The Good.Firstly let me start with the fact that I do generally like these rules. They are well written and very well presented with high production values. The initiative system to determine which figure goes first is quite simply the best I have come across in any skirmish game. It's both tactical and swift to implement and allows players some, but very limited, control of the order they will be able to carry out the battle in that turn. The rest of the mechanics are equally slick with combat being quick (and with good dice rolls) deadly. Any character can have instant death on a d20 roll of 19+. Which I feel is fair as a lucky shot can and will kill anyone. This does not appear to be the main way of dying though. Normally you will suffer a series of flesh wounds or combat fatigue which will wear away the figure until they just can't cope and are forced to leave the board. There are cut out counters (we'll all photo copy them rather than chop up the book) which not only cover these wounds but ammo and movement as well. Overall the game mechanics are well thought out simple to implement and seem, without playing to present a very good level of challenge.
One other factor of the game is that each player is dealt a hand of cards. These cards can be played as the player wants but only restocked at the rate of 1 card a turn and only in the turn a card is used. Which means that if you use 2 cards in one turn then you will only ever get one random card from the whole pack back. This adds a nice tactical element to the use of cards. each card from a standard deck of playing cards has a special rule. Some apply to the figure you are using, the others to your opponents figures. Each of the four suits (Hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades) applies to one of the 4 types of gangs/posses. But you will only be using the colour (red and black) that applies to your gang type, (sometimes just the suit that applies.) I won't go into any more detail about the fate deck just to say all the special results do fit into the Wild West Skirmish Genre.
The BadDespite all the good stuff there is some bad things, or should I say things I don't like (maybe you will). I feel there has been a serious number of missed opportunities. Weapon choice is very limited, Pistol, Rifle, Repeater and Shotgun. So if you wanted a derringer or a sawn off or anything more unusual you are out of luck. 4 types of gun and that's it (5 types if you fire both barrels of the shotgun!). Maybe in the future they will charge you for a supplement that will have more in, but I really think they should have been in the core rules. Likewise melee weapons are non existent in the rules. The whole melee rules fit on a single A4 page. Which means an unarmed figure is just as good in hand to hand as a guy with a cavalry sabre. Draw your own conclusion from that, personally I would give the bloke with a sword a better chance of being the one who can walk away!
The Ugly.There are no rules for Native Americans or First Nation if you want the PC terms or Injuns if you use the Hollywood 1960's vernacular. Again another missed opportunity which given the slimness of the rules could easily have been rectified. Given the lack of hand weapons and the fact they have tied each gang type to a suit in the card deck unless they are willing double up on suits or create a whole new one they have limited themselves. I do feel the rules are overpriced, YES I AM A CHEAPSKATE! The rule book is slim with a softback cover Easily bent and creased.... mine already has been coming home from Salute. I find the playing cards unimaginative both on the face and the reverse sides. They just lack character. They will function in the game well enough, but so will unpainted figures and cardboard boxes for buildings, I bet you would paint your figures though! The scenarios are good and tie into some very popular films but there is minimal guidance for creating your own scenarios or building any form of campaign. Just that a standard game should have 21 points each side. Points are only given for figures, not weapons or cards in the fate deck or starting positions or anything else. It's very much a case of you have the same points each now fight it out! There is also no character progression so once you have a posse/gang then that's it. Legends of the old west (basically Wild west Necromunda) does this so well that it is a shame that other companies can't at least acknowledge the fact that the continuing story of your gangs might have some appeal.
Conclusion.The game mechanics are good and do replicate the feel of a "Spaghetti Western" very well. They give a flavour of few dollars more and not High Noon. SO for a one off game of shooting cowboy against shooting cowboy in a town setting the rules are very good. If you are looking for more detail or a campaign setting or Cowboys and Indians or anything other than the scenarios in the book hard luck it's all a missed opportunity.
Sorry if all that sounds negative. It's just that with such good game mechanics and a tactical initiative system it is disappointing, to me that they have not carried it further. If they had included more and put it in a hard back I would happily have paid £30. for the rules. When I say included more I am not saying a painting guide or history of the west or any of that filler fluff. None of us need any more of that. But greater diversity of weapons gangs and a campaign system would have turned this into a fantastic set. As it stands If they do bring out a supplement I will be "Meh!" as I think it will be another £20 and still not cover all the issues it will need to.
The rules are good but I am not sure I would have bought them if I had read them first, just too much missing for me. But a fool and his money etc..
That's it for today. Tune in Saturday for some painted figures. All the best Clint
Edit Sunday Morning Pre game: Having re-read the rules before I head down to the club I have found the rules for horses. They are very brief and in the scenarios section as opposed to the main rules. So I must apologise for misleading you earlier in the week.