Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Unit Activation Cards For....

Am I playing with a full deck?  My wife asks me all the time.

So I've always loved the idea of card-driven activation for wargames - especially Company level wargames.  I like the cards telling me which specific unit to activate.  I've always thought that added an element of tension and I dont have to tell you it's literally perfect for solo gaming.

My activation deck with a custom image printed on one side
 So full disclosure here I got this idea from reading the "Small World Productions" blog where the author  had custom activation cards made a la Battlelore for a fantasy mass-battle game.  Why couldn't I make my own custom cards?

He went to to have his cards made so I went over and checked it out.  You can build a custom, small-sized deck for $9.00 US and I paid 4.00 US to ship.  I'm sure there are other custom sites out there to do this as well so go check it out!

Since the price was right I decided to go for it and produce generic cards that would cover Armor platoon, Infantry platoon, Specialist units, Artillery/Mortar support, and tactical air support activations, keeping them broad enough to cover a gamut of rules.

Enough for Germans to activate up to 6 or 7 Infantry and Armor platoons, plus all their specialists.  The allies have even more to draw on for really big games.

 Needless to say I had some fun with the extra blank cards so I decided to improvise with some additional rules.  Read on.
A German gunnery bonus?  Sounds good.  Cards to activate your sniper?  Yep!

What Eastern Front game would be complete without a fanatics card?  I think this could be applied to a unit and make then fanatical, with all kinds of bad (or good) things associated with that...

Obligatory "tea break" end of turn card.
As you can tell I'm thrilled with how these cards turned out.  More disclosure?  I bought these cards to play card-driven Flames of War but think they'll work for other rules as well.  Personally I feel that adding a random unit activation to FoW will give players new things to think about in terms of launching assaults, timing supporting fires and maneuver, and keeping a reserve.  

Having bonus cards that must be used in the current turn also add an element of tension.  I can re-roll a miss or activate a unit again (bonus activation).  Do I waste it on this unit?  Or hold out for better chances?  Personally I think it's a cool way to get some fog of war into an otherwise vanilla turn sequence.  (nothing wrong with vanilla, BTW.  It's one of my favorite flavors of ice cream).

I'm going to eventually make more cards for other theaters but this deck will suffice for NW Europe, North Africa, and the Eastern Front.


  1. Having seen these in person, I can second their quality of printing and card materials composition. I will certinly order some with Battlegroup in mind! Why pull monochrome, unexciting, MDF chits from a bag when you can pull attractive, easy-to-read cards from the top of the stack!

    1. Cheers David i think the cards have the tiny MDF counters beat hands down. Easier to read also. Watch out! Mine Strike!

  2. An excellent idea! I would love a set for Battlegroup solo stuff.

  3. Wow, that is an excellent price. I print off sheets of what I want, cut them up and then stick them to cards. It takes ages! I prefer your way.

    1. Shaun yes i thought so too. Much less fuss involved this way.

  4. Too Fat Lardies WW2 game IABSM works this way. And if you’re interested in extending the idea to other periods, Field of Battle a set of rules for the horse and musket period, uses a bespoke card deck to regulate the actions of units. There is a set of ancients rules called To the Strongest that i think uses a regular deck of playing cards to not only regulate the turn but also takes the place of dice in generating random n7mbers.

  5. Cards are great for solo play. I'm super-cheap, I guess. I just use index cards cut up! Hey wait, your Scottish slip is showing... But I never thought of printing stuff out through a service - great idea to file away!

    cards as a design have their own problems, but most can be got around. For example, it is impossible to coordinate an attack or even movements of larger formations. This awkwardness can be avoided by allowing a leader to collect the cards [up to a limit, say 3-4 of the units] until he has "completed his planning" and then he can execute all of them at once. The suspense is still there, and it delays coordination...but that's pretty realistic, isn't it?

    1. Cheers Alex. I like the idea that a unit could potentially act to pre empt something your opponent was trying to do, but was not guaranteed. This was very effective at making flames of war a more interactive and interesting game rather than a solid turn sequence. I kind of liked the element of chance added in.