So, if my last deck was iterative, this one is ready for mass-production. My one change made an impact, though: I swapped one 2-of-Spades, 4 cost, 0 upkeep dude for another. While I liked the style (and shootout actions) of my old pal, today the Law Dogs were off to Hunt the most dangerous game. Another remnant of my Legendary Holster days bit the dust, as I searched for an attorney quick enough to not get shotgunned on his first day in Gommora, and slick enough to make sure my charges would stick. He was even sufficiently influential that my opponents readily recognized the totally legit proxy I was able to muster.
Organizing efforts on the Pinebox Entertainment Forums and Facebook resulted in a posse of three who would rendezvous at the Doomtown Bunkhouse for the con. The accommodations and company were both mighty fine (and reasonably priced ;-)). Philadelphia itself wasn't a particular clean/tidy city, which detracted from the colonial charm, but the weather held and the subway system proved convenient.
Our flight arrives about an hour late, so it is 7.30 PM by the time we are moseyin' on down to the Good Dog Bar and Grill for a casual community meet-up. The lack of tables on the top floor meant no games were played there, but it was great to reconnect with (or meet for the first time) much of the PBE Top Brass and Co.
After some tasty tacos (and disappointing pickles), our little posse headed back to the hostel for some playtestin'. My attempts at LD gadget decks, along with my second-string Desolation Row deck, all fall before the might of Morgan Gadgetorium Force Field. I then realized it was way to early to still be up, given the busy schedule tomorrow, and hit the hay.
Headin' in to set up for a full day of demos, I'm met by a veritable rainbow of Shiny Things. To whit, the literally shiny new Bottlecap tokens for sale by PBE, on top of a playmat featuring the art from Classic Doomtown card "Fanning the Hammer". I am either wise or weak, and splurge on both the playmat (on the theory that a faction-nonspecific playmat makes a great backgrop for demos) and a set of the new "card marker" tokens that feature the art of the cards (like Sun in Yer Eyes, Unprepared, and Faster on the Draw) on the top of each bottle-cap (because they look great, and I've been jonesin' for some card-effect tokens since facing off against a slide player with nifty tokens in a neat box at Euros last-year).
In my opinion, formed over the course of three days of intensive Doomtown, the card-effect bottlecap tokens are a totally worthwhile investment for players who don't mind partin' with $15 of their hard-earned buckaroos. Not to say they are the only tokens that can do the job, and I was sure to put in my 2 pesos in discussions on what other tokens (specific or generic) might be helpful. But just those three types of tokens mentioned above plus Servitor tokens made the purchase a worthwhile investment for me. And they really are darn purdy.
The day flies by: there is a fairly constant buzz of visitors to the PBE booth, some of whom are existing fans comin' to say hi, and some of whom are new cowpokes whom we can Rope and Ride into a demo or experienced gunslingers who fancy a friendly Servitor or prep match. This was the point in the weekend where I started to lose my voice... .
As an aside, while I found GenCon concessions could be an adequate tradeoff in price, quality, and cost compared to hoofin' it fer grub, not so for PaxUnplugged ($8 for an Italian Sausage on a mediocre bun, for example.) With the Reading Market extremely close to the con, and China Town a short walk away, it is well worth stepping out (or ordering in, or taking turns sending a friend) for food.
For dinner, the PBE crew headed out to The Yards to check out their new digs. I decide that something with a hearty broth is a must for stomach and throat, so my fellow Haligonian and I head out in search of Terakawa Raman in Chinatown. There was a line, and we ended up waiting around half-an-hour, but it is a nice night and we refine deck thoughts for the next day. On the downside, we miss the Yards meetup. On the upside, it was a first-class and reasonably priced dinner: the takoyaki in particular was an excellent starter, while the Kyushu Danji Ramen (Whopper style) was savoury, satisfying, and only $15. Even for me, it resulted in leftovers, which served as Breakfast (broth) and Lunch (noodles/vegetables/pork) on Sunday.
Sleep seems essential to health and competitive focus the next day, so we end up turning in at a reasonable hour...
...which turns out to be prudent, as the next morning we deal with a selfish and/or socially awkward hostel-mate who decides that since HE is up, we ALL should be up. Thankfully, it isn't close enough to Christmas yet for bags of clementines to make an appearance, or else the local equivalent to Maze Dragons might have found an easy food-source strangely unconscious and devoid of obvious markings. Next year, we'll co-ordinate better to ensure we get a room solely to ourselves, as proves to be the one notable negative to the otherwise excellent (and cheap) bunking arrangements.
"It's main event time!" A double feature, no less, as a Grand Kotei for a certain other game was scheduled to overlap with ours. Mad Max thought to himself: since the Kotei is scheduled to start an hour before our shootin' match, I should be okay to get a game in before dropping for Doomtown. If I need to concede to avoid time issues, no problemo. Since it takes the third-party running that other tournament a full hour from scheduled start time to start the first round, I am instead able to finish drawing my totally legit proxy and focus on gettin' ready for the more important tournament.
Ethan's deck featured a slick combo and put down respectable pressure with small posses. Once a Guile was on the table, every fight became a risky proposition... at least until Stone had been used for the turn. Further, Ethan decided to roll with x2 Recruitment Drive and x2 Unprepared. Against my deck, this worked well: two turns in a row, I discarded his Tommy Harden in a shootout only to see him replay him with an unopposed Recruitment Drive!
Despite struggling to inflict permanent damage on my opponent's dude supply, I'm able to throw down a couple of deeds to get my economy rolling, and hold town square with a sturdy posse, with sidekicks to blunt casualties and avoid triggering Justice In Exile if we tied handranks. My man Henry Moran helped me avoid bounty off of low-ball, while I was able to reliably set up THUNDAH BOY! with the help of my home. To this end, my low values help me avoid lowball losses on tied hand-ranks, and thereby reduced the odds of an untimely Unprepared on The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
In shootouts, bullet penalties helped blunt my opponent's draw hand size / hand ranks, but the real powerhouse was Sun in Yer Eyes, which forced my opponent to cheat to maintain respectable shooutout hands. This thereby enabled me to finally able to capitalize on my opponent's otherwise canny use of small posses (typically Tommy Harden and a bullet-sponge) when I finally put Tommy a solid seven feet under(/en/card/01115) thanks to a Bottom Dealin' into a three-of-a-kind. (Coincidentally, it was a Bottom Dealin' into a three-of-a-kind that sealed my t4 loss at GenCon... the key difference this time being that I held a five-of-a-kind!)
I then commit a massive blunder. I know not if it was a twist of fate or a canny placement by the TOs Scott and Heidi that led to me starting the day under the watching eye of Head Judge Lapp at Table 7, but it proved fortuitous. I reveal and declare a legal 4-of-a-kind... except I don't. The hawkeyed lawgiver puts on his "active judging" hat, and points out that my two red 4's are, in fact, both hearts. This triggers my opponent's whole combo, which leads to my opponent cashing in on one dead Tommy! While an exceptionally reasonable result for my gross incompetence, it also means that the pressure is momentarily off on my opponent. While I still command a healthy lead in influence and control points, I am not able to close out the match before time is called.
Round 2, with Andrew runnin' Justice In Exile + Mad Science
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew the day before, when we played a friendly match or two. Sadly, I do not recall our game in great detail: my first impression was 'holy smokes: Dr. Burnett, a huge pile of starting rock, and only two other dudes!' Unfortunately for Andrew, my deck loves to see a three dude opposing start. Where I had a handful of shootout actions and my opponent decided to rumble Turn One... I then had time to grab my participation swag from the ill-fated Kotei.
What I do recall with greater detail, however, was the good humor and sociability of my gracious opponent. We had a great chat whilst playing out a friendly game (I switched to my Des Row second-string deck for the rematch). If you find yourself travellin' to the Huston, Texas area, bring decks and reach out to the playgroup, and I hope they are able to make the trek to future events, too.
Round 3, with Jevon runnin' What's in the Box? v2
Of the whole weekend, I have the biggest regrets about this matchup: it went to time. Though I felt I would have had the upper hand had the game continued, and though the tiebreakers backed that up, my opponent and others might defensibly disagree. Regardless, I feel we had both burned through enough of our respective casualty soak/recursion shenanigans that one bad shootout at that point in the game could have spelled disaster for either of us. Decisions about positioning and shootouts accordingly felt particularly tense and exciting. I therefore feel it would have been highly satisfyin' to see this particular game through to the end, win or lose!
In my experience, abominations are generally quite resilient. In shootouts, they often have enough extra bodies to soak casualties without losing meaningful shootout power, while The Brute is an emergency soak for the "one bad round" (read: Bottom Dealin') that could otherwise decide the momentum of the match. Over the course of the game, the ability to pull aced dudes back from the discard makes it hard for a shootin' opponent to gain a permanent advantage and keep the pressure up. Against my deck, the large number of expendable dudes coupled with the disappearing/reappearing tricks meant that I had to work hard to spread bounty around onto likely opponents for "Thunder Boy" Nabbe.
This deck doubled down on these strengths by including the titular Diable en Boite and Takin' Ya With Me to force unfair dude trades and discourage stayin' around for multiple shooutout rounds. If the opponent does stay, the second shootout round should result in both a lower hand-rank and casualties landing on influential dudes. If the opponent runs, then the rest of the circus can swarm town square for influence or go contest deeds to deny income and threaten victory. The combination of Oddities of Nature and Hawley's Rose enable this deck to pull ahead of shootier opponents in the influence fight, while the shootout resilience mentioned above helps them put the pressure on more passive decks.
The main weakness that I observed is that the Mad Scientists who invent the otherwise off-value Diable en Boites are key sources of permanent influence... and are ineligible for Abomination recursion shenanigans. This thus made them ideal targets for my staple spot removal.
MVP of the match was, as astutely noted by Jevon in his tournament report, the Cookin' Up Trouble that I played to reveal a lack of Cheatin' resolutions.
On the very last turn of the game, I had forgotten Hawley's Rose provides an extra influence when an opposing dude is present. This, combined with clever and timely action ordering by my opponent meant that not only was I was denied the benefits of my Yan Li's Tailoring and The Mayor's Office controller abilities, but my opponent controlled The Mayor's Office when time was called! Thankfully, I had a sufficient buffer to carry the day... but that last turn in particular served to illustrate how the deck (like the coiled spring of a Jack-in-the-Box) can pack a surprise influence and control-point punch in the hands of Skilled operator. :-)
Round 4, with Zac runnin' Pub Wars!
Raven is scary. I don't mean the wall o' text: that's just intimidatin'. The power of Raven is that it essentially reads "you have +1 control points vs. shootin' decks that go home, or decks that play out deeds". Protection Racket pressures your opponent to play deeds... at which point Raven rewards you for taking them over.
I'm going to try and expedite the completion of this report by quoting my opponent's recollection of this match, since our memories jive:
" ... This is perhaps a Sloane player’s toughest match-up, as this posse is especially mighty if you fight them on their own private turf. Knowing this, I tried to stay to my side of the board, only to be descended upon relentlessly, harranged by a constant onslaught of jobs coupled with bullet-reduction. Despite never seeming to be permitted to keep a stud in a fight, I lucked some pretty impressive draws (legal full house on 2 draw at least twice), only to tie and trade casualties with sidekicks. To add insult to injury, on turn one he played 2nd Bank Of Gomorra, and every day banked two ghost rock upon it, and never emptying it, tempting me with money into silly and reckless plays, only to cut my schemes short with clever cardplay. I think by the time he closed out the game, he had “saved up” 12 ghost rock, utterly unspent. This game, in spite of or perhaps due to this nonsense, was the highlight of the tourney for me."
While I couldn't comment on how clever my cardplay was, I concur in my opponent's assessment of the match. It was casual, yet fiercely competitive. There were good shootouts, tempered by reasonable consequences and positioning considerations. I was, indeed, able to stack up 12 ghost rock by the end of the game on my 2nd Bank Of Gomorra, which was delightfully ridiculous while also representing a healthy reserve fund in case I drew into multiple expensive characters.
My memory may be failing me at this point, but I feel like one key piece to this match that I lacked in the Finals (besides, perhaps, good play on my part) was an early set of three deeds: my 2nd Bank on one side of my home, my Yan Li's on the other side of home, and a Joker's Smile farther out to shut off the income stream for my opponent while not risking a CP.
Top 4 match with Jevon: What's in the Box v2, Electric Bugaloo, Redux
From my experience in our swiss matchup, I knew this was going to be a challenging game. Where I'd already identified what I felt would be the winning strategy, however, I felt that I could accelerate the aggression slightly to try and finish in time. In this regard, my B & B Attorneys proved to be quite helpful, in stacking up a second bounty onto non-abomination dudes.
I feel our game progressed largely as the prior game, with the tense decisions and tight cuts and thrusts that accompany this particular matchup (both deck-wise and opponent-wise.) With time winding down on our match, I decide it is time to make a definitive attempt to close out the match, and start a [Judge Harry Somerset job on Dabney Scuttlesby at home. Jevon responds with everyone, and we have ourselves a shootin' match.
What my opponent and I both miss is that he has The Caretaker at his home that was played last turn and that has not moved. This is particularly gut-wrenching, as I waste my 'spare' second Sun in Yer Eyes on a draw-dude just to lower bullets and reduce the chances of a hail-mary five-of-a-kind-on-redraws. Judge Scott dutifully points this out as we are set to draw cards (the match is being actively judged, and we were about to make a play error by drawing too few cards regardless of shooter). My heart goes through the floor. I realize I have to risk a high hand, since my opponent will almost certainly be able to pull a sizable hand. If I recall correctly, I don't have an option for a legal four-of-a-kind, and possibly not a legal full-house, so I cheat big.
Thankfully, if memory serves, I have enough dudes without influence, sidekicks, and Tommy Harden hand rank modification to avoid a wipeout. (I seem to recall the ultimate hand rank difference being around 4). I've also locked down most of my opponent's dudes at home, so as to avoid a sudden CP swarm into my deeds when I run home with my tail between my legs. In any event, I neededn't have sweated quite so profusely, as time expired about 20 seconds into the shootout; with that, I make it to...
*The Final Showdown with Zac: Pub Wars, Closing Time"
I sadly do not recall many of the finer details of this game... but I'm sure seeing the replay will eventually jog my memory. As I seem to recall, this game largely mirrors our Swiss match, though I don't see deeds as quickly as I would like. My opponent also has a greater cash-flow this game, though, and much to my consternation is adept at shuffling bounty off of his Clementine Lepp.
All is going fairly well until I fell victim to one of the classic blunders: I ended up grossly overcommitting to a fight I didn't need to start. My pride stung by a recent failed Mugging on Clementine Lapp, and increasingly anxious about the fat stacks of Ghost Rock that my opponent had begun to accumulate, I felt I needed to up the pressure and start accumulating a permanent resource advantage (dudes). This would hopefully enable me to muscle my opponent off of my deeds, whereby I could camp in the town square and start sniping his deeds to 'turn off the taps'.
I thought my play might prove risky, but I reckoned Zac didn't have a deed in hand. I neglected to count Raven's all-too-real control point. I win the battle, but lose the war as my influence is all locked down and my opponent Pub Crawls his way to victory by sauntering into my other CP deed and jumping to 6 CP (3 from my deeds, 2 from his, and 1 from Raven) to my 5 influence. And that, as they say, was that!
I can't help feeling happy after the match, despite my loss: it has been a day full of great Doomtown games against friendly, fun opponents. Plus Zac and I have story prizes to frantically co-ordinate! We hustle over to the main PBE booth pick up our swag and present our proposal to Marshall Lapp.
By this point it it Sundown, and the Top 4 are hungry for food and MORE DOOMTOWN! We therefore set out in search of fuel for our continued adventures. Our wanderin' brings us to China Town once more, where the smells of a hotpot/grill prove irresistible... but the 90 minute wait time strengthens our resolve. Instead, we wander across the street to what appears to be a non-satirically Maoist restaurant.. The starters we ordered ranged from good to excellent. Hard to go wrong with inexpensive sticks of spiced meat and plates of seasoned vegetables! The (spicy!) egg and garlic in particular received rave reviews, and the dumplings were satisfying. The hot - and - spicy soup resulted in mixed reactions. Two of us gave it thumbs down, one passed entirely, and the fourth found that it hit the spot because he was looking for hot-and-spicy soup owing to a gummy throat and the weather, but wouldn't order unless he specifically wanted that soup.
Lookin' for a place to play, the saloons we passed all seemed full or lacked table space, so like moths drawn to a flame, we returned to the main hall and parked ourselves in the free play area across from the main PBE stand. It was great to observe so many passersby check out the display, entirely unprompted!
I also learned the joys of silent Doomtown, as Zac kindly obliged my strange gestures as I tried to save what little remained of my voice as I smacked my head into his various Raven decks. As the noise level in the convention floor ebbed away, it brought a more contemplative tone to the matches.
Finally, my buddy was done with the L5R tournament (making the cut for Day 2), so it was time to head home and hit the hay.
MORE DEMOS! Despite my best intentions of spending time checking out the rest of the con, I was having way too much fun hanging out at the PBE booth and doing demos / friendly matches with random passers by. The volume of demo traffic increased over Friday, I feel: partly due to the weekend, and partly due to a lost flock of Deadlands roleplayers being guided to the demo area.
A big shout out here to Jevon, who jumped in to act as an instructor to pairs of new players. I tried to take some mental notes from his game overviews, because I feel he presented key concepts in an ordered and clear manner. (Note to self: see if he knows and can teach Unhappy King Charles... ).
A second big shout-out to our wayward Scotsman, @Harlath ! He was very much present in spirit, as with the number of demos and more experienced new players showing up at the booth, all six "demo decks" were put through their paces. It is not hyperbole to say I had almost as much fun playin' through games with the 'demo decks' as I did at the tournament. I have new respect for their balance, not just vs. each-other but also as constructed decks that are also darn fun to play! Unlike certain other LCGs that shall remain nameless, I found nothing contrived or artificial about the experience. Even after a full day of demos, I looked forward to sitting down to the game that would eventually unfold once interested-party-come-new-player learned the ropes.
PBE and co. closed out the con with a trip to Barcade, which delivered all that its name promised. Good company, a satisfying Stout, and proof that with an obscene amount of tokens, the baddest posse of mutants in the Weird West can rescue Dr. Xavier and bring law and order to the mean streets of an unnamed town!
It bears repeating: in my (n)ever humble opinion, Pine Box Entertainment / Doomtown tournaments are the best tournaments. Full stop, no caveats. I'm sure far more experienced hands can chime in with nitty gritty details, but broadly speaking I think there are three key elements to a successful tournament: logistics, the game, and the community.
Logistics is a big category, covering things like event location (city/venue/spot), prize support, and running the tournament (marshaling, pairing, reporting, judging). Here, PBE routinely excels. Events are well publicized and in cities with transport links. The stakes are worth playing for (in terms of story prizes and swag), and everyone who participates walks away with well-earned prizes while the top brackets are incentivized to fight hard until the end. The TOing and Judging departments are second-to-none (thanks again to Scott, Heidi, and David!) We start on time, pairings are accurate, judging is timely, accurate, and patient but forceful.
The game. Is the game fun? Is it rewarding enough to spend a whole day playing, plus whatever additional time preparing, planning, and promoting? If you lose your first two matches of the day, are you still motivated to keep playing? Does the prospect of playing more entice you to travel across continents, like Old Man McDroste to a High Stakes Haven? After a full day's demoing, and a full day's tournament, do you feel like sittin' down for some more casual games?
Many games can check a number of these boxes. Doomtown, I feel, reliably checks all of them. It was exciting to meet and hear from a steady stream of passersby to the PBE table who already knew about the game and wanted to say hello and have a game / demo. The positive feedback about Doomtown from folks who had spent the con playing a certain other LCG was particularly gratifying: not (just) because it is nice to have one's favourite pastime compared favourably to the new hotness, but because Doomtown had clearly made a great impression that stuck with these people. Good games come and go, but it takes a particularly special game to be 'sticky'. Doomtown: Reloaded makes the cut. Thanks, Emre (and the unrelenting playtest heroes and production crew that make the magic happen)!
The community: this is what it is all really about. Win or lose, competition or casual matches, is the community who attends tournaments a group of people who you want to spend a large chunk of your long weekend / vacation with?
What I find with Doomtown is that the community is unflaggingly welcoming and pleasant to be around. Not just those now-familiar faces whom I come to expect to see at big events, but the random people showing up for demos, or stopping by to chat, or driving in from far away to play because they could make the event work with their schedules.
I'll stop before I become unbearably saccharine, but I will say I am already thinking about Euros strike-through Worlds and GenCon next year. I hope to see you all there!
|Nov 25, 2017 BeastEG|
|Nov 25, 2017 Doowa|
|Nov 26, 2017 jordan caldwell|
|Nov 26, 2017 Redgar|