Back in my Gen Con 2015 Wish List post, I mentioned a miniatures game called Fistful of Kung Fu by Osprey Wargames that I was excited to check out. Unfortunately, when I stopped by Opsrey’s booth at Gen Con I found out that they didn’t have any copies of the book with them, and I was told I needed to get it from their website. So, during a lull in my Thursday event, I did just that. At the time that I purchased it, I was able to buy the softcover version of the rulebook for $13.37 including shipping, which is cheaper than buying the PDF. Not really sure what’s going on there.
My copy arrived at my house a few days after I returned from Gen Con. The book is written by Andrea Sfiligoi (his website can be found here) and is 64 high quality, glossy pages filled with full color photos and art. The book is laid out in a very intuitive way that follows the order of game play really well. I did find myself having to flip through and search for things quite a lot during my first game. But, finding what I needed was always quick, and it definitely seems that the rules-hunting will drop off a lot after I get a couple games under my belt. The last couple pages of the book consist of the few tables that you will need to frequently reference while playing. Osprey has provided a 10 page sample of the book (including the table of contents) which can be found here.
Rules wise, Fistful has a lot of cool things to offer. Every character has a whooping two stats, one for combat, and one for EVERYTHING else. Where characters differentiate themselves is in the special abilities, or Traits in game terms. The rule book contains 81 of these traits which allow characters to do things like using the Quivering Palm Technique to make an opponent’s character explode, or catch an arrow an opponent fires at you and throw it back at them, or just cast fireball.
The main mechanic of the game is what has been called a “press your luck” style mechanic. Basically, before you do anything with a particular character, the player has the option to roll one, two, or three D6, trying to meet or beat a target number. If you hit the target number, that’s a success, if you roll below the target number, that’s a failure. The number of successes AND failures you roll determines what you (and your opponent) can do. You can check out the table on page 8 of the preview to see all the different outcomes that can happen.
Fistful of Kung Fu’s combat mechanic is really fun. It starts out pretty basic, you and your opponent each roll a D6 and add relevant modifiers, higher number wins. Once you find the winner the really interesting stuff happens. The player who’s turn it is determines how much they won or lost by and then can pick one or more Combat Effects, which can range from things like pushing your opponent back a short distance, or just outright killing them. In total there are 20 different Combat Effects for hand-to-hand combat, and 15 for ranged. Also, if a player loses a ranged combat test bad enough, their opponent has a list of horrible things that can do as well.
Another big plus for this game is that it encourages players to use whatever models they happen to have laying around (they do recommend that you keep the scale and bases consistent) which is really nice for someone like me, who doesn’t have a ton of money to drop on models. This is pretty consistent with some of the other games Osprey has produced (which has resulted in some awesome things like Frostbrick). When I finally do get a little extra money, I’m going to pick up a couple squads of the official models from North Star Military Figures (for anyone curious, I’m planning on getting the Kung Fu Heroes squad and The Demons squad).
My main complaint with this game is that the options for different types of weapons are super limited. For example, there aren’t any rules to cover things like spears or staffs, which means that I won’t be playing out the opening scene of Eight Diagram Pole Fighter any time soon. And it would be nice to have rules for some of the wackier kung fu weapons like flying guillotines, flags, and metal fans that shoot poison darts. Also, I kind of regret getting the physical book rather than pdf (even though it was cheaper). Way too much game time was spent looking up what a particular Trait did, and characters can have a ton of Traits. It would have been super convenient to be able to copy and paste the Trait description onto a short character sheet for easy reference. Another complaint I have is that the rules for running a campaign are overly simple and don’t really add any incentive to track your gang over several games. The game also contains a fair bit of supernatural elements which really isn’t my cup of tea, but that is much more of a personal taste thing rather than an actual criticism.
I’m hoping against hope that there will be future supplements for Fistful of Kung Fu, but I really get the impression that it isn’t very likely to happen. If more goodies are released they will be an insta-purchase for me (also I have a ton of ideas for new stuff ANDREA IF YOUR READING THIS MY EMAIL ADDRESS IS TO THE RIGHT! HIT ME UP HOMIE!).
Overall I highly recommend Fistful of Kung Fu. It’s a crazy, easy to learn tabletop war game that really captures the spirit of Hong Kong action movies. You can grab physical copies for $9.87 plus shipping form the Osprey website, and PDFs are available for $14.95 from Osprey’s site and from DriveThruRPG and related sites.
Check back for a Fistful of Kung Fu battle report coming in my next post sometime in the next day or two!