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Hex Armies HP Tracking

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bbblackwell's picture
Joined: 10/23/2013

Ahoy! I'm working through the early stages of a game that will feature hex-based skirmishes and I'm not sure how best to handle HP tracking. I always like to minimize the necessary components, and I just haven't played games like this so I don't have a good reference point.

I was going to have each army represented by a token with a typical battle being 5 armies vs 5 armies and each army having about 3-7 HP.

Any ideas are welcome and appreciated, as well as any recommendations of games I should be looking at to learn more about what's been done.

Thanks for taking the time to check in!

Joined: 10/09/2013
Component Quantity Always a Problem

In my own tactical war game, each side has multiples of their different units. This presents a problem because I can't use markers off the board to track HP. It's just not possible. They HAVE to be on the units, thus my game will require lots of HP markers.

Now, my question to you is, are you going to have lots of multiples of one type of army? Or will your armies all be unique? If so then it's much easier to find a solution to your problem off of the board.

bbblackwell's picture
Joined: 10/23/2013
No, Kitty!

Hey Kroz, all armies in the game are essentially the same, their variation will be defined by other cards that sit off the board in the player's personal area.

I should also mention that though battles may typically be about 5 vs 5, it's possible that they could be much bigger; plus each player will have many armies scattered around the board (I guess RISK wouldn't be a bad comparison in this regard) so the total number of armies could be pretty high.

I considered using number markers on top of circular wooden tokens to represent HP and the army respectively, but then there would have to be tons of 1-7 markers for HP that have to be sorted off the board. In addition, I wanted to have the army tokens flip over after they take an action so everyone can see at a glance which have been exhausted; if there is an HP token on top, this will be slightly cumbersome since they will be flipping so often, not to mention how particularly devastating it could be if one encounters a "cat on the table" scenario.

Joined: 10/07/2013
how about symbolized tokens

How about using differently colored and symbol stamped tokens? Example: Place 1 red spear token on each unit's card in the red spear army. Then place a red spear token on the player's Army HP Tracking card/board. Repeat with each of your armies. Each other player would do the same.
What do you think? Does that work with your army concept?

bbblackwell's picture
Joined: 10/23/2013
Combersome Clarifications

Hey Guru, I'm not sure if I am understanding you correctly, but first let me clarify what I mean by "army" because I'm realizing now that it may have been misleading. I am basically using the word "army" to mean "unit," as conventionally understood, because a player may have 6 "armies" attacking a neighbor, though there are no specific units - it would be a total of 6 tokens moving in to engage the enemy, who may have 4 "armies" himself. In other words, each army token represents a group of units of unspecified and irrelevant number, though having it's own overall HP separate from the other armies involved in the battle.

There is no corresponding off-the-board card for each army, though there may be cards which affect ALL of a player's armies, such as "Lightning Speed: Armies can move 1 additional space during the movement phase." Cards that are related to armies are not pertinent for this particular discussion, though I thought I would clarify my previous mention of them.

Players' armies are color coded, so all armies of a particular player will be identical and of a color specific to that player, regardless of their position or involvement in battles, so it's not necessary to identify them. Again, think RISK in this regard.

I am trying to avoid off-the-board HP trackers because of the very high number of total armies. In addition, it could not be all on one board because there is no limit to how many armies a player can have (although I suppose it is limited by the number of tokens available); it seems impossible to predict what such an HP tracker would look like. Of course I could limit the total number of armies, but I wouldn't want to make such a limiting change just to accommodate my poor planning in regards to HP tracking. hahaha

Keep in mind I could be way off with my perspective, so feel free to call me out if anyone spots glaring flaws in my process so far. Maybe total armies should be strictly limited, though I like to offer freedom within the scope of the given theme. Right now number of armies is only limited by one's ability to pay for them. This game is in its infancy so lots can and will be changed.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
I have an "army" game as

I have an "army" game as well. (An army could have just 2-3 units, but 36 is common too). But so is the health.

After several play testing, this is what I came up with:

- You don't track health. I track damage only.
- If an unit contains "3" Health.
When damaged, only a maximum of 2 damage counters are needed. The third one is not needed since the unit is dead at that point. And removed from the board.
- My game mechanic allows (moving) units to die before there is a moment of "rest" where the damaged/injured can take shelter behind others. This reduces the amount of counters on the board to a minimum.

bbblackwell's picture
Joined: 10/23/2013
X3M, thank you for posting.

X3M, thank you for posting. The system you propose really shines when units (armies) have low HP. Although I could reduce the necessary markers on the unit to 1 by simply using number markers of the relevant HP value, for a price of one extra marker on the actual unit (the 2 damage you describe) you have eliminated the need for numerical tokens entirely and just have a single "wound" token used for everyone - a tremendous advantage.

I did want to have units be able to take more than 3 damage, as increasing their HP was something I wanted players to be able to achieve, but the benefits of your system are enticing and I will have to seriously consider this option.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
tokens etc.

I'd suggest that instead of flipping a unit token to indicate that it has been used that turn, place a small token on it. Someone mentioned spears of different colours; what I'm suggesting is that tokens for each army are separate and distinct, but the "used" token is the same. After everyone has used their units and it's time for the next turn, all tokens are collected and the round can begin fresh. Each player can keep a stack of "used" tokens nearby for easy access.

Additionally, for HP tracking, you can illustrate the number of HP remaining on a unit, then move a single token from one number to the next. It's interesting...if you use hex tiles, then there are six edges to each unit's piece. If 7 is the maximum HP any one unit will have, then you set a HP tracking number on each edge of the unit token to ease confusion. Of course, units with fewer HP will have blank edges.

- unit tokens illustrated on one side only, separate colours for each player
- one "used" token per unit token, all the same size and colour
- one HP tracker token per unit token, all the same size and colour

...Does that all make sense?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Nono, don't use tokens to

Nono, don't use tokens to determine health by adding numerous numbers on it. It causes discussions:

I did that too in the past where I still had 300 health units (But 5 health as well). The result with it is that by accident, the token could shift places and point to another number. Then it will be a discussion what the health really was if you play with 100+ units. And about 20 have different health by accident.

The same goes for 7, I am sure of it.

And if health is only 7, then counters like 1, 2 and 4 are more then enough.
You can have any amount with those 3 counters.
7=dead, no unit any more.

You could even give the counters a colour indicating the damage. Yellow for 1, Orange for 2 and Red for 4.

The only risk that you might have is that the counters go to another unit by accident. But to prevent that, the counters are just as big as the units in my game.


Well, in another thread, I am discussing the use of marking with a pen. For hoping that the counters can be discarded entirely.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
First I was thinking about

First I was thinking about flipable tokens, but that only allow 2 HP. You'll need to change the rules in that case.

Else another idea a wanted use for another game of mine was using a stack of poker chips. The size fo the stack determine the HP of your unit. Each HP lost remove a chip. You could even add special effects/event on the chip which are triggered when the chip is removed from the stack.

The advantage is that you can see in a glance which unit is stronger than the others.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008
(Playing some more tactical

(Playing some more tactical games would give you the tools you need to solve this.)

Step-loss markers are preferably placed under unit counters, to not obstruct them. Otherwise after a while your game board will just look like piles of step-losses everywhere.

You can make them round so they are visible like a small halo around the units (like in Paul Koenig's D-Day games).

You can have several markers of course, like in Tactical Combat Series. Some says 1 on first side, 2 on second. Some says 3 and 4. Since units in that game system can never have more than 5 steps you never need more than one marker (just change marker when going from 2 to 3 or 4). Since your game had max 7 steps you would need three markers, but that sounds OK. Actually he game Target Arnhem: Across Six Bridges has step-loss markers, also to place under units, that go from 1-6, two-sided with different combinations of values (because you need a lot more of the lower-valued loss markers).

Pollard Markers are great and would fix your problem. Those are step-loss markers with values printed on the edges, and sometimes on both sides. So first side can have 1-4 steps lost, other side 5-8 (or in your game, 5-6). Rotating entire units, as someone already pointed out is not a good idea, because it is too easy to accidentally rotate something. But I never had this problem with Pollard Markers because you only need to keep them correctly rotated relative to the unit counter on top of it, and you need to be quite sloppy and unlucky to rotate one of them without the other.

Having some problem loading images on bgg at the moment, but this should be a photo of the countersheet used in Franco-Prussian War, and there should be some Pollard Markers on there to look at in case my description was not good enough:

Flipping units works for more than two steps if you replace the unit with a different one after every other step-loss. I don't really like that mechanic, but it can be done. You could also mix step-loss markers with flipping the units, so you count up to 3 steps, then flip on hit 4, remove loss-marker and start counting again. No huge win compared to other solutions, although it does give you the opportunity to put different units on the back of units.

One thing to consider is why you need all those steps. Very few games need that much detail. As I mentioned above, even a fairly complex system like Tactical Combat Series only have at most five. Advance Squad Leader has only at most two steps per unit and so do probably 95 % of historic wargames. Block wargames tend to have four for obvious reasons and that seems like a very common limit in miniature wargames as well.

Joined: 01/17/2011
Two states

I second everything Pelle said, and would like to expand on the two-state idea which is often represented with double-sided tokens.

Only having two states doesn't mean that units can have only 2 hit points. You can still have 7 HP units, but if they receive over a certain threshold of damage then they flip over to their "damaged" side. A simple rule would be: "If the unit takes 50% or more (but less than 100%) of its HP in damage in a single turn, flip it over. Any damage less than 50% is ignored." In this case the 7 HP unit might have 3 HP on its "damaged" side, so if it received 3 or more hits in a subsequent attack it would be removed. In many wargames the "damaged" side also has reduced combat characteristics printed on the token, but whether you do this or not depends on what works for your system.


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