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"Old-school ACW skirmish, help with init?" Topic

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JenBurdoo12 Jul 2020 10:56 a.m. PST


I'm hoping at some point to run a version of the Battle of Picacho Pass, the only ACW battle in my home state of Arizona, for my gaming group. Since there were less than two dozen men involved, this would be a man-to-man skirmish game basically akin to an Old West gunfight. I've long wanted to try some of the simple, early skirmish games of Blake, Colwill et al and Featherstone, and I think they'd work, except for one thing:

My players (both kids and adults) don't like writing their orders or doing things simultaneously.

The adults, however, DO love TSATF and I have read that Blake and Colwill modified their Old West rules to turn cards for initiative. How would this work in a skirmish game? One card per entire move (move-act-fire)? One per action (move OR load OR fire OR dismount OR…)? A choice, as in RPGs (Two actions which can be shoot twice, move twice, move-and-shoot, shoot-and-move…)? The Inquisitor rules inspired by the Colwill ones use an initiative stat that allows for differing numbers of actions per figure.

Depending on turnout, players might control three to six figures, another issue. Assign specific cards to each figure, or to each player?

For the scenario itself, the battle occurred on fairly flat ground but in heavy brush, with the distinctive Picacho Peak towering over but not playing any part in the action. (I'll probably produce a silhouette cutout for one side of the board.) I have in mind:

Officer, Sergeant, and ten California troopers, armed with six-shooters, carbines and swords.
One Tucsonan civilian guide, possibly unarmed.

One Sergeant and nine Texas troopers, with six-shooters, Bowie knives and shotguns.

All on horses, who would have to be held by someone, one for every three or four.

The officer was an idiot and charged the Rebels rather than withdrawing as he was supposed to, so the Yanks get first move.

But the Rebels emptied three saddles in the first volley; they get first shot at the chargers.

After that it devolved into a messy sneaking-around-the-chaparral, duck-and-bob fight for an hour or so.


William Warner12 Jul 2020 2:35 p.m. PST

I think the civilian guide should be armed. That's pretty dangerous country to go out in unarmed, what with Rebels, Indians and dangerous fauna likely to pop up anywhere. It would be like going out with an empty canteen. if your civilian guide was a local Hispanic he might be armed with a lance and/or a bow, or may be an antique escopeta.

khanscom12 Jul 2020 3:33 p.m. PST

"Boot Hill" might work as an easier starting point than "The Old West Gun Fight Rules". It has a sequential move option (probably best as a card- driven system with one card per figure). "Rencounter" is another possibility-- a group that I played with used sequential activation combined with a morale/motivation die roll for a figure to act. Subordinate figures in a military unit were allowed to act immediately on an NCO or Officer's order (provided that the leader didn't fail his die roll).

Personal logo Florida Tory Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2020 4:44 p.m. PST

I think A Fistful of Lead would be perfect for this. I have used it for about two years with our local group when we want a skirmish group that will be smaller than a typical TSATF game. As one of the guys says, "It always gives a fun game." It also uses a card activation. The rules are simple enough to let you concentrate on the action.


nnascati Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2020 5:31 p.m. PST

I agree, I think Fistful of Lead would be perfect. I've always like the far west theater of the ACW.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2020 5:45 p.m. PST

So would you have mounted and dismounted figures?

JenBurdoo12 Jul 2020 6:34 p.m. PST

Yes, I think I'd have to have both, which is going to be tricky to find and build as I'm not much of a painter. My group may have figures to loan, or I may try Wofun which has some lovely plexiglass flats.

Thanks for the Fistful of Lead recommendation. I've looked at some reviews, and while it sounds like what I'm looking for, I am curious about which of the many different editions I should choose. The regular one sounds like it's intended for smallish gunfights of six men a side (or is it six a player?), while there is also a "Bigger Battles" version and a black powder era version that would more specifically cover ACW. Which is preferable for two dozen figures with a variable number of players?

Re the question about the civvie, his name was Jones, though he was also reported to be a mountain man named Weaver. This was 1862, but I could see him being loaned a pistol – or having to be tossed one in the heat of battle!

On the other hand, I have a lot of other scenarios and periods in mind, so the basic game may be of greater use. How is it for 54mm? Just double the distances?

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2020 7:02 p.m. PST

The Fistful of Lead Core rule set covers everything, Fistful of Lead Reloaded is more focused on the old West, but would be fine for what you want to do. By using the option to add "grunts" to your force, y9u can easily do the numbers you need. Bigger Battles is really designed for large action, thirty or more figures per side.
Yes, the basic rules are generally designed for six figures per player, but again, if you use the grunts option you can add more. The number of figures per 0layer really depends on how many cards you are comfortable handling. I've done games with as many as ten figures per side (two player game), with no problem.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2020 7:17 p.m. PST

JenBurdoo, shoot me an email, we can chat in more detail about game size.

JenBurdoo12 Jul 2020 8:12 p.m. PST

Core set sounds best for my purposes, but does the Horse and Musket one add much more for ACW settings?

The card activation, from the previews, looks just right.

redmist112212 Jul 2020 8:41 p.m. PST

Recommend "Five men from KursK" skirmish…more one-to-one scale. Easy to modify the weapons for ACW. We use them for western stuff.


Aredlancer12 Jul 2020 10:27 p.m. PST

Fistful of Lead will be perfect for it

BillyNM12 Jul 2020 11:26 p.m. PST

If players don't like writing orders, why not give them cards or tokens for every type of action they can make? Turning over everyone's cards at the same time can be fun when you realise someone's done something unexpected and you've been wrong-footed.
Cards can also hold a short description of how the action is adjudicated and even whether it is allowed under some circumstances, e.g. if wounded.

JenBurdoo13 Jul 2020 8:19 a.m. PST


For kids that might work! I'll think about it.

For adults, however, there would be more roleplaying involved; there won't be a card for "climb to the top of the saguaro cactus, then jump on my opponent," for example. That's a stupid action, but it is possible that someone might try it. And there are so many possible "conventional" actions that if might be difficult to make or read enough cards. The less confusion, the better.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP13 Jul 2020 12:20 p.m. PST

That sounds like a melee token then. You only need a few token choices, such as: move, shoot, reload, attack/melee, remain in place.

DungeonDelver17 Jul 2020 5:33 p.m. PST

I've played a lot of games with the rules published by Featherstone in Skirmish Wargames. Even when they were published the "write your orders" was a fail. It was a poor carryover from big battle games of the day.

My group modded to a tile drawn from dominos (hey it was 1976!) with even dominos for one side and odd for the other. Until some clever person counted the tiles and found they weren't evenly divided.

Eventually we moved to a card system where each player could play there move when their card was drawn. Later we adopted a random roll a la D&D at the time.

The Skirmish Wargame rules are neat and atmospheric so well worth a go on a small scale. Full disclosure: I now play Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes for skirmish as it is faster and more easily adapted.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP18 Jul 2020 11:01 a.m. PST

You did get my email, right?

JenBurdoo18 Jul 2020 2:29 p.m. PST

Yes, I did, and I thought I'd replied to it. Sorry!

I did pick up the Fistful of Lead Core Rules, and am still going over them. I'm undecided whether I'll use them as is, but I do like the card-turning initiative of them enough to use it with whatever I do end up trying.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP20 Jul 2020 4:16 p.m. PST

Happy to give whatever help I can, so feel free to email me with any questions.

Dentwist Supporting Member of TMP27 Jul 2020 5:41 a.m. PST

Look at Songs of Drums and Shakos. Quick simple and fun.

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