Home Forums General Game Design On the virtues of IGO-UGO

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    Avatar photoChris Pringle

    I am sure I am not the first to contemplate the pros and cons of IGO-UGO rulesets vs more fluid-sequenced systems. Still, I have added my 2 cents here:



    Avatar photoRhoderic

    Insightful article. I wouldn’t have seen it that way because I don’t take it as a given that several players on the same side can move and act at the same time without tripping each other up. I see it from more of a skirmish and small-unit gaming perspective where vectors are more likely to cross and converge, I suppose.

    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    Strongly agree, Chris. The more players in a game, the more I want as many players as possible to play at the same time, instead of each waiting for his personal sub-turn.

    IGO-UGO rules let half the players be active at once, *if* everyone knows the rules well enough to play without constant adjudication. So I like IGO-UGO rules for multi-player games, and I also prefer that rules be simple, clearly defined and if possible, known to all.

    In my experience, rules designed around simultaneous written orders are the very best for keeping all players active at once. Everyone writes, then everyone executes, then everyone shoots. In order to keep the game playable, it’s best if the order assignment procedure is restricted to a limited set of order chits or codes, and if movement is defined on a hex grid. I mostly play this style of game with toy airplanes. It can also work with toy ships. In air and sea games the units are sharply defined as a small number of airplanes or vessels. I haven’t seen si-move done really well for land games since Quebec 1759, and that was a one-on-one boardgame. I like Johnny Reb for the si-move, but I have friends who hate it.

    I think about these issues a lot, because most of my wargaming these days is done at clubs and conventions. I enjoy the social interaction, but the multi-player requirement restricts the rules that fit the environment. I’m getting an itch to set up a personal wargaming space, so I can host friends for one-on-one games, and enjoy some of the innovative rule sets that work best head-to-head.


    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    When discussing turn structures for multiplayer games, what you’re really discussing is parallelization of the turn structure.

    In classic IGO-UGO, all units have to go through the first same action, e.g. movement, before all units go through the next action, e.g. shooting and so on. All units doing the same action can be done in parallel, hence this works ok with multiple players.

    In unit-based activation systems, one unit typically does all its actions, before starting with the second unit, and so on. But there is no inherent reason this also cannot be done in parallel. When having multiple players, one player can take actions with unit 1, while a 2nd player can simultaneously take actions with unit 2, etc.
    The problem is that many unit-based activation turn structures have a randomizer ‘ending the turn’, e.g. a failed command roll. That indicates no more units can be activated, and thus initiative switches to the other side. Such a mechanism makes it indeed difficult to parallelize unit activations, since this check is usually done after each unit has activated. But in essence, unit activation can be run in parallel with multiple players per side as well. It’s just a matter of redefining the  ‘end of turn’ event.

    Avatar photoChris Pringle

    Thanks for the comments. As I’ve added in the blog Comments now, while I used IGO-UGO as the obvious contrast, really I was making a plea for ‘anything but one-player-at-a-time in multi-player games’. There are other systems than pure IGO-UGO that would meet the need.

    Eg, Zippy, re your air games example: I’ve played a lot of ‘Check Your Six!’ which is neither IGO-UGO nor one-at-a-time but has simultaneous order-writing – per your preference – followed by unit category activation rather than individual units. Much more engaging than one-at-a-time.

    Phil: another category-based system rather than unit-based is Muskets & Tomahawks (as used in the Jumonville Glen game I played last month), where eg all the Regular units on one side get to act at once but may take different actions. Which is good so long as you have enough mix of troop types to be acting on most or all of your side’s cards. (We did.)


    Avatar photoStephen Holmes

    There’s something to be said for the old Igo-Ugo. Earlier this evening I cited Kings of War (Mantic Games) as a system which accomplishes speed of play by taking Igo-Ugo to its extreme. Most other games present a more interleaved turn sequence, as described in Chris’ original post.

    The original post talks up Igo-Ugo in a multi-player context. Here the friction of new-skool command systems is ably replaced by the stubborn refusal to cooperate of several rugged individualist “Alied” commanders. And it works surprisingly well.

    We shouldn’t rule out the new-skool systems altogether though.

    Multi-player games; done right, assign each commander a dedicated section of frontage. In most games this means the commander will fight almost exclusively against one opposing player who he faces across the table.

    I learned during the early days of Crossfire (Very new-skool second world war infantry rules) that the best approach to multi-layer was to let it flow. Rather than coordinate turns, between payers, let each local combat proceed at its own pace. In Crossfire, the game is usually up once one force breaks through, pouring through the breach, flanking and rear-ing the remaining enemy.

    Where a player fails to “stay in his lane”, delays may be necessary. Well written scenarios will also make provision for blue on blue casualties as the support assets of neighbouring formations continue their ordered missions.


    The most important things with multi-player is that everybody present feels involved, and has fun.

    Avatar photoMartinR

    For multi player (we do a lot of that) IGOUGO is an efficient use of player time, simultaneous is even better but harder to manage. However, for remote gaming over the last 18 months, we’ve had to revert to unit at a time activation to manage the radio chatter, even in ostensibly IGOUGO type rules.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photodeephorse

    I find it interesting that you say that IGO UGO games engage you for 65% of the game turn.  Maybe I’m a very distrustful person (probably comes from the career I had, and maybe because of the people I play against 😯), but I find that I’m ‘engaged’ for nearly 100% of the time.

    I watch my opponent move their forces, to ensure that the moves are legal, they don’t move too far, they pay the correct movement penalties etc., etc.  I watch the die throwing and calculate the results alongside them.  I watch the implementation of those results, have the correct models been removed, have they retreated far enough etc., etc.

    So I’m pretty much engaged for most of the game turn.  But I can see how a more trusting person might be fully engaged for much less time!

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photoAndrew Beasley

    Some good ideas in your post.

    I liked the old Star Fleet battles movement where the time you move in the turn is based on your speed – the faster you go, the move single hex moves you can make. It was very rare that you ‘hung around’ during the turn and it was not often that the “I’m going to wait till you move” issue cropped up as you were moving little and often.

    Since then I have used the Bolt Action ‘bag of dice’ method where you have a bag full of coloured counters (a different colour for each side and one per unit) and randomly pull one out to select the side that moves a unit next.  This has worked well for my block game with the only drawback the counters I’m using are too big when on the board!

    Both of these ways I find better than the IGoUGo process and by that I mean these kept me thinking and watching for any opportunity to move to better attacking positions or cover gaps in my own lines.  Of the two, the bag way gives more randomness (and rare ‘will I EVER get a move’) but reflects the push and pull of battles reported by history in my mind.

    I have no real with to move away from this for any game with more than around ten units or ‘buckets of dice’ as I think you are more an observer than participant while your opposition thinks / moves / thinks…


    Avatar photowarwell

    Some good observations in the blog posts.

    I also like an IGO-UGO structure for solo or 2-player games. Sometimes, the “cure” for IGO-UGO is worse than the disease. I’ve experimented with random card systems, from the venerable Sword and the Flame to Piquet and there always seems to be cases where one side twiddles its thumbs while the other mercilessly slaughters its opponent.

    My preference is modifying IGO-UGO with some command limitations to prevent complete control. Currently, my solo rules feature an action points system, where each unit rolls a D6 to determine how far it can move. A roll of 1 indicates that the unit does nothing this turn. Thus, there is some fog of war, but most units still do something. I use a small number of units per army, so rolling for each unit is not onerous.

    Avatar photoMike

    I find it interesting that you say that IGO UGO games engage you for 65% of the game turn.

    Indeed, I too watch the other player.
    Not from distrust or scepticism or anything, just so I know what is going on and incase I need to react with some actions of my own.

    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    For group games I have to admit a fondness for written orders (or placement of order chits or cards) and simultaneous execution. It think this is a good balance between simple procedure for the game and maximum engagement for the players. As long as movement and combat resolution doesn’t need a lot of GM assistance, then the game pretty much keeps everyone engaged all the time. Sometimes, it’s tough to keep group games moving. It all seems to depend upon the speed of slowest player. The greater the number of players, the greater the disparity in player’s speed and the harder to keep everyone engaged.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

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