A copy of Six Gun Showdown was provided by Redwell Games for this article. Art and components may not be final. The game is currently on Kickstarter.
Saddle up cowboys because this is going to a be a piece full of western cliche as is totally traditional when writing about wild west themed games! You’ll need a quick trigger finger and a calm disposition to triumph in Six Gun Showdown the latest bullet fired from the gun that is Redwell Games and currently mosing its way through Kickstarter.
Ok, that’s probably enough of that actually.
I’ve been a fan of Wild West games ever since I really started to get into Tabletop Gaming. The first RPG I ever ran was called Deadlands, a mix of steampunk, magic and grizzled cowboys doing what they do best: shooting unimaginable horrors from beyond space and time. I think that’s right. I played the spin off CCG Doomtown a lot as well and have played various western themed games over the year. I’ve been looking forward to giving Six Gun Showdown a fair shake to see if did what it said on the tin!
6 is the magic number
Appropriately enough for a game about facing down a miscreant with nought but a six shooter to hand you get 6 characters and 6 dice to commence your shootout with: The Sherrif, The Desperado, The Drifter, Madam Dooley, The Cowboy and The Kid. Choosing your character you get 12 cards and a die each deck being different and each dice coming with a different set of probabilities attached.
It’s time to load your gun and step out onto the dusty streets of (insert western town name of choice here). Taking your deck of cards you will load 6 of them into your gun, placing them facedown in front of you. One at a time you will turn these cards over, each one having an affect on the final pull of the trigger. Eventually someone is going to go for their gun and the game suddenly all comes together and your real time reactions come into play.
The person who chooses to go for their gun is obviously a cur and breaking the law, how dare they! If this attacker manages to put their finger on any of their target’s still face down cards then they get to take a shot straight away, called an Instant Shot. If they aren’t fast enough then the defender may get their own shot off, a Simultaneous Shot. Just because you shoot first doesn’t mean you’ll win (see Back to the Future).
Once you know who has shot who it’s time to roll them bones. In an Instant Shot you are rolling and adding up your accuracy, the top number on the cards. 6 or more is a hit! In a simultaneous shot you look at speed instead getting a bonus if you are the attacker to see who gets to shoot first, no dice rolling involved. If the quickest player manages to hit, resolving as if it was like an Instant Shot, the round is over or it might be that the slower player gets to have a shot.
The game is played over a best of 3 with points awarded if you hit your opponent. Interestingly there is a little subtlety to this in that if you shoot second and still hit then you get more points than if you shot first, after all you were just defending yourself. It’s subtle touches like this that really made me like Six Gun Showdown.
Pull the Trigger
There have been several games over the years over that have tried to replicate the idea of a western shootout. It’s such an iconic piece of cinema, so embedded in our culture that going after such a prize has often fallen a bit flat. I have to say that Six Gun Showdown is the closest I’ve seen. The turn by turn slow turning over of cards, each one feeling like the tension is racking up. The sudden reveal of a DRAW card sparking the frantic movement of hands as attacker and defender try and gain the upper hand. The shootout as you both see who has successfully drawn a bead.
There is a real subtlety to a lot of the game which surprised from the pitch for it. For instance there is a card that gives you a big bonus if you reveal it just before your opponent reveals their draw card. Does your opponent DRAW anyway, giving you a bonus but hopefully coming out on top, or do they wait giving you an opportunity to shoot first.
I’ve only played with 4 of the characters so far but the combination of dice and cards really makes each one feel unique. The Sheriff can go round stopping some cards being activated, but is he fast or accurate enough to get the shot off despite this? The Desperado has no automatic hit on her dice but a lot of high numbers, encouraging her to go for the instant shot if she can. I really enjoyed the emergent properties of the game: seeing my way round the abilities my opponent had used in the previous round, choosing a new set each round to try and spring a surprise or react to what my opponent had done.
Riding off into the Sunset
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Six Gun Showdown. It has a huge amount of replayability in a small box and really feels like a slow countdown to the shootout that is itself frantic and fast. You know I love small box games and I’ve really enjoyed my time with this one. If you are after something quick playing with some subtle strategy that will give you a lot of replayability from a small footprint then you should go and back this now!