Thursday, 21 July 2011

Epiphany Cards

As I said in an earlier blog entry I would come back and describe the card system that we have implemented for playing with BattleTech. The goal for using the cards was to remove the control players had over the order they move their units in and too replace the certainty of knowing one would always have one spare unit to move last if one had won the initiative.

By replacing the you move one unit and then I move one unit with a random order of movement system one has to deal with the battle developing from chaos into order, rather than having control from the get go.

The way the cards work was shamelessly stolen from TooFat Lardies games, in particular their Charlie Don't Surf  and Through the Mud and the Blood rules. At first I found the need for cards off putting. Why oh why not have some simpler mechanism driven by dice? However, after playing Terrible Sharp Sword, an American Civil War supplement for their Sharp Practice at Salute this year I was taken by the flexibility that the addition that cards bring to a game.

So I set out to make some cards of my own, and not satisfied with using standard playing cards with sticky labels stuck on them I took advantage of a Hong Kong based playing card maker called ArtsCow who do print on demand cards set to one's own specification.

So I made up a list of all the units that I wanted to be able to field for my campaign, used ArtsCow's online Silverlight design package and got my first two sets of cards made up for my Mummerset campaign, which you can see a selection of in the picture at the top of the post.

I also stole another idea from TooFat Lardies, the idea of a variable length turn that is governed by what they call the "tea break" card, but for BattleTech I'm calling the "vent" card. I use two of these for the game shuffled into the pack. One ignores the first draw, but the turn ends when the second one is drawn. This means that turns can have lots of units being moved, or very few units being moved, and it is all down to the luck of the cards.

Besides the vent cards and the various different unit cards each side has, I also added other specials. For instance artillery barrages that need a forward observer to be called in, and again the order that the cards are drawn in matters. If the forward observer card comes first then the players keep it until the time when the artillery barrage card is drawn, and can then use it to designate a target. If on the other hand the artillery barrage card is drawn first and there is no forward observer card to use, then the artillery barrage doesn't happen.

I've also added a House Steiner "Wall of Steel" card that allows the Steiner side to fire when the card is drawn, and fire again at the end of the turn, but at the cost of losing movement for all battlemechs that haven't yet moved that turn. However, this is a very powerful special card and after the game we decided that once the Steiner player uses it, the card is then discarded from the deck.

Other cards include "airstrike" and moving on "blinds". Airstrikes work a bit like an artillery barrage and a special event, so the airstrike doesn't require a forward observer card to use, but once used is discarded from the deck. Blinds are for hidden movement. Each side will be able to deploy as hidden identity, with a number of dummy blinds as well. Units on blinds are revealed if observed on a roll of 8+ on 2D6, when the unit on the blind fires, or if it is fired upon.

No doubt I will think of other special event cards, for instance "Banzai" for House Kurita, and add them to packs of cards I will need to design for my other BattleTech forces I have, but at the moment I'm concentrating on only adding stuff I need for the campaign, so I will need to think about House Marik next.


  1. I like it. Novel idea. We used to do something similar with CAV and Vor. Mind if I try it out?


  2. Sure, after all I stole this from TFL. Spread the word is my motto.

  3. Good move Lady Ashley!! I discovered Mud & Blood around three years ago and since then I've fallen in love with the TFL factory works. Cannot stand anymore games based on "I go - you go" systems.

  4. Anibal Invictus: You me both, and by the way, since you are a fellow Lardy and have posted to this blog, just call me Ashley without a formal title.

  5. It's not very frequent finding the other genere in this hobby. I belong to a club in Spain with 130+ members and all of them are male. The "lady" really was to show my respect for you and your superb work.

  6. Huh. Looks very cool for a small, intimate game but I have the feeling this would bog large engagements down. We tried issuing playing cards a while back, but all it did was nullify the point of having initiative.

    Still, interested in seeing how it turns out.

  7. Exactly, one doesn't need an initiative roll, so one less set of dice that need to rolled and or re-rerolled.

    I think we need to define small, intimate games though?

    For me a small, intimate game is probably two players with four mechs per side. I guess that you have a different definition?

  8. No, that does it for me, too:) Six players at the most.

  9. Well so far we have played with four players, but this could rise to a total of six players at a future game, if everything comes together right.

    Anyway, 6 mechs and 12 vehicles with 11 platoons of infantry is pretty in our last game was pretty impressive I thought.

    So, any definitions for a big game of BattleTech?

  10. As long as it worked out well, I don't see a problem. It all depends on the organizational skills each player brings to the table. In my experience, more data = slower game, but you obviously have not reached your limit. Five units per person is not unusual - unfortunately, I rarely get to play with folks that skilled.

  11. That is one advantage of a campaign. In this case the only really experienced player was me, though Dan does have a pretty good handle on the rules, he hasn't played the game as much as I have

    So what I've been able to do is train the players up game by game, and add new things in, or focus on things that we didn't do right the first time around and get everyone singing off the same sheet.

    I think that games work best when everyone has agreed and has played together with a spirit of co-operation and a sense of what one is playing. Historical gamers would call this "playing the period", in BattleTech it is playing the genre.