DEADLANDS: RELOADED GAME REVIEW

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Doomtown, based on the late 90s Weird Western RPG Deadlands, has seen some spin off games come and go over the years. Now comes Doomtown: Reloaded, a reissue of the original game by AEG in their expandable card game format, where expansions and sets include a full playable set of each card included, so there's no element of randomization to collecting and you get to play the decks you want too.

Doomtown: Reloaded is a game of positioning and control. Over the course of a game, players have to build the town of Gomorra, the boomtown where it is set, by finding deeds from within their deck and then maneuver their gang of cowboys around that town in an attempt to establish control over it. Unlike games such as Magic: The Gathering, and more like Android: Netrunner, the positional element of Doomtown: Reloaded really twists how players think and play the game. It is a game of taking risks, gambles and pushing your luck as the outcomes of most circumstances can pan out in your favour when you least expect them too, this is certainly the case in combat as the battle mechanics involves poker hands, it raises some interesting bluff tactics at times and can cause an opponent to back out of a fight.

The world of Deadlands, which Doomtown inhabits, is a Wild West, or as they like to call it, Weird West setting, with a Steampunk element, where cowboys and mad scientists exist alongside summoned demons, zombies, and a magical coal called Ghost Rock that shrieks with the howls of the damned when burned. There are four factions you can choose from to play, each representing a powerful group within Gomorra, with their own special perks and agendas, they are as follows:

  • The Law Dogs are the loyal and upright citizens, the sheriff, and his deputies, whose deck focuses on picking strategic battles, shoot-out control and punishing opponents for cheating and forcing your opponent to do things they really don't want to. 
  • The Sloane Gang are outlaws led by the the deadeye Sloane; Her gang of ruffians focus on outshooting and overwhelming their opponents with agression. 
  • The Morgan Cattle Company are a crew of buisiness men and mad scientists who focus on ecomony to get richer than their opponents, surprising them with fast horses, steam-powered gatling pistols, and flamethrowers.
  • The Fourth Ring, a circus crew who dabble in evil magic and demon summoning to destroy their enemies, using potent combinations of weird spells, unkillable undead, and clowns for more of a power play.

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Every card has a few values printed on it , five or six in the case of the Dudes who represent your crew. The artwork on each card is quite stunning and has a pretty good layout. Another key feature on each card is is that they all have a traditional playing card value in the upper corner, these serve as poker hands for resolving combat shoot-outs and spell casting.

A round of Doomtown: Reloaded starts with having to ante up some Ghost Rock, which is also your in game currency, then draw a hand of lowball poker to establish which player goes first, this also gets the winner some extra income with the winnings for that round. Once a winner has been established the game goes into turns, where each player takes a single action with either their dudes already in town or by playing a new card from their hand, often 'Booting' those dudes and making them unable to make anymore actions. As players pay to place new locations, called 'Deeds', from their hands, they gain control over those deeds, which usually have an income value for their controller and give a number of Control Points. Those deeds don't exclusively belong to that player, though, and if another player has dudes with a higher Influence value on the location they take control of it. Also each character in play has a number of 'Influence' which is printed on their card, these are important to keep as high as possible due to the victory conditions (see further below).

Players dudes maneuver around the town using a system of movement rules, allowing them to move from their home base to the open town square and to their own player and other players properties. Dudes can also call out 'Shootouts' with groups of other players dudes, resolving them with poker hands depending on the number and kinds of dudes involved. Players continue to take actions until everyone passes consecutively, then the game enters a 'Sundown' phase where everyone draws more cards and goes into an upkeep phase for the next round.

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A player can 'challenge' another player to a 'Shootout' to gain control of a location or just to take out a character if he is gaining benefits for the gang. The 'challenged' player has the chance to back down to save taking casualties if they think it's not worth chancing it and can move back from their current location. But, if they wish to take the challenge of a 'shootout', combat is then decided by a poker hand. The difference between the player’s poker hand ranks is the amount of “damage” (or casualties) that the loser takes. Here is a brief summary of how it works …

There are two types of dudes: studs and draws (Studs have a silver bullet icon on their card and Draws have a bronze). Once everyone has finished making “Shootout Plays,” each player selects a shooter, who is the main focus for drawing cards in the shootout. Each player gets at least five cards, plus a number of cards equal to the bullet rating of their shooter (but only if he is a stud) into their draw hand. They get one additional card for each other dude in their “posse” (the other dudes from your gang who are part of the fight) that has a stud bullet (regardless of value).

So a posse with a 3-bullet stud shooter, and a 2-bullet stud and a 0-bullet stud dude would draw 5+3+1+1 (or 10) cards. You then have to pick which cards you wish to keep that make the best hand possible and then discard the rest. This is also the part where you can use any helpful cards you may have to get the shootout result work more in your favour.

People usually choose studs as their shooters if they can, because seeing as many cards in your initial draw hand before you make any changes is better than changing more cards. But sometimes it is either not possible or not worth it, as those pesky shootout actions can change all of your well-made plans.

The number of dudes knocked out in a shootout depends on the difference in hand rank between players, and casualties have to be paid for by either putting a dude in your discard to cover a single casualty or 'Acing' them into 'Boot Hill' to cover two casualties. When a dude goes into 'Boot Hill', the player can't play any cards with that name for the rest of the game - the dude is well and truly dead.

Winning the Durn Game is as follows... 

If it’s the start of the Sundown phase and you have more control points than the highest influence total among the other players, you win. If two or more players meet the above victory condition, the one with the most control points wins. If that’s also tied, the player with the most influence wins. If that’s also tied, play another day and check again for victory; this may result in a player who was not tied winning the game.

Overall this game certainly gets you into the feel of the Wild (Weird) West, we still have not played with more than 2 players so far, but we reckon a 3-4 player game will certainly open up the game for more mayhem and make things a lot more interesting.

The rulebook is actually pretty concise as far as rulebooks go and the quick start tuturial with the pre set decks in the box are a great way to get you learning and you will pretty much pick it up after the first game. The only difficult part of the learning process is the amount of terms used for different things in the game, we did have to refer to the rule book often to keep re-capping on a few. The game pieces are cardboard tokens, but we used poker chips to give the game a more wild west feel and this works well.

Bored? Game! rating 8/10

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