can be at real disadvantage. As such, many gadget decks play discard pile interaction. For example, you can kick start your economy by putting on a Technological Exhibition to invent a disgenuine currency press before your opponent can block you. 

This deck uses both tech expo and doomsday supplies to play gadgets quickly and power up Nicholas Kramer and set up a hearts straight flush using decimator array. Swap out Willa Mae MacGowan for Arthur.

Welcome to Deadwood is currently available for pre-order with your local store or online here.

Hell’s Comin’ With Me: Andrew Lane

Hell’s Comin’ With Me: Andrew Lane

by David Hogg

Hell’s Comin’ With Me introduces three new Legend cards, joining Doc Holliday in representing heroes of the Weird West. Andrew Lane, a.k.a. The Ghost is a powerful Harrowed who has worked for The Agency and Union Blue Railroad, and bears more than a passing resemblance to former President Abraham Lincoln.

Early iterations of Andrew Lane focused on the Agency spy gadgets theme. One ability featured the ability to make one of your dudes a temporary Mad Scientist or have Lane himself invent a gadget. Both abilities proved to be too powerful during playtesting, and penalties and limitations to balance them made Lane too niche and difficult to use. Eventually the focus was shifted to something similar but different. 

The Agency is the Union’s first line of defence against the horrors of the Reckoning, and Agents are always armed to deal with any threat.  Andrew Lane reflects this with his ability and trait working around the Weapon keyword. As Weapons are a common type of goods, this means Lane can provide support to a wide variety of decks. Lane still brings the benefits of his spycraft knowledge, specifically the use of Concealed Weapons. Much like the action card of that name, he allows you to attach a Weapon to one of your dudes mid-shootout. The benefit to using him over the action card is having access to the ability every day, while freeing up space in your deck for other actions such as Faster on the Draw, Technological Exhibition, or Disarm

Lane’s ability lets you make a variety of surprise plays, such as making a callout with a draw dude and then having them pull out a Pearl Handled Revolver once the fight starts, or dropping another Cheatin’ Resolution Weapon such as Quickdraw Handgun into a fight after your first one was Pistol Whipped home. Andrew Lane allows you to make bluffs that the similar Doomsday Supply would not. With a Shotgun in your discard pile and Doomsday Supply in play, an opponent will most likely avoid getting into shootouts with their low value dudes. With Andrew Lane that Shotgun in your discard pile could mean there’s another one in your hand. Without one in your discard pile you might simply be able to catch your opponent unawares and ace their unsuspecting dude. Against an opponent with a lot of Melee Weapons you can bait them into a shootout then remove their bullet bonuses by playing a non-Melee Weapon, and so on. 

Lane’s ability isn’t restricted to regular weapons either. As long as you have an unbooted scientist for inventin’, Lane can let your dudes pull powerful Gadget Weapons out of nowhere, making him a strong ally for decks that employ a number of them.  Being able to attach Weapons mid-shootout can also give you an advantage when attempting a Job. Normally you might spend an action attaching a Weapon before running a Job, giving your opponent an action to respond. Lane lets you avoid that step, allowing for faster more aggressive play.  This is particularly true when your dudes are in town square and would normally take multiple actions to attach a Weapon. 

If you’re a fan of the mind games side of Doomtown, Lane is a really fun Legend to use. Here’s a straightforward Law Dogs deck that packs a variety of Weapons to use with Andrew Lane.  Shotgun, Scattergun and Pearl-Handled Revolver are all good surprises to spring on your opponent!

How to Design a Legend…or Three

How to Design a Legend…or Three

Introduction to the Legends of the Weird West
by David Lapp

In August 2017, the Pine Box Entertainment playtest team analyzed the four Servitors in the following write-ups: Grimme, Raven, Stone, and Hellstromme. These cards were introduced as a brand new card type, Legend, that debuted in There Comes A Reckoning. During playtest for this first expansion that would continue Doomtown, the team discussed the possibility of hero Legends. Players were given the opportunity to name the first one via an event at GenCon 50, which resulted in Doc Holliday being released in Out for Blood. Inspired by the Twilight Protocol Trilogy storyline events last year, three additional heroes from the Deadlands universe were planned for inclusion in Hell’s Comin With Me. The following details the Design Diary for these cards. Over the next few weeks, members of the playtest team will in turn present each new legend in detail. We hope you enjoy these new additions to Doomtown.

How to Design a Legend…or Three

by Richard Carter

It will be, … wait for it, … Legendary

Very early in the process of working on Hell’s Comin’ With Me (a set that will be ripe for another tale), I was tasked with coming up with more Legends. Doc Holliday had already been designed, and the Pine Box Team wanted an additional trio of heroes to oppose the efforts of the four Servitors from There Comes a Reckoning (TCAR).

Unfortunately for me, I had not been involved with the design or the playtest of the TCAR Servitors. I had heard from veteran playtesters that those four cards were major pains and that they went through several major revisions and rewrites. The upside is that my only exposure to the Legends card type was the five that worked out, so I had a good conceptual template to work with.

I was given the option of doing some of the three in this set and the rest in the set to follow. I made the bold decision to do all three in one go, in an effort to put the opposition to the Servitors in place in time for Tombstone (alas production timelines would defeat this goal). This also created three instant casualties among the cards that had already been selected to be in Hell’s Comin’ With Me.

Hank Ketchum, Andrew Lane, and Lacy O’Malley were to be the rest of the Twilight Legion to assist Doc Holliday in saving the day. I hit the fiction. Since Andrew Lane was the operational head of The Agency in the West, and Hank Ketchum was the leader of the Texas Rangers, I papered my mental sweat lodge with Classic Doomtown Texas Rangers and Agency cards. Somewhere in my vision quest I decided that I would have the Twilight Legion be bright contrasts to the Servitors. Doc Holiday was already out there as the spellcaster parallel for Grimme. “One Riot, One Ranger” lead to Hank Ketchum to take the mantle of the ‘one big bad dude’ concept like Jasper Stone. Hellstromme’s gadget centric concept could be well opposed by the Agency’s gadget trickery. This left Lacy O’Malley to contrast and contest with Raven for the duty of board control / chess tactics.

In the fiction, Hank Ketchum has survived more deadly encounters than he should and has the scars to show for it. I wanted an idea that would promote and endorse fighting solo. Early ideas included bullet bonuses based on the size of the opposing posse or reduction of casualties, but they caused more problems than they solved. In the end, having the static penalty of who to select as the shooter can force some dudes out of the conflict that might have otherwise participated (Henry Moran / Jaqueline Isham), or create some interesting repercussions when hitting targets with shootout penalties. The initial plan was to put the “make your solo dude Harrowed” as a Shootout action, but there were too many options to bring other dudes into the shootout after triggering. Even worse was that you could trigger Hank and then win the shootout (how is that worse?), and have wasted your save ability. As a Resolution action, it can be taken when it will best serve you to save your dude in a tied shootout.

One of the themes of the Agency in the Classic Doomtown CCG was gadgets, and this is where I started. Playtesters were quite resistant to initial ideas that allowed the building of a gadget without having a mad scientist (shipping the gadget operational from back East). I conceived their “Men in Black Dusters” forcing shootouts, but that was too strong. I also created ideas to boot gadgets to do things, but those were unsatisfactory. In the end, I decided not to tie Andrew Lane down to gadgets, as that route lopsidedly and innately supports only two factions (Law Dogs and Entrepreneurs). Being able to deploy a weapon during a shootout can change the course of the fight, or serve to mitigate the damage your opponent does first with something like a Pistol Whip.

Lacy O’Malley was the biggest challenge. Finding something to parallel the complexity of Raven was a daunting goal, and more so to tie into the theme of an intrepid reporter for the Epitaph. I had a handful of ideas involving Headlines, but they hinged too heavily on the strength of those particular cards. During the course of designing Lacy I stumbled on the idea of “no old news” – and this ended up being the path to take. Restricting access to your discard pile needed to come as part of the package, as Kung Fu, Maggie Harris, and Hired Guns would turn the higher card cycling into too much strength. I wanted to come up with some sort of Noon action to take, but in the end I could not come up with anything that we liked. (I have since come up with ideas, but too late). What ended up happening is that I set out to contrast Raven (ostensibly the most complicated Legend) and ended up with the most simple Legend.

A fine tip of the hat to all the playtesters who challenged my ideas, reminded me of card interactions that slipped my mind, and called out my crazy for what it was. Making sure that new Legends are both playable and comparable to the existing ones continues to be tricky, as well as ensuring that they don’t work too well with some outfits. We shall see what the future of Legends holds.

Hell’s Comin’ With Me is currently available for preorder for consumers and retailers and will be shipping March 2020.

The Mad Science of Making Cards pt 1

The Mad Science of Making Cards pt 1

by David Lapp

Howdy Doomtown players! As Pine Box Entertainment makes the transition to Deadwood and prepares for our big shebang in Tombstone this October, we’ve also just submitted the final expansion in the Tombstone Trilogy, Hell’s Comin’ With Me! We also wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at how PBE went about continuing Doomtown after There Comes A Reckoning.

One of the main design goals of TCaR was to introduce the Servitors into Doomtown. Each subsequent set, however, fleshed out the existing factions and their themes while creating more tools for new and veteran players alike to vary and enhance their deckbuilding options. Today we’re going to take a look at the main pieces and themes of each of the Tombstone-centric sets.

Too Tough to Die emphasized boosting influence among the First Peoples and Outlaws, along with including some powerful anti-cheatin’ cards as well. Also, Wendy XP reflected player/tourney decisions that not only emphasize the Law Dogs, but also set the story arc in Tombstone. Luckily Wendy was already in playtest from what we now call SB13-15, the unreleased AEG Doomtown sets that Pine Box continues to reference at times. The Design Team otherwise created cards they believe best advanced the game. Next, the story team formally named each card and selected art from a variety of sources. Working hand in hand with Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the art came from coloring original Deadlands role-playing books black & white pieces, Deadlands: Reloaded, classic Doomtown card art, unused Doomtown art, and newly commissioned art. This variation allowed for diversity amongst the cards and the players can take in over 20 years worth of Deadlands lore. While we focused on Tombstone, several cards featured other locations, dudes, and themes from the Weird West. These choices were generally made after all the cards were playtested and finalized, a bit of a different process from other card games and previous Doomtown expansions in which the art and names came first. Some card names and themes were set by the story team and the player base as a result of organized play choices. It is for this reason you will see an experienced versions of Willa Mae MacGowan, John “Aces” Radcliffe, and Clint Ramsey, along with other cards decreed by voting in our global storyline events.

Out for Blood, added Tombstone themed new outfits that further expanded the arsenal of player choices for each faction. Doc Holliday, arrived as a result of the Evil Is A Choice GenCon event where the winner decided the next Legend to appear in Doomtown. Following the lore in the Deadlands supplement, Stone And A Hard Place, there were several requests for specific characters. Thus the harrowed Curly Bill Brocious and legendary lawman Wyatt Earp made it into this expansion. Like Too Tough to Die, Out for Blood also contained story-driven elements, with cards featured in the WildCards Fiction event at GenghisCon, Twilight Protocol Act I. This fiction set in May 1882 runs separate from our main October 1881 storyline following the law dogs in Tombstone. We also continued to honor player victories with Name A Card and Design A Card prizes, resulting in cards for Byron Decker and Carter Richardson. Both storylines will reach their climaxs with outcomes influenced by the players this October at the Doomtown Worlds Destination Event in Tombstone, Arizona.

So what can you expect in Hell’s Comin’ With Me? One of the things we wanted to do when we developed the original 4 Servitors was ensuring that these forces of evil would be complemented by 4 Hero Legends. This set will feature 3 new Legends that along with Doc Holliday (see above) round out the Heroes. You will see additional Tombstone themed characters and deeds that help complete this arc. This set also initiates Doomtown’s shift to Deadwood and the exploits of the Outlaw Jonah Essex. There will be a few more surprises as well, including the Quaterman Prime, a card created as a directly result of votes cast by players during the Servitor Series to corrupt mad scientist Drew Beauman. More importantly, many of the cards in this set were designed and presented by the playtest team themselves as sincere thanks for all their hard work and dedication to our beloved game. We look forward to introducing some of these cards at Tombstone’s main event.

Welcome To Backwater: Your World, Your Story

Welcome To Backwater: Your World, Your Story

This is the first in a line of Design Diaries for Backwater by creator and designer Alex Wirges. These design diaries will share insights into the process of writing and designing the game – while sharing updates with you. 

A crew enjoys the rewards of a successful job. Art by David Hammond

I’m excited to share with you Pine Box Entertainment’s first original intellectual property. We began discussing the prospect of our own gaming universe early in 2018 – and I jumped at the opportunity. With everything the community had given us, I wanted to create something to give back. That creation is Backwater.

I wanted to create a setting anyone could sink their teeth into and find their own stories within. With Doomtown we’ve told you our story, and I felt it was your turn to tell us a story. So from day one, Pine Box Entertainment’s signature organized play support needed to be integrated.

Using this as a foundation, I decided the best way to introduce our players to a new universe, was through a role-playing game. From there, it was vital for you to feel like this new universe was your own to settle and explore, following two simple axioms:

1: Familiar, but Alien

2: Your World, Your Story

A Rigger, Trainwreck, and Driver are approached by a Coalition Peacekeeper during a playtest session.

 

Backwater is a Science Fiction Role-playing Game in which Humanity has begun expanding into the stars. The Coalition of Terran Enterprises, a group of all powerful mega-corps, has planted the seeds of civilization – and more importantly industry – everywhere they can, and we’re just getting started.

The furthest edge of this expansion is referred to as the “Backwater.” This is where your story takes place. Players take up the lives of the blue-collar everyday inhabitants of these planets. Many of those people can trace their lineages back through multiple generations on their planet. Those planets have become their home just as Earth is to us. Yet, there is always an underlay of restlessness and discontent.

Space travel is still expensive and thus impractical for ordinary folks – so going off-world will be a challenge in and of itself. The struggles of the inhabitants of Backwater are akin to many of us – a daily slog through a boring dystopia. Terraforming is hard, backbreaking work that doesn’t pay well. Thankfully, with new worlds come new opportunities, many of which are questionable in both their morality and legality.

Backwater’s goal is to ground the more fantastic elements – aliens, arbitrary technology, interstellar relics, and all your favorite sci-fi tropes – in something familiar. This allows you to be flexible with the genre of your story, as does the Terraformation system.

A “Trainwreck” Squares off with an Unwelcome Peacekeeper during a Playtest Session

At the heart of Backwater is the Terraformation system. In order to truly tell your story, it was important to me that first we learn about your world. You and your group will generate a planet during character creation, populating the universe with diverse life, cultures, and worlds. These worlds are considered Canon – and shareable with other players and groups through our organized play system.

The Terraformation system allows playgroups to place resources, connections, and opportunities throughout the planet. You will be able to select Biomes, the type of star system it resides in, etc. Each decision made during this process will populate industry, factions, and more – to create a dynamic back drop for your story.

These mechanics are tied directly to the organized play system- which I will discuss in greater detail as we approach the game’s release. Living campaigns with consequences that can permanently alter the course of the game world will be an integral part of the Backwater experience.

We look forward to expanding this universe and hearing your stories beginning in late 2020. And look forward to more Design Diaries as development progresses. 

 

Final Product Subject To Change

Interview the New Boss

Interview the New Boss

LastWalter: Hello! Derek here, LastWalter on most corners of the Doomtown internet with Richard Carter. Richard was recently announced in December as the new Lead Designer of Doomtown: Reloaded. Rich, tell us about yourself!

Carter: Well, I am a Gemini and [I was] born in the year of the Rat, and those things are all correct. My gaming world started in fourth grade when I borrowed a D&D Dungeon Master’s

guide. [I] collected comics and RPG’s until college, when I discovered Magic Revised Edition. It satisfied the RPG gaming fix like a main line and I played a bunch. Moved from the California coast to Sacramento, found a good game store, and traded the spot of Big Magic Hammer on and off with a couple others. Before Sacramento, I had picked up Legend of the Five Rings and discovered that the player base there was super competitive and very good (I got trounced). When Doomtown: Rolling Thunder came through, I picked it up with a couple of folks and had a ton of fun.  Then I found out about the World Champ becoming a card. I could think of nothing cooler, so I signed up for GenCon 1999. And there I fell in love with cons. After they shuttered Doomtown, I rose to be dangerous at Seventh Sea, then Warlord, then Spycraft.

LW: What do you do to make the ghost rock?

RC: My day job is Senior Land Surveyor supervising the Precise Surveys Unit for the California Department of Water Resources

LW: Obviously you’ve been active since Classic. What goals have you set for yourself along the way? Did you ever expect to lead design?

RC: Goals along the way? None really, just keep playing. During the dead times after Classic, I had one local opponent, and we dusted the Doomtown off irregularly. That grew to an irregular posse of up to three more equally insane players. When Reloaded came on to the scene, I had a few people on the inside advocating for me to be involved, and it would have made some sense considering I already had a business relationship with AEG as Brand Manager for Warlord. I did get recruited into being on Playtest there near the end of the AEG era.  I was part of discussions with the proto-pinebox crew, but not brought into PBE Playtest until after Too Tough To Die was complete. So I did not anticipate being the designer.

I knew that I could do it – I had years of Player Design Team for Warlord under my belt and years of Classic play I can draw upon, but there was some freedom in being passed over for an official role. [I] just enjoyed playing the game and being surprised when spoiler season would come around.

All that said, after designing 60 cards for the playtester set, when it came time to look for a successor to Emre Guzelsu, I was not surprised I made the short list.

LW: What keeps you coming back to Doomtown?

RC: When I advocate for the game, I call it the King of Games. The work of deck construction, the movement interplay, the flavor. I love the players too. We have a good time, even at the top levels of play.

LW: What do you think of the balance of the game? Are all the factions reasonable and effective?

RC: I think so – at least within a confidence interval – but hard to say for certain. Over my last 20 years at this I’m keenly aware of the importance of player skill. Mix that with faction loyalty, and [a community] that self-censures out “cheesy” decks and the data is hard to trust.

LW: Yeah, I think the self-censure is particularly noteworthy. For example, it seems like the community self-censures Deedslide/Landslide pretty hard.

RC: It did the same with Spirit Fortress. In a particularly creative community like ours, players do not want to retread or copy so decklists are always in flux. It makes the meta prediction for big events impossible. On top of the ever present question of “how aggressive do I need to be” vs. “how defensive do I need to be”.

LW: Any strategies that are overrepresented or underrepresented in the meta?

RC: Unfortunately, I do not get enough opportunities to play to make an informed decision. That is an area I really lean on playtest to help me with. Recently in Denver I fell to deedslide/Putting the Pieces Together and recycling the dead Undertaker into DMH, neither of [which] I expected. Last GenCon was weird [too]. Plenty of scuttlebutt about Force Field/Decimator Array so the meta shifted and gave us a field of different Full Moon Brotherhood. [It’s] just so hard to tell. Our community is pretty small – the difference between well represented and under represented is pretty tight.

LW: What about cards – are there any cards causing problems that maybe you’d like to remove?  Tybarsunsong wants you to say Unprepared.

RC: Unprepared is overstrong, it gives every other 10 of Clubs performance anxiety. Legendary Holster is another card that is environment warping. In the early days it was fine, because the card choices of A – 3 were not always great. As the card pool has grown now there are more ways to facilitate the Hit ‘n Run.

LW: Is Unprepared on the chopping block, not to be seen in a base set 2.0? I love beating up a dude with too much stuff on them. Stupid Yagn’s.

RC: I am considering similar ideas that are a little less automatic.

LW: Where do you see the game in five years?

RC: Five years? Hopefully discussing another reset. Balanced games have an inherent life span. Once the card pool gets to a certain size, buying the latest and greatest set isn’t required. You can do things to mitigate it: environmental resets, power cards (and their counters), new mechanics, new win conditions (and their counters). As the card pool gets deeper and deeper, it is [also] harder to recruit new players in.

LW:  Doomtown definitely can have some barriers to new players, and with 6 factions, 3 spell types, gadgets, 4 suits, and 13 values it requires a certain size card pool to function. What sort of things are going on behind the scenes to make the game more approachable? Are the rumors of starter decks true?

RC: Accessibility is a hard nut to crack. We have discussed resetting the environment with a new base set, but that can be complicated. Resetting the environment invalidates cards that our players have already bought, and I hate to do that. If all the cards are reprints, it’s not an easy sell to existing players. As a player I like having a robust card pool for the number of options it gives you. I am still working towards filling in the card pool for some spots, making a variety of viable options even within certain value and suit combinations.

To do a base set right takes a longer Playtest interval. [In addition], much of the Pinebox Era has been with an eye on filling holes and gaps in the environment. If our reset only wipes out AEG Era cards I would need to design some of those same gaps in to the base set.  Plus, there is the size issue. I would want to cover everything we have now, so it would need to have six factions, three spell types, two skills per faction. It could end up feeling super watered down.

But, as someone trying to convince other people to pick up the game, I totally understand the sticker shock and information overload of needing to suddenly get EVERYTHING. We are working on Print on Demand starter decks that will be comparable in power. [These decks will be] featuring copies of most of the cards that have had promos, [but] no Teleportation Device. We are hoping that these Quickdraw starters (and their accompanying Flex Packs) can afford the more casual player to fall in love with our game.

In addition to the Factional starter decks, ready to play out of the box, we are going to make available 28 card packs to enable rotating in one or two other values to the existing deck. For some decks, these shift the theme and strategy, or the player can substitute in more dudes and deeds and throw the balance of the deck more into Deedslide territory.

LW:  Do the flex packs correspond to a specific starter? How powerful are they?

RC: Yes, the packs will correspond to a specific deck. [As for power level], I had early versions of the decks assembled for my use at GenghisCon. They work. They lost to tournament decks, but not badly.

LW: These sound like a great opportunity to rope in some new cowpokes! Any particular timeline on these Quickdraw starters?

RC: The plan is early May [for both] in time for ChupacabraCon.

LW: You said you came onboard following Too Tough to Die. When will we start to see your designs?

RC: Carter Richardson in Out for Blood is my design, and I think I had a few suggestions that made it into the final card. The as yet unnamed playtester designed set has a fair number of my cards in it. I came on and inherited the project in process, and in a number of spots where we needed a card I was able to either pull from my list of submissions or spin something out of whole cloth. If we needed to do something drastic with a  playtester’s submission, I worked with them to come up with a number of variations of the card theme they were going for, so some of those would be considered to have a hybrid lineage.

LW: Doomtown has a number of unique or specialized mechanics. Do any of those mechanics make it hard to design cards for?

RC: Yes and no. Doomtown is hard to design perfectly, but between stats, abilities, cost, upkeep, and value there are a number of ways to counteract when you swing too hard for the fences. [This] makes Playtest such a valuable part of the process.

LW: How do you start to design a card? Do you start with a concept of the mechanics, or the theme of the card?

RC: [It’s] a mix. Sometimes [a card] is a mechanic I want to try, or I [might say] here is a theme (such as a hungry abomination that eats horses). Some ideas are too niche, or too versatile, so then I tweak as needed.

LW: Are there cards out now that hold you back in design?

RC: [I] had not thought of that. Probably. I know I get ideas and cancel them with the thought of “Nope, Card X”. Sometimes that [is because] we already have X and X is better. Unprepared does that. Sometimes the homes interfere with ideas, since you cannot use cost or value to limit a card’s interaction with [a home]. Spells do too, since there are so few cards that can do anything about them once they are on the table.

LW: Any specific examples?

RC: Desolation Row and Jonah’s [Alliance] make bounty based Outlaws easy to trigger. First People’s bonus influence, the ease of bounty placement for Law Dogs…

LW: So the card in question isn’t necessarily OP, but the interaction is too strong and obvious?

RC: Exactly.

LW: Value is such a unique and integral part of Doomtown that doesn’t exist in other games. How do you settle on a value for a card when designing or playtesting? Do values change during playtest?

RC: Values can change during playtesting. Sometimes it is to make the deck design harder by either not putting all the combo pieces on the same value or if the combo pieces are the same card type putting them on the same value to force a decision. Think Abram’s Crusaders, Jael’s Guile and Walk the Path, or Pistol Whip with Old Fashioned Hangin’. With dudes I try to mix up the values [to prevent] all the Blessed dudes to put in a deck [from being the same value]. Partly this is to make the deck less spoon-fed, and partly to ensure other deck designs on those values.

If all the good Law Dogs Blessed [dudes] were on 9’s (and represented the bulk of the faction dudes), but there was a cool tricksy goods or action for bounty punishment on 9, either you run Blessed dudes there and not use them to their full potential or you splash the card. Either way you get frustrated.

LW: Sometimes it seems like a Faction’s “good” Dudes are all on the same value. Are factions supposed to have strong values and weak values?

RC: Not really, my ambition is still to get each faction to 4 dudes per value. We don’t want everyone riding the same batches of drifters in to battle. Right now there are only a few slots not in the four per value, although, I think for my considerations I need to ignore original Sloane, Dave Montreal, and Ivor. They suffer from some overpricing of Faction Kings in the base set. I like the faction kings getting a discount mechanics in order to encourage a theme.

LW: What about various faction themes you design for?

RC: On paper I have four and a half each:

Law Dogs: Bounty Punishment, Higher Law Blessed, Inspector Gadget (Weapons), Cheatin’ Punishment, and government deeds.

Outlaws: Feels Good to be Wanted, Looks like a Job for Outlaws, Hex Shooters, Cheatin’ is Good, Saloons/Casinos.

Entrepreneurs: Gadgets (Experimental), Horses/Ranches, Money is Power, Risk/Reward, Strikes.

Fearmongers: Control Hexes, Scary Abominations, Mystical Goods, “The Hunt”, Conditions.

First Peoples: Spirits/Totems, Leveraging Influence, Kung Fu, Attire/Sidekicks, Holy Grounds

Anarchists: Kung Fu, Blessed is the Mob, Austerity/Pay to Play, Creepy Abominations, Saloons

I would like to find a home for Shaman in a second faction, [and] there were points where it could make sense with Morgan Cattle Company, but now [it makes] less sense with the name change to Entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it’s tough to do that without having an expansion drop like three EN shaman at once. [It is] not likely, unless Entrepreneurs players want a set with zero support for their other themes. Something spicy to consider at Reset Time.

LW: First Peoples always has a special place in my heart – any thoughts on the Shaman skill? I sometimes think it has too many hoops for too little payoff. Is that just in my head?

RC: It has too many hoops. The hearts are triple or quadruple trouble [with] totems, spirits, sidekicks, attire. Some dudes want to have a totem at their location, some [dudes] want the spells to actually be attached to them. Tokens are unbalancing.

Hexes are proactive, and negative. [Miracles] are reactive and positive. Spirits are…whatever is left. Classic duplicated a lot of effects across different spell types, so they lacked individual identity.  The “medicine” theme of Spirits is a new way of being in the middle – either neutralizing bad effects against you or wiping out good effects – but both require your opponent to be running such effects to be viable.

LW: Yeah, sometimes Spirits feel very narrow. Even a “medicine” type card like The Mixer feels like a good trick, but is maybe too narrow to justify his stats.

RC: If I expand on that concept I need some sort of weak always available ability to add on or maybe a dude or two based around generically booting spells or discarding spells for alternative effects (like Gene North Star).

LW: Will we ever see totems become easier to move?

RC: Moving totems – [I] just got a new idea. [The] problem is wording it in such a way that it isn’t too easy to move opposing totems or improvements.

LW: Going back to the themes we were discussing, what’s the difference between Creepy Abominations and Scary Abominations?

RC: Fearmonger Abominations are going to be all sorts of scary claws and teeth. They’re going to have more studs and shootout effects. Anarchist Abominations are more like drunk zombies and sad ghosts. They’re going to have more influence and Noon effects.

LW: What themes still need to be expanded?

RC: I like the Fearmongers “Hunt” [theme], but it is complicated to implement things based on high grit, when you cannot control what your opponent brings to the table. First People Kung Fu is [still] new and different. Working up how to properly differentiate between Law Dog Blessed and Anarchist Blessed. Entrepreneur Risk/Reward and Strike [themes] are new ground. Entrepreneurs need a little something to catch up at least in number of themes.

First People get a bonus [theme], as totems and normal attached spirits should be considered separate themes. Eagle Wardens and 108 got extra themes – I guess as a means of balancing out their smaller card pool.

LW: What about the grifter sub-theme of Outlaws, or even grifters more generally?

RC: Yes, I am working on designs for new faction [grifters]. This would be for the one after [the playtester designed set] a.k.a. “Who Put Carter in Charge?”. [Grifters have] two problems [though]. First, how many more ways are there to mitigate an opening hand? Second, the competitive environment has sort of gotten away from sacrificing a starting dude for that slot, so would they see play? Do you use Grifters?

LW: Depends on the deck. Having 0 influence can make finding them a slot very tough. When I build a starting gang sometimes I want skilled dude, back up, shooter, back up/bullet catcher, and influence. It’s hard to figure out where a grifter can fit in there sometimes.

RC: Right – and we have matured as players enough to make decks with fewer bad draws. The Fixer, Funtime Freddy, Butch [Deuces], and Howard [Aswell] rarely see play. Travis [Moone] used to be a staple, [but] now people have diversified their strategies. [Genesee “Gina” Tailfeathers] is paying for an extra card that you have to hope you have the money for. I don’t think Rico [Rodegain] has been seen since his errata. Den [of Thieves] does complicate some of [these] decisions.

So I am looking at options.  One idea I’m toying with is reversing the grift; instead of improving consistency [the grifter is] rewarding inconsistency. Like “reveal your opening hand, gain a ghost rock for each totem in it”.  Sure you can stack for it, but totems need to be attached to things and as the grifter you would not have another grifter to rectify a weak draw. But, that can be a dangerous path of “win more” and create a bad experience.

LW: What do you have in mind for expanding values? Previously the 9 value needed a bit of a boost, what do you have an eye on next?

RC: Seven is still in a weird spot – I think old design was mindful of Kidnappin’ being huge, and so the rest of that value seems to pay the price you pay to have Kidnappin’ on value.

LW: Any specific plans for 7’s?

RC: The plan is evolving. Seven can also be a viable floor in spell decks, so it can get a lot of play. The big pain  of 7 is in the deeds, and I think the next few coming will be a big help.

 

LW: Do you know much about the wider Doomtown setting or RPG?

RC: Some, but not all. I own lots, but don’t get to do much roleplay.

LW: Anything you plan to bring over to the card game, or wish you could but it wouldn’t work?

RC: [Nothing that wouldn’t work] in my knowledge base, but we have people that can tell me stuff, and I brainstorm with the roleplaying books since that can help with art.  I do look to elements from Classic when brainstorming ideas [as well]. Some classic ideas do not parallel [though]. Reloaded decks shoot better on average.

LW: People shoot better now? Were structures looser in Classic because Cheatin’ Resolutions were so strong, or better bullet ratings now maybe?

RC: Several of the classic Cheatin’ Resolutions were strong enough to swing a game from the first lowball, so they effectively scared folks away from heavy stacking. Reloaded CRs have very little lowball teeth (where the hand cannot be controlled), so it is safer to stack tighter. I do not recall Classic players developing the concept of Cheating through the Pain.

LW: Do you think Cheatin’ Resolutions should have more lowball teeth? It seems as if there has been a conscious decision to avoid that. Even the new stronger Cheatin’ Resolutions seem mostly for shootouts.

RC: [Classic] had big swaths of being non-interactive. Much of the difference between the two games can be attributed to getting more of a back and forth flow, and less “no counter, good game.” I would like another CR or two that are worth playing in lowball, but then I agree with things like Ricochet, where they will sit dormant until you can get them to cheat in a shootout.

LW: Let’s end on something fun. What’s the wackiest win condition or trick you’ve ever seen in a game of Doomtown?

RC: In Reloaded? The GenCon Den of Thieves deck that was Old Fashioned Hangin’ their own guys. Win conditions in this game are straightforward, but how you get there can be a crooked path. Like I have a Fiery Rhetoric deck. My Ballot Counter + Behold White Bull deck is…bold? Jayjester has some inspired piles of madness.

LW: Should I quote that or leave it out?

RC: He knows I love him.