When DBA's PIP's command control system was first introduced via Slingshot, I was quite taken with it then with DBA itself and have tinkered with variations on the PIP idea at different times, even attempting to bolt it onto HofT once or twice. There are some aspects of the idea that don't appeal to me though and I'm not currently using it anywhere.
The Warmaster/BKC etc system of activation was also briefly of interest when I first encountered it but I never warmed to it thoroughly despite having been using some form of activation/command control roll for decades. In fact, BKC & Black Powder together got me re-visiting the whole topic of Command Control & Friction two years ago.
In light of all this, I was expecting to dislike if not outright hate the card activation system used in Memoir 44 and other Battlecry derivatives. The fact that I didn't has increased my respect for the game designer and has led me to do some pondering.
The first thing that comes to mind is that like the Pip system but unlike the Activation system, no matter how bad your luck is, you can always do SOMETHING. Maybe not exactly what you wanted or needed and maybe you are going to have to more or less waste a card but not only do you have a selection of cards to choose from but the cards are designed in such a way that most allow you to activate one unit if you can't use use the card's prime purpose.
The second thing is that the cards don't just limit your ability to act, they give you bonuses that allow some units special capabilities for that turn. The Warmaster style of activation do this to some extent by allowing repeated activations but I find this just aggravates the jerkiness and rags or riches aspects of the system, two things that don't appeal to me though I can see that they do appeal to others. PIPs don't usually have this enhancement quality although there some exceptions such as extra moves for some units in some circumstances. I'm not sure what it represents but it adds to the game enjoyment and uncertainty. For example in the last game, on the last turn, the card I played gave my units an extra die each when fighting. Without that, with the best dice in the world my troops could not have clinched the game. Even with slightly average dice they would not have done so, they needed both.
The third aspect is that having a hand of cards allows you do some planning, especially if you know the deck and have been paying attention to what has been played. All of the systems do this to some extent because you can maximize various aspects of PIP or Activation rolls but largely by paying attention to the order an formation of your army and the positioning on commanders, things Generals have to attend to. The cards do it in ways that don't relate to any battlefield activity at all except that a General has to be aware of circumstances and his deployment and how the two mesh. This card sharking aspect was what I really expected to hate. Only the well thought out nature of the deck, which seems to usually allow you to make it work with your plan with only minor adjustment, makes it work for me.
So where is this going?
Well , I've been playing around with ideas for my RCW and Ancients games, both of which are now 1 stand=1 unit at the moment. I'm using the HofT C&C system with the Ancients right now and it works OK but more so for Heavy Infantry armies than ones of light troops who one end up rolling for almost every unit every turn which is tedious. For that and the RCW game, a PIP system where spending an extra point on a unit/group could be used for special bonuses, 1 pt for a group to move double perhaps (Greeks at Marathon e.g.) or 1 pt to allow a special maneuver or a combat bonus for one stand/unit.
Needs some thought. It definitely falls under the Game aspect but it could speed some things up while adding a bit more spice. I'm not planning to reopen HofT to consider re-introducing PIPs by brigade again but having gotten over my snit against the artificial nature of the concept, I'm not opposed to the idea if it might be faster/easier/more fun than the current Order Check which is purely negative or neutral and which some people have trouble remembering. Or possibly the order check could be modified slightly so that a 6 gave a bonus? hmmm. .
EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)
"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."
-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013
Friday, June 22, 2012
Cards, Pips and some practical thoughts on Command Control & friction.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal, 5 years in the Black Watch of Canada Cadets, 5 years at the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean followed by 4 in the navy. 25 years with CPC in IT simultaneous with 23 years running a boarding kennel. Inherited my love of toy soldiers from my mother's father. Married with a Whippet, 10 Italian Greyhounds and 3 cats. Prematurely retired and enjoying leisure to game, maintaining our 160 yr old farmhouse and just living.