Thursday, 5 July 2018

Turn Sequence in The Dolorous Stroke

I've been thinking about how the turn procedure and activations work in my wargame. I initially had a setup very much like GW's LotR game: roll for inits, player 1 moves, player 2 moves, player 1 does actions, player 2 does actions, resolve fights.
It was... okay, I guess.

But I've moved away from that. I dare say what I came up with isn't massively revolutionary, but it's working nicely for what I have in mind.

The turn starts with a roll for inits. After that, players alternate acting with their models until everybody has done something, and then a new turn begins.
When you activate a model it gets to do one thing. It can move, or shoot, or fight, or cast spells, or whatever. But each turn it gets one action. So, if you use your action to charge into combat, you don't resolve the fight on the same action.
Any model in base-to-base contact with the enemy is locked in combat. When it activates, it must use its action to resolve the fight: both sides roll off, the winning side strikes blows against the losing side, and the fighters are seperated (meaning they're then no longer locked in combat). 

What this means is that charging is good because you get to control the tempo of the game with it: you force your opponent's model to use their action to resolve the fight (which could go either way). Effectively, you lock them out of doing anything but fight for the turn, whilst the charging model still gets their charge move. 
Since you don't have to activate a model locked in combat immediately, you can charge more of your own models in to try to get a numerical advantage. Or you can activate early and resolve the fight 1-on-1 to prevent your opponent from ganging up on you. 
It makes the order you activate stuff in become critically important. Activating the right stuff in the right sequence becomes how you control the action-economy, and controlling tempo and so on is a thing I want to be a focus of the game.

To reinforce this, I'm putting a few options in that are explicitly tempo-based mechanics. 
Every model has a 'delay' action available to them. You do nothing for your action, but if you pass a Wits roll, you get to make a second activation. You can only delay once per turn, or it gets silly. Effectively it gives you a chance to wait and see what your opponent is doing before actually acting, letting you slow down in the normal pattern of alternating.
There's a fighting style (Hold the Line!) that characters can learn that lets them Delay even if locked in combat. Basically, it lets a character locked in combat delay to keep their enemies pinned in place without resolving the fight and thus seperating the combatants.
Duels and Jousts also mess with the normal action economy: in a duel, you don't separate the fighters after resolving the fight. They stay locked in combat until one side wins. Both sides need to agree to the duel, but when they do you're efectively putting two models out of the running for several turns as they only focus on each other. Jousts are kinda the opposite of this: after resolving a joust both sides get a free move as they hurtle past each other. So, jousting becomes a way to get disproportionate mobility whilst also getting hits in against your enemy.
I've put in a few skills that directly fuck with the alternating action sequence. Leader lets you chain activate: after you activate the leader, you can immediately activate somebody under their command before your opponent gets to respond. Follower is the inverse of this: after activating a model, you can immediately activate a follower. Both of these let you get a burst of two actions (or three if you go leader-normal-follower in sequence) without your opponent getting to react. You don't get to do more stuff but, again, I've found it gives players ways to control the tempo.

One thing that was mentioned in response to my post about fiddling with gender-roles is that it makes sense for noblewomen in the game to have more of a behind-the-lines leadership role. Giving them a lot of the tempo-control tools seems like a good way to realise this. Similarly, giving peasant characters abilities that make their interaction with tempo reactive means that they'll always be following the lead set by the knights, which feels right.


  1. Ooh, that sounds really cool. It may not be revolutionary, but it's definitely an evolution of the Alternating Activation rules space worth exploring. Tons of potential there. If you don't mind, I might have to borrow some bits from this for house rules in Necromunda.

  2. Interesting stuff! The tempo-control mechanism sounds excellent - and a great way to separate leadership from fighting prowess. (As an aside, I think Warhammer went wrong in the early 80s when it made the leaders of regiments more powerful than the champions - surely the champions should be the more fearsome fighters?)

    One suggestion for reading for The Dolorous Stroke - if you don't know it already - is Song of Arthur and Merlin, Dan Mersey's Arthurian take on Ganesha's Song of Blades and Heroes. It's got some great ideas for Arthurian skirmishes.

    There's also a ton of stuff on his website here: