April has been pretty good to me so far. Not only have I received my copy of the Open Combat rules, but I also found my reward for the Fistful of Lead: Reloaded Kickstarter in my mailbox a couple days later.
I've considered dabbling in Western games in the past, and even played Wild West Exodus for a little while. But WWX leaned too heavily in the sci-fi realm - I wanted something more like the old spaghetti westerns, John Wayne's movies, or the newer, grittier western movies we've been seeing in recent years. I looked around and found games like Gutshot or Dead Man's Hand, but the Kickstarter based relaunch of Fistful of Lead got my attention. So I took a gamble and put myself down for a physical copy pledge.
The author, Jaye Wiley, made an interesting choice and had the rules printed out in the form of a comic book. I'm a little worried about the long term survivability of the rules because of this. But, in the worst-case scenario of the book falling apart, I'm sure I'll be able to scan the book and keep it as a PDF.
I'll be honest - the rulebook is not pretty. Last week, I talked about Open Combat's rulebook as coffee-table quality. Fistful of Lead's book is not that. It's black and white throughout, and has some problems where some of the italics in the text are choppy. The book is, however, is cheap, economical, and provides players with exactly what it says on the tin.
The rules take up about a quarter of the pages. Everything is pretty straight forward - there's no real difference in gang members, so everyone shoots the same, moves the same, and fights the same.
The game has an interesting activation mechanic in the form of a deck of cards. Each player is dealt a number of cards equal to the amount of models they have on the table. One player acts as the "Caller" and calls out the symbols, starting with Kings and ending with Deuces. A player throws down a card if they have it, and can use that card to activate a model, once per turn, and can take two actions. If two or more players have the same card, then they use the suit to determine who goes first; Spades, then Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs last. Some cards have special qualities. A model activated with the Queen of Hearts, for example, can heal one Wound. Any model activated with a Deuce can fire twice per action. And Aces can count as any card - but are beaten in priority by the "real" version of the card, if played at the same time.
The game says it should be scenario-based, and provides some basic scenarios, along with others to be used in the campaign rules. There are plenty of classics covered, from train robberies to cattle rustling. My favorite was the Bar Room Brawl, where players can only use their fists - no guns allowed - and takes place all in once building. Things can get a little crowded in games with more than two players!
Gang Building is also pretty simple. A starting gang gets 15 Build Points. Each gang member costs 1 BP, and can be given a weapon, which costs either 1 or 2 BP. Additionally, two members of a new gang can be given up to two positive and negative Traits (for a total of 4). A positive Trait costs a point, while a negative Trait gives back an additional Build Point for use elsewhere. To keep players from min-maxing negative and positive Traits, they're assigned randomly by drawing a card from the deck.
As I said earlier, the game comes with rules for campaign, so you can take your gang across the wild west, improving or losing members along the way. Eventually you'll stock up enough Renown Points to call for a Showdown scenario - a straight up fight to the death at noon.
Along with the rulebook, I also received some other physical rewards from the Kickstarter. Two quick reference sheets will help cut down on the amount of times that I'll have to check the rulebook, and I'll probably get them laminated pretty quick. The kickstarter also provided a free pair of d10s for backers, as well as a nifty MDF badge. A stretch goal gave each backer some free MDF tokens, and I ordered some more, just in case. And the themed poker deck is pretty cool, especially since the cards that have special affects in the game have the text printed on them as a useful reminder.
I'm excited to try out the game, and have already put in an order with Knuckleduster Miniatures for a couple gangs to paint up and play with.