TITLE: Fistful of Lead (2001)
AUTHOR: Jaye Wiley
PUBLISHER: Jaye Wiley. Printed and distributed by Neo-Forge at www.neo-forge.com
PUBLICATION DATE: 2001
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: None known
PRICE (with date): $12.00 (in 2008)
REVIEWED BY: SeattleGamer Steve
PERIOD COVERED: Old West
Fistful of Lead is a staple-bound 8.5” x 5.5” booklet. It runs 26 pages long (15 pages of rules, 11 pages of scenarios), with a color cover and B&W interior. It includes a cardstock Quick Reference Sheet, a sheet of counters to mount on thicker cardboard and cut out, and a blast template for Gatling Gun and TNT use.
Fistful of Lead is a skirmish level rule set. It is designed as a quick set of rules for gunfights in the Old West. There are no record sheets, and minimal record keeping (handled by placing counters next to models).
A player can easily control up to 6 gunfighters without trouble, and a game can handle as many as 8 players without slowing down the action.
Game models should be individually based, and represent one gunfighter.
- Ground scale: unspecified
- Time scale: unspecified
- Figure/Base Ratio: 1 figure = 1 man/woman
- Recommended Figure Size: 25mm – though other figure sizes should work fine
- Table Size: unspecified – but a 4’ x 4’ area is plenty for most games
- Game Length: Varies widely based on the number of figures and the scenario being played. But a typical game between two players fielding 6 figures each should be easily playable in less than two hours.
None specified. Photos show miniatures on foot mounted on what are probably 25mm round and square bases. Hex shaped bases of a similar size should also work. Photos show miniatures on horseback mounted on what are probably 25mm x 50mm rectangle bases.
Shuffle a deck of regular playing cards.
- Deal one card face down to each player for every figure they control. Players may look at their own cards, but not the cards of other players.
- Dealer calls out a card type, starting with KINGS and proceeding down through the deck, ending with DEUCES.
- Any player holding a card of that type must play the card and activate any one of his figures who has yet to go that turn. An activated figure may perform two actions. If more than one player has the same type of card, ties are resolved in Spades, Clubs, Hearts and Diamonds order.
- Once the last card held by a player has been used, begin a new turn.
The rules are all simple and easy to grasp. A d10 is used for all die rolling, although optional rules introduce the use of a d8 and d12.
Once activated, a figure may perform two actions in any order, including the same action twice. Actions include Moving, Shooting, Aiming, Reloading, Getting On or Off a Horse, Picking Up or Dropping an item, and charging into Hand to Hand combat.
Movement rules are straight forward, and include entry and exit from buildings, moving up or down floors, and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. A small number of modifiers can apply to movement (crossing obstacles, or moving while wounded).
Figures have a 180 degree firing arc. Weapons are grouped by type (pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc.) and have short and long ranges. To hit your target requires a 5+ at short range, or 8+ at long range. There are a small number of modifiers that apply to each roll (taking into account partial or heavy cover, whether the target or the shooter was on horseback, if the shooter spent an action to aim, etc). If an unmodified 1 is rolled while shooting the figure’s weapons are Out of Ammo. A marker can be placed next to the figure to indicate this condition. A Reload action must be performed before that figure can shoot again.
Hand to hand combat is quick and usually deadly. Provisions are included to handle multiple figures ganging up on a single defender. Again, a small number of modifiers may apply.
Each time a figure is successfully shot or hit in hand to hand, the nature of the hit must be determined by consulting a table and rolling a d10. Results include Pinning, Wounding or Killing the figure. Pinned figures hit the dirt, and must take a test during their next turn to see if they regain their nerve and perform actions, remain cowering for another turn, or decide to leave the gunfight (and the game). A marker can be placed next to the figure to indicate their pinned condition. Wounded figures follow the same procedures for pinning. In addition, they are marked with a counter to show they have been wounded. Wounded figures incur negative modifiers to movement, shooting and hand to hand combat.
A small number of cards have special properties in addition to their normal use to activate a figure. These cards can heal a wound, allow a figure to automatically recover from a pin, gain a benefit when shooting, automatically reload if out of ammo, etc. ACES are wild cards and may be substituted for any other card.
There are a few optional rules which can be used, including using civilians or others as cover, awarding victory points, setting a morale level for your entire gang, and adding the use of d12s (for Gunslingers) and d8s (for Greenhorns). There are even rules for using Gatling Guns and dynamite.
There are no rules provided for forming up gangs. Under the basic rules, all gunfighters are exactly the same. Everyone moves at the same rate, and has the same chance to hit at the same ranges. To form a gang, the players need only decide how many figures they will each field, and gang creation is done. There are no points to spend to build a gang. There are no equipment tables used to outfit them either. Figures are assumed to be armed with what the have.
The introduction states that the game is meant to be scenario based, and that coming up with your own is part of the fun. There are, however, five scenarios included with the rules. These include a bank robbery, a typical gunfight, and one where a small band of gunfighters defend a village against a large band of bandits. These are all simple scenarios that fit on one page, and include a list of the forces required, victory conditions, and a map of the town. They are all designed for 2 or more players.
There is also a very detailed scenario that stretches over 6 pages in length, designed around 8 separate gangs, each with their own mission. It can serve as an example of how one can design more detailed scenarios.
I thought the rules were a pleasure to read. They are well written, using simple terms that should be familiar to all but the most novice of tabletop gamers, and flowed from one section to the next in proper sequence. Photographs and diagrams were used to illustrate things like firing arcs, how to measure for short and long ranges, and what might constitute partial versus full cover. Modifiers were listed at the end of each section where they would apply, and since most sections fit on one or two pages, they were easy to find. The Quick Reference Sheet includes all the tables and modifiers from the rules.
I believe that anyone should be able to read the rules once, grab a Fistful of Lead (miniatures that is), and armed only with the QRS be ready to play their first game.
Are the rules flawless? No, there are at least two problems that I discovered.
First, no map is included for the large (8 gang) scenario. This is unfortunate, and means you need to decide what the town will look like, and where all the gangs are located at the start. The scenario may have been designed for more (or fewer) buildings than you may use, and different initial placements can make or break this particular scenario due to the gang rivalries and victory conditions for each gang.
The second problem involves the counter sheet. An unfortunate choice of colors renders all of the “wounded” counters nearly impossible to read (some say “wounded”, some say “wounded x2”). In addition, there are no “Pinned” counters. The rules say to lay a figure face down when pinned, and face up when first wounded. But some figures, due to their action poses, may lie on their sides. Then what? Also, you might want to lay a figure down to indicate it is prone. How do you tell a prone figure and a pinned figure apart?
You could substitute something else for the counters, like glass beads; use red for wounds, black to indicate out of ammo, green to show the figure is prone, and yellow to show the figure is pinned. But if you like the idea of counters, Eric Hotz (of Whitewash City fame) has created an alternate set of counter specifically for Fistful of Lead, and you can download them here: http://www.erichotz.com/images/fistful_of_counters.zip
There is just no getting around it … Fistful of Lead is fun to play. When my rules arrived I gave them a quick read, and was inspired to immediately grab a bunch of minis, toss out a few buildings, and play my first game solo. I had a blast, and was surprised at how well everything fit together. The rules were tight, with no apparent gaps that left you wondering how to handle certain situations.
Because these are a small set of rules specifically designed with “no record keeping” in mind, they do lack some detail. Weapons and gunfighters are generic. You don’t build a gang so much as simply decide how many figures to field. And there are no campaign rules, so characters do not improve with experience. This simplicity means the rules are best for one-off gaming.
Perhaps the biggest complaint would be there are no rules for opportunity fire. Your opponent could activate a figure, walk him right up to you, and blast away at point-blank range. Some players may believe they should be able to interrupt their opponent’s move and fire defensively, saying it is unrealistic to assume their figure would just stand there and do nothing.
For those who might be tempted to add a house rule for opportunity fire, I urge you to resist that temptation. Think of the game in cinematic terms. That enemy gunfighter is advancing on yours, weapon drawn, and he’s taking careful aim. You ARE firing back, but your shots are going wild as that cold-blooded killer gets closer. Finally, he opens fire.
So I say, keep this game simple and have a blast, and reach for a different set of rules when you want the added detail that record keeping can provide.
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