Any long time reader of my blog will know I’m a fan of Crossfire. Crossfire’s initiative system makes it the most intense wargaming experience I’ve ever had. Even if you are the other guy, waiting to have your turn, you are actively involved and can’t afford to lose interest. And your turn comes around pretty quick. I want to bring some of that intensity into Deep Battle, my as yet unwritten Operational level wargame. I want intensity and I think that needs some kind of initiative or impulse system.
Crossfire style initiative
In Crossfire a player takes actions, potentially an unlimited number of actions, until one of the actions fails. Then initiative shifts to the other player and they start taking actions. The player who is watching is involved throughout because the way to fail a move action is by suffering reactive fire. The non-acting player watches for an opportunity for reactive fire, rolls the dice, and if they are successful stops the movement action and forces initiative to shift.
Other game systems have a similar elements. For example, Advanced Squad Leader has the equivalent of reactive fire.
None of the game systems I looked at in my Review of Wargaming Rules I could use for the Operational Level of War use this style of initiative. Probably not a surprise because there is no obvious equivalent of the reactive fire mechanism. Particularly for the larger resolution games where there is no ranged combat.
Impulse-based turn system
A more promising option are impulse-based turn systems. As it happens Drive on Moscow, one of the game systems I looked at in my Review of Wargaming Rules I could use for the Operational Level of War, uses an impulse-based turn system.
Wikipedia: Impulse Based Turn System explains:
An impulse-based turn system is a game mechanic where a game turn is broken up into a series of discrete, repeating segments, or impulses.
In games that use the term impulse, such as tabletop wargames, a single game turn generally comprises multiple impulses, in which players take some portion of their possible actions; for example, activating a subset of their units.
Effectively each player gets lots of tiny little turns. And your turn comes around so frequently you must stay focussed.
In Drive on Moscow the active player activates an entire area and all (un-expended) units in it. Once activated units can (optionally) move and then must fight any enemy they end up in the same area with.
In contrast, in the board game “Storm Over Stalingrad” (that Chris and I played last night) players activate a set of units that are colocated in an area, but not necessarily all units in the areas. An player can do one of three things; move units, fire units, or play a card. Units which have moved or fired become spent, cannot move/fire again this game turn, and are more vulnerable in combat. That means, a unit generally gets only one action per turn, however, certain cards allow more than one action because units can activate without being spent.
Note: in both Drive on Moscow and “Storm Over Stalingrad” enemy units can contest the same area.
Card based initiative
There are lots of games out there, e.g. from Two Fat Lardies, that use a card based initiative system. Units are activated by drawing from a custom deck of cards. This is a common game pattern, but I’ve never understood the logic behind it and I can’t imagine it increasing intensity. Thing thing about Crossfire style initiative and impulse-based turn systems, is that you can choose where to focus your efforts. In a card based system this is random.
On balance, for Deep Battle, I think I’ll experiment with an impulse-base turn system similar to Drive on Moscow or “Storm Over Stalingrad”. Probably activate a hex/square, move, fight. Other guy activates a hex/square, moves, fights. Repeat until end of game turn.
From my perspective an impulse system is i-go-u-go, but the turn around time is much shorter. I get a tiny game turn, then you get a tiny game turn. This, hopefully, will create the intensity I’m looking for.