A guest post from quozI, of infinity tournament fame (read also remorseless pestering)
We’re all familiar with the classic Wargaming mechanism of I go, you Go (IGoUGo). That’s where one player moves, shoots etc. with all their miniatures and then the other player gets to do the same with theirs. As an approach for handling player turns it definitely has its advantages – it’s familiar so it makes a new game more instantly accessible, it’s tried and tested and it’s the only approach that many members of our wargaming community have ever experienced.
Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000, Warmahordes, even down to classic board-games such as Bloodbowl. I get my turn, you wait, then you get your turn and I wait.
So what’s the problem, or is there even one?
I was a massive Warmahordes fans for years – I still think it’s a great game and it uses the IGoUGo approach. I came to Warmahordes from another IGoUGo game – 40K. All was OK with my relationship with 40K until I was badgered (thanks Paul) into trying a game of Warmachine and realised that there was a game out there that for my personal tastes far surpassed 40K. From then on 40K was dead to me.
Now this has happened to me for a second time but this time it’s IgoUGo that’s dead to me.
I discovered Infinity the skirmish game and Force on Force/Tomorrow’s War. Both games built on a reaction system where there still is an active player but where the other player gets to react to their actions.
So what’s different without IGoUGo?
You no longer have to sit and watch your opponent play the game.
I’ve had opponents turns in Warmachine take anything from 7 minutes steam-roller time up to 1 hour (timed with a clock and all!). I would guess that the average turn is about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s 15 to 20 minutes in which you’re not doing anything. You can be sitting there strategizing about what you’ll do in your own turn but I seldom bother as the opportunities that will be available to you only reveal themselves or close themselves off as your opponent plays out his turn.
So you sit. You watch and you wait. If you’re like me then you smack talk a bit but wouldn’t you rather be smack talking AND doing in-game stuff?
In Infinity if a model performs an action (walk, shoot, climb, hack, whatever) in your line of sight then you get to react to it. You may decide to shoot them, dodge out of sight, hack them to immobilise them, drop prone behind a wall and plenty of other options. So while the active player determines the match-ups and the flow of his turn through maneuver, you get to react to it all, making valuable decisions and possibly stymying his dastardly plans.
If your reaction could stop your opponents action from occurring – for example if you try and dodge his gun-fire, or shoot him first – then you both roll dice and the winner gets to perform their action. So you may successfully duck around the corner before he can hose you down with his heavy machine gun, or you may find it’s your bullet ridden corpse that lurches around that corner!
As Infinity is a skirmish game and one where terrain is important, this doesn’t slow the game down like you might expect it to. Active players will attempt to minimise the number of automatic reaction orders (ARO) – as they’re known – by avoiding LOS, moving from cover to cover, or best of all, manoeuvering to attack from behind. A good size game of Infinity can be finished in an hour against quick players and anything up to 2 1/2 hours against the analysis-paralysis types… you know who you are!
Unlike in alternating activation (AA) games – another possible system where players take turns activating usually a single model, such as Malifaux – in Infinity a player gets to activate their whole force in their turn allowing them to put a larger plan into action rather than – to me anyway – the more seat-of-the-pants tactics that alternating activations encourages. I’m not dissing AA, I just prefer the Infinity style reaction system. I am dissing IGoUGo though!
Apart from the greater fun (IMO), perhaps where the difference is most noticeable is if you’re playing a reaction based game system is in your legs! I spend the entire time standing for Infinity and Force on Force because you’re constantly involved in the action, making decisions and thus surveying the board and model positions. In 40K or Warmachine, I found myself sitting down for most of my opponent’s turn. Waiting. There’s that word again – waiting! Waiting’s dull.
Force on Force (FoF) is a critically acclaimed Modern-era (post WWII) wargame from Ambush Alley games, published by Osprey Publishing. This year they added a Sci-Fi brother, Tomorrow’s War. Both use the same core system with additional Sci-Fi esque rules added to Tomorrow’s War to allow you to represent tech disparities between forces, bipedal armoured walkers, hover tanks, aliens, all the Sci-Fi staples that you know and love. As an aside it’s also scale neutral and perfectly suited for use with all your 40K minis.
Typical game size is around a platoon, with the individual units being 3 to 5 man fire-teams or special weapons teams rather than the individuals in Infinity. Each side has anything from 2 to 10 fire-teams – or significantly more for big games if you wanted. Plus vehicles ranging from pickup trucks with flat-bed mounted machine guns to main battle tanks – or grav-tanks in Tomorrow’s War.
In Force on Force each turn game mechanics decide which player is going to be the active player and who is going to be the re-active player. Think of the active player as the side currently with the initiative in the fight – maybe the side putting more lead into the air and better suppressing their opposition, or maybe just the side that is currently better co-ordinated and is implementing their plan.
If it’s two regular trained forces fighting each other then who is active this turn will depend on the scenario, or dice rolls modified by various factors.
If it’s Regulars versus Irregulars – think militia or un-trained insurgents – then the regular player always retains initiative. That’s right, if it’s you against rag-tag mobs of human civies or animalistic alien hordes then it’s always your turn and never theirs. That sounds like it’d be boring for the irregulars, doesn’t it? Well, trust me, it isn’t. I love playing the irregulars
The player with initiative gets to activate each of their units. Moving, running, shooting, assaulting or various combinations of these. Or the active player can sacrifice a units activation to place them into over-watch, but more about that later.
Any unit on the reactive player’s side who sees an active player’s unit do something gets to react. Just like in Infinity, and again just like in Infinity the reacting player’s action can oppose and possibly prevent the active player’s action. That is if they’re quick enough and lucky enough! Again you may duck out of sight so your opponent can’t shoot you or alternatively you may suck it up and try and shoot them first hoping to do so much damage to them render return fire ineffectual.
Regular units can react to multiple actions in a single turn, however they lose one dice of fire-power or an inch of movement for every subsequent reaction that turn. Eventually they just can’t react any more. In FoF – unlike in Infinity – units can even react to reacting units! So an active unit may advance, a reactive unit may declare a shooting reaction at them and then another active unit that has not yet activated or that is in overwatch can itself choose to react to that reactive unit. This sounds complicated but it’s quite easy to keep track of who is doing what just by placing dice beside the units that are reacting or already have done so.
This multiple reaction system also speeds up, not slows down the game. You’ll also find that few insurgents will react to an advancing unit if there’s multiple units in over-watch looking at them and few active units will blindly run out in front of multiple reactive units. This is part of the joy of this system, so well does it represent classical bounding over-watch that the Australian army use it train NCOs. Despite all that, it’s great fun and fast and vicious. Just how I like my games!
When the active player finishes their turn any units belonging to the reactive player that haven’t reacted this turn can then perform an activation of their own. Only needing to fear those over-watch units we previously mentioned.
So where does this leave me?
Addicted. I can’t go back. I can’t sit and passively watch my opponent play for 10, 15 or more minutes without getting to make any meaningful decisions myself. I also don’t want to go back to my opponent watching me play – I want them trying to shaft me in my own turn. That’s fun and now my smack talk can be laced with actions and not just toothless banter!
I heartily recommend trying out some games with activation approaches other than IGoUGo. If it’s the only thing you know – as was the case with me – then you really can’t know if it’s your preferred approach without trying the alternatives out. I wasn’t even really aware I didn’t like IGoUGo until I saw the alternatives. I thought the waiting was something you had to accept with wargames. It isn’t, and I urge you to try out some of the alternatives yourself. I want to see IGoUGo consigned to the gaming history bin.
Infinity the skirmish game:
Free rules and army lists available. Links on http://www.infinity-ireland.org
Force on Force:
Ambush Alley Games http://ambushalleygames.com/
20 euro delivered from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk
Scale and miniatures neutral. Use your 40K models or a cool 15mm army for 40 quid.