Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cowboy Action and Gutshot!

"Head 'em off at Eagle Pass!"

We played Hawgleg publishing's Gutshot! rules last night for the first time, and wow, I loved them. But first, before I get into that, let me talk about the above film clip, speaking of cowboys. That's me in the white shirt in my first ever SASS event a few years back. It turned out to also be my last event, it just wasn't the right speed I was looking for, not as much "action" as I thought it would be. Anyway, as you can see from the video, it was a lot of fun regardless. It can be pretty expensive outfitting your 'character' with all the right clothing, guns, and leather though, almost prohibitively so. I sold all of my gear, but at least I still kept my boots! Playing Gutshot! last night kind of took me back though to the days of "Mankato Mik". I only did it once, but at least I can say I was cowboy at one point, haha.

The sleepy, little town of Big Rock Flats

I forgot to head over to Andy's house and pick up his painted cowboys and Whitewash city terrain. You can see most of that in our last game of PKowboys here. We made do without, Chrispy had some cowboy figs, and a single buildings, the rest of the terrain were some fantasy buildings and a load of rocky terrain. It was more than suitable.

The dastardly Iguanodon Juan and sidekick Twitch McGuffin

Sheriff Mankato and his date for the evening, Lady Sunset

As the couple exits the saloon, unaware of bandits on the hill

In Gutshot! your characters have different levels, each level giving them a different ability or two. The levels are cleverly named, "sheriff" doesn't necessarily mean you are an actual sheriff, just you have sheriff-comparable stats and abilities. The same goes for townsfolk and the like. There were at least five or six different types of characters I remember being available. Some characters come with standard perks, but some, like my sheriff, have a few options you can pick from. Everyone also gets two gun types each.

Drunken laughter echoes from the edge of the cliffs...

Each character has a single target number. This is your base roll you need to achieve in order to perform an action, rolled on 2d6. This is further modified by positive effects, such as aiming, or negative effects, like being in cover. The mechanics themselves are actually very straight forward, in a a given turn you can usually perform two actions, but from the list of choices you have, you can never do the same action twice in a turn.

Iguanodon Juan lines up a shot on an unsuspecting dame

In our first game, we played with just two characters per side. But even with a posse of five to ten characters or so, the rules keep the game moving at a fast clip. Our first game was also a stand up and shoot scenario, but it looked like the book has all kinds of cool sounding scenarios. One Chrispy described as a young cowboy who was wanting to elope with a rancher's daughter, except dad has decided to stop the couple and take out the suitor. It's true love, and posse on posse action as the young couple's fate is decided.

Combat is also deadly. Your characters have a set number of wounds, sometimes offset by skills and talents, but when they're up, your ticket's punched. There's two wound types; "pain" and "damage". The former covers things like melee damage, falling, and the like. The second is would be the lethal type of wounds from knives and guns. Also, when someone shoots and hits you, you can immediately do reactionary fire and shoot back, so it's possible to have cinematic moments where both combatants kill each other simultaneously.

"Hey man, watch this...WHOAAA!"

Gutshot! is more than just combat too. There's all kinds of actions to perform, and here we see Chri3 failing his 'climb' check. He tried to take a shortcut down the front of the clifface, and took a tumble. It didn't kill him, but he took a fair amount of 'pain' wounds. Although we didn't use them, there are options for dynamite, horses, and more.

Sheriff Mankato, severely wounded, hides atop the rocks

There's a neat way to track your ammo usage too, well, not "neat", but clever I guess. You definitely don't want both of your barrels empty on your stagecoach gun when someone rushes you in the middle of the street. You can also pick up equipment off of slain characters and make use of their gear. Pretty handy when you're a derringer-wielding saloon girl, but a bandit just dropped at your feet with a lever-action rifle. The initiative system was pretty cool too. Technically you're supposed to fraw numbers out of a hat each turn to see who goes when. We just rolled a die each round, and assigned numbers to characters. My gambler character had a trait that let her have two numbers 'in the hat' each round.

I'd be remiss if I didn't somehow compare Gutshot! to PKowboys, which has be the only cowboy game I've been playing for years now. In a nutshell, Gutshot! was faster to play, easier to setup, and simple to grasp. Fast enough where you can get in multiple games in a night, so a three fight mini-campaign is feasible. Easy to setup because all you do is roll on a table to see what kind of characters you get and pick their skills. Simple to grasp where after about a night or two of playing, you probably won't need to refer to the rulebook very often, if at all. Will I play PKowboys again? Sure, but I tell you, Gutshot! seemed a lot leaner and meaner to sink your teeth into. PKowboys is an older game, fun sure, but it's starting to show its age a bit. Plus, throw in that Gutshot! is also coming out with zombies...


  1. I have always wondered if Gutshot was a good system or not. Seems to be ...

    I look forward to hearing more about it ...

    And besides ... its an excuse to buy more minis

  2. We should set up another cowboy game sometime then. I have this spiffy piece of terrain at home waiting for me to put it to some use:


  3. We'll be playing it again, I'm sure. The rules are definitely worth looking into, and you really don't have to buy all that many figs, which is the good news.

  4. I played these rules quite a few years ago when they first came out. The authors lived in Houston at the time and one of them came up and ran a game for us.

    At the time we didn't get into them because we were happy with the Old West rules we were using (modified Chain Reaction) and these seemed unlikely to be able to handle the sort of game we typically had with 6 or so players and 5 or so figures per player.

    I'd be interested in giving them a try sometime.

  5. Sounds good Brian...let's do this thing!

  6. I watched the video and just want to say Nice Shooting! You did really good, especially for your first time. =)

  7. I'll have to check out the rules. Thanks for sharing. I've been using pulp rules for my western stuff and while it is fun it isn't always the same.