One of the aspects about wargaming that I really enjoy is replicating the conditions under which the historical battles were fought and then trying to meet or exceed those historical results with the same difficulty that was experienced during the event. I have found that one of the best mechanics to simulate these conditions is the use of a Chit-Pull System that I feel addresses the problem of simulating simultaneous action on the battlefield and issues of command and control during all the confusion of combat. So how does Chit-Pull work? Simple…the current player randomly draws a chit or counter from an opaque container (as hiding the information on the chits is key so no one can know what is coming) identifying a group of units which may now be activated. This Chit-Pull mechanic also allows for solitaire play as both sides can be easily played with the activation mechanism.
We have played lots of Chit-Pull Activation games but I have found three that I think really implement the mechanic well.
3. The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 from GMT Games
There is an entire series of games from Ted Raicer that uses this Chit-Pull mechanic called The Dark Series and includes The Dark Valley: The East Front Campaign, 1941-45, The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 and an upcoming volume called The Dark Summer: Normandy 1944.
The Chits that are included in the game activate either one’s entire force or only portions when pulled, for movement, combat, and sometimes both together. I really feel that type of action selection is very interesting and gives you lots of choices about how you want to utilize your units.
The one issue that sometimes rears its ugly head in a Chit-Pull system is that one player may have several of their Chits pulled in a row leaving the other player simply sitting there taking it on the chin until their unit’s Chits are pulled. In The Dark Sands, there are limits on the number of Chits one side may play in a row as the smaller armies and more limited battlefields of North Africa meant the armies were better able to quickly react to one another’s actions. This is dealt with a special rule that states that only two Chits from one side can be pulled and happen in a row. This rule really reinforces the ability of the historical units in the battle to react and imrpoves the playability of the game.
The Logistics Chit is also a fantastic implementation of the Chit-Pull system as you have to enforce Supply Checks when the Chit is pulled and this is totally random, which I think is fascinating. Normally in wargames, you know that your units have to be in Supply at the end of a turn but not so in The Dark Sands. You have to worry about Supply at all times during the game and you will be surprised how often you are caught unawares and out of Supply and your momentum and ability to attack can be supremely compromised.
The best part of the design though is the narrative that it creates using the Chits. Each time a Chit is drawn it will be placed on the Action Chit Record Track which is used mainly to keep track of the “no more than two Chits in a row” rule mentioned above but it also have a very cool side role in recording the narrative. After you have played a game, you have a ready reminder of what happened and when and I like that, especially if players are into writing AAR’s. Overall I think that I really like The Dark Series and it’s implementation of the Chit-Pull mechanic and am now chomping at the bit to play the other two volumes in the series.
2. Armageddon War: Platoon Level Combat in the End War from Flying Pig Games
A few years ago, we came across a really interesting and well designed game on a future war what-if scenario called Armageddon War. We liked the game so much that it ended up as my Best Game of 2018. But the reason that we liked it was the Chit-Pull activation system. Turn taking in combat games can often be the most important aspect. Some games are simply I-Go-You-Go. Others use some other random method. But most games have a beginning phase, actions/activations phase, and then clean up and admin. You then move to the next round and do it all over again. Not so with Armageddon War. This game uses a Chit-Pull activation system, which is nothing new. What is new is that there are no traditional static game rounds; only a fixed number of activations. A scenario might be 30 activations long for example. The game uses a sort of rolling activation system. Once you pull the last Chit from the bag and place it on the activation track you then pull all the ones behind it off the track and put them back into the bag.
There’s no clean up and end of round procedures. Any rallying or whatever you might expect to do in such a phase is done at the beginning of each units activation. You just keep on rolling. There’s a couple of special Command Chits that you can use when one of your Chits is drawn – it replaces that Chit. This Command Chit activates which ever platoon you want (including the one just drawn), but also puts the just-drawn Chit back into the bag. This enables you to get an extra activation with one formation or put what might be a “wasted activation” on a unit further away from the fray.
Either way, this rolling activation means the combat feels like one single battle. There’s no arbitrary rounds, enabling everyone to activate, everyone will activate but the state of the battle field is always fluid and in flux. Units that are in bad shape might not get the chance to reactivate, or they might get a fortuitous draw and save themselves. Either way, I’ve never played a game where a battle felt quite as dynamic as this one. The action felt constant and unrelenting. After a scenario gets done you breath a little easier now that the fury of combat is over. Seriously, this game succeeds at giving you a continuous battle feeling and is easily one of the best aspects of this game. It provides tension, realism, and chaos.
I would love to see this system put into other games as it was very dynamic and added to our enjoyment of this game. Well done to the design team!
1. At Any Cost: Metz 1870 from GMT Games
Hermann Luttman is a master of design and we have enjoyed several of his games but found At Any Cost a few years ago and still love it to this day. The action in At Any Cost is controlled by the Chit-Pull System that it uses, which is called the Blind Swords System. The Blind Swords System was originally designed for Duel of Eagles published by Compass Games in 2013. The system emphasizes the three “FOW’s” of military conflict: fog-of-war, friction-of-war and fortunes-of-war. The system mixes events with activation Chits and does not guarantee that each unit on the board will be able to activate each turn or that each unit will only activate once. The system is designed to force players to make tough decisions with each Chit pull and really is a neat system that causes some angst but keeps the game play experience fun.
The Chits that are included in the mix for each scenario are very different. These Chits will be made up of an activation Chit for each corps involved in the scenario, along with several other types, including random events, Fortunes of War and Commander in Chief Chits.
There are three type of Random Events including those that you will play immediately, those that give you an option of playing immediately or holding onto or those that you will hold and play only when you are allowed to play it. There are too many to go through here but I will give you a sampling of some of the events.
Moulin a Cafe (French event) – This Combat receives a 3 column shift to the right. After resolving the combat, roll a die: on a roll of 1-5, the firing unit is given one Ammunition Problems hit.
Auftragstaktik (Prussian event) – All Prussian Infantry units in a chosen box can each move up to half their Movement Allowance. If any of the units are then adjacent to s French unit, they may then conduct an Assault Combat with a 2 Column shift to the right.
When the Fortunes of War Chit is drawn, the non-drawing player gets to roll 1d10 and consults the following table for the outcome.
This is a chaotic Chit that really adds in some interesting situations. The Wayward unit one is fun as this allows the player to move a unit of the side identified one space. If this move causes the unit to move adjacent to an enemy unit, Defensive Fire will occur. The Degrade/Enhance the Next Chit is interesting as it will be placed by the draw cup. If an event chit is drawn with the Degrade the Next Chit out, it will not go off. If an event is drawn with the Enhance the Next Chit out, the owning player of the event will get an increased benefit and be able to use a “Krupp’s Guns” (basically a free artillery fire attack with one unit) if Prussian and a “Beaten Zone” (basically a free artillery or Mitrailleuse attack with one unit) if French. There are some additional benefits and negatives associated with these outcomes, such as being forced to choose a Defensive Posture (more on this below), which is not good when you have those French units on the ropes and you just want to knock them out with an Assault! The Leader Casualty and Lull in Battle are also neat additions to the game as they create lots of problems that players will have to deal with.
Each side has one Commander in Chief Chits in their mix. “Prussian General Staff” for the Prussian player and “Marshal Bazaine” for the French. Each of the Chits offer the same benefit when drawn, allowing the player who owns the Chit to activate one single unit or a grouped division (being defined as units from same division that are located within 2 hexes of another unit from the same division). The real power in these Chits is that you can activate units that are even Out of Command.
One final word on this aspect of the game. It is really cool that when you draw an activation Chit for a division, the player has to choose what is referred to as Posture. The chosen Posture will set the parameters for the activated HQ and its subordinate units for activations during the turn. There are two possible Postures; Aggressive and Defensive.
Aggressive Posture means that units can move up to their full Movement, Engage enemy units, conduct Fire Combat and Assault Combat. Cavalry units under an Aggressive Posture can Charge. The only real detraction from this posture is that units cannot use the Road March and gain its advantage of additional movement.
Defensive Posture means that units can only move up to half their full Movement, use Road March, conduct Fire Combat (but not Assault Combat), Rally and build Earthworks.
At Any Cost is a great example of a true Chit-Pull Activation System and holds down the number one spot for me.
A few others that we have played and really enjoyed were Brave Little Belgium from Hollandspiele and White Star Rising from Lock ‘n Load Publishing. What other Chit-Pull Activation System games have you had a good experience with and can recommend?