Ok, that’s enough cowboy talk for one article. So, Doomtown: Reloaded just launched and everyone is talking about deck building (including us! here, now!)
So, the first thing to talk about when building a deck in Doomtown is the structure of the deck. That is to say the card values which will be used for playing poker. Lots has been written about this: it’s probably the most popular deck building topic, and one of the most important to grasp: I’ll link Chris’s earlier article and the one on AEG’s page.
The short version in case you don’t want to read those other articles is this: there is a spectrum of deck value construction, going from the tightest draw decks running 16 cards in 3 values leading to very consistent high value draws, all the way to the other end of the spectrum where decks pay no attention to values and run cards based on the individual card’s value, leading to completely random draw hands. Most decks fall in the middle ground between these two extremes. For instance, I was playing a high shootout Sloane deck at GenCon and still had around 25% of the deck off value because the cards were too strong to leave out.
Where in the spectrum your deck ends up will likely depend on how important shoot outs are for it, how comfortable you are cheating! and how much use you can glean from off value cards. Pro tip: pick your values around cards that are really strong in your deck. I usually look to clubs and diamonds first when deciding as those are the easiest to incorporate all 4 of the value for.
Starting Posse/ Money
So, your starting posse is super important. Firstly it gives you dudes you can guarantee will be in play at least in the first round. I’ll go more into what that means and what types you should look for in the dudes section, but if you’ve got special requirements for your deck (such as card sharps or unhappy chemists) you should make sure your starting party has them covered. That said, also of importance is the starting money left over after buying all of them, plus your starting income vs. upkeep. And remember: you need to plan your funds in case you lose low ball. Even a no draw deck can get a higher card than a cheating Sloane stacked deck in five random cards. If you count on winning low ball and don’t you may find yourself down a body right off the bat, or at least unable to play the cards from hand you need to, meaning you’re bound to be off your game and likely lose.
Also important with the start is the grifter. There’s just the one for now, so I’ll only talk about Travis. Let me be clear: the consistency of hands granted by a mulligan is huge. Super huge. Having the grifter means you can run a less tight allotment of card strengths and still get a playable opening hand. That said, not every deck needs him. As a 2 draw with no influence he’s worthless for anything but chaff once the game is going, so if you’re OK with risking a bad opening hand you might want to save yourself the two ghost rock and look elsewhere. Just keep in mind that means even more you’re relying on your starting posse.
Now that we’ve talked super generic structure, let’s look at each suit and see where we should be.
Let’s start with the least represented suit: Hearts. Unless you’re playing a Hex deck or a Gadget deck Hearts are likely added in to flesh out a draw structure rather than as a game plan. And if you’re doing one of those you need advanced deck building strategy: those are tough nuts to crack right now. That said Hearts can be really helpful. One of the major pillars of this game is movement, so Horses and their ability to move around more efficiently can be huge control in this game. I am convinced a run ’em down deck will appear at some point for this game.
Further, firearms can make a huge difference in shootouts, be it by making a draw into a stud, or helping deal with some low down, no good, cheatin’ varmint! Getting more cards into your draw hand alone can make all the difference in a tight shootout. And that Legendary Holster can make short work of even the studliest of dudes in the right deck.
While dudes are important to your deck, they are also fairly limited right now in options. To my mind there are two primary categories of dudes: shooters and
cowards influence providers. Shooters have high bullets, studliness if possible, and probably an ability or trait to help win shootouts. Barton Everest and Wendy Xiang are perfect examples of shooters: you want to get them into any shootouts you have and then have them be the lead shooter. Influencers meanwhile want to stay out of shootouts and apply their influence to help you win this town by owning locations. If they do find themselves in a shootout it’s likely as chaff.
Ideally your starting party will have a primary shooter (who you want leading your shootouts/challenging the other guy’s dudes whenever possible), a secondary shooter for when your main comes down with a nasty case of pistol to the head, and one or two influence stacks to control the board and keep your opponent from winning before you can.
That said, as with all this advice, many decks might see it different. I’m speakin in the general case, each deck’ll be different.
Also, guys coming in later have different roles, though they might augment those two main ones. For instance, Steve Wiles shouldn’t really hang around long — he’s a heavy hitter to try to swing the game more your way in one turn, be that stopping your opponent from winning or taking the win yourself. Someone like Sloane or Dave Montreal on the other hand is likely coming out as a new, better main shooter mid to late game when you can actually afford to pay their wages.
Second most important are diamonds. To have any chance of winning you really need to set up an economy, not to mention the control points deeds give you. This is a constantly changing game with dudes dying left and right. If you don’t play new deeds for the economic boost you’ll never be able to afford new dudes to supplement your roster and you’ll find yourself losing from attrition alone. Plus all the shiny guns and such your posse likely needs to keep out shooting anyone. If you don’t have money coming in you’ll quickly be outpaced by an opponent who is.
That said there’s several different primary cost points with deeds, with several tweaking those values some: 2 cost for 1, 3 or 4 cost for 2, and 5 cost for 3. Your draw structure might influence which deeds you run, but also keep your starting cash in mind. You really want to be able to play a deed first turn to get your economy going if at all possible. If you think you’re usually going to have 3 ghost rock after low ball of the first turn, filling your deck with 5 cost deeds is not the best plan. On the other hand, if you’re Morgan or have a start that can otherwise afford it 5 cost deeds do give the best money for card efficiency. It really comes down to your deck and how it plays. You think L5R gold schemes are tough?
Finally, Clubs. The biggest influence on your deck. Since most Clubs are free they are the cards you most want to see as they easily cycle back out of your hand each turn, letting you see more new cards. Clubs are also the hardest to categorize as they do everything. Really you should look at what Clubs best fit into your intended deck and look to build your values from there.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into the complexity of deck building in Doomtown. Several of these subjects could be expounded on for ages, and some I haven’t even mentioned (such as jokers vs no jokers) as such, feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below. It’s an exciting new world in Gomorra! And I firmly believe the best teacher is experience. So go build some bad decks and then play them until you know why they’re bad.