Pushing some more toy soldiers about on the tabletop

After the recent play-test of my card-driven unit activation system, and in the light of some of the suggestions and comments I received, I decided to re-fight the scenario using modified versions of the system.


First play-test: Twin pack approach

  • I allocated both sides (Red and Black) appropriately coloured playing cards with values 2, 3, and 4 from two packs of playing cards.
  • I sorted the cards into a Red pile and a Black pile, added a Joker to each pile, and then shuffled the piles separately.
  • I placed the piles of playing cards face down and used a D6 to determine which side turned over a playing card first.
  • Each side then alternated turning over the top playing card of their pile and activated the number of units indicated by the value of the card
  • This continued until a Joker was turned over, at which point both piles of playing cards were re-shuffled.

Red ‘won’ the dice throw and turned their top card over first. The sequence of playing cards turned over was as follows:

  • Red 3, Black 4, Red 4, Black 2, Red 3, Black 3, Red 4, Black 2, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the first Joker was turned over.

  • Red 4, Black 3, Red 4, Black 2, Red 3, Black 2, Red 2, Black 3, Red 2, Black 3, Red 4, Black 4, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the second Joker was turned over.

At this point I decided to end the battle.

In some ways this was a more satisfactory way in which to use the card-driven unit activation system BUT I felt that it was just a bit too predictable for use in a solo context. I knew that whatever Red did, Black would have the opportunity to counter it because they would turn over the next playing card and be able to activate some units. I can see this working well in a conventional face-to-face wargame as a means of making the traditional IGOUGO system a bit unpredictable, but I think that it does not work as well in a solo wargame.


Second play-test: The asymmetric card value approach

  • I allocated Red appropriately-coloured playing cards with values 2, 3, and 4 from two packs of playing cards and Black appropriately-coloured playing cards with values 1, 2, and 3 from two packs of playing cards.
  • I sorted the cards into a single pile, added two Jokers to the pile, and then shuffled the pile.
  • I placed the pile of playing cards face down and turned over the top playing card of the pile; the side whose playing card was turned over activated the number of units indicated by the value of the card.
  • This continued until a Joker was turned over, at which point the pile of playing cards was re-shuffled.

The sequence of playing cards turned over was as follows:

  • Black 1, Joker
  • Red 2, Black 2, Black 2, Red 3, Black 3, Red 3, Joker

The situation of both side’s Units at the point when the second Joker was turned over.

  • Black 3, Black 2, Red 2, Red 4, Black 2, Black 3, Black 1, Red 4, Red 3, Red 2

At this point all of the Morschauserland Units had been wiped out and the battle ended.

The situation at the point when the battle ended.

I felt that this worked far better than the previous variant as it had an increased level of unpredictability due to the possibility that the sides could get a ‘string’ or ‘run’ of cards. I want to have this sort of unpredictability in my solo wargames, but I suspect that it might not be something that would work as well in a conventional face-to-face wargame. I felt that the use of asymmetric playing card values also worked well, and created problems for the ‘weaker’ side that the use of balanced playing card values did not generate.


ConclusionsAfter these two additional play-tests I feel that the card-driven unit activation system produces the sort of unpredictable wargames that I want to fight. It may not be perfect, but it is simple. It also has a flexibility that enables it to be tailored to meet the specific needs of a scenario. There are no conventional ‘turns’, and the absence of IGOUGO unit activation in the second of today’s play-tests made the wargame feel as if it seamlessly flowed along.

I want to mount some further play-tests of the asymmetric variant of the card-driven unit activation system … but already I feel that this is a simple and useful mechanism that I will probably incorporate into any future wargame rules that I design.

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8 Comments on “Pushing some more toy soldiers about on the tabletop”

  1. nobby says:

    I am probably butting in above my pay grade here but if you added in some blank cards for no activation that turn wouldn't that add to randomness, or have I missed that?
    Also, couldn't some cards have a specific instruction besides activation of a fixed number of units?

  2. Nobby,

    Any sensible suggestions and comments are always welcome … and in this instance I think that both of your suggestions are excellent ones.

    At the moment this card-driven unit activation system is still at the experimental/play-testing stage, but if I move from using standard playing cards to making my own specific unit activation cards, I will probably include event cards as well.

    All the best,

    Bob

  3. Fitz-Badger says:

    I am enjoying your analysis and play-testing of these ideas of yours, Bob.
    I like the simplicity as it is. And it seems to make for enough unpredictability for solo gaming, just as I like, too. Having a simple foundation that works well is one key to good rules, I would say. Complications/refinements/etc. can always be added as needed or desired.

  4. Fitz-Badger,

    I am very please to see that you have enjoyed reading about my ideas and play-tests.

    I particularly like the asymmetric version of the card-driven unit activation system because it can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the scenario, the inherent abilities of a commander, and the strengths or weaknesses of an army.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. I like the idea of one side having increased activity but less so having one side unable to defend itself.

    At the moment I get a similar but lesser effect because the dice can provide a string of 5s and 6s for one side but 1s and 2s for others.

    I have however allowed units to fire without activation which feels right to me but does seem ro remove some of the tension. I had been contemplating going back to only having melee response without orders. I shall have to think some more.

  6. Ross Mac,

    I agree with you that a unit should be allowed to defend itself. The version of the MEMOIR '44 rules that I am using incorporates a 'battle back' option. This enables units that are attacked in close combat (i.e. by an enemy unit that is in an adjacent hex) to fight back without having to be activated. I think that this is similar to what you are suggesting.

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Sean says:

    Just chiming in again that I enjoy reading about the card activation.

  8. Sean,

    Thanks again for your comments. I am pleased to read that you enjoyed these battle reports and the descriptions of my experiments with this card-driven unit activation system.

    All the best,

    Bob


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