A New Game Mechanic – Strategy Cards

The Original Idea

When we play Warhammer 40,000, most of the times we do it in a “balanced” way. Same point limit for each army, same mission objectives… many of us even try to arrange the battlefield so that both the table halves have the same amount of cover. In the real world, however, war is not fair nor balanced and, above all, when two armies clash in the no-man’s-land, is it uncommon that they are both going for the same goal. Seeing it as an open and interesting field to explore with new mechanics, I started developing a set of rules for asymmetrical games, based on a deck of “Strategy Cards”. Some weeks later, it turned out that I was right, it really was an interesting field to explore: as soon as I finished writing the first draft of the cards, Games Workshop released the seventh edition’s rulebook. The new Tactical Objectives and Maelstrom of War missions immediately caught my eye, being an egregious way of “colonising” that unexplored field I was thinking about (better than mine, almost surely). I must admit that I was happy to find out that I was looking at the same blank spots that someone in the fabled Design Studio had pointed out.

Well, those spots had not really always been blank. Back in the days of second edition we already had asymmetrical missions, as the primary and secondary objectives of each player were determined by a card picked at random. It had been seventeen years, however, since when the third edition, with its strong focus on balance and simplification, removed them.

Mission cards from Warhammer 40k second edition

From the top, their English names are: The assassins, Guerrilla, Take and hold, Engage and destroy, Dawn raid, Witch hunt

The Design Principles

What I was trying to do, however, was not a simple revamping of an old mechanic. I wanted something less predictable and which implied at least some degree of choice for the player. So I wrote down a small list of principles to guide my inspiration, but which were not compulsory:

  • Each card must feel unique, and not like a slightly modified copy of another card in the set;
  • In the real world, the commander on the field receives orders from the HQ and is up to him/her to chose how to implement them, so each card, if possible, must let the player free to chose between two different effects;
  • Usually a general does not know what the goal of the enemy is, but must guess it by reading the actions of its army on the battlefield, so the picked card must be kept secret, if possible.

With those in mind, I started designing both the cards and the general rules to use them in a Warhammer 40,000 game. In this post I will present the cards both as images and in PDF format, so that it would be easier for you to download and print them, if you want to try them. I would be most grateful to hear your opinions and playtesting experiences with them!

The General Rules

When playing an Eternal War mission (or any other kind of mission – it is up to the players), the players can use the Strategy Cards. Each player must have their own Strategy Cards deck.
Before rolling to see who has the first turn, each player draws a card from its Strategy Cards deck, without showing it to its opponent. After reading the card, the player usually has two options: reveal it immediately, to gain the bonus specified in the Revealed section; or keep it secret until a later moment (usually the end of the game) to trigger a special effect during the game or to change his/hers mission objectives or the way he/she gains Victory Points, as specified in the Secret section. Note that not every card grants this choice: some of them must be revealed or kept secret, as specified on the card itself.
Some cards have a Special section that explains how to deal with peculiar situations.

The Cards

And, to make it easier to download and print them, here they are, all of the above strategy cards collected in a single file.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I used the amazing and highly customizable (and free) Magic Set Editor software to make these cards.


2 thoughts on “A New Game Mechanic – Strategy Cards

  1. very nice idea, thats what I found lacking in maelstorms – secret missions. Opponent should not see what are your goals. Nicely constructed cards, balanced, no OP effects. Very good.


    • Yup, there is a single Maelstrom mission where you can keep your objectives secret, which is nice, but then you are both forced to some sort of symmetry and to a continuous change of objectives, while I prefer to let the player focus on a single objective. It is easier for them, as they will probably be busy trying to figure out what the opponent’s objective is from his/her moves.

      Liked by 1 person

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