Big Danged Boats, or BDB, is a game of my own devising for larger scale, 15mm ship to ship combats in a fantasy setting. I’m shamelessly an admirer of its general goofiness and desire not to be taken seriously– and frankly, that tends to lead to the downside of my “what the heck, everything AND the kitchen sink” design approach. I love BDB as it is but there are so many components and so many differences in basic mechanics of ships that games become difficult to set up and difficult to execute. One of the existing elements I’m not crazy about is the initiative system, which is simply rolling a dice and counting up to 10. Simple, I guess, but it has no action/counteraction dynamic, like real initiative does. Even worse, people sit around waiting for things to happen, and that’s not fun.
Therefore, I’m proposing a system of interactive Initiative bidding for BDB, inspired by a card game I vaguely remember. I’m not sure if we’re going to go with this or not but I’m certainly going to test it. Turns are structured around initiative actions– At start of game, each player is handed a deck of Initiative Bid cards, numbered 1-10. Every turn, he/she bids an initiative action or actions. They can then Move (Full), Shoot, Ram, Board, Cast Spells and maybe a few other things I haven’t thought of yet. This is obviously a number 1-10. The lower number moves first. Higher numbers (when in missile range) subtract the lower numbers from their card. The difference is “reactions”. These are a number of specified actions the reacting ship can do in response to the initiative ship. The turn continues until every ship captain has used every initiative bid card in their hand, and discarded them into their own discard pile.
Reactions include: Fire a volley, move a stick, cast a spell, abandon ship. I might add more. Note that RAMMING isn’t on this list.
In a multiple ship duel, engagement with ships with lower initiative numbers ACTING before an enemy REACTS. If the ship is out of extreme missile range of any other ship (unlikely), it can move a single stick per action, or cast a spell (and possibly other actions). If the ship is within missile range, but not ramming range, it may move a single stick per action, fire or cast spells. If the ship can RAM within one movement stick (and wants to ram), it moves to ram. If the opposing ship has at least one action left (from subtracting that ship’s lower initiative from it’s higher initiative), it may attempt a half move to avoid ram. If it has more than one action left, it may move and shoot, or move and cast, etc.
A ship may also bank any unused actions in overwatch mode until the end of the round, at which point they must be expended. The ship will remain stationery until something — the end of the turn, or a combat from another ship, causes them to expend their banked actions immediately. Track these with colored beads or markers.
Note that the ship captain can’t reuse an initiative card until he/she has cycled through the entire initiative deck, 1-10. Initiative cards are discarded to a discard pile after use and then then after the last card is used they may be picked up again. (Design note, I may cap initiative cards at a lower number, like 7 or 8, 10 seems pretty high).
sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and all of them are mutual enemies, the default engagement is to the ship that is closest to the ship with the lower initiative.
sub case: if there are multiple ships in the battle space and some of them are aligned, the lower initiative ship moves, the CLOSER ship reacts (enemy or ally), and then the NEXT CLOSEST ship reacts, etc.
Examples (refer to above diagram):
- A, B, and C are all mutually hostile and have just drawn initiative cards. B to C is medium gun range. A to B is long gun range. A to C is out of range. Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6. B moves first, and not caring which ship he antagonizes he decides to target C. He has four actions. He moves three sticks for 3, fires for one and he is done. Ship C’s 6, minus B’s 4, is 2. Ship C chooses to move for one stick and fire back in reaction. Ship A would go last with three actions (7-4, and it is farther away than C). He chooses to move two sticks closer to B and fire his main guns for 3 actions.
- A & B are allied versus C who is an enemy faction, and have just darw initiative cards. B to C is medium gun range. A to B is long gun range. A to C is out of range. Ship A has an initiative 7, Ship B 4, and Ship C 6. Lowest initiative ship B goes first. B has four actions. He moves three sticks and ends in a RAM condition on C. C attempts to react away from the Ram but fails the save. It has one more action and uses it to shoot a the incoming ramming ship. A. Reacts (since it is in range of B) and moves closer to the ship to ship brawl, firing at C long range in support.
- All ships are mutually hostile. B has moved with a 4 and shot at A with a ranging shot, and missed. C has reacted to B but not moved. He moves next as a 6. He chooses to expend all of his actions moving into a RAM situation on B. Ram is resolved. A moves next as he is a 7. He has three actions (B’s 4 out of his 7 makes 3) and he uses them to move, fire at B, and save the last as an overwatch reaction.
In all cases, the captains can’t use cards 4, 6, or 7 (as applies to each) again until they have cycled through their entire deck of 1-10.
I made a quick initiative deck on GoDeckYourself.com, feel free to download (it isn’t final). Experiment with your own naval ships. Let me know what you think.