How I learnt to love card activation.

Card activation? I used to hate it. Give me a game with the predictable ‘I go, U go’ any day of the week… So how come I’ve now written a game called Black Ops which uses cards? How was I converted away from the ‘true’ path of Igo Ugo and learn to love card activation? Read on..

Sneaking up on the ‘bad guys’.

I used to be a dyed in the wool ‘Igo Ugo’ player (which Rick Priestley once described as sounding like an incantation from Call of Cthulhu). There’s nothing I liked better than the predictability of the game sequence of a game like Warhammer Ancient Battles. Now I do like to try different types of systems. I tried Piquet and didn’t get on with it. I remember a World War 2 adaptation where my Germans manoeuvred to storm a Russian farmhouse and then in mid run, my squad missed out on three consecutive turns. Stuck ‘in stasis’ in the open, they were cut to pieces. Then there was the game of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum (IABSM) where my Tiger tank didn’t activate for three turns, each time lying beyond the ‘tea break’ card. Saldly it could not fire on initiative as it was out of range. 

Insurgents with a ‘technical’ truck.

Now to be fair, I’ve had games of Black Powder where one ‘command’ of troops has failed to move for an entire battle, that’s the ‘fog of war’. Likewise there are several other games where a bad command roll or a lack of pips will cause a unit to do nothing. In his article in WSS 58, Rick explored the different mechanisms used in games including the alternative turn mechanism (otherwise known as ‘Igo Ugo’). This article opened my eyes and made me look again at other kinds of mechanisms beyond the limitations of Igo Ugo.

German Fallshirmjager. 

There has been a succession of new games with clever mechanisms, such as Muskets & Tomahawks and of course Bolt Action. These have introduced the uncertainty I was looking for in a game but still had a certain amount of predictability. You can ‘card count’ in M&T or ‘dice count’ in BA and you know everything will get to move, you just don’t know in what order. This was the beautiful ‘holy grail’ of mechanisms for me - exactly what I needed for a stealth game like Black Ops.

Seal team six - by stealth and guile. 

I’d tried the game with Igo Ugo mechanisms but it didn’t quite work. You knew when the guards would move and when the attackers would. Add in a random factor of not quite knowing who would move next and suddenly it all fitted together - the game worked. There is still a degree of predictability (count the enemy cards and once the cards of a certain type have been drawn, you are free to activate your troops) and everything gets to move, but then there’s also a certain amount of risk taking (as you are against the clock). All I can say it works, that’s from a dyed in the wool Igo Ugo player… Try it. 

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