A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Activation Systems - Again (contd)

A rare and highly-prized example of a C&CN "Tactic" Command Card 

This follows on from the previous post about Activation Rules – I got some useful input from Comments and also through email - thanks to all who contributed so positively - and I felt it probably justifies a short additional note.

The chief problem I was interested in was how to allow movement of a mass of troops in a C&C-type game, in which the Command Cards normally allow for only a small number of units to be ordered in a turn, and the fall of the cards will not normally support the movement of a large formation in a coherent manner. A classic example might be a division marching onto the battlefield, or any kind of strategic march.

First thing to note is that C&CN (the Napoleonic member of the Borg family of games) includes a Force March card – there are 2 of these in the pack, and they allow all the infantry (only infantry) in one Section (Left, Centre, Right) to be ordered together. Units with a Leader attached may march 2 hexes and battle, other infantry may march 1 hex and battle, or march 2 hexes and not battle. This is the right sort of idea, but it applies only to infantry, the 2-card allocation makes it too much of a special event, and it is quite a powerful card when it is played.

I very much liked Ross’s suggestion that an alternative meaning could be added to some of the existing Section cards. I think that marching should not be a rare or specially-privileged act. I propose to make a scenario-specific tweak, and it should be a fairly routine option with rather less inherent advantage than the Force March card – “common but not very powerful” is the aim.

The Probe cards in C&CN might be just the thing, which – again – was Ross’s idea. As an example, the Probe Left Flank card reads:

Issue an order to 2 units or Leaders on the Left Flank

and there are 4 of them – there are also 6 Probe Centre and 4 Probe Right Flank cards. My idea is that a footnote be added to these cards, similar to

Alternatively – if the scenario permits it – you may, instead, use the card to order each unit or Leader in the Section to make a normal move. This move may not bring them into contact with the enemy, they may not carry out any combat, and infantry may not form square or come out of square. Normal terrain rules apply.

Thus it does not allow any specially fast movement, but it does allow a lot of troops to be shifted together, which would be a simple enough order on the real-life battlefield. And, of course, if the opponent followed up with Counterattack, which mirrors the previous order, things would really start moving. Worth a try?

Adding a footnote is actually a physical possibility for me, since my C&CN Command Cards are in plastic sleeves, so I can put anything in there – bus tickets, you name it...

For the home-brewed ECW variant of C&C which I am working on, since I envisage the ECW as rather more static than Napoleonic warfare, I propose simply to enlarge the Command Card pack by adding (say) 3 cards which say something like

All the units and Leaders in any one Section may be ordered to make a normal move. This move may not bring them into contact with the enemy, they may not carry out any combat, and units of foot may not form (or come out of) Stand of Pikes formation. Normal terrain rules apply.

I dug out the downloadable rules for Anubis Studios’ White Mountain, which is a 30 Years War game heavily based on C&C Ancients, and, as I thought, it includes an extra rule for Standing Orders which is interesting. So that I do not misrepresent it in any way, I reproduce it here – the game is freely available from Anubis’ website anyway:


A standing order is an order for a nominated group of
units who will continue to carry out that order, turn
after turn, in addition to any other orders you perform

You may only have one standing order in play at any

Units operating under a standing order may remain in
place or may move only toward the objective marker.
If any unit affected by the card makes a move away
from the objective marker for any reason the standing
order is broken and the Command card is removed
from play.

You may also cancel a standing order by removing the
Command card without acting on it, and then take a
normal turn instead.

To issue a standing order:

1 Play a Command card on the table in the
nominated zone (left, centre or right). This is the
order that you want to units to act on automatically
in future turns.
2 Mark each unit affected by the order with a
[blue] token.
3 Place an objective marker anywhere ahead of
the affected units in the same zone. This is the
point where the units, if they move, must move
4 The units may now be moved or otherwise
acted on in accordance with the Command card
5 Draw a card to replace the one just played.
Your turn now ends.
6 On your next and all subsequent turns until the
standing order is broken, you may act with the
nominated units as if you just played the standing
Command card.

In addition to this continual order, you may play
Command cards elsewhere and act with other units as

Standing orders may not be used to manage away

To finish off, I thought I’d repeat a point I made in my comment to Lee in the previous post. C&CN’s cards can be a bit limiting for a larger battle, but I have used – with decent results – a scenario-driven tweak which offers a two-for-one option. Instead of playing a Command card, the player may play ONE Tactic card or UP TO TWO Section cards. He may not play one of each. (Section cards are those Command cards which refer to movement in – you guessed it – a Section of the battlefield. Tactic cards are all the rest). This allows more action in each turn.

And that’s probably more than enough of that.


  1. Tony - I like it, in fact I like it a lot! It ties in nicely with my own recent thoughts on this issue as I have just posted on my blog. I had been considering adding some extra cards to make it easier to move stuff but I like your idea much better and I will try it.

    Thank you,

  2. One other belated thought. I have only played one intro game 0of C&C ancients but they had some, for lack of the proper name, formation activation cards that allow a group of contiguous units with leader to move.

    This would please one of my fancies, that armies took pains to form not just battalions but brigades and on occasion divisions into battle lines or massed columns. The idea would be instead of or as well as in a sector, add a proviso that they must be adjacent with a general attached to one unit. (adjacent as in forming an unbroken chain).

    1. Hi Ross - in principle I like this too. I drew up a set of command cards for my own Napoleonic rules a few years ago, which was influenced by Big Battalions and (I think) Grognards & Grenadiers - mostly it featured orders at brigade and division level, and one early refinement was what we called "daisy chaining" (for want of a better name), by which formations had to be contiguous and include a relevant general. That required some fiddling about, since occasionally a formation might have to march on both sides of a village (for example), or its artillery might get separated. So the rules had to be changed to "units not separated by more than 1 hex" and we sort of blundered into command radius and a few other issues which we hadn't wanted.

      If Mr Borg uses it in CCA then I'm sure it works fine, and I'm not really qualified to ponder whether it is more appropriate for the Ancient period. I had seriously considered this type of card wording in my ECW variant based on CCN, but instead opted for a "Refuse Left" card (ordered units are in the Centre or on the Right) and "Refuse Right".

      It is a nice idea, though. CCN allows units which are "supported" (i.e. have 2 adjacent friendly units) to ignore 1 retreat flag - that sort of encourages daisy chaining, though C&C doesn't worry about army organisation in a way I am used to.

      Cheers - Tony

  3. Oh, and not really my idea, just borrowed from one of Borg's WWII game modules.

    1. Well thank you for drawing my attention to it.

      I am nervous about getting too readily receptive to Borg's ideas - not because there is anything wrong with them, but because there is a lot of something very close to adulation around, and I am too begrudging an old git to be as enthusiastic as that about anyone, whether it be Peter Young or Mr Borg. The thing is, Borg keeps relentlessly turning out stuff that works really well (which is worrying), and I put it down to the industrial-grade playtesting that goes into his boardgames. Oh - all right - and ability as well.