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Cowboys, Rifles, and Simplistic Rules

It’s time for me to catch up on my gaming reports. There have been many games played these past weeks. I just haven’t gotten the AAR typed up on the blog. There have been several LHSM game nights since my last post and there is something of interest to report for each session.

Earlier this month, Dennis brought some beautifully painted minis with accompanying rules from two different historical genres for the group to enjoy.  One was the freebie download game called ‘Chosen Men’, a Napoleonic skirmish game loosely inspired by the ‘Sharpe’s Rifles’ movies and the other was ‘Desperado’, a quick-play Old West game.

When I arrived, the group was setting up a game of Desperado.  I was told to grab two minis out of Dennis’ storage and whatever weapon was depicted in the figure’s hand would be the weapon used by the character in the game. I picked a lanky cowboy with a shotgun (I called him ‘Slim’) and a stout hombre with a sombrero and a pistola (called him ‘Flaco’). The shotgun came with two rounds loaded and five reloads in the pocket.  The pistola came with 6 rounds and two sets of reloads in the belt. That seemed like a good choice of characters at the time but unfortunately, I knew little of the mechanics of the game.
Flaco con Pistola

Desperado is a game designed to be fast playing and action packed. The rules are light and the weapons tables for the entire game fit on a half sheet of 8.5x11” paper. Typically, games such as this are greatly dependent on the results of the die rolls. Therefore, a shotgun blast at 10 feet had the same odds of causing a minor injury as a pistol shot from 100 yards could cause a fatal head wound. Not exactly a realistic simulation but the game is not designed to be a realistic simulation.

Slim on the ground, hoping for the slightest cover
The scenario started with a group of cowboys in the center of the map protecting a corral of horses. Biff, Johnny and I played the cowboy team. The opposing team (Dennis, Brian and Abe) had equal numbers of horse thieves surrounding the corral and hiding amongst the terrain. The thieves started the scenario undetected by the cowboys so they could perform any action that did not give away their position (ex. shooting or moving out of cover).  The hidden deployment was broken as soon as the game began, because Brian decided to start firing on the cowboys at range with rifles. My boys tried to hide under whatever cover that was nearby and fired back. Little did it matter because on the opposite side of the map, Abe got hot with the dice and pretty much killed a cowboy with every shot. Slim and Flaco survived a few turns solely because they were on the opposite side of the map from “Dead-eye” Abe’s characters. Slim was all but useless after the two shotgun rounds were fired and Flaco never got a clear shot on the thieves. It didn’t matter much since the rest of the cowboys were quickly gunned down by “Dead-Eye”. After three short turns; the thieves had not taken a single casualty. Hoping to take some thieves with them, my boys just kept firing until they were dead.

There was plenty of time left in the evening. But, when asked if I wanted to try another round of ‘Desperado’, I said no. I thought the game was just too random to be enjoyable. So, Dennis brought out the ’Chosen Men’ freebie game. CM is another simple, quick, rules set.

The scenario was as follows. The British were escorting a line of pack mules carrying gold or something of great value. The British goal was to get the mules to the opposite side of the map. The French goal was to intercept the cargo. However, this scenario seemed a bit imbalanced. The British and the French were given an equal number of stands but the British troops had rifles (Sharpe’s rifle platoon presumably) compared to the French muskets.  In addition, the Brits had a small cannon which could be limbered fairly easily and setup when needed. The terrain was spread out evenly across the map so it wasn’t good ground for a French ambush.
Sharpe and the Chosen Men

Biff and I took the French troops and considered the tactical situation. There was really no advantage the French could exploit. Hiding among the terrain and firing at distance versus the rifles did not seem to be a good option. Volley fire wouldn’t help much as the British could do the same with better weapons. The presence of the cannon made forming up in lines a bad proposition as well. So, I decided to close my half of the French troops with half of the rifles as quickly as possible. Then charge into hand-to-hand combat and hope for the best. 

On the first turn, my Frenchies jumped out in front of the rifles and delivered one decent organized volley fire.  Then, I charged in to fight hand-to-hand.  The required die rolls for HTH were equal for rifles/muskets, so I thought those would be the best odds the French would get.  But “Dead-Eye” was rolling for the British.  He had been rolling hot all night and the hot streak just continued.  My platoon had been beaten completely and Biff’s group was defeated easily after that. 

It was a very unsatisfying night of gaming for me. I lost both games to the die rolls. Personally, I don’t get an enjoyable game experience with the simple and quick rules sets. My tastes lean toward the more complex simulation-type games like the old Avalon Hill box games.  So, I ask the web community out there.  What is your preference?  Do you like the simple games or do you crave more options and complexity?


  1. I don't mind losing out to die roll so long as some weeks I win due to them :)

    I prefer simpler games; my days of complex simulations and detailed miniatures rules are long past. So long as you get to make decisions that actually affect the game, I'm happy.

  2. "Making decisions that actually affect the game." This seems to be the deciding factor in the quality of the game. These two games would have been more enjoyable for me if I had felt there were some options. Making a decision that wins/loses the game is more exciting to me than making the die roll that wins/loses the game.


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