Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Character Guide: Vulture Sam

Character Name: Vulture Sam.

Inspired by: Some outlaw gangs were referred to as "vultures," suggesting their tendency to scavenge, pillage and steal other's loot.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Neutral.

Ability: "Whenever a character is eliminated from the game, Sam takes all the cards that player had in his hand and in play, and adds them to his hand."

Activation: When another player dies, and has cards in play in front of them and/or in their hand.

Cards enhanced by Vulture Sam's ability: Dynamite, all attack cards (killing hits bring a greater reward).

Ideal Roles for Vulture Sam: Sheriff, Renegade (Vulture needs to survive to use his ability).

Characters who counter Vulture Sam well: Offensive characters who target him right away (Slab the Killer, Willy the Kid).

2-player value: It depends on your initial setup when the 2-player fight begins. If you gained a good card base from the eliminated players up to that point, then yes; if not, you are at a severe disadvantage.

General Strategy for Vulture Sam: As Vulture Sam needs other players with cards to die for him to gain them, Vulture Sam needs to outlive his opponents to benefit. And the more players in the game, the more potential cards Vulture Sam can scavenge from their deaths (so he is typically better in larger games). Thus, Vulture Sam's initial goal should be create a defensive base: get out a Barrel through drawing or stealing one, gather Missed!, Beer, and make sure to have a BANG! in hand at all times to avoid hits from Indians! Vulture Sam should try to get a Mustang, and use Cat Balous/Panics to control his distance from other players by affecting their gun cards. As other characters lose health (2 or less), Vulture Sam may wish to switch to an offensive base. This is especially true if he is not an Outlaw. Vulture Sam should try to get an attack combo (consisting of some mix of Duel, BANG!, Indians!, Gatling) and then pop off the other player in hopes that he is an Outlaw. That way Vulture Sam gets both their cards and the 3 card bonus. Even if Vulture Sam is an outlaw, it is nice to get their cards a little bit sooner. Vulture Sam will usually get some blue cards that he can use right away. While the 3 card bonus is useful, unless Vulture Sam has a Volcanic he will often have to discard some of his bonus cards. If there are several players with lower health, Vulture Sam should target the player that is his enemy, or an ally who will not survive (whose usefulness is expended), who also has cards in play in front of him that Vulture Sam could benefit more from (a Mustang, or Scope, for instance, or a gun with a specific range or ability like a Volcanic).

After Vulture Sam has eliminated a player, he should try to switch back some to a defensive base (as long as their are other players shooting at each other), as attention will be drawn to him now that he has gained so many cards. Once another player's life is down, Vulture Sam can switch again to the offensive and get their cards. I recommend throwing out Dynamite as Vulture Sam has little chance of being hit by it, and if it blows up on another player, there is a high chance of that player dying and giving Vulture Sam a lot of cards. Players that die from Dynamite tend not to have already expended all of the cards in their hands, and so Vulture Sam can get a much greater reward from their deaths. As a quick aside, Vulture Sam does not pick up the Dynamite in front of a player when it explodes and kills them. The BANG! FAQ specifies,
Q14. If the Dynamite explodes eliminating a player, does the character Vulture Sam draw the Dynamite along with all other cards of the player eliminated?
A. No. To complete the effect of the Dynamite you have to discard it after it explodes. So when Vulture Sam gets all the cards of the player killed, the Dynamite is already in the discard pile.

Even if Vulture Sam is a Sheriff and kills his Deputy with the Dynamite, he is not seen as culpable and so gains all of the Deputy's cards (so while not the best scenario, it is better for Vulture Sam than it would be for other character Sheriffs). Vulture Sam does need to worry about killing his Deputy with other cards, however. He does not get to kill them accidentally, discard his cards, and then pick up their cards. He draws their cards and then all of his are discarded. There is no "easy way out" for killing the Deputy this way. The BANG! FAQ explains:
Q18. If Vulture Sam eliminates a Deputy, as a Sheriff, does he discard all his cards before or after getting the cards of the Deputy just eliminated?
A. First Vulture Sam gets all the cards from the Deputy just eliminated. Then, he discards all of his cards (which now include the cards just obtained from that Deputy).

As players get eliminated, Vulture Sam should become very powerful and get a Volcanic. Eventually, there will not be many players to snatch cards from anymore, and Vulture Sam will need to make a pretty aggressive transition. By using the cards he gets with a Volcanic, he should be able to start knocking out other players. If Vulture Sam can chain their deaths and get card pick ups, he should be very well fortified and have a good stock of ammo. Vulture Sam needs to make sure if he gets down to 2 players left, then he needs to have a strong base, because if you doesn't, his ability can no longer help him. Vulture Sam becomes a character without an ability, which can be very dangerous in 2-player.

Playing against Vulture Sam: Excluding any really small games (and you may wish to even then), kill Vulture Sam first (or at least very early on). At least shoot at him, and don't let Vulture Sam "turtle up" and then switch to an offensive mode when another player's health is low (Duels are good for this). If not, always pay attention to the cards in play in front of other players whose health is getting low. You know that if/when they die, those cards will by default go to Vulture Sam. If one of those cards is really dangerous (ie, a Volcanic) try to Cat Balou those cards promptly before their death so that Vulture Sam does not get it. Vulture Sam can have quite the onslaught if he gets those cards and a card bonus in conjunction with a Volcanic. He can be a killing machine that racks up more and more cards if you are not careful. Although this is not typically done, you may wish to Cat Balou or Panic (and then discard) a Dynamite if it is in play, as chances are it will not explode on Vulture Sam and then significantly advantage him when it kills another player. If Vulture Sam does pick up a bunch of cards, try to Jail him when he is strong, and try to play cards that will deplete his stronghold in between his turns (Indians!, Cat Balou, BANG!, Panic). This is absolutely necessary when the amount of living players is low. Knock him down to have few advantageous cards, and if you two end up being the only left, he is now at the disadvantage (even if you have about the same card base). For now he has no character ability and you have one (that is hopefully useful in 2-player gameplay). As long as he does not get really lucky with his cards, and you play with yours right, you should have a good chance of beating him and winning the game.

Dodge City Characters that Counter Vulture Sam Well: Pat Brennan (His ability to steal crucial cards from Vulture Sam and players before they die can be really rough), Belle Star (Vulture Sam cannot turtle against her), to some extent Herb Hunter (He is less vulnerable to Vulture Sam upon a player's death, since he also draws 2 cards).

Vera Custer and Vulture Sam: The Dodge City FAQ explains what occurs when a player is eliminated when both Vulture Sam and Vera Custer are in play, and Vera Custer had copied Vulture Sam's ability:
Q03. If Vera Custer has currently the same ability of Vulture Sam and another player is eliminated, who takes his cards?
A. The cards of the eliminated player must be divided between Vera Custer and Vulture Sam. Who among Vera and Sam is next to the killed character, in clockwise order, chooses the first card (either randomly from the hand of the killed character, or among her “in play” cards). Then, the other one takes another card, and so on, until all cards of the eliminated player have been distributed between the two.

General Strategy Adjustments for Vulture Sam: The Dodge City expansion is generally favorable towards Vulture Sam. The green cards help further the turtling up strategy used in the regular game. Now, he can play the green cards in front of him, helping build both defenses and an offensive arsenal. There are other helpful cards in the expansion too, such as Hideout and Binoculars. Like before, Vulture Sam should not try to draw attention to himself. He should try to let the other players do the fighting, and prep himself with a good offensive combo. Then, when a player is really weak, he should pop out and try to take the kill. With Dodge City, Vulture Sam might also be able to grab a few more cards when players are eliminated. The green cards, not subject to the card limit when in play in front of players, are transferred to Vulture Sam on the event of their owner's demise. They may have been played before the player's death, but there is at least some chance that he will get them. After all, most of the green cards take a round to activate. After gaining the spoils of a kill, Vulture Sam should judge whether or not it is worth trying to mow down another player, or if he should relax again and turtle up. This may not work well once people see how much of a threat he is. As a last thing to point out, the probability of drawing Dynamite is up with Dodge City, so try to get Dynamite in play.

General Strategy Adjustments against Vulture Sam: Few things change for the Vulture Sam's rival in Dodge City. You simply have new cards to execute what you were doing before. Use the new stealing and discarding cards to weaken Vulture Sam's card base if he is able to build it up. Use offensive combos to knock him out early in the game, or when his card supply runs low. The green cards can be to your favor and against you with Vulture Sam. If a player has green cards left over when he is eliminated, then those cards go to Vulture Sam. On the flipside, they help protect you from elimination and from Vulture Sam if he guns at you after picking cards up. There is another Dynamite in Dodge City to watch out for, so try to remove it from play without it exploding on someone.

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