Steampunk Old West: Steam Tanks

Steam Tank

This is a series of blog articles, updating and based on my original article on Steampunk Old West. I will be posting a few blog articles over the next week or so on my experiences and thoughts on taking the old west and adding a dash of victorian science fiction. I have painted and have been painting up some Foundry Old West figures for use with the Legends of the Old West Warhammer Historical rules. I liked the concept of a traditional Old West game, however the film Cowboys and Aliens got me thinking about “different” old west backgrounds. I did first start thinking about adding Victorian Science Fiction or Steampunk elements to the games. Taking aspects such as steam tanks, electric rifles, and aether flyers and adding them to the old west.

In this post I will be discussing steam tanks, these are powerful armoured vehicles driven by steam engines. In our world, tanks came about because of the need to break trench warfare, and these tanks were driven by petrol engines. In a steampunk world, or in the world of victorian science fiction, the tank arrives much earlier, however no petrol engines here, they are driven by steam.

Whilst looking for scenery for Flames of War I did come across some really nice looking Victorian SF tanks from Ironclad Miniatures.

Okay so we can’t really use the name “tank” as that was merely a cover name used by the British in World War One to describe their new armoured fighting vehicles. However we now know what a tank is, and these look like tanks, just in the old west they wouldn’t have called them tanks. I am going to call them tanks even if the inhabitants of the old west wouldn’t have!

Two of the range strike me as ideal models for a Steampunk Old West setting. The first model is the Medium Tank is tracked steam tank with a single large turret. The second is the Armoured Steam Carriage, it can be built with either a Nordenfelt or Gatling machine gun.

Both of these look very steampunk and painted in desert colours would fit nicely into an old west setting. There are other models in the range that would probably also work just as well, but these two are the ones I I think work best.

I bought the Medium tank. This is a really nice model, that goes together very easily. I was pleased with the paintjob and how it turned out. I do feel I have managed to capture very much an Old West Steam Tank, one that would look right at home trundling down Main Street or for supporting an attack on a gold mine.

Medium Tank

You can see the workbench feature on this model here.

So what about rules for the steam tanks.

Well The Old West rules are from Warhammer Historical and are based around Warhammer, to me it would probably work to use the tank rules from Warhammer Historical’s World War One rules, The Great War. Sadly these rules are no longer available with the demise of Warhammer Historical. An alternative could be The Rules with no Name.

The weapons though in The Old West wouldn’t hurt these tanks (well except the nitro) so if these tanks were to be used then we would need some extra weapons added. Again the rules from The Great War allow for the use of artillery and gatling guns.

As this is steampunk, you could add some anti-tank weapon systems, like the bazooka, these could be steampunk rockets. Powerful explosive devices, powered by steam. Another steampunk weapons could be electric rifles

The Old West is circa 1882 and the Gatling Gun was patented in 1862. Of course in a steampunk setting you can allow for the rapid advance of weapons as well as the introduction of tanks. For example the French 75mm field gun was in our world adopted in 1898, well we could bring that forward, couldn’t we? Anyhow a variety of artillery was used in the American Civil War and that could be used for a steampunk old west game for fighting against steam tanks.

Adding steam tanks to an Old West game, certainly makes for a different game, and even if you don’t want to use tanks, you could use one as an objective.

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