Recently I have played a number of wargames that use playing cards to determine activation order and initiative (black ops from Osprey being an good example). I have found that using a card draw system can add an extra level of uncertainty and tension to a game, which also simulates the “fog of war” of a battle situation. This post includes my own system for determining the order in which units are activate in my own Fireteam (Modern, Nam and WWII) rules.
Players will need one set of ordinary playing cards, shuffled well. I have found that the small sized cards like those found in Christmas crackers work especially well as they can be placed on the gaming table beside a unit to mark that it has already being activated while not causing too much table clutter.
At the start of the game each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards. The remaining cards form the “activation deck”. Each player is assigned a colour (red or black). Cards are drawn from the activation deck one at a time. Each time a card is drawn the player who’s colour it is may activate one unit/team.
Once both players have activated all the units in their force, the cards are returned to the activation deck and the deck is shuffled.
Any time that a card is drawn from the activation deck the opposing player may use one of the cards in their hand to “beat” it. In order to beat a card a player must play a card from their hand with a higher value (aces are high and colour does not matter). If the card beats the activation card the player may activate one of their units instead. The other player may also counter the card by using a higher value card from their own hand. The cards in a players hand are not replaced at any time during the game.