Saturday 7 August 2021

Dracula's America (Rules Review) Weird West/Gothic Horror Skirmish

Not a bad set of rules - but I feel like I could have skipped these and saved my money. It just feels like house rule/simplified Savage Worlds/Deadlands with lots of stuff removed.   Remove all the SW stats and replace them with a single "do everything" stat called "Grit."  Prune away most of the spells, skills and abilities. Add in a generic Necromunda-lite campaign system like most skirmish games are doing nowdays.Voila! In fact, this could have been an Osprey Blue Book - I don't feel it needed 137 pages and a hardback version. It's not a bad set of rules though.

The Shiny

It's a 137-page rulebook, hardbacked, which is very generously spaced out (easy to read). There's decent art and pictures of minis, a nice table of contents and a quick reference which I always appreciate. It's an easy rulebook to use and looks pretty. The fluff is pretty cool - Dracula assumes control of the Union after Lincoln is assassinated, the Confederacey dabbles in zombies, railway occultists clash with Indian skinwalkers...   Even better, the fluff does not get in the way of the rules which are laid out logically.  Well laid out, pretty rulebook.


You need 6+ each of d6, d8 and d10s, you roll a number of the specified dice with 5+ being a success. Your dice is determined if you are novice (d6), veteran (d8) or hero (d10). Modifiers are applied by adding or removing dice. If you get the max score on a dice (6 on a d6) you can re-roll another failed dice. You count up your successes. You also need some tokens for overwatch, jammed weapons, and "done acting" etc. 

Instead of a "long line of statistics to determine how tough, accurate or brave a model is" - the book is proud of how it makes them all a single stat, Grit. I'll spare you the full rant on how illogical this is but merely observe this merely means (a) either all models are the same, or (b) the author relies on a "long list of special rules" to differentiate each model.  Yeah, you guessed it. Each model gets a literal paragraph of explanations and special rules under them, and it somehow makes it 'simpler' than using evil stats. I mean, it's not like wargamers would understand stats like Move, Shoot, Fight, Defence and Will. Lucky we avoided those complicated stats, boys!

Despite my gripes, with only about 30 pages of main rules (and pretty consistent mechanics) it's not complicated to learn.

Given its a skirmish game, mini requirements (6-10) aren't high. It's pretty simple/logical in its mechanics, and most people have a range of dice nowadays. I'd say it's pretty accessible.



It uses a playing card activation system, probably because all Wild West games have one, but it doesn't accomplish much for the extra work it adds. Players get cards = their leader + 1/2 their warband. They can activate one or two minis with each card draw. Players play cards with high cards going first.  Facing matters (which is good) and models can move, shoot, fight or lookout (hold/overwatch).

While the cardplaying aspect does add some choice (i.e. play your best card to try to go first) I don't think it's worth the effort.  

Movement & Combat

All models move 4" (but I'm sure there's extra special rules for faster and slower models) and the usual charge/climb/jump/fall rules that exist in most skirmish games. Models are impacted by their 180d facing/vision arc which is good and adds tactics. Models can hold an action to react later to opponents.

Models Shoot at the closest enemy target (but may attempt to override this with a test) and you can pre-measure to see if the target is in close/medium/long range. The shooter makes a 3-dice test based on their Grit (basically d6, 8 or 10 depending on their level of experience). There are modifiers for range and cover. Some weapons need to make a Jam check.  Weapons have the usual 40K ranges ie. 24" for rifle, 18" carbine/bow, 12" pistol and naturally they all get their own special rule.

If a target is hit, it also rolls "save" using its Grit, modified by the successes the firer inflicted.  

When models Fight, both models roll 3 dice and compare their successes; with the winner doing the damage (and a possibility for draws). The loser makes a save as per shooting attacks. The winner can choose to "pushback" opponents which could add some cinematic moments. 

When rolling for damage, the 'degree of failure' determines if a model is shaken, downed or removed completely. I.e. you need a 7 and roll a 5 you might be shaken, but if you rolled a 3 you would be downed. 

Morale is very simple; once 50% casualties, the highest ranked model makes a test.

There are rules for mounted combat, dynamite, bystanders (including human shields) random events and unusual terrain like gunpowder barrels. 

The actual combat mechanics are pretty straightforward. Not bad, not great. "OK"


Campaigns & Other Stuff (aka the other 100 pages)

You start with a d10 hero and d6 novices. You arm your models and add "skills" from a list of 18. Which is less than you think as most of these skills do things like add +1 Fight and +1 Defence, and +1 to Shoot tests (cough cough...  acting just like stats). <- is the horse dead yet? Let me whack it again

There is a decent 8 scenarios and there are rules for team games.  There are optional "Agendas" (like assassinating an enemy boss) which are kinda like side-missions to earn extra Victory Points. Although I can't test this, I suspect this game would shine in a multiplayer demo/club-game format with competing gangs. 

There are the usual campaign tables for injuries and advancements - the advancements are somewhat randomized - sometimes you can choose, and sometimes you can't. Your gang has income and it has a "encounter" chart where you can roll for random occurances. (You can also use a supernatural encounter chart instead). You must roll for new recruits and may get novices or veterans based on circumstances - but getting better recruits if you win seems likely to "snowball" things so better gangs get even better - not wise in my opinion. Underdogs do get extra funds.

There are rules for hired guns (specialists who must be paid each campaign turn) who of course each come with their own paragraph of special rules. You can buy and sell weapons, horses and gear from a list of about 30 choices- from snake oil to telescopic sights. 

There is a list of supernatural models (which can be summoned by some gangs) and arcane powers - the 11 spells seem to be culled from Savage Worlds but this is probably a coincidence. 

There is a list of factions - vampires, monster hunters, skinwalkers, railway cultists, voodoo abolitionists, Confederate necromancers, etc - each with their own benefits and rules.

There are rules for in-game supernatural events (which can replace unexpected events) - such as zombie outbreaks.  Finally there is a bestiary of monsters and supernatural hired guns, as well as supernatural gear like silver bullets, grimoires, holy symbolsetc.

Actually this is one of the best/most comprehensive Necromunda-esque campaigns I've seen in a while, with lots of charts and stuff to do.

TL:DR Recommended? Maybe

As the owner of Savage Worlds/Deadlands I feel this is a bit of a wasted purchase (i.e. it's an expensive yet stripped down version of what I already have), but this is by no means a bad game. The rulebook is well laid out. While I'm not a fan of the card activation or the "single stat does everything" approach; combat mechanics are straightforward enough, and it has a campaign system which is more in-depth than most I see. I can certainly see it working very well in a club/multiplayer setup where you can play 1v1s, 3-4 player free-for-alls etc - depending on who wants to play.


  1. Groh-Krippen-Low7 August 2021 at 21:29

    Yet another excellent review! Honest, insightful, no mincing words or pandering, just straight analysis relevant to the gamer. Keep 'em coming!

    Can we post lists of stuff we would like to see reviewed? I'll give you a $ on your Patreon. Just kidding, I hate people who start Patreons to monetize their blogs & hobbytalk.

    1. Patreon kinda defeats the purpose of saving other poor hobby dads money by avoiding crappy rules.

      Sadly, since I am also a poor hobby dad, I don't have spare money to buy test rules I'm not interested in.
      I already have this one and "Reality's Edge" in my recent "expensive regrets" column!

      Hmm maybe I should give a glowing review and offer to sell people my copies or would it be suspicious? :-)

  2. Good review.

    I think one thing the rules do pretty well is simply articulate the difference between an expendable cowhand and your boss. I also liked that you could split your activation between two models OR have 2 models do 1 thing. Finally, I really enjoyed the "shove" mechanic more than I should have.

  3. "I think one thing the rules do pretty well is simply articulate the difference between an expendable cowhand and your boss."

    But other rules can do that. By moving to a single-stat-does-everything, they open the door to special rules which do the same job. The logic bothers me more than it should.

    "I also liked that you could split your activation between two models OR have 2 models do 1 thing."
    This was interesting and I'm not sure I've seen it before, despite how obvious it is.