Alternating Impulses: Drilling Down a Turn

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Alternating Impulses: Drilling Down a Turn

Postby Whiterook » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:24 pm

For discussion, the concept of "Impulses" within a turn.

There are many ways in which action in a wargame are played out, and many factors usually come into play during the design of a game in how the Designer wants movement and combat/defense to happen; how the Designer wishes the game to unfold for the wargamer. One such way is "Alternate Action" mechanics, which allow the players to alternate from one side to the other, each side taking action until all options available are expended.

One such game is Mark H. Walker's LOCK 'N LOAD: BAND OF HEROES and it's modules ( ). That particular game system uses three distinct Phases in each turn.....the Rally Phase (where disorganized troops try to get fighting-ready once again), the Operations Phase (where all the action happens), and the Administrative Phase (where clean-up of the board happens). This particular game system's turn sequence has an elegance to it that I greatly admire, and also results in extremely fun wargaming.

In the Operations Phase, players each take alternating turns, one after the other, activating and controlling units in a contiguous series of "impulses", until all units eligible for combat or movement are either fired, moved, or purposely left out of the action by the owning player; or once three passes (no action of any unit or units in a hex) are declared in a row. So, this is a lot of action happening in a successive blitz of fast-pace mayhem, so how to keep track of what did what?

Well, as units are moved or fired for instance, they are marked with an "Operations Complete" marker, to help track what has done what. Another nice and simple mechanic found in many different game works!

So breaking down the "impulse", the active player may activate all or some of the units in any one hex during that specific impulse...these units being counters dipicting squads, half squads, weapons teams, and suppot weapons, to name the primary pieces. So that means in a hex that is maxed out (stacking-wise) with three squads (or their equivalent with half-squads), two single man counters (usually leaders or heroes), and two vehicles: The player may decide to move one squad with a leader and a tank; and hold the other two squads, a hero, and another tank in that hex but fire all at an enemy hex. All of these units started in the same hex; all that moved had to move together, and all that stayed put and fired had to fire at the same target in a kind of Firegroup. At the end of the action for these units, and being marked with Ops Complete markers, that "Impulse" concludes and now it's the opponents turn to activate a hex in their impulse turn.

This goes on and on until no more elgible action is available for either player, or the players pass in three successive impulses.

BOH_New_small.jpg (15.89 KiB) Viewed 1137 times

So, a pretty cool mechnic in my opinion. It works wonderfully; keeping the action flowing fast and furious, but that's just the top layer!

Let's break it down a tad further......

The beauty in the "Impulse" system to me is that it leaves so many options open to the wargamer! In the example above, with the forces in one hex spliting up with one faction moving out and one faction hanging back with covering fire, exemplifies this the fact that this was not the only combination of action that could have been put forth from that hex:

The player could have chosen to not fire some units and use them in a later impulse; or even just mobilize one of the units and then mobilize a series of other units spread out through several subsequent impulses.

So this brings us to a key's the units in a hex that activate, not the hex itself.

Not all wargames use this concept, and I for one think those other games miss out on a lot! In real combat, just because a squad didn't immediately fire should not precude it from firing 10-game minutes (in other words, 10 minutes of real battlefield time, not the clock on your wall!) later. This makes sense. I never understood the train of thought of a Designer who insisted on the mechanic that the hex itself activates, and if you don't fire it when the hex activates, it can't fire later...or move.

The mechanic was further flushed out in movement with the concept that if units move through another subsequent hex in which there are friendlies contained therein, such movement does not require the other hexes' occupant units to follow along.

In this particular game system, another cool concept that further expands possibilities, and in a way limits possibilities depending on how you look at it (Glass half full/empty-type deal), is the mechanic of Support Weapons. SW's can be items such as Bazookas or Panzerfausts, and have 'To Hit" tables on the back of their counters which govern their combat capabilities/effectiveness; and SW's are manned by the unit (i.e., Squad, Half-squad, eligible Single Man Counter) sitting directly atop it, designating that unit as "crewing" that Support Weapon.

These SW's must be fired separately (i.e., not adding their Firepower, and firng with the other units targetting the same hex, but rather making a separte roll) or fire at another target altogether. Now yes, I said it was a cool concept, but I'm not sure how I feel about this one myself. Why could a Bazooka not fire at a specific target at the same time as the rest of the squads in the hex?

Yes, it can still fire that impulse at the same target, in essence being "with" the rest of the squads' fire, but it must roll separate from those other squads. The only reason I can think that this mechanic is set up this way is that the addition of the Bazooka's Firepower factor totalling in with the rest of the non-Support Weapon eqipped "firegroup" would create too heavy or over-loaded a fire rating against the enemy.

As a Designer, that would drive me nuts! I would have to "fix it". But that's just me.

So that's "Impulse" mechanic, as exemplified in the fantastic game, LOCK 'N LOAD: BAND OF HEROES, in action.

Weigh in on your thoughts! :D
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Re: Game Design 101: Alternating Impulses in a Turn

Postby 50th » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:36 pm

Good article! I've never played lock and load! (Don't think I've even seen it at any of the conventions, who makes it?).
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Re: Game Design 101: Alternating Impulses in a Turn

Postby Whiterook » Sat May 07, 2011 9:52 pm

50th wrote:Good article! I've never played lock and load! (Don't think I've even seen it at any of the conventions, who makes it?).

I had it demoed to me by the designer, Mark H. Walker, at the origins Game Expo in 2007. I fell in love with it on first sight and bout the core game Band of Heroes and two expansions. He even autographed them for me.

I recommend this game to everyone!
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Re: Alternating Impulses: Drilling Down a Turn

Postby MAGNA » Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:28 am

Just saw this. A good post on an interesting subject. Doing everything in one go followed by the opponent doing
the same isn't always reliable. It's good for games such as chess where you get to build up by each moving only
one piece per move culminating in that one brilliant move.

Table top gaming rules sometimes struggle with this. Most WWII sets are pretty good now as there is scope in
them for defensive fire and overwatch fire for the player not moving. Having the ability to move and fire in your
turn with all your units followed by the opposition doing the same isn't realistic.

The Napoleonic rules used in our group games (see AAR section) have an interesting addition called the
telescoping time concept. Each full move is counted as being one hour in real time. When your units are out
of engagement range (10" for infantry up to 16" for cavalry) they are able to move in the Grand Tactical phase.

The Grand Tactical Phase allows units to move as they would in a one hour period when not engaged - in other
words a lot further than when fighting. For example, infantry columns may be able to move up to 35 inches in
the Grand Tactical Phase. Once engaged they would only be able to move 12" per impulse.

This allows a player to hold reserves in the rear and move them to one end or other of the battle as they are
required. This works quite well and speeds up initial deployment especially. No moving for five or six turns
before the troops get to reach each other.

This can be done with other rulesets by working out how far units could move if not engaged over say, three
moves. Units could be ordered to move from X to Y along the base line and the end position would be marked
by the player on their map (verified by the umpire if you have one). The units are then taken to be moving to
the ordered place for the next three moves. This is ok for WWII as long as the units moving are out of sight of
artillery etc. If they are in sight you would need to notify the opposing team that they have a target
and in which move they can be fired at.

If you play ship, or maybe even fleet space games you can use this mechanism to move at the beginning of the
game by having one ship designated to do three moves with the rest in line astern or echelon etc. Again this
allows you to manoeuvre before getting into engagement range while also being able to reposition your force
as you go. The other advantage is that you get going a lot quicker by simply moving the one ship with the rest
being positioned according to your original placements (changed as you go if necessary). Again moving ships
for five or six moves before getting into firing range is a bit of a waste of precious game time.

Back to the Napoleonic rules. After Grand tactical any units that reached engagement range (within so many
inches of each other depending on the type of unit) will then have to roll for impulses. Each side will have
rolled for initiative which determines who goes first each turn.

You get one to three impulses per turn for each manoeuvre element. In each impulse an element is moved by
unit to either fire, charge, or move. Once a unit in an element carries out a non aggressive move the element
loses the initiative and cannot do any more for the current impulse. This continues until one side has finished
the first impulse then it is time the opposition to have their impulse. This continues until both sides
have exhausted all impulses.

With this it is usually best to get two or three impulses as one will not allow you to do too much. It's good as
well because you can't assume you will be able to do what you want to. A good way to simulate the fog of war
and the difficulty of command.

Using ideas from one ruleset and adding them to another can be quite handy rather than continually changing
to another set in the futile hope of finding that perfect one.
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Re: Alternating Impulses: Drilling Down a Turn

Postby Lucky Luke » Mon Jul 29, 2013 5:13 am

My 0.02 (euro)cents....

First of all a quite severe statement: the perfect ruleset don't exists!!!!

On the other hand, there are around (in the commercial games and home made) some rulesets what ignites a light in our ruthless player's soul, but I think it's only a personal relationship between players and a particular put this clear, I see and feel as 'better' some systems that could be in the lower part of a "top-ten" for all other friends around....

I'm partial for strange rule systems, and sometimes I bought a totally "dud" game only because it had a totally different rule system from the others.

Strictly speaking about boardgames (little or not at all miniature experience, sorry...!) my colection is built with for the most part grand-tactical to tactical games and I can, if you ride

along, list some type of rulesystems I used to play with the most peculiar perk it have, for the game I played.

Remember, I'm speaking of tactical games....thingie like 3 Reich or Europa series are out of my menu...(but I tried them, I swear, before turning down any other invitation to play...)

*** Simultaneous move : it was the predominant system in the golden age days of SPI (do you remember?)but survive someway until now.

Example Games: Starsoldier(SPI), Sniper (SPI-old version), Wooden ships and Iron men(AH),Air force(AH), Dreadnought(SPI), Roborally(AH),Swashbuckler(YAQ),Gladiator(AH),MBT(AH),Wings,MechWar '77(SPI),Panzer '44(SPI),StarFleet Battles(TF)

The players had to plot written orders at the same time every action of every units on the map and then resolve the moves; in the most paleozoic games you can swap the position with an enemy units without any problem (!).

Pro: every unit move and fight, you have to predict the enemy move and plot thereby.

Con: this is a time-consuming system and there are often error and misunderstanding ("oh, I
mean LEFT not right!" is the common one..)in plotting and resolving the written orders.

*** Semi-Simultaneous move :The players do some plotting but they have some mean to modify or detail later their actions.

Example Games: Gunslinger (SPI-AH)

Pro: player could correct their mistake during the move.

Con: the game time have more stop-and-go as players think before plotting and during the turn.

*** Full-turn move :It was the "I move, you move" basic system, with sometimes some interaction of the inactive(not moving!)player as 'opportunity fire' and so on...

Example Games:Car Wars (JG), Frag (JG), Fulda Gap (SPI),G.E.V.(JG),Ogre(JG),Starship Troopers(AH),The Arab-Israeli Wars(AH),The Battle of Lobositz (GDW),The Battle of Prague(GDW)

Pro: Simple! One move, the other guy watches! The not moving player (trust over all!) could use the time to do a "pit-stop" trip to the toilet, drink, have a nap(in the longest turn!!!).

Con: If the game is rather complex the wait can be really long!

*** semi-turn move :Here the turn sequence is broken in sub-phases or the moves are done following an initiative system
Example Games:Downtown: Air War Over Hanoi 1965-1972(Clas Of Arms),Flight Leader(AH),Over the Reich(CLA),Squad Leader(AH),The Speed of Heat/Air Superiority/Air Strike

Pro: For air games is more realistic to have the enemy you are tailing move before you and it's better to have attack phases intermixed with movement to simulate the flowing of a tactical battle like in Squad Leader.

Con: the rules can be complex than ever and often only the fanatic of the subject simulated by the system can cope with it.

*** impulse/chit move :
The order of play is dictated by drawing chits and activate the corrispondent unit or a limited choice of units.
The outcame is different for every game, and is so personal that I should not go in detail.

Example Games:Bug Hunter: Sniper!,Circus Maximus(AH), French Foreign Legion (YAQ),Firepower (AH)

Pro: replay value! The same turn position could turn in very different ones in the end.

Con: the same! Why I don't have to activate all my units in the order I wish ?


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