Friday, January 27, 2012

Tactical Assault: Combat Cards

Saw a post and a blurb on one of my favorite blogs, Tiny Solitary Soldiers, about a game by the same name of the title of this post.

It sounded cool and Spacejacker has never led me astray, so I checked it out at the Tactical Assault Games website. I liked what I saw, in fact something about had me quite taken with it. I plucked down a mere eleven bucks, made some copies, and the rest is what you see here.

The rules, a solid QRS, and two decks of the Combat Cards

Why was I taken with these rules right off the bat? I mean really, there's tons and tons of rules out there, so why these? There was just an intangible quality about them. My curiosity was piqued when I saw solo scenarios and mechanics. Then I had to raise an eyebrow when I saw the game required zero dice. Genre ranges from WWII to modern to near-future, it's up to you and what you've got on hand, so far so good.

It helped that the rulebook itself is free, here's a direct link. Sure, you get what you pay for, but these rules are well laid out, compact, and efficient. They get the job done in a no-frills manner in a simple, to-the-point style that said to me that this game is one of those that will be easy to get the hang of it and get on the tabletop quickly enough without a high learning curve.

After reading the rules, the overall package struck me as the love-child between Piquet and Hordes of the Things; two games that I absolutely adore and could play all the time. In Piquet the fog of war is always in full effect and just because you may want your troops to do something at an opportune moment, it doesn't mean they will. You have to wait on the right cards to come your way, and that's where the dice-less beauty of Combat Cards comes into play as well.

Each side of the conflict utilizes a combat card deck turn in and turn out. Here's a breakdown of a sample card. Playing these cards on your unit is what makes them 'go', be it moving, shooting, close combat, engineering, and more. If you don't have a move card in your hand, then your troops aren't moving that turn.

Other card mechanics including interrupt effects too like over-watch fire. The dice-less part comes into play when "rolling" for damage. When a unit shoots another unit, the top card of your deck is flipped over and you apply the combat result on that card to the target. This is further modified by steps up or down the combat result track depending on things like cover, firepower, and the like.

There's a list of units in the rules, each for a certain point value, and descriptions of what that unit does. There's also examples of what the unit could be, key word being "could". And this is where Combat Cards strikes me as Hordes of the Things, the units themselves are abstract, so really you can use anything you have on hand...or paint up specific units to match, it's up to you.

Scale is up to you as well, either you're throwing down on a skirmish level (one figure is one unit) or on an army level (five tanks is a single unit). A mechanized unit is pretty much anything that is augmented in the movement department, you define it by what you put on the table. In the long run, personally, I think it would be fun to paint up some 15mm sci-fi specifically for use here, putting multiple figures on a base and throwing in some mechs for good measure.

I think I've gone on enough here about the game, hopefully you get the idea! We've got a test battle lined up this week between a couple of 28mm skirmish platoons, so I'll be posting that batrep soon enough. Maybe I'll get in one of those solo games too...


  1. Thanks for the shout out and I'm glad you are as taken with these rules as me.. I've collected masses of rules and tried writing my own and these are some of the most very clearly written as I've seen. The solo run first game I did went smooth as butter, which is more than I can say for most first attempts I make.
    Keep in mind for your test game that force composition plays a fairly big part of the strategy as far as I can tell.
    Hope you have fun!

  2. I helped playtest these a few years ago. If you have trouble at first-drive on. There is an Ah ha! moment about halfway through the deck. I had it happen to me, seen it happen to others and Dan, the author, says he happened to everyone he's introduced the game to.

    They have a fantasy skirmish version as well.

  3. Those are great rules.
    I wish they create some specific set for sci-fi.

    The biggest disadvantage of those great rules is that army without some component (say without airforce) is punished. I wish they add (balance by playtest) option to remove some cards unsuitable for army structure.

  4. @123: That's cool you helped with the playtest, we had a lot of fun with them. You're right, about halfway through the first game it noticeably picked up some steam and we stopped worrying about the rules and were able to focus on what mattered most, the unfolding battle.

    @Spacejacker: I'm liking them, especially in the low-investment (both dollars and time spent reading) department. You'll be seeing more, probably in about an hour or two.

    @Umpapa: Welcome aboard by the way! Sci-fi specific rules would be cool, but a lot of it can be fluffed one way or another. We were thinking of doing Fire Support units as psykers even. You're and SJ are totally right about army composition too. We've got a couple games under our belts now and in the second game the aerial unit rocked all over the opposition.

  5. I had never heard of this game before reading this post, but now that I've downloaded the rules and read them I wish I had...
    My friend has been painting up some Esci? 1/72 Vietnam figures he bought for next to nothing, I guess I'll be buying the Nam Card deck so we can give these rules a spin. It look like a set that we'll both enjoy, light on rules and unpredictable.
    Thanks for writing about it.

    1. Thank Witteridderludo, glad you got some use out of this post! You'll want to pick up the Combat Cards themselves for sure, and there's no reason the same decks we used for a sci-fi battle can't be used in a Vietnam setting. Just joined up on ULS, so I'll keep my eyes peeled.

  6. This certainly look interesting. Thanks for high-lighting it.