Friday, January 11, 2013

Muskets & Tomahawks - First Impressions

I think I know who is going to win that fight.

This week down at the club I got a chance to try out a game of Muskets & Tomahawks by the aptly named Studio Tomahawk. These are the same gents who brought us SAGA, so I had high hopes since as everyone knows, SAGA is awesome.

M&T isn't just SAGA with Indians and Frenchmen though. In fact, it was written before SAGA and has only recently become available in English. But it does still share some DNA with its Dark Age cousin. It's a skirmish game with around 20 - 40 models per side depending on the faction and point value used, and takes place in North America during the 18th Century (basically the French & Indian War, and the American War of Independence). There are no battle boards like SAGA, but it does have some very interesting mechanics with a very nice nod to storytelling.

The forces are purchased with points in a more familiar way (i.e. paying points for models and extras for upgrades, with restrictions). In my 200 point Woodland Indian force, I had the following:
  • Indian Sachem  w/ Musket, Thrown Weapons - Officer, Scout, Native, Bloodthirsty, (Guerilla)
  • Indian Sachem w/ Musket, Thrown Weapons - Officer, Scout, Native, Hunting Rifle
  • Indian Warriors (6) w/ Musket, Thrown Weapons - Scouts, Natives, Bloodthirsty, Braves
  • Indian Warriors (6) w/ Musket, Thrown Weapons - Scouts, Natives
  • Indian Warriors (4) w/ Rifles, Thrown Weapons - Scouts, Natives, Hunting Rifles
  • Indian Warriors (4) w/ Bows, Thrown Weapons - Scouts, Natives, Young Warriors, Boat
This gave me four units with two Officers (Sachems) to lead them. The various upgrades do things like making them better in close combat (Bloodthirsty), and having varied weaponry (Rifles, Bows). Some of the other skills like Scouts and Natives allow them to use hidden movement and move easily through rough terrain.

Depending on the type of units you have, you gain a number of cards that go into a deck with your opponent's cards, forming an activation deck (the card deck is included with the rules). During the turn a card is drawn from the deck and that type of unit is activated for one side. All units of that type get to make an activation, which is either Move (which include moving into melee), Shoot, and Reload. Cards are drawn and units activated until the deck runs out, then a new turn starts. Depending on the unit type it is possible that you will get to activate them multiple times during the turn providing for some really nice tactical options, with careful planning required.

The mechanics for moving, shooting, and melee are very straightforward and easy to remember without need a ton of chart references during the game. My opponent Alex and I were both very new to the game and we were able to play without flipping through the rules every 2 minutes. One we had gone through a round of shooting and combat things went very smoothly. One of the more interesting rules was for Spotting - basically a unit/model needs to be able to spot their target before shooting, making the effective range shorter if the target is concealed by terrain. This makes shooting a little tougher and seemed to reward units who used the terrain wisely. Nice touch.

M&T really shines when it comes to missions. Each side rolls for its own mission objective ranging from six possibilities and will end up with different victory conditions. In our game my mission was to raid and slaughter a bunch of civilians... luckily Alex's mission was to protect a village, so the two meshed up quite nicely. Another narrative wrinkle is something known as Side Plots. These are objectives given to an Officer from a wide array of possibilities. My Side Plot involved escorting a hostage and making sure he wasn't killed or allowed to escape. The Side Plot table is huge and allows for a ton of fun extras that will spice up the normal missions, giving the game a really nice array of scenario possibilities. The card deck can also change the game through random event cards. Although we played this slightly wrong in our game, it adds yet another layer of uncertainty that adds to the games narrative. In our game, Alex had ordered the civilians he was protecting into a building, only to have them run out again due to a random event card that said his civilians didn't trust their protectors anymore... Alex had a heck of a time herding them and keeping them safe from my marauding Braves who were sent to take them out! It really added a lot of tension to the story as Alex scrambled to keep the villagers alive.

Our Muskets & Tomahawks test game.

That's it in a nutshell. While the game is probably meant for 28mm models, we played in 15mm using a mix of Blue Moon and Peter Pig models mounted on pennies and small washers without changing any of the measurements. We do this for Bolt Action as well, and honestly it feels a bit more realistic in terms of ranges and movement rates. Anyway, Muskets & Tomahawks is a fantastic game and I will definitely be putting it into my rotation!


  1. Soooo looking forward to this. Nice review.

  2. Good post! You made it sound like I was almost in control...almost.
    Definitely a very fun game, and I'm looking forward to a rematch at 400 pts. Savages.