Monday, September 8, 2008

Cowboys: The Way of the Gun brief comparison to AH Gunslinger

Cowboys: the Way of the Gun inaugurated Worthington Games' new euro-style production standards last year. It has a nice, sturdy box, thick cardboard counters and boards and a slick rulebook.

The game itself is a very euro-ized conflict game that's somewhat reminiscent of the old Avalon Hill Gunslinger game on the same topic.

Like Gunslinger the game features full color double sides mapboards depicting typical western town and countryside terrain. Both game used cards, although in different ways and both games are focused on the actions of individual characters in a historical Old American West setting flavored with some strong Hollywood elements. Both games even include some of the same historical incidents as scenarios.

Gunslinger, however, was a game published by a wargame company during the height of the most grognard phase of the hobby. The game documents every possible physical action in painstaking detail, tracking events in .4 second increments. The game characters have extensive special abilities and differentiation and, in many ways, Gunslinger is a pseudo-RPG. Because of its detail Gunslinger is a really absorbing game that has many devoted fans to this day, although it's been out of print for decades. But it takes a long time to play. A street gunfight that will be over in half a minute in game time will take a whole evening to play.

Cowboys, in its basic game, strips away all that detail and operates at a very crude level with minimal details. Whereas in Gunslinger a player character could be prone behind a water trough and literally just stick his head out to see, in Cowboys the characters are basically just standing there. In Gunslinger dozens of different firearms are depicted in loving detail with different ammunition types, different impact effects, different reliability and many other distinctions. In Cowboys there are just three kinds of firearms: pistols, rifles and shotguns.

On the other hand, a game of Cowboys will pass by in less than an hour, capturing the quickness of a skirmish better.

While cards were central to Gunslinger, providing both movement control and random events, Cowboys uses dice to resolve firring and the cards basically provide some special abilities.

Gunslinger is strictly focused on the individual gunfighter, and is really best played with each player controlling a single character or maybe two. Cowboys is actually more of a tactical step higher, being primarily concerned with the actions of a whole party. In military terms the Gunslinger player represents the soldier while the Cowboys player represents the fire team or squad leader.

For what it does, Cowboys is successful, providing a very quick-playing man-to-man western gunfight game, but many players will be tempted to add more detail. There are some optional rules in the book and a set of advanced rules that add more detail and options to the game.

I don't think any Gunslinger fans will think that Cowboys replaces the older game, but it provides a good supplement and one that's probably easier to bring to the table in this day and age.

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