If you regularly read my reviews, this will also enable you to predict the "tone"of each section. Basically red = ugh, not this again, yellow = solid, green = has potential/usually interesting.
SETUPThis seldom sees anything too interesting - it's a bit of an unexplored area for designers. No, min-maxing an army list based on something you read on the forums is NOT what I am talking about.
1. STANDARD. Players roll to see who chooses the board edge, who places their minis in what order and who goes first. Both sides place their models a set distance from the table edge (usually under 12") unless they have some sort of special rule shenanigans that allows them to paratroop in later. This is so standard I don't ever bother to comment on this in reviews: it's a given. If it ain't broke, I guess... ...only I now expect more ever since:
2. CHAIN OF COMMAND. Yes, this game got it's own section. It's the "name brand" of deployment phrases, as you would. Both players maneuver tokens about on the table in a "scouting" mini-game. Once the tokens come into contact with enemy tokens they are "locked" into place. This then determines the possible "deployment points" of each sides' miniatures and the game begins. Deployment is thus both skill-based and organic.
ACTIVATION/INITIATIVE1. IGOUGO. Really, again? This is for control freaks who like to move and shoot without interruption while their enemies stand around having a coffee and a fag. Unrealistic, and kinda boring unless you like having an hour coffee/loo break during your opponents' turn. Straight to the bottom of the rules pile. Very few decisions to make.
2. Alternate Move. Ah, we've progressed as far as Chess. They did discover this 2000 years ago though, so Games Workshop may move on to this sometime soon. Still a bit predictable and mechanical, but way more interactive than IGOUGO, and players are equally involved through the turn. I rate this as acceptable but not that impressive.
3. Card Based. Ah, the standard random move. "Lawful Chaos." You shuffle up cards, and when your unit's card is pulled, it must act. Old school. Probably British. Very unpredictable - you can only plan from turn-to-turn. Whether I like it depends on how and for what genre it is implemented. I like it when you can keep a card for later - which become more a managed activation.
4. "Managed" Activation (tm). In the first three cases, when you move is largely decided for you - be it randomly, or in sequence. Managed activation means you make choices that influence how/when your turn ends. It gives a player a lot more decisions to make. A sub-category I enjoy I'd call the forced activation - when you force an opponent move a particular unit/min.
Song of Blades: You choose how many dice to roll, and thus how many potential actions. If you get greedy (and fail) your turn ends, even if you have models yet to act.
Battlefield:MMW: You have a pool of command points to activate your units with (a bit like DBA 'pips'). You can activate a unit more than once, but each time it costs more, i.e. 1CAP for the first activation, 2CAP for the 2nd, 3CAP for the 3rd, etc.
7TV: You simply can only choose half your models to move. Although nominally IGOUGO, it forces more decisions upon the player.
5. Multiple/Extra Reactions. This is included in activation as this involves activating - usually shooting, sometimes moving - in your opponents' turn, usually multiple times. This is a step beyond normal "overwatch" when you "save" your action by not acting in your turn (which is more a managed activation). Gives a player a lot more decisions.
Infinity. You get to react with every single model in LoS of an activating enemy. Every time. For every enemy model. Often you're busier in your opponents' turn than your own.
Tomorrow's War. You get to react to enemies in LoS, but at steadily decreasing effectiveness each time.
6. Hybrids. Many rules sets are hybrids of one or more of the above.
One of my "approved" GW games, LOTR has IGOUGO-AltMove-Managed: side A moves all troops, then side B moves all troops, side A shoots with all troops, side B shoots with all troops, etc - but heroes can interrupt (manage) the turn by spending might points.
As you can see, I tend to prefer initiative/activation sequences that place the most decision-making upon the player. Choosing how/when to activate should be every bit as important as choosing who to fire at.
Over to the blog lurkers. What are your favourites? Feel free to nominate a game - heck, create a new category - and explain what it does/why you like it.
(The focus is setup and activation. We'll cover combat, movement and morale at a later stage).