Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Muskets & Tomahawks II - Rules Review

For a relatively long time, Tomahawk Studio's (the company behind the successful Saga rule and supplements) set of rules for the French & Indian War, Muskets & Tomahawks, were out of print. They were a great set of rules that captured the sense of le petite guerre in North American during the mid to late 18th century.

With card activations and plenty of period flavor, they were a favorite set of rules to play FIW games with and the question of a reprint could be found pretty frequently online.

In late 2019, it was announced that a new version of the rules was going to be "Nickstarted" (basically a crowdfunding pre-order service through North Star Military Figures) and was going to be expanded beyond the original French & Indian War and American War of Independence focus. The pre-order went up at the very end of January 2020, and was a rousing success.

Three months later, backers have the books in hand. And that includes me!

To start, the main rules are wonderfully produced, full color, 80-page hardcover book. The rules are nicely laid out, but there's a few full or double page images that feel like padding to make the book a little big larger.

While there's no index, the contents pages are detailed enough that navigating the rules during play shouldn't be that much of a problem.

For the most part, the basics of the rules haven't changed. Players use cards to activate certain troop types (Regulars, Militia, Indians, etc), move, spot, shoot, and fight in hand-to-hand combat much like they did in the first edition. However, there have been some very important fundamental changes to these basics.

For example, instead of a single card being drawn from the deck, each player has a hand of three cards, made up of cards from both sides, or the neutral Clock cards that determine the end of the turn. A player can choose to play a card from their own side, or play a card that activates an opponent's troops. In compensation, a player that does so gains a Command Point, one of the new features of this edition. Command Points can be spent on a few special actions, like putting a unit on Vigilance (18th century Overwatch) or putting a card in your hand in reserve for latter, effectively giving you a four card hand.

Another big change is the move from d6s to d10s, which gives a wider variance in unit stat lines and table results like Morale and Random Events. It's important to note that the values of the die go from 0-9, not 1-10!

There's a section for additional rules like Hidden Movement and Weather that don't fit in elsewhere, and so have been collected. These are generic rules that may be modified in the various period specific supplements that will be released later.

Since the forces have moved to the supplements, it's a very small section of the main rules. Introduced, however, are the idea of Format Variables, which are values that change depending on the size of the game being played.

Scenarios have also been cut down to just three, as the bulk will come from the supplements. There's Morning Meeting, Ambush, and Breakthrough.

Side Plots have been renamed as Intrigues, which act as secondary objectives that must be completed to win a scenario. To offset this, any Commander taking an Intrigue also receives a free, randomly determined Gift that can be used once during the game.

The book is rounded off by a comprehensive reference sheet and a page of tokens.

While I haven't had a chance to play the rules yet, I do like what I see. There are no drastic departures from the first version of the game that old players will have to adjust for, and the additions, like the expanded hand of cards and command points, makes the game more interactive for both sides. Players will have to look at the battlefield and ask if it's worth allowing the enemy to make a move first, if it means getting the resources to make a crushing blow later in the turn - if the clock cards don't end it first!

My only real concern is that expanding the rules away from the original FIW and AWI periods to cover Napoleonics or the American Civil War, will either make flatten the flavor of the original periods, or make playing the expanded periods feel strange.

Keep an eye on the blog, as I expect to play more M&T II in the future.

I'll also be reviewing the first supplement, Redcoats & Tomahawks, soon. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. I played Ver 1 M&T long ago. I didn't think it was badly done or broken. It flowed well at conventions. Do you believe after reading through Ver 2 that it is worth the switch? What part of Ver 1 would send you in search of Ver 2?

    1. Hi! Wow, I'm really sorry. I set my comment section to moderated to stop some spamming bots but forgot to set up an email alert.

      I honestly think V1 still works, as I never had a bad game of it. Unfortunately, beyond the single playtest game I haven't had the chance to play again!

      I would say if you're happy with V1, stick with it. If, however, you were unable to get V1 after it went out of print, I think V2 is still a good set of rules.

  2. Ug... trying to follow the GW model with supplements to play the game. Not a fan.

    1. Hey! Like I said in the other comment, I set my comment section to moderated to stop some spamming bots but forgot to set up an email alert.

      Yeah, it could potentially be a big pain. I'd like to see how much "chrome" the various supplements get to make them justifiable.