|Image used from the EM4 web site|
'Gutshot' might look complicated and appear to have so much detail that one could mistakenly think it is a role playing game, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Quite the opposite - it is dead easy to play.
The rules books comes with a table of contents and an index, something a lot of other rules don't have.
It is also laid out like a technical manual / military pamphlet, which to those familiar with this type of book, makes it easy to find things. Looks like my 20+ years in the army are finally good for something ;-)
The first section of the book is the introduction, and section two is the quick start guide. Experienced war gamers can pick up the basics in the ten pages of section two and pretty much get a game started, if only just the basics.
Section three covers some very basic information for the 'Game Marshal' or 'GM'. This is the person who sets the story and referees the game. It is important to know that a GM is not essential to play the game, but isn't a bad idea when teaching new players to the game how to play.
The remaining ten sections of the rules goes in to greater depth on the actual rules, and includes a lot of detail, including stats for horses and wagons, pre-generated Non-player characters (NPCs are a familiar concept to anyone who has ever played a role playing game), as well as rules for campaign play.
Each player controls one or more 'character' and has a character sheet to use for each one. It is at this point that I imagine your average war gamer starts to worry and think they have a role playing game on their hands, and not a war game.
All the character sheet does is act as an easy reference for the player. It has the name of the character on it, as well as what weapons, including ammo carried, any skills known (skills provide modifiers for the game, and should not be though at something from an RPG), and an area for recording damage and other important numbers.
The remainder of the character sheet is just useful information to remove the need to look up information in the rule book; things like movement rates, combat modifiers and weapon data.
Once you know now to play the game, most players would never need to stick their nose in to the rule book at all.
Game play is so simple you could be excused for wondering if you are leaving something out.
Initiative is a random draw kind of thing. Each character has a number of 'chits' that are drawn from a hat, and this chit allows them to perform an action or more. Once all the chits are drawn a new turn starts.
Any action, including combat, that needs dice to resolve is done by rolling two dice and comparing it to a target number on the activated character's sheet. Rolling low is not good, whilst rolling high is good.
That is all there is to playing the game. Draw chits, make a simple dice roll to determine the results of any actions, apply the results and draw a new chit. Done. Very fast and simple to play, and second nature once you have played a few games and know what you are doing.
Campaign play is part of the rules, and for anyone that has followed my blog(s) will know, I love campaign play.
The rules for campaign play are very simple too - with each game you play you earn victory points. Once you have saved up enough victory points you can either buy new skills, or improve your character's all important stat that determines the success or failure of an action.
About my only complaint about the rules is a lack of character types such as Native Americans, Banditos and Mountain Men for example, but that is easy to fix by making your own.
A serious complaint I have is the Hawgleg forum seems to be broken - I have signed up but can not access the site. The email address provided doesn't seem to work either. But the Hawgleg Guys mosey in to TMP all the time should you need to ask some questions.
A lot of review I have seen harp on about the game being a RPG type of thing, including Meeples and Miniatures, but having been a war gamer and a role player for a long time now, I can honestly say the Gutshot is not an RPG, but you could make it so if you wanted to.
Interested in the rules? Why not visit the Hawgleg site and download the rule sample they offer to wet your appetite: gutshot downloads You can find the aforementioned rule sample, as well as character sheets to download.
How much are they? The rule book, which is around 180 pages long is $25US plus postage.
You can buy it from Hawgleg direct, or a variety of other stores in the US (I purchased mine from Rattlehead games as they had the best postage on offer when I bought them back in 2008 [not 2009 as mentioned in my previous post]), or from EM4 Games for those in the UK for around twenty quid.
All in all Gutshot is a fun game. I like it even more than 'The Rules with no name' if simply because 'TRWNN' always left us questioning a few things.
On an end note, Hawgleg mention a lot on their web site/blog "Gutshot: Night of the Living Deadwood". I think this is an expansion for Wild West with Zombies, but I have no idea if or when it will be released. I hope it will be soon.
Hopefully this review was useful to someone, and if you are in to Wild West war gaming, I urge you to take a look at the game as they are a lot of fun and very easy to learn and play.