Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Wargame Resource Management

This is something that has been bubbling around in my head for a while now, especially as I consider possible routes for my Hood skirmish game. I have played several games involving resource management and so I thought I'd see if anyone has experience of others. It is a concept that really intrigues me and I love tinkering with the various outcomes that they can deliver or deny.

I first experienced resource management in computer games. The 90's were the heyday of strategy games with resource management, with the likes of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Command & Conquer and the like, forging a path before high-resolution graphics took over. Board games have had resource management involved for what seems forever. My first experience of wargame resource management came when we dabbled with Warmachine, so let's start there.

This was the game that opened my eyes beyond 40k (thank you to Mr Craig "Critical Mass" Grady for the introduction all those years ago). Your warcaster generates an amount of focus points at the beginning of each turn and it's is down to you how you distribute it amongst your troops (or horde it so your warcaster can play with all their spells). Focus points allow individual units to take special actions and increases their abilities on the battlefield. Of course you don't have enough focus points to let everyone do everything, so there is a choice to be made – which units get the points and at what point during the battle? Your decisions, and timing of them, can be the difference between a loss and a win.

The resource management here comes in the form of a hand of cards, dealt to you at the beginning of the game. You get to choose when to play these cards to boost a combat attack or defend against one. They don't always guarantee success so choosing your moment to unleash your 'Red Joker' (highest scoring card in the game) can be paramount. Not only that, the suit of your cards can be the difference between a successful spell cast and a fail. You get to refresh the cards in your hand periodically, but, as with all card dealing, it's pure chance which cards you receive.

Guild Ball
More recently, our journey into Guild Ball has revealed another example of resource management. Heavily influenced by Warmachine, Guild Ball teams generate an amount of Influence each turn, dependent upon which players are in the side. These Influence points are distributed throughout the team, allowing each player to make additional moves, attacks or character plays. On top of this we have a second resource in the form of Momentum. This resource ebbs and flows each turn, allowing you to make additional moves, heal your players and is essential to shoot at goal. Any left over at the end of the turn will boost your initiative roll next turn, making it a very important part of the game. The fact that Momentum resets at the beginning of each turn keeps things relatively level throughout the game. Individual players can generate Momentum, or even steal it from the opposition, opening up these extra options to the team.

Saga also have a form of resource management in the form of Saga dice. After you've rolled your dice you have to decide how to make best use of the result.

Of course not all wargames require resource management. 40k doesn't have it and Blood Bowl is an excellent game without it. Bolt Action has no resource management and remains both popular and exciting. Are there any others?

Have you come across a tabletop wargame that makes good use of resource management? I'll admit my experience is limited so I'm opening up the floor for you to champion your favourite game… with or without resources. Is a game better with resources or do they just get in the way of a good fight?


  1. There is a different kind of resource management in Relic Knights. Here there is a que where the order your characters act in is determined, meaning you're very forces are a kind of resource and you need to plan ahead on how to use them to their maximum.

    A few others I think of:
    There is Infinity with it's order system, Anima Tactics with it's action points, battletech with it's limited ammunition and Wolsung also uses a card mechanic for boosting rolls and special actions.

    1. Nice one Wouter, I don't really know these games. You've highlighted another great example – activation order cards.

    2. If you look them up on YouTube you might get some good clues on how all these games work.

      I also like Infinity a lot. Everything unit adds an order to a pool, but how you distribute these orders is up to you. Some units may get multiple activations this way.

      One I forgot to mention is world of Twilight. Here there is a limit to how many units you can activate,decided by drawn beads. If a certain colour of bead comes up twice, the turn ends. This makes every activation you can get important.
      The activation beads are the resource here and it is of the essence to remember how many beads are left in the bag.

      Unfortunately, the reason I know all of these is because I own far too many miniatures games :).

    3. There is no such thing as 'far too many' :-)

    4. I did see a video of Relic Knights and liked the dice-less combat idea with the power cards.

      I do have the Infinity and Twilight rules, so must give them another read.

      Thanks Wouter!

  2. There was a little rulebook I used to have, and I can't find any more, for a wargame played using cheap toy bugs, where each turn you had to send some of your bugs out foraging, instead of fighting, and use the resources they gathered to "pay" the other bugs in your "army," otherwise they would desert and leave the table.

    1. That's an interesting concept, having to pay your army to stay on the table!

      Thanks Bill!

  3. A couple of others (one you will be familiar with):

    Pulp City: our game uses and Action Point Pool for each Team; different models generate different amounts of AP, and very rarely does the team have enough AP to meet the individual AP Limits of all Team members, so players have to decide where to spend those AP. Models also have a personal Resource called Fatigue which governs movement and occasionally some other Actions.

    Batman Minis Game: models have Willpower, which is then allocated to action counters.

    1. Of course, Batman. I'd forgotten about the Willpower allocation.
      I have read the Pulp City rules, must read them again.
      Thank you sir!

    2. Quick Start rules for Supreme Edition here:



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