Sunday 4 June 2023

Has IGOUGO had its day?

Has IGOUGO had its day? Is it time for this tried, trusted but a flawed system to step aside for random activation rules systems?


  1. I think it says something about IGOUGO that it continues to be the basis of games after many centuries of use, eg chess. Also, that wargames rules have effectively abandoned the alternative (simultaneous) offered by the old WRG sets.
    Everything you mentioned as alternatives (except kreigspiel) are essentially IGOUGO either chopped into finer phases or with interrupts. On that basis the debate and controversy is false.

  2. A wehile ago I wrote blogpost about this:

    But it comes down to this:
    An IGO UGO system usually has a very fixed turn sequence (the classic move/fire/melee/morale). WIthin each phase of the turn, units do their thing. An activation-based system puts units in the "outer loop": the turn is a sequence of activations, and within an activation, the activated unit does its thing.

    Unit activation is more flexible w.r.t. actions that are not listed in IGO UGO. E.g. suppsoe you want to have an engineering action such as blowing up a bridge. In an activation-based system, this simply means adding an additional action to the list of possible actions a unit can do (and perhaps you don;t need to know about such actions if the scenario doesn't need them).
    But in IGO-UGO system, it often means either creating an additional "engineering phase" during the turn, or making rules such as "engineering counts as half a move".

    Hence, activation-based systems, in which the turn loops over all units instead of looping over a series of actions (as in IGO UGO) is the mre flexible design.

    But it's not black-and-white, many hybrids are of course possible.

    1. I prefer land-based games that are not at the extreme ends of the spectrum, from IGOUGO to effectively random activation. I prefer some randomness: however I do not believe that some units should (would) sit around and do nothing for much of a game while others are hyper-active. With some games, such as Chain of Command, the player has limited activations in what is usually a sequence of play alternating between players. While there is a lot to welcome in this, there is the danger that some units are repeatedly activated and others not at all. I don't like that. Another Lardies game, I Ain't Been Shot Mum, uses card activation of units AND leaders on the table with a random turn end, which gets round the problem of some units getting repeated activations and I prefer this. Even better is that at the end of a turn (tea-break in IABSM terms), unactivated units can do some limited default activations. Blitzkreig Commander II (not familiar with later editions) also has random activations and also a default "do something" option although I am not convinced by the “push a unit” repeatedly feature.

      What I'd like is IABSM type unit activation and limited “end of turn” activation of unused units with perhaps some sort of higher command feature – representing leader(s) not on the table – that can activate leader(s) of the player’s choice.

      What I am certain is pure IGOUGO for historical land-based games is very much less than ideal. For air and naval games some sort of pre-plotting and simultaneous resolution is probably best.

  3. One of my favourite rulesets is/was Cross Fire. Although I guess it is essentially IGOUGO too, the fact that it has no turn sequence or predetermined point at which I GOING ends and U GOING starts is what I find so attractive about it. With a bit of luck and by choosing the right route and using cover appropriately, I have had games where one player moves for ten minutes or more and units can get from one side of the table to the other without interruption. The biggest drawback about it is, we never really found a satisfactory way to make it more than a two-player game - multi player was too hard to get working right!

    1. In modern parlance, Crossfire is not an IGO-UGO system, but a unit activation system: you activate a unit, then you activate a next unit, ... you keep on doing that untill some condition is met and the activation initiative goes to the other player. Although Crossfire still has some IGO UGO characteristics as well due to a number of "fixed" phases during the turn, IIRC (it has been over 20 yeas since I last played it).

  4. I'd rather have an act > counteraction system, where players know they'll have a crack at their opponent (and can plan for this each turn), rather than with random-activation systems, where there can be just as much waiting to do something, and players never know when that'll actually occur (and with some systems - there can be a sudden, and complete cancelling of the remainder of a turn's progress, regardless if a one side has had a chance to play the game yet).
    There's actually a rhythm had with most IGOUGO systems (a pace to battle operations).......scouts out > response > reinforcement > response, advancement to the main effort > perhaps the engagement becomes 'general' > counterattacks are put in, etc.....). All these phases can be varied, but they serve as decision points, but a player/side should be able to pace when they think these decisions can/should be made, not have this dictated by random occurrence. example -
    I once played a unit activation system where squads were assigned an individual activation card each. I entered the board in road column, with allowance to have a unit out front to scout/screen. This turned out to be useless - the weapons squad activated first (at the rear of the column), next the card for a squad in the middle of the column came up, finally, after some time, the men on point were activated. Of course, the enemy was ahead, not at the rear of this advancing column, not in the middle, but out front, where contact from the entry onto the board was to develop (at the point of contact). Rather, the random activation of the unit cards completely ignored the actual physical closing of an attacking column, the scouts couldn't perform reconnaissance, the follow-on squads couldn't maneuver off of contact, and the rearward, hvy. weapons couldn't be called on to provide support (they had already been activated).
    So didn't actually need a battle plan, or a march order. No reason to echelon a formation for deployment. No reason for tactics - the random activation mechanisms dictated this automatically, It's sometimes called a "narrative" result, you go with the flow of random opportunities. ,
    I haven't seen too many players huddling together to make battle plans lately in games, no contingency discussion, no analysis of terrain. Roll the dice or flip the cards, and just go with the unfolding narrative, that'll just become the battle plan. Rinse, wash, repeat.

    1. Unit activation does not necessarily imply "unit activation in a random order". The traffic jam problem you describe is indeed a bug in completely random unit activation. But in mnay systems the player has a choice what units to activate first, to activate units in groups, ... usually till some condition is met that halts the activations, and play switches to the other side.

  5. Much of the problems with IGO-UGO systems are due to rigid and fixed turn sequences. As I outlined above, the classic "move-shoot-melee-morale" sequence during the turn. This gives problems when the move distances are relatively large combined with shoot distances, such that "too much is happening" on one player's side before the other side can react. Over the years, turn structures were then altered by "half moves phases", "opportunity fire phases", etc., making the turn structure more and more complex.

    This can be solved in various ways: either keep movement/firing ranges relatively small, such that units advance only over a small part of the table, then the other side does the same, etc. Players hence can react toe ach other, even in an IGO UGO system. Such setups are well suited for larger strategic scales rather than smaller tactical games.

    The essence of unit activation is that the turn structure is organized not around a sequence of actions (move/fire/melee...), but around a sequence of units (each unit then doing everything it needs to do within its own activation). It's therefore easier to interrupt that sequence after a number of units have done something, and give the initiative to the other player. This solves many problems with one side being able to "interrupt" the flow of actions and react in some form.

    Whether the sequence of unit activations is pure random (e.g. drawing cards, or "chit pull" as it's called in some boardgames), or driven by a choice by the player (e.g. Black Powder), or a hybrid (e.g. managing a card of hands) is a design issue of 2nd order,

  6. Yes, IGOUGO sequencing does have variation, that can promote fluid interaction within a turn. It isn't limited to a rigid turn structure of movement/firing/melee, and/or morale steps (resolutions can derive from when they're initiated during a turn). This can enable players to execute chains of actions, assigning priorities to how they might be sequenced during a turn (allowing for probing activity, reconnaissance by fire, pre-bombardment and/or battlefield preparation, follow-up support, follow-up maneuver, overrunning a position......"combat coordination", and this sequencing enabled between multiple commands or commanders playing on the same side).

    This flow of activation intention doesn't have to end with opposition interruption, but mechanisms for interruption/reaction can be part of an IGOUGO rule system.

    RROSS makes an interesting observation above -

    "The biggest drawback about it is, we never really found a satisfactory way to make it more than a two-player game - multi player was too hard to get working right!"

    This is one of the best features of IGOUGO rule systems - it promotes multiplayer gaming.

    If want to present games enabling player teams, or for large games with multiple commands, or maybe games that have multi-task missions occurring within the framework of one scenario - IGOUGO enables this.

    There's been a profusion of random activation gaming systems that just ignore multiplayer gaming/gamers.

    Has IGOUGO had it's day? Probably, if gamers desire to play no more than 1 vs. 1 games.

    1. I don't really agree with 1-1 idea. In IGO-UGO, multiplayer usually means all players on the same side go through the turn sequence in order, often in parallel. I move my troops together with your troops, if we're on the same side. Thus, the turn really really is 2 sequences executed in parallel.
      The same can be done in an activation framework. Both players execute their sequence of activations, each with their own stopping condition. Or each player activates a unit alternating, until the stop condition is met.
      Granted, if you only use 1 string of activations, and players have to decide amongst themselves who is allowed to activate what unit, then it can become incovenient.

  7. Doesn't have to be that rigid at all. First, each side is playing as a team (this doubles back to my 1st post about side's developing battle plans - multiplayer is about teamwork). Activation can occur by individual units, or by groups of units (so if by an individual squad unit, or a platoon of squads, or a company of platoons......just depends on the game scale and what a maneuver element is).

    Activation of a chosen element is executed - the action can be required as a pre-programmed choice per, or could be decided at the time of activation (both these a variation managed with the basic IGOUGO turn format). The chosen element executes a Move, Fire, Move + Fire, a Special Action (calls in support, starts an engineering task, etc.). Once any combat resolution is completed as a result of, and/or from enemy reaction(s) occur (if incorporated), the phasing player team decides the next unit to activate - same menu of options, but the evolution of activation choice, and the potential action response is informed by what has already occurred within the current phasing team's activation choices (but their decision of how the sequencing occurs).

    Nothing in this evolution of choices becomes inconvenient for a side - it's the command challenge. Decision-making becomes a matter of stressing priorities - where is the best opportunity occurring as the side's turn iunfolds, where have enemy units been discovered, or what are the new threats uncovered, where does reinforcement "weight" need to go, has a section of the enemy line been disrupted or repulsed? The unfolding action is dynamic, and the decision-making a side needs to determine on-the-fly is dynamic, with the battle plan often needing adaptation - this the players of a team need to manage.

    There's no need for randomizing inputs to be applied from a rule system, beyond the vagaries of the combat mechanics. Risk/reward decisions must occur amongst the multiplayer team (this applies the command & control friction, not rules-applied events, or randomization of activation opportunities).

    To a degree, random activation mechanics may demonstrate an absence of naturally-developing decision-points occurring within a game, especially when games involve only 1 decision-maker controlling all those decisions being made per side.


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