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"Card driven miniatures games" Topic

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Samulus Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 10:18 a.m. PST

I'm working on some rules for company-scale 15mm sci fi (as you may have noticed if you frequent this board often).

I was playing Magic the other day (one of my friends bought a couple of deck, we're not really 'into' it but its good for a couple hours entertainment) and it got me thinking about games driven by cards. I've also hard a lot about the too fat lardies games and their use of cards.

I had two thoughts, one, a system similar to TFL where each unit has a card in the deck representing them and when its drawn out, they act.
Another was that each turn the player is dealt say 5 cards, each card is a unit they can activate in whatever order they like. A subset might be that they have a hand of say 7 but can only play 5 a turn etc. Basically there's an element of hand management.

Another idea was that there could be order cards; shoot, assault, move, retreat, suppress, special abilities etc and that there could be a hand of these cards dealt each turn and then the player makes what they can of them with their available units.

And yet another, what if instead of dice, cards were used. E.g. one unit shoots at another and rather than rolling you play a 'Shoot 5' or whatever card and thats the equivalent of your roll. This could perhaps be blended with the idea above.

What do you think, any good ideas? why/why not? Anybody doing this already?

jbenton Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 10:24 a.m. PST

I believe Malifaux uses cards, but having never played this is nothing more than a vague, forth-hand impression.

There's also En Garde, and its pseudo-successor Flash Duel, but while those use a track and figures/counters might not qualify as miniatures games per se.

CraigH Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 10:43 a.m. PST

Malifaux does use cards but they basically replace dice so instead of a D6 you have a…C54?

Instead of rolling a die, you draw cards from the deck (or your hand).

Farstar Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 10:45 a.m. PST

Malifaux uses cards instead of dice, and keeps a hand of cards as a sort of "reroll" mechanic.

More common are the games that use cards for activation order. Several editions of Confrontation did this, as did AT-43, but the idea goes back before that with TRWNN, at least.

There are card games that use cards as actions, certainly, but I'm not aware of any that mix this with miniatures except incidentally in the case of a couple boardgames that happen to use minis as 3D counters.

mad monkey 117 Apr 2012 10:46 a.m. PST

Check out Maurice:

JSchutt17 Apr 2012 10:51 a.m. PST

Too much fog of war for me.

It doesn't simulate my notion of an orders driven attack/defense. I think great tactical/strategic leaders, who we aspire to emulate, would take exception to being limited in action to whatever order chits they happened to have in their pocket at any given time.

Most games are won in maneuver. Most bad rules sets make maneuver so chaotic (wild swings in random die affects) it is hard to distinguish a good player from a bad one.. They think because of this manifestation they have a well balanced rules set. Troops should be where they are supposed to be within reason…. approximately when they are supposed to be there… within reason to suit my notion of good mechanics.

I prefer to play against friction generated by my opponent not against his/her card draws or "killer deck."

To each his own. As the Lardies claim.. Play the period not the rules.

thosmoss17 Apr 2012 10:51 a.m. PST

The old card game from Avalon Hill, called "Up Front", let you lead a squad up against your opponent. You needed cards to move, more cards to drop into cover, cards to shoot, cards to rally, and so on. You divided your squad into groups, sometimes one large group would be more effective, other times multiple small groups would work better for you. Card management was different between nationalities, as was hand size. Combat was a bit esoteric -- your card would have a required number of shooting points you must come up with to play it, the effectiveness of the card was printed on there. So you may need to come up with 12 FP (based on your weapons and range to your opponent) to attack with a 5 FP card. And damage results used a different corner of the card -- flip a new card, read it over there, see what the results were.

Another game you may consider is how Richard Borg uses cards for his core game mechanics. Games like Battle Cry! (ACW), Command and Colors: Ancients, Command and Colors: Napoleonics, Memoir '44, Battlelore, Battles of Weteros … I'm sure I've forgotten somebody … Anyhow, cards dictate which few units of yours actually get orders this turn. Everyone else has to sit this one out and watch. Variations on Borg's mechanics exist online, you may want to look up Afriboria (biggest difference here is instead of looking at the left / center / right of the map, you instead might activate red / yellow / blue groups).

Crown and Empire Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 10:53 a.m. PST

Sharp Practice from TFL has elements of this with its bonus deck, and Rich is working on a playtest game (Early Dark Ages) that uses and activation deck for command and a hand of cards for the general.

MajorB17 Apr 2012 10:55 a.m. PST

Most bad rules sets make maneuver so chaotic (wild swings in random die affects) it is hard to distinguish a good player from a bad one..

I've not found manoeuvre to be that chaotic when using card driven rules.

Who asked this joker17 Apr 2012 11:00 a.m. PST

What do you think, any good ideas? why/why not? Anybody doing this already?

Order cards are not too different from Command and Colors Ancients. Different cards tell you who can move and in which zone (left, right or center). The general's rating tells how many cards he can hold in his hand. Better generals get more cards thus giving him a better chance of having the right card.

On to Richmond uses cards strictly for action order. Each card represents a division on the board of 2-3 brigades. When the division's card comes up, it goes. It can move and shoot and so forth.

Pig Wars uses cards to resolve combat. It is an ordinary playing card deck.

TMPs LostPict wrote the "Cowboy Movie Game" which uses cards to resolve combat. It tells the effect of the shot and there usually is some form of flavor text he reads for you to describe the effect such as "Got him right between the eyes" or "Even the broad side of a barn feels safe with a shot like that!" Great fun!

I would caution you to keep it simple whatever you decide. Malifaux, for instance, is one of those that has a fairly complex metagame with the cards that left me mystified. I only played it once and just didn't care for the rules.

Tom Reed Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 11:15 a.m. PST

There is also the card driven order phase like in Desperado. The better a character is, the more cards he gets. You could do the same. Green units get 1 card, Vets get 2 and elites get 3 cards, all shuffled into a pull deck.

Broadsword Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 11:29 a.m. PST

Warning: your mileage may vary.

I do not play games where there is a chance that most, if not all, of my army may not be able to activate due to poor rolling for initiative points, or all my unit activation cards are below the "end of turn" card in the draw deck. If I wanted to spend all that time painting figures and not doing anything with them, I'd be making dioramas, not playing wargames.

1) Specific cards to activate units from a communal deck: G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. It works because every unit will have an opportunity to activate at some point during the turn, though not necessarily when it would be most useful. You'll still need a plan, but you must be flexible enough to alter it or abandon it entirely, when necessary.

2) Random hand of activation cards from a deck representing your army: why not just have a hand of cards representing each of your units and only get to play each card once per turn? You have complete control over when you activate them, but your opponent has a chance to respond with an activation of theirs after each one of yours. Wait. That's "You Go, I Go" with cards acting as a mnemonic device. Never mind.

3) Random order cards: no. Play a few games of FLUXX or ROBO RALLY and then decide if you want chaotic damage control as a means of commanding an army. This might work in an orcish vehicle racing game, though.

4) Cards as dice: PIG WARS. A communal poker deck was drawn from any time a random number was needed. One high card could be kept and used later in the game. We replaced this with a D12 for speed and convenience.

5) New topic: CCG-like interrupt or additional effect cards. MEKA TAC is a mech (giant, stompy robots) wargame that uses a small hand of action card drawn form a communal deck. These cards give extra attacks, do additional damage, prevent any damage, gain extra movement, etc., as well as counter other action cards. You had size in the basic game is constant, with draw up/discard phase at the beginning of the turn. Any target is fair game for the cards, though there is a limit of one "BOOST" card played on a particular mech per turn.

Al |

Dynaman878917 Apr 2012 11:36 a.m. PST

The board game "Combat Commader" uses the final method (draw a hand of cards from a deck with actions you can take). Each nationality has a seperate deck, so the US deck has a lot of fire cards and arty support while the Russian cards have lots of advance cards (which is required to enter Close Combat). This game also uses the cards instead of dice. Plenty of reviews for it online and the rules are online as well.

The following card driven boardgames allow drawing a deck up front each turn and then activating as desired (all are GMT, and the rules are online). Stalin's War, Empire of the Sun, WW2 Barbarossa to Berlin, Washington's War, For the People, and Paths of Glory

Samulus Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 11:47 a.m. PST

Lots of different systems to investigate, thanks for all the thoughts/info, very useful for getting ideas going. Keep 'em coming.

Skipper Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 12:28 p.m. PST

I personnaly like the TFL system and have been using it for a number of years (even before I was aware of them specifically) When we use that set now, we tend to increase the chance of most units going by adding 2 tea cards (stop action/end of turn cards). There will still be units left unactivated, but not as many…..

I also like the way they put leader cards into the deck so that the leaders can activate various units too. That way if you really need a unit to activate, you assign a leader to that action/unit which gives them a much higher chance of activation. This is what they call the "Big man" rule.

DinOfBattle217 Apr 2012 12:33 p.m. PST

The following games are card driven games you can investigate:

Piquet and its supplements.
Field of Battle
Koneigs Kreig (card activates units)


TacticalAssaultGames Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 12:40 p.m. PST

Just thought we should throw a plug in for our games:

Both our Fantasy Cards (ancients/medieval/fantasy) and our Combat Cards (WWI/WWII/Modern/SciFi) miniatures rules are strictly card driven – both for activations and combat resolution.

They work for just about any size units (squad, company, battalion, etc.) and any scale of miniatures.

Fighting 15s17 Apr 2012 1:02 p.m. PST

I can quite cheerfully say that after long experience of Piquet and Command & Colours that I absolutely detest card-driven command and control systems. They can produce quite historically accurate battles but, in the process, totally unenjoyable games for one or both of the participants.

OSchmidt Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 1:53 p.m. PST

In my own rules I use decks of cards for combat results. These are purpose printed cards (business sized) and they have no relationship to dice. If a unit has a charge of 5 for example you can toss five cards from your deck of 100 on the enemy unit, or you could break it up among several units within range as you wish. If you have a fire of two, you can place two cards. These are placed face down Then the other guy gets to see if they apply. He rolls his to-stand value. if he rolls less than or equal ot his value he gets to toss off the card. If he rolls greater the card takes effect. The cards can be anything from eliminate the unit, to disorganized, broken, shaken, imposing varios conditions like retreat etc. Some cards stay on and have to be rallied off in subsequent turns.

Generally I despise cards for used in activation- that just slows down the game.

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 2:00 p.m. PST

I avoid rules that use cards in any fashion.

Timmo uk17 Apr 2012 2:12 p.m. PST

Although I agree that cards can slow the game I have found they are a useful mechanism to consider to over come the issue of predictability. They can also create a sense of tension.

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 4:29 p.m. PST

TSATF has long (since '79) used a standard deck of
playing cards to control movement (red/black determines
which side moves, player determines which unit),
shooting (again, red/black determines which side fires,
player determines which unit), results of shooting
(Ace=leader; court card = key figure [gunner, NCO, etc];
spade/club/diamond = wounded; any heart = kill)

Note: those are my mods, not Larry's, although very

Cards can slow the game down, yes. Get a 30-second
sandglass and pass a player's turn who can't make up
his/her mind. Game will speed right up !

Yesthatphil Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 4:45 p.m. PST

Cards, dice, dominoes … all ways of generating random variants of different spreads and effects. All slightly different, none theoretically better or worse than the other.

Cards can be used either with custom values/variations printed on them, or sometimes in the form of a standard deck of playing cards.

Wargames should not be confused however some printed and specialists decks have the same range as a standard deck; some games using a playing card deck could easily be morphed into a specialist deck if the designer chose to go that way.

If you wish to store or carry forward outcomes or variables, or if you want concealed random effects, cards are generally more suitable than dice.

A significant proportion of all of the tabletop figure games I play are playing card moderated …


Trebians Spanish Civil War game (Send not to Know)
- combining dice and cards for its random/control

Some systems replace all the random effects with playing cards. This means you get through the deck quicker. If you have a lot of card controlled random, we would suggest mixing 2 or 3 decks. Sometimes.

There are lots of card driven games in the 'Red Squares/Kaiserschlacht family


(Franco Prussian game from COW 2011)

Medieval, ECW, AWI, 19thC, WW2 etc.

I don't think there is any reason to think cards slow games down (mechanisms slow games down) …

Hope that summary is of use. Ask if there's anything you want to follow up on more specifically.


pahoota Inactive Member17 Apr 2012 5:05 p.m. PST

I use cards all the time in my home brew rules because I play solo. I find the extra bit of randomization helps with the solo experience. I've used both an "orders cards" technique like you mentioned, and card activation as well.

21eRegt Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 6:38 p.m. PST

I use cards for units to take an action in my home grown Napoleonic skirmish rules, but it seems appropriate for that style of game. Otherwise I play BAR (Batailles des Ancien Regimes) where cards decide who moves first each turn, followed by who fires first. Kind of random feeling, but it works and is fun.

Gonsalvo17 Apr 2012 6:45 p.m. PST

Certainly the piooneer in using cards to control the Sequence of actions (as opposed to activation by card draw per unit or command group) was Piquet and the related Field of Battle rules. Some wiill love it (I do!), some will hate it; some will be in between – liike most rules sets! No problem to each their own.

There are pretty detailed summaries of how both work on my blog:

Field of Battle:

Piquet (BoB2):


Personal logo HUBCommish Supporting Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 9:40 p.m. PST

The Operation: Overlord miniatures game (and the 2nd edition Operation: World War II) has an interesting card driven mechanic.



Personal logo toofatlardies Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Apr 2012 10:24 p.m. PST

Samulus, as the author and publisher of over a dozen sets of card driven rule sets I clearly believe that cards lend themselves well to representing warfare, indeed Clausewitz himself said that nothing resembles war as much as a game of cards.

However, I personally feel that when designing a game we need to consider what we are representing. We use cards to reflect the fact that a commander may not be able to do everything he wants in a certain turn, he simply doesn't have the time or resources to be 100% efficient all of the time. What I don't then do is limit what he can do with the limited resources he has. If a commander in the Napoleonic Wars, for example, can only issue one order change because he only has one staff galloper to hand then hhe should be able to send any order he wants, rather than being limited to "you can order x number of units on your right flank to do y" because a card limits him to that choice. That is not only a-historical it also takes all control away from the player and makes the game frustrtating rather than enjoyable.

There are a huge variety of wargames rules which use cards to differing degrees. Piquet, TSATF, our Lardy stuff, Foundry's Rules With No Name, Command & Colors, Force on Force, Field of Battle, plus all of the others mentioned above. The ones that I have played all produce very different games, with their own individual feel and flavour, so I am amazed to see comments that people detest, despise (strong words indeed!) or avoid them altogether. It seems to me that is rather like lumping all games that use a D10 or a D6 into the same category and damning them all for that reason. Maybe you just haven't found a set you like yet? I have played plenty of rules using D6 that I don't like, but equally I have played quite a few I like. Rules will always appeal to gamers who share the author's view of what warfare was like and what the important factors were, and that seems to me to have nothing to do with whether cards are used or not.

In terms of card driven games slowing down play, I am also rather surprised by that. We actually introduced card driven turn sequences so as to make games more inclusive. The games of IGO-UGO rules that we used to use at our local club would regularly see one side spent fifteen to twenty minutes taking their turn, moving everything, firing everything and generally dominating the battlefield while the inactive player sat there twiddling his thumbs. With the card driven system one is presented with a game that changes gradually, with short individual turns coming in a variable sequence. This removes predictability, it also enhances interest as the story is unfolding before you in small burst rather than the clunking monster where both sides lucrch forward in sequence and with a large dose of predictability. Le Feu Sacre, our Corps level Napoleonic rules with the battalion as the smallest manoeuvre element achieve a complete turn in fifteen minutes on average, which is "real time" wargaming in that a turn represents 15 minutes of action. I know LOADS of non-card driven games that never even come close, by acountry mile in many cases, to that Holy Grail.

Of course, part of the rule designer's responsibility is to make sure that players are involved during their opponent's turn. So, for example, if you shoot at me, or if you engage me in combat then I should be playing an active part in that, you roll dice, I roll dice. This, as opposed to rules where I, as the inactive player, am simply expected to sit back and take it, goes a long way to making a game more inclusive.

So, it seems to me a slow game is not an inherrent issue with games that include cards, merely one that can occur if the rest of the rules do not draw the inactive players into the action. Yes, of course there will be situations where games are slow for individual players, but that is largely when a game is run for too many players. Imagine a game of chess with sixteen players a side, or even four players a side. You only got to take a go when your piece had to move, it would be unbearably tedious, however that is not to say that chess is a boring game per se. Again, the moral there is not that card driven games are slow, but that you shouldn't run games for too many players.

Martin Rapier18 Apr 2012 3:37 a.m. PST

Just a standard deck of cards can be used to determine unit activation sequences (as in, deal cards on units, then they activate in card value/suit order).

More complex systems are of course possible, like order cards (essentially just order chits, such as Command Decision) or some sort of C3 value (East/West Front Tank Leader) or something a bit more random (Memoir 44, Piquet etc).

Clausewitz likened war to a game of cards, and it would be nice to be able to introduce that into our games sometimes. A degree of control, a degree of uncertainty, bluff and probability.

OSchmidt Inactive Member18 Apr 2012 8:14 a.m. PST

In addition to the combat result cards I use above I also have an event deck which the person who has initiative, each turn, draws one card from. These can slightly modify the game in many ways for that turn, adding, balues, killing officers, reinforcements etc.

CPBelt18 Apr 2012 10:31 a.m. PST

"Just a standard deck of cards can be used to determine unit activation sequences (as in, deal cards on units, then they activate in card value/suit order)."

That's Deadlands, Savage Worlds, Savage Showdown.

Martin Rapier19 Apr 2012 3:35 a.m. PST

"That's Deadlands, Savage Worlds, Savage Showdown."

We use it a lot in our home grown stuff too, with odd variants based on suits, special cards (jokers etc), over-rides for HQs etc.

Produces the illusion of simultaneous movement with a good degree of friction.

A Clausewitzian variant would be to deal the players a card for each unit and they play them one at a time, the other player can try to trump/beat a card to sieze the initiative (which is pretty much what East Front Tank Leader does with custom unit C3 cards). Much slower to do that though due to the decision making involved, so you need to limit the hand size.

John Thomas819 Apr 2012 2:56 p.m. PST

I have found in a short period of time that the TFL card mechanism makes for an excellent solo gaming experience.


Silent Fury Inactive Member26 Apr 2012 3:52 p.m. PST

We use custom cards as a combination of orders and power management for each ship in Silent Fury. It's really helped the game move well beyond the IGOUGO system characteristic of space games and it's best quality is that a player never has to wait very long to do something with one of their ships.

Action cards in Silent Fury

Thunderman Inactive Member10 May 2012 11:38 a.m. PST

Just wanted to note about your first point waaaaaay back about replacing dice for damage with cards. Wings of War does exactly that so that no dice are required. Some people like that…I tend to like the tactile feel of dice and the ability to bring your own dice with your own colors and style, so yeah, generally I prefer to not have cards involved at all.

One interesting use of cards I have seen is plain playing cards being used in western themed games for initiative or action resolution, I believe Deadlands did this.

Farstar Inactive Member10 May 2012 2:49 p.m. PST

…replacing dice for damage with cards. Wings of War does exactly that so that no dice are required. </q.

Damage decks go way back, though not always successfully. SFB tried one many years ago, and while a small part of their player base loved them, the tournament hardcore and the company itself both disliked them. You'll still hear jokes about hull hits to the bowling alley or Captain's sauna, though.

The fleet combat game for Traveller TNE, Battle Rider, used a single deck of cards for all random resolutions.

angelofmenoth Inactive Member17 Aug 2012 12:53 p.m. PST

As a few people have said, Malifaux is diceless. You have a standard deck of cards (suits replaced with Malifaux-specific suits, but equivalents given), and that deck is where all of the randomization comes from. The only affect on activation is who has the initiative for the first activation; the rest of the time is just an alternating activation model by model.

Both players are flipping cards for anything involving opposed checks, and there is a bit of resource management involved as well because you get a hand of cards each turn that can be used to replace a flipped card if you want to.

Damage is also determined with the cards. The initial "duel" determines whether you hit or not, and how well you did. Then you flip for damage with each weapon having 3 possible results (weak, moderate, severe). This mechanic was the result of a ton of playtesting to find something that wasn't the usual roll to hit, then determine damage as a flat result or rolling to see if the hit wounded. It works out more like this:

You see how hard you hit someone (determining how many cards you flip to get your result (take highest or lowest, depending on the results of the duel), then you see if you did lots of damage with that hit or not. You might have hit someone as hard as you possibly could, but you hit them in the most armored part of their body. On the other hand, you might have barely gotten a hit in at all, but you ended up opening their femoral artery causing a very severe wound.

Those are extremes, but they show that the hit/damage mechanic can cover the wide range of potential outcomes from being attacked.

Wyrd has the rules up as a free download on their website, so it won't even cost you anything more than a couple of clicks and a little bit of space on your harddrive to see if the mechanic tickles your fancy whether you like their models or not.

Umpapa18 Aug 2012 4:48 a.m. PST

Band of Brothers and I Aint Been Shot Mum are great rules with random cards.

Falconius Inactive Member18 Aug 2012 5:06 a.m. PST

I'd like to add my voice to those who said they detest card driven games. To me it looks too much like a fad that designers started blindly employing in games just because it was "in". I can't fault people who like card driven wargames. I recognize this mechanic has much to offer solo players. But I don't like it. It is at odds with the way my mind works.

Elenderil20 Aug 2012 2:12 a.m. PST

What do you want to use cards to simulate? Once you are clear on that point then you can decide if cards are going to bring something useful and workable to the table.

I have very little experience of card moderated games although TFL has pretty much summed up my view on how they should be employed.

In the real world strategy and tactics both revolve around potential to act and react. Humans always carry around a hatful of potential responses to any situation ranging from preplanned through spur of the moment to instinctive. The one thing we don't often have is no potential to act. I don't like to have my ability to do things in a game artificially constrained beyond the limit of the constraints reality would produce in the same circumstances. As TFL pointed out I might not be able to do everything I want due to time or communication limitations but the combat units will continue to grind out their orders without any input from me.

So back to my original point. If you want to use cards to reduce the range of orders I can issue or the actions a unit can carry out this term in an artificial way I'm not in favour. Used as randomisation tools perhaps they have a role to play. So for example a set of cards that gives me problems because the radio net has gone down, or the courier is delayed, or the advance is stalled because of unexpected terrain in front of the lead units fine. That gives me some fog of war and provides issues for me to make decisions about. Cards that don't let me advance because I only have rally, resupply, dig in and retire cards I don't like.

Of course it also depends on what style of game you want, what you are attempting to include (or leave out)in your rules. If you want a very abstract game about handling troops where morale is random and a poor morale result is simulated by not having that advance card in your deck them perhaps it will work. Personally I prefer the internal consistancy of seeing a situation unfold in a sequence.

The other point about the use of cards is that they are a clever marketing tool. I can buy dice from any number of places. The cards for your game I can only buy from you. You can create repeat purchases by adding additional decks. So once again the question has to be what do you want to use the cards for?

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member22 Aug 2012 3:39 p.m. PST

"Personally I prefer the internal consistancy of seeing a situation unfold in a sequence."

I'm sure that historical commanders would have loved to have a sequence of play! That would have made their job a lot easier, knowing that there would not be any enemy fire until after all of their units had a chance to move, and that all combats would be resolved simultaneously, and always before the enemy could rally, and so on.

Ironically, if battles were as tidy and predictable as wargames, then none of us would be interested enough in military history to have ever thought of creating wargames in the first place!

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