Saturday, 27 March 2010

Card-driven Turn Sequences: Jim Wright's ideas

I can always rely on Jim Wright to give me excellent and constructive feedback as well as good ideas that I can develop. His ideas about my card-driven turn sequence 'experiments' is no exception to this.

His main suggestions can be summarised as follows:

Before the battle starts
  • Before the battle starts, each commander is given a rating.
  • Commanders are rated 1 to 5
    • 1 = Poor
    • 2 = Average
    • 3 = Above average
    • 4 = Good
    • 5 = Exceptional
  • A special unit-specific card is made for each unit in the game or a pack of ordinary playing cards is used and the cards are allocated to units by making a list of which card equals which unit.
  • Count the number of units each player has on the tabletop.
  • Divide this number by 2, rounding up any fractions.
  • This is the number of cards in the Unit Card Hand each player will start the game with.
At the start of each turn
  • At the beginning of each game turn, each player's unit cards are shuffled and each commander is dealt a number of cards equal to the size of their Unit Card Hand.
  • The rest of each player's unit cards are placed face down where all the players can see them as they may be needed later in the turn.
During a turn
  • Players take alternate turns playing one of the unit cards in their Unit Card Hand. This activates that unit.
  • When a player runs out of cards, they must take a Command Test to draw a card from their face down pile of unit cards.
  • Command Test
    • Roll 1 D6.
    • If the result is less than or equal to the player's Command Rating, the Command test has been passed and the player can take the top card from their face down pile of unit cards. That unit can now be activated.
    • If the result is greater than the player's Command Rating, the Command Test has been failed and the player cannot draw any more unit cards this turn.

When does a turn end?

  • A turn ends when one of the following occurs:
    • Both sides have drawn all their unit cards.
    • One side fails their Command Test whilst the other side has drawn all their unit cards.
    • Both sides have failed their Command Test.
This is quite a simple method of achieving the sort of result I want, and Jim's ideas will give me considerable food for thought over the next few days ... and may well lead to a solution that matches my criteria.


  1. Bob

    The fundamental issue I have with these systems is that they seem to me to be to attempting to reflect the quality of the commander by varying the quantity of orders. In other words the assumption seems to be that a good commander gives more orders than a poor one. However, I don't think that is necessarily right. The poor commander is likely to give as many orders, perhaps more. The difference is in what he is ordering. So the poor commander ought in principle to be able to activate as many units as the good one - the difference is in what he tells them to do.

    However, the quality of the orders essentially comes from the brain of the player, so it is difficult to operate a handicapping system. Would the player with the poorer commander perhaps have to down a certain number of vodkas (or other culturally appropriate alcoholic beverage!) before the game to simulate weaker thought processes?!

    I don't think that reducing the effectiveness of units is the solution, though. It is to get away from this that you want to introduce a commander effect, after all. And once two units have been manoeuvred toe to toe, the command quality is not important, it's their own inherent qualities.

    I have another thought though. In the card driven system, the player does not know how many units he can activate, but he can prioritise which he chooses in which order. He can therefore almost guarantee that the one he wants to move first succeeds, etc. However, is this realistic? I think it would be better to have the player try activate all the units, but each one is tested on a pass/fail when it attempts. This would avoid the use of the joker. So you create a pack with the appropriate ratio of black and red cards (which needs to be at least as many as the player has units to activate, and preferably more to give some unpredictability). The player attempts to activate each unit in turn, draws the next card, if it activates he moves, if not he doesn't. He then moves on to the next unit. This way he doesn't know whether a unit will activate or not and he can;t "fix" it so that one particular unit is more likely to activate than another. When the turn is finished because he has attempted all units, the pack is shuffled for next turn.

    Two options: (a) the player activates each unit in turn and moves if activated before going on to the next unit, or (b) he attempts all units, finds out which will activate, and then moves those units in any order he likes.

    If you go for option (a), you actually might as well abandon the cards altogether and just use a die (eg roll 8 or under on D10 for a good general, 6 or under for medium, or whatever). If option (b), then leaving each card by each unit will be a guide to which ones are active that turn, and the card can be picked up as each unit moves.

    The advantage of (b), I think, is that the player isn't completely blind, i.e. he knows which units are going to move, so he can avoid for example a main attack going in if the necessary supporting flank attack has stalled, or if the artillery isn't going to fire.


  2. Bob,
    I've been following your thoughts on card-driven turn sequences with great interest, but haven't had time to comment until today.
    My concern with your previous ideas was firstly - as your experiments proved - there was too high a possibility of one player having a long run of cards that would both give him too great an advantage and leave his opponent with nothing to do; secondly, that a player was free to keep activating the same unit if he wished throughout a turn without any apparent penalty, which seemed unrealistic. I was going to propose either a limit on multiple activations of one unit per turn, or something similar to Jim's Command Roll test which would have to be passed to activate the same unit again.
    Jim's proposals remove those problems, but also remove the possibility of two or more units being activated before the initiative passes to the enemy, so the game becomes IGO-UGO.
    Personally, I like the idea of multiple activation, but with a strict maximum, say 3, and with fatigue or disorganisation penalties for a unit that is activated several times and moves and/or fights each time.

  3. Hi Bob,

    You could also count the number of units on the table EVERY TURN, including any reinforcements. Divide by 2. Round up. That's the hand size for that turn.

    That way you are guaranteed to move at least one-half your units every turn. Which units remains to be seem. It also cleanly handles reinforcements and losses.

    I like this idea better than what I originally sent you.



  4. Alex,

    Thanks for your feedback. It has come at a time when I am beginning to wonder if what I thought might be a simple thing to do is actually far too complex to achieve using a simple mechanism.

    That said, I will persist, if for no other reason than I am too stubborn to admit defeat yet!

    I had hoped to use a normal pack of playing cards to keep costs down and to allow other people to use the mechanism without having to resort to making special packs of cards. I am not so sure that this is possible.

    I also wanted to avoid having the cards on the tabletop as they are in the REX SQUARE games as I think that it detracts for the aesthetic appeal of the game.

    I take you point about a commander's ability not necessarily being reflected in the number of orders they can issue, but being a reflection of their ability to ensure that those orders are carried out. I also take your point about commanders being able to ensure that a unit is activated, and whilst I see the logic of your suggestion that this is not realistic, I want the commander to be able to exercise some control over which units they want to activate as a matter of priority.

    What I am thinking of testing next is a sort of combination of Jim's Command Test and your option (b). The pack of cards would contain a card for each unit on the tabletop. They would be shuffled and turned over one after another. As each card is turned over, the commander tests to see if they can convert it into an activation card. If they do, they can activate any unit of their choice; if they don't, the next card is turned over. This seems to be a simple system that is both unpredictable (the fall of cards cannot be predicted very easily unless one is a serious card counter!), it reflects the differences in each commander's abilities, and yet still gives each commander the ability to make decisions as to what units they want to activate.

    This is possibly not a solution that you would totally agree with but until I have tested it I will not know if it will work or not.

    All the best,


  5. Arthur,

    As you will see from my reply to Alex's comment, I have come to a similar conclusion. Jim's activation test is simple, is in keeping with the Morschauser tenet of 'let the dice decide' and can be adjusted to reflect a commander's ability.

    Your idea about fatigue affecting units that are activated several times during the same turn is something that I had not thought about. It makes sense and should be possible to include at a later date. My first priority is to get the card-driven turn sequence working; after that I can think about adding a fatigue factor.

    Many thanks for your feedback,

    All the best,


  6. Jim,

    Your suggestion makes great sense.

    I must admit that I did wonder what would happen if reinforcements did arrive, and had come to the conclusion that I would have cards for all the units that might arrive included in the pack, and use the activation test to bring on reinforcements. You idea has more merit, and will work better.

    But first, on with the tests ...

    All the best,