What a Cowboy! has arrived – well, the pdf has, I’m still waiting for the paper copy and the cards. But this was enough to stage a simple first game with my mate Stephan. As he lives in Sweden, we did it remotely, using my table and figures.
Now I was pretty hyped about What a Cowboy!, which is somewhat unexpected, as I wouldn’t consider the Old West to be one of my main interests, gaming or otherwise. I know almost nothing about the historical American West, but I always had a soft spot for the cinematic West – in fact, I had a bit of a Western phase when I was around 30 and watched quite a number, classical as well as modern.
Also, a couple of years ago, I did a small Mexican Revolution project, so I have Mexican buildings and figures – enough for a small game set South of the border… Using this set-up, Stephan and I played a small introductory game, with two figures each, one Greenhorn and one Shootist, each only armed with a Colt revolver.
The game was set in the little town of San Serif. Sheriff John Frutiger and his Native American friend Tahoma were tasked with defending their turf from two bandits, Andale and Bembo.
I took the bandits and Stephan played the lawmen. Suffice it to say that I fought the law and won! Tahoma was killed pretty early by a very lucky shot, and while the Sheriff fought on bravely, in the end he decided to skedaddle in the face of superior odds.
We both enjoyed the game very much. I have to say that it exceeded my expactations. I really liked What a Tanker!, the game it is based on, but I’m not interested in tanks at all, so I was happy to see the core mechanic implemented in another setting. This core mechanic is centered around a set of action dice, six D6 at the start for each character, which you roll and which give you a selection of possible actions (a 1 to move, a 2 to spot etc.). This is a great mechanic: it offers uncertainty, but potentially also a lot of choice and decision points. It also makes the game very fluid and dynamic. If you have enough appropriate dice, you can move quite a lot. Not only does it bring you quickly into action, it also allows you to outmanoeuvre your opponent, which, in the town setting we had, led to some really cinematic moments – running up in the back lane behind Main Street and shooting at the Sheriff from behind was quite fun.
One thing I was surprised about how well it worked was ammunition. In the game, the ammunition for each gun is tracked. Now this sounds like a lot of bookkeeping and potentially unnecessary detail, but it really isn’t – as there isn’t much bookkeeping involved in the game, it’s not complicated. What is more important is that it feels right for the genre and it again produces cinematic moments, when suddenly the characters have emptied their six-shooters and scramble to reload.
I guess this is the thing about What a Cowboy!: it conveys the feel of a Western movie very well. I’m looking forward to playing more games, perhaps even a campaign – let’s see if I can rope my mates in…