A fistful of minis
Sheriff Garrett and Deputy Gates knew trouble was brewing when they got wind that the Leroy Gang was rolling into town, but when the first shots rang out at high noon they had to act fast. The lawmen were seriously outgunned, 5 to 2, but they were made of sturdier stuff than the lawless gang of thugs, and it wasn't long before the Sheriff and his Deputy starting taking them down like tumbleweeds. But could they survive the long-range rifle of James Leroy? Or the double-wielding six-shooters of his nasty brother Quentin? These are some of the scenarios that can play out during any given game of High Noon, an upcoming tactical miniatures skirmish game that was recently cancelled on kickstarter (but it's coming back... more on that later). We got a chance to play a prototype of the game before it goes into full production. Here's how it plays and what we thought.
How To Win The West
In High Noon, players take on the role of a posse of characters fighting to survive in a classic Spaghetti Western gunfight. We were provided with four different gangs in the prototype that the creators sent along to us: The Sheriff and Deputy, Elsu's Warband, Col. Rodgers, and his Rough Riders, and the Leeroy Gang. The aim of the game is to either be the last posse standing or the posse with the most points after 12 rounds. Unlike some tactical combat games, rounds are fast, the action is snappy, and bullets are almost always flying.
The rules of High Noon are refreshingly simple for a tactical miniatures game. Each turn consists of 3 phases: first, you can move the figures in your posse equal to their speed, then you can take an action (which includes attacking, looting crates scattered around the board, and more), and finally, you draw 3 cards.
Those cards are the core mechanic of the game. Each posse has their own deck of cards, and many of those cards have both an attack value and a defense value on them. When you attack someone in range, you play a card from your hand. If you're the target of an attack, you can reveal a card with a defense value on it to negate some or all of the damage. It's that simple.
But there's a catch, each card has a corresponding name to a character on it, and if you don't have a card with the relevant name on it, you're in trouble. For example, if you're playing as the Sheriff and Deputy, and someone shoots at the Deputy, unless you've got a card with his name on it to play in defense, you can't defend. This creates tension when drawing cards, as you're constantly wondering if you're going to get the attack or defense you need to survive this round.
It is worth noting that all of these rules provided are prototype rules (along with all components you'll see in the photos in this preview), so they may shift slightly before the game goes to print. But as it was written, we found them easy to grasp immediately, and were flipping cards and shooting crooks with very little downtime for learning.
A Cancelled Kickstarter Brings New Possibilities
A few days ago, the game's creator announced that he was canceling the Kickstarter, even though it was fully funded on Kickstarter. But why? It seems from the announcement that the Kickstarter wasn't tracking to reach the potential they were hoping, which includes unlocking a lot of extra posses. The official update canceling the campaign states it rather bluntly: "This Kickstarter is loaded with fluff that – let me be frank with you – adds NOTHING to the game. You don’t need any of it! High Noon is about the posses! It’s not about all this other superfluous junk you can get with other games, or print yourself or buy on eBay for much cheaper. What makes High Noon special is the game itself and the posses inside."
But the game is going to come back, re-tooled and refigured, in a new Kickstarter potentially next month. In the meantime, the game is up on the board game simulator Tabletopia right now, for free, for anyone to try.
How High Noon Feels
High Noon really captures that feeling of a showdown in the middle of a dusty western town. The stakes are high, the fighting is lightning fast, and in the end you're left with a lot of corpses and a stack of gold bricks (those are the victory points). The game also creates an inherent tension as you get closer to the end of 12 rounds. In one of my playthroughs, the Sheriff and Deputy were way ahead in victory points, and my opponent knew that the only way to win in the next 2 rounds was to be the last posse standing, so they unleashed all their most devastating cards, killed the Deputy, and almost had the Sheriff, too, if it wasn't for a bit of a lucky streak with some good card draws. This feeling of desperation at the end of a big gunfight perfectly captures what I love about my favorite Leone films. It's all about bad people, covered in grit, trying to shoot their way out of trouble.
We can't wait to try out the full, polished game once it's released, but for now we'll keep gunslinging with our prototype.
What do you think of our prototype play through of High Noon? Are you a fan of westerns? Let us know in the comments below!