Saturday 25 November 2023

Gunfight at the OK Corral & The Earp Vendetta Ride 1881/82 - What a Cowboy


The November meeting saw the first club outing for "What a Cowboy" rules from "Too Fat Lardies". I had played the rules twice before, but this was my first outing as umpire. 

The rules are designed for up to ten figures a side, but previous experience suggests six characters aside is more reasonable. Characters are divided into "Legends", "Gunfighters", "Shootists" and "Greenhorns".

Naturally, "Legends" and "Gunfighters" get to do things ordinary men cannot and "Greenhorns" things you wouldn't want to. There is also the option of groups of "Henchmen", but we didn't use this, as the play was character based.

Play is card driven, with each character having his own card and activates when it is drawn from a deck. In addition there are "Bonanza" tokens, which are one off interruptions of a phasing player's actions, by a non phasing player. Add to this special traits and one off Desperado cards (one off special actions) and you have a fully rounded character.

On a character's card being drawn, the player gets to roll a set of six "Action Dice", with the scores determining which particular actions may be taken (move, aim, shoot, any action etc). Successful attacks allow a "Dodge" roll, with either a dodge to cover or the possibility of accruing "Shock" or wounds.

Shock leads to action dice being removed to a temporary shock pool. Wounds can give "Shock" and effects, as well as the permanent loss of "Action" dice.

The players were Chas, who had play tested the rules with me before, Gregory, Mark E and father and son Mark & Matthew, who were playing as one player. The split was Gregory & Mark/Matthew as the "Cowboys"; Chas and Mark E as the Earp posse.

Earps Vendetta Ride - Bud Bradshaw

I had decided a full day club meeting should allow me to run the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" and "The Battle of Iron Springs" (part of the Earps Vendetta Ride), but I would have to make sure the pace of play didn't slacken.

The background to the scenarios was the growing hostility between the Earps and the "Cowboys" (a loose grouping of horse thieves, cattle rustlers, stagecoach robbers etc) in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Virgil Earp being a US Marshal is treading a delicate path in this prospective State, not least as many inhabitants like the free and easy life in a Territory, rather than a regimented State. Add to this the sympathies held by the town Sheriff Johnny Behan for the "Cowboys" and a conflict was likely.

With the passing of a local Ordinance banning the carrying of firearms or Bowie knives in Tombstone, Virgil was determined to see the law was enforced. Having deputised his brothers and Doc Holliday, Virgil came across an armed Ike Clanton and proceeded to pistol whip him and drag him up before the local Judge. After the hearing, Wyatt ran into an armed Tom McLaury, who he proceeded to pistol whip and tell to check his gun at the nearest saloon. That night Ike was drinking heavily and loudly boasting of how he would kill the Earps. Word of this reached Wyatt the next morning.

The game opened with the Earp posse (Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan & Doc Holliday) walking down Fremont
Street, looking for the "Cowboys".

Unseen, in a vacant lot next to "Fly's Boarding House", the "Cowboys" were standing around, whilst Ike cleared his head by dunking it in a horse trough.

At this point Sheriff Behan ran up to the Earps and said "There is no need for you to go down there. I have been down to disarm them."

Wyatt told Behan to "move out of the way, as I mean to check" and brushed him aside.

With the Earp's walking down the middle of the street, quite a few "innocent bystanders" came out to take a look. This came to the notice of Billy Clanton, who stood nearest to Fremont street, in the alley by "Fry's Boarding House". Moving out onto the main street, Billy shielded his eyes to see who the men walking towards him were. A good hand of spot rolls later, he could see they were the Earps and Holliday and was not slow to let the other cowboys know too.

Holliday dodged into Fry's Boarding House and made for the stairs, bringing his shotgun out from under his duster coat as he went. Ike made his special "Panic" roll, passed, and headed into Fry's Photographic. Both men ignored the protestations of the owners of these establishments.

Holliday had stolen a march on the Earps, who were still half way down the street. The Earps being well aware they could not start any trouble, as they were the law. Holliday was another matter and he arrived on the balcony at the boarding house and drew a bead on the cowboys exiting the alley. Tom McLaury saw him just in time and dodged behind cover, as pellets kicked up the dirt where he had been.

Meanwhile several bystanders froze with fear or ran about like headless chickens, adding to the confusion.

Billy Clanton made it onto the boardwalk and faced a hail of fire from the Earps. Bullets struck all round him, but he made it into the boarding house and was up the stairs after Holliday, scattering civilians as he went.

The Earps took cover in various shops, as Billy Clanton walked up behind Holliday on the balcony. He couldn't miss. Well, he did and Doc cut him down with a shotgun blast.

Ike Clanton had made his way down a side alley and got the drop on Morgan, shooting him through a window. Wyatt fired three shots at Ike, but none found their mark.

Frank McLaury wounded Virgil and then decided to leave the scene, with Tom McLaury.

Meanwhile Ike and Wyatt were shooting at each other through a window. Wyatt hit Ike and he fell. As Wyatt engaged Frank McLaury, Billy Claiborne arrived in the side alley. Ignoring Ike's wounds he picked up his gun. Finally he was armed. At this point Wyatt popped up and gunned him down.

With Wes Fuller shouting "I ain't got no gun", a volley of bullets cut him down. The remaining cowboys beat a hasty retreat and the action was over.

The second scenario was the part of the Earp Vendetta ride. Following the action in Tombstone, the cowboys bushwhacked Morgan and Virgil on separate nights. They killed Morgan and wounded Virgil. The remaining Earps and their friends meant to have their revenge and set off to hunt down the cowboys.

Riding to meet one of their number who was bringing them $1000, the Earp posse crested a low hill near Iron Springs, only to see a few cowboys breakfasting by the stream. Some good spotting enabled them to pick out Johnny Ringo and Curly Bill Brocius, both of whom were on their blacklist.

William 'Curly Bill' Brocius

The Earps had the advantage, having long arms to hand and dismounted. They fired on the four in the camp, picking on the two of the four men they recognised. At this point Wyatt threw caution to the wind, drew his six-gun and rushed towards the cowboys.

The fight continued, with Curly Bill being wounded. Seeing this, Johnny Ringo made a break for the horses hidden behind a stand of trees, telling the others he meant to get his Winchester.

Whilst this was going on, the other five cowboys were rushing towards the scene, having been off collecting wood.

Now the Earps were caught in the crossfire. Doc decided to finish off those in the camp and advanced, firing as he went. He wounded one cowboy with his shotgun, but was himself cut down by close range fire.

Johnny Ringo

Meanwhile Wyatt was into the woods in pursuit of Johnny Ringo. Just as Johnny reached the horses, Wyatt's gun spoke and felled him.

With another member of the Earp's posse being shot by the returning cowboys, both sides broke off and head for the hills.

Many thanks to Chas, Gregory, Mark E, Mark & Matthew, for playing in the spirit of the game. I would
also like to thank Gregory, who acted as my American cultural advisor, making sure the freedoms of the Constitution were exercised at all times!


1 comment:

  1. Excellent write up Vince, you could make a film of it.