THE GAME WITH NO TURNS
By Skip Nicholson
A few months back I read a little blurb by Larry Brom about a game without any turns. Just a continuous flow of cards dictating the action "on the field of battle."
I was intrigued and began to think about how such a game would work. The first problem was "coordinated attacks". That was simple, we create THE Command Card. Next, how to handle the lack of a Movement or Fire Phase. Again, simple, the units either MOVE or FIRE, but not both. Sheer genius! But I digress (and suffer severe injury from trying to pat myself on the back).
Not being a particularly original thinker, but being one hell of a pirate, I began to review game systems similar to The Sword And The Flame. That is to say, games that use randomly generated activation of the game pieces or units. Like a good magician who never reveals his secrets, a good plagiarist never reveals his sources (mostly out of fear of legal action). So I leave you to guess what I borrowed and from where!
So, here is the finished product ready for YOU to rush right out and plagiarize yourself. I don't claim anything in this as original except maybe the re-combination of some tried and true ideas.
The basis for this game is Larry Brom's excellent The Sword And The Flame (TSATF). NO DANGER OF LEGAL ACTION HERE, BROM TOLD ME TO DO THIS!
We've done away with the Movement Phase, the Shooting Phase, Melee Phase, and Morale Phase. In fact, in our game we've done away with the standard deck of cards and are using a customized deck, but more about that in a few paragraphs.
Using the basic game mechanics, unit organization, fire charts, movement, morale and most of the basic rules here's how THE GAME WITH NO TURNS plays.
You need a deck of some sort of cards to randomly activate units. You can make a custom deck like this example , or, you can use a standard deck of playing cards. You need a number "generic" cards equal to the number of units in the largest force for each side. In our case we're playing a game in the Belgian Congo Free State in the late 1880's. Our units are four units of Force Publique Askari's and a small mountain gun (5 units) battling an Azande native force made up of five units of Azande with Spears, 1 Unit of Natives with Muskets and a unit of Body Guards attached to the local Chieftain (7 units total). That makes for 7 "generic" Force Publique cards and 7 "generic" Azande cards.
The Belgian Force Publique is organized into two companies with the standard TSATF organization of two twenty figure platoons each with an Officer, NCO, and a Company Commander and NCO commanding the two platoons. Both companies are overseen by the Force Commander. So we have two Company Commanders and the C-in-C. Each of them get one Command Card specifically designated for that figure (for a total of 3 "command" cards).
The Azande are organized just like the Zulu's in TSATF (with the exception of the Bodyguards). Each unit of 20 has a Leader Figure included and for every three units of 20 there is a Senior Leader figure. The whole force is commanded by the Chief who commands his personal 20 man bodyguard as well. The two group leaders and the Chief each get a Command Card (for a total of 3 "command" cards).
The Azande have 7 units, so they get seven "generic" cards and three Command Cards. The Force Publique also gets 7 generic cards (to match the Azande) and three Command Cards. You can take a standard deck of cards and pull number cards of the appropriate color for the generic cards and declare the face cards as the Command Cards. The King is the C-in-C, the Queen the Officer commanding Company "A", the Jack being the Command Card for the Officer commanding Company "B". Or you can write on the cards with a permanent marker, whatever works for you.
OK, now you've got a deck of 20 cards thoroughly shuffled. Just as in TSATF, you begin to turn the cards to activate units. When a "generic" card is turned, one unit may MOVE or SHOOT or CHARGE or RALLY. One action to the customer per card.
I think you'll see why we limited the number of cards in the deck pretty quickly here. A unit may move, or shoot, or whatever, as many times as you turn cards. So let's say one of the Belgian units moved up on the first card, another Belgian generic card is drawn and that same unit now fires. It has acted on two cards in a row. Now, since the units move OR fire, not both, you may always fire both ranks. If another Belgian card were drawn, the same unit could activate again. But there is a point of diminishing returns here.
Let's say the next card drawn is the Azande Command Card for the force facing those bold Askari who rushed forward so foolishly. This command has three spear units. Since this is a Command Card the leader it represents can order ALL the units under his command (and within 6 inches of the leader figure) to MOVE or SHOOT or CHARGE, etc. In this case our wily Azande leader orders his men to CHARGE! Each unit in the charge dices separately for movement. If some of them don't make contact, well, that's too bad. But if he's chosen his time well, all three Azande spear units will smack into that poor unit of Askaris.
The Askaris, assuming they are faced in the right direction, get to shoot before contact. The Azande test to close (we use the Zulu stats) and the Askaris test to receive the charge (we use the 'Egyptian' stats, if they are smart they will run) assuming at least one unit for each side has survived the 'close' and 'stand' checks you go ahead and fight the melee to resolution just as in the standard game, move the losers according to the standard rules and then resume turning cards.
The Generic Card activates one unit, which may move, shoot, charge, attempt to rally, whatever.
The Command Card activates all the units under a specific commander to move, shoot, charge, etc. As long as the figure in within 6 inches of the leader figure.
The Commander in Chief, ostensibly, can order any or all of the units under his command to activate, as long as they are within 6 inches.
You deal out the whole deck of cards and then shuffle and repeat and repeat and repeat until one side or the other fails to answer the bell or is given a ten count. Simple? You bet!
Yes, you may have a "run" of cards where one side or the other will get two or three cards in a row and that could come at a very crucial moment. Just as your natives prematurely break cover and start to move towards that poor isolated platoon, they get a run of three cards in a row and get three good volleys into you before you make contact. OUCH! Yes, but very realistic. Or, once those spearmen have finished slaughtering that poor platoon, the next two cards could be Azande generic cards! Those same spearmen now may move deep into the rear of the Belgian forces, maybe even charge the command group thought to be tucked safely behind the lines or charge into the flank of the closest fresh unit of Askari! It could get ugly fast.
Since you are using a deck with a very limited number of cards and you are always going to run all the way through the deck before you shuffle there will be a time of "payback". If you get three cards in a row early on, your opponent is going to get a run of cards later. Payback is hell, always keep that in mind.
If, during a turn, you shoot an opponent into a morale check status, morale is checked immediately after the fire has been adjudicated (unless there is a charge). The effects of the morale check are applied immediately before the next card is turned.
That next card could be a generic card for the side that suffered the morale failure and the broken unit may immediately attempt to rally if the players wish. If the unit fails they run back again and may try again on their next card if the players wish to use their cards in that manner.
You will still need a standard deck of cards for casualty determination. I recommend a standard deck with two jokers. Don't reshuffle the deck until a joker comes up. When casualties occur, turn cards just as in standard TSATF to determine who became a casualty and whether they were "killed" or "wounded".
That's pretty much it. There are no turns, no fire phases, leaders are now VERY important in order to organize and coordinate attacks and must be played FORWARD with their units, not skulking around in the rear somewhere trying not to get killed.
SOME SPECIAL ALTERNATIVE OPTIONAL NON-OBLIGATORY RULES!
LEADER ADVANCEMENT! Ok, so you've fought your first action and Lt. Higgenbotham has lead his men to glorious victory. Well, OK, he survived. In the next game you could promote Lt. Higgenbotham to COMPANY COMMANDER and give him TWO Command Cards! Remember that both sides should have the same number of cards in the deck. So, if giving Lt. (now Captain.) Higgenbotham causes an imbalance in cards you must reduce the number of generic cards on
your side (but never below the number of units in your force) or increase the number of generic cards on the other side. An individual leader figure may have up to FOUR, but no more than four Command Cards in the deck. Imagine what that would mean to command control!
LEADER SURVIVAL! Now that leaders are so important and we've diabolically forced you to throw them into the front lines. Why not give them a fighting chance to survive and get those extra Command Cards?
A. When an "Ace" is pulled, indicating that a leader is "hit", if there is more than one leader in the target area, dice for the one who takes the "hit". A simple random roll of the die will suffice.
B. When the unlucky victim is selected dice for the level of his wound:
1= Killed, DRT ("Dead Rat Thar!"), Toast, Finis, Last Call, CHECK PLEASE!
2-3=Incapacitating wound, no further action this game.
4-5= Light wound, carry on bravely with a -1 to all skill rolls *
6= It's just a scratch, no effect.
*Do that every time you take a "hit". Imagine the after battle report. "Lt. Higgenbotham, despite his three wounds, carried on bravely and was an inspiration to his men." The penalty, by the way, is cumulative..so Lt. Higgenbotham "carries on" with a -3 to his shooting and melee. He also loses one inch of movement for each wound. But, by Godfrey, what a man!
After the battle, dice for any leaders with incapacitating wounds or multiple injuries to see if they die from their wounds. Again, a simple 50/50 shot or whatever you want to contrive. If they don't die, they get to appear in the next fight with an extra Command Card! Whoohooo!
Now, a word about THE DEDICATED DECK.
With the help of Patrick Wilson we have created a Dedicated Deck based on my Belgian Force Publique and Azande collections. Patrick created a custom back for the cards and I took digital pictures of my units and specific senior leaders.
I find the dedicated deck visually more satisfying but it also allows you to put event cards directly into the deck. I like to have a random event now and again, like a thunder storm or a rogue elephant or the C-in-C goes down with a recurring bout of Malaria.just something to make the game more interesting. With the dedicated custom deck you can make an event card that looks just like the other custom cards and can be drawn randomly without any special additional die-rolling, charts, or whatever.
I like to discard event cards once they have been played and do not put them back in the deck when it's reshuffled. Likewise, when a leader with a special Command Card is "killed" or otherwise incapacitated you should pull their card(s) from the deck. They won't be needed anymore ("Hat's off, Gentlemen, for our fallen comrade!")
Well, that's the GAME WITH NO TURNS. It just flows and flows with dramatic twists and turns until one side or the other finally has had enough and quits the field (or the hobby).
One last thought about game length. Since this game has no "turns" to keep count of.you may want to set real time limits. "This game will end promptly at Five P.M." or something like that and come up with suitable penalties for players who drag their feet or try the old "slow play" stratagem to run out the clock.
Ok, have at it, you're dismissed. Have a good time. If you run into any problems just dial 1-800-ARRRRGH! And our helpful staff will be glad to assist you. Or better yet, call Patrick Wilson, his phone number in Oklahoma City is..no, wait, Patrick, I was just kidding, put down that gun Patrick.I would never give out your phone number, even though you're listed in the Oklahoma City phone directory under Patrick R. Wilson on Haverhill Place.no, no really..I was just kidding.PATRICK!
(Let us draw a curtain on this sorry scene, as the craven author begs piteously for his life and your editor contemplates murder and mayhem.)
(Make that COMMITS murder and mayhem--Ed.)
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