Monday, September 16, 2019


It's been awhile since I posted, so I thought it was high time I devoted some time to another tactical discussion of the Gunfighter's Ball rules.

I've watched players get frustrated as they close into short range, but still end up with a 20% chance to hit. These players have discovered the challenge that arises in any wargame as you try to conduct offensive fire on the move. Whether you have tanks, cowboys, or sci-fi armies, the same puzzle must be solved!

"In Without Knocking" by Charles Russell.
Of course, you can't get close to your foe without moving, but you can't move without reducing your fire effectiveness. If you stand stock-still and aim on your first action, you will have a 70% chance to hit with a pistol at short range (60% to hit, and +10% for aiming). If you move on your first action, you deny yourself the ability to take an aim action and you suffer a penalty for moving, so your best shot (assuming your opponent has no cover) is 30%.

Photo courtesy Gary Harding.

So how do you solve this problem?

1.  One way is to utilize cover. If Wild Bill is in the saloon and you're tasked with attacking him, then you would be committing suicide by moving to the door of the saloon and then firing on your second action. It would be far better to take up a position behind the horses at the hitching rail and patiently awaiting his turn. If he wants to fire at you, he will be faced with either shooting through the good cover of the horses or moving to get to you, losing fire effectiveness.
2. Think like a soldier; use characters in concert with one another. Post one figure in cover to engage the enemy from the front and send a second character around to attack from the flank or rear.
3. Watch for the golden ticket: if your opponent takes a quickdraw, that leaves him vulnerable until he has paid for it with a missed turn. During that window of opportunity, you can shoot without fear of a quickdraw response. Stand still, take your first action to aim, and take as many shots as your weapon allows on the second action. If your character has special marksmanship bonuses, go ahead and take a called shot! This approach is what Wyatt Earp called "taking your time, but doing it quickly."
3.  In spite of all of the challenges of moving in for the kill, playing offensively makes for a far better game than sheltering in place and hoping for the best as some players seem to want to do. Did you ever wonder why the only restriction on choosing actions is the inability to move after firing in a turn? This was a game-design decision to keep action lively and keep people from hiding after every shot; can you imagine what kind of game that would be? Be bold; there are no tin widows!

Photo courtesy Ivor Janci.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Knuckleduster has just released two new figures sets for Gunfighter’s Ball™!

The first is the Linguine Western Faction, a collection of six cinematic gunfighters for $18. Each of the figures can be purchased individually or in the faction pack above.

The second is a set of Gunfight Casualties, featuring a variety of character types for $12. The addition of these figures brings our total product line to 96 unique fighters and over 40 bystanders!

Gunfighter’s Ball figures are sized to match today’s 28mm figures, and blend well with wild west figures and terrain available from other manufacturers. 
Visit and check out the full line of Gunfighter’s Ball figures, buildings, terrain accessories, game accessories and our full-color hardbound rulebook. Also be sure to check out our free Greenhorn Edition rules PDF, as well as our Facebook Group.

Thursday, June 6, 2019


It has been a busy year for Knuckleduster. We fulfilled our Wild West Kickstarter last fall and we've seen an explosion in popularity of both the game system Gunfighter's Ball, and the figure line, which now includes over 90 individual fighters and well over 30 bystander characters.

In June we'll be releasing the first booster pack of character cards, which will include cards for 20 characters in the Jesse James, Vigilantes, and Cowtown Characters factions, as well as cards for Lucky Lou and Long Shot.

Several new characters are being mastered this month for pre-Historicon release, including new Spaghetti Western figures, a wagon, and a billiard set.

Check out all of our figures, buildings, terrain accessories, rules, and game accessories at!

Friday, March 8, 2019


The Cowtown Characters figure set includes a mix of character archetypes in order to give a new player some variety without buying multiple faction packs.

The next few articles will present character cards for these new figures that you can print out, fold and laminate for use with Gunfighter's Ball (TM). The finished card should be printed at 5" wide and trimmed 1/8" all around for a finished size of 4.75" wide.


The first new character card is for Minnie the Madam (GBF-89).

Minnie's not based on any movie character, but instead represents the type of women who ran the sporting houses (brothels) in the western towns. As you can see from the photos below, these ladies weren't the rare beauties of Hollywood films or the leggy, balloon-busomed "saloon gals" we've come to expect, but probably far more desirable as allies in a life-and-death fight!

Lou Bunch

Minnie carries a dagger in addition to her Remington Double-Derringer. It's important that she time her attack carefully, because she only has two cartridges in the pistol and the rest are in her dresser, which might be hundreds of paces away! Be on the lookout for weapons that can be pilfered from characters who are no longer in need of them.

Her Action Number is 1, so she only takes one turn per round. To compensate her for this disadvantage, she has a considerable hand-to-hand fighting advantage of +2. Use her dagger to bolster her attack, or position her where she can grab something more substantial. like a pitchfork, claw hammer, or bowie knife.

If you have a chance to add a pistoleer cards, "Lady" would be a good choice, as it would render her immune to attack unless she voluntarily enters the combat. 

One last advantage. Animals instinctively sense trouble when she's afoot, so she might just spook the horse some gunslinger is using for cover!


A good old gal.

Forrest Harris

Monday, December 10, 2018


Gunfighter's Ball, Knuckleduster' new tabletop western miniatures game is wrapping up its Kickstarter fulfillment and the long-awaited release of the system has been set for December 15th, just in time for Christmas. The release will include a full-color, hardbound rulebook, four decks of playing cards used in the game, a game mat, a new saloon buildings, two new furniture sets (including a large saloon bar), as well as 31 new figures in addition to the 57 fighters, 33 bystanders, and numerous buildings, animals, and mounted figures currently available.

If you're already in-the-know, you can probably stop here. If you've never encountered this game before, please read-on and find out about the game your friends are (no doubt) telling you about!


Gunfighter's Ball is a very fast-paced and character-driven shootout game with card-based initiative, an innovative wound-tracking system that uses poker chips, and a very simple and easy-to-use defensive reaction mechanism that gives non-phasing players a chance to shoot back when being attacked from short range. This game stands on the shoulders of Wild West games that have gone before it, however this game will feel at once as comfortable as an old pair of boots, and shiny as a new pair of spurs.


Several things make Gunfighter's Ball stand out. First is its scope. The game was designed to recreate gunfights the size of the Tombstone shootout at the OK Corral; in other words, gunfights and NOT small military skirmishes with cowboys masquerading as assault troops. For this reason, you can think of it as "crime gaming" and not "wargaming".

Second is the use of cards to add flavor without the need to keep track of lots of details. Special ability cards, called Pistoleer Cards, can be used to give a character advantages, disadvantages, or quirks. Wound cards from "The Black Deck" can be used in lieu of the wound chart to add some gruesome fun to the hit results.

Third is the use of poker chips to keep track of health; Knuckleduster sells casino-grade clay composite poker chips that make a distinctively western sound when cashed in! Next, a universal system of weighting from -3 to +3  gives game Judges and players the ability to create characters and scenarios by balancing the worth of various special abilities and archetypes (and in 2019, weapons and equipment).

Finally, the defensive reaction system (known as "quickdraws") allow any character who is attacked from within short pistol range to sacrifice their next card to try and make a defensive snap shot. Players roll-off against one another to see who is the fastest gun hand, and it's even possible for characters to gun one another down simultaneously!


I'm glad you asked. And here it is, pilgrim:


Knuckleduster has paired these rules with their premier digitally-sculpted Gunfighter's Ball figures and terrain. Each figure is sculpted digitally by Forrest Harris, printed on a jewelry-grade, industry-standard 3D prototyping machine (and Envisiontec Hi-Res), and cast in razor-crisp tin pewter.

Figures are provided with an MDF base, and a set of 70 character cards is available for all of the figures in production, simultaneously providing stats as well as a color picture of a painted figure to use as a paint guide.


Indeed there is.

Gunfighter's Ball MDF and HDF buildings have incorporated cast parts in order to make windows and doors realistic, strong, and easy to install. Stores, a blacksmith's shop, a barbershop, saloons, a jail, a boarding house/hotel, outhouse, fencing, and livery stable are in the current product line (some just being released at the holidays), and many more designs are planned.

Some of our buildings on the demo board we take to conventions. This is a typical game layout. You can also see our buildings in the YouTube video linked to earlier.


Dozens and dozens of fighters, bystanders, vignettes (such as a pharo game in progress), animals, buildings, and furniture are available at the present time, and Knuckleduster's usual frantic pace of new releases, which took a break during Kickstarter fulfillment, will resume in earnest after December 15th, with dozens of new items in the pipeline.

Also be sure to check out the links on the right side of this page, and explore the articles contained here on the Gunfighter's Ball Blog.


Sunday, November 4, 2018


October 26th, 1874

Abilene, Kansas saw its deadliest gun battle in over thirty-six hours as members of the Texas cattle fraternity and local law officers battled it out in and around the Bull’s Head saloon, an establishment notorious for incidents such as the Saturday Night Slaughter of ’70, the Monday Afternoon Massacre of ’71, the Mid-day Holocaust of ’72, and the Lunch Catastrophe of ’73 which, in all fairness, was due to tainted mayonnaise on the finger sandwiches.

Among the fallen were notable lawman Wild Bill Hickok, Abilene constable “Chester” Asby Lowe, Texas mankiller John Wesley Hardin, and cattleman Phil “Doboy” Taylor, an associate of Hardin’s. Surviving were Bull’s Head owner Robert TB Tender, constable Woodrow Legge, and another member of the Taylor faction who was carried off by an spooked horse. Legge was shot through the mouth and prosthetic leg, yet managed to dispatch foes with a cool disregard for danger which is the hallmark of amputees.

The fracas began when Hardin and Taylor came to town to claim the body of their murdered cousin, Cletus “Pigeon Toes” Hootenany who was shot by an unidentified party at, coincidentally, an unidentified party. Blaming local law officers for the killing, the two Texans invaded the Bull’s Head saloon, killing Lowe instantly with a shot to the head and cornering Legge behind the bar, where he managed to kill Taylor after exchanging several shots and receiving his own gruesome head wound, a bullet entering the mouth and causing the loss of one good tooth, and one that was about sixty percent bad.

Hearing gunfire, Marshal J.B. Hickok vaulted to a perfect dismount from the amorous sport in which he was engaged, dressed himself impeccably and mounted a horse, riding to the scene of the gunplay and joining in, game as ever. Unfortunately, the auburn-haired specimen of manly perfection was unable to prevent a fate which has become the bane of Hickoks everywhere; he was shot dead from ambush by an assassin at the window behind him.

The gun battle was brought to a halt by the quick-thinking owner of the Bull’s Head and his trusty shotgun “Emma,” named for his estranged wife (who is now residing in Denver). Tender told reporters that much like his former companion, the shotgun cracks open when loaded and has a tremendous spread when used.

When asked if they were heroes, Tender attempted to sell the reporter his autograph, and Legge made a quiet whistling sound due to the holes in his face.

The preceding was a report from an afternoon game of Gunfighter’s Ball, the Wild West tabletop miniatures game. Six friends rolled dice, drew cards, and moved miniatures around a model town, producing the results detailed in this story. A good time was had by all.

Find out more at and look up our game play video on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


At first glance, Gunfighter's Ball is a simple and straightforward gunfighting game. After meeting one inglorious end after another, however, you begin to realize that there is quite a bit of strategy inside the combat system. If you pay attention to the little things, you'll find they make a big difference.

The Talkin' Triggernometry series of entries will address the strategies that give you the best chance of winning at Gunfighter's Ball, as well as how to avoid common mistakes. We'll also talk a bit about rules interpretations and suggestions for house rules to add detail to the game. You're encouraged to join the discussion in the comments section below each article to exchange observations and questions.


One of the most powerful defensive moves you can make is to interrupt your opponent's planned shot with a quick draw, sacrificing your next turn in the process. This rule was designed to eliminate the very unrealistic situation that arises in games where your character is frozen while your opponent simply walks up and shoots you at point-blank range when it's their turn. 


1. Quick draw is a defensive maneuver. If your opponent has declared three shots (the most they can take in one action), you will cut that down to one shot simply by declaring a quick draw. Also, even if you lose the roll that determines who shoots first, the only way you won’t be able to shoot back is if you're killed outright by your opponent's shot, which will now be taken at a reduced chance to hit.

2. It's called quick draw for a reason! Although this mechanism is essentially a snap shot and doesn't have to include drawing, it certainly can. If you find yourself in the thick of a gunfight with your pistol still in your holster, this is a way to get that gun in your hand and take a shot in the same action.

3. Speaking of gambling, you don't want to waste a quick draw in a situation where your opponent's declared shot would already have a poor chance of hitting. For instance, if your opponent moved on his first action to get within short range, and you are in cover, he is already highly likely to miss you. By declining to take a quick draw, you play good odds and save the ability to act during your next card.

4. It's important to weigh the use of the quick draw carefully, because sacrificing a card means losing two actions on your next turn in exchange for one snap shot. Use it when your back is really up against the wall--when your opponent has a very good chance to hit you, or waiting to act until your next turn isn’t soon enough.


Fortune favors the well-prepared. Try to be aware of characters' strengths and weaknesses. In the example below, The Chaco Kid (see cards) has an Action Number of 3 versus Maria's Action Number of 2. He also has a +1 bonus because of his "Greased Lightning" special ability. In total, he rolls with a 2-point advantage over Maria. For this reason, it's a good idea for The Chaco Kid to be maneuvered into in a situation which might involve a quickdraw against her, perhaps avoiding an enemy character with stats closer to his own.

If you are adept at using the quickdraw rule, you will find your opponent constantly out-of-step with the flow of combat and vulnerable to the sting of your smokin' sixguns.

Thanks, and be sure to post your comments and questions below.