How to Play Gunfighter’s Ball

[Video Transcript]
Let’s talk about Gunfighter’s Ball.

Gunfighter’s Ball is a Wild West Shootout game for tabletop miniatures. It falls under the hobby of miniature wargaming, that’s different than roleplaying games or ordinary boardgames. The big attraction for these kinds of games are the figures and buildings themselves, assembling and painting the miniatures is as much a part of the hobby as is playing the game itself.

Gunfighter’s Ball is the culmination of a couple of decades of experience running Wild West games for lots of different people and the input of numerous gamemasters and players. We’ve weeded out those elements that are superfluous, a waste of time, or tedious, and distilled a game system that did what we wanted it to do.

Here are the essential concepts to understand in order to start rolling dice. The rest can be learned by playing a couple of quick practice turns.

The game is played on a board that includes model buildings and scatter terrain. Gunfighter’s Ball lasercut MDF building kits are available, and other companies make compatible terrain pieces. Each player takes on the role of one or two Wild West characters represented by a figure from their collection of painted miniatures. By the way, playing the game does not require everything be painted, if you’re satisfied playing a game with unpainted miniatures and buildings, or even want to spray paint them in plastic cowboy and indian colors, be my guest.

Here’s what each character starts the game with:
First, you have the character cards, mostly used to keep track of ammunition, there’s space for some character description and a notes space to keep track of found objects and so forth. Each character also has a pile of 9 poker chips called wound chips representing the character’s health. You also have action cards which are ordinary playing cards that the judge deals into a draw deck called the action deck. The better your fighter, the more cards you have in the deck. One of the action cards is kept by the player, this is called the hold card and will be used to keep track of lost turns due to quick-draws, we’ll talk more about that later.

When the judge draws your card, you may perform two actions, two different ones, or the same one twice. The actions include things like moving, firing, mounting a horse, dismounting, loading, searching, using an item, and so on. The intent is to have a way to accommodate pretty much anything the player wants to do. If the player wants to do something that’s outside of the regular rules, the judge can impose a skill test, to try to accommodate that.

A skill test is a roll made on percentile dice, the judge is free to set the level of difficulty based on his own judgement, if the player rolls at or below the skill test number, they’re able to perform the action successfully.

Movement. If you want to use a move action as one of your two actions, you roll a 10-sided die and move your character that many inches. You don’t have to use your whole roll, but you do have to say where you want to go before you roll. You might end up in the middle of the street and be an easy target.

If you want one or both of your actions to be shooting, it’s very simple, you take percentile dice and you try to roll equal to or less than the “to hit” number listed on the fire chart for your weapon. The “to hit” number can change depending on what gun you’ve got and what the situation is, those are called modifiers. You can also do fancy things like fanning, taking called shots, or using dynamite. If your shot hits its target, roll percentile dice again to see where you hit and how much damage you do. The wound chart tells you where you hit and gives you a description of the practical effects. For instance, if you roll a 42 it’s a deep back wound, the practical effect is falling prone, and when you get up again, you’ll only be moving half for the remainder of the game.

As you recall, you keep track of health with poker chips, nine chips for nine lives, so to speak. For each wound, you have to roll and see how many chips you cash in. You need a die called a D3. It’s a six-sided die numbered one one, two two, three three, for a result between 1 and 3. That’s the number of chips you have to cash in. When you get down to your last three poker chips, you’ll notice that they’re red, that means you’re mortally wounded. When you become mortally wounded, you take a lot of negatives on the combat charts, and you are at “death’s door”. When you get down to only 1 chip, not only do you stand the chance of one of your enemies knocking you off, you also might simply bleed out at the end of the round, depending on what you roll.

Quick Drawing is something unique to these rules. Have you ever played a turn-based game where someone can walk right up and assassinate you point-blank, just because it’s their turn and you can’t move? This is the remedy to that drawback of the “I Go – You Go” games. If someone tries to shoot you and they’re within 9-inches, you can give up your next card to attempt to quick-draw them and interrupt their shot. Once you’ve done that, you can’t quick-draw again until you’ve paid for it with a lost turn. To keep track of whether you’ve got a debt to be paid, flip over your hold card until you’ve skipped a turn, then flip it back over to remind you your character is once again able to take a turn.

There’s no guarantee that you will be able to win a quick-draw contest. When you challenge someone to a quick-draw, both characters roll one D6, the winner gets to take one shot, first. The loser, if he survives that shot, can take one shot back. Of course, once you use a quick-draw, if you haven’t paid for it yet with a lost turn, you’re at the mercy of your enemies, they can walk right up to you and assassinate you.

To fight hand-to-hand, each of you rolls a D10, the high roll is the winner, and the greater the difference in rolls, the greater the damage done. If you win by six or more, you can choose any of the wound results, or make them roll on the same damage chart used for gunfire.

Some other things covered in these rules include fanning, called shots, spooked, stampeding, and enraged animals. Running over opponents with horses and wagons, first-aid and doctors, complex brawls involving three or more characters, and/or gunfire, quick-drawing against animal attacks, pinning under fallen horses, bush-whacking over-watch, showdowns, settings fires, and using special abilities.

The rulebook has an extensive chapter on scenarios, and a section on creating your own scenarios that’s very in-depth. It also has an introduction to painting and modeling.

We’ve developed a Pistoleer Deck that makes it easy to use special abilities. The abilities are in the rulebook, but the cards make it very easy to use them. We’re working on a weapons deck called the Dirty Trick Deck, which probably won’t be part of the kickstarter. We’ll also have a special wound deck called the Black Deck, which is complete, but may or may not make it into the stretch goals.

If you have any questions, please visit knuckleduster dot com, the kickstarter, or our facebook page.
Thanks for your time.

Last Page Update: 2023-09-07