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"IGOUGO WW2 Skirmish systems?" Topic

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Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP24 Oct 2018 5:27 p.m. PST

You know, I've never thought IGOUGO activation was flawed – it's act vs. reaction, this exist in physics, and certainly in natural human response, but to me it's never been exceeded by random activation mechanics for gaming utility.

Do any current WW2 skirmish-level rules use IGOUGO activation?

Pizzagrenadier24 Oct 2018 6:15 p.m. PST

Do you mean when one player's entire force activates followed by their opponent's or alternating activation of individual models or squads?

TacticalPainter0124 Oct 2018 11:00 p.m. PST

I think most random activation games are IGOUGO, it's just that I don't know exactly when I will go and when you will go, so phases of play are fluid and not predictable. Aside from pre-written orders and simultaneous turns all other systems rely on each player taking turns to do things. The systems really only vary on the rationale and therefore the rules mechanics on how the order of turns is determined and whether for example, the opposing player has options to react or interrupt.

In that sense I would say both Bolt Action and Chain of Command are IGOUGO, the difference is in the way the mechanics determine the sequence of who goes when and the extent of actions and reactions players can make when a player has his or her go. While both determine this with a degree of randomness, it is often people's interpretation of how well this perceived randomness models reality that generates the volume of debate it often does in these forums.

Thresher0124 Oct 2018 11:32 p.m. PST

Any rules set can, if you so desire it, whether it is intended that way or not, in the original rules.

FusilierDan Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 4:12 a.m. PST

I think Disposable Heroes does. Five Core Company Commander does though with a slight modification.

Lee49425 Oct 2018 5:56 a.m. PST

I agree that any rules can be IGOUGO. Just substitute that system for whatever activation system the rules use. I must admit that I think that system yields the least realistic games of any system. In what battle did one side sit on their hands waiting to respond with whatever was left after the enemy finished their "turn"? But to each their own. Cheers!

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 7:10 a.m. PST

Yes, activation by unit (alternating by team units and/or squads – thanks PizzaGrenadier for that clarification).

The IGOUGO sequence promotes players to prioritize their most important activations first. For the assualt, as a possible example – to establish supporting fire and overwatch actions in preparation to cover their other movements to close up with the enemy, or to assail a position. For the defense, to ascertain how to respond, and with which units first, and to hold successive unit activation in the turn as reserve [re]actions.

During an IGOUGO sequencing, supporting units can build up suppressive fire support over the course the turn, and if sufficiently successful, the assault movements can begin towards the objective or a phase line. The opposite is occurring as the other side reacts to enemy fires and movements, trying to prioritize their activations, and possibly holding back their other unit activations for counterattacks.

The IGOUGO system encourages and rewards tactical sequencing (by encouraging the prioritizing of a process/echeloning to these activations). The order of unit actions being a sequence that builds on the previous activations, but, there is still attendant reaction allowed to the opposition, as they build up their own tactical response.

IGOUGO turn sequencing promotes battle planning, and coordinating priorities of how tactical commanders approach a mission, and how they react in response to the opposition's battlefield evolutions.

I don't see random activation systems promoting the sequencing and execution of tactical battle plans, they're presenting impediment to it (but presented as rules-determined 'opportunities' that can occur during a turn for certain units to 'use it, or lose it' [Now!] so to speak, or by random intervals).

As a game judge and a player, but most apparent when I'm GMing games, it's a treat to see a player or team actually conceive a battle plan prior to rolling the dice, and/or discuss how they'll approach the exercise, maybe analyse the terrain first, or sub-divide their forces with conceived roles and mission priorities and tasks being discussed. To me, this approach to wargaming seems almost antiquated. With my GM hat still on, I'm really most interested in recognizing that participants in my games know how to prioritize their unit actions, understand the sequencing of supporting fires, and hold back some reserve [judgement] when the enemy throws a wrench in those plans. I'm far less interested in seeing this affected by a ruleset's randomizing activation mechanisms.

So, Disposable Heroes has IGOUGO unit activation mechanics? This is in both editions? Can I ask if someone can elaborate a bit more on DM's turn sequence, and/or why they might prefer it to play?

advocate25 Oct 2018 8:03 a.m. PST

BA interleaved activation by both sides, and the player chooses the sequence units are activated in, though one side may get a run of activations before the other side goes.
Chain of Command MAY allow a player to activate everything in one turn (before his opponent) but it's not guaranteed, and you often need to prioritize what gets done before your opponent acts.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 8:18 a.m. PST

Hi Advocate!

I'm thinking more of "Side A activates a unit (which would be a team or squad), then Side B, then Side A, vice versa until all units have activated or passed during a turn.

The classic "HOLD" order choice for opportunity fire to occur as a decision point later in a turn could be a [preferred] ruleset feature too.

After years of playing BA, and having folded in Konflikt '47's reaction mechanics into 2nd Edition now to smooth out the random order pull mechanics (regardless if Officer multi-command ability is being used), I'm really wondering if some WW2 skirmish set by OFFICIAL design – (because I'm tired of fixing rules) :))) just does plain old IGOUGO for small unit activation!

Pizzagrenadier25 Oct 2018 9:13 a.m. PST

FlyXwire: As the author of Disposable Heroes II, I can say it does indeed do this, and your description for what you are looking for is the foundation for the entire system and is built purposely into the design philosophy.

My entire outlook is based on creating a tense tactical back and forth decision making process between players in that very small space represented by a platoon attack frontage. I wanted every activation by each player to be about tactical decision making based on what each player is doing, rather than an emphasis on randomness. I felt that in the 50m space of a platoon engagement, I wanted the interplay of action and reaction of players to each other's actions to be the major decision making point. I think that interactions generated by the decisions of the players to each other and the terrain created its own friction and that random activation was not necessary to achieving this.

There are those that (strongly) disagree with this idea, and that not having randomness in the activation process or in movement does a disservice to realism. I won't disagree with that per se, but I also think that the tactical back and forth between players creates its own tactical challenges and rewards of its own kind of realism and that this interplay can build an engaging exercise in tactical decision making. For me, in that small space, I prefer the friction be generated by the players and less so the randomness provided by card, dice, or random activation draws. The randomness will come about by rolling dice for the effectiveness of fire, reactions to that fire, and other elements driven by the dice when resolving these player interactions. As a rules designer, those are my *preferences* for platoon level combat.

Reaction fire is built into the system as well, and preparing it with a specific action is not necessary (ie it is a free action units can take under certain circumstances such as being within a certain range and not being suppressed).

Also, as you mentioned in your post, alternating activation to build fire superiority and suppression on the enemy to launch an assault is a big part of the design philosophy here. Not that other rules don't do that, but the specific design decisions I made are highly focused on players doing just that.

DH II is built around a 50m space where a platoon in attack will be coming onto the table with two squads up front with a squad in reserve, up against a platoon in defense (defending a much wider space) with only one squad in hidden deployment and one in reserve (with the third squad off to either side defending the rest of the platoon frontage). Both platoons will have an HQ directing the fight and using their command and control to direct the battle, and they will have off table support from platoon and company level weapons that can create beaten zones and area denial through dialing in mortars and other types of weapons into specific areas.

The attacking platoon comes onto the table with the defending platoon using a hidden set up. Both forces deploy from deployment points set up by both players. Within the first turn, the attacking platoon must cross the table and capture one of the enemies deployment points. If they do not, the game is over. If they do, they must hold that deployment point until the turn is over while both sides deploy their reserves to either bolster the line, or maintain the ground they've captured.

That's the basic idea and structure of the system and much like you are looking for, those are the ideas the rules are built around.

Here is a link to the blog I created to demo the rules and give players an idea of how the rules work and my design philosophy behind them.


Again, my designs are based on my preferences for tactical back and forth actions between players. The lack of random activation mechanics might not appeal to all players, but it has its own challenges and rewards tactical decision making in a alternating unit activation system.

Hope that helps!

Pizzagrenadier25 Oct 2018 10:59 a.m. PST

Forgot to mention: the activation system is based on a limited pool of activations for the turn which is determined by the quality of the unit both in terms of morale and tactical skill. This gives players a resource they must manage and there are never enough Activations when you need them. So while the number of units that can activate is not random, the number of activations you get to spend is a finite resource. This means you'll have to make decisions and prioritize what you do and the reactions of your opponent will throw wrenches in your plan and how you spend those activations.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 12:07 p.m. PST

I always do IGOUGO – usually with some reactivity from the non phasing player.
My own WW2 skirmish rules are IGOUGO – link

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 2:50 p.m. PST

Thank you PZG and HB for your links, and I will devote some time now to wrapping my head around your systems!

PZG, your post above had me juiced until I started to read about the platoon vs. platoon mode, which to me sounds akin to "tourney-style points battlin'" (bear with me)…..

I'm comfortable embracing scenarios with a 2-to-1, or 3-to-1 attacker to defender [force/strength] ratio for conducting offensive actions, and so now wonder if your system has been compressed to conform to an artificial "match"-style balancing concept (I really should be reading your design notes 1st), but…..concerned atm there might be design emphasis on the platoon vs. platoon functionality, that I would break the system if I wanted to take it to multi-platoon scenarios, with larger attacker/defender force ratios, larger terrain frontages, or mixed, nuanced scenario objectives, etc.?

Pizzagrenadier25 Oct 2018 3:03 p.m. PST

No need to worry. It's not based on points or purchasing platoons in an artificial way but around the idea of a platoon frontage and what would usually be on the battlefield (tabletop) within that frontage. You can easily scale it up to larger formations and put a company in attack with two platoons on the table confronting a platoon in defense with each having reserves. It works best in 15mm and /or on a bigger table if you're scalingup that way..

The rules can withstand all kinds of flexing of forces and scenarios. It's been put through all kinds of situations across the past four years of playing and testing. Do with it as you will, it was in no way ever designed with a tournament system in mind.

The idea of pitting platoons in the format I described was to place the forces in the proper context of the platoon level battle. It can scale up from that. Generally you want each player controlling a platoon though. Company command elements are also good in control by an overall commanding player who runs the support assets and assigns or controls off board fire support.

Lee49425 Oct 2018 3:07 p.m. PST

So I wanted something more "fluid" for my rules. Truth in Gaming Disclosure here … lots of gamers love it but some loath it. I get most of my feedback from GMing at Cons like Historicon.

Brief description. The turn sequence is Side A moves. Both Sides fire. Then Side B moves. Side A & B is determined each turn by Initiative d6 roll, winner having choice to move before firing ie Side A or after firing as Side B. Since you never know which player will be Side A or B the following turn it keeps players "honest".

Now the catch is each Team that is In Command gets to CAC, ie execute a Combat Action Command ONCE per turn. The CAC allows you to fire during either Sides move phase OR move during the fire phase.

A typical battle might develop as follows, Side A moves a tank down a road, Side B CACs to open fire with a hidden AT gun, but then other Side A Teams CAC to return fire on the now exposed AT gun (EITHER Side may CAC to fire during either movement phase) the result is a series of firefights that erupt, ripple across the front and then die out. IMO fluid and realistic.

But like I said not for everyone! Cheers!

PS. This system also results in what I call Economy of Rules. Other systems have rules for rate of fire, moving vs not moving. Since the CAC let's you either fire twice (once when you CAC during a move phase and once during fire phase) OR move twice by CACing during the fire phase. Walla! Paragraphs of rate of fire rules not required. You can either move twice or fire twice but NOT both. The ROF rules are built into the CAC system. Ditto with Overwatch. No separate rules needed, just use a CAC. I've seen many players find Fire and Maneuver really work! Some of the biggest fans were Army Officers from the local Army Training Base. Enjoy!

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

PZG, your suggestion above for command breakdowns and player roles has been one I've often suggested to participants pre-game as I detect that "glazed eye" view when players struggle to come together as a team, and to start hashing out some course of action together (the overall CO often chosen to do the support missions, but at long last, to be tasked with managing some sort of battle plan too). ;)

Very glad DH II sounds robust for scaling up also!

Now Lee, I'm not put off in the least by your activation system.

At the moment your post seemed to have been cut off, but hoping you'll have the time to complete it also.

Lee49425 Oct 2018 3:38 p.m. PST

Sorry! Think its complete now. I actually used this system to game with the Delta Force and NYC Counter Terror SWAT Teams using an adaptation of my WWII rules for Modern Iraq. Nothing to get your juices flowing as GM when you have a Brigader General Playing your rules!


Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 3:45 p.m. PST

Ah, there it is (and "interrupts", or out of sequence/limited intervention) -

"A typical battle might develop as follows, Side A moves a tank down a road, Side B CACs to open fire with a hidden AT gun, but then other Side A Teams CAC to return fire on the now exposed AT gun (EITHER Side may CAC to fire during either movement phase) the result is a series of firefights that erupt, ripple across the front and then die out. IMO fluid and realistic."

A couple of questions – all units on one side are activating together, correct? But, individual unit actions of a side are considered to be occurring in a connected sequence (in a string), so combat results occur as they're detailed, and acted against by a possible enemy CAC response as the phasing unit's action is immediately occurring? (or, on a second read, maybe your activation is occurring IGOUGO, but by selecting an individual unit, and then the opposite side activates one, then back and forth, etc.?)

Lee btw, what are your rules again?

Lee49425 Oct 2018 4:25 p.m. PST

Hope I get your question correct … let's say your Side A with the first move. You move any or all of your Teams you want to move in any order. Any of your Teams can CAC (interrupt) to fire at any time before, during or after their move. Any enemy Team can CAC to fire at any point, including "interrupting", your move. Results of firing take effect immediately.

So Recce has a real purpose, you send them down that road to see what opens up on them. And then use your supporting Teams to take out the Defender. But since Teams only get one CAC per turn you always have to hold back some firing or risk getting overrun during Side B's move. Makes for a very intense game with no "snoozing" while the other Side moves. Hope that helps!

Rules name is Combat Action Command.


Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 5:27 p.m. PST

Wow, that sounds very dynamic!

Ok thank you to all – for all the excellent suggestions, and to the rules designers who took the time to introduce some of their game ideas and principles behind their systems.

I now have three+ good rules systems to consider which operate on the IGOUGO activation mechanism.

Appreciate your input Gentlemen!

Pizzagrenadier25 Oct 2018 7:28 p.m. PST

Glad to help. One thing I enjoy as a scenario designer and often GM is giving the company commander a mission (break through that line at the village because we need that road network), but make him give the platoons under him specific orders (1st platoon must take that wooded hill because it covers the approach to the village). It is enjoyable to see how that plays out with multiple players.

Munin Ilor26 Oct 2018 11:58 a.m. PST

I'm going to chime in with a draw-back for IGOUGO systems, which is that their balance is predicated on both sides having the same number of units. If this is not the case, then either 1) the force with more units gains tactical flexibility (because they'll get a bunch of unopposed activations at the end of the turn) or 2) under a "limited number of activations per turn" scenario the force with more units gets penalized because they have all these units around not activating/doing nothing.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 2:12 p.m. PST

I'm not in favor of game systems that attempt to neutralize the underlying advantage that comes with having numerical superiority. That's a reality that all militaries have had to consider, and which has driven efforts for better military training, evolving doctrines, on-going technological development, not to mention leadership skill.

TacticalPainter0126 Oct 2018 2:14 p.m. PST

let's say your Side A with the first move. You move any or all of your Teams you want to move in any order. Any of your Teams can CAC (interrupt) to fire at any time before, during or after their move. Any enemy Team can CAC to fire at any point, including "interrupting", your move. Results of firing take effect immediately.

This sounds very similar to Advanced Squad Leader.

One question about moving, is it a predetermined distance or variable? Reason I ask is that the one flaw in this system is that it allows both sides to predict what is possible each turn. What tends to happen is the defender selects which units to interrupt and fire at based on knowing what they can or can't accomplish in a known and given time frame. This makes the turns very deterministic and I feel gives the players too much foresight.

A player can ignore the most obvious target because he knows it will only get so far this turn and so saves his fire because he knows another enemy unit, which for now may be out of sight, could present a bigger threat this turn. It leads to decision making that doesn't relate to reality and can be a bit ‘gamey'.

Lee49426 Oct 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

Re movement. Yes and no. Yes movement rates are fixed and printed on the Data Cards for different types of terrain. BUT the mitigating factors are First movement rates are fast, some tanks moving 18" to 24" or more inches and faster on roads making judging how far they'll get harder. Second the movement rate for each Team is relatively unique to that Team and may have impacts, for example Tigers that move over a certain distance can break down. Third the moving player can fire at any point during their move, albeit with a penalty for distance moved before shooting. Fourth a player can always CAC to move a Team during the fire phase essentially doubling their move distance.

Bottom line it's really hard to second guess how far enemy teams may move thus eliminating most of the "gamey" stuff.


PS. All of the factors mentioned, like damaging your tank by moving too fast, are right on the Data Cards eliminating the need for players to memorize many exceptions or look up rules. Both of which I hate while playing lol.

wargamingUSA26 Oct 2018 4:17 p.m. PST

Interesting thread.

@Munin llor makes a good point about tactical advantage at the end of a turn in IGOUGO games that don't have evenly matched forces and don't include some mechanism for intervening or delaying the opposition during one or more of the movement cycles. (Fact: evenly matched forces are an historical anomaly.)

Another good point alluded to previously, actual player action and reaction, and player decision making, are part of a game. Finding ways to accentuate these aspects of games via the rules can add to a game's tactical, or strategic, feel and flow.

One of the things we've been concentrating on during our WWII era rules development is the sphere of a particular commander's control. We're working to find ways to decrease the all seeing, all reaching, ability of commanders at various unit levels. To be clear, the rules/game under development doesn't play at 1:1 skirmish but at the 1 stand = 1 platoon level of tactical play.

TacticalPainter0126 Oct 2018 4:39 p.m. PST

That's quite the challenge. It seems you need to deal with it at two levels. One is your miniature commander on the table, what can they see, hear, do and how far does their ability to command reach? Overarching all that is the life size commander, you the gamer, and your omnipresent, all seeing eye.

The danger with a rigid IGOUGO system is that it allows the gamer to have control at both levels. The danger in a purely random activation system is the command system relies too much on luck and has a level of chaos too far beyond a real life commander's ability to control events.

The answer is somewhere in the middle, but exactly where is mainly down to personal preference.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 6:33 p.m. PST

I'm not really sure trying to reach activation balance between disproportionately-sized forces should be a goal, but is something to be exploited for its tactical gameplay value.

Most WW2 game systems will allow players to create pre-game groupings of units from amongst their forces (or allowed by scenario if the game is being moderated).

Pre-game is the point where each side can consider how many teams they want to organize from within their command, and these grouped elements will then be activating as combined units during a turn. Create too many teams to ensure plentiful activation opportunities, and they may be too weak and less impactful. Create too few combined teams, and although powerful, their limited activation number might mean the opposition has much greater ability to react and respond over the course of each turn.

This works well with games of multiple company to battalion+ size strength levels, and maybe not as suitable for playing at the platoon or company level.

wargamingUSA27 Oct 2018 8:25 a.m. PST

@FlyXwire…"Most WW2 game systems will allow players to create pre-game groupings of units from amongst their forces (or allowed by scenario if the game is being moderated)."

Now we get to another core consideration. How many games allow for task-organizing because they are points based or otherwise "constructable", and/or how many scenarios give some or no latitude for task-organization? We tend to allow only minimal task-organization within our group.

One of the things we've concluded, unanimously and emphatically, is that a well designed scenario is a critical component of a good wargame. The three critical components, all pretty much of of equal weight, being a playable rules system that rewards good decision making, a well designed scenario, and a competent game judge-master.

None of our group particularly likes a points based or other system allowing players to build their force. All of us prefer a scenario driven game, purely historical or at least historical in context, where we are facing a tactical problem and the opponent. We do a lot of "what if" with historically accurate equipment and environments but not necessarily absolute "unit x" OB accuracy. None of our scenarios would likely be called "balanced" but it is possible for either side to acheive a victory.

Do like this thread.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

WargamingUSA, that's how my group learned to organize and play our scenarios 40+ years ago – we didn't build games up from points, but from understanding tables of organization and equipment, and how flexibly-organized Team, Task Force, and Kampfgruppen could and did operate (or didn't, depending on the particular period of WW2 being played, and the national doctrine in use).

The whole points based, tourney approach in recent gaming has created "player dependency syndrome" in my opinion. ;)

Anyway, here's something you might like. It's some WIP on how TOEs could be easily conveyed to players, and how sub-units of company or battalion structures could be used for task-forcing, and to be used to cross-attach units in order to organize multi-platoon mixed teams (in the vein of what I mentioned in a post above) -

In the visualized panels above, are shown armored units comprised of platoon units. Providing players with this type of visual referencing can immediately and clearly convey the game forces they might be commanding. But this is only the beginning of their utility. These panels can be magnetic, and so each platoon element can be represented by a reference counter that can be moved, or removed as needed. This allows a player side [pre-game] to begin task-forcing their battle group structure, by cross-attaching platoons into composite, cooperating teams, and when infantry and artillery components are included in the command, real combined-arms team/task force units can be easily organized (with each player having their units placed on a panel[s] in their possession). The panels function as player aids and as organizing components all in one, and help facilitate players to think in terms of their unit structures, and how they will tactically command their forces in the up-coming scenario at hand.

Again, this is best applied for multi-company/battalion level gaming. The selection pool of potential force units can be finite, and specified by the scenario, or more mission-based, and with a greater latitude for varied unit selection.

wargamingUSA27 Oct 2018 3:59 p.m. PST

I like 'em.

Achtung Minen28 Oct 2018 5:20 a.m. PST

WargamingUSA, that's how my group learned to organize and play our scenarios 40+ years ago – we didn't build games up from points, but from understanding tables of organization and equipment, and how flexibly-organized Team, Task Force, and Kampfgruppen could and did operate (or didn't, depending on the particular period of WW2 being played, and the national doctrine in use).

Hit the nail on the head. I intentionally don't play any system that has army construction rules or force balancing of any sort (points or otherwise), but if I did, I would just ignore those things entirely. For me, it is completely about the scenario. There are unnumbered situations I could imagine where a company was fighting off a battalion of enemies or more, or where unusual and assymetrical forces were paired off, so it really comes down to how these units (all of these units, not just infantry and armour!) were organized, what the possible divergences were, how they operated and so on.

By way of example, my last game (IABSM Winter War) pitted ski-mounted Finnish Jaegers on a kidnapping mission in the dead of night against a Soviet communications team hidden somewhere in an abandoned village. No infantry on the Soviet side, no vehicles or guns… just communications personnel and search and destroy. My next game will have a company of Sissi guerillas surrounding a support caravan for the 44th Motor Rifle Division on the Raate Road. The Soviets again get no tanks or infantry, but instead get what you might find in such a caravan: an odd assortment of anti-tank guns and infantry guns (all with nearly no ammo), some Pioneer trucks with crates of landmines and a couple of AA trucks (basically a quad-Maxim MMG bolted to the back of a Zis-5 truck without any armour protection). Should be fun!

TacticalPainter0128 Oct 2018 2:46 p.m. PST

Anyway, here's something you might like. It's some WIP on how TOEs could be easily conveyed to players, and how sub-units of company or battalion structures could be used for task-forcing, and to be used to cross-attach units in order to organize multi-platoon mixed teams

Those look great. I've found a lot of WWII gamers seem to have little awareness of historical TOEs and if their chosen rules don't encourage players to use these structures and allow all sorts of fanciful structures then it's no wonder they don't.

I created these for use with Chain of Command so players and anyone watching can see the force in use and it's structure. If nothing else it helps organise the miniatures off the table in a simple yet organised way so players can understand what they have available and the command structure.




Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2018 6:20 a.m. PST

TP, I remember seeing those on your blog, and they are excellent!

I do something similar with the 20s & 28s, but use a magnetic tray to attach steel, washer-mounted troops organized up for a scenario.

Have you mostly coin-mounted yours? (I recommend to friends – use steel washers, for the potential magnetic option)

Munin Ilor29 Oct 2018 10:58 a.m. PST

FlyXwire said:

I'm not really sure trying to reach activation balance between disproportionately-sized forces should be a goal, but is something to be exploited for its tactical gameplay value.

I think this is a little bit of a disingenuous dodge, but maybe it's because I'm not explaining my point well. So I'll try again:

Forces with numerical superiority already have an advantage in that they have more guns to inflict damage and more bodies to soak casualties. What I'm talking about is the artificial advantage that your alternating unit activation scheme imposes in addition to the advantage that the numerically superior force already has.

To put this another way: unless your system always allows a unit to take reactionary fire against units moving or shooting in their field of fire (and for a great example of a system that does this very elegantly – albeit in a sci-fi setting – check out Infinity), you will run into a situation where the player with the more numerous units gets a certain number of unopposed activations at the end of the turn, activations where their units can (for instance) move with impunity because they know the opposing force won't be able to activate or interrupt to stop them. And this is doubly true if you are using fixed movement distances. It is this "perfect knowledge" and "safe activations" that can produce a really gamey feel in a set of rules.

And in terms of allowing players to create groups beforehand, that only addresses the situation if the force gets some kind of actual benefit for having larger units/groups (or perhaps gets penalized for having smaller ones). If you're just splitting up your number of shots or potential casualties into arbitrary pools with no other effects based on the size of those pools, there is no statistical disadvantage to dividing your force into as many units as you possible can, and a significant tactical advantage to doing so. This again will produce a very gamey feel.

Does that make more sense?

Thomas Thomas29 Oct 2018 11:53 a.m. PST

Neither IGYG or random activation work particularly well. an integrated sequence of play solves the problem of coordination (plaguing random games) and inaction (plaguing IGYG). Its been around since John Hill did Johnny Reb and Frank Chadwick brought it to WWII with Command Decision.

Using IGYG and Random activation is like using a rotary phone in a cell phone world. Amazing these low tech solutions persit.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame & Glory Games

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2018 12:27 p.m. PST

MI, no dodge at all, because the disproportionate activations of a numerically superior force don't translate on a one-to-one basis to equaling more combat advantage. This because attacking forces charged with closing with the enemy require significant time spent moving and not firing, so potential "time on target" is already disproportionate by the nature of their mission task.

If an attacking, numerically superior force does its approach in many penny packets against a waiting enemy, the operation deserves to get whacked piecemeal.

Wolfhag29 Oct 2018 12:41 p.m. PST

Interesting take on the situation. It's hard to simulate better troops or units with a tactical advantage getting inside their larger opponent's decision loop using IGYG and activations. My opinion is that it appears to be a timing issue. Outnumbering your opponent can present problems in C&C that would cause delays in responding to enemy activity and increased effects of friction and give a smaller more mobile opponent an advantage.

The smaller unit, if operating more efficiently (smaller footprint can mean better C&C) could strike more quickly before the enemy can respond. They could also conduct a fighting withdraw ambushing the attackers and at the right time counterattack. The larger unit could many times be a step behind in responding which is a good simulation of getting inside your opponent's decision loop.

Intuitively, I'd say it's an exercise in timing because by observing the battlefield you can gauge your chances of success and estimate enemy advances and activity. However, IGYO and random activations seem to give very little predictability. Of course, that has the advantage of simulating "chaos" on the battlefield but it pretty much eliminates most advantages a smaller, more mobile and experienced unit may have when outnumbered.

But like FlyXwire said, your opponent can always give you an advantage too but it seems he's also commenting on the difficulty of a large force coordinating an advance.


Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2018 1:21 p.m. PST

Wolfhag, you're recognizing the art of war, and not just its science. Much of the discussion here about how we play, touches on our own art-ful rendering within a game's activation system.

Of the difficulty of a large force coordinating an advance, one can recall the un-artful tactics used by the US 1st Armored Division in charging at veteran Panzer forces in Tunisia, the later who moved in bounds, and fired after the short hop (and often when out-numbered, but still tactically more effective).

So again, more unit activations in a game doesn't guarantee more time on target, or force effectiveness.

TacticalPainter0129 Oct 2018 1:43 p.m. PST

Much of the discussion here about how we play, touches on our own art-ful rendering within a game's activation system.

This is a very good point, because no matter how beautifully constructed our rules may be they cannot overcome poor play.

I play a lot of Chain of Command and can mainly speak to this, but I hear criticism that often expresses frustration at the player's lack of control. I sense they are seeing the command dice as THE means of command and control, when in fact, it is the player, not the dice. How artfully a player combines the random nature of the dice with the C&C mechanics in the rules often determines the better player.

I often make the analogy with Backgammon, a game of skill solely driven by luck. Are the great Backgammon players lucky, or are they good because they know how to artfully use the luck (good and bad) that comes their way?

The science of the CoC rules says the roll of five D6 determines my command options this phase, but a whole raft of other factors within the rules and drawn from my experience and skill will determine how well I really execute this.

wargamingUSA29 Oct 2018 2:01 p.m. PST

@Wolfhag hits on a key point, getting inside the opposition's decison making loop.

This begs a discussion of intent, intervention, and initiative which are, to my mind, diminished in games using straight-forward card driven activations or a very simple and rigid IGYG mechanism without any way to account for these considerations (confession, I still really enjoy playing TSATF with its simple card sequencing). To be fair, some systems do make an attempt to break the routine (e.g. Fireball Forward uses an initiative chip that provides an ability to break into the opposition's sequencing).

In our development we have been working on a mechanism that allows for player-commanders to issue orders and then, depending on a die roll and a player's decision, possibly be faced with the opposition executing their orders first. So now one player must act within the constraint of issued orders yet account for the other side having had the initiative. We're not 100% there yet but where we're at is appealing to all of our play testers.

The bottom line is any mechanism can, and certainly will be, "gamed" by some or all players. How designers incorporate "gaming the system" as a tactical or strategic aspect of the system is one of the true challenges of game design.

I think @TacticalPainter01 is spot on when he says… "The answer is somewhere in the middle, but exactly where is mainly down to personal preference." The personal preference part being the ultimate arbiter.

Munin Ilor29 Oct 2018 2:18 p.m. PST

FlyXwire wrote:

If an attacking, numerically superior force does its approach in many penny packets against a waiting enemy, the operation deserves to get whacked piecemeal.

I agree, but your proposed solution actually has the opposite effect.

If there is no C&C penalty to a larger force breaking up into a bajillion tiny units, they gain a tactical advantage based solely on the activation system. In addition, unless you allow larger units to a) split fire or b) affect more than one enemy unit simultaneously, splitting your force into many tiny units imposes artificial limitations on target priority and opens the possibility of your opponent losing damage due to wasted "overflow" (e.g. I inflict 5 casualties on a unit of 10 men, vs inflicting 5 casualties on a unit of 3 men – in the latter case, 2 casualties are wasted because I can't kill men that aren't there).

And again, you are still not addressing the issue of "safe" or "unanswered" activations by the more numerous (in terms of units, not necessarily men/vehicles) force at the end of the turn.

Frankly your proposed approach sounds a hell of a lot more gamey and a hell of a lot less tactical. Maybe you have other ideas to help deal with some of these issues (e.g. limited total number of activations per force, or the ability for a single unit to target multiple enemy units simultaneously), but the combination of simple IGOUGO with a number of "units" arbitrarily decided by the player opens your rules up to a disastrous level of abuse. And you may not see it because you're too focused on how you play (and you might never think to abuse the rules in such an ahistorical fashion), but anyone from a different background coming to your rules is apt to look at it and think, "man, this is broken."

Munin Ilor29 Oct 2018 2:35 p.m. PST

As an illustration/counter-point, take the unit activation rules in Chain of Command: in that game, you have a finite unit activation resource. Given your Command Roll, you may be able to deploy/activate none, some, or all of the units under your command. Furthermore, it is absolutely possible to take a particular unit (let's say a basic infantry squad, which is typically comprised of two teams – one LMG and one rifle) and cut it up into many smaller teams. But doing so actually imposes a penalty on you, because the more teams you have, the harder it is to command all of them (either from not rolling enough 1s on your Command Dice or from not having enough Command Initiatives from nearby leaders).

Additionally, smaller teams can take less Shock before they get pinned or broken.

Finally, if you fire on an enemy unit in CoC and there are other units within 4", the hits get spread around, meaning that a single firing unit can often affect multiple target units. This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the situation, but at least the capability is built into the game.

When combined with the ability to use overwatch, covering fire, interrupts, and variable movement rates (e.g. 2D6" rather than simply a fixed 6" or whatever), it virtually eliminates the idea of guaranteed "unopposed" activations. For example, even if you're lucky enough to get a double phase and feel like maybe your unit can dash across that field before the enemy can open up with an emplaced MMG, it is entirely possible to chunder your movement rolls, get caught out in the open, and be torn to shreds (voice of experience, sadly).

Thus, even though CoC is at its core an IGOUGO system, there are mechanics built into the game to limit the predictability of activations or effects.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2018 3:17 p.m. PST

Well, when a poster starts using "disingenuous dodge", the "hell" word, and starts underlining you (meaning me), I'll let you win Sir. :)))

For others in the conversation here, my favorite activation system is the one borrowed from the boardgame Tank On Tank, and it's IGOUGO by sides, but each turn has a variable range of Action Points that can be drawn (ranging from 1-4 in the pull cup), but your opponent [team] pulls your AP chit and keeps it secret until your side has expended its activations that phase – great fog of war affect. Since the mechanic is IGOUGO, there's a nice give and take to the turn flow, and each team knows they'll get a minimum of 2 AP to work with, but it could be more (and the opposite team is monitoring your actions in RT to access your expenditure – which keeps them engaged during your turn too). Now working with a minimum of 2 APs in mind stresses the need to prioritize the important activations first. However, there's ways to stretch the effectiveness of the number of units that might be activated – HQ units can be ordered, and they can relay their activation orders to units in their proximity, so Command & Control and working in formations has a direct affect on a force's performance, and the force mass that a side can actively manage is tied to Command & Control mechanics. If the formation(s) break up (or HQs are knocked out), the efficiency of the ordering breaks down too.
Lastly, if you'll notice in those organizational graphics shown above, there's illustrated "Extra AP" chit(s) shown, and those are one-time "interrupt" actions certain forces might have for use during a game. I added these to allow for those particularly important command decision moments where units of high training and/or motivation might have been able to intervene in the action. These extra APs can be allocated for each particular scenario or not, and to interject historical unit flavor at times.
This activation system plays without a single die roll, just the sound of the chips in the tote.

Wolfhag29 Oct 2018 4:00 p.m. PST

Maneouver Group (UshCha) uses a different approach to IGYG.

The side with the fewest number of units to activate in a turn can "force" the opponent to continue activating units until the opponent now has fewer units to activate and can force his opponent to continue activating. Having fewer means he can activate units while the opponent is "frozen" and can always activate immediately after his opponent.

This can allow the smaller side to "force" his opponent into an ambush position and can continue to activate units until he has less to activate than his opponent.

You need to really balance things out. If you have fewer units than your opponent you'll need to keep some available to activate towards the end of a turn or your opponent may be able to really exploit a weakness in your line.

It presents different options, tactics, and decisions to the player. It's not my game but I do have the rules and I think I've got it right.


Munin Ilor29 Oct 2018 4:23 p.m. PST

FlyXwire wrote:

Well, when a poster starts using "disingenuous dodge", the "hell" word, and starts underlining you (meaning me), I'll let you win Sir. :)))

Whoops, sorry, written medium. Didn't mean to come across as combative, but I could tell I was having a hard time getting my point across. That's on me, not on you.

The underlined "you" above was simply trying to point out that when writing or considering rules, it can be difficult to divorce yourself from the subject matter and inadvertently build your own play-style biases into your game/scenario. I know, I've occasionally caught myself doing it. So for instance, if you like to play scenarios with a historically-based TO&E, it might not occur to you that someone else using your rules/scenario might cook up a force that turns your assumptions about what/how many activations etc on its head. And to underline in the opposite direction, just because I think that an armored assault is a patently non-historical way to win the scenario I've designed doesn't mean that you (or any other player) might not look at it and go, "Yeah, this would be way easier with tanks." And all my spluttering of "Whu..whu..but that force had no tanks during that engagement!!!" won't alter the fact that my scenario is in some sense broken.

It's also worth noting that mechanics inherently reward or incentivize certain kinds of play. I will take different risks with fixed movement rates than I will with variable ones, for instance. If the rules allow the player with more units to pile a bunch of free activations at the end of the turn and don't penalize me for splitting my force into a bunch of small units, someone who wants to take advantage of that mechanic will absolutely do so. And the end result will probably feel much more "gamey" than was intended by the rules author.

RE: Tank on Tank – I haven't played it, but there's another sci-fi game I played in a demo once – I think it might have been "This Is Not a Test" maybe? – anyway, it used the exact same system where your opponent knows how many activations you have, but you don't (until they're gone, that is!). I agree with you that it captures the "fog of war" in an interesting way. Out of curiosity, in ToT can you spend all of your activation points on a single tank during your turn?

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2018 4:47 p.m. PST

Well I didn't come up with TOT's activation system, just became very fond of it, and have taken to mod the scale and scope of the game while converting it to miniatures. We've been having a lot of fun with it (6+ years now), and currently play it in 1/600, 1/300, and 1/144th scales.

The area guys say they "love it" – their actual words.

For our time in life now, it offers just about all we need.

I started this thread because I know IGOUGO systems that perform wonderfully, and that veteran gamers that try say they love. So, to gamers out there reading this, don't think because a system is IGOUGO based, that it's obsolete. After decades of designing my own systems and playing WW2 games, I found the possibilities in an elegant little boardgame [kernel], so I know it's possible to find a sweet spot too (and it's a nice place to be at).

On your question – Tank On Tank as I've modded it is a unit based system, so your basic activating unit is a platoon, or HQ section. I've taken the game from individual tanks per, to multiple tanks or ATGs, or Infantry [squads] per. Unit attrition is done by individual elements within each platoon. A "Hard Target" unit (armored elements) can activate to move and/or fire (AP cost for each action type), while "Soft Targets" can only do one or the other when chosen for activation.

As noted a number of times, much of this further discussion I've offered is not necessarily about skirmish-level gaming systems. Maybe if I painted a picture of a squad leader trying to get his individual men to advance, and some were grouped with him and ready, while others were lagging behind detached, or couldn't hear his commands because they were engaging in a firefight, it might be clearer how a single command [action] could be effective, or less effective in different situations and dispositions.

TacticalPainter0129 Oct 2018 8:01 p.m. PST

Maybe if I painted a picture of a squad leader trying to get his individual men to advance, and some were grouped with him and ready, while others were lagging behind detached, or couldn't hear his commands because they were engaging in a firefight, it might be clearer how a single command [action] could be effective, or less effective in different situations and dispositions.

If we stick with this image then I think we can see some of the origins of a random activation rule. It is trying to reflect the chaotic nature of events. The problem is that things are not totally chaotic or random. The squad leader is trained, as are his men, they are able to exert some influence over events. An experienced squad leader can foresee some of this and plan for it. On the other side of the fence the enemy is unaware of how efficiently this opposing unit might operate.

So on one hand you have a system for allowing for an unpredictable series of events. On the other hand you have soldiers and leaders who are in a position to try to influence the outcome of those events.

If we keep with FlyXwire's example, we have a squad leader who is trying to get his men to advance, but circumstances are making this difficult. If these circumstances represent our 'random events', then the actions of the squad leader can give us back some of the control we maintain in an IGOUGO system.

If the rules can strike a balance between these two activities and importantly, one that reflects some historically plausible outcomes, then it seems to me you have the best of both worlds.

Personally I find this in Chain of Command. There is much I can do to influence events, not least of which is having the right commanders in the right spot. I can in my phase undertake a range of compatible activities that feel historically plausible (lay down covering fire, throw a smoke grenade, advance my squad). If I'm fortunate I can orchestrate a quite complex series of actions, however the only predictable element will be my knowledge that things will unfold in a slightly unpredictable fashion. It's why I don't consider CoC a random activation set of rules, but an IGOUGO set with an unpredictable flow to events.

Munin Ilor29 Oct 2018 8:46 p.m. PST

TacitcalPainter01 wrote:

It's why I don't consider CoC a random activation set of rules, but an IGOUGO set with an unpredictable flow to events.

I agree with this assessment whole-heartedly. When contrasted the with random die/chit/card pull of systems like Bolt Action, Sharp Practice 2, or IABSM, you can really "feel" the difference in the kinds of tactical decisions you are forced to make. Not necessarily better or worse, just different (and in some senses conforming more closely to their period or engagement scale).

Wolfhag29 Oct 2018 11:49 p.m. PST

This is an interesting and thought-provoking discussion. I've watched and or played many of the games mentioned. I've seen how these different order/activation mechanics present a problem for the player to solve with several decision points to consider. It seems to be about problem solving, tactics and player decisions. Not all systems meet the player's expectations, past experience, and historical reading to satisfy his version of reality and biases.

I'm not going to single out any one system for smaller 1:1 game like I'm playing, but for me, personally, I have a hard time wrapping my head around any type of "activation" type game. I served in the infantry and never envisioned being "inactive" or needing to be "activated". We were always doing something because we were always under some type of order or offensive/defensive posture. We didn't need to be activated to do something, which looking back we did not always do the right thing.

Small unit leadership (initiative), drills and practiced tactics enabled us to respond. At the platoon level, you normally had the Platoon Leader, Platoon Sergeant or Squad Leader within visual or earshot so pretty good C&C. However, even then orders were rarely executed immediately.

The Platoon Leader, getting orders from the Company Commander, will take some time to get the platoon moving (it is not immediate). The factors would be a command delays at each level + friction + fog of war + some randomness and a potential SNAFU. I consider this the "delay factor" that affects the timing of the execution of an order. You force the enemy to "delay" his order execution by creating friction and executing your orders with less delay than him. That's getting inside your opponent's decision loop.

His delay slows his execution and when he does execute the tactical picture may have changed and his order being executed now may be wrong for the new situation. You beat him to the punch by "seizing" the initiative. Randomness should play only a small part and players decisions and "Risk-Reward" tactics should dominate.

At least some, most or all parts of the platoon were "active" during the entire process and is the delay from the time the Company Commander issues his order to when the platoon executes it. The more layers of command the more delay, chance for friction, and SNAFU. Suppressive fire is the main tool for creating the delay by suppressing the enemy (suppression defined as limiting/delaying the enemy ability to command, move, fire and communicate).

I guess to sum it up your troops will almost always do (or attempt to do) what you tell them, you just don't have control over how long it will take and if upon execution (after the delay) you have issued the correct order. Since neither side knows when the other will execute there is a fog of war created and the timing and execution of orders are unpredictable. The issue I see with binary reaction activations or alternate IGYG is if you succeed you have at that point, perfect Situational Awareness to issue the correct order and most likely have it carried out right then. An enemy reaction can happen right away too without any delay.

I'm generalizing here as some systems may do this better than others and some can't do it at all. I just have not run across a system that can recreate that "delay" aspect and the interaction of the decision loop between players using the current activation and IGYO systems. I'm not the expert in that area either and open to suggestions. Depending on the time scale of a game and the frequency of activation attempts this delay and timing factor could be simulated too using activations and maybe some type of IGYG.

I think a system like this would still allow the player to put together teams in the same way the command dice in CoC does. There would not be any limitations caused by command dice but he could be severely impacted by long delay times if he does not have good C&C, squad leaders or teams with poor training. Having your leader "lead from the front" will make him very effective (less delay) in his "command bubble" but make him more suspectable to being hit and a relatively long delay in attempting to command/order other units in his command (could be overcome by signaling with star shells, smoke, radio, etc).

One last item. If a leader needs to issue an order and knows that the command delay involved (or maybe his unit failed the activation roll) will be too late to take action, he can attempt to perform a "Heroic Action" by taking personal initiative and activating himself to take action immediately without delay (maybe some troops nearby may follow him?). Of course, this, like any other rule, can be over used.


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