This one has been a long time in my mind. It will likely be the most controversial of my thoughts on fixing Warhammer Fantasy as it’s a big change to a fundamental mechanic of the game.
Part of the issue with all Warhammer games (both Fantasy and 40k) is the amount of engagement a player has when it’s not their turn. Most players, I’ve noticed, often tend to hit a state of attention deficit during their opponent’s turn. People will start chatting with other people around the area, messing with their phones, or even wander off to do other activities – like grabbing another slice of pizza etc…
The only aspects that a player interacts with the game when it’s not their turn comes down to rolling reactions to the other player’s actions and removing dead models from the board. None of these things involve a high level of tactics. Do you let spell X go, cause you are saving dice for spell Y later? Do you Stand and Shoot or Flee? These are not really engaging. The only engaging phase in the entire game is close combat as both players roll, but there is still few choices going on.
The problem with the standard rules on turn phases is that they are steeped in boredom. There is very little going on at all when it’s not your turn. Movement phase has your opponent moving his guys around. The only responses needed from you is how you receive a charge. If you face a gun line or a skirmishing force, you will essentially do nothing in this phase as you will rarely be charged.
Next up is the magic phase. This has a little more choice, but not much. You are left with option of choosing to let something go, or try to stop it. It can have a little more tactics in this phase like choosing to let a damaging spell tear apart a unit so you can save dispel dice for something that could be much, MUCH worse. The thing I don’t like about the way this phase functions is that it’s a purely defensive phase for one player.
One player is left taking the fetal position and waiting for the beating to stop. Hopefully they can get a hand in the way of one of the magic boots stomping on them. So while it has some choice, the choices aren’t really involved.
After the magic phase is the shooting phase. Again there is no real options here. They shoot, you bend over and take it. The only thing you might end up doing in this phase when it’s not your turn is removing casualties and moving fleeing units. Not exactly inspiring actions. Again you are essentially just taking it and not actually being involved.
Finally we get the combat phase. This one is actually an engaging phase, but there is not really a lot of choice here as most units just fling their dice and that’s it. Getting characters involved might give some options like challenges, or who to attack, but that’s about it. Still it’s vastly more engaging than the other phases.
So what do we do to save players from being bored to death when it’s not their turn? What I suggest is to go to a unit by unit activation, while still trying to maintain the main phases that Warhammer uses.
So first of all, we’ll keep the main phases as they are currently : 1) Movement Phase, 2) Magic Phase, 3) Shooting Phase, 4) Close Combat Phase.
The first change will be who goes first. Usually you would roll off to see who goes first, or follow the scenario’s rules. For the first turn of the game, we will keep these determinations as they are in the rule book. After the first turn, players will roll off every turn to determine who goes first.
After determining the first player in the turn, we will go through the phases as follows:
1) Movement Phase
The first player elects a unit and moves it as per the rules. This can include movements like charging, marching, etc… Once that movement is complete (including random moves like charging and fleeing), the turn passes to the other player. That player then completes a move and passes back to the first player. This continues until both players have moved all units.
All units will need to be elected in the movement phase, even if they choose not to move. Once a unit is elected and declines movement, then cannot be selected to move again in this phase. Units locked in combat cannot be elected to move.
If one player completes all of their unit’s movement and the other player still has units to move, the other player gets to finish all un-elected unit’s movement.
2) Magic Phase
Calculate the power pool and dispel pool of dice for both players as per the rules. I have made a previous post on some suggestions for a different way to create a power and dispel pool, which will work with these rules. That post can be found here : https://thedicehateme.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/fixing-whfb-magic/
Note that both players generate both pools at the same time. Different coloured dice would be a good way to differentiate these pools.
The First player then starts as the ‘casting’ player. They choose and cast (or at least attempt to) any single spell that they usually could in accordance to the rules. The ‘non-casting’ player may then choose to dispel as per the rules. After this cast / dispel attempt is completed, the player’s roles switch. So the casting player becomes the non-casting player and vice versa.
If a player elects to cast no more spells, the opposing player becomes the casting player for the rest of the turn until they also choose to cast no more spells. The loss of any spell casters do not affect the pools generated during this phase, but the pools will obviously be effected in future turns.
3) Shooting Phase
Once again, the first player elects a valid unit with a shooting option. They complete a shooting action as per the rules (archers fire bows, cannon fire cannon balls, goblin doom divers take the ride of their lives, etc…) Once a unit has completed it’s shot, the turn again passes to the other player who repeats the process. Again this goes back and forth until the players have shot with every legal unit they wish to. And again is one player has no further shooting units, the other player gets to shoot with the rest of theirs.
4) Close Combat Phase
This is the one that actually needs no change. The close combat phase actually works in the concept that both players are doing something. It’s not exactly making tactical choices, but it can be fun and exciting depending on the abilities involved and the fickle dice gods, so it stays as normal.
Hopefully these changes will keep both players reacting and acting in the game consistently. I have noticed with games that follow a back and forth mechanic like this, that players generally seem more into what they are doing. You don’t really get people’s attention wandering anywhere near as much. These changes should bring Warhammer out of the 80’s and more to the modern table top activation mechanic.
Remember in the early days of Warhammer Fantasy there were a lot fewer models on the board. So the original method of I move, shoot, fight and magic with everything then pass, worked much better than it does now. As model counts increased, so did the time between you doing something in the game and sitting there waiting to do something again.
So what do you think of these changes? Would you like to be more engaged during a Warhammer game?