Dead Man’s Hand – Mississippi Mayhem

Yesterday evening we played a game of Dead Man’s Hand at the club. Rob had made a new scenario and we would be trying that out.

Two paddle steamers are used in a race on the Mississippi river. One of them is the Daisy Bell (people who have read the Lucky Luke comics might have a bell ringing in their ears now). The steamer is docked near a small village in the Wild West to replenish it’s fuel supplies, but the captain is worried about sabotage and has hired Lucky Luke to keep an eye out. The gunslinger has brought a gang of mercenaries to assist him in this task. Sure enough bandits appear at the edge of town and indians approach the boat in their canoes. Matthijs and Jack would play the defenders and me and Hamza would try to sabotage the boat. Hamza would take control of the indians and I would wreak havoc with the bandits coming through town, some of them on horseback. Rob (the game master) would direct the various animals such as dogs and crocodiles at the end of each turn. On a diceroll of 6 or more on a D10 he could decide what actions the beast would take, on a lower roll they would just move randomly.

To win this scenario the bandits had to get to the engine room, place dynamite (this would be an action) and then use another action to actually light the fuse (7 or more on a D10 roll). When the fuse would be lit the defenders had the remaining turn to try and put it out before it would blow and destroy the engine. If the defenders could prevent it all they would obviously win the game.

We used the basic rules of Dead Man’s Hand. Models could have rifles, pistols or shotguns and no special abilities. In DMH all models get to take three actions in their turn. These actions can be moving, aiming, shooting, recovering wounds or engage in close combat. Each player gets a deck of cards. The initiative of the models is decided by these cards. Aces go first, Kings and Queens follow and so on. The first card is drawn open and placed at one of your models of your choice, the rest is placed closed at the remaining models in your gang. This means that you have no clue what the sequence of play will be until all cards are revealed and you have to make tactical decisions based on guess work and adjust tactics when needed when the cards are revealed. Each player also draws two extra cards. These you can keep on hand. Every card also has a tactical action described on it. The actions on the two cards on hand can be used when you see fit in the game. Once you use it it is returned to the discard pile. After each turn you may draw one new card. So if you use both cards in one turn you only have one new one the next turn. These tactical cards can give you a nice advantage during a turn and you have no clue what cards your opponent has in his hands.

The basic rules are quit simple and ensure fast play. Furthermore, the rules are based on spaghetti western movies. So no extra rules for jumping over fences and such. The heroes in the films will always jump over heroically and never even loose their hat while at it. This also makes for fast play.

When Rob had set up the table, we all had placed our models and beers were ordered the game could begin.

The initial setup.


Some indians in their canoes and my bandits on horseback.


The defenders in the town and on the paddle steamer.


A famous dog and gunslinger.


Turn 1: The Indians advance in their canoes. Their intention is not to board the paddle steamer directly because that would draw too much gunfire to them before they get close enough to board. They want to bring their boats on land and advance from there on. But so far they are too far out in the water to start shooting. My bandits advance into town. I have divided them into three groups. The two horseman are on the right flank. I want to get them as far into town as fast as possible. If they get far enough to reach the boat I will try to get them in the engine room and place the dynamite. The only problem with this strategy is that the other guys on foot will be far behind and wil therefore be unable to support them. It is a risk, but I like risks. The first horseman races forward and shoots at one of the defenders. He deals some damage and the tone is set. Other defenders start to take better positions throughout the town and on the steamer. There is some gunfire and my second horseman inflicts more damage to the defenders on the right side of the table. On the left flank I have a rifleman who can shoot over long distances. He demonstrates how effective he can do that by wounding a lady defender on the roof of Jack’s Brothel. Meanwhile the indians are targeting the various crocodiles in the river, hoping to kill them before the beasts might decide to try indian for diner. At the end of the turn the various animals are coming into play. Most of them wander in random directions, but two of the dogs in the town attack my bandits. One close combat is a draw, but the other dog manages to kill a horse and the rider falls off. Bad luck, because now one of my faster models is already taken out. The henchman must go on foot from now on. Fortunately he has his trusted double barreled shotgun still with him. A very effective weapon at close range.


Turn 2: My bandits on foot start to move further into town, while some defenders who were hiding out in Jack’s Brothel are waking up and start positioning themselves at various windows to get clear shots. More gunfire goes back and forth and my bandit who was in close combat with a dog manages to shoot the mongrel through the head. The indians come on land and manage to kill one of the crocodiles while a defender shoots and gets an ammo jam. Another crocodile gets in close combat with an indian but finds out the man is a collector of croc-skin and an expert at killing these river monsters. My rifleman on the other hand was to pleased with his shot in the first turn to notice the dog that attacked him and got his throat ripped out. Spurred on by the screams he hears behind him his friend runs further into town and hides behind some crates. Defenders inside the saloon start shooting at him at once. On the right flank the bandit who lost his horse teams up with another on foot and starts to shoot at one hapless defender at close range. The one bandit on horseback races on towards the boat.


Turn 3: I get some luck. My bandit on horse moves faster than ever when I can play one of my tactical cards (increased movement this turn). This enables him to not only reach the boat, but also dismount and climb on board. The engine room is in sight! Defenders rush in left and right and try to shoot him, one of them is the famous Lucky Luke. They fail to wound him, which is a feat of extreme luck in itself for the bandit. I immediately name him hero of the day. The two bandits who were shooting at the one defender must have made an impression, because the coward runs away while recovering the suffered wounds. Meanwhile the indians are trying to give my man on the boat some covering fire. They must have had to much to drink the night before, because their aim is way off. One of the female defenders who was on the roof of the saloon has a bright idea and jumps down in an heroic effort to engage an indian. This was the last brave deed for her since the indian sees her coming and smacks her with his tomahawk before she even hits the ground. One of the bandits who is cursing the running cowardly defender misses to spot the other defenders hiding out in the brothel and gets shot through the head. I start to loose men fast, but I am so pleased with the one guy on the boat that I see them as necessary sacrifices. In the animals turn one defender gets killed in close combat with a dog and a crocodile badly hurts (bot not kills) an indian.


Turn 4: I only have three man left on the table. The hero on the boat survives the first attack and now has only one more defender left on the boat with a higher initiative then him. An indian shoots at this defender but misses. He then engages her in close combat. She wins the combat, wounding the indian, but not killing him. This makes her loose her initiative card and my bandit has free game to enter the engine room and places the dynamite while more defenders move in closer. The bandit tries to light the fuse but fails to do so (must roll a 7 or higher on a D10). Further away in the town one of my other bandits gets boxed in by several defenders coming out of the brothel and gets murdered at close range. The indians try to keep other defenders on the boat busy. They fail to see the one defender rushing from the saloon and onto the boat. He has a clear shot at my bandit in the engine room. And the dice roll reveals a devastating natural 20! My hero of the day, my one true hope of blowing up this damned boat is killed outright. By the same guy who has been rolling horribly this whole game. Curse the dice gods, fickle beings as they are. While I am busy lamenting my bad luck the indians do al they can to wreak havoc near and on the paddle steamer. On the dockside one of them shoots Lucky Luke and inflicts some serious damage. The gunslinger turns around and shoots back but misses and a bad diceroll sees to it that he is out of ammo. All the remaining animals move randomly this turn.


Turn 5: One of the redskins fires at Lucky Luke, determined to get the damned cowboy out of his way. A natural 20 does the trick, or so we thought. The game master (who is even more fickle than the dice gods) declares that he isn’t called Lucky for nothing and gets a chance to survive. On an even roll on a D10 he would be allowed to get up. Fortunately his luck was not with him and he stayed down. This angers the defenders and they fire so many shots at another indian he should be dead as well, but some masterfully played tactical cards see to it that he is badly wounded but able to duck out of the way behind the nearest building. My final bandit on the table uses his first two actions to recover his wounds and then fires at the nearest defender but misses. Indians fire wildly around and manage to kill another defender, but one of the redskins dies on the boat because of dastardly played tactical cards. When my bandit gets shot to pieces the only ones who are able to win this scenario for us are the remaining indians. It does not look good on our part, because another dies in close combat on the boat. A crocodile engages a defender in close combat, but it is a tie so nothing happens.


Turn 6: Since I have no more models on the table I play no active part in this game anymore. Which gives me time to enjoy the final turns and encourage the indians remaining. 2 of them are near the boat, another one is further away, but has a rifle. The defenders shoot at them with everything they can and, once again, tactical cards are played and prevent the indians from getting onto the ship. One indian is killed by bullets, but a close combat inflicts not enough damage to another redskin. A dog attacks one of the defenders and kills him, but there are still to many defenders left. One of the remaining crocs clambers onto the dock.


Turn 7: The indians have good initiative cards for this round. But a tactical card played by the defenders scrambles them and the odds are against the attackers once again. Another redskin dies. Which leaves only two remaining. One of them is cowering behind the building and the other is the rifleman who is locked in close combat on the dockside. The one behind the building gathers all his courage and makes a run for the boat. He manages to get on there, but then gets caught up in close combat. The riflemen has some luck and manages to break away from combat and reached the engine room. He also succeeds in lighting the fuse of the dynamite my bandit left there. Unfortunately the fuse needs to burn for an entire turn and during that time the defenders can try to put it out (also a 7 or higher on a D10 roll). Since there are plenty of defenders left who still need to play this turn it is no surprise that one of them reaches the engine room and indeed puts out the fuse. Even more defenders reach the engine room and one of them shoots at the indian but scores a 1 and is out of ammo. A crocodile eats a defender, but I am afraid it has no further impact on the outcome of this game.


Turn 8: The one indian in the engine room tries to light the fuse 2 times, but fails both times. Frustrated, he fires at one of the defenders with him in the room but misses. It was not meant to be. After the redskin in close combat gets killed a similar faith awaits the one in the engine room when a bullet finds it’s mark and ends his frustration. The defenders have successfully protected the Daisy Bell from being destroyed, but they paid a price. A lot of them have died as well, but victory for this game belong to them nevertheless.

The game was great fun and the scenario was a good one to play. It could have gone both ways, but in the end the most decisive turn in the game was turn 4 when my bandit in the engine room got killed by the lucky shot. This gave us a big disadvantage and we could not recover from it. I took a gamble by getting him there as fast as possible and it did not play out that well. Fortunately Lucky Luke got killed, so we had some satisfaction in the end.

Well, that is all again for this time. Howdey to you all!


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