Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Fistful of Lead (FFoL) Review


I've got a Fistful for ya,
A Fistful of Opinions! 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this Terrible blog are made by an unqualified and self important person and are not to taken seriously.  While the writer is kinda clever and everyone always agrees is also good looking; he's a well meaning amateur at best and a crazy person with a computer at worse.

Fistful of Fun

Not least because you get to say "Fistful of (Blank)" over and over.
Fistful of Lead is by Wiley Games and has been around for awhile now, BUT! I only heard about it last year.  So just in case you haven't heard of it either, let me tell you that this is a FUN skirmish game.  I'm always on the look out for skirmish games that are simple enough to teach to people at a convention, have enough going on that they still require some thought, and good for around 4-6 players.  FFoL hits all those marks.  

Fistful of Lead started life as a cowboy / wild west game (hence the title. talk about a Fistful of cliches!) and then evolved into a generic skirmish game that can tweeked into this genre and that, and de-evolved into genre specific supplements.  More on that later. But the Core rules are the same across all the publications and once understood, can be used for fun in anything.

Fitful of Miniatures

A core force in FFoL is made up of 5 miniatures.  This of course can be moved up or down depending on your needs and desires. but I've found that the number of miniatures one payer can control tops out at around 10.  That because each miniature is an individual and activates by itself.  So in the core force you get one miniature who is the 'Leader" and is the most badass, one miniature is the second in command and less bad ass; sometimes called the specialist, sometimes called Number 1, and sometimes called Samatha.  And then the rest of the force is made up of 3 regulars / standard / mooks.  

A miniature then is an individual and its abilities during the game are made up from a combination of the equipment it's carrying plus it's traits / skills.  The rules call them Traits but could be thought of as skills and attributes.  This miniature is better at shooting so has the "deadeye' trait.  That miniature is especially strong so has the (wait for it) 'Strong' trait.  This other miniature is really good at needlepoint so has the 'girly' trait.  That other miniature has an encyclopedic memory of star wars trivia so has the 'super nerd' trait.  Some of those I made up.

The Leader gets the most traits, the second gets some, and the mooks get one each.  this is kinda cool because it allows for each character in the force to be unique.  for example; if building a little Viking raiding party you can have the Leader butt kicker; the second could be a crazy Berserker or maybe a skilled archer, the last three dudes with slightly different abilities.  

Fistful of Cards

The basic turn structure of the game uses a deck of cards.  Each player is dealt one card for each miniature in their force.  The cards are ranked King as highest with Ace as lowest (kinda, stay tuned).  After everyone has their hand of cards (and is either groaning or cheering), The cards ranks are called out starting with Kings, and going down through to the bottom.  (Kings, Queens, Jacks...).  When a card rank is called and you have one, you show it with a flourish and then activate a miniature of your choice to do 2 actions.  This is important; is NOT like Dead Mans Hand, where each miniature is assigned a card and activates when it comes up NO.  It's you use the card to activate the miniature you want to, which I really like because it means you can activate the one that needs to move NOW.  If more than one player has the same rank (say three players have Jacks) then the play is in suit order of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs.  

Also, some cards have bonuses when used to activate.  For example, the Jack of Spades gives a +1 to shooting.  You don't need to use the Jack of Spades to shoot but if you do then the miniature gets a +1.  The 2 card allows the miniature to roll an extra die and pick the best.  there are a fair number of bonuses in the deck.  Aces are wild so can be any card. If you have 2 Aces they can even be the same card if need be...

Fistful of Actions

When a miniature activates it can take two actions.  Actions are what you think they are: move, shoot, fight, do a task, aim, pick his nose, reload, ponder the meaning of life knowing that we are brief specs of dust in an infinite void of space.  The standard move is 5".    There are the usual modifiers for range, terrain, cover, all the stuff you expect but there's not really that many of them; one could say only a Fistful.

The game uses D10s, though really skilled characters can use a D12, and really bad ones a D8.  When a character is hit, there is a roll on the wound table and can result in a shock (temp damage that can be removed) a wound (permanent damage), and a small chance to be killed outright.  Characters can take 3 wounds though this number can be changed with traits.  I really like that every time a character is hit there is a small chance that it gets killed outright, as I find that realistic as these are mortal men and even Kings can take an arrow in the eye.  

Clint Eastwood from Fistful of Dollars.
Also known as my identical twin.

Fistful of Observations and Suggestions:
(so that would be two fists then yes?)

The game is usually played on a smallish table; 3x3 or 4x4.  But as I've hinted at this thing scales pretty well so larger or smaller could be used.  Games benefit from a good amount of terrain.  Games of 2 players with 5 miniatures each take about an hour ish to about an hour and half.  Adding more players or miniatures will increase that time obviously, but one should remember that each miniature activates alone, which means everyone is standing around while that player is resolving those actions.  However, the activations are short and tend to be quick.  I think the game tops out at about 6 players and/or 30ish miniatures total.  

There are no points, and the game is very scenario dependent.  Each Genre supplement has a good number of scenarios included (more on that later).  A good scenario and this game is an awesome combination: Like pizza and ice cream.  What? my kids tell me that's a good combination and kids never lie about things that are yummy.  Just everything else.  

There are a whole lot of Traits in the game, I think there is over 100, and each trait has a different effect.  While no trait is game breaking, some traits are better than others.  For example, I don't see the trait "leaper' where the character can jump further than others being much use.  No, I didn't make that trait up.   Now if you design your own warband you'll be familiar with the traits you select but if you're handed a warband and each miniature is super unique it means that one has to become very familiar with 9 traits very fast and that can lead to trait overload; too many things to remember.  
To avoid this it's easier to give all the regular dudes the same trait and just make the leader and the Second special unique snow flakes.
A force roster is essential, but I think it's way cooler to make Character pokemon-like cards that summarize things in one pace.

Example of character cards I made for a Dark Ages game.
Just a clever use of text boxes in Powerpoint.

Just helpful in a convention or club setting where you might have many players new to the game.  

As mentioned above; the game uses a card deck for activations and many cards have special rules attached to them.  This is hard to remember.  One solution is to write the bonus on the actual card as a reminder, but that's a poor mans option.  Plus I have really bad handwriting.  Instead, I opted for one of the custom card decks from the website.  There are lots to choose from to match the genre of your choice; the attributes of the cards don't change just the pictures on them.  I opted for the generic fits all kinda plain card deck.  I'm well off sure; but I don't have 'get 4 different card decks that have the same information but different pictures on them' kind of money.  

Specialist card deck that I got.
Image taken from Wiley Games website.

There are lots of game play vidoes on Youtube if one in interested.  The cards and the combat sysem combine to create lots of dramtic die rolls and roll offs.  The activation system gives a player the right amount of decisions; enough for the player to feel like they have options and can pursue a strategy but not so many to invoke analysis paralysis.  While each figure only gets two actions, it's not really an action economy game.  

I've played about 4 games of FFoL and enjoyed them immensely.  During these games I noticed there was a higher amount of laughter and swearing, and that I thought was a good sign. But it was G rated swearing, my kids were in the house.

Fistful of Books (buying guide)

The Core rule book is pictured at the start of the post, and then there is a supplement for almost any genre you can think of (Old West, medieval, black powder, post apoc, far future, Star Wars..).  Now, each supplement is actually a standalone game.  So you don't need the core rules just to play a certain genre.  In fact, most of each supplement is a reprint of the core mechanics.  You also don't need any of the supplements to play any genre if you have the core rules.  What each supplement offers are a few little twists to the rules to make it fit the genre better, some new traits, and a bunch of scenarios.  
I tend to think of the core rulebook as the supplement for 20th century combat.  

PDFs of the book are pretty reasonably priced.  I did my usual thing where I buy the PDF for the instant gratification and if I really like it I then buy a printed copy.  So now I have a PDF of several books and a printed copy of my favs so far: Might and Melee (medieval / dark ages) and Black Powder.

A nice touch, is that there is an Ultimate trait list on the website for super cheap that has every trait from every book in it.  So you don't feel like you're missing out on anything.

So if you feel like checking out the game, I would suggest just picking up the supplement for your preferred genre for skirmish as that will be all you need to get started.  

So far I've used FFoL for games set in the Dark Ages (Viking versus Saxons) and Black Powder (AWI).  While the core rules were the same; just the fact that one genre was mainly hand to hand and the other was shooting made the games play very differently.  In a good way. 

I'm hosting a FFoL game at Conquest in April, and planning another project for FFoL later in the year. After I finish all these wooden soldiers.  better get back to that now.

Fistful of Tears

Because it's time to say goodbye.  

Thanks for reading
Double thanks for writing a comment.
Till next time.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Wooden Wars More

If a Stew-paint could paint wood,
how much wood could a Stew-paint paint?
A Stew-paint would paint as much wood as a stew-paint could paint,
if a Stew-paint could paint wood.

More Wooden Wars

Progress on the wooden Napoleonic soldiers continues.  It's somewhat embarrassing that others are painting actual Napoleonic miniatures, whole units in fact, faster than I am getting these done.  And I'm basically just coloring.  It's like Napoleonic shaming.  

The French

Marching onward:  I now have enough French miniatures 'painted' up for my planned introductory game with my two oldest kids. least I think so anyway.  I don't have much experience with this sort of game so it's kinda learn as I go as to what makes it fun.  

36 French Infantry are done. A unit can be between 10 and 24 figures, so I thought 3 units of 12.  But looking at it now 12 seems a little small.

Wait, where'd they go?
if flats were real soldiers, they would march sideways into battle.
Like an army of crabs.

Each infantry unit can fire with one ball.

Joining the infantry is some artillery support.

French Artillery Crew.
Got a flame dude, a bucket dude, a sword dude, and Q tip man.

from the rear.  

Each Cannon gets 4 crew members

Bam, bam, bam.
A 3-cannon battery.

The cannon barrels are not attached, so if a thrown rubber ball knocks it off the gun counts as destroyed.
Each cannon can fire with one ball, so this battery will throw 3 when it fires.  

Leading the French is this mounted officer.  He doesn't shoot.  His job to ride around the battlefield attaching to units to rally knocked over soldiers and increase movement.  

"Oui, Oui, Oui, mon ami,"

The officer is not attached to his horse, so he can be knocked off it, just like a real soldier.  

His job is also to look super suave.  Or as you say in in French "Suave-veh"  (that is not real French)

Beginning French force for Wooden Wars

The British are Coming!

(Wrong war, I know, but Paul Revere doesn't hold a patent) Not to be completely outdone by their cross channel rivals, the British have come a long way as well.  

British Foot soldier in the bare wood.
I'm trying to think of a 'bare wood' joke and failing.
Something about the size of his timber.

Painted up

rear view


I actually have 30 of the British soldiers done but you don't need more pictures.  In hindsight these miniatures are actually being completed rather quickly.  So take that you Napoleonic shamers ya gosh dern dab nabbits!  


Peter F Drucker once said. "Unless commitment is made; there are only promises and hopes, but no plans."  Commitments have been made.  Soon I should be able to play a test game with my two oldest children this month.  And see if this whole exercise will be worth it.  
Working on stuff for use with your children is strange, because on days when they seriously misbehave, I'm like "why am I trying to spend MORE time with you?"  

Actually I am REALLY enjoying working on these wooden flats, it's easy, it's fun, and the result is very pleasing.  As a first foray into Naps it's going rather well.  I even got a book on Waterloo.  

THE BATTLE OF THE CUB SCOUTS is scheduled in March (which is just hosting a battle with kids in my son's Cub Scout den, but it gets capitalized because I kinda hyped it up (incidentally the Cub Scout den grew this month from 6 kids to 10, I might need more troops)). 

Lastly in April is The Intergalactic Conquest Convention.  I volunteered to run a game of Wooden Wars in the morning and some kid friendly board games in the afternoon (I have plenty), as part of the Young Players Program.  
So far I've been told by the convention management that I AM the young player program and they'll be sure to 'promote these games in future advertisements.'  
So, ah, I best deliver.  

Thanks for reading,
Double Thanks for writing a comment.
Till next time.