Well we had out first game of 18mm Cowboys a week or two ago and used the ‘Fist full of Lead’ rules by Jaye Wiley. You can find these rules on the various PDF sites for Wargames – they do cost a small amount but are IMO well worth it, as I’ll explain. There is also a yahoo group dedicated to them. A quick search will find them if you are looking for them. Rumor is a new version may be out at some point but I don’t believe there is a schedule for that.
As this was such a fun game and a pretty simple system I thought I’ll give a simple intro/review to the rules as well as my views of them. I’ll then add a little about our game. This post inter-spaced with pictures from our game. Overall, I was very impressed with the rules and they gave a game in which all the participants (5 of us in the end) really enjoyed. The rules are fairly simple and come to approx. 12 pages of text with pictures so it not a rules heavy game. There are no real stats for individual figures which works especially well for smaller scale wild west games. You can make some figures worse or better as an advanced rule in the game, but we did not do that. I’m not sure it would add that much for some games but it would definitely work for some scenario’s.
The simple scenario we used – I just created it was :
Background – the town of Paradise came and went pretty fast, as did many towns in Arizona. The small town was built and then the miners moved on, as did the rest of the population leaving a ghost town by 1879. But a now it’s 1881 and month ago a new silver strike close by means people are coming back and soon! Property ownership being what it is in the west, whoever is in control of the town will rake in the cash when the people do come. But there are others who also see that opportunity as well. Will your gang be the ones to control the town when the people get here?
This provided an excuse for the 5 of us to have a ‘to the death’ game over a deserted spaghetti western town. There are no points for figs or anything so it’s up to players/the game master to come up with balanced scenario’s. As stated the stats are very limited so it’s really just the weapons and numbers of figs available per side. Most gamers should be able to come up with a reasonably balanced scenario or two I would think. Different rules have various scenario’s for the Wild west as well. In our game, each of the players got 5 figures that were armed with what the figures held. i.e. those with a rifle or shotgun had those while most had pistols. As most of my 18mm gangs have 7 or 8 figs it allowed the players to chose their weapons a bit.
We used a system of plastic markers/tokens for the game to mark the status of figures. We put a green marker when a figure had gone that turn. That saved issues of debating or remembering which figures had moved and it did help in this fairly large game. A red token was for each wound (a figure dies on the 3rd wound), and blue was an out of ammo marker. Figures were put on their side when pinned. We used white tokens for indicating a figure was in a building – putting the figure by the door/window that they were at. This allowed us to use the inside of the buildings without them having lift off roofs. So you’ll see those in the pictures and that’s all the markers needed. Pinned figures were put on their side.
In the game each player gets a normal playing card for each miniature they have. So as we started with 5 figures we had 5 cards each from a card deck. Cards are then played in order from Kings to Deuces, and in suite order to make a move. This means although controlled, the order players go in is somewhat random. You can choose any of your figures which has not gone already that turn to move so this gives a player some a choice/control but luck has a part to play as well. It also means there is little down time even in multi-player game, which is great. A few cards add a special ability/bonus as well as allowing a move – such as one eyed jack giving a bonus to shots or the queen of hearts automatically healing a wound. This simple but effective mechanic keeps everyone on their toes and engaged. It’s a really fun mechanic and the cards add to the Wild West theme as well.
When activated a model can do 2 actions. Shooting is one, as it walking/moving. You can shot twice, walk twice etc. Simple actions such as jumping fences and climbing stairs, or going through windows etc are covered as well. So movement is easy and it’s a no nonsense approach to that.
Shooting is done by rolling a D10 and trying to get over a specific number to hit. There are a few modifiers for cover and whether you have moved etc. The target number depends on the range – whether short or long and that range is different for different weapons. As roll of a 1 on the to hit is not only a miss but your out of ammo. It takes all actions of a turn to reload before being able to shoot again. If a figure is hit then you roll another D10 for the damage which is from pinning an opponent (making them duck for cover), through wounding them to killing them outright.
If pinned, then in a figures next turn they have to roll to recover as their first action. It’s less than a 50% chance of recovering and on a 1 the figure has had enough and leaves the game. If they fail to recover the pin all they can do crawl a short distance on their second move. If they pass they can act normally on the second action. As mentioned on the 3rd wound they are dead and each wound acts as a negative on rolls and movement distances. Hand to hand is a straight dice roll and the difference is the number of wounds rolled by the loser – take the worse. There are a few modifiers but hand to hand is a risky endeavor. It’s a cowboy game after all so there are not too many swordsmen around. 🙂
That’s about it for the rules. There are some optional rules for force morale but those seemed excessive for what we are were doing and many traditional cowboy games. The rules come with a couple of scenario’s (3 or 4 I think) but making cowboy scenarios should be easy enough as I mentioned and they are lots of ideas to take from movies, films etc. These are nice examples though. The lack of stats makes balancing games easier really to my mind. Overall, they are simple, effective and get the job done.
The rules worked perfect for the size of figs (18mm) as identifying the weapon is easy enough but doing more than that would a pain – having separate stats for each fig etc. So the no stats system works perfect. The rules keep everyone engaged with the card play order mechanics. The target numbers, modifiers and other things are simple enough to remember as well so that makes for an elegant game. Half way through the game everyone had memorized all the info needed, meaning the game played very fast as well. I printed off a few quick reference sheets which is all we needed. This allows people to play the period and the scenario while the game mechanics fell into the background which is what it’s all about for me.
The markers we used were easy to identify and did not really get in the way. They worked perfectly for smaller scale games and we used the measurements as in the rules (inches). The us of 18mm figs did not impact the game at all.
I believe that at some point Jaye will be doing an update to the rules and he has mentioned a couple of tweaks to the rules he has done for different periods – Sci-fi stuff (more weapons) and black powder (where hand to hand is more of a focus and not quite a risky endeavor to the the imitating the fight). I’m already thinking a modified version of these would be great for my 18mm pirates which have yet to get on the table.
The only minor quibbles I have with the rules at all is there they do not include stats for bows (if your doing Cowboys and Indians those are required) but that’s easy to add, and that rifles have no negatives vs. pistols (which I solved by giving a second shooting action from a rifle have an extra -1 modifier, but I’ll think more about that). The hand to hand need some more detail for other periods but Jaye has put some suggestions for those in the yahoo group and is trying those as well. The rules are simple so scenario creation and tweaks such as above are easy to do which is great as well.
I have various Wild West rules (Deadman’s Hand, GW Historicals etc.) but overall these gave the right type of game I was looking for with strategy and action without having loads of stats to get in the way. All the players had fun and we finished our game with 5 players and 5 figs each in just under 3 hours.
So to a brief summary of the game. I assume you have already seen some of the pictures I took of our game. In summary 5 gangs headed into the town for the showdown. The Black hats were soon mixing it up with a group of guys with Canvas long coats armed mostly rifles. Now the Black hats started walking down the main street and the Canvas long coats came from the back of buildings so the Black hats soon were using the cover of the buildings. All the Black hats has pistols though compared to the canvas long coats so they were at a little disadvantage. This was made worse by some appalling rolls which at one point had all the black hats out of ammo at the same time! Too much wild shooting I suspect. A great movie moment and one to generate loads of laughs and hoots of comment.
The other three gangs all made their way into the central area with the gallows. One of the Dark coats made a dash for the gallows to be central but was pinned and then shot up by the other gangs while his fellows tried and failed to help him in time.
I moved the Mexicans in and one even climbed into a building. He stood by a window to help his fellows. Of course this guys was the one who must have failed most of his ammo rolls – must have lost it climbing into the building!
The three way fight in the center of the town was developing. Any figure brave enough to expose themselves for a good shot got a hail of fire in return. The Dark coats were in the center of the Mexicans and White hats so split up to deal with them. At this point I think all but the Canvas long coats had at least one figure out of the game with another wounded. The Black hats were having a bad time of it with multiple figs out and having to resort to hand to hand multiple times (and lost as many as they won).
So, to avoid an easy win by the Canvas long coats, a couple of the White hats ran over to the back of the barn while a Mexican and a Dark coat figure headed that way – to clear out the Black hat and even the score a little. These guys swung the tide and the Canvas long coat gang started losing members, after they had all but wiped out the Black hats. The other gangs still had other members still in the shoot up around the blue building and rock at the other end of town. More bloodshed ensued and the minor focus on the Canvas long coats did not last long.
Each gang has their ‘movie moment’ or two it seems to me in the game. My Mexicans had one with a Mexican figure running into towards the barn and with a double shot card (giving 2 shots per action) killing 1 target and pinning the other! There was also the classic 2 White hat guys taking on one Canvas long coat in the fenced pens behind the barn. The White hats both shot and missed and then later got into hand to hand they also lost! Classic failure. The Black hat figure which ran out to an exposed but perfect position to shoot an opponent just to run out of ammo, was another.
The game ended with a White hat pistol wielding guy walking towards the remaining 2 Mexicans in the center of the table by the gallows. One of the Mexicans had a rifle, the other pistols. This is a bit of a reminiscent of a specific Clint Eastwood movie. Of course the American man with the 45 was not quite so good in our game (poor script writers/dice rolls), so the Mexicans won in the end.
Overall, a fun game and I heartily recommend these rules for simple but thematic games of the wild west games. They are not filled with stats etc. but in play get the job done in spades.