First Playthrough – Units, Cards, and Orders.

Once upon a time, I used to play tabletop wargames. I was young then, and not as jaded as I am, now. That was over thirty years ago, and I burned out. Now, being older, somewhat wiser, and incredibly jaded, I thought I’d finally put my money with my mouth is, and design the wargame I want to play. Today, I gave it the first play-through, after being awake far too long getting ideas onto paper. Sleep is for the weak.

Gave away all my terrain in a fit of pique, had to buy new stuff. Mmmm, aquarium parts and lichen hedgerows…

To test, I have designed a pair of opposing forces. The first is a fairly standard 10-person squad consisting of a Leader, a Specialist, and 8 soldiers.

The second is a pair of civilian mobs, consisting of a Leader and 19 civilians.

The terms Leader and Specialist are defined later on in this post.

Why am I testing out mobs versus a smaller single squad, you ask? Well, there is an old term in wargame design known as “The Fuzzy Wuzzy Fallacy”:

The Fuzzy Wuzzy Fallacy is a name for a wargaming theory coined by Richard Hamblen in the September 1976 edition of Avalon Hill’s “The General Magazine”, loosely based on historical records of battles between the British and the Sudanese Mahdi. The Fuzzy Wuzzy Fallacy states that a single soldier with 2× firepower or attack strength is not equal to two soldiers with 1× firepower or attack strength.

Instead, the soldier with 2× firepower is actually worth sqrt{2} of the 1× soldier, if either soldier can be killed in a single hit. This is another form of Lanchester’s law. As a result, tactics and strategy designed around this theory emphasize greater numbers and time, which the speed and mobility of the units in action can effect.

Balancing this concept is fairly difficult, as some of you may be able to attest to. It is the classic “quality over quantity” debate, that has real implications on a felt-and-lichen battlefield. Since this is the very first play-through for StrikePoint, nothing is going to work as planned. And it didn’t!

Let’s take a look at the civilians, portrayed today by my Zulu alien dudes, which was unexpectedly apropos as I hadn’t planned on speaking about the Fuzzy Wuzzy Fallacy until after I did the playthrough.

Spoiler: The unpainted ones will die first, naturally.

StrikePoint uses Unit Cards, which will fit into a Unit Board. Maybe. Today, I’m just using the cards. Each card specifies the number and type of models in the unit, which are then covered with 12mm dice. The Unit Card has suggested colors, but as long as you are consistent, you can use whatever dice colors you’d like. In this case, I ran out of green dice, so some black dice filled in the rest of the members. Here, the grey die represents the leader on each mob.

A note on dice: Yes, in larger games (especially with larger squads) you’ll need a lot of dice. This may be off-putting to some folks, but I figure they’re pretty cheap and a good way to customize your forces. I’ll ask for some feedback on that, later on.

We have more dice than they do, we’ll be fine!

The information boxes of each card also tells you what Weapons the Unit is armed with, the unit’s Resolve, Move, and Resilience. The left-hand box contains the Unit’s Descriptors and Behaviors.

Descriptors are simply words used in the design of a given unit, to determine what abilities it has.

So, what defines a unit’s tabletop potential?

  • Resilience – The Unit’s ability to overcome adversity. Such as being shot. In this case, their Resilience is a TN of 2.
  • Movement – The Unit’s movement, in inches.
  • Resolve – What it takes for a Unit to become Shaken.
  • Weapons – What the Unit is armed with.
  • Behaviors – What will the Unit do if left to their own devices.

Resilience is the key Stat for any given Unit. It is a combination of a model’s training, experience, armor, and overall supply. It is used as a Target Number (TN) for enemy Units to shoot them, as well as recovering from being shot at, critical failures, and Leadership Checks. A Leadership Check uses the Leader’s die to roll against the Unit’s Resilience TN. Rolling less than or equal to the TN means the Check is successful.

Movement is a basic stat, which shows how far the Unit can move, in inches, if they receive an Order (see below) which allows them to Move. Haven’t worked out climbing rules yet, so everyone will keep their feet on the ground for now. The base movement of a model is 3″, which can be modified for faster units. Movement speeds are up in the air right now, so I’m starting ‘slow’. There are also no rules for ‘running’, as models are considered to be ‘in combat’ and full-tilt running without cover is dangerous. This on the docket to re-visit, but with weapons having the ability to shoot across the entire board, it is less important for non-melee-oriented Units.

Resolve is what it takes to make a Unit Shaken. Basically, this is the Unit’s morale, which never changes. This is a comparison between the number of Ready models in the unit versus how many models are Downed.

  • Rocky – The Unit becomes Shaken if any of the Unit’s models are Downed.
  • Regular – The Unit becomes Shaken if there are more Downed models than Ready models.
  • Resolute – The Unit becomes Shaken if there are at least twice as many Downed models than Ready models.

A Ready model is one that has not taken a hit. A Downed model is one that has taken a hit in combat, be it from enemy fire or enemy melee attacks. A Downed model is indicated by turning it on its side, and moving its die to the Behavior box on the card. Incapacitated models do not count for the purposes of this check, as they are either dead or otherwise hors d’combat, and no longer part of the Unit. Incapacitated models may be recoverable, and/or part of the Army’s victory conditions. When a Unit is Shaken, it is limited in what it can do on its Action. This is described in more detail, later on in this post.

These civilians are armed with a decent weapon, a Rifle which is giving them a +1 on their Shooting rolls. Which is probably why the Army is here to ask some questions. Note the lack of weapon ranges? That’s intentional. StrikePoint is designed around the concept of using the standard game boards available in stores (and at home) such as the 4’x6′ table. Research shows that almost every weapon can be fired, with reasonable accuracy, at the ranges portrayed by the average table. It is far more important to represent the concepts of fire and maneuver with better rules and scenery than attempting to artificially limit a weapon’s range. StrikePoint is about decisions, not necessarily dice.

Every Unit in StrikePoint has two Behaviors: Training and Instinct. Training is what the unit tends to do in any given situation. Instinct is what the unit attempts to do when it is Shaken. A Unit with better Training will handle adversity better than an untrained unit, and will have better default Behaviors.

In this case, these civilians are Trained to Defend, or hold their ground and shoot, but their Instinct is to Break (seen here as ‘Flee’, which was the previous keyword), which means attempting to flee the battlefield. A Unit that is not Shaken can use either Behavior, without the Leader having to make a Leadership Check. This means units with better Behaviours are better on the tabletop, thanks to their Training. They’re also more expensive to field.

Finally, every Unit has a set of Order Cards. An Order is something a Leader or Specialist can attempt, which typically modifies the Unit’s Behavior or gives the Unit a Special Ability. An Order replaces the Unit’s Behavior, and only one Order may be issued by a Model in a Unit on that Unit’s Action each Turn. For the civilian mob, their Leader gets the fairly standard Orders of Regroup and Maneuver. Special Abilities are typically granted by a Specialist, explained a little farther on. Turns and Actions will be explained in the next post, when we get to the actual game playthrough.

Regroup allows the unit to attempt to recover their composure. It is the classic “we’re under fire, treat the wounded, reload your weapons, and keep your heads down” Order. It allows Downed models to be brought back into Coherency, as well as gives a free Resilience Check, to try and bring units out of being Downed. These two tests are at a TN+1, as that’s all the Leader is doing, as opposed to Moving, Shooting, etc. Regroup does not cause a Hidden unit to be revealed, nor does it trigger any Suppress markers that may be on the Unit. A Resilience Check uses the Downed Models’ dice to roll against the Unit’s Resilience TN. Rolling less than or equal to the TN means the Check is successful, and the Model is no longer Downed.

Maneuver gives the Unit the ability to Move and Fire. In this case, it is the Leader getting the civilians to move forward into the face of the enemy, which is a difficult thing to do for untrained/rocky people facing combat, which is why it is an Order for this Unit, instead of a Behavior.

The two gold markers will be used in Hidden Setup, which will be explained in the next post.

Now, let’s look at the soldiers sent to deal with these unruly civilians.

Sure, you’re walking into an ambush, but that’s all part of a soldier’s life!

These soldiers have a better Resilience at a TN of 4. They are a little faster, with a Movement of 4″, but are armed with the same weapons. Their Leader has the same Orders as the civilians’ Leader.

Their Behavior is one of the key differences/advantages. Their Training gives them the Advance Order, which allows them to Move and gain TN+1 to their Resilience, reflecting their considered advance/awareness. You may notice that an Order typically gives two benefits, such as Move and Fire or Move and TN+1. Their Instinct is to Defend, with allows them to Fire and also gives TN+1 to their Resilience, as they are in good firing positions, utilizing available cover, and so forth. This means the Unit can be quite effective without Orders as they can Move or Shoot on their own, something the civilians cannot. You will notice a lack of “Shoot with a bonus to hit” Orders. This is under consideration, but will probably be reserved for Specialists such as snipers.

The other advantage this Unit has is a Specialist. This is a model that can give a Special Order, which typically only affects the model issuing the Order. Specialists usually also carry unique Weapons or Equipment. In this case, the Specialist has a Machine Gun, which gives them a +2 instead of a +1, when shooting. In background-terms, it is the Machine Gun which grants the ability to use the Special Order.

This Specialist’s Order is Suppress. This represents the model spraying bullets downrange, in an attempt to keep another Unit from moving. If a Suppressed Unit attempts to Move, they must make a Resilience Check to see if any of the Models are Downed. Note the order does not allow the model to Move, as the model is busy filling the air with angry, angry bees. The gold coin will be used as the token to indicate a Unit is Suppressed.

A Special Order may be issued after the Leader issues any orders, or the Unit uses a Behavior. You have to think about where you want to move models, and if you want your Specialist to act with the squad, or act independently. In this case, if the Specialist were to Move with the Unit, or use their Machine Gun to Shoot with the Unit, it would not be able to use its Suppress Order!

Our plucky civilians have the advantage of numbers and two units to maneuver with. The soldiers have better equipment and training, but far less boots on the ground. In the next post, we’ll see how this all plays out on the battlefield!

Read on…