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"Random Turns" Topic

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GunRunner Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 2:42 a.m. PST

A number of recent and new rule sets are using an unstructured game turn to get away from the perfectly planned and executed moves of the accomplished tournament player (seen with WRG, FOW or maybe even W40k). These new rules (FOF, Bolt Action, possibly CoC) are a good thing.

However these activation systems are not without problems. Never being able to coordinate a multi-unit advance and having the enemy react or redeploy instantly to each unfolding event is maybe tipping the scales too far towards randomness and opportunistic / unskilled player tactics.

I'd like to see the skill of a well-executed plan being rewarded, but still allow for battlefield friction to mess up anyone's parade.

So far I've been playing around with a Crossfire type ‘keeping the initiative' system initially for use with Bolt Action order dice: but I'd also be keen to hear about your experiences and thoughts on the ideal activation system.

Martin Rapier22 Jun 2013 3:33 a.m. PST

Frankly, order based systems and some sort of simultaneous or semi-simultaneous execution give the best 'simulation' (imho of course).

As seen in e.g. Command Decision, Spearhead, TAC:WW2, Megablitz etc.

Units are pre-committed to some course of action by mode/order even if you have some randomness in the order with which thing happen.

Military wargames usually involve formal planning and simultaneous execution, although they often have largeish umpire/helper teams to move things along.

This might be less appropriate for tactical games of course.

Last Hussar22 Jun 2013 3:34 a.m. PST

I'm wondering about a modification to IABSM. At the moment you can only use reserved dice for spotting or firing. Maybe allow them for movement as well, as long as it hasn't been under attack since its card was drawn. This would allow 2 platoons to assault simultaneously, rather than the first go forward and hope that the 2nd will move.

edit to respond to Martin.
The problem is getting the players and umpires needed – most wargames are 1 on 1 or similar. Plus there is the inevitable delay while umpires adjudicate.

dmebust Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 4:09 a.m. PST

We use the IABSM system and in fact have used it for other rules sets to get the random feel. You have to use the Big Men to get things moving in IABSM. I like Command elements that are actually a part of the game. I like to take the NCO's and have them as Big Men as well. Attached to weapons teams or a unit at a key point and it gets interesting. More cards, more action.
I Go,You Go should not be a dirty term. It has its place. You make a move and I get the chance to respond to it or go over here and threaten you with this move. Your Turn! Chess, no problem, a good pass time game. It works at a certain level of game.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2013 5:53 a.m. PST

I ran into this with an ambush game in PigWars (a Viking era game). No, this isn't a modern army with electronic communications, but I felt two units should be able to move at the same time to kick off the ambush. At least in theory, the leader waits until he deems it the correct time to attack, the nudges the lad next to him, who blows the call on his horn, and the warriors come swarming down from either side to attack the unit on the road. So, when I replayed the scenario, I let all the attackers move the first time (in response to the horn call), then went back to the usual random, card driven sequence. This seemed to work, with initial coordination, giving way to disorganization after the fighting started. I suppose that, had I been using Byzantines instead of Welsh, I would have wanted to provide some opportunity for other multi-unit maneuvers, like "Retire."


Last Hussar22 Jun 2013 6:02 a.m. PST

Reconsidering my previous – May use reserved dice to move IF ACTIVATED BY A BIG MAN.

StormforceX Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 6:32 a.m. PST

This is a very good thread as I had not thought about the problems of the "move 1 unit at a time" system. Maybe the answer is in the Battlegroup Kursk/Overlord games where a handful of units move each turn rather than one or all.

Dynaman878922 Jun 2013 6:51 a.m. PST

Last hussar – we have done that in our games and it works well, a BM can make a section use whatever activations are left in any manner desired.

theRaptor Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 8:25 a.m. PST

I actually think the point of these systems is you can't rely on other units to do the planned thing at the right time. Really the argument becomes about if the amount of times that happens in these systems reflects what happens in reality.

That said I think 5150:Fighter Commands system meets a middle ground here. Each side has a movement phase and then an action phase, but you still have to roll to activate units (one role and any unit that has that "rep" or lower is active). The result is that you can never be certain of what you will have active next turn, which encourages more realistic tactics, but you can perform multi-unit actions.

There is also the Ganesha games system where you can choose to roll one to three dice to activate a unit, and every dice that passes gives that unit one action. The trick is that if you fall two dice then your turn ends.

These systems are close to IGOUGO, but they model friction and the flow of initiative.

Last Hussar22 Jun 2013 9:11 a.m. PST

Dynaman – Even have it as BM reserved actions: He can hold on to giving orders, with the quid pro quo he CAN'T activate on the Tea Break

The Hobbybox Inactive Member22 Jun 2013 2:56 p.m. PST

A couple of other ways to do it:

1) Written orders – Cards preferably, with an activation number on. Played face down, the units are activated in the order of the cards when turned face up.

2) Another method is 'roll to activate' but you have a number of 'free pass' activations for either the game or the turn to allow you to activate a unit or two when you really needed it (provided you hadn't squandered them of course)

Gaz004523 Jun 2013 12:57 a.m. PST

Some years ago I tried a simple "activate for any action" approach, 2d6 to score 7+ with modifiers for ability and morale/ casualties etc, this was in platoon and squad level command level ( actually a game based on the Full Metal Jacket drive into Hue ). Players had to activate their commands, the PC to give orders or move the command squad etc and squad leaders to move or direct fire other than engage the closest enemy ..the PC could intervene to re-roll/re-activate a squad that was inactive after failing its own activation,this was extrapolated up/down the levels of command, via company and battalion etc for artillery and air strikes requests or a 'reaming' when the boss wants action!
Worked well as a simple bolt on extra for our games, there was some resistance from one player whose squad didn't want to move or do much at all…..he kept failing his activation even with all the modifiers…….roll 2d6-score 3+………snake eyes!! I gave him an M48 too to bolster his squad and encourage them…….

I now use FoF and dabble with Nuts and ATZ with their reaction tables……..

pauld89523 Jun 2013 1:07 a.m. PST

Why not have a deck of cards (1 per section, platoon, man, whatever that identifies a specific unit) and the TURN is the full deck but a PHASE is a fraction of the deck.

Each PHASE and depending on initiative (decided however)the combatants PLAY a card in turns to activate a unit

Just off the top of my head … but may work

UshCha23 Jun 2013 2:24 a.m. PST

Thre is always a conflict between it all going to plan and there being so much friction of war that its fall out of the set of interesting games (but occationaly not out of reality). We use an IGO UGO systems with additional command actions. This means you can get a plan together but it will never be perfect but good enough as far as we can see ,to stop the worst of one side go's and then the other, without side effects that are not acceptable. We did look at random activations like in Squad leader but decided that it had as many drawbacks as it had gains and so abandoned it for something like the activation sequence in Stargrunt II, but changed to reflect the needs of larger formations with more representative command structures.

You may not be able to disconnect the move system of the game from the rest, as the overall system integration may mean it won't work smoothly and accurately. Our system works becuse it integrates well with the move, observation and rection elements. Change any one of these and it would not work as a system.

That however should not stop you trying all the possibilities. Rapid fire has a dice system that works well in its system. DB(insert letter here) has geat claims to fame if used intelegently. Competition games use too many ttoops and eliminate much of the need for command.

pauld89523 Jun 2013 2:26 a.m. PST

forgot to say and can't edit

that you CHOOSE the cards to go into a PHASE hand

… nothing random

for example: you could choose units on your right flank and if your opponent second guesses your tactics he could choose units on his left flank

or he could miss the whole thing and be caught unprepared (of course that does mean you are unprepared somewhere else.

Ark3nubis Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 8:05 a.m. PST

Gaz0045, can you give us a flavour of the Nuts and ATZ reaction tables abd how they work?

UshCa, can you do likewise with Stargrunt?

I'm really interested in how you could play a game with nought but tables to play against (figuratively against tables, not literally of course…)



vtsaogames23 Jun 2013 10:00 a.m. PST

"can you give us a flavour of the Nuts and ATZ reaction tables and how they work?"

Check out the free Chain Reaction rules (which is the core that the others descend from)


kevanG23 Jun 2013 12:24 p.m. PST

what you define as 'random' turns using an 'unstructured' game turn is disingenuous to a heck of a lot of games.

Sophisticated structure isn't unstructured.

The function of Command is about the use of resources to get the best effectiveness out your troops.

SO when you say
"Never being able to coordinate a multi-unit advance and having the enemy react or redeploy instantly to each unfolding event is maybe tipping the scales too far towards randomness and opportunistic / unskilled player tactics."

I would suggest that careful design of turn structure can allow you to do this.

When you have higher levels of command, the 'I go You Go' turn structure with sub phases works well as per the rules Martin Rapier described above. Lower down the command structure. individual reaction is more relevant.

Taking two rulesets that have 'random' activation can illustrate the difference.

Bolt action randomly selects sides who then do their thing. nothing stops them and nothing influences the randomness of which side goes. everything on the table gets a go.

IABSM has the element of command intervention which will skew the randomness towards a degree of control by the commander and the skilful player positions and uses his resources to maximise his potential. this can still be done without having random activation, e.g. PBI does the same but is still IgoUgo. We even have a game with controlled activation that is IGoUgo with random turns.. Crossfire… which is probably the least forgiving wargame in history to the unskilled player!

One last point about the new Chain of command rules from 2FL
I have watched the video's and I have watched bits of a couple of games being played. Do not be fooled into thinking CoC has some random turn sequence. My impressions are that it actually has one of the most sophisticated turn sequences in any wargame I have ever looked at. It also seems to have managed to present the player with multiple threads of command to consider, evaluate and act upon….actually to the point of defining the 'turn'.

I read people claim that rules they have just come across are 'innovative' when the thing that is new to them has actually been used a dozen times in rules the player are not familiar with so I am normally very guarded about making any comments in praise of any ruleset and espcially one that hasn't even been released……BUT!!!!

I see some excellent INNOVATIVE mechanics here and I think Chain of Command will deserve the credit it gets in the future.

Personal logo Ditto Tango 2 3 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member23 Jun 2013 10:13 p.m. PST


UshCha23 Jun 2013 10:41 p.m. PST

Stargrunt II is IGO UGO pretty much. Each element, that is a model or small typically group of 6 figures has a counter. At the start of the bound each element has its counter face up. The player with the least number of counters then has the option of going first or passing and forceing the other player to go until honours are even, when the play must be alternate. This does mean there is some "engineering" of when you would idealy want to activale a given element.

One on excelent bit is that in limited cases (assult) you can activate more than 1 element at a time. In addition if in an assulty (this is the last few yards of an infantry battle for clarity) the target is unactivated it loses its activation letting the attacking player take another activation. This gives a measure of impetus the shock awe at lower level.

MG uses a similar system but allows some other restricted actions to involve groups and allows in some cases, reaction to enemy actions. This eliminates the need to Overwatch tokens and fixes a host of other timing issues at the same time.

Kevan G,
Not sure why you needed to appear so cross on an excelent topic, and nobody has praised an unpublished set of rules in this topic and all comments have been constructive.

There is an issue that the more structured a set of rules for command and control, that are well done, results in the better relflection of the need to plan ahead at least in the players head. This is not to all wargamers taste. Clever simple rules do not make for simple games. Deciding on which of some 30 to 50 elements needs to go next to get the optimum execution of a plan is challengeing for the inexperienced but is not an issue to worry about at expert level. Whatever command system you use/want needs to reflect the players requirements. I am aware of games I would never play again due to excessive randomness (not a modern game) but are much loved by the players for this reason.

kevanG24 Jun 2013 2:57 a.m. PST

I have no intention to appear cross…because I am not. and I praised a non published set which I wouldnt normally do, hence why I mentioned it

I was pointing out that variable lengths and abilities per phase is not completely 'random'

"But yes, the turn/phase sequence is quite random. Some of the randomness can be stored up by the looks of the videos to help control things."

To get a second phase, you have to roll two 6's on your five die rolls, which means you only have 3 die rolls maximum you can actually do anything with on the tabletop and potentially less if you roll 5's as well. To get a second phase, you have more or less halfed your abilities in the first one. this is why I made the point about multiple command threads running throught it and why I think it is actually very innovative. It would be more than disengenuous to tag that as a 'random' turn sequence, although I could understand why it would initially appear so if you think of anything without alternative turns of structured phases as random.

GunRunner Inactive Member24 Jun 2013 6:22 a.m. PST

KevinG I don't follow you: COC genuinely looks like a random turn sequence. Phases swap between players and turns ends on the roll of dice. Nothing can predict when you might roll two or three sixes, or indeed if all your dice rolled with be fives and sixes.

It looks like a good system where ‘normally' you can expect to coordinate several activations before play swaps. Seems just the kind of system I prefer: the ability to plan and execute a co-ordinated set of actions but never being able to predict when the enemy will interfere.

kevanG24 Jun 2013 8:08 a.m. PST

"Nothing can predict when you might roll two or three sixes, or indeed if all your dice rolled with be fives and sixes."

I agree, but every wargame has that , even IgoUgo.

I am making the point that random is a sliding scale and that clever design of any turn structure can take out part of the random. The turn in chain of command for example can be declared by one player rather than end on a die roll. So is it random if the player can have partial control of it rather than being fixed ,completely regimated outside his control.

Spearhead has an incredibley fixed and restrictively rigid turn sequence, but you roll for initiative at the start of each turn to determine who the first phasing player is. but I would not say that is a random turn sequence.

Perhaps we need a better descriptive phrase like 'controlled randomness' where you can influence it within the game mechanics. as opposed to 'pure randomness' like bolt action's dice.

Andy ONeill24 Jun 2013 9:57 a.m. PST

Couple of thoughts on SG2.
Bear in mind that it's aimed at sci fi rather than moderns.
Some modifications would be expected for modern gaming.
I use a variant for ww2.

Leaders can transfer actions or re-activate subordinates.
This is not guaranteed unless a leader is in contact.
Movement is fixed until the shooting starts and then variable.
There are also confidence tests which must be made in order to do things like move out of cover once shooting starts.
As a result it is easy to co-ordinate forces moving slowly out of combat.
Once you try and rush things and or the shooting starts then there is friction in several forms and complicated plans will fall apart.
Where your leaders are and who they re-activate are critical decisions.
The main effect of shooting is suppression which robs a squad of (most) actions until it removes them. My ww2 modifications also make it much weaker in close combat.

As an aside, shooting mainly suppresses which sort of robs a squad of actions until it uses actions to remove suppressions. Close combat is the way to inflict lots of casualties.

There is therefore randomness in there and the more skilful player should be able to cope with it better.

UshCha24 Jun 2013 1:25 p.m. PST

AONeil, you are correct there is friction but based on situation not random. Supprise, suprise if there is not enough firepower available an assulting unit goes to ground and then cannot move, pinned infact, without needing pinning rules. This is not random in the true sence. I am an ex SG2 player I agreee there were lots of things wrong including the Assult rules were to random. The command and control rules are however quite good. It works without allowing unreasonable levels of co-ordination. MG uses this basic system which is also close to Squad Leader type activations and then adds and refines it to cover larger formations than SG2 can really cope with.
No plan should be perfect but the inconsistancied need to be at a palusible level. SG2 does this reaonably.

Andy ONeill25 Jun 2013 2:31 a.m. PST

Not sure why you thought I was saying there's a lot wrong with sg2.
They're a couple of tweaks from being an excellent set of rules.

thomalley25 Jun 2013 6:56 a.m. PST

Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier go at it in another way by having variable movement. Infantry moves 2d6. So you can plan for an average advance of 7.

GunRunner Inactive Member25 Jun 2013 6:56 a.m. PST

SG looks interesting too. What size forces have you comfortably managed with it? Could it handle 30 infantry plus some vehicles in an evening game?

Andy ONeill26 Jun 2013 1:49 a.m. PST

The tank rules are a bit weird imo, so I replaced them.

SG2 is aimed at platoon plus the odd tank/ifv a side.
My players wanted platoon to company of infantry with and up to a company of tanks.
My ww2 modifications are intended to make more tanks more practical.
I suggest you take a look at them and the various modifications out there on the sg2 web ring.
Seeing as how I'm a windows/web developer my web site is of course ridiculously outdated and the drop down menus don't work on all modern browsers.
The sitemap:

The SG2 rules are now a free download from ground zero games.
Bear in mind that they sort of inspired Ambush Alley and Force on Force. So if you insist on commercially supported rules then these are sort of similar-ish

GunRunner Inactive Member26 Jun 2013 7:44 a.m. PST

Thanks AoNeil, I'll check them out.

Ark3nubis Inactive Member26 Jun 2013 8:14 a.m. PST

YEah, same here! I have downloaded them already, I will peruse within the next year I'd say…


Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2013 8:30 a.m. PST

I have not played FoW yet but am planning to start soon. Im considering adapting Bolt Actions turn system to FoW.

UshCha26 Jun 2013 10:12 p.m. PST

We left SG2 as it is not good at all with vehicals and even support weapons are poor. The equivalent of an MMG if unrealisticaly inaccurate. The turn sequence is its best bit. You could look at us but we do charge. But bullatin 1 is free as are the QR's:-

It is a simple set of rules the complexity like chess comes from few simple rule interacting. PS its 100 pages becuse we found some folk were not really clear about what real armies do so we had to show what real folk do so they can re-enact. That took nearly as much space qas the rulles. Then add engineerin (many rules seem to ignore this????). and it looks bigger than it is in reality.


Ps you DO NOT NEED our terrain. Its an option and not everybody loves it.

Lion in the Stars28 Jun 2013 7:50 a.m. PST

SG looks interesting too. What size forces have you comfortably managed with it? Could it handle 30 infantry plus some vehicles in an evening game?
That's right about what the game was designed around, platoonish per side.

That's the same scale as Force on Force, though you can push a bit bigger in SG2 than FoF.

UshCha28 Jun 2013 8:36 a.m. PST

Trouble is SG2 is not good on vehicals. It needs a lot of mod to be plausible.

Thomas Thomas Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2013 12:37 p.m. PST

"Frankly, order based systems and some sort of simultaneous or semi-simultaneous execution give the best 'simulation' (imho of course).

As seen in e.g. Command Decision, Spearhead, TAC:WW2, Megablitz etc.

Units are pre-committed to some course of action by mode/order even if you have some randomness in the order with which thing happen.

Military wargames usually involve formal planning and simultaneous execution, although they often have largeish umpire/helper teams to move things along."

I agree completely with Martin. The order chit system of Command Decision and Johnny Reb produces by far the best (and easiest) way to simulate a battle. Units (and players) do not stand around while the entire focus is on one sub unit who's card has come up.

The draw back of both was simo movement – which as a practical matter does not work. You need to have an initative system. With that added old style CD worked great.


UshCha02 Jul 2013 10:11 p.m. PST

Thomas Thomas,
Onbe problem with many wargames is that no planning is required becuuse so little happens each bound and in such a move and counretmove way that it is easy to block an action being 1 action/turn behind. In which case written orders do help a bit. In our games while no writtrn orders are needed a whel orchestrated road march may not be folloed easily by allredy deployed troops so you really have to have a plan IN YOU HEAD only, to cover the contingencies. This is much better in my opinion, as I hate paperwork. I does mean however you have to have a plan, some folk are not keen on that as it does require brain power.

Chatticus Finch03 Jul 2013 4:49 a.m. PST

I've thought about this myself, and mostly being a Flames Of War player, I made the following rules.

You roll on the SKILL of your command HQ, +1 for Veteran HQ, -1 for Conscript HQ.

The highest score wins the event (moving, shooting, assault etc), draws go to the attacker.

This in turn modified the whole turn process, and made for, what I think is, a much more fluid gameplay. I can put the rules up if you want?

uglyfatbloke Inactive Member03 Jul 2013 5:01 a.m. PST

Greiber…that's not a million miles away from what we do with Bolt Action, which is that we always have an attacker and a defender. In the first turn the attacker gets to move/fire everything subject to the interference of defender's units on ambush (minimum 1/4 of units, maximum half of units). The defender does the remainder of his/her units and the game progresses in the usual way from turn 2 onward. The attacker gets a decent crack at start-line and h-hour functions and the whole thing goes to pot in the second turn in the traditional manner. We always have more units than we have dice, so the attackers has to be very wary of charging forward in the first turn only to find that he/she cannot move a proportion of he them in the second turn so planning is definitely crucial to success.

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