This is really a gunfight skirmish system rather than a role-playing game proper, but it is jam-packed full of good ideas to make a shoot-out exciting. Many of these ideas could be translated into any other game in which gun combat features, and there are rudimentary notes to create combat-centric Old West adventures around the skirmish system if you prefer.
It starts off by explaining how to create basic characters who, like any gunfighter, are defined by their speed and their accuracy, both rolled on a table using 2d6. Hit points are determined as 20 + 1d4. And that's all you need, although there are additional tables for names, professions and the like if you want him or her to be a little more than a shooting machine.
And then on to the essentials of a gunfight. What people can do is based on their Speed, with a random factor from a 1d10 roll - advanced rules allow for other factors such as fame and experience as well. That lets you know when you will be able to begin to act... and what you decide to do determines when exactly your action takes effect. So if you have to draw your weapon, you act 4 counts after someone who is firing a cocked weapon if his Speed and die roll were the same as yours. If he's really slow, and you rolled well, you might be able to draw and fire on him before he gets around to squeezing off a shot.
It makes for realistic sequencing, but people need to be familiar with the rules and the time taken for actions for the shoot-out to run with any speed.
Once you reach the point of firing, you need to declare what you are shooting at. This can be as basic as just determining who you want to shoot at, but you may want to call the shot and aim at a particular part of him as well. This is where it gets really clever. In the book, there is a silhouette of a gun fighter (the target) and a transparent overlay, the 'Shot Clock.' You place the centre of the Shot Clock over whichever part of your target you intend to hit, then roll your dice and add up any modifiers that apply. If you do well, you hit where you intended to... and if you do less well, the Shot Clock is used to determine where your bullet does land. It may be a bit embarassing to shoot your opponent in the foot when you intended to hit him in the head, but it still will slow him down enough for you to maybe finish off the job!
The rest of the book provides a wealth of detail about different weapons, the wounds that can be inflicted, advanced rules for moving targets and so on. There are also four 'scenarios' - each basically an excuse for a gun fight - and a bit of Old West history to set everything in context.
Overall, as a gun fight simulation it works well (especially once everyone has got used to the numbers and you don't have to keep looking things up), and the Shot Clock concept is brilliant - an elegant way to determine what happens when you don't hit someone precisely where you meant to, but got close enough to hit them somewhere.
Return to Aces & Eights: Showdown page.
Reviewed: 22 December 2006