19 September 2011

Legends of the Old West

This week will be "old west" week on the blog. I've had several things I've been wanting to review and it pretty much covers boardgames, miniature wargames, PC games, movies and tv shows. So a lot of variety this week.

Don't really know why I have not reviewed the Legends of the Old West rules earlier but here are my thoughts.

First of all, the visual appeal of this rulebook is 10/10. I like the look of this rulebook more than any other in my collection, even more than the Malifaux rulebooks I have. The rules are 136pages of full color and really nice background on each page. It mixes stylish sepia drawings with pictures of real models and terrain that look absolutely fantastic thus serving as great inspiration for any terrain builder.

The layout of the rules is also to my liking, I find it easy to browse and pick out the important stuff in the rules. As it is a Warhammer historical game you have elements of WHFB/WH40k but perhaps mainly LoTR in there, but don't let that put you off. These rules are not very complex, are easy to learn and play fast. In a skirmish game those are important points.

While I love Malifaux, that game can give you a serious headache as each miniature have its own unique stats, abilities, attacks etc. Legends of the Old West is more "newbie friendly" as models share the same characteristics and the weapons are generic enough to learn how they work within minutes.

The characteristics in each character profile are:

"Shooting" = What you need to roll to hit with a ranged weapon
"Fighting" = How well you fight in close combat.
"Strength" = How hard you throw a punch
"Grit" = How tough your character is and how easy/hard it is to wound that character
"Attacks" = How many hits you inflict if you win a round of hand to hand combat
"Pluck" = Your morale

There are two more characteristics "Fame" and "Fortune". These are restricted to the "better" characters , such as the eaders of your posse.

"Fame" is used to tweak the result of a die roll. Each point of Fame spent can alter the result by 1 notch either up or down according to your choice. "Fortune" can be used to press your luck in a dangerous situation. If you are hit by a weapon you can spend a Fortune point and see if you escape the hit or not. You could consider this a "save throw", and this is the only way you can save characters hit and wounded in this  game. Both the Fame and the  Fortune ability is very restricted and only available to specific characters that are more expensive and limited in number.

The turn, this game has a clever take on "I go, You go" in that you roll for initiative at the start of each turn. The winner of the initiative roll will be allowed to move all of his models first. Then the opponent can move all of his. Only after this has been done can the first player shoot with his models, and following that the opponent will be able to shoot. So the risk of being mauled is minimized as you have a fair amount of reaction time to your opponents movement,

"Heroes", that is leaders of you posse, have certain abilities that allow them to break this order by performing a "Heroic action". Such action costs 1 fame point, and can be used to either make the hero and friendly models near the hero to move a certain range before any other models move, make the hero and any nearby friendly models fire their guns before other models do, or start the close combat phase out of sequence.

Weapons and items, there are a lot of firearms in the game. Variations of pistols and rifles, shotguns, archaic weapons such as bows, horses, hand weapons, items that range from playing cards to increase the amount of money earned to boiler plates which increases your Grit. Everything costs money, and each posse starts out with 200$ which they spend on recruiting members for their posse and on weapons. Some weapons are "rare" which means you have to roll 2D6 when attempting to buy them and have to pass the "rare value" of the weapon to be able to obtain it. Weapons have cool abilities most of the time which makes it a good idea to give the right weapon to the right character in your posse. A good shooter should perhaps be armed with a heavy pistol - it has slower rate of fire but a heavy punch once you hit someone. Poor shooters should perhaps be armed with sawed of shotguns that fires a template. Your average gunfighters could be equipped with regular six-guns which could either be fired one shot at a time or "fanned", meaning you will unleash 6 shots in one sequence but will have poor accuracy only hitting on a roll of 6 per shot.

Campaign mode, what this game really is about and where it really shines, is the "campaign mode". Meaning you will start out with a posse that advances in experience as you play more scenarios. This also means that you will have characters gaining new skills, perhaps even get permament injuries. Your posse will increase in "Infamy" and you will earn cash in between scenarios depending on the outcome. Cash can be spent to replace dead or badly wounded posse members, buy new weapons and equipment, hire special characters on a retainer if you have the cash for it - or - hire a "Legend of the old West". The legends are famous characters based on real life persons such as Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, the Earp brothers and many more. The book really does a great job of covering all kinds of special characters as well as famous people which you can hire for as long as you can pay for them.

The rulebook also contains a few generic scenarios, such as bar brawls, breaking people out off jail, preventing the hanging of a buddy or attacking a stage coach on horseback. You can easily take inspiration from movies and tv-shows and quickly come up with dozens of scenarios yourself. The game is all about scenarios, and there is pretty much never a case of completely wiping out the enemy gang as you roll morale tests for your crew when you get below 50%. Members that have been removed as casualties in game are not automatically dead but you roll for them on a "damage chart" to see what happened. It is again a easy and straight forward system, the only requirement is for you to keep a pen and paper around to keep the tabs on who shot how many enemies and what injuries/skills/equipment each model has in his profile.

In my opinion, these rules do a great job of creating a "old west" atmosphere in your games. From the weapons to the skills, and with the rules being easy to play but still create excitement, Legends of the Old West is a great little skirmish game. If you want to pick up a miniature wargame that only uses 3-15 models per side and relies on storytelling, campaign play, characters and setting this are the rules for you. You will be able to spend a lot of time on scenery, civilian models to fill the streets and focus on a small playing space (4x4') .

You can of course also play solo scenarios, with enough heroes and villains in the "Legends" roster you can recreate scenes from movies such as Tombstone.


  1. I've played Legends quite a bit and find it fairly disappointing. The atmosphere is spot on- but the game just always sort of leaves us thinking "eh, okay, I guess we're done".

  2. Did you play a campaign? It is "meh" when playing one off scenarios I agree. But we found it great fun when playing 5-6 linked scenarios and advancing our characters :-)

  3. Yeah we did- and you're right that's where it's fun!

    But we found it odd that we had MORE fun between the games advancing our characters than actually playing the game itself!

  4. Haha yeah it plays very fast so I think it contributes to that, and it is always exciting to check on casualties. I get the same feeling in between Strange Aeons games.

    Btw, I was tipped about the Rules With No Name and am just starting to read the PDF.

  5. Good review, thanks. Ive got the book myself, and will be trying out a few games once i get a few more suitable minis and scenery bits.

  6. Thanks in Chigh, as I said to indierockclimber I just got my hands on the "Rules With No Name" PDF which is shared for free on their yahoo group.

    I will read and evaluate the rules as soon as I can get a game going. I would very much like to see how it flows before writing a review of those rules. By the look of it they have a different approach and seem a bit more "complex", with a few things that instantly stand out as positive and some as negative imo. WE'll see :-)

  7. I love this game for its campaign system and have played in campaigns with as many as ten players which was a lot of fun! Its a simple mini game and good for introducing new people to miniatures. Also, there is Gutshot which I have not played but seems more story driven than skirmish based. You might want to check that out too.

  8. i think a version of Song of Blades and Heroes might be good. D6g reviewed a bunch of wild west skirmish games and they mentioned that hand to hand combat is more detailed then shooting which is strange.

    im looking forward to reading a review of the rules with no name and maybe try them out.

  9. I can't agree about the HtH combat being more detailed. It does use two characteristics (Fight & Attack) instead of one (Shooting) to resolve the action. But it is handled more fast and straight forward than shooting.

    Isn't SoBaH more a generic fantasy skirmish game?

    As for trying out Rules With No Name, Calle said he wanted to come over when we play on Saturday, maybe run a small scale test of the rules after playing FoW if there is time?

  10. Great review, really inspired me to go and buy this. Even more so as my gaming buddies and I already use a homebrew variant on these rules for the interwar period. I look forward to more western posts!


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