Combat – ‘Initiative’

September 10th, 2011

I going to be putting out a ‘simple rules set’, dealing with gangs, which starts to tread on the toes of the Technical Sphere. The games of the Technical Sphere are all about individual combat. This type of game starts of very small, almost RPG or warband scale. The small-scale allows multiple (new) players on both sides. Each player controls a single miniature on the table top known as a PC (Player Character). This allows lots of new players to be introduced to the simple rules all together.

The ‘multiple player on one side’ present a problem as it messes with the current turn management system used in the Tactical Sphere. New rules are needed to sort out turn order. These new rules apply to the whole of the Technical Sphere, so I thought I would separate them out into their own thread for more scrutiny.


Traditionally some form of initiative stat is used in wargames and RPGs. Initiative systems in wargames and RPGs determine the order of actions. WarSpike does not have that. A quick recap;

Tactical Sphere: This sphere of war deals with battles, and each player has a whole army to command. One player is the Instigator, the other the Retaliator.

The Instigator is the army that ‘starts’ the fight, moving into enemy territory, advancing on a defended position (those in defended positions are always Retaliators), or springing an Ambush (Ambushers are always the Instigator).

The Instigator goes first. Armies are made up of units. Units are moved one at a time. The Instigator can choose which order their units move. Each movement of a unit results in the Retaliator reacting to that move with one of their units. The two units (Instigator’s and Retaliator’s) are resolved as a pair (ignoring everything else on the battle field). Once resolved, the Instigator moves onto their next unit, and the whole process repeats. This continues until all units have been moved.

If this does not make sense in this abridged form (I’m still working on the language to get the concepts across as easily as possible) please check the turn sequence on the main WarSpike development blog: Turn Sequence: Basics.

New rules

This is fine for the Tactical Sphere where one player can choose the order. However, in a game where there are several players on a side, and each player controls a single miniature on the table top, the typical system used in the Tactical Sphere no longer functions: as no one player is in charge who can determine the order. If a gang is drilled (like in the military or police) they could elect a leader and move as a unit, but that’s a Tactical Sphere game.

In the simple rules game, which deals with gangs who lack this level of organisation, we need to devise a system to manage individuals and their move order.

Design note: I purposely avoided any form of ‘initiative’ stat/ calculation common in many wargames and RPGs. As the Tactical Sphere does not use it, I did not want to suddenly introduce it within the smaller scale of the Technical Sphere. I also wanted something that is very simple to implement.

Rule: the Instigator closest to a Retaliator acts first.

Fig 1: two opposing sides, each of three men. The group on the left are the Instigators, marked I1, I2, and I3. The group on the right are the Retaliators, marked R1, R2, and R3.

Fig 2: The Instigator closest to any of the Retaliators is I2. I2 becomes ‘active’, and targets R3 (the closest Retaliator).

Fig 3: As R3 is the closest to I2, and is being targeted for an action, it will react. R3 becomes ‘active’ too (reactive). Both I2 and R3 are now active. Once you have a pair of opposing active combatants it is resolved immediately.

Resolution: The action of I2, and reaction of R3, are resolved together. This resolving both action and reaction together is very important, for example: If I2 charges R3, then R3 could react with a counter charge, and they would me in the middle.

Everything else on the table top is ignored, until this is resolved.

Once resolved the Instigator player determines which of his other models are now the closest to a Retaliator.

I2 and R3 are ignored when matching the next pair as they are engaged (later add-ons allow for ganging up, re-tageting, etc. and where things start to get tactical – but all start from this basic rule: closest acts first.)

Well that’s the concept of the WarSpike ‘initiative’ system. There are a lot of add-ons, but this is the heart of it. I plan to do lots of diagrams to show how it works each and every step.

While I’m thinking off add-ons…


Although the (single) Instigator closest to a Retaliator becomes ‘active’, and gets to act first, other Instigators near the active one can join in and ‘follow the leader’. If the active Instigator moves towards the enemy, and any other Instigators close by (within 2” on the table top) may follow.

This allows the (single) active Instigator to ‘lead’ a group of Instigators. This is not real leadership as such, the followers merely ‘piggy back’ on the active Instigators initiative. The ‘leader’ cannot command them as such, and the unit does not have any special manoeuvres it can perform. ‘Following’ does not require a Mentality check.

Note: this behaviour of ‘follow the leader’ is the basis of units.

In order to lead the single miniature has to be upfront, and facing the enemy. All followers pile in behind them, but all followers must be behind the lead (180° rear arc) and within 2”.

Note for future: this leading from the front is vital. High ranking ‘leaders’ in an army do not lead from the front, and instead they hand that role to lower ranking officers. The high-ranking leaders give orders and low-ranking officers carry them out. It is the low-ranking officers that actually lead their men into battle.

In response the Retaliator can do likewise. The single Retaliator closest to the active Instigator becomes active, and all Retaliators within 2” can join in with what the active Retaliator is doing.

All movement of the Retaliator must be directly towards the Instigator. Any contacts between Instigators and Retaliators result in combat. Instigators and Retaliators keep moving towards each other until all are in contact. If all of one side is in combat, and the other side has men free, they can gang up.

Often this can ends up in one massive (rugby) scrum as players pile in the followers to back up their leaders.

Categories: Rules |

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