I’m a big fan of Cryptic Comet games and admire the game design skills of their developer Vic Davis. It was natural for me to pick up his latest effort, Six Gun Saga, as a pre-order, currently in beta. I had a quick look at the game, and apart from the eye-catching artwork, it was a little too abstract for me to just jump into it. So I shelved it, for a month or so.
With last weeks discussion on the Three Moves Ahead podcast, I decided to sit down with the game and try to sift through the abstract fog and tumbleweed. I’m glad I did. After a game or two, Six Gun Saga really starts to open up, and I’ve been enjoying it for a few days now. I thought I’d run through a simple AAR with a view to showing, step by step, how it plays out and the sorts of decisions you make.
Six Gun Saga, is essentially a card game, where the cards are your offense, and your resources. You buy and sell them to manage your money every turn. You cannot proceed unless you balance your books. You use the cards to build Posse’s of men, and then you commit them missions/quests/stories to harvest the Victory points to win. The more men in your Posse, the more money you have to find to pay their upkeep. The other player(s) are trying to do the same – all cards drawn from the same pool. That’s it!
I set up a new game, with a short game length, and only one opponent. I wanted something short and simple. The more opponents you add (up to three) the more complex the interactions between the cards can be – and I wanted to keep this one simple enough for beginners to grasp.
I chose the boss Lucien Maxwell, I liked the look of him (a young rugged Robert Duvall) and I quite liked his special of being a Shootist. Where any gunfighters in his Posse get a +1 bonus to their Gunfight skill (their offensive score) and also have their upkeep reduced by 1. So it seems if I can stack his Posse’s with Gunfighters there’d be a significant advantage on punch and cost. If you look at his stats, he can field a maximum of two posse’s, and he can house a max of five “dudes” in his bunkhouse (a holding area for fighters, and support people/townsfolk). He also draws two cards from the deck each turn.
I chose El Indio as my opponent, because he’s an out and out villain. I wanted Lucien to go up against a bad guy. Simple as that. He can afford one more Posse than Lucien though. But can’t hold quite as many men in his Bunkhouse. The Villain speciality sort of suggests that you shouldn’t field Lawmen against him or you’ll boost his men’s Gunfight skill. These nasty dudes fight harder against the Law.
The turn begins with an optional log of El Indio’s actions. You don’t have to look at the log, but if you’re a beginner its worth it to see the sort of things that are going on – you might be able to use this intel to formulate a counter-plan in your phase of the turn.
As you can see El Indio has bought and sold a couple of cards and has created two Posse’s (each costs $3 to create!). He’s also transferred two Apache units into an Apache Posse called “Apache Warrior’s War Party”.
As with all of Vic’s games there is a lot of flavour and variety presented with his characters, and Apaches are excellent cost effective warriors (they don’t cost any money at all to hire!) however they have a random tendency to go AWOL during the turn’s upkeep phase, usually when you need them most! SO be careful with Apache’s. (P.S. there is another card in the deck, that negates the Indian tendency for walkabout)
Now its our phase of the turn. Before anything we are forced to make sure our Accounts in our Ledger are balanced. You cannot skip this step, or run any debt – you have to make tough decisions and sell up if your’e out of pocket. Luckily on Turn 1 we have $5 income from Lucien, and no expenses. So our Books are balanced.
Taking a quick peek at the game area, I wanted to focus on the two story cards in the center of the table. The first is an Apache Raid, and its detailed here. Now I understand why El Indio has fielded an Apache Posse.
In order to gain the Victory Points (VP) from these mission like cards, you have to get a Posse (indicated by a blue stone for El Indio) onto the card. To do this, it takes one movement point to get the Posse stone from the Boss card to the travel area (indicated by circular star icons – there are three of these for each Boss). It takes another movement point to get from the star to the Story card. However, each story card has a set of requirements, the Apache Raid can only be accessed if your Posse has an Apache in it!
You’ll also notice the amount of VP remaining on the card – if you can sit a Posse on this card till turn end, then you’ll net these points. Its important to note, that once an enemy Posse is on a story card, any Posse (regardless of composition) can then attack at the location of the Story card. So you don’t need an Apache in your Posse to attack El Indio’s Apache Posse on the Apache Raid card.
Here are the details for the other Story card, Bounty Hunting. Essentially you need a Gunfighter in your Posse to enter and attempt to claim the VP there.
Our first look at the full table and our Hand. We have six cards in our hand, a Deed for the Apache Canyon (the card that allows you to negate the Apache tendency to abscond), two Townsfolk cards, two Outlaws and a Lawman.
Deeds are places, that usually affect bonus modifiers on your people cards. You can see the Apache Canyon costs 8 gold to buy (gold coin top left), or 3 gold to sell (green coin top right). The People cards have the same buy/sell coins, but also carry a central left coin indicating Upkeep per turn, and bottom left one for their Gunfight Skill, bottom right for their associated VP value. Additionally you have a health status Heart with a current and maximum value (eg. 3 out of 3), and you have an associated Playing Card – more on that later. Needless to say, the combat resolution mechanic is based around a hand of Texas Hold ‘Em poker.
I decide I need to pull in a little cash, and since El Indio gets bonuses against Lawmen, I sell up Elfego Baca for a measly 1 buck. Selling is simple, you click on the card in your hand and then click on the Green Cash Register icon, to get the cash amount added into your Cash stash.
Looking through my hand, I spot a saucy lady known as Diamond Lilly. She is of the sub-type Townsfolk, which are generally support personnel rather than people you want in your Posse’s. Her ability (and let’s not question how she makes her money) is to keep bringing in a source of cash +1$ every turn (if you also own the Saloon deed, she’ll bring in +2$ every turn). I like the idea of a cash generating card such as this, so I buy her for $2.
I suppose this is the equivalent of “turtling” in an RTS game, but I also spot another more costly townsfolk, The Old Dutchman. He will also bring in +1$ per turn, so I snap him up as well for $3. Now I have at least $2 income per turn. That should help with getting my Posse’s assembled in the long run.
I’ve more or less done what I want now, so I click on the Draw item to Draw my new cards for the next turn. Two cards pop out, a Gunfighter named English Bob and an Outlaw named Hoodoo Brown.
I click on the End Turn item and we tick over to Turn 2.
El Indio plays out his turn and I open the log.
It seems he’s played an action to boost his monies, and he’s started to buy and shift more fighters into Posse’s. Looks like he now has 3 Posse’s assembled – his maximum.
Onto my phase of Turn 2, and we check the Upkeep Ledger. Everything is still sweet. The townsfolk I purchased don’t actually have any upkeep. So they generate free money without associated costs.
It’s time to get a Posse together. It costs $3 to create one, and I name it Lucien’s Fist. It’s an empty Posse upon creation.
In the background, you can also see El Indio has moved his Apache Posse onto that Apache Raid story card. He’s going to sweep up those VP’s already. Perhaps my turtling was a bit foolish.
I’m out of cash, so I sell the Outlaw Pete Spencer netting me $3.
I also sell up Red Jack Almer for another $4, so that I can afford to take on the Gunfighter English Bob.
Once hired, English Bob resides in the Bunkhouse area, to transfer him to Lucien’s Fist, I click on the Bunkhouse item and then click on his card. There’ll be a purple Transfer coin top right, as well as an orange Fire Him coin below it. So I transfer Bob into the Fist.
I want to give the Fist some extra punch, so I decide to transfer my Boss Lucien into the Posse. This can be a risky business because if your Boss is killed in a firefight, you’ll lose the game entirely. But I feel as if Lucien would want to be out there in the action, with his Shootist skills laying down some hot lead.
Finally, I make a note of the special Action on Hoodoo Brown’s card. It’s called “Loves a Good Plan” and allows you to play it for free (but lose the card) and attach a +1 Draw onto any other non-boss person card. Since cards are sold for money, then the more cards I can ensure in the draw the more money and choice of fighters I’ll have at my disposal.
I play the Action onto Diamond Lilly. My special Foxy lady back in town, keeping my Brandy warm.
With a +1 Draw on Lilly, I’m happy to move on.
I move onto the Draw Phase, and get three cards. A Cowboy, an Outlaw and the Fort Defiance Deed.
I end the turn.
Check back soon to see how Turn’s 3 and 4 go in this Six Gun Saga Shootout!