I’ve had this idea for a tabletop miniatures battle game in my head for a while. Rather than let it tumble endlessly in my brain like a sock lost forever in the dryer, I’m pulling it out and putting it here on the blog, in the hopes that it might grow up to be a real game some day.
The game is for at least two players. Each player has a handful of figures (about 10). At the start of each round, each player rolls a number of dice (regular six-siders like nature intended) equal to the number of figures he has. Each player then assigns each of those dice to one of his figures. The die determines the following:
- Initiative: A figure’s die determines when it goes during the round. (Lower numbers go first.)
- Actions: A figure’s die tells how many actions it can take on its turn.
- Defense: A figure’s die is added to any attacks against that figure. (So high numbers make the figure easier to hit.)
The idea is that high numbers are good because they give you more actions and the ability to react to what your opponent does, but also bad because they make you easier to hit. (Thematically, those with low numbers are “hunkered down” so they’re not doing as much, but they’re harder to hit.)
Each round, the player gets to make the strategic decision of where to assign each of his dice.
The game set up like most miniatures games: The players take turns placing their figures and terrain in the play area, with each army starting… oh, let’s say within 3″ of its edge of the battlefield. Then choose a first player.
The game is played in a series of rounds. Each round is divided into four phases:
- Roll Phase
- Assignment Phase
- Action Phase
- Clean-up Phase
During this phase, all players simultaneously roll all their dice.
During this phase, the players take the dice they just rolled and assign them to their figures. This could be handled a couple different ways:
Option A: All players simultaneously assign their dice to their figures without looking at their what their opponents are doing. The upside to this method is that it’s super-fast. The downside is that dishonest players (or honest, weak-willed players who are losing) will cheat like crazy.
Option B: Starting with the first player, each player (going clockwise around the table) takes a turn assigning one of his dice to one of his figures. Continue doing so, one die per player per turn, until all dice are assigned. (This method is slower, but certainly more strategic, as you can see where your opponents are putting their dice, and what numbers those dice are showing.)
In either case, when you assign a die to a figure, place it behind that figure. (Position matters; just trust me for now.)
This is when figures move, attack, and use their special abilities.
Unactivated figures are those that haven’t taken any actions yet. Once a figure has taken its actions, it is activated.
Starting with the first player, each player activates one of his unactivated figures with the the lowest assigned die value. For example, if any of your figures have dice assigned to them showing a “1,” you must activate each of those figures before you can activate any others.
When you activate a figure, it gets a number of actions equal to its assigned die. You may spend as many of these actions as you wish, in any order you wish.
For each action, the figure may:
- Move one increment (an inch, 10mm, a space on a grid–whatever you want)
- Make a melee attack against an adjacent enemy
- Make a ranged attack an enemy in range and line of sight
- Use a special ability
Yes, you can move through friendly figures. No, you can’t move through enemies.
You must stop when adjacent to or touching an enemy.
Moving away from an adjacent enemy costs an extra action.
Rough terrain costs an extra action to move into.
No, there’s no facing (unless you really want it, I guess).
Okay, if there is facing, then you can end your move facing any way you want.
Action: Melee Attack
To make a melee attack, roll a die, then add to it your target’s die value and your figure’s Melee attack score.*
If this total meets or beats the target number (usually 7) then your figure hits!
*Melee attack scores should probably be a low number, like 0 for grunts, 1 for experienced dudes, and 2 for heroes. Or something like that.
Action: Ranged Attack
To make a ranged attack, roll a die, then add to it your target’s die value and your figure’s Ranged Attack* score.
If this total meets or beats the target number (usually 7 + 1 for each unit of range between the attacker and the target) then your figure hits!
*Ranged Attack could be higher than Melee on average… or maybe keep it in the same scale. That would make it much harder to hit at range, but since you can fire off one shot per action, you can make up in quantity what you lack in quality.
Action: Special Ability
Some figures might have special abilities, like Healing (spend an action to heal all damage), Rage (spend an action to get a +1 on your next attack roll), Teleport (spend three actions to move to any point on the battlefield in line of sight), or… whatever everyone thinks is cool. I’m not writing army lists here. Heck, I’m barely writing a game system.
After you have activated a figure, move its die to its front to show that it is now activated. (See? I told you position would be important. Of course, if you can keep track of activation without moving the die, go for it. I guess you could add a second type of token to track activation, but that seems fiddly to me.)
(In my first draft, I had you removing the die altogether after its figure was activated. That’s very clean, but when that figure’s attacked, you’re either stuck trying to remember what the die was, or else activated units are oddly hard to hit.)
When all figures have been activated, the action phase is over.
Because every game needs a clean-up phase, let’s have one here. Now is when the players take their assigned dice back, the role of first player passes to the left, and a new round begins.
And now, the obligatory FAQ:
What About Damage?
The system determines “hits” but says nothing about what a hit means. How many hits can a figure take? How much damage does a hit inflict? How many hits does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
I’ll leave that up to you. If it were me, I’d probably say each figure can take one hit in order to keep it simple and bloody. You might say two hits and heal one each round (to minimize record-keeping). Or you might say 15 hits across five body locations and track it all on a customized spreadsheet app you wrote for the iPhone — whatever you think is fun.
What about attacks of opportunity? Or overwatch? Or…?
Look. This is just a blog post. If you think the game’s got enough legs to justify bolting all that other stuff onto it, that’s awesome. Leave me a comment telling me so. Or take it out for a spin yourself and let me know (a) how you patched the holes and (b) how it went. I’m just getting this thing out of my head and down on paper before I lose it.
Why is there a third question?
Because a FAQ with just two questions is kind of sad.