Doomtown: Reloaded is the rerelease of Doomtown, the cult collectible card game from the late 1990’s, which in turn is based on the Deadlands roleplaying game system/setting. Still with me? Good. For years fans of the original have been clamoring for more of Gomorra, the boomtown-turned-hellhole at the edge of the world, and Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has finally answered the call. Time to Saddle up!
Reloaded is set in the Weird West, a territory now familiar to many tabletop gamers, which pairs ghosts, zombies, steampunk technology, and Lovecraftian horrors alongside cowboys, gunslingers, and outlaws. It is worth mentioning that though this setting is fairly commonplace today (Flying Frog’s Shadows of Brimstone comes to mind as a recent installment in the genre), the original Deadlands was more or less the forerunner. Shane Hensley, visionary/creator of Deadlands and the founder of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, continues to have a shaping influence on developing the Weird West genre, and all recent tabletop projects that share the Weird West aesthetic in some way owe their lineage to him.
The original game was well-received in the late 90’s, winning the Origins Award for Best Trading Card Game of 1998 and Best Graphic Presentation of the a Card Game of 1998. It also established a firm, loyal fan base in a time when competing CCG Magic: The Gathering was reaching an early peak with its infamous Urza Block. It was certainly different enough to stand out in the growing card game market, and its unique mechanics and intense storyline kept its fans asking, “So what’s next?!”
Unfortunately what came next was cancellation. When Wizards of the Coast’s contract with Pinnacle ended, they chose to end production. Without any updates, the game’s fan base moved on, even after Alderac purchased the license and restarted production. The game never recovered from WotC’s lapse and went down for the final count in January of 2001 with the Do Unto Others expansion set. Or so we thought.
In March of 2014, AEG confirmed that rumors of a new Doomtown game were true and announced Doomtown: Reloaded, a reboot of the old game that would apparently continue the storyline of the original. New players would have the benefit of a simplified and perfected version of the former game while veterans would be treated to a return to the involved storyline that had first captured their attention more than a decade prior.
The release of Reloaded is certainly cause for celebration, regardless of whether you’re just a greenhorn or a bonafide veteran o’ the Weird West. The new game is more fun and intuitive than most, even more so than the original, and expertly blends classic elements with alterations intended to streamline the game into an action-packed, fresh-paced battle of wits and pistols.
For those new to town, the basics of Doomtown revolve around a deck of playing cards. Every card in Doomtown comes fixed with a suit and value, just as in standard poker, and players receive bonuses for forming impressive draw hands in various situations, such as in shootouts or when “gambling.” Decks are custom built by the player, just as in other collectible card games, but the suits and values play a huge role in construction – and yes, you have the option to “cheat” – that is, by including more than one copy of a card that bears a particular suit and value (four copies of the ace of spades for example). The town itself is literally built from the deed cards in players’ decks, and actual streets are formed alongside a player’s own outfit card – a special card that represents the faction a player has chosen to represent. Each of the factions are vying for control of the town and will do everything in their power to ensure that it’s theirs; control of the town is determined through the use of control points (blue chips), influence (red chips), and money (called “Ghost Rock”).
For those returning to Gomorra after a long hiatus, there are a few new things to watch out for. First, the game is now an Expandable Card Game (ECG), meaning buying the game ensures every player they will have an equal amount of the same cards – there is no rarity or random assortment. Event cards are gone, as are deed improvements (at least for now). New rules in construction say that you can’t have more than four copies of any particular suit/value (so no more than 4 copies of the eight of spades, for example, despite which named cards bear the same suit/value). Rules for resolving actions have also been simplified. Sadly the new cards aren’t totally compatible with the classic game, but the continuation of the story is consolation enough (Dave Montreal, Wendy Cheng, Max Baine, and other survivors make an appearance). For a myriad of reasons, I recommend taking a walk through the exceptionally well-made rulebook(s) for Reloaded before walking back into town square.
Luckily everyone can enjoy Reloaded’s new story, courtesy of Tim Meyer and company, which brings three new factions to the streets of Gomorra, and a fourth still hanging on after the reality-shaking events of the classic game. Players can choose between The Sloane Gang, the new outlaws on the block; Morgan Cattle Company, mad scientist ranchers who seem to have most of the town already in their pocket; The Fourth Ring, a dark carnival that has settled in Gomorra with a nefarious purpose; and the loyal Law Dogs, just trying to keep the peace in this godforsaken town.
Doomtown: Reloaded is a surefire hit for card game fanatics and weird western fans alike. Williams and Wootton, the game’s lead designers, have plenty more up their sleeve and it’d be best to get in on the ground floor. So please, while supplies last, pick up your six-shooters, horses, and holy water and grab yourselves a copy. Gomorra welcomes you home!