29 August 2011

Mythic GME Review

As a solo-gamer I'm always looking for a way to give my "opponent" more independence.  Artificial intelligence would be nice, but I'm a wargaming geek, not a computer nerd.  I've heard of the Mythic Game Master Emulator quite a bit on the solo forums, so I finally broke down and bought the .pdf download.  I resisted for the longest time, since I was concerned the system would essentially be a pen-and-paper version of the "Magic 8-Ball" toy.  Then I paid $22.00 for breakfast with my girlfriend this Sunday and realized, yeah I can afford to spend $6.95 on what may be a helpful product.

The system essentially just assigns a numeric percentage chance score to an event; rolling under this score results in a "yes" answer to a yes or no question asked by the player.  For example if you decide that a yes answer to a question should be "very likely", then the score, according to the chart provided in Mythic, is about an 85; so an 85% chance of a yes.  The score changes depending on a Chaos Rank.  The Chaos Rank also lets you set up scenes, and might change your scenes in ways you don't expect.  I think these random events are the best part of the Mythic system, but I would probably generate my own random words vice the 200 options in the book.  Most of the book is just examples of how to use this simple, but effective system.  My mind wasn't blown as some other internet reviews promised, but the Mythic system presents a nice, codified way of introducing randomness into your game.

The artwork greatly detracts from the book.  It sucks.  The artwork consists almost entirely of "hot chicks with swords/guns", a lame concept made even lamer by poor execution (the ladies aren't that "hot").  I love the indie look of pen-and-ink line drawings in small press games, and I prefer my artwork a little rough, a la the original AD&D Monster Manual.  But when every picture is from some prepubescent boy's fantasy, I can't be bothered.

I recommend this product for roleplayers and solo wargamers despite the dreadful art and the fact that if you've been gaming for a long time, you've probably developed a similar system yourself.  

21 August 2011

d12 Death Blow available for download

My simple fighting game d12 Death Blow, is now available for download.  Simply go to my downloads page and get the rules and play-aids sheets.  Free!

Note that the downloads are the final versions; the recent posts regarding this game was really just a stream-of-consciousness commentary on the design process.  You can see how much a game changes from conception to final form by following my posts, but the .pdf downloads are the "official" playtested rules.

Enjoy!

Rules-sheet teaser

20 August 2011

d12 Death Blow (Martial Arts Game, Pt2)

I slept on it and I really like the two-player version of the simple fighting game I came up with.  In fact, I'm disowning the solo rules I proposed in the last post.  The two player version works great as a solo version as well; simply pit two shuffled decks against each other and watch them go!  I've decided to call the game d12 Death Blow.

I think this game would be a fun distraction for kids (or bored adults).  I've thought of a few improvements: first let's simplify the dice used.  Each fighter has two identically colored dice instead of four as before.  As the name of the game implies, players use d12 pairs exclusively.  Use these dice along with the Scale of Styles to determine the fighter's Attack and Defense scores; these dice are also compared to the fighter's current Reaction Speed to determine Initiative (see last post).  Since the same dice are now used both for Initiative and dealing/blocking damage, they reflect the aggressiveness of a fighter's move.  The use of two dice versus four results in some changes for the Signature Move rules.  A Joker now counts as an initial Mixed Offense style and grants the fighter an automatic Initiative of 2.  The fighter executing his signature move also gets a damage bonus equal to his experience Level!

I've created a little pdf with a simple fighter sheet which can be printed out, along with the Scale of Styles, and glued to a spare card.  Packs of cards typically come with a few promotional cards which work great for this purpose.  I've just set up my downloads page and I'll put this pdf up soon, as well as a one page summary rules-sheet.

Sample play-aid sheet

19 August 2011

Solo Martial Arts Game

Here's a little solo game I made up; at the end of the post is a two-player version.  The game replicates a multi-round fight between two combatants.  Use it for two dueling martial artists, two wizards blasting each other with eldrich energies, two psychics in a mental contest, or two intergalactic wrestlers facing off in the ring.  The game is a fun little distraction, a stand-alone affair.  The rules are not intended for use in a table-top game or even a role-playing game; they just take too long.

The game only requires a deck of cards and four dice.  Use any type of dice; including mixed pairs.  For example, I like to use a d6 and d8 to represent an average fighter, with 2d6 being a weak one and 2d8 simulating a great warrior.  You can even use a d4 and d12 pair if you choose.  The only restriction is that two dice share one color, the other dice another color, allowing you to discriminate between the pairs.

Shuffle the deck thoroughly with the Joker cards left in.  The card deck controls your opponent's fighter; you make all the decisions for your fighter.  Choose one pair of dice for your opponent.  The other belongs to your fighter.  You're now ready to start the match.

Declare (to yourself, not out loud weirdo) your fighter's technique for this round: either a Mixed Offense or Mixed Defense style.  The figure below, the Scale of Styles, shows the four techniques a fighter might use in a round, and the Attack and Defense scores generated by each style.  Draw the top card off the card deck.  A Club or Spade (black) card indicates the opponent's fighter adopts a Mixed Defense technique; a Heart or Diamond (red) card means his fighter chooses a Mixed Offense style.  Roll the four dice together.  Count the number of even die scores for each pair (0-2); this is the respective fighter's Initiative score.  Compare Initiative scores.  If both fighters share the same Initiative score, then each figures their Attack and Defense scores according to their styles.  If one fighter has a higher Initiative score however, that fighter can react and change techniques.  Subtract the lower Initiative score from the higher one; the difference indicating how many techniques (1 or 2) the reacting fighter may shift on the Scale of Styles.  For example: you roll a 2 and 4 for your fighter and a 5 and 6 for the opponent's.  You have an Initiative of 2 (two even dice) versus his Initiative of 1, so you can shift one technique in either direction on the Scale of Styles.  You originally chose a Mixed Defense technique and may use that style or elect to switch to either an Iron Defense or Mixed Offense technique.  In order to select All-Out Attack your opponent's Initiative would have had to been 0.  After both fighters establish their final techniques, assign the dice scores rolled to Attack and Defense as indicated on the Scale of Styles.  Fighters deal a number of Damage points equal to their Attack score, reduced (to a minimum of 0) by their opponent's Defense score.  Record the damage received by each fighter.  Discard the face-up card into a separate pile; do not shuffle unless you run out of cards to draw.  Repeat the steps above for subsequent rounds and continue the match until one fighter reaches a predetermined limit.  I use the arbitrary number of 12 before a fighter is eliminated, but you can vary that to show relative stamina of different combatants.

So what if the opponent's fighter wins initiative?  Well, you'll have to decide which technique the opposing fighter uses against yours.  Choose the most detrimental technique to your fighter, if that's obvious.  If not, then use the number on the card drawn to help you make the decision.  The card's number value indicates the maximum amount of damage the opponent's fighter is willing to take.  Assume a value of "10" for face cards.  A Joker indicates the opponent executes a Signature Move.  Roll three dice instead of two when executing a signature move.  All three dice are used to calculate Initiative, but only the highest two are used for computing Attack and Defense scores.

The Scale of Styles; print and paste on a spare card


For a two player game, each player needs a pack of cards, plus four dice each.  I recommend a tube of polyhedral dice for each player with the d4, one d10 and the d20 removed.  Each player does not shuffle their respective card deck, but instead puts them in order of the moves they want their fighter to take.  Each fighter has an Experience Level, from 0 to 11; players can start at 0 or some other mutually agreed on level. 

Draw a card and place face up in front of you.  The card shows your fighter's style, as above.  The number however shows the Reaction Speed of the fighter.  A face card indicates a Reaction Speed equal to the fighter's Experience Level.  Players each roll four dice; the d6 and d8 will be used to determine Attack and Defense score as before, while the d10 and d12 will be compared against the Reaction Speed indicated on the card.  For each die (d10 and d12) that is less than or equal to the Reaction Speed, the player adds 1 to his fighter's Initiative score for the round.  This gives a possible range of 0 to 2 for the Initiative score and as before the players compare values.  Determine if either fighter seizes the initiative and can shift techniques, then calculate Attack and Defense scores as appropriate using the d6 and d8.  Damage indicates the number of cards the opponent must remove off the top of his deck and discard without playing.  Thus by scoring a massive attack you may disrupt your opponent's carefully constructed battle plan.  Signature moves (Joker cards) start as a Mixed Offense style.  If performing a signature move the fighter has an automatic Initiative score of 2, and uses the two highest of all four dice to determine Attack and Defense Scores. 

Continue fighting until one deck is totally discarded.  The victor earns 1 experience point (XP) for each face card in the deck (not discarded).  12 XP are required to advance to the next Level.  Thus inexperienced fighters who win should advance faster, while veteran fighters may advance slower as they fall back on past experience to give them advantages during combat instead of learning new lessons.
 
Enjoy!  I think I actually prefer the "two player" method for solo play, pitting two randomly shuffled decks against each other. 

17 August 2011

Random Word Generation

A little while ago I talked about how I use the dictionary to help me break through writer's block, or just to generate ideas from the aether.  It works great but my dictionary has a weird amount of pages, and even though I know my dice gives me an even distribution, I wanted an easier way to come up with words.

My first idea was to use Scrabble tiles.  I went to the store and was amazed at the cost of a Scrabble set.  OK, that may sound cheap but for $14.00 to $16.00 I can buy a can of water-putty and three tubes of silicone caulk, which would keep me in the terrain-making business for a year at least.  So then I went to trusty eBay... it seems like Scrabble tiles are popular with scrapbookers.   I really don't feel like bidding, then waiting all week only to get sniped.  So I skipped the boardgame purchase and researched the Scrabble letter distribution on the interwebs.  Figure 1 below shows the 100 letters included in a Scrabble set, including the spaces.  I set the figure up so people can use two d10s to generate random letters.  The problem is Scrabble letter distribution is set to make the game fun, not necessarily to match the english language's real distribution.  More importantly, if I just generate a bunch of letters and then construct words, a la Scrabble, then I'm defeating my intent of getting a truly random word.  I'm consciously building words at that point, which I don't want.  I want my muse to speak to me through the dice.

Figure 1: Distribution of letters in Scrabble

I found the distribution of English letters from a Cornell University study and translated them into the following two d12 charts.  Figure 2 shows the distribution for the first letter of 40000 words in the english language.  Figure 3 shows a different distribution, that for all letters of those words.  I massaged the percentages a little to get the really rare letters on the chart, but it's fairly accurate.  Use the first chart to get the first letter, then continue rolling on the next chart and get the other letters of the word.  I keep the dictionary open in front of me and after rolling the first four or five letters I've typically narrowed it down to a handful of words (10-20) that I can select randomly with a die roll.  If I get a crazy grouping of letters that isn't in the dictionary but rolls nicely off the tongue, I'll write it down for later use in case I need an exotic character or place name.

Figure 2: Distribution of first letter, english words

Figure 3: Distribution of remaining letters, english words

It's laborious I know.  If you need a way to generate a random word in english and want to go "old school" and use a chart versus a computer, well here you go.

15 August 2011

Atomic Africa (v1.1) Close Combat

Close combat in Atomic Africa adds very little in terms of additional rules.  Although some soldiers will indeed close to knife range and kill with bayonets, rifle butts and even their hands, hand grenades and short range firearms dominate "hand-to-hand" fighting.  Close combat therefore uses the same rules as ranged attacks with a few modifications, primarily to issued orders.

Any opposing infantry units ending the turn in base-to-base contact begin the next turn in close combat.  Units in close combat receive orders normally.  When the Activating Player chooses a unit in close combat as his activating unit, he must Declare whether the unit intends to fight or flee.  The Reacting player must Declare fleeing or fighting as well.  Players reveal orders cards next; if a player Declared "flee" for his unit, the unit's orders card must of course allow movement (Ace to 10, Joker, or the Sprint special action for light infantry).  Additionally, a unit may only break from close combat if its orders card indicates defensive posture (Club or Spade suit).  Units revealing face cards announce special actions as normal, but are restricted to Dig-in, Mass Fire, Rally, or Sprint (if applicable).  Digging in here actually reflects a unit gaining some sort of defensive advantage, such as high ground, while with Mass Fire the unit surges forward in a berserker-like rage.  Units choosing to break from close combat place Destination and In-transit figures normally; units staying to fight need not move any figures.  Resolve combat normally, measuring range between the In-transit figures.  Skip range measurement obviously , if both units choose to stay in close combat and don't move.  The range threshold is still considered 1 however, meaning that attacking units might still fail to suppress their opponents.  Note: a unit may flee close combat, only to be pursued by its opponent which may, with a higher movement, thwart its escape.  Fratricide concerns prevent outside units from firing at units in close combat. 

The above close combat rules covers infantry engagements only.  I'm working on a "swarming" mechanic for infantry attack vehicles, but right now I consider it unlikely enough to ignore.



 

14 August 2011

Atomic Africa v1.1

Last post I promised the hand-to-hand combat rules for Atomic Africa.  I also mentioned how I've already made various changes to the game rules, mostly in the movement area and turn sequence.  I'm attempting to chronicle all the changes in this one post which should be doable since a majority of the rules stand.  The following is a list of the posts that are still valid:

Introduction
Attributes
Orders
Action Resolution
Clean-Up Phase
Special Actions
Suppression
Attached Units
Experience


The major change comes to the Turn Sequence; the alterations simplify the reaction and movement rules.  I'll address some cosmetic changes first however.


The range threshold measuring stick is shorter in Atomic Africa v1.1 and divided into more bands, increasing the difficulty of ranged combat.  Take a 36 inch dowel rod and mark it 1cm from one end.  Follow that mark with another at 3cm, then 6cm, 11cm, 19cm, 32cm, 53cm, and 87cm.  Cut off the excess after the last mark.  Paint the eight bands alternating colors.

Take two 36 inch dowel rods, marking one at 4.5 cm intervals, the other at 9cm intervals.  The rods measure infantry and vehicle movement respectively; the old increments proved too short.  Obviously you can cut/sand the small excess off the dowel (36 inches is a little over 91cm), and cut the infantry dowel in half to make two.

Figure 4 shows the new Turn Sequence, with the changes to the Activation Phase.  The following paragraphs and figures replace the posts labeled Parts 3, 5, 6, 7 totally.

Figure 4: The Turn Sequence (v1.1)

After the Orders Phase, the player whose leader has the highest Experience Level has the privilege of activating first, or deferring the activation to his opponent.  Note, this is the leader's Experience Level, not XP.  If the leaders of both sides share the same Experience Level, use the platoons' Experience Level instead.  If still tied, simply roll dice to determine who gets the privilege of first activation (and the right to defer).  The player who activates first (known as the Activating Player) chooses one unit and completes the entire Activation Phase, as described below.  During this first Activation Phase the opponent is known as the Reacting Payer.  The players then switch roles and continue to alternate as the Activating Player until all eligible units have acted or reacted.  Units may only be activated once, but may be forced to react many times in a single turn.

The Activating Player may only activate units with orders; units without orders may only react.  The Activating Player chooses an eligible unit and announces whether the unit will move.  Note: the activating unit does not move at this time; the Activating Player simply announces the unit's intent to move.  The activating unit then declares the intent to fire on any enemy unit in its line-of-sight (LOS).  The Activating player may not measure range during this sub-phase.  A laser-pointer proves the most effective method for establishing LOS and provides no range data.  The Activating player may elect to not fire.

Following this initial targeting the Reacting Player declares actions for one of his units.  If the Activating Player's unit fired on any enemy figure, the target unit MUST react.  If the Activating Player skipped targeting his opponent may still react, choosing any unit with orders.  Any and all reacting units, whether they're operating voluntarily or by compulsion, are limited to firing at the activating unit only.  Only one of the Reacting Player's units may react (unless two were targeted with the Split Fire special action).  A reacting unit must have orders assigned; if it does not then the Reacting Player must assign one, during this sub-phase, from his reserve; thus the Activating Player can "force the sword" and drive certain units to expend their action.  If the Reacting Player has no eligible cards in his Reserve, or no Reserve, then he cannot use the orderless unit for voluntary reactions.  Reaction by targeted units is compulsory however, therefore the Reacting Player must draw a card from the top of his deck and apply it using the Confused Unit rules.  A separate post addresses Confused units.

The end of the Declaration Sub-phase features each player revealing and possibly modifying written orders.  All players simultaneously flip over the orders cards for the Activating and Reacting units only.  A player revealing any face cards must announce his unit's special action.  If both players reveal face card, use the card denominations to determine the order of declaration: Jacks declare first, followed by Queens, followed by Kings.  If face cards of the same denomination are revealed, use the Units' Experience Levels to determine declaration order.  Break any further ties with a die roll contest.  Upon completion of all declarations, players may examine their opponent's orders and decide to change their own, if able.  A player who decides to change his orders plays a card from his Reserve face-down on top of his just revealed orders.  The opposing player is given the same opportunity and once each player has played a new card or deferred to the previously revealed orders, any freshly played cards are flipped face up simultaneously.  The new card played from the Reserve totally replaces the previous order.  Each player again may examine the revealed orders and elect to play from their Reserves.  The process continues until both players stop, either due to satisfaction with the orders or an exhausted reserve.  Joker cards present a special case.  Revealing a Joker prohibits the opposing player from playing any more orders this Activation Phase, even if he still has a Reserve; the Joker unit seizes the initiative and effectively freezes the opponent's orders.  The player owning the Joker then declares any basic or special move, along with the unit's posture; the Joker essentially duplicates any other card from the deck.  Use the same rules for face cards above to resolve the declaration order between players revealing Jokers simultaneously.

The order cards revealed dictate exactly how far units may move.  The Activating Player moves first in the Movement Sub-phase.  The numbers on the cards, from 10 to 1 (the Ace), indicate the number of 4.5cm increments the unit may move in total.  This number is the maximum movement; the unit may move less (except Confused units which wander the full amount).  The Activating Player removes a figure from his unit and places this figure an appropriate distance away on the table.  The newly placed figure is the Destination figure, and as the name implies marks the future position of the unit.  Next, the Reacting Player places his unit's  Destination figure in the same manner.  The Reacting Player then leaves one figure, called the Start figure, in the original position and places all the remaining figures at some intermediate point between the Start and Destination figures.  These intermediate figures are known as the In-transit figures.  The distance between the Start figure and In-transit figures totaled with the distance from the In-transit figures to the Destination figure must not exceed the maximum movement indicated on the order card.  The Reacting Player finishes placing his In-transit figures and the Activating player finishes by placing his in the same manner.  Terrain features usually model areas of that hinders mobility.  Known as Difficult and Extremely Difficult terrain, these features reduce the maximum movement increments indicated on the orders card.  The moving player must reduce the maximum movement distance when entering and exiting the terrain feature.  Traversing a small feature, such as a wall or trench, counts as both entering and exiting, and thus the penalty counts twice.  Table 4 summarizes the movement penalties for various terrain.  Example: a fire team of six figures receives a 7 of Clubs as an order card.  During the Movement Sub-phase the controlling player places his Destination figure and then follows with the In-transit figures, as depicted in Figure 5a.  Initially he wants the unit to scale a wall (Extremely Difficult Terrain), but the movement penalty of -2 twice reduces the maximum movement to 3, preventing him from placing the Destination figure there.  Instead he decides to place the Destination figure in the nearby forest.  Since the unit only entered the forest, it only receives one -1 penalty, reducing the max movement to 6, which allows the unit to reach the trees.  The fire team's player places the In-transit figures at approximately halfway between the Start and Destination figures, ensuring the total movement remains at 6 or less.


Figure 5a: Max movement 3; unable to traverse wall
Figure 5b: Max movement 6; move to forest successful
The rest of Atomic Africa's rules remains unchanged.  The post on hand-to-hand combat rules follows this one.  The posts linked above, plus this one, plus the hand-to-hand rules should be sufficient to cover 90% of any table-top situation for platoon actions (on a very generic level of course).  Give it a try!

13 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 13): Recovery, Experience and Force Generation

My initial focus for Atomic Africa lay in making an advancement system, which would tell an individual trooper's story.  As I developed the game mechanics I realized I was much more interested in making a simple but fun platoon-level game, rather than something more akin to a role-playing game.  I really like the concept of experience in wargames, and I especially like when it plays a vital role in the game mechanics.  Atomic Africa allows players to follow a platoon through a campaign, as its fortunes wax and wane with victory and defeat.

Recovery and Experience

Whether he performed flawlessly or botched every task given, a trooper gains invaluable experience simply by surviving a battle.  The loss of seasoned veterans often offsets this hard-won knowledge however.  Add one XP to the platoon and platoon leader's experience track on the Unit Data Sheet at the conclusion of the game.  Certain scenarios also include objectives which, when met, grant an extra XP.  An objective that offers one additional XP should be difficult to achieve; one that offers two additional should be near-impossible.  The players then use the following procedure to determine experience lost by the platoon due to casualties.  The procedure applies only to the platoon; a later die roll will determine whether the platoon leader lives, dies, or gets promoted out of a job.  Gather all wound counters accrued during a battle.  Do not forget to include the wound counters assigned to units removed from the table before the battle ended.  Set the counters on the table together and make a Recovery roll using a single d8.  Remove a number of wound counters from the table equal to the die score.  If no counters remain the platoon escaped the fray with no deaths and minimal injuries losing no XP.  If wound counters remain on the table, subtract one XP from the platoon's tracker and make a second Recovery roll, this time using 2d8.  Again, remove the number of wound counters indicated on the dice.  If no counters remain the platoon loses no further XP; recovery is complete.  If any wound counters remain after this second roll, subtract another XP from the platoon's tracker and make a third Recovery roll using 3d8.  Continue making Recovery rolls, adding an extra d8 to each and subtracting one XP for each roll failing to eliminate all the wound counters.  Stop rolling for Recovery when either no counters remain on the table or the platoon's XP reaches 0.  A single die roll determines the platoon leader's fate.  The player must exceed both a Survival threshold and Promotion threshold on a 2d12 or lose the platoon leader.  The Survival threshold equals the number of wound counters assigned to the platoon leader's element during the battle, while the Promotion threshold equals the platoon leader's current XP (including any earned this battle). 

Force Generation

If the platoon needs a replacement after the lieutenant gets pulled up to the headquarters company, or if players just want to generate forces for a one-off game, a simple die roll for XP suffices.  I prefer to roll a 1d10-1, resulting in an average Experience Level of Regular, but ranging from Untested to Veteran.  Another option is to split a campaign into five periods.  XP is determined with a 1d4-1 in the first period, a 1d6-1 in the second, etc., all the way to 1d12-1 for the fifth period.  In all cases, I always roll two dice at once and use the lower die for the platoon leader's XP and the higher for the platoon.

Next post will feature hand to hand combat in Atomic Africa.  I'm away from home and my game room on a long business trip, but as I've written up these posts I've been play-testing these rules in my mind.  I'm happy with all the things I've play-tested for real in the past (the card mechanic, the ranged fire mechanic, suppression rules), but there are other things I already want to change.  The movement rules were always wonky, and since the point of this exercise is simplicity, I'll be changing them around slightly.  This will result in a modified turn sequence, which of course changes a lot of my previous posts.  I've decided not to go back and change my work however; instead I'll leave my posts as they are, as a record of game development.  If anyone out there is actually reading my crap, I promise I will indicate which rules are "1.1" and which are old.

12 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 12): Attached Units

Atomic Africa focuses on platoons of infantry slugging it out, but sometimes attached units augment the troopers.  Two general types of attached units exist: on-board and off-board.

On-board Attached Units

On-board attached units include special troops as well as vehicles.  Just like the platoon they support, these units are represented 1:1 by miniatures on the game board, and use the normal rules for orders, movement, fire resolution, morale, etc., utilizing their own Attribute Dice.  The base platoon's Unit Data Sheet lists the Attribute Dice of any attached units in addition to its own.  The sheet also lists the attached unit's Armor score, as well as any heavy weapons or special equipment carried by the augmenting forces.  On-board attached units do not have Experience Levels however.  Although these units still require orders cards to act, they do not add any extra cards to the draw during the Orders Phase, representing the extra command and control burden on the platoon leader.  If a game result requires reference to an attached unit's Experience Level (i.e. breaking ties), simply use the platoon's Experience Level.

Vehicles operate essentially identical to infantry, with the following exceptions.  Table 5 highlights which special actions vehicles may announce and which are prohibited to them.  Movement for vehicles uses 9cm increments versus 4.5cm increments for infantry.  Vehicles under fire do not suffer a suppression marker if the enemy Attack score exceeds the range threshold alone, only if the attack surpasses the damage threshold (range + vehicle defense).  Correspondingly, vehicles may receive a maximum of one new suppression marker per turn.  Each wound counter assigned to a vehicle shifts the vehicle's Equipment Die, not its Morale Die, one type lower.  Vehicles therefore have a better chance of eliminating suppression markers than infantry, but still suffer degradation to combat effectiveness due to damage.  Vehicles suffering from confusion which reveal a face card in the Orders Phase will Sprint.  Vehicles obviously ignore the three figure minimum size rule; I simply place two crudely cast putty copies of the vehicle for the In-transit and Destination figures.  My vehicles are scratchbuilt so I have no restrictions on making these castings.  If you're using commercial miniatures, you could use proxies like matchbox cars or crude Sculpey imitations.   

Off-board Attached Units

Off-board attached units primarily consist of fire support assets, from light mortar squads to artillery to air power.  Fire support requires extra coordination for the platoon leader; on any turn that a player wishes fire support to be available, that player draws one less orders card.  A force with attached fire support may utilize it on any turn it is available simply by announcing the Call for Fire special action.  Execute the Call for Fire as described in the special action post, placing a circular blast template as indicated by the scatter dice.  The blast template is divided into circles, one inside the other, with the inner circle having a diameter of 4cm, the next 8cm, and the outer diameter 12cm.  If any of the target figures lie underneath the blast template, the target unit receives a suppression marker.  Table 6 summarizes the Attack values associated with the inner, middle, and outer bands of the blast template, depending on weapon type.  Average the Attack values faced by the target's Start, In-transit and Destination figures to determine the overall Attack score faced by the target unit.  If this Attack score exceeds the Defense score of the target, assign a second suppression marker to the unit and compute wounds normally.  For Example: a mortar round fired at a squad scatters as depicted in Figure 4.  The  Start figure escapes the blast, but the In-transit figures find themselves in the inner band of the blast template, while the Destination figure gets caught in the outer band.  The target player assigns a suppression marker to his unit.  Using the light fire support level from Table 6, the unit faces a (0+9+3)= 12/3 = 4 point Attack score.  Luckily the squad anticipated the attack and, assuming a defensive posture, rolled a 7 for its Defense score, preventing any further suppression or wounds.
Figure 4: Fire Support example


Experience is next...!       

11 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 11): Suppression and Confusion

Psychology plays a key role in Atomic Africa, reflected in both the suppression and confusion rules.

Suppression

Suppression results from incoming fire.  Although the post on action resolution describes the weapons fire procedure, let's review it again briefly, looking at it in a slightly different way.  The attacking player establishes the range to the target; this value is called the range threshold.  The sum of the range and the target's Defense score is the damage threshold.  If the shooter's Attack score fails to exceed the range threshold, nothing happens; the shots go wide/fall short.  If the shooter's Attack score exceeds the range threshold but not the damage threshold, the target player assigns one suppression marker to his unit.  If the Attack score exceeds the damage threshold, the targeted unit receives two suppression markers and potentially some wound counters.  Determine the amount by which the Attack score exceeds the damage threshold; the result is the number of damage points received by the target.  The target's Armor value indicates the number of damage points required to generate one wound counter on the target unit.  Thus an attack may damage a target, but cause no wounds. 

A unit assigned any suppression markers suffers from suppression.  Suppression results from being targeted with effective, but not necessarily destructive fire; wound counters do not indicate suppression.  Players may only assign orders with a defensive posture to Suppressed units.  In other words: players may only assign orders cards featuring the Club or Spade suits to their suppressed units.  If such a card play is impossible, the affected unit receives no orders.  A Joker played on a suppressed unit works normally, but the controlling player must still choose a defensively postured action after seizing the initiative.  A unit suffering multiple attacks may only receive a maximum of two suppression markers, from all attacks, per turn.  Note: there is no limit to the number of suppression markers a unit can receive throughout a battle, only on the amount of new markers added during a single turn.  Players eliminate suppression markers from their units using the Rally special action as well as the "free" Morale roll at the end of each turn

Confusion

Units without orders forced to react suffer from confusion.  A unit most likely ends up order-less due to suppression effects; i.e. the controlling player holds only offensive orders cards (Hearts and Diamonds).  Confusion may also result when a player has too many units on the board and cannot assign them all orders, or when a player has burned through his Reserve already in a turn.  Whenever any unit with no orders is forced to react, that unit's player must assign the reacting unit a card from his orders Reserve.  If the Reserve is exhausted or holds only illegal cards, the unit reacts in a confused manner.  The Reacting player assigns orders to his unit by drawing the top card off his card deck.  The player reviews the card; if it is a legal card he places it in play next to his unit.  The Reacting player shows any illegal card draw to his opponent, discards it, and continues the process until legal orders are drawn and assigned.  The Reacting player places his Destination figure (if applicable), after the Activating player per the normal movement rules, but in a random direction.  Use a d12 to determine a clock position place the Destination figure the maximum movement indicated on the card.  Place the In-transit figures halfway on the line extending from the Start figures to the Destination figure.  Resolve Attacks and Defense as normal.  A confused infantry unit that reveals a face card must announce the Dig-in special action; confused vehicles must announce the Sprint special action.  Confused units revealing Joker cards still seize the initiative and their controlling players may announce any special action (still respecting any posture restrictions due to suppression, if applicable).

Speaking of vehicles, that will be the topic of the next post: vehicles and fire support.                

10 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 10): Special Actions

Revealing a face card during an Activation phase allows a unit to perform a special action.  Special actions in Atomic Africa merit individual descriptions, due to the unique effect each one brings the game.   

Dig-in

The Dig-in special action means the unit spends most of its effort finding places to hunker down, avoiding exposure by limiting mobility.  Only infantry may Dig-in, and troopers cannot move when doing so; do not place In-transit or Destination figures.  A unit Digging-in computes its Attack score using either the highest or lowest die score, depending on the posture of the assigned order card (see Table 5).  Sum the remaining two dice scores; this is the unit's Defense score. 

Mass Fire

Infantry units from the Second World War onward wield an awesome amount of firepower for their size, including support weapons like light machine guns, rifle-fired and hand thrown grenades, and even small rockets.  The Mass Fire special action reflects an infantry unit successfully coordinating its various weapons on a single target.  Figure the unit's Defense score using either the highest or lowest die rolled, depending on the posture dictated by the orders.  Make two separate attacks against the same target using the two remaining dice to generate two Attack scores.  Resolve the attacks separately; range and the target's Defense score affect each attack normally.  Only infantry may Mass Fire, and troopers cannot move when doing so; do not place In-transit or Destination figures.

Split Fire

Infantry units may also use their considerable firepower to attack two targets simultaneously.  If declaring a Split Fire special action calculate the unit's Defense score using either the highest or lowest die rolled, depending on the posture dictated by the orders.  Use the two remaining dice to generate two Attack scores, making an attack against two separate targets.  During the Declaration sub-phase, the player wishing to Split Fire must also declare which target faces the highest Attack score (not yet rolled).  Some sort of marker serves as a convenient reminder; I like to use a piece of thick spaghetti painted yellow-white or orange with acrylic paint to look like a tracer round streaking to the target.   Only infantry may Split Fire, and troopers cannot move when doing so; do not place In-transit or Destination figures.

Fire Heavy Weapon

Vehicles and foot soldiers both employ heavy weapons; arms that while exceedingly deadly prove cumbersome to operate at times.  Atomic Africa simulates the slow nature of heavy weapons by requiring players use special actions to fire them.  A firing unit computes its Defense score as either the highest or lowest die score, depending on a defensive or offensive posture respectively.  The Attack score equals the sum of the remaining two dice scores.  Some heavy weapons may only be fired on dispersed targets (troops) or point targets (vehicles and terrain features); the Unit Data Sheet should note the eligible target type.  In addition to target type restrictions, some heavy weapons feature an Armor Penetration (AP) value against particular targets.  The value adds to the target's Armor, effectively lowering it.  Example: a Unit Data Sheet lists both dispersed and point targets as eligible targets for a tank's main battle gun.  The sheet also lists the gun has an AP of -2 against point targets only.  Although the gun's rounds certainly prove dangerous to an infantry squad, against an enemy tank they would drop its Armor from 5 to 3.  Firing a heavy weapon requires the attacking unit to sacrifice its mobility; do not place In-transit or Destination figures.        

Rally

The Rally special action allows a unit, infantry or vehicle, to attempt to eliminate one suppression marker, outside and in addition to the normal Morale sequence at the end of the turn.  A unit may use the Rally special action on itself, or on a friendly unit.  The Rallying unit must have less suppression markers than the unit it is attempting to Rally.  The overall force commander (usually the platoon leader), is exempt from this requirement; he may Rally another unit no matter how many suppression markers he has.  Table 5 highlights which dice units assign to their Attack, Defense, and Rally actions, depending on posture.  Measure the range between a Rallying unit and the unit benefiting from the Rally.  If the Rally score exceeds the sum of the range and the number of suppression markers on the target (range 0 for self-Rallies), remove one suppression marker.  Generally units must have line-of-sight (LOS), but in ultra-modern and future settings featuring tactical communication devices, non-LOS Rallies are allowed with a +1 penalty added to the range.  Do not place In-transit or Destination figures for a unit performing the Rally special action. 

Call for Fire       

Fire support, either air power or artillery, sometimes plays a vital role in infantry operations.  The Call for Fire special action allows appropriately equipped troops (typically the command element or scout troops only) to spot for off board fire support elements. A spotting unit computes its Defense score as either the highest or lowest die score, depending on a defensive or offensive posture respectively.  The Spotting score equals the sum of the remaining two dice scores.  Fire support attacks require the attacker to roll two d12s of different colors, one indicating scatter direction (clock position), the other showing scatter distance.  Subtract the Spotting score from the scatter distance, treating any result less than 0 as a direct hit on the intended target.  The spotter only needs LOS to the target; range does not matter.  Only infantry may Call for Fire, and troopers cannot move when doing so; do not place In-transit or Destination figures.

Sprint

Light Infantry and Vehicles (only) utilize the Sprint special action to increase mobility.  Place a Destination figure during the Movement Sub-phase of the Activation phase, as if the unit were performing a basic "shoot and move" maneuver with an order card of printed value "10".  Determine the unit's Attack and Defense score based on its posture, as depicted in Table 5, during the Action Resolution Sub-phase.  The highest die score becomes the sprint bonus.  Resolve any attacks by or against the sprinting unit, then displace the unit a number of 4.5cm increments (9cm for vehicles) equal to the sprint bonus.  The extra movement may be in any direction.

Special actions form an important part of Atomic Africa, but even more fundamental are suppression and confusion rules, coming up next!  

  

09 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 9): Clean-Up Phase

Players in Atomic Africa repeat multiple Activation Phases, alternating roles as the Activating Player and Reacting Player until no units eligible to activate remain.  The final phase of the game turn, the Clean-Up Phase, follows the last Activation Phase.

The first part of the Clean-Up Phase involves splitting units, whether compulsory or by player choice.  Every wound counter assigned to a unit causes its Morale die to shift one type lower.  If a unit's wound counters force a Morale die shift lower than a d4, that unit must split or be removed in the Clean-Up Phase.  Split a unit into two adjacent groups, as equal in number of figures as possible.  Assign the split unit's suppression markers and wound counters equally among the two new units.  Units smaller than six figures cannot split and still meet the minimum figure requirement; therefore these units are considered destroyed and removed from the table.  Example: a motivated, well-rested 11 man squad (base Morale d10) with two wound counters from a previous attack suffers another three wounds when struck by rifle fire.  The attacks also leave the squad with four suppression markers.  Three wound counters shift the Morale down to a d4, therefore the fourth wound forces the squad to split.  The squad splits into two fireteams of six and five troopers, with the player assigning two suppression markers to each.  The player also divides the five wound counters, assigning three to one fireteam, two to the other.  Players may also voluntarily split any unit (of six figures or more) during the Clean-Up Phase, using the same procedures as above.    

Players attempt to eliminate suppression markers during the Morale Sub-phase, the second part of the Clean-Up Phase.  Players roll one die for each unit with one or more suppression markers.  The die type is determined by the unit's Morale Attribute.  As described above, wounds adjust any and all Morale rolls, including this one.  Shift the Morale die one type lower for each wound counter the unit has.  If the die score rolled exceeds the number of suppression markers assigned to the unit, the owning player may discard one suppression marker.  For Example: a motivated, well-rested squad with a previous wound and suppression marker meets an enemy machine gun nest and receives another two suppression markers and two more wound counters.  The squad's controlling player makes a Morale roll at the end of the turn, using a single d4 (d10 shifted three dice types for the three wounds).  The player therefore only has a 25% chance (roll of "4") to eliminate one of the three suppression markers.

Players complete Morale rolls and then finish the Clean-Up Phase by collecting up all their respective cards and thoroughly shuffling them.  Players cut their opponents shuffled decks and begin the next turn.

Now that the turn sequence has been fully described, the next posts will focus on specific rules.  First up: Special Actions.

 

08 August 2011

Atomic Africa (Pt 8): Action Resolution

Players roll dice and resolve all actions in the final sub-phase of the Activation Phase.  Players roll dice, then use their order cards to interpret their action scores from the dice.  Utilizing the action scores, players simultaneously resolve all their ranged attacks and any other actions.  Players always roll three dice to determine their action scores, the type of dice corresponding to their three Attribute dice.  For example: a unit from the platoon in Figure 1 would roll two 10-sided dice and one 8-sided die when resolving actions.  If a unit has any wound counters, it must shift its Morale die to one lower type for each counter.  Another example: a squad from the platoon featured in Figure 1 has two wound counters.  The unit thus rolls two 10-sided dice and one 4-sided die when resolving actions, shifting the Morale die twice for the two wounds.  Table 5 summarizes how to determine the Attack and Defense scores from the dice roll.  The "Basic Action" on the Table is the move-and-shoot maneuver resulting from playing an Ace through 10, while all the other moves are considered Special Actions, available only upon the play of a face card.  A separate post details the procedures and results of these special actions.

Players resolve ranged attacks simultaneously, first determining cover, then measuring range, and finally determining suppression and wounds.  Figures either have No Cover, Light Cover, or Heavy Cover.  Targeted players determine the cover at their unit's Start, In-transit, and Destination figures.  The predominant cover type is then used for resolving the attack.  For example: a unit's Start figure at the edge of a forest with Light Cover, a group of In-transit figures in the open (No Cover), and a single Destination figure in Heavy Cover behind a wall.  The predominant cover is Light.  The shooting players measures the range next, using the measuring stick with unequal bands.  The end with the largest band is placed over the center of the shooting unit's In-transit figures and extended toward the target unit's In-transit figures.  The number of bands between the figures indicates the range (1-8).  If the target lies beyond the reach of the measuring rod, the range is considered 9.  Using the shooter's Attack score and target's Defense score as detailed in Table 5 above, resolve the attack as follows.  Subtract the range value from the Attack score.  If the Attack score is 0 or less the fire is ineffective and has no further effect on game play.  If the range reduced Attack score is greater than 0, place one Suppression marker next to the target's Destination figure; the fire is effective.  Next, subtract the target's Defense score from the modified Attack score.  If the Attack score is 0 or less the fire has no further effect on game play.  If the Attack score is still greater than 0, place a second Suppression marker next to the target; fire is not only effective but destructive.  The target receives one wound counter for each full increment of remaining Attack score equal to the target's Armor (no rounding).  The target receives a +1 bonus to its Armor score for Light Cover, and +2 for Heavy.  For example: a squad with Light Cover is range 3 from its attacker.  The shooter's Attack score is 13, the squad's Defense score is 2.  Subtracting the range results in an Attack score of (13-3)=10.  The squad receives one Supression counter.  The squad's Defense of 2 reduces the Attack Score further to (10-2)=8, resulting in another Supression counter and wounds.  The squad normally has an Armor of 2 which would result in (8/2)=4 wounds, but with the Light Cover bonus the squad's adjusted Armor of 3 results in (8/3)=2 wound counters

After placing all wound and suppression counters, players then conclude the Activation phase by moving their respective units' In-transit and Start figures up into contact with their Destination figure, completing their movements.  If any unit performed the Sprint special action, move the Destination figure an additional amount of 4.5cm increments equal to the Sprint Bonus indicated by the dice.  After displacing the Destination figure, complete the sprinting unit's movement as above.

Atomic Africa also allows units to merge during the Activation Phase.  A player wishing to merge two units simply maneuvers one unit's Destination Figure so that it ends up in contact with another friendly unit.   At the end of that Activation Phase, all of the figures of both units will converge into one larger group.  The new unit combines any suppression markers and wound counters from each merging unit.  Players may merge units to reduce the order card burden, allowing more cards to be kept in reserve.  

Next up... the Clean-Up Phase!

Atomic Africa (Pt 7): Final Movement

The order cards revealed dictate exactly how far units may move, allowing players to then finish this movement in the next sub-phase.  The Reacting Player moves first in the Final Movement Sub-phase.  The numbers on the cards, from 10 to 1 (the Ace), indicate the number of 2.5cm increments the unit may move in total.  This number is the maximum movement; the unit may move less (except Confused units who wander the full amount).  The Reacting Player first uses the movement measuring rod and adjusts his In-transit figure to the nearest whole increment.  He then removes another figure from the Start Group, and places this figure an appropriate distance away on the table.  The newly placed figure is the Destination figure, and as the names imply the Start Group, In-transit figure and Destination figure mark the past, present, and future positions of the unit.  The distance between the Start Group and In-transit figure combined with the distance from the In-transit figure to the Destination figure must total to the maximum movement indicated on the order card or less.  The Reacting Player finishes placing his Destination figure and the Activating player places his in the same manner.  Terrain features usually model areas of that may hinder mobility.  Known as Difficult and Extremely Difficult terrain, these features reduce the maximum movement increments indicated on the orders card.  The moving player must reduce the maximum movement distance when entering and exiting the terrain feature.  Traversing a small feature, such as a wall or trench, counts as both entering and exiting, and thus the penalty counts twice.  Table 4 summarizes the movement penalties for various terrain.  Example: a fire team of six figures receives a 7 of Clubs as an order card.  During the Final Movement Sub-phase the controlling player adjusts the In-transit figure, as depicted in Figure 3a, and then places his Destination figure.  Initially he wants the unit to scale a wall (Extremely Difficult Terrain, Figure 3b), but the movement penalty of -2 twice reduces the maximum movement to 3, preventing him from placing the Destination figure there.  Instead he decides to place the Destination figure in the nearby forest.  Since the unit only entered the forest, it only receives one -1 penalty, reducing the max movement to 6, which allows the unit to reach the trees.
Figure 3a: Repositioning the In-transit Figure
Figure 3b: Moving into terrain

Atomic Africa (Pt 6): Reactions

The Reaction Sub-phase follows targeting, and allows the Reacting Player to declare actions for one of his units.  If the Activating Player's unit fired on any enemy figure, the target unit MUST react.  If the Activating Player skipped the Targeting Sub-phase, his opponent may still possibly react.  If the Reacting player has a unit with LOS between either the Activating unit's Start Group or In-transit figure, that unit may react.  Only one of the Reacting Player's units may react (unless two were targeted with the Split Fire special action).  A reacting unit must have orders assigned; if it does not then the Reacting Player must assign one, during this sub-phase, from his Reserve; thus the Activating Player can "force the sword" and drive certain units to expend their action.  If the Reacting Player has no eligible cards in his Reserve, or no Reserve, then he cannot use the orderless unit for voluntary reactions.  Reaction by targeted units is compulsory however, therefore the Reacting Player must draw a card from the top of his deck and apply it using the Confused Unit rules.  A separate post addresses Confused units.  If a unit is reacting, either by choice or compulsion, the Reacting Player then places an In-transit figure, exactly as described above for the Activating Player.  The Reacting unit always returns fire on the Activating unit; the Reacting Player only needs to declare any other targets (again, only possible via the Split Fire special action).  Of course, any third unit fired on will result in that unit reacting as well...

The Declaration Sub-phase features each player revealing and possibly modifying written orders.  All players simultaneously flip over the orders cards for the Activating and Reacting units only.  A player revealing any face cards must announce his unit's special action.  If both players reveal face cards, use the card denominations to determine the order of declaration: Jacks declare first, followed by Queens, followed by Kings.  If face cards of the same denomination are revealed, use the Units' Experience Levels to determine declaration order.  Break any further ties with a die roll contest.  Upon completion of all declarations, players may examine their opponent's orders and decide to change their own, if able.  A player who decides to change his orders plays a card from his Reserve face-down on top of his just revealed orders.  The opposing player is given the same opportunity and once each player has played a new card or deferred to the previously revealed orders, any freshly played cards are flipped face up simultaneously.  The new card played from the Reserve totally replaces the previous order.  Each player again may examine the revealed orders and elect to play from their Reserves.  The process continues until both players stop, either due to satisfaction with the orders or an exhausted reserve.  Joker cards present a special case.  Revealing a Joker prohibits the opposing player from playing any more orders this Activation Phase, even if he still has a Reserve; the Joker unit seizes the initiative and effectively freezes the opponent's orders.  The player owning the Joker then declares any basic or special move, along with the unit's posture; the Joker essentially duplicates any other card from the deck.  Use the same rules for face cards above to resolve the declaration order between players revealing Jokers simultaneously.

Atomic Africa (Pt 5): Initial Movement and Targeting

The rubber meets the road during the Activation Phases of Atomic Africa.  After the Orders Phase, the player whose leader has the highest Experience Level has the privilege of activating first, or deferring the activation to his opponent.  Note, this is the leader's Experience Level, not XP.  If the leaders of both sides share the same Experience Level, use the platoons' Experience Levels instead.  If still tied, simply roll dice to determine who gets the privilege of first activation (and the right to defer).  The player who activates first (known as the Activating Player) chooses one unit and completes the entire Activation Phase, as described below.  During this first Activation Phase the opponent is known as the Reacting Payer.  The players then switch roles and continue to alternate as the Activating Player until all eligible units have acted or reacted.  Units may only be activated once, but may be forced to react many times in a single turn. 

The Activating Player may only activate units with orders; units without orders may only react.  The Activating Player chooses an eligible unit and begins the Initial Movement Sub-phase by taking one figure from the unit and placing it some distance away.  The Activating Player may not measure this distance, but in general it should not be farther than the distance from base to tip of an index finger (roughly 6-8cm) and usually much less than that.  The newly placed figure is known as the in-transit figure.  The larger group of figures in the unit, still in their original position, is known as the Start Group.  Note, most special actions require units to remain in position, therefore a player may elect to skip this sub-phase and not place an in-transit figure if the activating unit has the appropriate orders (a face card).  Of course this may mean telegraphing his intentions.  Conversely, if an Activating unit has orders directing movement (Ace through 10), the player must place an in-transit figure.

After placing the in-transit figure, the Activating Player then proceeds to the Targeting Sub-phase.  The activating unit may declare the intent to fire on any enemy unit in its line-of-sight (LOS).  LOS is determined from the in-transit figure to the enemy unit.  The Activating player may not measure range during this sub-phase.  A laser-pointer proves the most effective method for establishing LOS and provides no range data.  The Activating player may elect to skip this sub-phase and not fire.

Next up: The Activation Phase continued...                            

     

Atomic Africa (Pt 2): Attributes, Armor, & Experience

I originally designed Atomic Africa as a skirmish game that bordered on a role-playing game, with the focus on developing certain personalities within an infantry squad.  As the game developed, it evolved into a test bed where I could explore all my favorite aspects of other wargames while avoiding trends I dislike.  I realized quickly that in order to avoid record keeping (my biggest goal) and eliminate excess dice rolling (my other biggie), the game had to be simple.  So I rejected the idea of individual figure statistics and even those for individual squads.  Instead only three attributes, an armor score, and an experience level define the entire platoon.  The platoon leader has a separate experience level but otherwise shares the other characteristics with his troops.  Figure 1 below shows a sample Unit Data Sheet.  The Unit Data Sheet allows players to track their platoon's progress by recording, after game play is finished, experience gained and lost through battle.  The Data Sheet also provides a quick reference for the player during a game, reminding him which dice types to roll.

Figure 1: Sample Unit Data Sheet

Attributes

Three Attributes, individually rated at one of five levels, quantify a unit's combat effectiveness.  The attributes are Training, Equipment, and Morale.  The Training rating never changes during individual battles, and rarely changes during campaigns.  The lowest level of Training reflects little or no training at all, such as that received by ad-hoc militia units formed of old men and schoolboys.  The fifth level of Training represents the incredibly focused and exclusive training received by the most elite forces of the most well-funded militaries.  Equipment ratings also never change during battles, but may drop during campaigns in order to simulate ammunition exhaustion and wear-and-tear on gear. A level one equipment rating represents improvised weapons and equipment in disrepair, while the fifth and highest rating means the unit is armed with unconventional, possibly experimental devices beyond the cutting edge.  Level four Equipment would be new, well maintained arms and armor from a military superpower.  Unlike the other two Attributes, Morale changes for most units during every battle.  A fanatical, well rested unit would be at the fifth and highest Morale level, while an unmotivated and exhausted unit would be at the lowest (if this seems familiar, yes my Morale levels are greatly influenced by Stargrunt II). 

As illustrated on the Unit Data Sheet in Figure 1, the five Attribute levels each correspond to a specific polyhedral die type.  A four-sided die (d4) represents the lowest and worst level, while units armed with the best Equipment and operating at the highest levels of Training and Morale use d12s for their respective attributes.  Table 1 summarizes the Attribute levels and their corresponding dice types.  As an example, the unit in Figure 1 above is a regular army unit from a first-world nation which engages in constant realistic Training, giving them a d10 in that Attribute.  The example unit, armed with the latest gear available to regular troopers, uses a d10 for its Equipment Attribute Die.  Finally, as citizens of an economic powerhouse and inculcated from youth with a sense of democratic righteousness, the unit's members are fairly motivated but not raving fanatics.  Unfortunately facing a number of recent battles has left the men tired, so the unit uses a d8 for its Morale Attribute Die.



Armor

Atomic Africa classifies infantry units as either light, medium or heavy based on their armor ratings.  Armor ratings span from 1 to 5, with 1 to 3 corresponding to the three infantry classes, and 4 and 5 reserved for vehicles.  The weapons fire rules details the effect of the armor rating, but basically the higher the rating the less wounds a particular attack can cause.  Armor ratings also influence movement for infantry units as detailed in those rules.  The example platoon in Figure 1 has an Armor rating of 2 and is therefore considered a medium infantry unit.

Experience

The final defining characteristic for a unit in Atomic Africa is Experience.  The Unit Data Sheet in Figure 1 shows two blocks of 32 boxes each, with four letters over certain boxes.  The platoon tracks its experience in one block, while the platoon leader tracks his in the other.  Each box marked indicates one Experience Point (XP) earned, and the letters designate the XP thresholds for four of the five levels of Experience: Green, Regular, Veteran, Legendary.  Table 2 below summarizes the XP requirements for each level, including the first and lowest level: Untested.  The example unit in Figure 1 has earned 6 total XP in its recent battles, putting it at Regular Experience.  The platoon leader made a valiant charge last battle, resulting in a grievous wound and hospital time.  The replacement lieutenant arrives with only 2 XP, giving him Green Experience.



In addition to the Unit's characteristics, the Data Sheet also lists any special equipment, such as heavy weapons, or attached units, such as a scout team, available to the unit.

Next up we'll start into the nuts and bolts of the game and explore the game turn!

Atomic Africa (Pt 4): Orders Phase

The first phase in Atomic Africa involves players drawing playing cards and assigning them to individual units.  Other wargames utilize playing cards to determine which units can activate, but this game uses them differently.  Playing cards in Atomic Africa represent orders from the platoon leader to his troops.  The draw of a limited amount of cards from a randomly shuffled deck simulates the fog and friction of warfare which sometimes results in poor orders, good orders being misunderstood and some orders not being received at all, leaving soldiers to their own initiative.  Before explaining the card draw however, let's examine exactly what makes a unit.

Units

A Unit in Atomic Africa is any group of figures, spatially separated from another group, eligible to receive an orders card and which therefore resolves all its component figures' actions with a single die roll.  Figures comprising each unit should all be individually based, facilitating the game's unconventional movement and line-of-sight (LOS) rules.  Although not a historically accurate number, the movement rules also limit the minimum size of any group of infantry to three figures.  The game definition of a unit is intentionally vague because unit sizes can change, voluntarily and involuntarily, throughout a single battle.  Players get a certain amount of cards to distribute to their platoons, as described below, based on trooper and leader experience.  Since units without orders are at a decided disadvantage, players set their initial units to a manageable number.  For example, a player has a 47 man platoon.  Historically the platoon breaks down into four squads of 11 men each, with the platoon leader, platoon sergeant and RTO acting as a separate command element.  In game terms however, our player decides to move two squads together as one huge 22 figure mass, send another squad around flank as a standard 11 figure package, and split the heavy weapons squad into two teams of 5 and 6 figures respectively, while the command element sits back.

Orders

Atomic Africa uses written orders in the form of standard playing cards to dictate unit actions.  Playing cards preserve the secrecy and simultaneous revelation advantages of actual hand-written orders, while allowing an expedited order assignment.  Additionally, playing cards allow a reaction mechanic, where more experienced units can change their orders and adapt to the battlefield.  The cards dictate units' postures, either as offensive or defensive, which in turn specifies how to resolve their Attack and Defense actions from a dice roll.  Any card with a Spade or a Club rank (i.e. black cards) indicate a defensive posture for the assigned unit.  Any card with a Heart or a Diamond rank (i.e. red cards) indicate an offensive posture for the assigned unit.  Cards featuring denominations of Ace (read as 1) through 10 indicate a bounding overwatch type movement by the troopers, where they slowly advance while laying down covering fire.  Combining this with posture gives a detailed description of the infantry's actions.  For example a 3 of Clubs assigned to a squad would indicate the soldiers are low-crawling, popping their heads up to provide a minimal level of suppressing fire; a 3 of Hearts indicates a crouching advance with the troopers risking exposure to mass destructive firepower.  Face cards allow special actions, and except for the Sprint action, generally simulate the troops sacrificing mobility for some purpose, such as loading and firing a heavy weapon, digging in and hunkering down, or rallying subordinates.  Finally, Jokers reflect a fortunate turn of events on the battlefield, allowing a unit to seize the initiative and react to an enemy, regardless of relative experience levels.  The posts on movement and action resolution explain the specifics of orders cards on figure moving and dice rolls respectively.     

Prior to the first turn, players place their forces on the table in any number of units they desire (respecting the minimum size rule of course).  Players begin each turn by drawing a number of cards off the top of their own shuffled and cut decks.  Table 3 indicates the number of cards to draw; players draw two cards for each level of troop experience, and two for each level of leader experience.  If the leader figure's unit is eliminated during play he no longer contributes cards to the player's draw.  For example, the unit in Figure 1 draws 10 cards at the beginning of each turn, six from the troops' Regular Experience Level and four from the platoon leader's Green level.  The platoon leader's element takes a machine gun burst, eliminating it from the game.  On subsequent turns, the force will only draw six cards, reflecting the loss of their leader and the resultant confusion.



Each player draws the requisite number of cards and then assigns them to his units.  Place order cards face down on the table next to the assigned unit.  Since orders are not revealed at this stage, all players draw and assign orders simultaneously.  A unit may receive only one order card, but a player does not have to assign an order to every unit.  A player who decides not to assign a card to one or more units, or who has drawn more cards than he has units, will end up with an excess of unassigned orders cards.  These cards make up the player's Orders Reserve, or simply his Reserve, and can be set aside face-down for use later in the turn.  The Orders Phase ends when all players complete their order card assignments.  Following the Orders Phase are an indeterminate number of Activation Phases.  The Activation Phase is the meat-and-potatoes of Atomic Africa, when all the action occurs.  The next few posts highlight this phase and its sub-phases.   

Atomic Africa (Pt 3): The Game Turn

Game turns in Atomic Africa break down into three phases (Figure 2).  First, players draw playing cards and assign them to units during the Orders Phase.  Next the players execute an indeterminate number of Activation Phases until all units with orders have acted or reacted.  A final Clean-Up Phase follows the Activation Phases, allowing players to eliminate suppression counters (more on suppression later), and prepare their units for the next turn.

The following posts discuss the Phases in detail.
Figure 2: The Turn Sequence

Atomic Africa (Pt 1): Introduction

My recent posts highlight my homebrew starship miniatures game, but before War In Space I started developing a platoon-level infantry combat game called Atomic Africa. The name comes from my intended setting: an extremely unlikely "what-if" scenario where the Cold War goes hot, starting in the Congo of 1960. As I developed the rules set, I realized its generic nature allowed players to use it for any modern or future setting where technology allows soldiers to move in small teams and still apply sufficient firepower. Since the rules cover so many potential settings, I figured I'd post them here for others to try. I enjoy them and hope you do too. If not, hey, it's free.

Atomic Africa is a platoon-level infantry game. Although it should work with as little as a single squad of troops, or as many as an entire company, it is specifically designed around a 30-40 man platoon led by a single officer. Platoon and leader experience feature as key components to game play, and therefore encourage campaigns which depict platoon development over multiple battles. Psychology greatly influences how troops act, making the rules generally unsuitable for any "far-future" games where man fights strange, truly alien races (unless your game group decides aliens react just like humans to battle...). The design philosophy focuses on avoiding any kind of paper record keeping and chart referencing, relying instead on numerous but simple props. Finally, I wanted to avoid repeated die rolls: "roll to hit, now roll to penetrate armor, now roll to wound, now roll for shock, now I roll for morale to recover from shock, now roll for..." you get the picture.  My game requires only one dice roll to resolve a unit's fire, defense, and sometimes even movement, but the roll always involves three dice, sometimes of totally different types. Not a "bucket of dice" system, but a warning to those who prefer rolling 2d6 at most.

I designed Atomic Africa for 15mm figures in true scale. What I mean is that all figures and terrain are 1/100th of their real-life size, and ground-scale and figure-scale are the same. My 125cm by 200cm table thus represents a rectangle 236 meters across from its opposing corners. Obviously this creates a tight game, one where vehicles and artillery rarely make an appearance, and then usually only as objectives. Rules exist for both however, even though players should use them sparingly.

Atomic Africa requires a number of items to play besides 15mm miniatures, terrain, and the obvious game table. Additionally the game requires playing cards, polyhedral dice, suppression markers, wound markers, and measuring rods.

The game requires a standard pack of playing cards (Jokers included) for each player.

I recommend three 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, and 12-sided dice for each player. Ensuring each player has their own dice avoids passing dice around the table and slowing down play.

I use cotton balls for suppression markers, but players can get fancy and make their own distinct tokens, as long as everyone understands what it represents.

Wound tokens must be distinguishable from suppression markers. I use small scratchbuilt casualty tokens made from Durham's water-putty. Any appropriate, consistent counters will do (glass pebbles, plastic "puddles" of blood, piles of skulls, etc).

Finally, go buy a 48 inch dowel rod, ensuring it is straight (I try to stick to metric units only, but the home improvement store where I shop labels the dowels in imperial lengths). Cut it down to 1 meter; keep the smaller portion and set that aside. Take the longer dowel and make a mark 5 cm from one end. Make a second mark 10cm from the end, another at 20cm, the next at 35cm, and the final mark at 60cm. This dowel is your range rod for resolving weapons fire and is split into six bands. I paint every other band black so they're easy to differentiate. Take the smaller dowel and make marks evenly spaced at 2.5cm. Cut off the excess at the last mark; the rod is now divided into eight equal bands. Paint alternate bands; this is the movement measuring rod.

Atomic Africa requires no pen-and-paper record keeping during game play, but normal attributes still define the fighting units; these attributes are the topic of the next post.