Monday, 22 March 2010

Card-driven Turn Sequences

As part of my project to develop a modernised version of Joseph Morschauser's rules, I have spent a lot of time recently experimenting with different card-driven turn sequences. The intention was to produce a system that met the following criteria:
  • It had to be simple
  • It had to have a degree of unpredictability
  • It had to incorporate some method by which differences in each army commander's abilities could be represented
  • It had to be rely on 'off the shelf' materials (i.e. no specially printed or produced cards
Over the years I have used several different card-driven turn sequences in my wargames rules. I therefore decided to start the design process by reviewing – in turn – each of them to see if any of them fulfilled my criteria.

The wargames rules that I had previously written (or helped write) included
  • Bundock and Bayonet
  • Restless Natives
  • Redcoats and Dervishes
  • Colonial Rules for Heroscape™ terrain
  • Solferino in Thirty Minutes
Bundock and Bayonet

There is no movement sequence in the traditionally accepted sense of the term (e.g. Both sides move all their troops; then all eligible units fire; then any close combats are resolved; and then any morale checks are made). In these rules the pack of playing cards determines who does what and when.

The system is very simple. The top card of the pack of playing cards is turned over, and the suit and colour is exposed for all to see. The player whose side has been allocated that suit and/or colour may now choose one of their units to "activate". This means that they must first test the unit's morale, and then they can carry out any permitted actions. When this has been completed, the next playing card is turned over, and the sequence is repeated. Once all the playing cards in the pack have been turned over, the pack is shuffled again and reused. This continues until the game is concluded.

Restless Natives
  1. The umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) turns over the top card of the standard pack of playing cards.
  2. If it is a Red card, the British C-in-C may activate a unit under their direct command or pass the initiative to activate a unit on to one of their subordinate commanders. Once the activated unit has completed all the actions it can take during a game turn, the card is then added to the discard pile, and the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) begins the Turn Sequence process again.
  3. If it is a Red King, Queen, or Jack, the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) also deals each of the British players a further Special Event Card (subject to the rule that no player may hold more then three Special Event Cards at any one time).
  4. If it is a Black card, the Native C-in-C may activate a unit under their direct command or pass the initiative to activate a unit on to one of their subordinate commanders. Once the activated unit has completed all the actions it can take during a game turn, the card is then added to the discard pile, and the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) begins the Turn Sequence process again.
  5. If it is a Black King, Queen, or Jack, the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) also deals each of the British players a further Special Event Card (subject to the rule that no player may hold more then three Special Event Cards at any one time).
  6. If it is a Joker – and it is the first time a Joker has been turned over – then all the players must hand all their Special Event Cards to the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire), who then deals each player one replacement Special Event Card. The Joker is then added to the discard pile, and the umpire (or the player who is acting as umpire) begins the Turn Sequence process again.
  7. If it is the second time a Joker has been turned over, the battle ends.
Redcoats and Dervishes
  1. A playing card is dealt, face up, to each unit or Leader except:
    • Opposing units or Leaders that ended the last turn in the same square as a result of a charge or hand-to-hand combat during the previous turn.
    • Impetuous cavalry and camelry units.
    • Those units that are disorganised.
  2. The undealt playing cards are placed face down where all the players can see them.
  3. Any Leader who has been dealt a King, Queen, or Jack is also dealt an Heroic Leadership card (subject to the rule that no player may hold more than 3 Heroic Leadership cards at the same time).
  4. Hand-to-hand combats are fought.
  5. If it is the first turn of the battle, any cavalry or camelry unit that has been dealt a red card becomes impetuous and must charge the nearest enemy unit. Any cavalry or camelry unit that becomes impetuous rolls two D12s per turn to determine the number of action points they have to expend upon movement until they come into contact with that enemy unit, after which they cease to be impetuous.
  6. Impetuous cavalry and camelry move.
  7. The unit or Leader with the lowest number playing card is activated first (N.B. An Ace counts as ‘1’) and throws an appropriate dice to determine how many action points they have. The unit, units, or Leader may then move and/or fire. Once this has been completed the unit, units, or Leader may not be activated again during this turn. In the event of two or more units or Leaders being dealt the same number playing card, the order of precedence used is Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and then Spades.
  8. The unit or Leader with the next lowest number playing card is then activated and follows the same procedure as laid down in Step 7. This continues until all the eligible units or Leaders have had the opportunity to move and/or fire.
  9. Units that are disorganised may attempt to recover.
  10. The number of units that remain disorganised is checked to see if the ‘break off battle’ limit has been reached.
  11. Once the turn sequence has been completed, all the playing cards are shuffled ready for the next turn.

Colonial Rules for Heroscape™ terrain

  1. The top card of the pack of playing cards is turned over, and the suit and colour is exposed for all to see. The player whose side has been allocated that suit and/or colour may now choose one of their units to activate.
  2. They must first check the unit's morale, and then they can carry out any permitted actions.
  3. When this has been completed, the next playing card is turned over, and the sequence is repeated.
  4. Once all the playing cards in the pack have been turned over, the pack is shuffled again and reused. This continues until the game is concluded.
Solferino in Thirty Minutes

Each general was allocated a number of specially made activation cards, dependent upon the general's ability.

The activation cards were shuffled, and as each activation card was turned over, the general named on the card activated the units under their command.

A possible solution?

Each of the card-driven turn mechanisms outlined above has something to commend it, but none of them meet the criteria I set out to fulfil. I am currently experimenting with a system that does. It builds on the experience gained designing the mechanisms mentioned above (and borrows certain elements from some of them), and it works like this:
  1. Before the battle commences, each commander is allocated a playing card suit and/or colour.
  2. Then the command ability of each side’s commander is assessed, and this generates the number of playing cards they are allocated.
  3. All the allocated playing cards are gathered together and the remaining playing cards are discarded for the rest of the battle.
  4. The pack of allocated playing cards is then shuffled and put face down where the players can see them.
  5. The top card of the pack of playing cards is turned over, and the suit and colour is exposed for all to see. The player whose side has been allocated that suit and/or colour may now choose one of their units to activate.
  6. Once the activated unit has completed all the actions it can take during a turn, the next playing card is turned over, and the sequence is repeated.
  7. Once all the playing cards in the pack have been turned over, the pack is shuffled again and reused. This continues until the battle is concluded.
One interesting result of this turn sequence is that it is possible for a commander to activate the same unit several times during the same turn. Although this may at first appear odd, it does result in some interesting and unpredictable results. My experiments indicate that what is very important is that the difference in the number of playing cards allocated to the different commanders is not too great. Too big a difference can make it almost impossible for a poorer commander to do anything much to counter his opponent’s actions.

At present my experiments are continuing, but I feel fairly confident that I will have a draft set of rules that incorporate this new card-driven turn sequence ready for play-testing within the next fortnight.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    With the proposed solution do you seperate the suits/colours before dealing the cards? The reason I ask is because if you are using commander ability to determine how many cards are in the activation deck then that deck should have the full number of cards the commanders are entitled to. If you deal the total number of cards generated by the opposing commanders (e.g. red commander has 6 and blue 4, 10 cards in total)straight from the deck then there is a chance that the deck may be skewed by being made up of e.g. 7 black and 3 red cards. If I have missed the point then apologies - it is just after 6am after all!

    All the best,

    Ogre

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ogrefencer,

    You make a good point as I should have made this clearer in my blog entry.

    The number of playing cards of each colour/suit in the pack is in proportion to the command ability of the two commanders.

    In other words, if Commander A has a command ability of 6 and is allocated Red, the pack gets 6 Red cards. If Commander B has a command ability of 8 and is allocated Black, the pack gets 8 Black cards. Therefore the pack has 14 cards in total. These cards are the pack that is shuffled.

    At the end of the turn it is this abbreviated pack that is re-shuffled and used for the enxt turn.

    I hope that makes it clearer. After all, it is only just after 7.00am here!

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Bob,

    It is still just after 07:00 here in Norfolk.....

    If the number of cards in the pack correlate exactly to the number of cards available to each side - the element of card counting would possibly remove uncertainty.

    Might you include an 'end of turn' card to the pack so that there is no certainty when the turn might end?

    Regards

    Tone

    ReplyDelete
  4. Robertpeel999 (Tone),

    Card counting can be a problem, as I know from playing cards with my father!

    I had considered including a Joker for the purpose of defining when a turn ended, but wanted to get the mechanism working right before I added any layers of sophistication to it.

    I have also looked at other ideas, such as having a larger pack of playing cards, with three or four 'hands' for each side in the pack plus end of turn Jokers (i.e. Commander A has a command ability of 6 and is allocated Red, the pack gets 18 Red cards [3 x 6]. If Commander B has a command ability of 8 and is allocated Black, the pack gets 24 Black cards [3 x 8]. There are also 3 Jokers. This pack - which will contain a total of 45 cards [18 + 24 + 3] - would be 'live' for three turns).

    This builds on the experience of 'Solferino in Thirty Minutes' but is, as I already wrote, a bit more sophisticated than the simple mechanism I want to get 'right' first. Perhaps this mechanism will be more applicable to the second draft of the rules.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete
  5. Donogh and I were thinking of trying a variation on the Battlecry system for large multiplayer games. Each i/c would recieve a hand of 30 or so cards to divy up amongst his followers for last them for the first fifteen turns or so of the game. The i/c would get a card each turn, some of which would be special events that would have to be played immediately. The idea was to allow for the randomness of card draw, but still allow long term planning.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Conrad Kinch,

    I did look at something similar (I own both 'Battlecry!' and 'Memoir '44' and have loved what Rudi Geuden's has done developing Borg's card-driven turn sequence concepts), but as my aim was to use a system that anyone could reproduce with 'off the shelf' components, I decided not to proceed down that route.

    Its a nice idea, and one that you should try to develop.

    All the best,

    Bob

    ReplyDelete