Saturday, 13 December 2014

Law of the Gun

At Salute in the spring I picked up a copy of the Dead Man's Hand rules for the Wild West, and also a couple of the very nice 4Ground buildings released to match the rule set. I played a few games with these rules, but I never quite felt happy with them. The card-driven play is very clever, but there are too many special cases, it feels as if it is all chrome; also there isn't a very strong campaign/career mode - the Schemes mechanism from Legends is again quite clever, but it just didn't do it for me.

The buildings, on the other hand, are excellent. They are the pre-coloured laser cut mdf style which is increasingly popular. 4Ground have a wide variety of ranges, different scales, periods and genres, and I have made a few 15mm WW2, but I think this material really works best with Wild West buildings. It is after all wood, which is exactly what these buildings are made of. The mdf isn't quite convincing for brick, concrete or steel structures, but for wooden planks it's perfect. I also very much enjoy the process of actually building the models - they are very detailed, and the way they have been designed to use the pre-coloured mdf is very ingenious. There are lots of little features - opening doors and windows, options to build models with or without damage (or even adaptable during a game), pictures, notices and posters. The instructions are very detailed and clear, and while it is PVA glue I was reminded very much of making Airfix models many decades ago.

I came back from Salute and bought a 3' x 2' board, and landscaped it to form the base of a small Western town - one rough road and a T junction, a small pool and various bits of scrub. It was nice to do some realistic terrain for a change - for most wargaming I tend towards the representational, since the terrain is never in scale with the figures. However for 1-1 skirmish games it is different, what you see on the table is what's actually there - a house is a house, a tree (or a cactus) is a tree or a cactus.

So I was looking for some rules to use for encounters in my small but growing hamlet (Sick Dog's Paw). At Fiasco in October I had bought Chris Peers' rules, Law of the Gun, and I decided to get them out and have a go. I have to say I wasn't terribly excited with the actual games - reading them through they seemed quite promising, but in play they didn't quite work. The key mechanism for activation, shooting and a number of other things is rolling a certain number of D6s and trying to score 6s. A group of up to four figures rolls 3 (Townsfolk) 4 (Fighters) or 5 (Gunfighters) dice, and they all get an action for every 6. One problem here is that nearly half the time, four D6s will produce no scores of 6. And then all the members of that group can do nothing except fire wildly. Even professionals with 5 D6 will fail to get an action 40% of the time. And having a whole group acting, or not acting, all at the same time seems a bit unnatural in a 1-1 skirmish game. Maybe this would work better with slightly larger sides, with several groups there would be less chance of several turns going by with nothing happening.

I ran a small test fight, with a gang of four fighters on each side. I made an error with one gang, leaving the rifleman back to shoot while the other three moved forward - that meant the gang lost one D6, and they found it even harder to take an action. The two sides shuffled forward and met on either side of a corral, where they blazed away for some time. Eventually two guys ran forward round a corner in the open, weren't hit, and then got a gut shot on an opponent, killing him. At this point the enemy gang broke morale, and fled.

Chris Peers is a very experienced rules writer, and I am sure that for the right sort of fight these would work well, but they did not give me the feel I was looking for. After a bit of reading around the forums, I lighted on Six Gun Sound: Blaze of Glory by Two Hour Wargames. I have heard a lot about these people - I guess Nuts is their best-known product - but I have never bought any of their rules. Thanks to the glory of the internet, $10 through Paypal meant that I had a pdf of the rules in my hand within minutes. They look very interesting - lots of content (well over 100 pages), a very different turn and initiative sequence, and plenty of opportunities for careers, character development and so on. I'm going to give them a go soon to see how they work for me.

The Green gang - Jed, Jake, Josh and Jim
The Reds - Tex, Ted, Tyrone and Tony
An overview of Sick Dog's Paw
View down the main street from the east...
And the west
The corral where most of the action took place
The Red gang strung out to keep within 6" of each other
The Greens have bunched up to have a better chance of rolling an Action
In the distance Tyrone lies dead, while the rest of the Reds head for the hills
The final scene at the corral

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