Thanksgiving Playtest Frenzy
The folks of Coyote Gulch didn't have much to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving weekend. Their bank was hit not once, not twice, but three times by bloody outlaws who robbed it and made off with the same payroll.
Of course, this was only a game. Three games to be precise, run throughout the nation in the busiest Gutshot weekend to date.
“I love it,” said Gutshot co-creator Mike Mitchell. “I actually took the weekend off to visit family with my wife, and when I got back Saturday evening I found out that three different groups had run playtests with friends and family during the past week. This is fantastic.”
The games were run by members of the Gutshot Posse – the game's unofficial development team. Posse members are friends and fellow gamers who are called upon for advice, comments, and to playtest the game prior to publication.
One playtest was run at a game convention in Missouri, and two others were run in private homes for friends and family. The players' experience ranged from expert gamers, to RPGers who had never before played a miniatures game, to people who had never played anything like this before.
“One of the three groups ran the adventure, ‘Shootout at Coyote Gulch,' which I had recently finalized and released to the playtesters,” Mitchell said. “I wrote Gulch as an introductory adventure and it's very basic: go into town and rob the bank. I mean, that's as primal and basic as a Western game can get!”
The second group ran “Bushwhacked in Beaver Creek,” which is also an introductory level adventure. Mitchell has run both games on numerous occasions at conventions and during his summer campaigns (see the Playtest Roundup for previous accounts of daring-do). The third group improvised an adventure based on something that happened in a previous game.
Gutshot Takes Charge at Command Con
Pat Crowley, owner of Underground Games & Hobbies in Fenton, Missouri, ran the convention playtest at Command Con VI in St. Louis, Missouri. Command Con is sponsored by the Big Muddy Historical Gamer Alliance. The convention was held Nov. 19-21.
Outlaws invade Pennsylvania
“I was very surprised to get a phone call from my old friends, Mike and Nicole Bond on the Saturday after Thanksgiving,” Mitchell said. “They called to tell me that they had just finished playing and that they had a blast!”
Both Mitchell and Murphy had known the Bonds since they all lived in El Paso, Texas (more years ago than any of them care to think about). Mike and Nicole currently live in Pennsylvania with their two daughters and are working on their own game, a fantasy RPG.
Mike ran “Bushwhacked in Beaver Creek” for Nicole and family friend Dan McHenry. All three are experienced RPG gamers who have used miniatures in other games, but this was their first experience with a straight miniatures game.
“I really enjoyed it,” Dan said. “I also really liked the initiative system. It was really different.”
GM Mike concurred.
“We had a good time,” Mike said. “It was a lot of fun and they managed to achieve the game objectives.”
The objective of this game was to use hand-to-hand combat to subdue the crooked land agent, Mr. Merriweather, and steal back the deed to granny's ranch, which he had swindled her out of.
However, since this was their first Western game, the GM and players had to improvise with figures and buildings.
“We were using WWII miniatures and a lot of French Farmhouses,” Mike said, observing that “it looked a lot more like they were invading Normandy than they were running around in the Old West.”
The group also provided very useful feedback, some of which instigated a major reshuffling of the Gutshot Core Rule Book. Mike commented that the book's chapter organization had him doing a lot of page flipping during the game, so Mitchell and the Posse poured through the book and finally decided to move the chapters around a bit to keep pertinent information closer together.
“We didn't add or delete anything,” Mitchell said. “We just reshuffled it a bit and imposed a stronger sense of order on the structure. So far the reaction to this change has been very positive.”
Houston “first timers” get Gutshot!
The third playtest was run in Houston by a former member of the notorious Redleg Gang. Jared Lamb played in the 2004 Gutshot Summer Campaign at Enigmas Games in Houston, and volunteered to run playtests at the end of the campaign.
Like the Command Con commandos, Jared ran the Coyote Gulch adventure. And, like Pennsylvania Peacemakers, they had to improvise on figures and props.
“My wife and I were at Wal-Mart yesterday and we found some plastic cowboys and Indians,” Jared said. “It had a wagon and everything, so we picked them up for the game.”
Although Jared is an old hand when it comes to throwing dice and slinging lead (miniatures, that is), his group was much less experienced.
“I ran a test with my brothers and a couple of friends on Thanksgiving, none of which had ever played a miniatures game before and it went over very well. In fact better then I expected, the only problems we had was I accidentally gave them old character sheets and I had the new ones so there was a little confusion at first till we figured out what was going on.”
Jared's game featured a group of outlaws trying to earn some easy money, but of course, things didn't quite go the way they expected.
“First they did an ambush on a wagon, then after they killed all the opposition I threw in three new players to the slips bag, a group of Indians coming to run them off from their fishing hole,” Jared said. “Since they were already pretty banged up from their first encounter it became a run off the board for survival.”
The happy GM said the game went over very well, even better than he had expected.
“There were three players and two of them expressed an interest in playing again, the third did as well but he was a little peeved because he was the victim of a Boxcars roll on a Retaliation Shot.,” Jared said, adding that he took pictures and has promised to provide a more detailed game report in the near future.
Jared and his wife, Sylvia, are also working with Mitchell on the Gutshot campaign book, “Riders on the Outlaw Trail,” which will be released about six-months after the Core Rule Book.
Mitchell & Murphy “pleased as punch”
“I'm not exactly sure what ‘pleased as punch' really means,” said Gutshot co-creator Mike Murphy, “but I'm pretty sure it describes how we both feel right now. It's gratifying to know that other GMs are out there running our game and making it their own.”
Mitchell agreed, noting that in the past week there were 11 new players added to the ever-growing list of names in the list of playtesters.
“Things are moving at a whirlwind pace right now, and all this playtesting and scrutiny is very, very good for the game,” Mitchell said. “I'm just glad that we've been blessed with a great group of gamers who are anxious and willing to put in hard work – and lay out hard cash – to help make this game a success. People like Pat, Mike, Nicole, Jared, Sylvia, and all the members of the Posse really make this whole experience worthwhile, and we honestly couldn't do it without them.”
Murphy echoed his partner's sentiments with a heartfelt, “Amen.”
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