Muskets & Tomahawks 2E | Fortified Niche playtest!

What if you set out to make black powder game that isn’th set during the Napoleonic Wars OR American Civil War? Then you’d get something like Muskets & Tomahawks 2E, a title concerned with small skirmishing actions in the French-Indian War, American War of Independence, the War of 1812 and… damn it, it does have a Napoleonics supplement!

Listen to the Fortified Niche episode here

We talked a lot about the activation system in Muskets & Tomahawks on the podcast episode, so I’ll try to be brief here. You get four cards for each unit type (regulars, skirmishers, etc.) present in you army, even if it’s only a single unit of that type. All the command cards plus two special cards of both players plus three clock cards are mixed together to make a deck. Each player draws a hand of three. On your “turn” you play a card and activate all the units of said faction and type – say, British Regulars. You can play enemy cards, too – in which case the enemy activates, but you get a valuable command point.
OK, I failed to describe it succinctly. But it can’t be stressed how cool the system is. There’s also one hidden effect of this activation system : there are no turns and guaranteed turn ends in a traditional sense. The action is always flowing and something is always happening, and the feeling is unparalleled.
The activation system helps you deal with the fact that a unit can only do one action per turn: that means no moving and shooting. And since this is a black powder game, reloading is an action. But since activations are coming fast and hard, and there’s nothing preventing activating the same unit several times in a row (if the cards are right), you are always have something to do.
Spotting is an another weird-but-cool feature of the game. All units start spottable at 98″ and then you move up or down the spotting gouge based on unit attributes, terrain, and so on. And the best part? No dice rolling is involved! How come I never thought of that when I first fell in love with spotting in Battlegroup?!
Alongside all of these are fairly easy rules for terrain and an elegant take on morale. All in all, Muskets & Tomahawks avails itself well in the rules department.
If there’s an issue with Muskets & Tomahawks, it comes from the SAGA publishing model of the main rulebook coming without any army lists. So it would be hard to say that a game called Muskets & Tomahawks is definitively about French and Indian War, especially since the rules mention stuff going up to breech-loaded rifles.
Muskets & Tomahawks 2E is a nice ruleset – we were definitely smitten by the activation system. So if the period takes your fancy, if you know where to get betricorned infantry in plastic, then definitely give it a shake.

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