Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Wild West Gaming

Wild West games have been a fringe interest throughout my wargaming past. The attraction is obvious: A huge range of Hollywood Western movies; from the classic John Wayne style, through the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti period, and now the Quentin Tarentino releases. It is impossible to resist the classic shoot-out between goodies and baddies on a dusty Western street at high noon, even though everyone knows this rarely happened historically. The range of archetypal characters is so wide; the silent killer, the town drunk, the gambler, the Mexican bandito, the soiled dove, the bounty hunter etc. Surely the gaming possibilities are enormous, it just requires a good set of rules to unleash the potential...

I first played back in the mid-1970’s at my local club using 54mm figures supplied by other club members. The rules we used were by Skirmish Wargames (M&P Blake, I&L Colwill & G&B Rose, 1977) and these worked OK. They reflect their time in the sense that they used percentile dice and had extensive tables with numerous modifiers for calculating results of shooting, close combat, wounds etc. Every weapon was detailed; a pistol was not just a pistol, instead it was a particular model of Colt, which in turn differed from a Remington model. Players could opt for more obscure weaponry e.g. Le Mat revolvers, ‘Bluntline’ specials, Derringers etc. Each model had assigned characteristics, and you had to keep track of rounds fired, wounds received etc. The result was a slow paced gaming experience. An afternoon of play could see your model(s) moving 20 yards, firing a couple of ineffective shots, receiving a light left leg wound, before ducking back behind some barrels. Even worse was being taken out by a lucky long range shot early in the game and then sitting out the rest of the session! I did explore a second set of rules, Boot Hill, by Brian Blume & Gary Gygax (TSR, 1975) which were slightly simpler but still revolved around percentile dice rolls. They were better for stand-up shoot outs because they used an initiative system that allowed a fast draw gunslinger to gun down multiple opponents before they could get their guns out of their holsters!

The main inhibitor to developing a Western gaming set-up was the scale (54mm) and availability of scenery. I am not a great builder when it comes to making my own buildings or scenery. Over the intervening years I did buy some 25/28mm figures, all from B&B stalls, and I did put together some paper buildings, which were for a smaller scale (20mm) and were solid (no interior access). These figures and buildings (pictured above) did see some gaming, but this was rare mainly because the rules played too slow. I wanted a fast paced, Hollywood style of game.

About 10-15 years ago I discovered an online set of rules, Rules With No Name (RWNN) by Bryan Ansell, which seemed to fulfil my wish. These rules were subsequently published as a hard copy, and were quickly followed by other ‘fast’ play Western rules which included Legends of the Old West by Mark Latham (Warhammer, 2004), Gutshot by Mike Mitchell & Mike Murphy (Hawgleg, 2005) and Dead Man’s Hand (Great Escape Games, 2013). So, I now had some potential rule sets but Western scenery remained a problem. The release of the excellent 4Ground range of buildings and scenery quickly plugged this hole. I recently bought my first few buildings, so I am finally ready to jump into the Wild West and give it a go!

1 comment:

  1. I have had a number of fun-filled games with TRWNN. Thanks for the tip on the MDF buildings.