Sunday, 20 January 2013

Musket and Tomahawks Review

As I am sat here ruing the negative degree temperature in the garage where I do most of my gaming, I have decided to write up a bit of a review about the set of rules I am using for my French Indian War enjoyment.

First a little about me, which may help explain my choice for this particular set of rules.

I am currently one of the moderators on the forum for Saga and Musket and Tomahawks.

Studio Tomahawk

Note I am not employed by the company or anything as grand as that. Basically I just help out in a voluntary way on the forum with rules queries and that sort of thing, and generally try to help and keep it tidy and running smoothly. Basically I do this because of my love of the rule sets for my own use, and hope to pass this enjoyment on to others.

One of the advantages of this is I get to spend part of my day reading all the posts there about Saga and Muskets and Tomahawks. This obviously gave me a bit of influence in choosing this set of rule for myself, as it is difficult to assist people with their queries when you do not know what they are talking about at all.

The other thing was I got to absorb a lot of the battle reports and wonderful miniatures that were shown on the site too, which slowly ate into my brain and made me think "Yes! I want some of that"

Prior to taking up Saga, truly "historic" type wargaming was not something I had enjoyed enough of. Plenty of fantasy and sci fi, but as someone who is actually very interested in history (particularly English) I notice I had a huge gap where this sort of gaming comes in. Even my WW2 experiance seemed to be Weird War 2 rather than straight out historical style.

Saga was my first step towards this historic/wargame mix and I have to say, I love it.

Muskets and Tomahawks is to fill the little void I get every time I watch Sharpe, and think that would be great to game. The Era is extremely close, and the scale of the game fits the theme as I tend to envisage it inside my head.
There seems to be quite a wealth of information on the period out there, if looked for carefully too, which for someone coming in with no idea about the period other than a very very rough knowledge that it took place, is quite handy.

Still thats more than enough rambling, lets get onto the Review.

Muskets and Tomahawks - A Beginners Overview.

1 - Whats it all about.

This game covers the periods from the French Indian Wars, right through to the American War of Independence (or American Revolution depending what side of the pond you are on). So approximately 1750 through to 1800 will give you a good idea of the years covered (note this is not a true  historical time scale provided by me, but for my point of view it is good enough to give you a general overview of when it all happens).

So you have the -

French Indian War
The Indian Revolutions
The American War of Independence

It is a skirmish level game, with each figure acting semi independently (they are based in units but can act individually in these units with some restrictions)

Games tend to run in a variety of point scales, from which you purchase the units for your army. 200pts is the  basic starting army size, through to 600 points and more. 400 would clearly seem to be the average game scale to look too. 200pts will get you approximately 21 figures on the table top, al though this can vary dependent on the grade and types of your troops, but as a rough guide I would say that it is a good average. With many of the manufacturers out there now producing box sets and other deals, as a rough entry price cost you can look at about £30 for your army at 200pts. I bought two armys and the rule book, and spent a total of  about £84.00. This gives me two forces to fight with, and all the rules. Not that expensive on the grand scheme of things, and compared to some of the stuff available for gaming at this time, its damn cheap i think.

2 - How does it all work

The game works on a Card driven mechanic. When you select your forces they have a Unit type. These are things like Regular, Irregular, Indian and so on. What this means is you add the appropiate cards provided with the rules to the draw deck when you have units of that type.

For example Indians get 4 cards. So when you have 1 or more Indian units in your force, you add the 4 Indian cards to the draw deck.

The draw deck consists of your cards and the opponents cards. These are shuffled together at the start of a game turn.

The cards are then turned over one at a time. All units of that type then activate on that card.

For example, You have two indian units. When one of your Indian cards is drawn, All of your Indian units may take 1 action.

It is actually a very simple but effective change from the standard I go, you go style of play and tends to lend to some exciting flips waiting to see which units will go next.

Will those Indians get two actions to manage to run right through the open ground before those militia fire upon them, or will the militia go while the Indians are in the middle of the open ground?

What is an action though - well it is actually pretty simple - Move Shoot or Reload.

There are various modifiers and things to take into account, but these are usually pretty simple to work out. Ranges, cover, difficult ground. All the standard wargame things. The rules for these are nothing new, basic d6 requiring certain numbers.

3 - What brings it all to life for me is 

What really makes this game shine for me is the important part of scenarios and missions this system then delivers.

Each player rolls a basic mission they are attempting. There are 6 basic missions in the book. This mission chance is modified by the type of army you have built, so a more scouting type army will be more likely to get an appropriate scouting type mission.

You can then add a "side plot" to this mission. These are separate mini missions which help affect the outcome of the game.

There are also random events cards that can be added to the Decks for even more variation. It may just start raining mid game, or a wild animal could attack a unit as they get too close to its hidden lair.

Basically to coin a phrase used by a few others, it gives a cinematic style game. You feel a story unfolding as you play, rather than just rolling some dice and playing a battle for no reason.

I have developed a strange urge to start naming my characters and units, and writing little story's about them, rather than just placing them on the table and saying "they are rangers".

4 - What you Get for your Buck.

The basic rulebook costs around £24.00.

For this you get the Book, which has all the rules and the army lists for all of the armys.

You also get a pack of cards. You get all the cards required for running a game. You do not need extras.

There is a quick reference sheet you can copy in the back of the book, but this is also downloadable for free from the Studio Tomahawk forum -  LINK - Note you will need to log in to access this in the armoury section though.

There is also a nice army roster sheet available there that one of the wonderful players of the game designed too.

5 - Armys in Brief

A quick bit about the basic army lists that are available -

The basic Factions for the FIW are

British, may have Indian allies

French (also Canadians) may have Indian allies

Indians (pure Indian force)

The basic Factions for the AWI are

British, may have Indian allies, May have German allies

Germans - May be played as a stand alone faction

American - may have Indian allies, May have French allies

French - A limited list more in line with the Germans

Now These are not an in depth analysis of the lists by any means, but it does show some of the many variances that are available for those that like that sort of information.

Hope this is of interest to some of you. I have played two games of this so far, and am immensely enjoying the experience. The games are fun, the feeling is of a story told,and the rules are fairly straight forward.

I do not hesitate in recommending this to anyone to try out.

Cheers, John.


  1. Good review, am loving the game myself, just joined the forum on Friday night
    Peace James

    1. Thank you James. I have had a look on your site. Very nice, and some useful things on there. So good that I added it to my list.