Many kids grew up wanting to stride manfully down the main road in a dusty western town, six shooter on their hip and duster blowing in the wind. Saloons, shootouts, three days of growth on the chin and wide brimmed hats are just a day in the life of a Hollywood cowboy. As with many of these dreams, there is a role-playing game to fit into that gap.
Over the years there have been many Old West RPGs. Boot Hill, Dust Devils, Six Gun and Shady Gulch to name a few. Most came and went in short time periods, just like the western cinema revival that threatens to reappear every few years but never quite turns up.
One of the more recent entries, and certainly one of the more comprehensive ones, is Aces and Eights by Kenzer Co. A more deluxe take on the old west, set by default in a fictional version of the American west the Aces and Eights line brought high production values to the western RPG.
Aces & Eights is a modular system that allows the GM and players to use as many or as few rules as they like. The combat system is quite involved but seems pretty realistic and good at conveying the western gunfight. It uses a transparent shot clock placed over a silhouette of the target to assist in the targeting and location determination, a more refined version of a similar idea used in the older game Millennium's End.
A quick review of the game lines gives us the following.
Aces and Eights Core Rulebook. Available in both a deluxe faux leather hardback and a softback version. The hardback version has embossing on it in the same manner, and much the same style, as the old Time Life Old West series of books (keep an eye out for a post on the usefulness of these as a GM resource at another time.) 398 pages plus a couple of transparent shotclocks.
Players Guidebook. A cut down version of the main rule book containing rules for player use and removing a few GM details and the setting information. 218 pages plus a couple more shotclocks.
Fool's Gold. An adventure around a gold claim and a bandit gang. 32 pages plus cover/maps.
Trouble on the Sequoyah Star. A large adventure set mainly on the Sequoyah Star passenger train. The pack includes a 48 page adventure, 16 pages of NPCs, in the standard Aces and Eights full page format, 11 full colour card stock pages of maps of the train with miniature grids printed on them, plus the cover which also includes a couple of maps.
Shootist's Guide. A 32 page booklet including rules and stats for creatures and animals and expanded rules for horses and mules. 30 pages of new silhouettes for human targets in various poses, also hiding behind obstacles and mounted. 14 pages of animal silhouettes. Plus an additional shotclock.
Judas Crossing. A 112 page book on a town in the Shattered Frontier, Judas Crossing with maps, details of the town, information on the various factions in and around the town and information on NPCs and how to obtain the correct NPC for the correct situation.
Rustlers and Townsfolk. A huge book of NPCs in 3 hole punch format, full page, for every walk of life that you could need in running an Aces & Eights game.
Rustlers and Townsfolk: Judas Crossing Edition. A large book of NPCs in the 3 hole punch full page per NPC format detailing over 100 of the individuals that reside in and around the town of Judas Crossing.
An excellent game for scratching that wild west itch that we all get from time to time.