Monday, 27 February 2017

playing (with) the system!

Hi all, I've been thinking (which is normally when the trouble and the screaming begins!). I love a good wargame, its fair to say i'm a little obsessed with the blimin things. Recently i have drifted away from the smaller scale games such as Lion rampant and such and back towards a larger scale of mass indiscriminate death in the form of Kings of war. Now I am a fan of both scales and will switch to fit the narrative i'm attempting to resolve on the table. Its been a while since i played a game in the larger scale (in terms of number of troops on the table), and i found something about the experience a little lacking. The troops in the game activated during their turn and did exactly what i wanted them to do (within the rules of course!). There was no uncertainty, the troops may as well have been robots!, where was the miss-communication?, where was the confusion in the din of battle?, where was the FOG OF WAR?!!. After playing games that forced the player to think about what he activated and how because even trying to get your troops to do as they were told was racked with risk and doubt this felt a little odd. During a game of Lion Rampant a failed activation test results in the turn ending and the opposing force attempting to activate their own troops .The rather good 'A Song of Blades and Hero's' by Ganesha games has a system that not only asks the player to make decisions as to which troopers to activate in which order but also adds an element of risk by asking how many actions you wish them to perform, failing to succeed when testing EACH action can risk your opponents taking free actions of his own or even play passing to the other side!. These mechanics are handled in a simple manor and flow very well and do a good job of simulating how troops may not follow or understand orders when angry people are attempting to chop off their excess limbs!!. Games such as Kings of War and Warhammer fail in this imo by not having any kind of mechanic to simulate troops attitudes in so far as refusing to do as they are actually told when under such stress. I think a lot of this has to do with the turn systems in these games. Both follow the igougo method of activation (one players force perform all actions then play passes to the opposing player who does likewise). Now im not trashing this method, it works well to give a nice game and has done for a long time, however i want a bit more.....uncertainty, i want troops to be caught in the open by a surprise attack. I want troops to be proactive and get the drop on the enemy, i want troops to downright ignore me under pressure!. I suppose i want troops to be, well, human (or other species).
Would you just blindly charge?

Now i am also of the opinion that you shouldn't criticize without offering a solution (or at least an alternative), so without further ado I give you....SPRINKS' UNFINISHED AND IN SOME PART LOOTED FROM OTHER SYSTEMS ALTERNATE IDEAS ON ACTIVATING TROOPS TO CREATE A SENSE OF 'FOG OF WAR'! (breath!).

 This idea is aimed at games with the igougo turn sequence. Now most of these games (certainly all the ones i have played) break each game turn into steps or phases (for example movement followed by shooting followed by combat etc). All the steps are completed by player x and then play passes to player y who begins a new turn of the same phases. It would look something like this:

TURN 1    Player x performs all moves, 
                  Player x shoots with all his troops that can do so,
                  Player x resolves any combats involving his troops.

                 Player y performs all moves,
                 Player y shoots with all his troops that can do so,
                 Player y resolves any combats involving his troops.

 And during one players turn his opponents army just stand there and take it!. The split turn changes the order of the phases by allowing player y to perform the step/phase of the turn directly after player x does. This would better show the fact that both forces are moving and acting at the same time. So in a split turn the order above would look like this:

TURN 1   Player x performs all moves.
                                                             Player y performs all moves,
                Player x shoots with all his troops that can do so,
                                                             Player y shoots with all troops that can do so,
                Player x and player y resolve combats working from one side of the table to another.

This is not perfect as all of one players troops still perform first but it does mean that the opposing player can react right away and exploit gaps and tactical situations in a more realistic way.

    This method involves doing away with the turn sequence above almost entirly, insted you dictate when a player may act with his troops by drawing cards. To do this take a deck of playing cards. Give each player one colour or suit from the deck and set aside 1 card per unit in his force (for example player x has a force containing 8 units so 8 'spades' are set aside). Once a set of cards have been put aside for each force in play shuffle them together and place this new deck face down, this is your deck of activation cards. Once the sides have set up begin the game by turning over the top card, the player who's card is drawn may move and/or fire/fight with one of his units. Once he has done this place a marker (such as a counter or small coin) next to the activated unit. Then flip the next card and activate an un-activated unit from the relevant force. Continue in this way until all the cards have been flipped and all the units in play have activated. Then remove one card for each unit no longer in play, shuffle the deck and begin the process again until one player wins the game!. Easy!. This method is great to use as it adds the sense of unpredictability to the battle and makes every activation count, no longer can you simply move up troops at will, you need to bear in mind that the next card could allow the enemy to spoil your plans!
'Be there in a jiffy lads, just wait for him to draw the next club!'


           An activation test is a method that could be used to model the fact that some troops may not act the way you wish them to when things get tough!. To do them you need to apply the following:
Establish Which player is going first. He then picks a unit and performs an activation test. If he passes the test the unit may move and/or fire/fight. Then he picks his next unit and takes an activation test for them....and so on. He continues as long as he keeps passing tests, if he fails play passes to his opponent who follows the same system. What makes up an activation test will depend on which set of rules you are using. If you are playing Warhammer why not roll 2d6 and test the units Leadership, if you roll lower than or equal to its L score the unit passes, if it is higher the unit fails for some reason (order not received, troops looting, troops tending to their wounded, whatever). If Kings of War is your poison why not roll 2d6 against the units Ne stat ( the rout limit not the wavering one), adding any damage the unit has sustained to the roll. If the final total is lower than or equal to the Ne stat the unit activates. If it is higher it fails. This does mean that most units will pass until they receive enough damage to be able to roll above their Ne, but this does give the impression of troops being well drilled and aware of their orders as the battle is joined but becoming less eager as they receive wounds as the battle rages around them!. You could use certain abilities to modify the result, if they have a bonus to charging maybe +x to charge actions, if they are skirmishers perhaps a + something when attempting to move). This system is very tense and makes every activation test important as at any moment your opponents force may get the drop on you before you can move to support your own men!. 
If i roll less than a 9 you pikemen are f'in dead!.

The above ideas are just that and will need some adapting and common sense to make them work smoothly with some systems (remember to apply Warhammer psychology tests before taking any kind of activation tests for example), but your a gamer so house ruling and thinking on the fly will be nothing new right!. If any of the above sound interesting why not give them a go?. If you have any other ideas or suggestions feel free to leave a comment below, im always interested in hearing new ideas for game mechanics.

Anyway, until next time.........  

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