A Den of Thieves stole the win in Huddersfield's Gunfight at the Circle M event on 24/10/15. The event had a special rule in place: No dudes that had been killed off in the storyline were legal for the event. The deck went 3-1 in swiss rounds then I won the top two cut in an epic clash with Vince's 108 Control/Denial that had gone undefeated in swiss (getting a win against me in the process).
I'd not really played Sloane Gang decks much before today. The Sloane Gang and Desolation Row seemed heavily geared towards an aggressive shootout-focused playstyle, and I have a tendency to favour chess decks. While Den of Thieves does allow for ridiculous levels of shootout hand rank manipulation in conjunction with Barton Everest and Devil's Joker, it can also be used during lowball and it makes you money. The home ability and a Monte Bank or two are a great boost to income, and income gets you dudes, deeds and horses!
The deck is an okay shooter, with fourteen each of fives and sevens and a decent chance of straights and straight flushes on clubs, which increases as the game goes on. You shouldn't play too aggressively to begin with though, as unless you get lucky or have a high stud rating you might find yourself stuck with a pair and even with Barton and the home ability, you're going to lose against a shootier deck. The structure meant it was a fairly consistent lowball winner, and several times I was able to use the home ability to further my gains as the rank increase didn't push me into losing. On the occasions when it lost lowball, I could use the home to effectively get my ante back.
I got lucky in most games by getting an early Monte Bank and a couple of deeds out, and from there my economy took off.
Why no second grifter? I couldn't find a starting posse I liked that used two grifters. Not having access to Ramiro Mendoza played a part in that, as did the fact I wanted to start with a decent pool of ghost rock to get building things quickly.
Here's a quick summary of my games:
Round 1 Vs Andy's Den of Thieves
I got Monte Bank and deeds out early, Andy didn't have similar luck despite grifting with Travis Moone and The Fixer. I had the economy advantage and was able to play more and faster. Under pressure from my mounting control points Andy had to act but his earlier bad luck followed him into the shootouts leading to some lost influence and that was game.
Round 2 Vs Karl's Law Dogs
Karl was running high-value Dogs and starting Max Baine (Exp.1). Not having access to Philip Swinford meant he was having trouble making a starting posse he was happy with, and he lined up against me with a fairly low three influence. The game was over very quickly, as I got an early Baird's Build and Loan and Quarantine Tent out. He went in heavy on a Recruitment Drive to bring in some backup, but Jacqueline Isham opposing and getting a double-joker aided straight flush put paid to that plan.
Round 3 Vs Vince's 108 Righteous Bandits
108 movement tricks combined with Steele Archer loaded with Shadow Walks and control hexes made this tricky to play against. I had a Kidnappin' in hand on turn one, but I wasn't sure how shooty Vince's deck was so I delayed hitting Archer straight away, which in hindsight was a mistake as he started loading up with hexes and a Fetch, which saved his hide when I did decide to send Jacqui off to kidnap him. I played a couple of deeds, but Vince rushed over and took control of them while Steele kept my dudes in check with hexes. I forgot Old Man McDroste's influence hit lasted until after the next upkeep phase, so I wasn't treating him with as much caution as I should have and lost some mobile influence as a result. Vince denied my production, booted my dudes and stole my ghost rock with This is a Holdup! and I was totally locked down. Sloane (Exp.1) managed to hit play, but when attepting to jump a booted 108 dude she got hit with a Blood Curse/Nightmare at Noon combo after Steele shadow walked into the fight, which saw her swiftly on her way to the discard pile. Having no way to get back into the game I conceded.
Round 4 Vs Amy's Eagle Wardens
I again got an early Kidnappin', but Amy started loading up her home with several The Pack Awakens and that made the prospect of a kidnap attempt very daunting. Butch Deuces at home with Strength of the Ancestors and a Buffalo Rifle sealed the deal on the 'no kidappin' front, and also meant the town square was well covered. Thankfully I got the economy and a bunch of deeds so I went into landslide mode as she was mostly staying at home or in the town square to use the Eagle Wardens home. Sloane (Exp.1) eventually made another appearance and I finally put the Kidnappin' to use first action of a new day, before Butch could call on his ancestors for aid. Amy decided Sloane was quite a threat and played an Unprepared and summoned four Nature Spirits into the fight. After a couple of rounds and some banished spirits, Sloane was discarded but the spirits were all used up and I had a bit more freedom to go and take control of her deeds. Chief Stephen Seven-Eagles hit play and also channelled the Strength of the Ancestors, but had to stay in the town square protecting the dudes there. I noticed Amy was low on funds so I moved Barton Everest to her California Tax Office. The next turn I was cheatin' in lowball, and Amy played Flight of the Lepus. I thought my plan to tax the Chief was ruined, but she forgot I had a dude at the tax office and removed Milt Clemons from her Jackson's Strike and a Pearl-handled Revolver-toting Jacqui from the town square. I'd won lowball and all her ghost rock had gone on paying upkeep costs, so of course it was time for a visit from the taxman. The influence loss put her into check and without ghost rock she wasn't able to recover. A couple of shootouts to try and grab control points off me were met with Pistol Whips and that was game.
Final Vs Vince's 108 Righteous Bandits
Having played the deck once already I was more prepared for its tricks. I got another opening hand Kidnappin' and sent Jacqui straight for Steele Archer, but he was saved by a Flight of the Lepus. I got three deeds out quickly, while Vince's start didn't seem as strong as our previous game. This was a looooong game of move and counter move. I kept the pressure up and regularly won lowball for the economic edge and was able to get quite a few deeds out. About halfway through the game I finally managed to kidnap Steele Archer and that put Vince on the back foot. T'ou Chi Chow entered play and things got interesting again, with Vince employing the movement ricks of Chow, Asakichi Cooke and the 108 home to the maximum. We ground each other down and the game came down to the wire. A shootout decided the match, and while I lost Barton Everest Vince had to discard Chow which left him with no more tricks, everyone booted and one influence short of my total control, while I was also booted out but my influence was equal to his total control. A very hard fought win!
(Apologies if any of the details are wildly incorrect, it's been a long day!)