Microgame experiment 3: WW2 tactical game ?!?

As a few fellow designers have been putting together some rather excellent 18-card (plus tokens) microgames, I thought that I’d have another go at this design constrained format. I’d been toying with the idea of doing a WW2 logistics microgame, but lacked inspiration. Then it came to me that it *ought* to be possible to design one to demonstrate the difficulty of combined arms tactics in WW2. As an aside, my wife did question whether it was actually *useful* to do this – but then, it’s my project and I sometimes like to follow a whim.

A dozen pages of fairly amorphous notes later, I’ve come up with something that’s a cross between Magic The Gathering and Up Front, boiled down to 18 cards, 5 sets of coloured cubes and a d6. I gave it a solo run through and, surprisingly, it ran from start to finish without breaking. It bent a bit, but it feels like it might be viable with a few tweaks and a very carefully worded rulebook.

The cards include a very few ‘units’ representing infantry plus supporting tanks, artillery, HMGs and anti-tank weapons. The support stuff is expected to be attached to the infantry, so I can get away with multi-function cards here, to give players decisions about what function to use. There are even fewer terrain cards (just a Hill, Woods, and Building), also doubling up as Entrenchments. The rest of the cards are actions, such as Fire, Move, Withdraw, Retreat and so on. With a hand size of only 3 and a deck reduced by stuff staying on the table (deployed), the flow of cards is key. I decided that you can play a card, then any follow-up cards permitted by the initial card played; for example, Move means you can follow-up with Fire, Smoke means you can follow-up with Move. You complete your turn when you run out of follow-ups (usually very quickly ‘cos you only have a 3-card hand). Then you can manipulate the deck in one of three simple ways and refresh your hand to 3. However, your opponent can interrupt your play and cancel the rest of your turn – for example, a Move can be interrupted by Fire.

I’ve added in simple range tokens, so there’s some manoeuvre element. Plus an enemy that’s fired on has obviously been spotted, and gets a target token – making it easier to hit next time. That also encourages manoeuvre, because you’ll want to move to remove the target token.

I’ve kept firing to a simple d6 modified by supporting units, terrain and one or two other intricacies, probably to be honed away in due course.

The victory conditions are simply to force the enemy to take retreat tokens; 3 such tokens and it’s presumed you’ve broken the position. Or alternatively, if no effective resistance is offered, you advance to a negative range chit (a la Up Front).

The motivation for the game is to show that combined arms is difficult. Therefore I’m aiming for it to be a challenge to attach enough supporting units and gain positions so that you can amass sufficient modifiers to inflict casualties and force the enemy back. So far, with only one playtest, we’re not yet there. But it was reassuring that a quick attack with just infantry was beaten off by a combined arms force, even if the latter only just held on.

Step one accomplished!

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