Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doomtown: Reloaded

Doomtown has gotten its hooks into me.

Doomtown is a game set in the Weird West-the city of Gomorra is the site of, essentially, a low-level Hellmouth opening up and now all sorts of weird crap is happening. This is in addition to the usual troubles of being out in the barely lawful Old West. Players take on the role of one of four Outfits in Gomorra who are trying to gain control of the town.

I've been trying to get the hang of it and as a game, it has both a high complexity barrier and a strong hint of familiarity to it. It's an interesting design scheme and I'm just starting to get the hang of it.

Doomtown has a layer of language to it that creates a barrier to learning; in an largely successful attempt to evoke the Weird West setting of the game, characters are called 'dudes', and dudes can get 'aced' instead of killed, by way of example. Nearly everything is like this and after playing Magic for nearly two decades, I'm used to simple things being wrapped up in occasionally obtuse language. However, I'm finding that once I get past the learning curve, the game doesn't get insanely difficult afterwards. Strategic, yes but not more difficult to understand.

Doomtown also has something working it its favor; every conflict in the game is decide through a hand of poker. The upside to that is that nearly everyone has some form of knowledge of poker, so there is a piece of knowledge to the game that is 'built in' for a large number of gamers. When dealing with a game with such a big learning curve, this element of familiarity is not only welcome but welcoming, giving new players something they don't have to think really hard about.

It's not for a new gamer, though: The language use and the movement rules for dudes create a well paced game but one that creates an off-putting environment for someone who is brand new to gaming.

On the upside, Doomtown's turns are structured so that each player takes one action, then allows the next player to take an action. When both players pass on acting, the turn (known as a Day) is over, the cards "unboot" (reset) and you start all over again. So it's very easy to remain engaged in play because you don't have to wait long for your next action (even if you're just going to pass) and there's a constantly developing board state to respond to.

So far, I'm finding the game engaging and deckbuilding a very different mental exercise but I think I'll talk about deckbuilding another time. 

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