Sunday, April 28, 2013

New Idea for Activations in Skirmish Games, Doctor Who Healed Me, Obvious Rogue Trader Revalations, and 50!?!

Well, after lying on my back every evening for three weeks with a heat pad, I'm finally feeling better. Of course, that didn't matter to our hot water heater, which died last Sunday and wasn't replaced until this past Friday. Several days of cold showers in the morning did not help my back nor my attitude! That aside, I did get watch the first 4.5 seasons of the new Doctor Who show. I had never seen the new series, so watching it was educational and overall enjoyable. Plus it eased my pain. But maybe more about The Doctor another day. Oh yeah, did I  mention that today I turned 50?

While resting and popping pain meds, I also "tried" reading some of my old rules that had been sitting unread on my shelves for ages. A big moment came when I finally got to read my copy of the original Rogue Trader. That was an eye-opener because I have many of the 40K books from 1st edition through 4th edition or so, but I've never actually played the game. Reading Rogue Trader from an unbiased (neither a hater nor a fanboy) point of view, I kept wondering if I were reading a set of Ancients or Napoleonic rules instead of one-man-per-base skirmish rules. Honestly, I felt that I could pop out my Space Marine figure and pop in a battalion of fusileers. The push-back and pursuit rules are right out of such an historical game, and sound much like Warmaster's fall-back and pursuit rules would. Anyway, Rogue Trader goodness and oddness is another topic for another day as well, if people would be interested.

This evening, I thought I'd post an idea I had for activating individual models in a skirmish game. It could be used in anything from a Western to a sci-fi setting. I think it could handle single figure activation, which was my goal, or unit activation.

These are just the bare-bones of the activation system. I took the dice cup idea from Bolt Action, though I had been thinking of the same thing ever since I played my first of World at War: Blood & Bridges years ago. Drawing on my love of collectable card games and their use of event and action cards, I'd also like to add that to the final version of the game. Plus, I'd like d10s for all skill and combat tests, but d6s for activation. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So let's see what you guys think. Oh yeah, did I mention that today I turned 50?

Each player will probably have up to a dozen or so models. Each player needs enough six-sided dice to start the first turn of the game. All players must use the same size die, but each player will have a different color. These are the "action dice." (Instead of dice, you could use colored glass beads, small wooden blocks, poker chips, or any other type of token.)

You also need one opaque cup large enough to hold all the action dice.


1. New Turn
At the beginning of a new turn, each player places into the cup a number of his action dice equal to half his remaining models able to perform at least one action at the start of the turn. Round up any fractions.

(For example, Player A has nine models still in the game, so he places five of his action dice into the cup. He then passes the cup to Player B, who places four of his own action dice into the cup since he has eight models in play.)

2. New Round
At the beginning of each new round, draw a die from the cup and give it to the appropriate player, who becomes the active player for the round.

3. Action Points
The active player rolls his six-sided die to see how many Action Points (AP) he gets to spend for the round. See the table below.

Die Roll   AP
1, 2, 3,   1
4, 5       2
6          3

[Design Note: Here is an area where an action card could give a Star model one extra AP up a 3AP maximum. Or add a +1 to the die roll but a single Star model must use all the APs. You get the idea.]

4. Model Activation
The active player selects one of his models without a Spent token and activates it. [Design Note: Spent tokens mark models that have already acted during the turn or who have lost a turn for whatever reason.] He then gives the model one or more actions, spending the appropriate number of AP for each action performed. Some sample actions and their AP costs are listed below.

[Nearly all actions will cost 1AP because I really hate most all action point systems. Only complex, time consuming, or game-balance-issue actions will cost more. Some scenario actions, like shutting down the nuclear rocket launch, might take a character several AP totaled up over a few turns because that is the scenario's goal. Of course, saving and then playing just the right action card at just the right moment might help stop the countdown at the obligatory 0:01 seconds remaining.]

Action  AP
Move 6" 1
Shoot   1
Brawl   1
Reload  1
Unjam   2
Open a new shrink-wrapped DVD case 27AP

(Ok, I'm being silly with the DVD. But I had to struggle doing this earlier today. If I had to do it while being shot at, I doubt I could!)

Assuming the player has the AP to spend, a model can perform the same action multiple times a round and can perform its actions in any order. Resolve each action separately. The player can wait until an action is fully resolved before giving the model another action, activating a new model, or ending the round.

Once the active player finishes giving the model actions, he places a Spent token next to the model. A model cannot be activated again until the Spent token is removed, which typically occurs at the end of the turn.

If the active player still has AP remaining, he can select another of his models without a Spent token and give it one or more actions, spending AP for each action. He can continue activating models this way until he runs out of AP or decides to end the round. Just remember that action points cannot be saved from round to round--use them now or lose them.

(Example: Player A, the active player, has three action points to spend this round. He decides to activate Texas Pete, announcing that he will spend 1AP to move the model 6" toward the nearby stone wall. After Pete arrives at the wall without any problems, Player A announces that Pete will spend 1 AP to fire his revolver at Stinky Bill. Unfortunately, the shot misses. Now Player A has a decision to make. He still has 1AP to spend, but really needs to use it on another model that needs to move into protective cover. But Texas Pete's shot missed Stinky Bill, who hasn't done anything yet this turn and might be able to shoot back, if his player is lucky enough to become the active player next round. Then again, Player A might get lucky and become the active player instead. Or Player A could toss it all to the wind, discard the remaining 1AP, and end his round early. Perhaps he could spend that action card that costs 1AP. Decisions, decisions.)

5. Repeat Steps 2-4
Repeat Steps 2-4 until all the dice have been drawn from the cup or there are no more models to activate.

6. Clean Up
This is a placeholder step for when any end of turn rituals and functions occur--perhaps morale tests, victory conditions, drawing and discarding action cards, removing Spent markers, and so on.

7. End of Turn
Return to Step 1 and begin a new turn.

So, Humans, Tell Me What You Think
Does it bring anything to a game or just add more complexity without any real payoff? I want to avoid IGOUGO or being able to activate only one figure per round. I want some fog of war, but I also want some planning, but not too much--this isn't chess. I want to be able to have the Earps stroll down the street together, but die rolls might force me to activate other models before I can roll 3AP, which is part of the game. Hmmm.

Take care. Oh yeah, did I mention I turned 50 today? :-)