Friday, May 21, 2010

Game Review for Gunslingers and Gamblers

Yet another review that I posted there, and I have to say, i love this game. Especially for any sort of game in the western genre.


When you purchase this game, you receive a normal copy of the book with the background on each page which is very evocative of the paper that is used for Wanted posters that you see in Westerns and can even purchase. It works for the game and helps to keep you in the mindset that this is a western game. It also doesn't increase load times from the second copy of the book that you get, which has no background. While I like the mindset that the colored background gives, I much prefer the print version. Not only is it easier to print it, but the black text on a white background is much more crisp and easier to read than black text on a colored background.

The text is all one font, except for the page numbering, and consists of the use of italics for the use of examples, regular text for the rules, bullet points for lists, bolding for section titles, and simple box-lines for tables.


This game makes the assumption that its readers both know what an RPG is and what it takes to play one, as well as what a "Western" is. If you have ever watched a Western, be it movie or television, you have all you need to know to play this game. However, it does set the game specifically in the year 1876, specifically in the Wild West territories of the Great Plains, Rockies, Great Basin, and Southwestern Desert regions.

From pages 36-52, Chapter 6, is where the setting is that, but I mean "setting" here in the loosest of terms due to there being aspects and tidbits of the setting throughout the entire book. This is where the major events of the year 1876 and while there is not much that occurred, it does an excellent job of describing the events in a simple enough manner that you would not have need of a history book and still able to know the setting.

The book gets into the subject of rainfall and temperatures in each of the regions that comprise of the Wild West, but again, in a very general manner. What is not so general are the descriptions of small towns, large towns, cities, and ghost towns. Descriptions of what living in the west consisted of for homesteaders, military men, missionaries, miners, buffalo hunters, cattle ranchers, as well as the wars between Indians and fighting over land or other natural resources. It even gets into the law of the land and different ways to travel across the country. This is also the Chapter where you will find tips of running a game in this setting as well as random roll tables for encounters and complete adventures.

Chapter 8 is where basic NPCs and animals are listed. Army Soldiers, Miners, Blacksmiths, Homesteaders, Con-Artists, and more are all listed with a short description and a few of the suggested traits that fit these types of people. The list of animals is not all that long, but it does give the most common ones that would be found within the confines of the game, as well as those that the characters would most often come in contact with for either domestic uses like riding or those found in the wild for their pelts and meat.

Chapter 9 is all about Harris Country and the towns within it, giving an excellent template for any other town that you might need, as well as giving some pre-set adventure ideas for quick gaming.

These three chapters contain everything that you would need to become immersed into the setting, but in general enough terms that the GM can easily control things to his/her specifications. This lets a group with only a few Western movies under their belt the ability to pick up this game, make characters, and run a session all on the same day.


This system is a rather unique take on the cards aspect, which really hits the "western" feeling home for me. The game uses Poker Dice, which consist of 5 d6's that have the die numbers replaced with different card types. Of course, you do not need to buy specific dice for the game if you just remember the following (and which is listed in the very beginning of the book): 1 = 9, 2 = 10, 3 = Jack, 4 = Queen, 5 = King, 6 = Ace, or 9, T, J, Q, K, A. I've not been able to find poker dice, so take it from me that you can easily use d6's and it only takes a few rolls for you and your players to remember what each number means.

When you roll, you use 5 d6's and depending on what you rolled, you can come up with 9 different poker hands, in order of best to worst: Poker (5 of a Kind), 4 of a Kind, High Straight, Full House, Low Straight, Three of a Kind, 2 Pair, Pair, High Card. No not fear if you do not know poker, the book explains what these hands consist of. There are all the different difficulties listed as well as rules for opposing rolls and how to advance.

Character Creation, Chapter 3, is based upon random rolling, which is something that too many games have passed up. Of course you could just pick everything, but I feel that in this instance, random character creation helps to cement the setting down since the Wild West is a difficult place and you never know what type of hand that you are going to be dealt. You roll to determine if your character is a Generalist or Specialist, then to determine not only the scores for the character's Traits but also which trait to place that score. Then you roll for Quirks, Gender, Race, Nationality, Name, Age, any distinctive features, and lastly, Religion. You can decide to play a game with all one race or a mixed bag, rolling from either White, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, or Black. You can all pick to be from the same area or tribe, or roll for your Nationality, and so on. While there are no alignments as most traditional games have, what religion you roll or pick is the closest thing to an alignment that your character will have.


The system that is used in Gunslingers and Gamblers works extremely well, even for non-traditional western games. For example, my gaming group used this system for a western game where everyone was an anthropomorphic animal. Basically a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Western game. it would also work for any type of setting where a western "feel" was wanted, like a futuristic Western Space Opera like Firefly.

This game is perfect for the genre in that nothing is over the top and everything is down to earth. Every rule is based on wanting to keep things simple as well as using common sense, making it only that much easier to make up a ruling on the fly when something odd and unique occurs.
If you are like me and you prefer your Westerns to be untainted by creatures and the supernatural, Gunslingers and Gamblers captures the essence of the Wild West and combines it with a dice mechanic and character creation that makes this game a perfect fit.

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