by Ann Dupuis
If you do much roleplaying in the Old West, you're headed for the Inevitable Shoot-Out. The Bad Guys come into town, and the Good Guys are ready for them (or vice versa). To keep better track of fleeing combatants and flying bullets, you pull out your campaign map. The players grumble as they sort through the available miniatures. "I guess I'll take this wizard," one says. "Maybe this barbarian warrior can be my gambler," sighs another. But there are some good figures out there, designed specifically for Western campaigns.
The standard campaign map has 1" hexes, each representing 1 yard in the GURPS Advanced Combat system. Although this is a 50mm scale (the figure of a 6' human should be 2" tall), you can use 25mm figures without much difficulty – they're easy to handle on the oversized hexes.
If you want to use 25mm figures in proper scale, I suggest using a campaign map with half-inch hexes. Some companies which manufacture reusable campaign maps (the write-on, wipe-off kind) offer half-inch hex maps.
A less satisfactory solution is to have each hex represent 2 yards. Bear in mind that this will allow more than one figure per hex. The 2-yard hex can be used to roughly approximate a character's own 1-yard hex, plus three surrounding ones (the three front hexes, for instance, or left, back, and right, etc. – depending on the figure's position within the 2-yard hex) but not all six surrounding hexes. If you're using miniatures simply to approximate character positions and facings, and to quickly determine range, 2-yard hexes will probably work well enough for you. It allows a larger combat area than normally available with 1" hexes. And that can be important in shootouts with weapon ranges of 100 yards or more.
You can even go to a 15mm scale, using each 1" hex to represent a character's hex plus all six surrounding hexes. There are many advantages to this approach: It allows for long-range missile combat on a tabletop; buildings and other accessories are much less expensive in 15mm than in 25mm scales; and there are nearly as many 15mm Old West miniature figures available as there are 25mm figures. For melee and close combat, you can switch back to the normal 1" = 1 yard scale.
If you're interested in an early 19th-century campaign, check out RAFM's "Flint and Feather" line. IN-6, Frontiersmen, includes Daniel Boone. Other good packs include IN-1 9, Settler with Musket and IN-36, Female Settlers Firing, Loading, and Unarmed. IN-6 and IN-36 offer two each of three figures, while IN- 19 has six identical figures. Their "Blue and Grey" line has a delightful pack, #6609, Characters, which includes two each of an Indian Scout, Duelist, and Doctor. Blister packs cost $4.75.
Wargames currently offers three figures suitable as settlers or townsfolk: WG10, Woman; WG11, Boy running with hat; and WG12, Gambler, $1.24 apiece. Some of their gunslingers and cowboys can double as settlers, as well.
Alternative Armies has a set of four Indian figures, FL-09, Braves of the Plains. They're available through the Armory for $6.99.
RAFM offers a number of Indian figures in their "Boots & Saddles" line, including #6707, Indians Mounted, with Separate Weapons; #6708, Indians Dismounted; #6709, Indians Mounted; and #6710, Indian Chiefs & Medicine Men. Each blister pack comes with six figures (three poses – two each of dismounted figures) and costs $4.75.
Available from their "Flint and Feather" series: IN-1, Great lakes Indian Chiefs & Shamen; IN-2, Great Chiefs: Brant, Pontiac, Tecumseh; IN-3, Huron Warriors; IN-4, Iroquois Warriors with Assorted Weapons; and IN-S, Iroquois Warriors with Assorted Muskets.
Lance & Laser Models, Inc., was kind enough to send me two Plains Indian figures they've developed. Regrettably, they're not currently available, for they're well-sculpted and well-cast. The company hopes to release them in the future as part of an Old West series.
RAFM's "Boots & Saddles" series features the U.S. Cavalry, mounted and dismounted. Some samples: #6705, U.S. Cavalry Scouts (two mounted & two dismounted); #6706, Custer Mounted & Dismounted (with two staff members); and #6702, U.S. Cavalry Command (mounted and fighting). Blister packs cost $4.75 for three poses (three figures per cavalry pack, two of each in infantry packs).
RAFM also has an extensive line of Civil War figures, the "Blue & Grey," with howitzers, soldiers, and others.
Many of the Union figures from Wargames' "American Civil War" line are suitable for post-war Plains campaigns. "The Alamo" figure series offers Texan and Mexican soldiers galore.
RAFM's "Boots & Saddles" line includes #6711, Gunslingers Dismounted. The blister pack contains six figures – two each of a pistolero, a gentleman gunslinger (flourishing a revolver and a double-barreled shotgun), and a rifleman.
Wargames' "The Old American West" offers an assortment of gunslinger poses: WG1, Shooting .45 from hip; WG2, Standing firing shotgun; WG3, Firing .45 from shoulder; WG4, Kneeling firing .45 from shoulder; WG5, Crouching firing sawnoff shotgun; and WG6, Standing firing winchester rifle.
They cast each pose with a number of head variants – different facial expressions, mustaches and beards, and hats. If you order more than one miniature with the same figure code, they'll differ slightly. Other figures from "The Alamo" and their extensive "American Civil War" series are also suitable for adventures in the Old West.
Diorama enthusiasts may want to look at RAFM's "Flint and Feather" series: #IN-12, Canoe with 2 paddlers for $4.75; IN-13, Large Trade Canoe & Trade Goods with 4 Paddlers for $6.00; and IN-14, Canoe with 2 White Men Paddlers & Trade Goods for $4.75.
Wargames' "The Old American West" series includes a many figures suitable for dioramas. My favorite set-up consists of CW1, Chuck Wagon, complete with barrel, coffee grinder, & coffee pot; combined with WG8, Chuck Wagon Cook (pouring from a coffee pot), WG7, Cowboy, (holding out coffee mug), and WG9, Cook's Assistant, (carrying a sack). Individual cowboy and gunslinger figures cost $1.24. The chuck wagon costs $21.99 (plus $8.99 for the 4-mule team and a driver).
Wargames offers prairie schooners, as well. They cost $21.99 (plus $12.99 for the 6-mule team and a driver to sit on the rear mule) and come either covered (CW2a) or with hood removed (CW2b) to expose the support hoops. Their stagecoach comes complete with a four-horse team, driver, shotgun guard, luggage & strongboxes ($39.95).
Wargames' "The Alamo" line includes TX5, Texan falling dead; TX6, Texan lying dead; MX7, Mexican falling dead; and MX8, Mexican lying dead; as well as many figures in battle poses.
Their "American Civil War" line offers endless diorama possibilities, complete with soldiers, drummer boys, mounted figures (suitable for any of their five horse figures), artillery crew, guns, and, of course, dead and dying figures. Horses are $1.79 apiece; Foot & Rider figures are $1.24; Officers and Standard Bearers, Drummers, Wounded, Dead, Personalities, and Sergeants go for $1.49 apiece. ACWG1a, an impressive American Civil War Gun Limber & Horse Team, includes a 6-horse team, three drivers, two seated cannoneers, limber & caisson, for $22.99.
For die-hard miniature enthusiasts, Prince August Hobby Casting offers some do-it-yourself molds for 40mm cowboys, Indians, and cannons.
Accessories and scenery, such as building and trees, are available for dioramas or to add some atmosphere to your combat maps. For 25mm scale (1 hex = ½" = 1 yard, or 1 hex = 1" = 2 yards), you can get by with the less-expensive 15mm buildings. Otherwise, 25mm scenery will be better.
Gallia USA, distributed by Armadillo Games, offers well-detailed buildings for use with 25mm miniatures. Among these are some American Civil War buildings. #25402, Farmhouse with Porch, ($28.00) is suitable for the Old West, as are #25402, Large Barn ($38.00) and #25405, Outbuildings ($12.00 for chicken coop, outhouse, and well-house). Also potentially useful are #25317, Stockade lengths and corners ($25.00 for two corners and four lengths), and #25318, Stockade gateway and towers ($30.00 for six wooden towers and two gates). Similar accessories are also available in 15mm scale.
The Real Estate Department, Buildings by The Drum, is a line of buildings for dioramas and displays distributed by Geo-Hex. In addition to their "Fantasy/Medieval" series (which includes FM3, an accessory kit with sign post, out-house, well, and horse trough suitable for the Old West), they have a 25mm Civil War ("AC") series. The latter offers a cabin, pup tents, a command tent, and a wooden shack. Many are duplicated in 15mm, in the "ACW" line.
Best of all, The Drum is working on a 15mm Old West line. It includes a sheriff's office, a bank, a saloon, and a number of other western town accessories. Unfortunately, they're currently available only in the U.K.
For trees, shrubs, and even tumbleweeds, try browsing the railroad modeling departments of local hobby stores. You can even find miniature rope for that necktie party you've been planning!
If you can't find the miniatures or accessories you want at your local dealer, you can contact the companies directly. They'll be glad to send catalogs on request.
Armadillo Games/Gallia USA: 2263/2265 First Street, Schenectady, NY; 12303. Telephone: 518-377-6134 or 800-544-8698.
The Armory: 4145 Amos Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21215. Telephone: 301-764-8100, or 800-NOW-GAME. The Armory imports Alternative Armies figures.
Geo-Hex: 609 N.E. Schuyler, #1, Portland, OR 97212. Telephone: 503-288-4805.
Lance & Laser: P0 Box 14491, Columbus, OH 43214. Although they don't have any Old West miniatures currently available, they plan to release some.
Prince August Hobby Casting: Distributed by Ed Wimble/Prince August US, The Byrne Building, Lincoln & Morgan Sts., Phoenixville, PA, 19460. Telephone: 215-935-7622.
RAFM Company, Inc.: 36 A Easton Rd., Brantford, Ontario, N3P 1J5.
Wargames: Box 278 Route 40 East, Triadelphia, WV 26059. Telephone: 304-547-0000.
Copyright © 1997-2014 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved.