Monday, 3 August 2015

Cowboys to the rescue!

It is nearing the end of the gaming season as our group breaks up for the summer holidays. Consequently, we've dropped roleplaying temporarily to play some board games. We had some last minute arrivals in town last week, however, former members of our group from seven or eight years ago, and before we knew it, we were looking at 10 people around the table for Friday night.

This presented something of a challenge, and there was soon a scramble for games that could accommodate 10 people at once. I was in favour of getting everyone involved in one game, rather than splitting into two groups, particularly given space constraints. I could have made use of my gaming hut, but that would have hived half our populace off to the other side of the estate, which would have been no good at all.

Luckily, an inventory of games that could cope with 10 threw up Once Upon A Time, Saboteur, Wings of War and Cowboys: Way of the Gun. I was quite pleased we had so many options. Although we didn't play Wings of War, I'm considering buying some more miniature planes should such a situation occur again.

Ironically, I had considered selling Cowboys some time ago. I originally bought it to play with my son, but to be honest, it is not as much fun with just two players. The mechanics are very sparse for a skirmish game, but this suits a game with a large number of participants. In our case, we used a scenario with two teams of five players plus some supporting townsfolk, that seemed to go very well.

With each player controlling one cowboy, and team captains controlling the allied townsfolk, there was still enough going on to keep everyone busy. The game is detailed enough to allow players to keep track of ammo, and there is some granular detail around establishing line of sight, cover, et cetera. With only one cowboy each, players were also keen to keep themselves in one piece. Each player was also dealt an action card, that conferred special abilities or circumstances that could aid his own side or hinder the enemy (e.g. Adrenalin Rush, Gun Jammed). This added an additional layer of complexity  and character, which I think the game needs.

Closing stages - three bandits down!
Each cowboy can take four hits before dying, but multiple hits slow them down, making them more vulnerable. It is also very easy to go from full health to dead if a cowboy is exposed to multiple sources of fire. I suppose my earlier poor opinion of the game was formed from a beginner scenario featuring two cowboys duelling on one board, which probably does not do the system justice.

My game ended when my escaping bandit was confronted by two lawmen in an alley as he was trying to elude them on horseback. Heavily penalised by his mounted status, he missed them both and was promptly shot dead.

The scenario had quickly degenerated into an every man for himself skeedaddle as deputies converged on our gang from all sides, and we sought egress from the township. There was very little attempt at teamwork, and we all got shot down apart from Dave, who probably faced the hangman's noose.

All in all, it was great fun and the game worked well in that kind of multi-player setting. I won't, after all, be selling this one on eBay...