Muskets and Tomahawks

This is where you can discuss all the small wars of the 18th century, dazzle us with your painted figures and brilliant generalship........

Muskets and Tomahawks

Postby FredericktheGreat » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:00 pm

Part of the stock going to be carried by the new Siege Works Studios website is Muskets and Tomahawks. Its a fun little game and the miniatures out there in 28mm are very nice. You can also play in other scales. 15mm, especially if you have a few left over packs after building your Koenig Krieg army.

Muskets and tomahawks are a skirmish set of rules set in North America during the latter part of the 18th Century and were written by Alex Buchel who wrote Saga. Here is a review by Mike hobbs from his glog. Its pertty cool check it out.

"Over the last year or so, I’ve been involved in the development of a Dark Age skirmish game called Saga. From simple beginnings of just playtesting the rules I got futher involved in proofreading until finally, I started seeing some of my ideas being integrated into the finished rules. This was all down to the good working relationship I cultivated with the rules author, Alex Buchel.

Alex is one of those rare individuals in the wargame industry. He is able to write simple rules systems which have a huge tactical depth, yet still give an enjoyable game. However, once he has written a set of rules he is then able to turn things on their head and add new features that twist the rules around and take everyone by surprise. One of the joys I get with playtesting for Alex is just seeing what he comes up with for a new set of releases. I relish the journeys he takes me on.

A few months ago, I received an email from Alex asking if I wanted to help out proofreading another set of rules he had written called ‘Muskets and Tomahawks’. These cover the conflicts in North America during the latter 18th Century. After thinking about it for a nanosecond, I agreed. You see I thought I’d be safe, this was one period that I had absolutely no interest in so I knew I couldn’t possibly get sucked into a new period.

It didn’t quite turn out that way… After only having the rules for 30 minutes I was already hunting around the Perrys’ site looking at their AWI range and working out army lists. Meanwhile, the following sentence went round and round my head, “Damn you Buchel, you’ve done it again.” It was a lost cause.

Therefore, I guess at this point I should go through the rules and let you know what they are like. Well, right from the beginning I should state that these rules are not Saga with black powder. These are a completely separate entity with completely different mechanics and feel. They do allow one to play with similar sized armies (around 40 figures a side) but there any similarity ends. In fact, it’s probably worth mentioning that these rules were written before Saga and were first released in Alex’s native French a few years ago.

The rules focus on conflicts in North America during the last half of the 18th Century in particular the French Indian wars, the Indian Rebellions and the American War of Independence. They have a built in scenario generator which allows scenarios to be created with a narrative theme, but more on that later.

As I mentioned they are what I would call a midsized skirmish game where you need around 40 figures a side, although it would easy to extend that and play larger games. A force is made up of units of figures each of the same type under the command of an officer. Extensive army lists are included which allow a player to make up the force he or she requires with a simple points system used to control this. All troops in the game have various attributes which control things like how far a figure can move, how well they fight etc. Also each unit belongs to a specific troop type which is used as part of the activation phase of a turn.

So, let’s assume you’ve assembled your figures into units and worked out a scenario you want to play, the next big question is, how do you play the game?

Well, Muskets and Tomahawks uses cards to activate units, so before each game a specific deck of cards is assembled using the troop types in a players force as a guide. The deck is shuffled before each turn and the top card turned over. Each card will specify a side (British or Franco-American) a troop type, and give a number of activations that may be carried out. The relevant player will then activate any units he has that match that troop type and carry out the number of actions specified on the card. For example, if the card is for British Regular troops (two actions) then the British player will pick a regular unit and each figure in that unit is allowed to make two actions. It’s worth mentioning at this point that each figure in a unit can act independently from each other and can carry out different actions, so the first action could be having four figures firing whilst the rest of the units moves forward then for the second action the first four could reload whilst the rest shoot. Also, you don’t have to complete all the number actions indicated for a unit before moving onto the next, also one can come back to that unit later and ‘carry on’. So you can carry out one action with all figures in a unit, then move to another unit and do an action or 2 before returning to the first unit and doing the second action, once all units specified by the current card have completed all their actions melee is carried out. This involves any units that are now in base contact with another unit or units. Following that, a new card is turned over from the deck and the whole process is repeated, more on melee later.

Another important concept in M&T is the one of facing and line of sight. It’s recommended that figures are based on square bases as they only have LOS of 180 degrees to the front. This allows figures/units to sneak up on each other, in fact there is a whole section in the rules that cover hidden movement and spotting which really adds to the game mechanics.

Shooting is handled with a fairly simple mechanism and is done at the figure level, so different figures in a unit can shoot at different targets. In short, a figure will designate a target, check it’s in range and roll a dice to see if a hit was made (with a few modifiers added or subtracted). If a hit was made a second roll is occurs to see if it was a “kill”. If it was, a figure is removed and the target unit has to make a reaction roll at the end of the current action to see how they react to being shot at.

Melee is handled slightly differently, as I mentioned above; once a card is turned all units of that side and type get a number of actions to carry out and once all those actions are complete then all melee takes place. This means that you may have multiple melees to carry out at once. The procedure is again nice and simple; the active player (the one who has carried out the actions) will pick a melee and that one is worked out before moving onto the next. Melee involves totalling up the number of figures involved (in base contact with an enemy) and rolling a dice per figure. One is looking to roll equal to or higher than the unit’s melee value. Defenders then get a chance to defend by rolling dice for each hit taken and non saved hits result in a casualty. Melee is simultaneous so both sides get to roll attack dice and make the relevant saves. The unit that took the most casualties now has to make a reaction roll and if they stand then the players move the rest of the figures in the units into base contact ready for the next round of melee.

Reactions are dice rolls that units take during the game, maybe from receiving fire or losing a melee or from some other reason. The unit involved rolls a dice adds or subtracts some modifiers and look up the result on a chart. Results can be anything from routing to standing firm.

That pretty much completes the basic mechanisms of the game; the rules then go on to discuss the effects of terrain and weather in a game. There are also rules for using and destroying buildings, for using boats in scenarios and also how to play night games so it’s pretty in-depth. Following this are sections on the different types of weaponry that may be used in a game; which includes everything from tomahawks to artillery and a whole section on how to assemble a force.

One the things I like about the game is the way it builds a force around your officer. When you create a force you first pick an officer and this officer will have one or more talents or abilities that makes him fairly unique, these may be natural depending on the type of force the officer commands or he can dice for them from a list. Either way they give the officer a slight tweak and add that bit of colour to the game. Once you have your officer you then pick your force by using a points system.

Next, we have a scenario generator that carries on the theme of creating a narrative for the game. In short you first work out the size of game you want to play, roll for placement of buildings and other terrain and then decide on the weather. Each side works out a series of objectives for each side that is linked to the type of force you plan to use in the game. Finally, you extend the objectives of the game by adding side plots and other random events that can alter the victory conditions needed to win a game.

That is about it really, I’ve only gone into a fairly low level review of the rules as I don’t want to spoil all the surprises, but in short I think this is another winner. It’s a game that builds a scenario around a narrative and makes the player have to think about the bigger picture instead of just lining up and charging. The scale of the game really captures the feel of the period and the use of hidden movement adds a new dimension to the game I’m really looking forward to spending many, many hours playing a period that up until a few months ago I had no interest in at all!"
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