DUO Review by "Doc" Ashton

The release of the Do Unto Others expansion for the Doomtown Collectible Card Game is an event much anticipated but tinged with more than a little sadness for Doomtown"s long-suffering fan-base.
Po Yu Exp:2, Dude card, Jack Spades
Po Yu Experienced:2
Card art by Pete Venters,
used by permission
Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) have long announced that DUO will be Doomtown"s swansong, the last set they are producing. Gamers know that quality is no guarantee of commercial viability, and AEG have struggled valiantly to reverse the decline of the product. There are several theories as to how the most original CCG since Magic launched the phenomena could fail to make money for its producers. Based on Pinnacle"s Deadlands "Weird West" style background, it may be that the more grown-up themes (hex-slingers, zombie gunfighters and demon summoning) have hurt Doomtown sales in the all-important young players market, though its equally likely that the time it took Alderac to release some new material hobbled the horse before it was ridden.

Of course this does not mean that the game itself is dead, even if it has proved to be unmarketable. The players of Vampire:TES kept their game alive for more than four years with a smaller card pool, despite apparent abandonment by Wizards. The game even managed to grow to the point where the West Coast Magicians were forced to begin printing again. Gomorrah"s current inhabitants are easily fanatical enough to keep the game in people" minds for at least that long.

It was AEG"s intention to release this final set as an honourable farewell to the dedicated fans that have supported the game through the various highs and lows since its original release. As explained in the press release by AEG president John Zinser, the release is never going to cover the cost of its own production, but there can be no doubt that a game of quality of Doomtown deserved to go out with a bang.

That DUO is a set aimed primarily at the established player is evidenced by the fact that it does not contain a rulebook. However this should not put off anyone looking at this as an opportunity to get into this excellent card game. 35GBP buys you not only the entire set of 200 cards, including the three new home cards, but entitles you to a free box of boosters from AEG"s stock (postage outside the mainland US will set you back $15US). This will certainly give you enough of a cardpool to get straight into playing the game with one of the homes in the new set, or from one of the still widely available starter decks available, each of which of course will also include a rulebook.

A set of rules can easily be downloaded from the Crows Nest, also home of the FAQ and Rulings. Gerry Crow, who promises to keep the site going until the last person has quit the game, receives a well-deserved dude card- not for his services to the game (which easily merits him the honour) but for his victory at the 2000 Gencon UK storyline tournament.

The quality of the artwork in this release is mixed, and certainly not to the breathtaking standard of Eye for an Eye, but it is hard to fault Alderac for falling back on their catalogue of existing art rather than commissioning new pieces. Malcolm McClinton and William O"Connor make up by far the majority of the new pieces, and perform admirably, but whether the resulting feel suffers from uniformity or benefits from continuity will be a matter of opinion.

"You Lookin" For This?" Action Card, 10 Clubs
"You Lookin" For This?"
Card art by Pete Venters,
used by permission

There are some real gems in the set, absolutely to the standard that Doomtown fans have (quite unreasonably) come to expect. Tom Fowler ("Burnin" the Midnight Oil", Oswald"s New Chair) and Llyn Hunter (The Troupe, Fineas von Landingham Exp:2) don"t disappoint. Fans of Pete Venter"s admirable dedication to the image of Rachel Sumner will be pleased with his parting shot (right), and his vision of the Maze Rat sorcerer Po Yu (top of page) is nothing short of stunning.

New homes in Do Unto Others are balanced, with genuinely interesting effects, one area I felt the game had been falling down on during AEG"s second tenure- theres no Dixie Rails, SW:GLR or Sioux War Party here.

Noone will have been more eager for a new home than Collegium players, who have continued to suffer from measures designed to counter high-stacking spell decks (particularly "Ezzie", who became a practical starting dude in Ashes to Ashes). The Wassatch Rails home continues the "Rail Wars" theme of the second story arc. It also gives the Mad Scientist stronghold in Gomorrah an ability that far better reflects their place in the storyline than the previous incarnation, which turned them into a gang of raygun-toting psychopaths. Soon they"ll be knocking out all kinds of weird and wonderful gadgets without having to wait for the New Scientist Magazine to come out.

The Black Circle, a home for the Whateley Family"s next Lovecraftian assault on the good folk of Gomorrah (and on the fabric of reality), might at first seem weak in comparison. The home ability, to cancel any action that targets one of your dudes, is not only an ideal turtling device, it also provides an excellent counter to Ezzification, allowing the family to stack their spell decks higher than would otherwise be comfortable. The cost- to ace a precious hex with each use of the ability- will seem steep, but the actions being countered will nearly always exact a higher price. Combined with the ability of the new Jebediah Whateley (also in the set), to discard a hex that would otherwise be aced, the Whateley brood could still find itself in the ascendency.

Meanwhile the Maze Rats, already one of the game"s stronger factions, find themselves spoiled with a number of excellent new dudes, and a new home that will allow them to make rather good use of them. Previously one of the few factions lacking an in-house Mad Scientist, they now find themselves with two, including Professor Crow who becomes one of the best MS"s in the game, and a set of super-cool flying machines for them to work on.

The set introduces a number of new elements to keep the game fresh. The new Gadget Horses include a biplane and Von Landingham"s airship the Damocles. New dudes and deeds with related special abilities will soon have your gang zipping around like nobody"s business. Fu powers, playable on any dude with the "Kung Fu" trait in much the same way as the earlier Harrowed Powers mechanic, give the Rats yet another edge over the competition. Regardless even of the excellent effects available to students of the "Drunken Monkey Technique", "Wing Chun" or "Leopard and Her Cubs", the Fu powers are worth a mention just for cool factor alone.

New angles on old card types are also a feature of this set, with several jobs that target homes (resulting in permanent damage to your opponent"s abilities), and several new Sidekicks rounding out the set (and the game). AEG also lose some of their "We hate Cheatin"" momentum, with only two new Cheatin" cards in the set (neither of them a ridiculous escalation of previous Cheatin" effects).

In summary, AEG have produced a superb set of cards and deserve kudos for leaving the game on a high note. Fans of Doomtown should be sure not to miss this set, and anyone looking for a new game should not be put off by the current lack of corporate support. Theres a wealth of dedicated fans and resources out there, and the game is still fresh enough that you"ll be seeing Doomtown played in stores, clubs and conventions for a long while yet.

"Wait, I gotta get back to the top here..."
"Ah"m gonna mosey on back to the main Doomtown page. Don"t try ta stop me cowboy." "Driver, take me to the Frothers Unite! coach station, and don"t spare the horses!"

Deadlands, the Weird West, ghost rock, Harrowed, the Deadlands logo, the Pinnacle logo, and all other marks, names and characters from Deadlands are ™ and © 1996-1998 by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc. Card illustrations, images, characters, names, marks, and images original to Doomtown are ™ and © 1998 by Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc. Doomtown is a trademark of Five Rings Publishing Group. Game Design by Alderac Entertainment Group.
Background texture (Dunes) from http://ecn.net.au/~iain/