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"Fistful Of Lead - Western Skirmish Game Review" Topic

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Fortean2 Inactive Member26 May 2005 4:36 p.m. PST

Fistful Of Lead is an Old West skirmsih rule set by Jaye Wiley, and available through Neo-Forge and distributed by Pacific Sky Games.

The rules cost $12 USD and will set you back another $5 USD for shipping to the USA if you order from Neo Forge. The book comes with a copy of the Quick Reference Sheet and a page that includes a Gatling Gun and TNT Blast Template as well as color counters for you to cut out and use with the game.

The book itself has a color cover and black and white interior. There are photos as well as line illustrations included in the text. The first 15 pages of the book encompasses the introduction and rules and the last 11 pages include 5 scenarios with maps.

All you need to play the game are the book, and/or the Quick Reference Sheet, a 10 sided dice, a pack of ordinary playing cards, a tape measure, miniatures and a place to play. Optionally you may use a 12 sided dice and an 8 sided dice. You will also want to have either the counters included with the game - or whatever you'd like to use as a suitable replacement.

One note about the game counters is that those included with the game are hard to read. This isn't all that important, there are only 3 types of counters wound, wound x2, and Out Of Ammo. You can tell them apart easily enough to use them, or you can create your own or simply substitute the small colored stones made popular with CCGs.

This is a very simple game system, ideal for use with younger gamers or at cons, or if you want to have a really big skirmish without getting bogged down in detail.

The Turn Sequence is simple but effective. The playing cards are shuffled and each player is dealt a number of cards equal to the number of miniatures they have in play. The order of play is determined by the value of each card. Play starts with Kings and ends with Twos. If more than one player has a card of the same value then order is detmined by suits - Spades first, then Clubs, Hearts and Diamonds. Aces are "wild" and can be played as any other card. Some cards confer special abilities on the miniatures they activate, but only for the duration of that activation.

When a player's card comes up he can activate one of their miniatures. Each miniature can be activated once per turn, and the player can activate them in whatever order he chooses. Once activated, the miniature can perform two actions such as Move/Shoot, Shoot/Move, Move/Move, Shoot/Shoot, Shoot/Get on horse, etc.

Any dice rolls that are required are rolled with a d10, unless the scenario calls for characters with more or less skill in which case a d12 or d8 may be rolled for particular miniatures. In this case the d10 is still used to determine wounds.

Normal movement is handled with set values instead of being rolled each time, and the miniature can be turned as much the player wants during movement, but it can only shoot into the 180 degrees forward arc.

Firing is handled with a simple die roll based on range. There are a handful of modifiers based on cover, movement and what wounds the shooter has. If the shooter succeeds then a roll is made using the wound chart to determine results. If the shooter rolls an unmodified "1" then that miniature gets an "out of ammo" marker and must spend two actions (one full activation) reloading before they can shoot again.

HTH combat is much more deadly, and is assumed to include fists, rifle and pistol butts, knives, and even close-in shooting. Both combatants roll a d10 and the difference between the two rolls is applied as the number of wounds inflicted on the loser.

There are three possible results on the Wounds Table: Pinned, Wounded and Dead. Pinned means the character will hit thedirt and must make a roll to get up and fight again. A poor roll could result in that miniature running away. Wounded means that the miniature is marked with a wound marker as well as being Pinned. There is no limit on how many wounds a miniature can have, but each wound means the miniature gets -1 to hit, -1" movement and a +1 to future rolls on the Wounds Table. A dead result should be self explanatory.

Gatling gun and TNT rules are provided as well as optional rules to cover Victory Points and Morale checks.

The scenarios included are all pretty standard Old West fare, but well described for use with these game mechanics, and all include basic maps. The first scenario in particular is highly detailed and can give the new gamer a good sense of how to create their own.

In the Introduction it is suggested that each player can control up to 6 gunfighters without much difficulty and a game can have up to 8 players without slowing down the game. I would agree, and note that if you want a larger game than that you'd have to use two decks of cards and allow simultaneous actions for miniatures activated with the same card.

As far as weaknesses, they are few. Rules for fires and stampedes are not included - though it would be simple to extrapolate scenario specific rules for it if you wanted to.

There is also no "overwatch" in the rules. I would have to say that with the card-based activation it really shouldn't be necessary, and adding it could bog down play. If you feel you need this, simply have a character spend one of their actions for it and place an overwatch marker on the miniature. The miniature is only allowed to shoot in the front firing arc, as normal, and should be given a -1 to compensate for the delayed action.

All said, I feel this is good value for the dollar and anyone interested in a fast game with 12 or more miniatures should give it a try.

Personal logo mmitchell Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member29 May 2005 12:53 a.m. PST


Thanks for the insightful overview of the rules. This does, indeed, sound like a nice, short game with easy-to-learn mechanics. I know Eric Hotz gave them high marks for production values and appearance, what's your take on these points?

Fortean Inactive Member30 May 2005 3:17 p.m. PST

The game has a color cover and b/w photographs to illustrate game points. I'd say it rates more highly that most skirmish games I've seen in this department.

Personal logo GreyONE Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member30 May 2005 7:41 p.m. PST

Craig's review is accurate.

There are no "overwatch" rules, or by another term, Opportunity Fire Rules. For strict wargamers (people who play WWII games armour/skirmish games in miniatures or Advanced Squad Leader, etc) this may be a hard pill to swallow. In my club, I would say 50% of the people who played Fistful of Lead stated they would have liked to have seen a set of Opportunity Fire Rules in the the game (my club is full of die hard miniatures gamers). However, the other 50% didn't even notice the absence of Opportunity Fire rules. I play the game without Opportunity Fire since the card system really takes care of this sort of thing, even if it is in a abstract form.

Fistful of Lead is a very quick, simple set of rules that are complete. Players can have a lot of fun with these rules. Easy to learn, fun to play. By complete I mean: If you run into a problem, or have a question about game play, there is a 99% chance your question is answered in the rule book. This alone beats 95% of all wild west game rules out there. This is not a GM driven game where if the GM is so-so, the game sucks. Fistful of Lead is a rules driven game, but, it is also fast play, easy to grasp, and will be fun for players of all ages.

The game markers that come with Fistful of Lead are hard to read, and are perhaps incomplete. I have created a new set of for my own use and these also include "Pinned" markers. Although it is stated in the game rules that you do not need "Pinned" markers, I have noticed that during most games, player ask "Where are the pinned markers?". When players expect something, it means the rules should include them. The reason is simple: prone miniatures can be confused with pinned miniatures since both are prone. In the rules it states that you should place pinned miniatures on their backs, and prone miniatures on their stomach, but that doesn't work for two reasons: My wild west town (Whitewash City) takes up a 6 foot by 8 foot game table so at a distance you cannot see who is laying on his back and who is laying on his stomach. The other reason, a few on my miniatures won't lay on the stomach's or back's due to their action poses. You should use markers for this to help clarify the problem. However, this is really a minor point that only comes up if their are either a lot of player, or a lot of miniatures in the game.

Download my version of the Fistful of Lead markers, go to:
(1.4 megabyte CMYK TIF file)

The best part about Fistful of Lead is that it only takes a few minutes to explain the rules. By the start of the third turn, players are playing the game without need of a GM and... players have a lot of fun. When I put on a game at my club, there will be several new players who want to play, but have never seen or heard of the game before. This poses no problem for the GM. Within 5 minutes, players will be playing and enjoying themselves. However, these rules are not so simple as to be silly - they are perhaps the most thought through set of rules I have seen. Simple, fast, clever, and intuitive. You cannot ask for much more.

The only downside to these rules is that perhaps for long term campaign game, they may be light on detailing. Some people may want to have more in a game for campaign games and more detail with regards to character development and skills. For this sort of a game, I would recommend, Gutshot. Gutshot is slightly more complex than Fistful of Lead, and yet still simple enough to grasp in a very short space of time. Great for campaign gaming!

I did speak with the author of Fistful of Lead and he said that his game was developed especially for convention gaming - and for that, I would say, without a doubt, Fistful of Lead is one of the best wild games for this market. Now if the publisher would just get out there and advertise his game...

SeattleGamer01 Jun 2005 11:28 a.m. PST

On the strength of the two detailed and positive reviews above, I'm heading over to the Neo-Forge site to place my order.

Many thanks to Fortean2 (Craig apparently, although how Mike knew to address you as such is beyond me, your profile does not include your name) and GreyONE (Eric "the man himself" possibly)?


Fortean2 Inactive Member01 Jun 2005 1:03 p.m. PST

He remembers it from the "Redneck Gamer" thread. And GreyONE is indeed Eric Hotz.

Glad to see you getting on board. I think you'll like it.

Personal logo mmitchell Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member01 Jun 2005 5:36 p.m. PST

Yup - I definitely remember Craig from that sugar-fit of posting over at the "Redneck Gamer" thread! Wowza! Talk about prolific!

And, of course, I know Eric. I'm a HUGE fan of his work. What's more, I respect his opnion on these games (including Gutshot).

Oh, and I know you, too, Steve! In fact, we need to get back to work on the "Love & Bullets" material!

Fortean2 Inactive Member02 Jun 2005 2:07 p.m. PST

Something just occurred to me. The Fistful Of Lead rules are also ideal for Prohibition-era gaming!

You can use the provided rules for Gatling Guns to cover Tommy Guns, and everything else plays as-is.

Now I have an excuse to buy more miniatures without needing a new rule set. :]

SeattleGamer03 Jun 2005 7:28 a.m. PST

Hey Boss;

My hard drive crash is behind me, and my data was recovered at great expense. I'm back in the saddle and working on the Love & Bullets materials again. Should have something for you this weekend.


Jeff of SaxeBearstein Inactive Member03 Aug 2009 5:21 a.m. PST

These rules do seem to be the perfect Convention rule set . . . easy to learn with no real record-keeping . . . great with the Whitewash City buildings.

It is now available as a .pdf download for $6 USD US. There are probably several download sites that carry it. Here is one:


It is really designed more for one-off games (there are a number of scenarios included) rather than a continuing campaign. For the latter you'd probably be better off with GUTSHOT or another system . . . but for a quick convention game, FIBleeped textL OF LEAD would be hard to beat.

-- Jeff

John Leahy03 Aug 2009 11:03 a.m. PST

Sounds interesting. The price is surely right. Not sure about the overwatch thing. I also prefer a little more uncertainty in my activation. That's why I left Desperado. If there are 7 cards left in the deck and you know 4 of those cards are for your characters with no overwatch can lead to some pretty gamey events.



Jeff of SaxeBearstein Inactive Member04 Aug 2009 4:24 a.m. PST


There isn't a "deck" per se . . . at the start of the turn each player is dealt one card for each living character they have.

If you have four characters, you get four cards. Kings move first, then Queens, etc. down to twos. Aces are "wild" and can interrupt at any time. In case there are two or more of the same card, there is an order of suits to follow.

When you play a card (and you can't play out-of-turn) you get to "act" with one of your characters . . . but no character can act twice in the same turn.

You get two "actions" -- such as shoot/shoot, move/shoot, shoot/move, stand up/move, and so forth. A few specific cards give special bonuses (+1 to shots that turn, automatic reload, heal a wound, etc.).

The system is very clean . . . and well worth the price of the .pdf download.

-- Jeff

Personal logo mmitchell Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member06 Aug 2009 10:28 p.m. PST

You know, I never did get around to playing this one. I may have to give it a try someday.

Jeff of SaxeBearstein Inactive Member07 Aug 2009 6:03 a.m. PST


They aren't as rich or good as GUTSHOT for a Campaign . . . but for a one-off convention game they should work very very well. The rules are simple and there is essentially no real bookkeeping (just some chits to indicate current status).

-- Jeff

doug redshirt28 Mar 2010 2:51 p.m. PST

I played this at a convention this past weekend and it was the most fun I had at the convention. Easy to learn and quick to play. There were 8 players playing, age from about 8 to 58 and all were having fun.

One of my buddies won the game and won a set of the rules as a prize. He likes the period plus he is a big 1920s-30s fan. I see many a Western or mob shoot out coming up.

Luckyjoe29 Mar 2010 7:15 a.m. PST

Thanks, for revitalizing this thread, Redshirt. I just downloaded the rules and plan on trying them this weekend with my kids.

Jeff of SaxeBearstein Inactive Member29 Mar 2010 11:44 a.m. PST

Might I suggest that you take a look at the "Whitewash City" paper buildings?

I used those to build a town and the "Fistful of Lead" rules for our local gaming convention . . . and it won for "Best Presentation" of all the games at the con.

The rules are very easy to use and as Doug Redshirt mentioned above, they are lots of fun.

-- Jeff

Luckyjoe30 Mar 2010 12:27 p.m. PST

Jeff, thanks for the suggestion. I'm already a big fan of Whitewash City buildings. And looking at the pics of Grizzlyville over on the FFOL forum, I can see why you won "Best Presentation".

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