Home Forums General General To phase or not to phase

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    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Lets say we are looking at a game at roughly the platoon level: WW2 or onwards.

    We want a form of alternating activations where we take turns acting with a unit.

    Do you prefer that this is done by phase (first we alternate moving a unit, then we alternate firing, etc.) or by unit (first I pick a unit that can move and fire, then you pick a unit that can move and fire) ?

    Please note I am not asking you to explain how your favourite game that uses neither option works.

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    Yes, I am tinkering with something but what spurred this is more that I got to thinking that I really like games with phases in them, but I am not sure they actually add anything in particular to the game. As such, I am not sure WHY I like them, other than the games I started playing as a youth had them I suppose.

    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    I have never been a fan of IGOUGO, as far as a side moving and shooting all of their units before the other guy gets a turn.  I do like each side alternating activating a unit (group or squad or whatever) but have also always felt that the side with better command or training should have some sort of advantage.  That could be allowing more units to move/fire before the other guy, or the ability to delay their activations unit so an opposing unit can do it’s thing and they can react to it, or maybe give the “better” side or units some sort of bonus to reactions until they activate themselves.


    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I have liked the idea of alternating actions ever since I met it in SPI’s “Firefight” in 1976 (although because rightpondian figure gamers pay very little attention to leftpondian boardgames, there seems to be a collective impression that the idea comes from more recent F&SF rules).

    In my customary desultory fashion I have been failing to rapidly develop my own updated version of “Firefight” which had an outing to a decidely tepid reception at COW a few years ago under the title “Gunner, Sabot, Tank”. More recently I have been trying to develop a version shifted to WW2 titled “Gummipanzergrenadier”, which has been tried out a couple if times with my Horsham circle of wargamers (none of whom now live in Horsham). My game designs may be rubbish, but the titles are brilliant.

    The realisation slowly dawned that there was no need to separate movement, fire, rally and artillery phases. Rather, I define the actions elements can take, and players alternate having an element or (if qualified) group of elements execute actions in turn. An action might be shoot, advance, assault, jockey forward, jockey back, adjust fire, rally, or take up fire position. These actions include different mixtures of fire and movement, as my elements are single vehicles or squads of personnel. I use an opportunity fire mechanism (which I call “watch and shoot” because that’s the fire order), so that an element in a fire position is allowed to shoot at elements moving or shooting within its arc of fire. This can produce chains of responses as advancing elements trigger defensive fire, and the defensive fire in turn triggers covering fire from overwatching elements. The good thing about WW2 is that one does not need to worry about the time of flight of ATGWs, which otherwise complicates matters and might demand a spot of phasing. It’s also fairly unavoidable to have a phase for checking smoke dispersion and casualties from continuing artillery fire missions. But, as far as possible, I favour abolishing phases and glomming everything into one general action phase.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoirishserb

    Ivan,  I would probably prefer the “phase” option over the “unit” option.

    I think it would offer a more fluid representation of what happens in during combat.  With the “unit” option, where a unit would move and fire before other units do either, makes me feel more like I trying to beat the rules, rather than my opponent.

    I’m also considering this with respect to 20th century warfare (what I play the most), which I realize might not be the target period(s).

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I prefer unit by unit rather than phase by phase but I prefer systems where one side activates units until all their units have activated or some event causes play to pass to the other player.

    For example, Warmaster, Blitzkreig Commander and Strength and Honour.

    That said it’s not such a strong preference that I wouldn’t play games of other styles. I play and enjoy games that are phase by phase, alternating unit by unit and ones where one force does everything then the other force gets a turn.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoMartinR

    Ultra tactical combat (which for me is anything below company level) is a wild and wooly affair, so by unit for me.

    Tbh, I think it is actually one if the hardest things to simulate in a Wargame, as so much is down to psychological reactions and limited knowledge and I’m continually baffled by its popularity as a Wargames subject!  Battalions are far more predictable. I suppose 1:1 type stuff is more relatable.

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

    Avatar photoPaint it Pink

    Ultra tactical combat (which for me is anything below company level) is a wild and wooly affair, so by unit for me. Tbh, I think it is actually one if the hardest things to simulate in a Wargame, as so much is down to psychological reactions and limited knowledge and I’m continually baffled by its popularity as a Wargames subject! Battalions are far more predictable. I suppose 1:1 type stuff is more relatable.

    The fact that Battalions are far more predictable is why it is not as interesting as the wild and woolly world of tactical combat.

    But, I agree, it is the hardest thing to simulate with a wargame.

    One is good, more is better

    Avatar photoShaun Travers

    I vote for unit by unit rather than phase by phase for WW2+ as you describe.  I used to play lots of phase by phase games but gave that up 10+ years ago – I much prefer unit by unit.  And it is also easier for me to remember who did what when it is done by unit.

    Avatar photomadman

    By platoon level do you mean each unit is a platoon or each side has about a platoon each? Just so I am on the same table. I assume here each side has a platoon. In the case of the latter are we talking skirmish where each soldier is represented for combat and as a single unit on the board or say fire teams of 4 to 8 soldiers who activate as a single unit?

    I played a couple phase by phase games and they are SLOW and you cannot play more than a few (3 to 4) units per side maximum.

    With unit by unit I would suggest each side receive a pool of activations (base amount variable with unit quality plus a die (dice?) roll. Each unit can utilize 2 activations per round and each can be used for the same action, the only exceptions would be units which could not activate, say shoot, due to things like rate of fire limitations. Those units could either do other than shoot with all but 1 or 2 activations OR reload with the other activations. This would need some thinking on.

    No perhaps higher quality units could be allowed a second round of a single activation, or get one free activation per round. Poor quality units would only be allowed a single activation per round.

    Units could be grouped together to perform the same activation against or moving towards the same objective using fewer activations but require a leader to be in charge who also consumes activations. They should (maybe?) have their activations only be of one type (shoot or scoot).

    So I prefer unit by unit (or group of units) as opposed to phase by phase.

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    If you are alternating units or small groups performing an action, I cannot see what advantage is offered by slicing the turn into phases — why should all shooting occur before all movement, or t’other way around? That only makes sense in games where every unit moves or fires in a phase, as in traditional sequences of play such as those of the Panzerblitz family or Squad Leader, and even there opportunity fire rules have been used to achieve intertwinglement.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoOB

    By unit.


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