Tuesday, September 15, 2015


So what made Desperado a wargaming classic?

First a little something for those new to the concept of miniature gaming. In Desperado, as many as 8 or 12 players gather around a game board where model buildings, figures, and animals are used to set the scene. The board becomes the arena that players of online games like Team Fortress are used to, but created with physical models instead of pixels. Dice are rolled to control movement and combat and charts are used to decide who shot whom (and where).

Desperado is an old-school skirmish wargame. It is not designed for point-based tournaments with one-on-one match-ups. Rather, it is a social game where several people play together, each controlling one or two characters. Generally, players are divided into teams working toward common objectives. I call it a "social" game, because the emphasis is on having a few laughs, and not on cut-throat competition. Losing in a spectacular way is far more entertaining than winning in a game like this.

The turn sequence is driven by cards, with each character taking their entire turn when their card comes up. Movement is limited by dice rolls, so a carefully planned move may be thwarted by a bad toss. Fire is accomplished with percentile dice (two 10-sided dice which represent the "ones" and "tens" places), and  takes into account range, type of weapon, the number of shots taken in one turn, and a very, very short list of other modifiers.

The wound chart is what probably made Desperado's reputation. When you score a hit, you roll for location and severity on a table that includes probably 30 different results. Players subtract health as they accumulate wounds, and they write down and apply specific penalties (limping, etc.).

Melee rarely happens in this game due to the lethality of fire, but when it does, the system is an opposed die roll with some bonuses and penalties.

The GM (or referee, or judge) is absolutely indispensable, because unlike a game like 40K, there is a subtle role-playing element. The scenarios are not clear "capture the flag" types of things. The game accommodates off-script situations with a generic skill test.

To understand Desperado, one must also grasp the nostalgic element of it. This game came out in 1992, and was one of the first "beer and pretzels" rules. It is by no means perfect, although some of the gaps in the original were filled in with the house rules provided in this edition. Thousands of gamers have played this game, and it is beloved by many. When people describe a Desperado game to you, they generally smile and begin recounting a hilarious string of mishaps, explosions, quips, and spectacular shots just as if it had happened to them in the real world. I've watched rules lawyers who start off scoffing at these humble little rules end up laughing alongside everyone else as unlikely but entertaining things unfold on the game table.

If you're looking for a point-based "faction"-building style of western game, Desperado is not your ticket. It is, in fact, meant to be the game you play at 8:00pm at the convention after a day of hard tournament gaming. It takes no preparation from the players, and a minimal amount from the GM. If you play Desperado, I guarantee you will never have to see a therapist because a 12 year-old crushed your ego with his 750-points of Elven gunfighters!

by Forrest Harris,
Editor and co-author of Desperado; The Knuckleduster Edition


If you are a gamer of a certain age, you will fondly remember Tom Kelly's Desperado. The humble pair of comb-bound, type-written booklets arguably launched the "beer-and-pretzels" revolution in American wargaming. It preceded Volley and Bayonet, Brother Against Brother, and a host of other "light" games that displaced the massive rulebooks that by the early '90's were beginning to collapse under their own weight.

Tom Kelly, as the story goes, used to run a wild west shootout for other dealers after hours at Historicon. It became so successful that he was encouraged by his fellow dealers to publish them. The rules were written down one year in the car on the way home from the show, and first published in 1992 in the form most of us remember.

Knuckleduster sold the original two volumes for many years, but Tom eventually stopped having them printed and invited me to re-publish them with up-to-date graphics. What resulted is a testament to this most hallowed of all Wild West games. In 66 pages, we cover the original rules verbatim, with sidebars which contain rule interpretations and house rules, plus scenarios, painting tips, and information about building your own scenery. Charts and a summary of house rules are also included.

Knuckleduster has also created a figure which exemplifies the spirit of Desperado. Named "Groin Shot McGhee," he sports a well-used boilerplate over the part of his anatomy Desperado is famous for including on its wound charts. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Desperado is available now at www.knuckleduster.com.

Groin Shot McGhee, 32mm (big 28mm, "heroic") with slotta base
Groin Shot McGhee, 28mm with integral base

Paperback: 66 pages
Publisher: Knuckleduster
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0966704649
ISBN-13: 978-0966704648
Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.2 x 11 inches

Friday, June 26, 2015


Has Knuckleduster just rung the death knell for hand-sculpted figures?


With traditional sculptors like Sebastian Archer and Tom Meier stalking the Earth, the future for traditional sculpting remains safe.

That said, Knuckleduster's new digital sculpts do have the capacity to raise eyebrows.

Three years ago, I took a look at state of digital technology and made the decision to dive into it head-first. I did not want to go the way of the village blacksmith. After throwing lots of time and money at this new art form, I arrived at figures with detail and crispness to match or exceed hand-sculpted figures, and a skillset as an artist that allowed me to fully take advantage of the new medium.

I will now present the fruits of my labor!


A figure being sculpted in Zbrush.
 First of all, I should point out that digital sculpting produces a master that takes the place of the "green" that a traditional sculptor makes. These prototypes go into the mold-making process just as a handmade model does, and the product you receive is a highly-detailed metal casting, not a plastic print. I'm using the highest quality mold material for these pieces, and my tin pewter can produce razor-sharp castings that capture every detail. These are not Scruby Napoleonics!


The Dame With No Name in Digital 28, A Woman of the Gun in 28, and The Dame in 32 (Heroic 28).
These three figures are, from left to right, 28mm digital (the new OW28-500 series, which you can find in the 28mm Old West listings), 28mm traditional (this is from OW28-111, Women of the gun), and 32mm (large 28mm) digital, from the Gunfighter's Ball product line.

Notice that the two digital figures are the same character rescaled; this is a big advantage of the digital technology. I can continue to support the old 28mm scale with the same releases that are added to the "heroic" 28, aka 32mm collection.

With this scaling capability, I'm able to keep the old hand-sculpted and new digital 28mm Figures in the same product line, and I think you will find that they blend very well. I worked very hard to achieve a digital sculpting style that was not sterile and that did not look "computerized." I wanted my current customers to be able to place their old Knuckleduster figures with the new ones on the same wargame table and not have them seem mismatched. You may not realize that one of my current packs, OW28-310, Wagon Riders, are digitally-sculpted.
Here we have the old, traditionally-sculpted figures alongside the new digital sculpts:

A digital cowboy with an analog horse.

Wyatt, meet Wyatt. Size and general style are the same, regardless of the obvious quality improvements wrought by the digital technology. Care has been taken to give digital Wyatt (actually Mysterious Dave Mather) the same, exaggerated proportions of a traditional 28mm figure.


"Gunfighter's Ball" figures square off. Knuckleduster's new 32mm/Heroic 28mm line. Shown here with plastic slottas; MDF straight-sided slottas are provided in the same size as other current Old West games.
Ever the set-in-my-ways historical wargamer, I was slow to embrace the "other" side of the hobby. But after exhibiting at Adepticon, a large game convention in Chicago, I learned how the rest of the world prefers their miniatures made. While showing my old figures, I was repeatedly asked "are these 20mm?" Even though I patiently explained how this was a grand old scale with the most variety available in it; that they could get stagecoaches, civilians, animals, and even potbellied stoves in this smaller scale, they persisted in viewing the like of Knuckleduster, Foundry, Old Glory, and Dixon as passe--geezer figures--not deserving of consideration. It was clear that I had to come up with larger and better figures to offer this more sophisticated market.

So the new scale I've introduced is 32mm, which is sometimes called "heroic 28mm", or even simply called "28mm" by some manufacturers. Almost all fantasy and sci-fi figures now use this scale, so if you're looking for western characters for a Malifaux game, my 32s will fit scale-wise with any of the figures in that genre. They feature a slotta-base arrangement, but I've elected to sell them with MDF slotta bases that are almost identical to ones distributed with integral-base figures such as Dead Man's Hand. I will be filling this line out with mounted figures, casualties, and lots of characters. I will even have some weird characters for those of you who like that sort of thing!

Knuckleduster (slotta) alongside another recently-produced "Heroic" scale Western figure.
The price is higher for the digitally-created packs; I cannot lie. I have to recover the cost of some very expensive equipment. For the 32s, expect to pay about the same as a Reaper Chronoscope figure. The 28s are still considerably cheaper than Dead Man's Hand or Foundry figures. Additionally, I will not be replacing or removing the old 28mm figures; they will remain in the catalog at the old price, so you will always have the cheap and cheerful alternative available to you.

What's next? Flying cars? Robots? Silver jumpsuits?
 I don't know about any of that, but as for Knuckleduster, we have a digital horse being rigged out with his western tack at the moment and is almost ready to ride. I'll be producing new sculpts using him, and will be creating mounted versions of characters to go with them. I have lots of funky gear and strange characters mapped out, so be watching!

California Kate; surely you've seen her by now.
Dan McGann; the Three-Legged Man. Extra dice for movement?

Dan McGann and all of the other Gunfighter's Ball characters are now available, as well as a six-figure set that includes 28mm versions of the same in the old format.


Monday, June 8, 2015


I spent the evening taking photos of my 1812 collection. Tonight I focused on Crysler's Farm and dabbled a little bit with the Kentucky Mounted Militia. I forgot to bring my "sky" backdrop home from the shop, so I did some creative angles and cropping. Also, my sons had taken up much of my table with summer projects, so I made the most of what I had to work with, and here are the results!

Brown-Coated Americans on the Right
A Flank View of the 49th and the 89th in the British Center.

"My Regiment, Damnit. 'Paid for it. It's mine."
Mohawks Sizing up the Americans.

Drone's Eye View.

Ripley's 21st in Line in the American Center.

Look Men, Canadians! How Hard Can This Be?
Kentucky Cavalry, Wind Their Way Through the Deep Michigan Woods.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Parade of New Releases; 28mm Mounted Robbers, Poker Set and Wounded, PLUS New 32mm Ranges

So much news for May that I don't know where to start!

Oh, well, let's just start with the new 28mm Old West items.

First off, we have mounted versions of the figures in the Robbers set, ow28-115. These figures give your James Gang the ability to get away in a hurry! As with the other mounted sets, they feature three two-man packs which correspond to the six figures in the dismounted packs.

Next, we have, by request, more wounded figures.I like to give a variety of costuming in order to give you the ability to find a figure that roughly represents your character.

 Wounded II

I have replaced the Poker Set (the old KDP-OW012). The mold tore and the masters were woefully out-of-date, so I spruced it up by replacing.....EVERYTHING. I sculpted the figures separate from the chairs so you can use them with any furniture you happen to have. The chairs were designed digitally and come in two pieces; the bottom legs and rungs are one piece, and the seat and back are the other piece. The table is in one piece, with nicely detailed poker chips and glasses cast right on the table-top.

 Poker Set

The next news item really merits its own story; I have added a line of 32mm Old West characters which I'm calling GUNFIGHTER'S BALL. I have some customers who prefer the larger 28s (which are increasingly called 32mm) such as Dead Man's Hand, Copplestone, Reaper, or Black Scorpion. In order to serve that segment of the market, I am digitally sculpting some very highly-detailed slotta base figures. I will also be issuing these in 28mm with integral bases--I would never leave my loyal 28mm customers in the lurch!

 Gunfighter's Ball
 The Dame With No Name

Finally, I've added two product lines from Australia, both by master sculptor Sebastian Archer. I first saw these figures in the Crystal Brush Competition at Adepticon in Chicago last year and was so impressed, I tracked down the sculptor and began importing them.

He has two product lines: Guild of Harmony is a small collection of nifty steampunk characters.

 Steampunk Tink

Twisted is the beginning of a line that will blossom into a full-fledged Steampunk game universe. The initial two offerings are limited-edition resin kits with outstanding detail.

 Twisted Oliver

Finally, I'm now on Facebook! Never fear; if you're not a Facebook person (I wasn't until business forced me into it), I will continue to issue news through the newsletter and my website.

The Home Page of the website will be changing--www.knuckleduster.com will soon be taking you to the home page of the shopping cart. All of the links you need will still be there--the downloads page in particular, but also the newsletter signups and links to our various blogs such as this one and Tumblr.

Happy shopping!
Forrest Harris