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Doomtown: Reloaded» Forums » General

Subject: This game is just so impenetrable. rss

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Craig Southworth
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I picked up this game three or four months back and it finally hit the table last night. I must admit I was putting off playing this one as initial read-throughs of the rulebook were pretty daunting.

My friend and I are no stranger to complicated games having played, and fully understood, complex games like Magic, Codex, LoTR LCG, Mistfall, Legends of Andor, Android Netrunner and the like. When we first attempted this we were totally unprepared for how impenetrable it actually was.

We started off playing through the “tutorial”. When it was telling us to play a card we would stop reading to try and work out what the card did ourselves then we’d finish reading the tutorial step to see if we were right. In the beginning we were clueless but by the end we were about 50% of the way to understanding what the tutorial was telling us.

The initial problem is one of jargon. Why do games like this and Android Netrunner insist on re-branding game mechanics. What’s wrong with play a card, exhaust a card, discard a card, trash a card etc. All this “boot”, “ace”, “scrub” "stud" nonsense is completely unnecessary and utterly confusing.

After over an hour of scratching our heads through the first round of the tutorial we were left to play out the rest of the game on our own. We chose to continue as is instead of starting afresh. The first card played was a Deputy who had some ability about “marking holy ground, and if successful do….” This was completely lost on us. Cue the next 15 minutes trying to decipher what this card did to no avail.

In the end we gave up after a two hour session of trying to wrap our head around the game and I doubt it will ever hit the table again. With so many great games in both our collections, I don’t see any reason why we would want to put ourselves through this ridiculous learning curve when we could be enjoying something else.

If there is a decent walkthrough video online I might be tempted to give it a second try as the theme is strong and some of the mechanics seemed as though they’d be quite good once perfected. However as it stands right now we’ve already wasted two hours which could have been better spent and we’re not likely to want to waste anymore.

EDIT: Corrected "scrub" to "stud"
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Gordon Watson
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I'm not sure I can help you as we had no problems getting Doomtown up and running as a game - we did get rules wrong, played at least 10 games without realising unbooted characters could move from anywhere to anywhere else, without going via the Town Square.

I can see why the themed terminology can cause confusion but I liked it due to the theming and it's not that hard to adjust, boot = tap, 'ace' = remove from the game and is quite a specific instruction unique to Doomtown so they had to call it something - 'scrub' is something you've made up. I really like the approach FFG have used with their recent LCG's, having a learning rulebook which is written specifically to get you up and running with the game but doesn't include every rule or stop to dot all of the 'i's and cross the 't's, and then a separate Reference Book which does have all the rules in and can be referenced by each game term. This would probably have helped with Doomtown, or indeed any game of moderate+ complexity.


Once you get past the initial hurdle the game is tremendous - the game I've enjoyed most over the last 3 to 4 years - persevere.

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David Boeren
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Every card game uses its own terminology, that shouldn't be a barrier if you've got experience in Netrunner, etc...

I thought you were going to complain about the more typical problems of not knowing what to do, everyone getting into one giant shootout on the first turn, that sort of thing. More rough trails are ahead my friend, but once you figure it out it *is* a very good game.
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soulblight
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I haven't played many other complex card games. Perhaps that's why it wasn't so daunting for me as this concept of cards doing extremely complex things was rather novel for me.
I had to pour all of my energy into it for a number of months though, but eventually it clicked and games ran quite smoothly.
You just have to get used to what the cards do, really.

Abram Grothe doesn't really have a useful ability, I wouldn't worry too much about using it. It's super situational and isn't really all that effective.
Essentially, he starts a job - see the Job rules in the rulebook.
The mark is a deed, but it has to have the Holy Ground keyword.
After the shootout is over, if the job was a success (ie, it wasn't opposed, or his posse won the shootout) he and his entire posse goes home booted.
Then, if there are any wanted dudes (with a bounty) or cards with the Abomination keyword left at that deed, they get discarded.
 
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Barry Miller
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domus_ludorum wrote:
...it's not that hard to adjust, boot = tap,...

You MtG players have it all wrong ... boot = kneel!

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Barry Miller
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There is a series of instructional videos that some dude did (sorry about the use of "dude"... couldn't resist ). Though I don't have the time now to find them for you. Perhaps others here will help out in that regard.

Anyway, I gave Doomtown a try, coming to it as a Game of Thrones LCG casual player (my post above might give that away). I studied and underlined the rulebook, and watched a few of the aforementioned videos, which did help.

Then I walked myself through the tutorial. It was when my 11 yo grandson visited that I was finally able to get in a game. Him and I both played the tutorial, each taking a side and having the tutorial dictate our actions. After that, we played a game... stumbled a bit as we looked-up some things in the rules or online, but made it through a full game.

By the end of the game, we both felt like we were comfortable with it and wanted to play again. But he had to return home, so that second game awaits.

In the meantime, even that little experience was enough for me to know that I wanted to grab a 2nd core and a few expansions before the game becomes too hard to find since it's going out of print. As a matter of fact, a box just arrived the other day from Miniature Market, full of Doomtown goodies!

All the above is FWIW, obviously. YMMV.

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To start, I've taught this game to over 20 people - even my non-gamer wife and my 9-year-old daughter who went on to win 2 local tournaments vs adults - so it is absolutely possible to learn this game in a single sitting. I'm not going to lie and say it isn't complicated - it is! But if you've mastered other constructed deck games like Magic, LotR and Netrunner, then you should have no trouble learning Doomtown as well.

You sound to me like a well-versed and intelligent gamer so frankly, I think you psyched yourself out here. Sometimes our brains just aren't in the right place to pick up the rules of a new game and that's fine. And as you noted, Doomtown has been sitting on your shelf for months after you read some daunting reviews. This may have made all the jargon, keywords and mechanics appear more complicated than they actually are.

I feel you owe it to your purchase and the game to give it another try. There are good reasons to dislike Doomtown - it's not for everyone after all. Maybe you don't like its open-ended path to victory, or the fact that it's secretly an area-control game, or how its deck building works? However, to dismiss it because it feels impenetrable on first blush is not one of those good reasons.

Here's what I suggest:

1. New Decks

Go to the Doomtown Database and find some decks that use only 1 Core set (unless you own more cards than that, if so please let us know). The deck lists provided in the Core set are too random to be enjoyable, especially during shootouts. In order to make 4 decks from a single Core set, AEG really had to stretch their cards. You can build far more consistent and enjoyable decks by pairing those 4 weaker decks down to 2 stronger ones.

2. 1 Hour Per Game
Continuing on with your initial game after the tutorial ran out was a mistake. Give yourself a 60 minute time-limit for your first game. If one player hasn't clearly won the game at the end of 60 minutes, whoever has the most Control + Influence wins the game and then reset the town.

Don't make the mistake of playing a 2-hour slog. You're not playing to win here, just to learn the rules. It's far better to play a game consisting of 3-4 solid turns of action and then begin again than one that drags on and becomes boring.

3. Begin with Deeds in Play
Start each player with 1 in-town deed and 1 out-of-town deed. It's best if they have matching in- and out-of-town deeds, but that's not necessary as long as they provide equal Ghost Rock and/or abilities. Why have each player start with 2 deeds on the table?

First, it gives everybody some extra money so they can play the cards in their hand - guns, horses and more deeds and dudes. Until you understand the nuances of how to make money or build your own starting posse to kickstart your deck's economy, it's no fun to stare at cards in your hand you can't afford to play.

Second, it gives you places for your dudes to move to and fight over right from the start. This helps teach you the rules for moving your dudes to an in-town deed adjacent to your Home, the Town Square, a deed on the other side of the street (i.e. your opponent's in-town deed) and an out-of-town deed.

My go-to choice for in-town deed is the Circle M Ranch as it gives you some solid economy and lets you cycle through cards in your hand that don't make any sense to you. Rather than wrack your brain over what a card means or how you can make it work, the Ranch lets you discard it for one that may be more useful to you right now.

My choice for out-of-town deed is Pat's Perch. It's a simple card that gives you more Ghost Rock. Nothing fancy, just more money.

4. No Jobs
Remove any action cards (Clubs) that "do a job". Jobs are the most complicated part of the game for beginners to learn. For now it's fine to set them aside - there's plenty of things to do and dudes to ace in Gomorra without them.

I'll see if I can come up with any deck lists that might work for you and post them in this thread. I hope that helped and good luck with Doomtown, it really is a fascinating game!

Sincerely,

Matt
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Eric Jome
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yipe wrote:
3. Begin with Deeds in Play


Among a wealth of great advice, I think this one is not great. It will teach you a distorted view of the economy. You need to learn to play starting dudes with no upkeep.

Probably the thing I regret the most about this game is how the economy didn't come together before the project launched.
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cosine wrote:
yipe wrote:
3. Begin with Deeds in Play


Among a wealth of great advice, I think this one is not great. It will teach you a distorted view of the economy. You need to learn to play starting dudes with no upkeep.

Probably the thing I regret the most about this game is how the economy didn't come together before the project launched.


For later games, once you know how movement works (the most confusing part of the game for beginners) and have a general idea of the game's strategies, I agree you shouldn't start with deeds in play. But that's not this person. Purity of play and having a distorted view of the game's economy are unimportant if the game isn't going to be played. The absolute beginner isn't concerned with deck-building or how the economy works yet, they're just trying to wrap their head around the rules, which can be quite different than most other card games.

For someone learning the game, having extra money to play the dudes, deeds and goods in their hand increases the enjoyment factor substantially, and that's what you want out of your first few plays - fun. Otherwise, the game gets put back on the shelf in lieu of all the other options gamers have these days and players never get to the "learn to play dudes without starting upkeep" lesson. Yes, it's an important lesson to learn, but not we're not there yet.

By starting with 4 deeds in play - 2 in-town and 2 out-of-town - it also gives the town an immediate physical framework for players to interact with, allowing them to practice moving their dudes from one place to another. As you know, the board isn't an abstract playing field like with most card games and that can take a while for beginners to wrap their heads around.

In my experience, without starting deeds or money to buy things, players don't just pass their turn. That feels too passive, as if they're losing. Passing is an important strategy to learn for later, but we're not teaching strategies in the first few plays, we're teaching the rules. Invariably, with no cards to play and no where else to go, beginning players will do the only thing they can - walk to the Town Square. Once there, they often get into a massive shootout and one side's dudes will all get aced. Then the game gets put back into its box, never to be played again.

The same thing happens when a player brings out a single deed on turn 1. With only 1 deed in play, everybody fights over it and you get the same result as with the Town Square - one player loses all their dudes. By having multiple in- and out-of-town deeds on the board, you are immediately teaching the area control, chess-like aspects of Doomtown - what it means to take away control, how to choke off your opponent's resources, how to slink past their dudes who have taken over your deeds and do the same to them. In other words, how not to have every encounter end in a giant gunfight that ends the game prematurely (and in a way that often seems entirely random).

You could tell a new player to simply "pass" so they can build up their Ghost Rock, but recommending to someone that they "just pass" until things get better for them is not a good way to sell the game because it just plain isn't any fun. And not having fun is the cardinal sin of trying out a new game. If it's not enjoyable, why would it ever hit the table again? The fact of the matter is it won't, hence the whole reason for this thread.

Notice I also advised having a time limit on the game when you start with deeds in play. With the extra Ghost Rock the town can grow rapidly. By limiting your initial games to 1 hour, you prevent things from becoming overly complex. Trust me, this isn't my first rodeo when it comes to teaching Doomtown. Adding starting deeds made a huge difference for how much people enjoyed their first games in our area, and it sped up their understanding of the rules. Highly recommended.
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soulblight
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You could also just collect the income from your home for the first turn if having too much money is really a problem turn 1. Definitely helps having more than just the town square to move to.
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Eric Jome
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somaluna wrote:
You could also just collect the income from your home for the first turn ...


You do collect your income on the first turn.
 
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cosine wrote:
somaluna wrote:
You could also just collect the income from your home for the first turn ...


You do collect your income on the first turn.


He means instead of also collecting income from any deeds you start in play at the beginning of the game, should you use choose to use that alternate set-up option. This way you don't end of up with too much GR on turn 1 (it's a great suggestion and I'm going to use it for my demos).
 
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soulblight
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yipe wrote:
He means instead of also collecting income from any deeds you start in play at the beginning of the game, should you use choose to use that alternate set-up option. This way you don't end of up with too much GR on turn 1 (it's a great suggestion and I'm going to use it for my demos).


Yes exactly, I was addressing cosine's concern of a warped economy for the start of the game.
 
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