Howdy partner! Doomtown: Reloaded from Alderac Entertainment Group has been out for a little while now, however it took the game a bit o’ time to reach these shores through official channels and work it’s way onto retail shelves. As such, it’s taken us a bit longer than usual in gettin’ around to reviewing this ‘ere game. My apologies, but if you’ll lend me but a few moments of your time, I can tell you about this fantastic game and why you should be playing it.
This isn’t Doomtown’s first rodeo ya know. It was originally released as a Collectable Card Game back in 1998 and did rather well for a spell, enjoying nine expansions. Like Legend of the Five Rings, AEG implemented a ‘Living Story’ where players’ actions and participation in events dictated how the story continued; a novel and interesting idea that surely allows the player base to feel more involved in the game. Wizards of the Coast purchased the rights to Doomtown and went on to produce another series of expansions themselves. Even after winning a couple of awards the game sadly ended it’s official life late 2000 AD. It, like other ‘deceased games’ continued to live for a while longer with a devout player base continuing to run events and come together to play.
Zip forward now to 2014 and AEG brings us Doomtown: Reloaded, a slightly reworked version of the original game (The core mechanics remain principally the same) converted into an ‘Expandable Card Game’. Similar to that of Fantasy Flight Games series of Living Card Games, rather than purchasing random boosters, AEG will be releasing small, fixed expansions at regular intervals entitled ‘Saddle Bags’, the first of which should hit Australia before the year ends.
So what is the premise of the game? Let me give you a quick run down, or you can skip this paragraph if you’ve played the game before. You pick one of four factions ‘Law Dogs’ (Deputies and Sheriffs), ‘Sloane Gang’ (Horse Thieves, Highwaymen and Curs), ‘The Morgan Cattle Company’ (Entrepreneurs and Inventors) and ‘The Fourth Circle’ (Magicians and Undead). The object of the game is to have more ‘Control Points’ than any opponent’s ‘Influence Points’. Control Points are typically obtained from controlling Land Deeds, while Influence Points are typically found on the various ‘Dudes’ you bring into play and move about town. Rather than a game where a player takes a complete turn and then the next player takes their turn and so on, players share the whole ‘Day’ taking actions in turn. The combat in the game, ‘Shootouts’, is particularly fun and involves creating poker hands from your deck, with the winner dealing damage to the opposing ‘posse’. Conveniently, the Core Box includes a second booklet with a step-by-step guide on how to play using two pre-made decks. I strongly urge first timers to play through this demonstration game at least once.
Doomtown: Reloaded is definitely a game that is easy to learn and difficult to master; I manged to teach my wife (Who typically does not play or enjoy card games) in about twenty minutes before she went on to hand my backside to me. In the few games I’ve played so far, I quickly learned that bringing out too many Deeds too quickly when your opponent is playing the aggressive Sloane Gang is a big mistake. Likewise, sitting on your haunches for too long can also prove disastrous as your opponent quickly builds an army to protect their deeds while squatting on yours (and claiming the control points). Balance, as in all things, is likely the key here. Deck building has multiple layers to it and those who enjoy finding the meta and building competitive decks should appreciate the extra challenge presented here, for you not only need to contemplate what cards compliment each other well for an effective deck, you also need to consider the suit and value of each card.
I’m not normally a fan of the typical ‘Wild West’ setting; I was always more interested in dragons and barbarians as a child rather than gunslingers and train robberies. However this isn’t the first time that a ‘Weird West’ setting has caught my attention. I particularly enjoyed the Malifaux setting from Wyrd Miniatures. Doomtown is based on the Deadlands Roleplaying game, you see, and as such enjoys a rich background filled with not only ‘Cowboys & Indians’ but also with Lovecraftian references and ‘Steam Punk’ technology, making the entire thing, in my opinion at least, far more interesting.
The Core Box itself contains two of each card, although four are permitted as a play set, so a second Core Box down the track will likely be a good idea. Not bad, I felt, as many of the FFG LCG’s encourage at least two, often three core box purchases to acquire a playset. The cards included in the box are plentiful and using the included booklet I was able to build four distinct decks, one for each faction, which is convenient as the game supports up to four players at once, and it’s here in multiplayer that I feel the most fun and cunning can be had with the game. The box includes a number of cardboard tokens to keep track of income, control and influence, two thick-stock, fold-out playmats (a very welcome addition), rule books and LOTS of space to store all this and many more ‘Saddle Bag’ expansions.
So, what’s the final word on Doomtown: Reloaded? Two thumbs up. I sold off my Android: Netrunner collection a while back as the game relied a little too much on luck for my liking and not enough on wit and skill. I turned my attention instead to the Call of Cthulhu LCG which is, at times, more like a game of chess. Doomtown: Reloaded is a happy medium between the two; it presents plenty of depth with how you control the board and make your plays, with no element of luck involved, again much like chess. However the element of luck comes into play when forging your poker hands, although this can be heavily stacked in your favour with a well built deck.
All this combined with the ‘Living Story’ that AEG is bringing to the table makes the entire package a desirable one. Whether you are a veteran card player or new to the scene and looking to get involved in a game, Doomtown: Reloaded is a worthwhile purchase for both the casual game player on weekends with friends or the more competitive player, playing at their local store in regular events.