BWS (2012) – Units and Mods

Looking back in the Building Blocks post, I defined the following:

Unit: Any active participant in the battle. Can represent a squad of soldiers, a single hero, a vehicle or really anything else, depending on the Scope and Scale of the battle.

A Unit is an abstract representation of a force on the battlefield. It is completely unimportant that a Unit be represented by a single miniature on the table. In fact, I typically visualize a single unit as only part of the battle. A focus for the action, while other undefined units are fighting. Consider a movie where you see only one squad, but you hear gunfire off camera and catch out of focus glimpses of the rest of the army. You know that the single focused squad is part of something bigger.

To represent this on the tabletop, I encourage you to use many more miniatures. Move these around on the tabletop, not under any rules mechanics, but what looks cool. They do not affect the battle, but rather provide more immersion for the battle you are playing out. We will mark the Units that are in play with a counter and those must be acted on by the rules, but the other models are freeform play. Play like a kid! Or…if that’s too hard, set up the extra models in such a way that would look good in a picture (and then take pictures!).

Units are defined with Command Points (CP). If you spend 1 CP, you may create a new unit in your deployment zone. You can call this unit anything you like: a type of troop (Space Marine), a name (Captain Sellers), a vehicle (M1 Abrams). Give it some color and put a model or models to represent this on the table in your deployment Zone.

All new Units start with the same base rules:

  1. A Unit can move from one Zone to an adjacent Zone using a Move Action (1 CP).
  2. A Unit can attack enemy units that occupy the same Zone (This is a Combat action that costs 3 CP).
  3. Can take one wound from combat before being removed from the battle.

This is pretty generic and and boring, so that is why we have Mods. Mods cover everything else that defines the unit, including training, strength, weapons, skills, and anything else that makes them individual. For each CP you spend during your turn, you can either add a new Unit or you can Mod an existing unit.

The original BWS (and many other games) take weapons and skills and attempt to balance them with point costs. A pistol might cost half as much as a rifle and does half as much damage, or something along those lines. This game is abstract to the point of not balancing such things. It is assumed that all new units have some sort of firearm or weapon that can attack targets in the same zone.

Mods break those simple base unit rules above by allowing them to shoot further, fight harder, move faster, and perform skill-based actions. That power of creativity and improvisation during the game comes at a price. When a new Mod is added, all players must agree to the effects of the Mod to make sure it is not too powerful. Players also must understand that when a Mod is accepted, all players can use that same Mod or something similar for their own units. This kind of play necessitates a mature outlook on game play, but once all players buy in, the results can be so much fun!

The only rules to adding a Mod to a Unit are:

  1. All players must agree.
  2. The Mod can only alter one thing (ex. no Mod could increase movement speed and fighting strength at the same time).
  3. Each Mod you add to a Unit gives that Unit one more wound they can take in Combat. You see, each Mod you add to a unit, makes it that much more powerful, but when they take a hit they begin to lose the Mods as well.

The third point is important to the narrative of the game. As an example, we create a Unit called “Sniper” with 1 CP. This is just a base unit that follows the base unit rules. We spend 1 CP to add a Mod to the Unit: “Ghillie Suit – Unit is hidden from the enemy if he does not take an action”. Later we spend one more CP on the same Unit to add another Mod: “Sniper Rifle – Unit can attack into one additional adjacent Zone.”

Now, this Unit might be designated as such:

+ Ghillie Suit
+ Sniper Rifle

It has 3 wounds as well. The initial wound you get when you “buy” the Unit (which I associate with the name of the unit), and the 2 Wounds from the Mods. Let’s say this unit is in a Zone that has a combat and he takes one Wound. The player who controls the Unit chooses where to take the Wound. He can scratch off the Ghillie Suit or the Sniper Rifle, but whichever one he crosses out, it’s rules are no longer in play. The very last Wound a Unit can take is to it’s name and that takes the Unit out of the battle. In the narrative of the game, this might represent a weapon failure, a frightened or ineffective soldier or even just a wound.

Any kind of Mod can be added to a Unit that makes sense within the context of the game. “Flying” might not work in a modern ops type game, but would be more than welcome in a Superhero themed scenario. I cannot overstate the importance of agreement of the players on what works and what does not within the scope of the scenario being played.

Some examples of what a Mod can do for a Unit:

  1. Move faster. Instead of moving one Unit per move action, for each Mod they could move two Zones.
  2. Move through rough terrain. Some Zone Mods might make a Zone difficult to pass through, but this Mod would allow a Unit to ignore that.
  3. Move stealthy through a Zone. As long as they don’t attack, the Unit cannot be targeted.
  4. Attack an additional adjacent Zone.
  5. Attack with an extra die (a more powerful attack).
  6. Defend with an extra die.
  7. Take more wounds (like armor or dodging).
  8. Heal a friend unit of one wound (Medic or Healer)
  9. Other special skills: camouflage, climb, hacking, communications, engineer, etc.

These are just suggestions, as I am sure that you can come up with some really cool Mods for Units in your game. When I release these rules to the public, I intend to give many examples.

Also note that the Mods can stack. In our Sniper Unit example, perhaps we spend a CP to give the Unit “Eagle eyed – Add an additional adjacent Zone that can be targeted”. Now this guy can shoot two adjacent Zones away with his Sniper Rifle and Eagle Eyed Mods.

Homework: What other kinds of Mods can you think of that would be interesting to Model on a Unit? Post to the comments below.

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2 Responses to BWS (2012) – Units and Mods

  1. John says:

    Trencher – This unit may spend a move action transforming its current location into cover or difficult terrain

    Cavalry – This unit cannot cross difficult terrain, but attacks twice in the first round of combat, and may move an additional zone if initiating a combat

  2. Erik says:

    Great ideas John! I had notes about units being able to affect a Zone, but I think I forgot about it. Love it!