Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can you go home again?

When I first got into wargaming some 6 or 7 years ago, one of the first sets of rules that I really enjoyed was Six Gun Sound from Two Hour Wargames. This is the old version we're talking about - I think it cost $5 for the PDF. There was something about having multiple stats and being able to take multiple hits that gave it a fun, cinematic feel - it was the Old West of legends and Hollywood, where the hero could often take more than one bullet before going to the grave. It also felt vaguely RPG-ish (between multiple stats and what amount to hit points) and having spent a good number of years in my youth playing and collecting RPGs, it was a bit like home.

So, when MG-42 came out, and I was just getting into WWII games, I happily gave that a try, only to be totally disappointed. The new THW system didn't feel at all like home. Gone were the multiple stats and in their place, a single stat called REP. There was a lot of dice rolling and no record keeping, but a lot of little markers on the table to indicate the status of each figure. Combat was, as promised, quick and deadly - while more realistic, I found it decidedly less fun (too much simulation and not enough game perhaps?).

To top it off, I didn't feel like I was playing so much as just handling book keeping. Whereas, when I was actually handling book keeping in Six Gun Sound, I never felt it. The logical consequence was that I eventually tried to play WWII skirmish with Six Gun Sound, but I had soured to the whole idea and I couldn't really get into it. I was not yet comfortable enough writing my own rules/mods (I had some naive esteem reserved for "completed" sets of rules) and the project was abandoned.

In the subsequent years, I've tried a fair number of small scale skirmish rule sets for WWII and in that time I've found only one or two that I liked enough to use more than once. I've even checked back in with THW now and again - Chain Reaction 2.0 became available for free at one point so I tried it out, wanting to like it - especially for the simple zombie rules it included. Chain Reaction 3.0 is more streamlined but it feels much the same when I read it.

When recently I heard Girls & Guns had been made available on the THW Yahoo! group to mark the 10th anniversary of THW and the release of CR3: The Final Version, I decided to give it a look in hopes hat it would be the generic equivalent of first edition Six Gun Sound.

Sadly, it appears to me that it came some time after.

SGS, in the version I have, presents an early version of what would become the method for determining hits and results, as Advanced (but optional) rules. These are already codified in Girls & Guns as the method. In its favor, it still uses the card draw to activate a side( as opposed to the dice rolls that are used in 2.0-era and later games) which I have an aesthetic preference for.

In spite of the fact that 2012 is decidedly (though not intentionally) the year of the big battle for me, I opted to give them a quick go last night, for old times sake and because, as they say, hope springs eternal

I just finished painting and basing some Khurasan mantis-men, thus it was obvious (to me, in that way that such things are not at all obvious to any one) that four unarmed mantis-men (all REP 4) should charge three explorers(two REP 4 and one REP 3). It took all of 5 or so minutes to play out - and ended with all 4 mantis dead a short distance in front of the explorers. That sounds a lot more nail-biting than it was.

A second test had one distinctly Germanic looking officer type leading 3 soldiers (a REP 4 and 3 REP 3s) to capture a rare archaeological find at the table's center in competition with 3 explorers (again, two REP 4s and one REP 3). Again, maybe 5 to 7 minutes to play out - most of the figures had to break out of cover to reach the center of the table and the soldiers got the better of that exchange with only 1 loss, while there were 2 Bad Wounds that resulted in 2 figs down for the explorers. The third explorer (REP 4) engaged the officer in a pistol duel and while he managed to shoot first, he ran away when fired upon by the officer.

Neither test was particularly rewarding or exciting (probably my fault in their quick, but poor, set up) and both were quick and deadly. Which, as it turns out, is still not my cup of tea. It took me longer to set out the cork tiles and felt "forests".

But it has me wondering if maybe I shouldn't return to the idea of making Six Gun Sound into WWII small (1-10 figs per side) skirmish rules. After all, I'm not trying to simulate combat as much as play a game. And, it seems to me, most WWII movie exchanges of fire feel like Old West shoot outs in some sense. Then again, maybe I should just break out the Old West figures and play it properly and find/write some other rules for WWII.

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