Gencon 2016: How Sloane Got Her Groove Back

David Lapp
David shuffles his deck as he prepares for another draw hand.

Howdy folks, Marshal Lapp here. I wanted to write one last article for the Gazette under AEG’s Reloaded version of our beloved game. Several topics came to mind: the community, possibilities of what's to come for the game, etc. Instead, I'm going to focus on the evolution of the Sloane gang from this magical samurai cowboy's perspective over the last couple of years.

Prior to the Gencon 2014 release of Reloaded, I took on a small consulting role with Will Abbott, lead developer at the time, as I was close to the New England crew from L5R. They also knew I had played Classic (nee Deadlands: Doomtown) many years ago. I got in only a few playtest games, but knew that I would for sure play the Sloane Gang. I was one of the lucky ones to log in and notice trade day tickets to Todd Roland's seminar were available to the general public, and snagged an early copy. I immediately went back to the HIlton to start up some demos and generate interest.

Armed with a 16x3 Sloane 357 build provided by Kirk Stewart, I went into one of the two initial Gencon events half cocked. I soon learned that Reloaded was just a little different from Classic, and a build starting Sloane didn’t suit me well at all. The glass cannon/all your eggs in one basket might be fun casually pardners, but in a competitive environment, your opponent should have an answer for your super unit. I maybe won a single game that day, and knowing that I had a love for the game, Aaron Barto gifted me his Top 8 playmat.

I ditched the Kidnappin’/aggressive type build and went to work on a new archetype. Soon enough, Dan Dineen and I came up with the Sloane 234, a 16/16/10 shooter focused on controlling town square with Allie and outfit ability control points. I managed to pilot the deck to a win at Ben Higgin's CarnageCon event: Whately Family Massacre, defeating Abbott's landslide in the finals with a non-kidnap, non-Fred strategy. Every turn I'd build control with Allie, use the outfit ability for a control point, then move the dude with that point to one of Abbott's deeds the next turn. That deck also managed to win me the coveted Avie playmat in Pittsburgh.

This was all fun and games until we hit our first saddlebag, when Leon and Paralysis Mark put a quick end to my shenanigans. While the release of Jake Smiley helped Sloane recover a bit, the decktype of this style never fully came back until Oddities. I used my tactics from this build to successfully pilot it through Oddities for those Sheriff wins I accrued last season and at Top 8 Gencon finish. With the further release of 108 Wordly and Eagle Wardens, the base Sloane box became somewhat obsolete, shifting over to more popularity for Desolation Row. While it had a powerful ability that did well for quite a few cowfolk, it was never really my style (although I did build a Felix+Fred+Confession deck that was quite fun to play).

I do admit, I fell in with the Hot Lead Flyin’ popularity and eventually included it in my Oddities build. Through 108 Wordly Desires and Eagle Wardens. HLF was another one of those cards that killed the original aggressive Sloane archtype. But with the errata on HLF and Paralysis Mark, I felt it was time to revisit that aggressive Sloane style. So with all my experience, 2 years later I went back to Sloane, taking full advantage of the powerful Den of Thieves outfit. At first glance it seems like this decktype focused on cheating, but I never looked at it that way. I saw those fancy new Devil's jokers and asked, 'what if I don't want to cheat, then what?' Knowing the power of Bottom Dealin’, I went with regular jokers, and saw Den as an opportunity to swarm cheap dudes and build a ridiculous economy through Milt Clemons. What really makes the deck shine is Rico; seeing my opponent's opening hand, I'd have to say, helped me win most of my games.

Leading up to the event, I've consistently been able to play once a month with either the Reading or Philadelphia playgroup. I won a recent tournament, but realized with the lack of proactive actions against Oddities, I needed an answer. I splashed in Sun in Yer Eyes (ie, fighting against Tyx XP). I showed up at Friday’s Sheriff event and gave it my best.

Round 1 was against a 108 Wordly Desires starting Chun Li and the Laundryman. I knew he didn't have a cheatin’ resolution. After he maneuvered around his two deeds, I caught him in a position of having less numbers, shooting out against Chun Li and friends to knock them out and drop a couple deeds of my own for a first turn victory.

Round 2 I can't for the life of me recall exactly what I was up against, but the important part I remember was having 9 dudes in play after Turn 1, which well, with the right backup, rolled through to a surefire win.

Round 3 I get Richard Carter, piloting his Abram's Crusaders, which I was somewhat familiar with after seeing his Texas Outlaw Series write up. His starting posse is the same as what I use in my build (no upkeep), and after seeing his opening hand, I go in for a first turn Kidnappin’ on Tommy. I'm given the option to play it right away, or build and give him his Consecration. I play it safe and drop in Travis XP and the Brute. I go in and he Unprepared on Willa, case he's able to pull it out, but I manage to throw a legal 5 of a kind to his trips, taking out 3 of his dudes. The Abrams’ ability keeps his influence just high enough for a couple turns before I get the control points to seal it.

Round 4 I get paired with Luke Gregory. I've gotten to play quite a few games with Luke at L5R events, and I know he prefers straight flush builds that want to build a bit, which means he struggles with early aggression. I go in to take control of his Pearly's early. First major mistake of the weekend came after carefully rearranging my starting lineup to avoid a Shotgun, I buy Gina and throw her to the wolves anyway. Luckily I can still win the shootout, and after a terrible hand in the next one, lowering him a rank with It's What You Know did its trick.

Round 5 I play Laura Scott. At this point, I really have Carter and Laura to thank for my Marshal win. After the two events on Thursday, Carter published his Anti-Slide 108 Build, which was played by several folks on Friday and Saturday. In addition, there were several other anti-slide decks, including the gadget turret. While I have the tools in the deck to take on slide, I never did get to test it, so I thank them for helping keep those decks at bay for me. While the 2/4/K 108 build they put together is great and takes down those decks, it's set up in a way that I can win through Allie. Laura starts with Jacqueline as her only potential stud, with 2 coachwhip, 2 bottom dealin’, and a goods in hand. I don't play my kidnaps, force her out through Hustings, and capitalize on her terrible draw. Laura gets her redemption against me playing Classic a few hours later, with her Harrowed Dixie Rails defeating my DMH Landed Rats.

I got into Saturday making no changes, figuring there's no way I can get that lucky two days in a row, but let's see what happens.

Round 1 I pull the Lady Luck that is Richard Carter, piloting that same Anti-Slide deck. I play it the same way I did against Laura and take the win.

Round 2 I get Landon Sommer. While I'd like to say I successfully outshot the Fourth Ring clowns, our game falls short, as Landon is committed to another event and has to bail out early.

Round 3 I find myself against Jacob Hampton and my first peek at the gatling gun turret deck. This deck auto wins against slide, eventually placing Max Baine on the Morgan starting deed. This deck was a lot of fun and at first I didn't know what it did and made the mistake of trying to fight in that deed, but quickly evacuated Barton. I made the mistake of playing MIlt to pay for the early Shotguns since his guys were low values, but forgot that the Skeleton makes up for that. I get a Purifier discarded early and get to build a bit so I can try to have enough bodies to soak in the Force Field on a Harrowed. Eventually I kidnap the motorcycle gal, sending in just enough bodies to deal with the force field. I knew I wouldn't actually lose a round because I saw no cheatin’ actions, so I just had to play around the thing. I get Jacob's influence down just enough to get a very narrow win that could have easily gone the other way. If I played the deck again, I'd probably start Allie and Samantha Cooke (I'll be slotting her in for Ulysses).

Round 4 I play Brandon Schulte and his Tattooed Man out of Sanitorium. Brandon does to me what I've been doing to everyone all con: he uses Rico to see I don't have a cheatin’ action and starts with a Forced Quarantine and Coachwhip in hand. I put Barton back in the deck, grab Travis and Willa, and cycle out my 1 joker and 4 goods in hand to not much better. He uses Sanitorium to lower Milt and walks Brute with a Soul Cage into my home. The job comes in and I figure I can go 1 round to test his draw structure. Willa lets me evac if necessary and back out, knowing I have Freddy in hand to get a stud back next turn. Brandon made a huge play mistake though; he got overly excited and sent everyone in, including Jake, who got taken out by the Shotgun. He gets 5 of a kind to my full house and I have to bail. I then get a Coachwhip and at my deed on next fight I coachwhip Rico, dropping him to no real influence outside his box and Ambrose. At that point it's a chess match to take it down.

Round 5 I play Dustin Horn, rocking a Den of Thieves turtle guard build. I played Dustin twice last year with his Desolation Row. I end up drawing the better hand and I believe just the early Coachwhip and the better hand got it; unfortunately I can't quite recall the specifics.

Marshal Finals

Knowing how the game with Brandon went, I figure Sunday will be a straight coin flip, so I try to go in with no expectations and just enjoy one last ride of Doomtown: Reloaded. We both use Rico and see we both have no cheatin resolutions and each an answer to blank the opposing posse of studs, as he has a Nightmare at Noon and I have a Sun in Yer Eyes. I win lowball and make the biggest mistake of the tournament, almost punting the game immediately. As you all know, order of operations in this game is key, and the correct first play was to attach the LeMat revolver, as Brandon had a Puppet in his hand. This would have allowed me to throw another dude in town square to block Sanitorium and puppet uses, and keep Barton or Milton, whoever I gave the Revolver to, above Nightmare at Noon hit and stay a stud. So instead I did the Makeo transfer on Milt, maybe to make sure I remembered to do it all day. I then have to throw Willa out to town to block. I also used my outfit ability to get the economy going, as I was unsure if Brandon would be willing to throw down. He moves out Tattooed Man and I call him out, knowing that while we would both be all draws, with him having the Brute and I having Willa as essentially eject buttons, I have the tactical advantage with Barton. I top 5 a cheatin full house and I believe he did the same, but I'm up a rank from Barton. He takes Ambrose as a casualty, figuring Brute could live to see a larger fight. Brandon drops B&B next turn, which I take immediately to help with Milt’s economy. He moves to up influence, I use Yan Li's to counter. As he continues passing, I do some movement up to transfer a LeMat or Shotgun to Barton, then boot Barton back from the B&B's to town square, hoping to bait a fight or at minimum put myself in better position. Brandon moves in Tattooed Man, so I call him out and Stakes Just Rose in Barton. Brandon has seen none of his 9 cheatin’ resolutions (Coachwhip, It's What You Know, Soul cage, I believe), and he's left with Jake, Tatooed Man, and Brute in play afer the round. He's forced to start booting over to my deed, so I managed to start a kidnap on Jake alone with my Marion w/shotgun to end it.

As Dustin thought the Top 8 was 2 hours later, he's a no-show and I get paired with Jeff Bookman, Origins winner, piloting that 108 Anti-Slide. While Jeff went with a slightly different build, using Rico, and had Longwei in hand, I still kept with the same strategy I used against Carter and Laura. After he drops the Telegraph Office and I have 4 Allie points, he has to move out, and uses Cooke to have Rico come over to my deed. I have a couple of spuds plus Milt and his trusty Shotgun defend, while there's some other dudes gathering over at the Telegraph. I start the fight there, as his Jake is present, and Stakes in Rico to shotgun him. I Coachwhip Jacqueline in the fight and then proceed to take the fight to the other deed to pew-pew down his dudes until the Allie points secured the victory.

I get Zac Seldon in the finals, and now that I think about it, pretty sure he was that Friday game 2 opponent, as I recall him saying he had a similar Den build, but running Aces over 3s. I'd like to think maybe I inspired him to play that for the main event, and it gives me the Shotgun advantage. Game 1 and Zac has a much better start, coming right after my deed. I know the only way to reduce his numbers is to try and get his Allie into a fight, so I position around in hopes he'll accept and allow me to move all in from where everyone was. He's got Jacqueline, Barton, and Angelica for studs v. my Barton and Milt w/shotgun. I snipe Allie, then Barton when I show a legal 5 of a kind and get the coachwhip off. I dwindle his numbers down, but so are mine. Next round I show a cheatin 5 and he plays coachwhip on my Rico. I get a new grifter with Travis xp a couple rounds later and get the better rebuild to an eventual win.

Game 2 I get the better start and early agression, later resulting where I could kidnap his Milt. My economy is booming with 2 B&B and Makeo, plus what I'm earning off Kidnaps and bounty. We have some fights at his Blake Ranch and I've got staggered numbers in town until he's forced to make a desperation play. I had several opponents tell me they felt the need to do this, seeing how powerful the outift is at being able to spam dudes and make rock.

In the end fellow Doomies, I come full circle with the aggressive Sloane, managing to grab a Marshal win for the Outlaws in one hell of a last ride. Cheers to the end as we look forward to what the community might have in store in the future. While Reloaded may be riding off into the sunset, there's still plenty of lead to sling in the future.