One of the big bugbears of wargaming for me and others that I know, is how to make a simple 'pick up' game more interesting without having to come up with fancy scenarios etc. You know the sort of thing, mate comes round with his army and sets it up same as always and you play a game with little or no context and it plays pretty much as always with fairly predictable results. Obviously a campaign throws a spanner in the works and so can scenarios, all for the better that is, but when you have neither and just want to get straight into it, games can get a little predictable, knowing that you have these units and he has those units every single time.
A few months ago we started getting this problem and decided that something had to give, so we developed our own unit cards and moreover a way to use them other than just as a quick reference to what each units stats are. Basically we have a card made for each and every unit, commander and special character that we use in our games and before a game we decide what the points value of the force we will use or even the limit on how many cards we want to use for the game. With this done we shuffle each pack of cards (excluding commanders and special characters) and deal out a set number of cards that we know will fall within the safe limits of the points value for the game, for example 1,000pts. The points values are added together and let's say they add up to 800pts, which is 200pts lower than we need, we deal cards one at a time until the points value is reached or exceeded by a few points (just a few though). Now the commanders are in another pile and the special characters are put in a separate pile and we simply agree the amount of commanders or special characters each side has depending upon the size of force we have agreed upon.
When it comes to deployment each player sorts out his army into command groups adding his commander and any special character to the group and deploys them face down on the table exactly where they will be deployed. All rules pertaining to where different troop types may be deployed and the mix of units within a command group are adhered to of course and then the cards are turned face up to reveal what unit is where. Obviously some special character cards my come into play now, such as 'The Scoutmaster General' and can be used to reveal some part of an opponents force before it is revealed allowing you to redeploy some of your own units etc. This can be a very nasty shock to find that your opponent has weighted a flank with all of his best cavalry or even with dragoons and commanded shot.
Once the cards are revealed and the shock of each player is overcome, the cards are in turn replaced by the actual unit that is represents. The cards themselves are usually putt on the base line of the table as a quick reference to the unit and values or special rules. In terms of how all of this plays out, it is very much all done simultaneously and from start to finish takes only a few minutes requiring no umpire at all, and It is even suitable for solitaire play. Overall this is really quick to set up and is really rewarding, adding a lot of spice to what can usually be the same old bland pick up games.
Making the unit cards is pretty easy really, you can of course do it the 'old fashioned' way with card and pens or if you are able to use a computer and printer you could very easily make them using any suitable software. My own are made using Open Office, which I like using and is totally free to download and very easy to use. I will do a tutorial for anyone that needs to know exactly how to do this and post it tomorrow.
Stephen Wylde BA (hons)