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:
- Anti-Plant Barrage
- Long Range Ack-Ack
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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…
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:
- 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.
- 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):
- 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.