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"Hidden Movement Systems That Have Worked Well For You?" Topic

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2,642 hits since 11 Jun 2012
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le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2012 5:43 a.m. PST

Do you have a particular method, house rules, or published rules, that you use to disquise and keep track of the hidden movement of troops on (or just off) the tabletop? What method or system has worked best in your experience, and why?

nickinsomerset11 Jun 2012 5:50 a.m. PST

Umpire led, no dispute!

Tally Ho!

Dynaman878911 Jun 2012 5:51 a.m. PST

TFL blinds system works well. It works since it has something physical on the table – writing down movement always causes problems – and the use of dummy blinds means you do not know if something is a "thing" or not.

I would suggest a similar mechanic for any game, say a blind represents X amount of troops (or is a fake, with umpire deciding number of fakes). Fakes are allowed to spot (they are considered to be a small scouting party)

A boardgame that works well is an XTR magazine game about Lee's move up north. Each player had two maps, when in pro-union hexes the south would have to say the coordinates of each hex entered (not what units), and when in the south the Union player would have to say the coords. This kept the mistakes to a minimum – since most of the problems in games of the sort came about when forgetting who went over what piece of terrain last.

Finally Command Decision's older version worked well enough, very similar to the TFL blinds method – the new game does not use hidden units if I remember correctly.

religon Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 6:16 a.m. PST

I have used something like delayed, hidden deployment to good effect. At setup, place 4-6 chits within 8 inches of board edges as you like. One is marked as an entry point on the hidden side. At any point after turn 3, a unit may be placed at the end of a turn on the marked counter. It automatically moves first or last the subsequent turn.

Ancient and medieval games characterize my gaming.

Clay the Elitist Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 6:29 a.m. PST

Umpire works.

My club has a system where we using PanzerBlitz mapboards for strategic movement. We'll setup the same maps in two different rooms and make strategic movements as an umpire observes both sides. When forces clash, he then sets up a table based on the map and we build a scenario around it.

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian11 Jun 2012 6:29 a.m. PST

For Naval (Midway) I did this….

PDF link

this works well because it is moderated by a GM

The new Samurai Battles (Zvezda version of the rules) has a built in system for order writing which seems to do a nice job without a GM.

Chris B Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 6:31 a.m. PST

In the absence of an umpire, I find the TFL system works pretty well.

Bob in Edmonton11 Jun 2012 6:48 a.m. PST

Blinds are good.

An interesting approach is to have both the defender and the attacker "map" move onto the board. Both armies start a number of "steps" away from various entry points to the board (the defender closer and one or both players maybe even has a few troops on the board--scouts or lights).

There are multiple pathways to the board edge from each player's starting camp (think of it like a road net) with decision points about which way to go. For example, a short, direct path to the player's board edge plus more winding paths to the flanks.

You can move any number of units on the map each turn, BUT each pathway has a limited number of troops that can move down it each turn and each pathway works only one-way per turn. So not everyone will arrive at the same time AND the more dispersed the troops (taking different pathways) the more that can arrive. Changing your mind about what will come on where entails a major traffic jam.

Troops that want to arrive on the flanks may take forever to get there (lots of "steps"). To make it more random, you can require a dice roll per unit--on a 6, the unit stalled out that turn.

This kind of system adds a bit of map play at the beginning of each game as players need to figure out which units need to arrive where and in what order. Neither player knows what will come one where or when or even if troops will arrive on their flanks or in the rear.

Not exactly the same idea as hidden movement but gives a simple and interesting bit of fog of war to each game. It also keeps players honest as their flanks remain vulnerable for much of the game.


Timmo uk11 Jun 2012 6:57 a.m. PST

Blinds as used in the TFL games have worked for me.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2012 7:01 a.m. PST

I use this method, where one side has hidden movement, and the other is out in the open.
TMP link

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian11 Jun 2012 7:32 a.m. PST

a friend of mine told me that the original Space Hulk had an interesting system… for a situation like John has mentioned.

Using radar pips for the hidden Gene Stealers (Indians for example?).

Then the Space Marines (British) are tracking multiple targets in the woods, but only some of them are real some are just "noise"?

So imagine a military expedition into heavy woods or jungle. One player, the Romans, British, French Foreign Legion…. Whatever is moving in the open.

The "natives" are moving poker chips or some other marker representing various numbers of troops (written on the hidden side of the chip). Some are just red herrings (bird noises, animals, nerves… wtc..)

Seems perfect atmosphere for a French and Indian war scenario? Adds some tension and some surprise without overcomplicating things.

richarDISNEY Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 8:31 a.m. PST

I have NEVER had much luck with this kinda thing.

Those are kinda cool Dervel. Very inventive.

Tom Reed Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2012 8:32 a.m. PST

I remember watching a ROTC game where the whenever the Americans spotted anything the GM would put a King Tiger on the table. Only when the Americans got close enough would the GM replace the King Tiger with the actual vehicle.

Mako11 Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 8:57 a.m. PST

Yea, I like the idea Tom is suggesting.

For a twist on that, I used in a naval game against subs, place "real" units all over the table, and have them roll for detection as they get close enough to see them visually, with radar, or with sonar.

This works best when only one side gets all the extra units, and you don't have an umpire.

To keep the player with the extra units honest, have them write down the "real" units on a slip of paper, and reveal to the opponent, when the unit IS actually detected, or when it makes a hidden attack.

If both sides have lots of dummies, then you'll need an umpire to weed out the dummy on dummy detections.

Putting submarines everywhere on the table is a bit more intimidating to a naval commander than chits, even if they know some of them are bogus targets. I imagine the same applies to tanks, infantry squads and platoons, etc.

Wartopia Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 9:17 a.m. PST

I really dislike blinds. The ratio of blinds to real troops is usually such that you only have a few dummies anyway. What's the point unless you have MANY blinds and only a couple of troops?

Only time I've seen it work is with an umpire and, best of all, computer/video games.

Jim Selzer Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2012 10:37 a.m. PST

we used to use index cards with unit name or dummy written on them for napoleonics the point being you could see a mass of men in front of you but you had no idea if they were guard or militia until you got close enough

Dynaman878911 Jun 2012 10:48 a.m. PST

> whenever the Americans spotted anything the GM would put a King Tiger on the table

We wargamers are used to that however so do the reverse, put a PZIV on the table and replace it with a King Tiger when appropriate. THAT gets attention!

Sven Lugar Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 11:21 a.m. PST

One that we used since the earky 80's that I've liked a lot was based on the original Koenig's Krieg rules. Commanders had levels of 0 to 3. Adding 1 D6 plus 1 D6 per level gave a variable number of blind brigades. Then we used 4inch square tiles marked with a grease pencil for each type of brigade (Cavalry or Infantry) & a number. Light troops were used as scouts when a scout unit or a tile got within range you revealed: First any dummies, then if no dummies you replaced the tiles with the actual figures & they were pinned in place. If one side was a dummy & the other not, the real unit remained mobile & hidden until pinned later on. After about 6 turns or so of hidden movement, everything would be revealed & thus starting positions were set up. Worked great for now for over 30 years.

Omemin Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 11:38 a.m. PST

For naval air games and campaigns, clear plastic sheets (about 3x5 feet) with the maps drawn on the back. Folks move fleets and aircraft on the front using water-base markers (Sanford's Vis-A-Vis works well). The judge lays the maps over each other and adjudicates spotting, weather, and so on.

For one-off games, I've used double-blind (two identical game boards), but things get kind of messy and it can take LOTS of troops. Works better for submarine actions at sea.

doug redshirt11 Jun 2012 12:55 p.m. PST

When I used to run my big Sudan games, the Ansar would be giving a poker chip for each unit they had plus another dummy chip for each unit chip they had. So you would have the same number of dummy counters and actual units.

The British/Egyptian players could tell that something was moving due to dust, which the chip represented, but not rather it was the wind, an actual unit or a scout for example. They had to get withen a certain distance to spot.

This made the use of cavalry and camel units important, also I gave the Anglo-Egyptian player several native scouts that I had painted up. The scouts had a longer spotting range, but since they were on foot, they tended to stay with the foot units.

It made the games fun, especially when a cavalry patrol crested the hill and found out that those chips were all very real and represented half the Ansar army. Needless to say that poor patrol got chopped up, and the units that went to rescue it got strung out and picked off one by one. The only thing that saved the Anglo-Egyptians from a total disaster was the one Egyptian unit that formed square and held off 5 Ansar units long enough for the British to form a hasty firing line and put out enough fire to chase off the Ansar.

Nothing like not knowing where the enemey was to show who the real commanders were.

OSchmidt Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 1:03 p.m. PST

The only hidden movement system I ever found that worked well was a physical one. I make my forest terrain as a series of "boxes" hexagonal in form. The terrain is all large hexagons, about a foot between parallel edges. One inch in from this edge is a hexagonal box which has a "lid that goes over it. The lid has clumps of greenery on it to represent forest tree tops and the sides are decorated with tree-trunks and scenes. Once you put a unit inside it is completely invisible till you lift the lid.

Each turn one side turns around while the GM and the moving player may move his troops from one box to the other. If he finds an enemy there is a combat. If there is no enemy he may move in.

This system worked very well, in fact it worked SO well many times players forgot where they had put their own troops! One guy complained that he was woefully overmatched in the game. He was shocked when I took off the lids and showed him the troops he had moved into a hex box and completely forgot about, leaving them there all game.

That's realistic, required no chips, markers or book-keeping.

Lupulus11 Jun 2012 2:34 p.m. PST

There's always the old Feldmachink: link

(haven't tried it, but it might be useful for someone)

Thorfin11 Inactive Member11 Jun 2012 3:36 p.m. PST

3 systems (or variations on them) have worked well for me:

Space Hulks blips – enemy numbers not revealed until the blip comes into sight.

Ambush Alleys hotspots – enemy appear at one of 5 hotspots dotted around the board – can be random or player chosen.

Two Hour Wargames PEF's – Clever system not dis-similar to Space Hulk blips in concept but including "artificial intelligence" for solo/co-op games.

I have yet to play it but remember being intrigued by the system in "Patrols in the Sudan".

Martin Rapier12 Jun 2012 4:11 a.m. PST

Mechanisms tried and used successfully.

i) defender hidden deployment

ii) defender deployment using blinds/markers

iii) as above but units only revealed when spotted, not when activated

iv) as above but units can become hidden again

v) as above but apply all permutations to attackers too

v) double blind hidden movement (two tables)

vi) multi blind hidden movement (multiple tables)

it all depends how much umpiring you want to do, how many players you have got etc.

The more hidden stuff is, the simpler your rules can/need to be.

One neat compromise mecahnism is to have units on table but with hidden combat strengths (rosters or whatever), whcih wworks for SP based systems.

The very, very simplest 'hidden' type game is to keep each sides briefings, OBs and objectives secret. Much, much more challenging than something where everyone knows what the other is trying to achieve.

Most common system we use for club night tactical games is umpire run fully hidden (as in move/fire hidden only revealed when spotted and can disappear again) vs player team with a command structure. Rather in the manner of an RPG.

Mako11 Inactive Member12 Jun 2012 7:57 a.m. PST

As a general rule, I think a minimum of a 1:1 ratio of dummies to real units is desired.

I prefer a 2:1 ratio, or more of dummies to real units, with 2:1 being fairly standard in my games, when using this process.

Makes them a lot more interesting for everyone involved.

Mako11 Inactive Member12 Jun 2012 4:29 p.m. PST

Should read 3:1 being my preferred standard, with hidden movement/deployment.

RudyNelson12 Jun 2012 4:46 p.m. PST

We used a hidden movement system in our Vietnam squad-platoon unit level combat. "Grunts, Leathernecks and Charlie' worked better on a hex map than a non-hex map. The system still worked without hexes but was a little cumbersome.
We had a unique classification system for designating terrain on the board.

We also use a unique tracking device for moving and firing. You could do both in a turn but it was not a Ugo-Igo system.

Marcus Maximus Inactive Member12 Jun 2012 11:24 p.m. PST

What system of hidden movement / deployment would you use for Austerlitz? (The only double blind boardgame that I have found works best is Operation Crusader by GDW, for blind movement / tension it has to be Space Hulk). Other boardgames use Vedettes (like OSG's Napoleonic Campaigns system). There was interesting idea in La Bataille Quatre Bras for the British using blinds.

Great topic GQG by the way.

RudyNelson14 Jun 2012 4:30 a.m. PST

I have used the old Columbi Game 'block' movement on a gameboard. When they are committed to battle and in visibility, then I place them on the battle board.

may sound cumbersome but it is not. . You have fewer pieces on the mapboard each turn.

Charles Besly27 Aug 2012 7:36 p.m. PST

I am currently doing ww2 in 28mm I act as the umpire, I grid square the entire game board with string into 12x12 squares I give a quick map reading class and then each side has to move on their homemade copy of the map on a clipboard. This represents field expedient maps used by squad leaders. If the player makes a mistake then they aren't where they thought they were just like in real life. Each turn players roll for discovery although there may or may not be anything there. Once a squad or even an individual fires then they are on the board for the duration of the game. The only exception being snipers. This eliminates players from seeing and reacting to something they couldn't possibly know was there. Also this demonstrates the importance of scouts and reconnaissance. On the real Battlefield discovery could be life and death. It is my attempt to teach real tactics to gamers and I have found it adds a great deal of suspense to the game.

Clay the Elitist Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 9:51 p.m. PST

This might be a lot of words…we'll see.

I've run games where we had two identical sets of PanzerBlitz boards. Counters were used to represent brigades (we used WRG "Bang You're Dead" at the time, so a brigade might have six battalions in it).

We had rules regarding movement and spacing. Cavalry could scout.

We setup one group of players in the gaming room with their board and the other side in the kitchen with their board and an umpire to run back and forth as they alternated moves. When he determined that they made contact, we built a scenario around the way the terrain was depicted, where the brigades were located, etc. Brigades too far away had to move on as reinforcements.

It seemed to work well.

Davout1972 Inactive Member28 Aug 2012 9:40 a.m. PST

Tabletop dramatics are fun to unveil on opponents, if done properly and no one feels like they just got duped with some "slight of hand trick", or invisible units just appearing out of thin air. On the field of battle, it is a matter of common sense. The scale of the field, the terrain (specifically hills), and vision at certain distances are important. But the ability to actually present units on the field without revealing their identification is key. In our rules set, certain formations take up X amount of space. When screened by inf or cav, these formations are replaced with an index card cut down to the size of the unit, and in some cases the type of unit (inf, cav, art). For example, a light inf screen might have 6 battalion sized units in column behind it, represented by 6 cards with an inf symbol. A cav regiment in line may have a card behind it, but because of the height of the man/horse, no symbol is shown. At an agreed upon range, or when common sense dictates, cards are replaced by actual units. Conversely, units in defense that are in some type of cover need not reveal themselves until a certain range. The defender simply has a map where all hidden units are listed, to include those taking advantage of Wellington's "reverse slope" tactics.

Off map movement has been simplified by companies like GDW and their double blind system, and Columbi with their block system. Both are fun to play and require no umpire. I once played the whole Campaign of 1815 using the Napoleon game from Columbi in an evening, with 3 other players. Each tick mark on the block represented a bn/regt in miniature. Everything was so simple in that game. Whenever we fought, it was simply a matter of turning in blocks for units.

Bottom line: Just remember Napoleon commenting on the Prussian columns diverging on Waterloo. For a good while, he could make out columns of inf, but couldn't make out the color. French blue, or Prussian black? It should be the same on the tabletop. Just find what style makes you smile…

Inkbiz Inactive Member28 Aug 2012 1:01 p.m. PST

I use a similar method to Davout. I use smoke or dust self-made markers mounted on wire to represent 'indications' such as beige/dusty colored clumps (similar in form to say, a small clump of lichen) to represent a probable approach of infantry or cavalry (cavalry markers are taller/deeper color). Similarly, I use a tree marker to represent areas where dead-zones occur behind rises in the ground..marking them as a sort of field with 4 such markers representing the area encompassing the dead-zone. So, often some placement of dust-markers in this area is a tip that possible cavalry may be moving behind the hills/rise, depending on the height. I similarly use cav markers to represent a screening movement.

Lots of fun and a good topic.


Russ Lockwood31 Aug 2012 10:30 a.m. PST

A couple of things I remember [or, more accurately, seem to recall :)] from various magazine articles that are variations of some of the above:

I think it was Greg Novak who did a "Polaroid" ACW battle in the late 70s. He had one big umpire board, but every commander was in a different room with a map. The commander wrote out his orders for his units, an umpire aide would run the orders back to Greg, who would do all the moves/combats/morale/etc, then take a Polaroid photo of what the commander saw. The aide would run back and deliver the photo, and the commander would have to interpret what was going on based on what he "saw" in the photo. Always thought this was a clever use of "technology" of the time.

In another article, the gamers paired off to battle on separate card tables out of sight from one another. After a certain number of turns, play was halted and the card tables pushed together, but only the umpire knew how they would fit together. Result: Chaos, especially for those who neglected their flanks and rears.


Andy ONeill01 Sep 2012 5:19 a.m. PST

We routinely use map deployed defender.
The best system is double blind with a referee. The suspense adds a lot to a game.

Elenderil02 Sep 2012 2:36 a.m. PST

The feldmachink concept looks like it would work well for very close terrain. How does it work in more open terrain where units can spot the enemy movement from a longer distance without knowing exactly what they are? Thinking Waterloo ….. Is it Grouchy's blue or Prussian's in black.

MrBackman Inactive Member25 Sep 2012 4:11 p.m. PST

In certain situations (boarding actions on spaceships) I have used two private maps of the respective ships and two public maps. Player A deploys and moves secretly on map A, player B deploys and moves secretly on map B. A certain amount of trust is neeeded by the players but I do like the fact that you can play without a referee and it is straightforward to implement for any rules system.

Banging on my own drum here but my Interecept vector space combat game uses a double blind hidden movement and sensors system that also doesn't need a referee. Check it out at:

forwardmarchstudios25 Sep 2012 8:11 p.m. PST

Feldmachink!? Thats a pretty awesome idea. If you combined that with some simple maps where players had to write their moves each turn to keep them honest- you would really have something there. Thats really ingenious.

forwardmarchstudios26 Sep 2012 11:01 p.m. PST

I was thinking over the Feldmachink thing today at work. Here's an idea-

How about a 10 x 10 square Feldmachink? You get 100 tubes and it corresponds exactly to the shape of the (ideally square) table. This is definitely going to figure into my plans for a new set of 4mm rules. I'm surprised I'd never heard of this before….

Elenderil27 Sep 2012 7:52 a.m. PST

I got to thinking about the feldmachink. The areas covered by each tube don't have to relate to a grid, they could relate to an area of the same visibility type that could be any size and shape. And they could be coloured to show what range you can see into them from perhaps.

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