This last weekend brought Williamsburg Muster, a local convention, to town again. I was registered to run two games, a Pulp Alley Game on Friday evening, and a Gunfighter’s Ball Game on Saturday night.
Friday turned into a bit of a disappointment. One, because I had no takers for the Pulp Alley game ( not an unusual situation for a Friday at these local cons I am afraid, and two because I would like to have played the Lion Rampant game that was going on right next to me! I wish this convention had a more automated system of game registration, more like what Marscon did. They used Warhorn. This is far from a perfect system as it appears to be more for organizing campaigns for roleplaying games, but it allowed me to see what games had already been registered in almost real time. Pretty cool to be able to re-plan what you want to do around what others are doing without waiting for a PEL! even more important when you consider that Williamsburg Muster’s PEL only became public about a week previous to the event! Second, it allowed players to register online for games. This allowed me to know what to expect and freed me to cancel unpopular games if I saw fit, rather than arriving, spending all the time to set up a table, only to have no one play.
Because of these circumstances, I have taken to run fewer games and to choose games for the local conventions at least, that are less set up intensive. Saturday nights game was a great example.
Gunfighter’s Ball is a great example. This is Knuckleduster’s new wild west skirmish game which apparently was playtested through years of convention play.
Wild West games are perfect in that a pleasant table can be created very quickly. Roll out a mat, the one in the pictures is a Hotz Western mat, but I have a desert mat I have used as well as grasslands one, and Knuckle duster makes a nice neoprene one. Throw on some western buildings. These ones are Gamecraft miniatures but nowadays there are lots of options, many with their own interiors which are certainly preferable for western skirmish. Lastly, a few pieces of scatter terrain, mostly in the form of Pegasus Cactuses in the pictures. My Gamecraft buildings are the original ones, they now have the capability, though limited, to be made to allow gameplay inside them.
The “Characters” are very simple, with really only one stat, their Action Number. This is the number missing from Bronco O’Neill’s card there, but it would usually be a number from 1 to 3 which would be placed on the red poker chip in the lower right corner. This number equals the number of activations the character will have in the turn. These activations are chosen by the drawing of a card, using a normal poker deck. There are various attribute you can take as well, but the optional “Pistoleer Deck” provide a very enjoyable a quick way to determine random attributes, quirks or disadvantages and is just the thing for effortless and enjoyable character creation for a convention game!
On each Activation, two actions may be taken including all the obvious ones like moving, shooting. drawing weapons, throwing dynamite, etc. An interesting feature is your card in the hole. This allows a non-active player to respond to an attack by borrowing from his next activation. Damage is determined in the rules by rolling hit location, which then tells you how many chips you must cash in. (Most characters began the game with three red and six white chips representing their current health. The red chips show when a character has bled into a mortal wound). A very enjoyable alternative, however, is to use a random draw from the optional ‘Black Deck”.
The Ball I ran was intended to be one of the more advanced ones from the book, but due to scheduling issues we got a late start, and since two of the players were younger I went for a simpler shoot out scenario.
The game is short, quick and bloody! The picture above is just in the second turn (second complete rotations of all activations). We started at about seven, and by 10:30 I had run two games with four players each, all with no experience in this game at all.
I have played a number of cowboy games, and I do so mostly at conventions. Of all the shoot out games I have tried this one pleases me the most. I have been looking for this game for years. Good job Knuckle Duster!
Until next time