This is an updated version of my original article on Steampunk Old West.
I have painted and have been painting up some Foundry Old West figures for use with the Legends of the Old West Warhammer Historical rules. These are classic 25mm figures, most of which are still available to get. My original plan was to play some games using these rules in a traditional old west style environment. The sort of place that you see in old cowboy films. I have now had a few games using my figures. I also managed to get some buildings and you can see them here.
These were fun games, quick and I liked the campaign style, which means you don't just play with a one game mentality, you think much more of the long term impact. This means that you don't go in with all guns blazing, you take your time, make sure every shot counts and don't get shot!
I liked the concept of a traditional Old West game, however the film Cowboys and Aliens got me thinking about “different” old west backgrounds. I did first start thinking about adding Victorian Science Fiction or Steampunk elements to the games.
Okay so we can’t really use the name “tank” as that was merely a cover name used by the British in World War One to describe their new armoured fighting vehicles. However we now know what a tank is, and these look like tanks, just in the old west they wouldn’t have called them tanks. I am going to call them tanks even if the inhabitants of the old west wouldn’t have!
Two of the range strike me as ideal models for a Steampunk Old West setting.
The first model is the Medium Tank is tracked steam tank with a single large turret.
The second is the Armoured Steam Carriage, it can be built with either a Nordenfelt or Gatling machine gun.
Both of these look very steampunk and painted in desert colours would fit nicely into an old west setting. There are other models in the range that would probably also work just as well, but these two are the ones I like.
In the end I did manage to get hold of the Medium Tank. This is a really nice model, that goes together very easily. I was pleased with the paintjob and how it turned out. I do feel I have managed to capture very much an Old West Steam Tank, one that would look right at home trundling down Main Street or for supporting an attack on a gold mine.
Wild Wild West
I also remembered Wild Wild West, the steampunk action comedy. Now to be honest I loved the idea behind the film, steampunk in a cowboy setting, however the film itself was a bit of a disappointment. Forgetting the film it still is a really fun background. One day I wouldn’t mind seeing the original television series, however it looks like it is only available on DVD in the USA.
Cowboys and Aliens
Probably the key inspiration for this article was the film, Cowboys and Aliens.
Cowboys & Aliens is a 2011 American science fiction Western film directed by Jon Favreau and starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. The film is based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The main plot revolves around an amnesiac outlaw (Craig), a wealthy cattleman (Ford), and a mysterious traveler (Wilde) who must ally to save a group of townspeople abducted by aliens.
Obviously adding aliens into the mix is pretty simple, having now seen the film, there are some nice ideas in there with alien tech, flying saucers, and fighting aliens with only a six shooter or a rifle.
The film has quite a few ideas for scenarios that would be easy to transfer to the gaming table. You could of course "copy" the aliens from the film, or use ailens of your choice. They could be "friendly", similar to humans, or totally alien (as in insectoid or monstrous).
One aspect that would need to be taken into consideration is the "shock" of seeing aliens, as 19th Century America probably didn't have the cultural references that we have today. I am pretty sure that if aliens did in fact invade Arizona today, most people wouldn't bat an eyelid. Back then, a very different reaction...
As well as aliens, and steampunk tech, another thing that could be added to the mix is time travel. Put some modern day infantry or police officers in the old west.
Another variation would be to follow a Star Trek style scenario have have future humans travel back in time to the old west. They could be armed with phaser style weaponry.
The Next Generation had a few old west holodeck adventures and that could be another mechanism for having games with cowboys and future tech, the Borg invade the Enterprise holodeck and the Star Fleet personnel need to team up with cowboy holograms to defeat them.
"Spectre of the Gun" (originally titled "The Last Gunfight") is an episode from the third season of the original science fiction television series Star Trek that was first broadcast on October 25, 1968. In this episode, having been found trespassors into Melkotian space, Captain Kirk and his companions are sent to die in a psychic illusion that takes the form of the town of Tombstone, Arizona, on Earth on the historic date October 26, 1881.
Of course if we are talking about Time Travel then we mustn't forget the Doctor. Across his many generations he has travelled to the Old West, including the recent episode, A Town Called Mercy. This episode saw the Doctor, Rory and Amy visiting the American Frontier, or "Wild West", where they encounter a town which is cut off from the rest of the frontier until they hand over Kahler-Jex, an alien doctor, to a cyborg called the Gunslinger. However, the Gunslinger is a product of experiments by Jex to win a civil war on his planet, and the Doctor is unsure of what is the right thing to do.
The first Doctor also visted the wild west in The Gunfighters, where he interacted with the main protagonists in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
These are my Robot Mummys from the Pyramids of Mars episode, which work well as unstoppable villans.
So what about rules?
Well The Old West rules are from Warhammer Historical and are based around Warhammer, to me it would probably work to use the tank rules from Warhammer Historical’s World War One rules, The Great War. Sadly these rules are no longer available with the demise of Warhammer Historical. An alternative could be The Rules with no Name.
The weapons though in The Old West wouldn’t hurt these tanks (well except the nitro) so if these tanks were to be used then we would need some extra weapons added. Again the rules from The Great War allow for the use of artillery and gatling guns.
The Old West is circa 1882 and the Gatling Gun was patented in 1862. Of course in a steampunk setting you can allow for the rapid advance of weapons as well as the introduction of tanks. For example the French 75mm field gun was in our world adopted in 1898, well we could bring that forward, couldn’t we? Anyhow a variety of artillery was used in the American Civil War and that could be used for a steampunk old west game for fighting against steam tanks.
So before going further down this road, I think I need to paint up some more of my Old West miniature, however I do have a couple of the Dixon's cowboys that are painted up that I could use.