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Tiny Tin Men :: Archives

Legends of the Old West

December 21, 2004 2:00 PM - Posted by Robartes - Category: Rulesets

Continuing my tradition of reviewing rulesets without playing them, allow me to present my thoughts on the new Warhammer Historical Old West ruleset, Legends of the Old West. Only this time, I haven’t even read all of the rules - I gave up halfway through. That should give you a clue about the bias in this review :)

To start with the things that I like, the book is very well presented, better than the other WH books. Each and every page in LotOW is in full colour, and the book is illustrated throughout with good photographs of miniatures illustrating the various rules and mechanics under discussion. The book also includes the now standard painting and modelling section, although in this particular book, that section seemed a bit anemic to me. So in all, good points on presentation.

Another good point is the fact that this book will undoubtebedly draw a few more gamers to the historical side of the hobby, although I’m not quite sure about that, as GW players usually seem to identify themselves with a system (I’m a Warhammer Fantasy player or I play 40K) as opposed to a period or style of play (i.e. fantasy or sf), and for them, LotOW will be just another system, with no potential crossbreeding into the world of historical wargaming.

On to the bad points then. As I’ve said, I’ve not even managed to read all the rules, so I cannot give a balanced review on this book. I’ll just mention why I could not finish reading it — this is one gamer’s opinion, not a review. There are two major reasons why I dislike LoTOW, one reasonable one and one silly one.

The silly reason is language. The book is written in English, but it is rife with expressions like howdy pardner, shootin’ phase and various other examples of stunted English. Now I’m sure that this has been done out of a misguided wish to inject a certain period feel into the language, but it grates on me terribly. Besides the fact that this form of ‘Old West English’ is probably a Hollywood creation (nothing wrong with that, the rules state that they want to recreate the Hollywood version of the Wild West), that slang was used in oral communication, not in written communication like a book. The fact that I am personally not a native English speaker might have something to do with this, but I have to stop reading this kind of language after a few pages of it.

The second reason I dislike the rules is their general feel. I do not mean the rules mechanisms themselves (as I cannot form a decent opinion them, not having read them all), but the atmosphere created through them. At least for me, these rules create an atmosphere where everything needs to be spelled out to the letter, and where every little thing needs to have a rule so that players can turn to the holy book and prove their right (or wrong, as the case may be). For a game like DBM, which is geared towards tournament play (or at least has warped to this purpose, having been adopted as the major tournament ancients ruleset), one expects this, but in a skirmish ruleset such as LotOW, I expect a much more laid back and relaxed attitude. Sure, the rules say that in case of a dispute, you should roll a die or draw cards to resolve the dispute, but they belie that sentiment throughout the rest of the book by painstakingly crafting rules for each and every situation imaginable (attacking a horse in HtH, anyone). In an understanding group of gamers, the kind of situations that LotOW seems to need to spell out fully, can be dealt with by consensus, and need not be written out and officialized. Again, it might be just me, but this is the atmosphere that these rules create for me.

I think that for any Old West games I’m organising, I’ll stick to our trusty Shootist for the time being. Nevertheless, in the spirit of open mindedness I am perfectly willing to be proven wrong (and will report so here if that is the case) should anyone invite me to a LotOW game. I’ll even bring a posse.

Comments on this entry

Well, I for one am glad someone else found the faux western speak to be annoying as hell. However, I will give the rules a try as they are based on the LOTR system, which is very good IMO. David

December 22, 2004 4:56 PM - Posted by David Black

I looked at the Lotow rules at Crisis, and I didn’t find them too appealing myself. Probably this has to do with indeed the fond memories of our Shootist games, but yes, the wierd English was a problem as well.

It also reminds me of the ‘Ork’ supplements GW produces for its games, These also have ‘Ork’ language all over, which is hard to read or understand for non-native English speakers.

December 27, 2004 1:21 PM - Posted by Phil

Hello! Just finished my 1st reading the LotOW book and went searching for LotOW info & minis, & found this blog. Am glad I found TTM & will enjoy poking around all the gaming stuff here! =:-p

The LotOW game system is similar to GW’s sci-fi skirmish game Necromunda (they even accidentally use the Necromunda term “Bottle Test” on p. 94 when referring to the “Head for the Hills” test). There’s a little LOTR-style stuff mixed in, too. Hero types can spend Fame and Fortune points to modify dice rolls or attempt to prevent wounds, which as I recall is similar to Fate in LOTR. (I only played LOTR a couple of times & didn’t care for it.) The 1” push-back thing is kind of stupid, IMO. Otherwise, the game system looks reasonably good & I’m looking forward to trying it out on the table.

As far as the Western slang, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. There isn’t much of it in the book other than the names of the game turn phases (Movin’; Shootin’; and Fightin’) and the names of two of the three Heroic Actions (Yee Haw; Time for a Whuppin’; and the innocuous Quick Draw). I found the book well-written and clear. It’s easy to read yet thorough. Like many gaming books, unfortunately, it has no index, though the table of contents is detailed.

Now I must go forth and obtain and paint new Western minis & build some Western terrain & buildings. =:-)

Frank in L.A.

December 31, 2004 11:32 PM - Posted by Frank in L.a.

Hi Frank,

glad to hear you enjoy TTM! Don’t let one person’s review discourage you from what is after all a nice bit of fun with toy soldiers - if you like the LotOW system, by all means play the game and enjoy yourself. For some inspiration, have a look at our old Old West galleries here and here.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2005 12:20 PM - Posted by Robartes

For anybody who’s interested, I also found a LotOW Yahoo user group:

There are some GW contributors here, including the author of the rulebook, Mark Latham. They also have some good links to Western gaming miniatures suppliers.

Frank in L.A.

January 3, 2005 9:59 PM - Posted by Frank in L.A.

Frank, you mentioned the LOTOldWest Yahoo Group. Despite my misgivings about the rules, I know a good resource when I see one, so I’ve been lurking on that list almost from the start :) Thanks for the heads up!

January 4, 2005 12:13 AM - Posted by Robartes

Don’t know where abouts in the world you are mate but you are welcome to come for a game with us in North London.

The rules are very very good - ok the book may be cheesey for some people but they play and give a wild west feel very well and you can get a lot of gaming and hence campaigning in.

I assure you they will be a lot better than you think!!

Rich J

January 8, 2005 12:38 AM - Posted by Rich J

Hi Rich,

we’re from the small country surrounding Brussels :) We occassionally get into the news when one of our ministers falls over at an international meeting or whenever someone mentions the words chocolate or lace ;)

As I’ve said in my post, I’m perfectly willing to be proven wrong wrg to my gut feeling on these rules - if you’re ever in Belgium (larger Brussels area) or I’m ever in North London, let’s have a game of LOTOldWest and we’ll see!

Thanks for the comment!

January 8, 2005 8:59 AM - Posted by Robartes

What the hell is all the fuss about! The rules are clearly written and easy to learn. The system is simple and brilliant in its elegance.If any of you guys aren’t shouting “yeehaa” and “go for your gun stranger” when you play this kind of game then you’re not welcome at my table!

July 22, 2005 11:59 PM - Posted by El Guapo

What the hell is all the fuss about! The rules are clearly written and easy to learn. The system is simple and brilliant in its elegance.If any of you guys aren’t shouting “yeehaa” and “go for your gun stranger” when you play this kind of game then you’re not welcome at my table!

I’m not arguing that the rules are not simple, just that for me they have an atmosphere and vibe where everything needs to be spelled out to the letter and every situation covered, something that is inherently impossible in miniature wargames. Now, I know that resolving disputes by dice is mentioned in the rules (which I applaud), but that still does not change the atmosphere for me.

However, I’m glad that you enjoy the game — and our Wild West games do feature the occasional yeehaw et al, I’m just of the opinion that this kind of vernacular belongs to oral and not written communication.

Also, if you’re ever in Belgium (judging by your email address you’re in the UK), I invite you to contact me for a game and prove me wrong :)

July 23, 2005 10:38 AM - Posted by Robartes

Hmm…how can you be so down on a ruleset without playing it?!?

LotOW certainly belies its GW parentage and is closely linked to both LotR and Necromunda, but without the flaws of both.

I’ve found LotOW to be an excellent ruleset and well worth anyone’s time and money to invest in.

Firstly, the rules are clearly laid out and conprehensive with some very simple and effective ground rules that mean if its not covered you can ‘wing it’.

Admittedly the language is a bit ‘clipped’ in a pseudo-Hollywood vein and i can see why that might grate on some less tolerant gamers, but to let it bar you from trying this excellent set is indeed your loss.

We’ve been playing LotOW on and off now since its publication and i can heartily recommend it as a simple, highly playable game that scales well and is jolly good fun.

The game comes into its own when you play a series of linked games, allowing your posse to grow, develop and become mired in vendettas with their bitter enemies (the low down varmints…you do rather find yourself adopting the appropriate speech when playing…)

Movement is clear, simple and effective with a ‘realistic’ reluctance to venture out into the open.

Shooting is clear, and concise with an elegant mechanism for terrain blocking shots.

Melee is perhaps the weakest of the rules, with an overly random element to the resolution, but it does make for some nice ‘cinematic moments’.

Morale, such as it is, is also elegant with the rather jolly ‘dive for cover’ rule and a simple, ‘head for the hills’ at 50% losses (or 33% if you’re playing Indians - they value their lives so much more of course).

The available posses (as a basic, Outlaws, Cowboys and Lawmen) are archetypal with clear definition.

Frankly i’d say this is perhams GWs best ruleset to date, can stand up to most other skirmish rulesets and may well be one of the best around.

If you fancy a bit of Wild West action i’d suggest dropping your baseless objections and giving this set a go. We were hard pressed not to love it!

December 5, 2006 2:52 PM - Posted by Steve