Bringing Back Strategy Cards

In our most recent Apocalypse game, the Battle for Argos Prime, we wanted to mix things up a bit from standard Apocalypse games.  One way we decided to do that was to eliminate Strategic Assets from the game, and replace them with 2nd Edition style “Strategy Cards.”

The problem I have with Strategic Assets from the Apocalypse book is that they’re completely unbalanced.  Some assets are very good and you’ll see them in most every game you play.  Other assets are obviously inferior, and rarely (if ever) make it to the table top.  The end result is that in a given game of Apocalypse (at least in our area), you’ll find the following assets:

  • Flank March
  • Disrupter Beacon
  • Careful Planning
  • Vortex Grenade

In comparison, I’ve never seen any of the following assets used:

  • Tunnels
  • Anti-Plant Barrage
  • Long Range Ack-Ack

<Rant On>

And, while I’m on the subject, I have to take a moment to rant on the option for “Jammers.”  The idea behind it is to disrupt communication so that teams won’t be able to coordinate their deployment, and it does a reasonable job of tying into the fluff.  The problem I have with this option is three-fold:

  1. In most Apoc games, sides are chosen ahead of time, so this card can be fairly easily nullified by coordinating with your team before you ever make it to the game, or talking strategy with your team before table-edges are picked.
  2. There is no penalty for violating the jammers rule.  It simply says the opponents can’t talk, but if they happen to communicate, what’s the repercussion?
  3. This is the big one.  Apocalypse games are supposed to be fun, epic battles.  Forcing people to “shut-up” for five minutes really starts things off on the wrong foot.  It makes the deploying team resent the fact that they can’t talk, and creates and adversarial tone for the rest of the game.  The last thing I want to do is start a day of fun by upsetting one side…

</Rant Off>

Ok, so where was I?  Oh yeah… the Strategic Assets, as well as the formations, aren’t balanced, and the result is that you see the same choices again and again.

I had originally considered randomizing these assets, but it left the chance for vast differences in power (what happens when one team gets all “good” assets, and the other is left with anti-plant?).  I also considered changing the way assets work by dividing them into tiers.  Each player could get several lower tier assets for the same price as a Tier1 asset (such as Flank March).  Conceptually, this would seem to work, but then I remembered how fun our games of 2nd Edition were with the advent of Strategy Cards.

For those that don’t remember, Strategy Cards were really the predecessors to the Strategic Assets known today.  They came out in the Dark Millenium expansion to 2nd Edition, and included 18 cards that were dealt out to players based upon point values.  My memory is a little shakey at this point.  At the begining of each game, each player received a card for each 1,000 points their army contained.  So, if you played a 2,000 point battle, each participant would get 2 asset cards.

The reason my memory is sketchy here, is that our local gaming group never felt like it was enough, so we might have fudged two changes.  First of all, I think we added the modifier “or fraction thereof” to their definition (and played games of 2,001 points just for that extra card) and sometimes reduced the point values to one card per 750 points.  The “fraction thereof” might have been a real rule, or it could’ve been a house rule… I’m not sure.

Anywho, these cards contained minor strategems that would make small differences, that generally affected a single model (except for the dreaded “Virus Outbreak,” which was insanely overpowered).  So, I planned to make a few simple modifications to these cards to update them for 5th edition, and use those to replace the standard Strategic Assets in our Apocalypse game.

But why reinvent the wheel?  It turns out that the guys over at Under the Couch, have already done this for us!  You can download those cards from their site using this link.  The only problem with using the cards as is from UTC is that I didn’t have card stock to print them out on.  So, I bought some double-sided business card stock and reformatted the cards within Microsoft Word to fit to the new cards.  While I was typing them out, I also took the liberty to modify the wording on a few cards to better fit with Apocalypse.  I also opted to “invent” a few more.   The changes and new card ideas I had can be found below:

Changes:

  • Surprise Assault – Edit to indicate it only works against a single opponent.
  • Covering Fire – I changed this card completely to allow a squad to infiltrate, and get a free round of shooting.
  • Reinforcements – Changed the last line to say “The replacements come on from your table edge at the start of your next turn” (since Apoc doesn’t have “reserves”)
  • Insane Courage – Added a free round of shooting to the rallying unit.
  • Master Tactician – Added “In an Apocalypse game, you may bring on one extra unit from Strategic Reserves per turn (including the first) than would normally be allowed).”
  • Broken Communication – Added “In an Apocalypse game, nominate one unit or formation controlled by an opponent.  It does not arrive until turn 3”
  • Misfire – Added the line “at least one hit must be taken by the firing model.”
  • Assassins – Changed it to “takes a STR4, AP- shot that causes Instant Death”
  • Traitor – Clarified that the Traitor is the unit that is removed from the battle, not the IC.

New Cards:

  • Premonition:  “Play this card at any time to cancel out the effects of one of the following: Ambush, Assassins, Barrage, Battlefield Confusion, Booby Traps, Broken Communication, Covering Fire, Delayed, Forced March, Malfunction, Master Tactician, Reinforcements, Strafing Run, Surprise Assault, or Traitor.”
  • Ablative Armour: “Play this card when one of your vehicles suffers a penetrating hit, but before the roll on the damage table.  The vehicle ignores the hit entirely.  Additionally, all armour values for the vehicle are increased by one for the remainder of the game.”
  • Malfunction: “Play this card at any time.  Nominate a vehicle to experience the malfunction.  That vehicle takes an automatic glancing hit, and has all of it’s armour values reduced by one for the remainder of the game.”
  • Forced March: “Play this card during your movement phase.  Nominate a single unit that is still in reserves.  This unit automatically passes it’s reserve roll for this turn and may choose to enter the board from any table edge.”
  • Brilliant Strategy: “Play this card at the start of the game before attempting to seize initiative.  Seizing initiative happens on a roll of 4+ (instead of 6+).  For games that don’t normally allow the initiative to be seized, you can still seize on the roll of a 6+.”
  • Virus Outbreak!: “Play this card at any time.  Choose a model in an enemy unit and place the large blast centered on that model.  All models touched by the template take a strength 3, AP2 hit with no cover or invulnerable saves allowed.  Wounded units must pass a pinning test.”
  • Special Issue: “Choose an Independant Character in your army.  You may equip that model with one of the following (in addition to any other equipment he has–see appropriate codex for rules):
    • Thunderhammer
    • Stormshield
    • Relic Blade
    • Inferno Pistol
    • Psychic Hood
    • Haywire Grenades
    • Jump Pack
    • Conversion Beamer

Astute players of 2nd edition will recognize the names of most of the cards above, if not their specific effects.  I tried to stay true to the classic cards to the best of my ability while making them fit with the rules of 5th edition and the powerscale of the other cards.

After the game, I also stumbled upon a similar solution on GW’s site.  They designed a series of cards for Planetary Empires with many similar names and effects to those listed above.  Those cards could be easily used/modified to fit within standard 40k or Apocalypse games as well.

Anywho, I hope this gives some of you ideas on how to spice up your games by changing some simple rules.  As a whole, I think these cards were a great success in our recent Apoc game, and now that I’ve explained the ideas behind it, look forward to a post of how they were actually used during the game!   Also, if you liked this post and are curious as to what the original 2nd edition strategy cards were like in their unmolested form, be sure to check out Big Jim’s recent blog post on the subject over at Galaxy in Flames.

Kitty picture from icanhascheezburger.com.

 

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20 comments on “Bringing Back Strategy Cards

  1. Very Kool! This topic is great and it's weird that you posted it today, as I have a similar topic to be posted later this afternoon. I'll give you a shout out and a link when mine goes up. Great minds and all that…-Jim

  2. They look really fun. More characterful and down to earth than the strategic assets. I'd certainly rather play Apocalypse with these than the very powerful assets.If you used these instead of strategic assets, what did you do about the assets that come with an Apocalypse formation? Did you allow their use in those circumstances? Or just say 'tough'?

  3. It must be one of those weird days… I was just working on a review of podcasts inspired by your previous posts.I appreciate the link… Once your post goes live, I'll be happy to edit this with a link to that as well. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say on the subject. 🙂

  4. Well, our actual rule was:”Strategic Assets as displayed in the Apocalypse and Apocalypse Reload rulebook are not allowed. New custom strategic assets will be distributed randomly to each player before the game begins. You may still purchase formations from various rulebooks that include strategic assets, but you will not receive the assets to use in the game.”The idea was that we didn't want to prevent people from purchasing formations, and we still allowed people to use rules that came with a given formation (but not the assets). Surprisingly, a fair amount of formations were still used. Both Tyranid players fielded the Carnifex Crusher Broods and the Genestealer Infestations. We allowed their special rules as neither made any mention of strategic assets.All of the rules we used are posted on an earlier thread if you'd like to check them out:http://www.warhammer39999.com/2010/05/the-battl

  5. Very Kool! This topic is great and it's weird that you posted it today, as I have a similar topic to be posted later this afternoon. I'll give you a shout out and a link when mine goes up. Great minds and all that…-Jim

  6. They look really fun. More characterful and down to earth than the strategic assets. I'd certainly rather play Apocalypse with these than the very powerful assets.If you used these instead of strategic assets, what did you do about the assets that come with an Apocalypse formation? Did you allow their use in those circumstances? Or just say 'tough'?

  7. It must be one of those weird days… I was just working on a review of podcasts inspired by your previous posts.I appreciate the link… Once your post goes live, I'll be happy to edit this with a link to that as well. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say on the subject. 🙂

  8. Well, our actual rule was:”Strategic Assets as displayed in the Apocalypse and Apocalypse Reload rulebook are not allowed. New custom strategic assets will be distributed randomly to each player before the game begins. You may still purchase formations from various rulebooks that include strategic assets, but you will not receive the assets to use in the game.”The idea was that we didn't want to prevent people from purchasing formations, and we still allowed people to use rules that came with a given formation (but not the assets). Surprisingly, a fair amount of formations were still used. Both Tyranid players fielded the Carnifex Crusher Broods and the Genestealer Infestations. We allowed their special rules as neither made any mention of strategic assets.All of the rules we used are posted on an earlier thread if you'd like to check them out:http://www.warhammer39999.com/2010/05/the-battl

  9. I'm not sure I completely agree with you about the overpowered nature of some of the assets. I think a few factors combine to make some assets powerful.1) If you have an entire reserve army (such as drop podding tyranids….) then careful planning really is needed. It is almost crucifying to play the first turn of apoc one player down. That said if you only have a few units in reserve it's not that useful. 2) I think the popularity of flank march has more to do with the table formation than other things. Most apoc games seem to be on long thin tables, so the ability to come in at any point is hugely devastating. (Table's being only 4' wide) yet if you play on an 8' square table with the objectives in the middle flank march looses it's value, players deploy up into the centre and stay there. 3) Disruption beacons should be modeled to be be in similar size to a monstrous creature. At this size they die quickly and loose their effectiveness. 4) Long range ack-ack is indeed underpowered. The point I'm sort of trying to make is that the asses are only overpowered in certain situations. One of the things I believe about apocalypse is you need a scenario where the scenario drives the objectives. No sticking objective markers down on a long thin table and playing to capture those on the last turn, it skewers the game in one direction. If you augment this with other ways of earning VP's (such as assassination of a character, killing bastions, having different types of deployment) which are explainable in under 10 minutes, the game changes and different units/assets come out on top.Just as a quick example, if you let the defending side set up in the middle of the board inside a fortress, and then have the attackers set up more than 12' from the edge of the fortress, flank march won't be used, but tunnels now become an interesting option. Likewise if you're fighting over a particular piece of hallowed ground, and you go second, take the assets that gives you 3 scheduled bombardments on a particular predetermine board piece. Turns 2, 3, and 4 will do nicely. Just my 3c.

  10. And an excellent $.03 it is. Let me start by saying that no Assets in Apoc are instaing IWIN buttons, I only meant to say that they're comparatively overpowered to the other assets that exist. Your suggestions are all great, but they also involve the use of house-rules (something I'm advocating). By default, Apoc lets the players set up the game by alternating objectives, has a default deployment, etc., any of which can be changed to make the game more dynamic (and likely fun). This is precisely the kind of stuff I aim to do in the future. Hopefully you don't mind me using some of these suggestions in upcoming games. 🙂

  11. for me,loved the cards, I'm a competitive player at heart and fairness is something i yearn for in my game play. Apoc is not a fair environment to start with, so anything that takes away from a players ability to milk the open ended rules but doesn't render the game boring is cool with me. i'm not sure if you did this, but some of the cards were still underwhelming compared to others (like you said), so perhaps if each 3 card deck is setup before hand so that it includes a powerful card and 2 minor cards that would help balance it out even more. Obviously “minor” can change depending on the army its being used by, but nothing is ever perfect.i also think the cards should focus on support or defense, rather then directly killing other models. I didn't really enjoy the virus bomb card that killed a couple terminators before the game started, not saying i was all butt hurt about it or anything, but models dieing pre-game isn't usually fun. An alternative could be that a single unit would give re-rolls to wound for the opponent or something, essentially the same as the eldar “doom” psychic power. Point being its not just “those are dead” its a support the player gets but it still requires action on their side to make it really work.You might even tie the support cards in with a secret mission, so the player gets cards roughly designed to assist them in their mission, or maybe 2 of 3 are and 1 random card.anyway just spewing ideas, overall i loved em and you did a great job!

  12. Good points, one and all. You're right in that some cards are underwhelming (for instance, strafing run), but I didn't bother to mix them up. Some cards that seem underwhelming to one player, might seem incredibly powerful to another. For instance, I don't think a Tyranid player would've had half the joy you had with Divine Inspiration. :)As for creating special cards for a mission, we sort of did that. Without tipping my hand too much, Blaine and Sam both effectively had their own cards with the personal objectives–I just didn't bother to print them up. I've already written a post up on those, but it'll go up next week (when I'm on vacation)…

  13. Sounds cool, and before you rip on me for being gone… Curse you! Wish I'd been there… 'cuz you know I would've won, I can do that now! Oh, By the way, heard you saw my dad earlier today, how strange! 😉

  14. Steal them all away. The other point is that people 'expect' to get assets, which in my opinion is a little bit wrong. I think they work better as either a point balancer, or 1 per side.That said one very good house rule for small games is '1 asset for arriving by start time with your army set up'. The player who used to run that had no problems starting on time.

  15. Pingback: The Fall of Morrsleb (The Rules: Revisted) | Warhammer 39,9999

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