Sunday, 24 April 2016

Gunfight at Experiment Ranch

One of the things I've fancied trying with Battlesworn is a western gunfight. It's one of the suggested options in the rules, and now I kind of understand how to play the game I thought I'd finally give it a whirl.

I do own a small western town, made up of paper buildings I inherited from another gamer many years ago (when I lived in the UK in fact). However for a first game I decided to go for a more 'conventional' setting, so just laid out a terrain with rocks, brush, fences and two small buildings from my Mexican collection.

I don't have any Wild West figures, but Junior General's paper-figure collection helped out there.

Here's the one gang. There's seven of them. They look fairly heroic.

This lot look more of a band of desperados.

Both groups were made up of 12 slots. They were:

Good Guys

4 x Shooters
1 x Sniper/Marksman
1 x Shooter/Bard
1 x Shooter/Tank


1 x Leader/Sniper
1 x Shooter/Dynamiter
4 x Shooters
4 x Shooter/Rabble

Whoah! Hold on there, pardner! There are a few bits in there that stick out more'n a rattlesnake in a sausage roll!

Well, yes. I fiddled with the rules a bit in this game. Firstly, I used Victor's idea for the core of a Shooter-based force in a Shooter-based game; instead of having Fighters, which really have no place in such a setting, I used Shooter/Rabble. You get four of them. They shoot like Shooters. They die like Rabble. However I added an option. For one slot you can upgrade two of them to ordinary Shooters. And for another slot you can upgrade the other two. That's why the Good Guys don't seem to have enough points; their four Shooter/Rabble have been upgraded to Shooters.

I ignored the limits on how many multi-class characters you could have. Just because.

Marksman? Well, yes. We have been discussing the idea of a Shooter-based Brute ability, where they hit on a 4+ rather than a 5+. This seemed to be a chance to try it out.

The Bard I rationalised as a fast-talking character, encouraging to his own side and infuriating to the opponents. Rather than charge upon being taunted, though, an opponent had to shoot at the Bard. I wasn't really sure how that would work out.

Finally, Dynamiter. Well, the game needs more classes, that's for sure. A lot of the existing classes don't sit that well in the Wild West setting. A Dynamiter is basically a Warmage who only gets the Fireball spell. However when they use it, it ignores all cover, and the Rogue's dodge ability. But it can only be used as an action, and it costs two activations.

On with the game. I played a straight, head-to-head solo game as per Knights and Knaves, just to try things out. I played the Good Guys (of course).

The Good Guys rushed to occupy the hill, with their Sniper/Marksman getting into a nice position behind a rock and with the Bard close by to encourage him. The Shooter/Tank moved to a forward position in order to draw fire.

The Desperados moved up to the fence-line, to get maximum cover.

The shooting started. The Desperado's leader was still on their start-line, out in the open. The Good Guy's Sniper had a line of fire ...

... and down he went, stone dead.

There was lots more shooting, and little more moving into position.

The Dynamiter fell, having not had any chance to show off his skills.

More shooting, turn after turn. Very little movement, turn after turn.

The Desperados were mostly stuck engaging the tough Shooter/Tank who was firmly ensconced behind a rock forward of the other Good Guys. Using some unopposed actions they charged him to engage him in fisticuffs.

It didn't end well.

On the last turn another Desperado was shot down by the Sniper on the hill.

And that was the end of the game. The desperados lost four figures (one a Shooter/Rabble, a Shooter, their Dynamiter and their Leader). The Good Guys escaped without even taking a scratch.

Neither side had moved much from their original positions.

And that last line summed it up. With most of the game based on shooting there was little incentive to move. Figures were either better off firing, or it was too dangerous to move around and draw fire. Maybe further play will show that there are tactics peculiar to forces like this. And maybe scenarios, where figures are obliged to move to objectives, would make for a less static game. As it was the game worked, but it lacked interest. With no figures on the table really geared for close combat, there was little point in setting up charges. The charge at the end was merely to try and pin an enemy character so another could be targeted, and maybe that's a strategy to consider in future games.

I think that if I wanted to pursue this idea much further I'd be looking at adding a few Wild West specific classes to the game. Having pretty well everyone as a Shooter needs something else to spice it up a little.

Oh, and it was fairly obvious that the Marksman ability is very powerful, especially combined with Sniper. I may have to look at an alternative way of doing it. One possibility is to allow the character to reroll up to two of their dice when shooting; that could be useful without being too deadly.

Still, it was an experiment I'm glad I tried, and I was more than happy with the look of the game.


  1. Man, you keep putting up a lot of great stuff. Made the weekly roundup again:

    1. Thanks. The pace may slow over the next week or so, though :)

  2. Great write-up! Always looking for more genres to use with BattleSworn.


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