Where has all the Rock Gone?

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By Konstantine Thoukydides

Many players might have noticed a distinct lack of strikes in the new town of Gomorra. Sure there’s the modest Pat’s Perch and the solid production of Jackson’s Strike, but overall, it seems like there’s nary a ghost rock mine in sight after the town’s resurgence.

The story goes that the after the Storm raged through the valley, most of the known ghost rock veins tapped out quickly. As a result, all of the mining operations moved further into the Maze and away from Gomorra. Max Baine worked to set up an independent mining union to purchase and coordinate labor for the strikes in this area of the Maze, which also serves as a clearing house for sale of the rock. Gomorra is still a hub for all those grubby miners looking to spend their hard-earned cash, but the mines themselves aren’t the battlefield they once were.

That’s the official story … but one might wonder why, as designers, we decided to limit the existence of strikes and out of town locations in general. This deserves a trip down memory lane.

In Classic Doomtown, strikes were the important locations. Not only were there dozens of them, many simply repeated the same cost/production paradigm by merely changing the value of the deed. They almost always had no abilities and only existed to provide control points and production.

This meant that strikes were the easiest way to provide funds to your gang as well as accumulate the required control points to win the game. In fact, it was so easy that a whole deck archetype existed whose only purpose was to roll out strikes with large production and lots of control faster than the opponent could contest them. Once their production started ticking, a snowball effect was created which was impossible to reverse. This was called the “landslide” deck, and it was a very strong competitive deck at the time.

The problem with strikes was not only that they provided large ghost rock production within one card, but that the production was very easy to defend early on, due to their out of town location. The rule that dudes have to boot to get to out of town locations means that all you had to do was start with enough cheap influence to retain control of that strike for the next turn, which then funded your next strike, and so on. Unless your opponent happened to get movement cards in their starting hand, or had a built-in answer like the Maze Rats outfits, they couldn’t effectively contest it. This was compounded with events, some of which stalled movement or prevented call outs altogether.

PatsPerchThis created a meta-game where, in most cases, contesting the deeds of your opponent was a lose-lose proposition, giving players incentive to either turtle at home or just not bother trying to shoot it out. Add to that the fact that all in-town deeds were severely out-produced and undercut by the efficiency of strikes, and it often meant that Classic Doomtown would not even build a “town” at all. Instead both players would simply have a series of strikes and sometimes, as in the case of Blackjacks, not even that.

This in turn meant less opportunity for maneuvering and a town square that had reduced strategic significance.

When we sat down and discussed which aspects of Doomtown were the most exciting, almost everyone mentioned shootouts and maneuvering around town. The meta-game promoted by strikes was counter-productive to both those objectives; their efficiency and lack of abilities discouraged dispute and conflict, and their out-of-town placement disrupted and stalled maneuvering. They had to be limited.

So strikes dried up. Only meager veins remain, and while efficient for their initial investment, they’re few and far between and only serve as a small boost to your economy, rather than a powerhouse.

Our goal of promoting friction and tactical elements led us to making in-town deeds the primary focus of the game. Their efficiency needed to be brought closer to strikes, but not in a way that one can simply play and defend a single deed to victory, leading to “Lode Camper” archetypes of non-interactive decks. So we generally reduced the price of in-town deeds and/or upped the relative production so that, on average, they recoup their costs in approximately two turns.

Another conscious design choice we made at this point was to move away from “plain” deeds. That is, deeds that have no purpose other than to provide control points and production, existing as clones throughout a number of values. With a few exceptions, each Doomtown: Reloaded deed has some kind of ability that its controller can use or benefit from. Not only does this make each card in your collection likely to be part of a strategy, rather than just something to fit your draw structure, but it promotes further maneuvering as people attempt to contest deeds with good abilities before their opponent can use them. Many a skirmish between draw dudes has been fought over Carter’s Bounties just to ensure than one side can recover their big shooter who might be otherwise indisposed.

Those design choices in turn finally made the town square an invaluable strategic location. While nobody can actually control it and your dudes cannot improve by attaching goods or spells while parked there, it more than makes up for that by actually limiting who can go to which deed unmolested. A gang that controls the town square, really does control most of the town itself, due to the difficulty created for another gang stuck at home, to effectively drive them out without disabling itself for the rest of the turn.

All this, coupled with the increased existence of upkeep on dudes, means that multiple in-town deeds are required to field a large gang. And a large gang is required to defend control points spread out over half a dozen or so deeds. In combination with the new casualties rule, this means that small skirmishes, and even big shootouts that do not end the game by default, become the norm, rather than the exception.

The large ghost rock veins might have been tapped out, but as a result, the town of Gomorra is finally filled with construction and with teeming with activity as gangs struggle, either by wit or violence, to seize the advantage.

 

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Author: Todd Rowland View all posts by
Todd is AEG's Director of Marketing, as well as a Board Game Producer & Developer. Follow him on Twitter: @toddrowland