In general I do not like to give away too much information in my reviews, especially about game probabilities, but given that so much information is in the cards and not the rules, I feel like I am not cheating the author in talking a little more about the math behind this system. Let me know if you think I let too many cats out of the bag.
ConceptThe system works through a deck of 72 cards each of which is used to tell you where enemy models are to go and what they are to do. This is one of the harder problems to solve when playing solo. If you are using rules where not every model gets to act every turn the second problem to solve is which units get to act. HTAI gives you mechanics to solve that question also.
Included with the deck of 72 cards are three, double-sided rules cards, and three "shard" cards.
The Game Cards
The above image shows some sample cards. At the top left is a Reaction Order.
On the right of the top (blue) section is the symbol for a standard playing card, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace, in any of the four suits. This is used in conjunction with markers on the table of with the symbol assigned to a model.
The middle (white) section contains two orders. Which you use is determined based on a general situation of the model the card is drawn for; whether the model sees an enemy unit (Attack) or not (Patrol). The order text indicates anything special you might do, and how aggressively you do it (1D6 or 2D6).
The bottom (black) section has a compass direction on the left, a bit of text in the center describing an enemy's state or position, and a red and white die on the right. If you need 1D6 you use the red die and if you need 2D6 you add the red and white dice together.
As you can see, it is pretty basic, and every probability is baked into the cards.
Using the Game Cards
There is a tutorial PDF on BoardgameGeek that provides some examples of play. It is still very high level, but it gives you a better understanding of how to use them. Basically, once you have determined which model is to move you draw a card and determine its order based on whether it is in Attack or Patrol mode. Once the order is determined, generally you will need to determine which enemy it is taking that action against. You draw another card and look at the black section and either use the compass or the descriptor to determine the direction of any move. Finally, the original order determines whether the move is 1D6 or 2D6, so you draw a third card to determine the distance, indicated on the dice.
At times you will see an asterisk (*) on the card in the section you are using. This indicates that you should draw another card first, referring to the Reaction section. That card draw may in turn require more cards be drawn, which may in turn trigger more reactions. Just go with it.
No, we are not talking about a database partition here. The author uses the term "shard" to refer to little markers placed on the table to represent a variety of things, such as objectives, potential locations for enemies, or points of interest. Really, whatever is on the board that you want to randomize. As there are sixteen different shards, that is you maximum range of possibilities. Again, these symbols are on the cards, in the top right corner, so you can use card draws to add a randomizer.
Selecting a Model
As I said earlier, the two largest issues to solve for solo games are: which model (unit) acts next, and what does that model (unit) do? HTAI jumps straight into solving the second issue (what does that model do), but it only lightly touches upon the first.
If the number of models that the automated side has numbers 16 or less, it should be pretty easy to simply assign one of the shards to it, then use the deck draw to first determine which model acts, then follow the process above. If the model count is too high then you could assign shards to groups of models, draw a card to determine the group, assign shards to the models in the group, then draw another card to determine the specific model.
Another possibility is to use the compass on a drawn card to see which area of board will act, then using additional cards to hone in on the model.
In essence, the exact method is up to you, including not randomizing the choice at all.
Toolkit Not a Game
The important thing to recognize is that HTAI is a toolkit that you have to integrate into the specific set of skirmish rules you are using in order for the cards to make sense. Although there are some specifics on the cards that seem to imply a game rule, such as the distance moved (indicated by the order and the dice), these two need to be "translated" into whatever rules you are using in order for it all to make sense.
Before I give my rating on HTAI I want to use them in at least one game and see if what it looks like on paper matches what happens on the table. So for my test game I am going to use HTAI with One-Hour Skirmish Wargames (OHSW), which I recently reviewed on my other blog. (Part One, Part Two, Follow-Up) It might help to read at least Part One in order to understand the OHSW rules as essentially I will be integrating HTAI and OHSW together.
In my test game I am going to be running the same scenario run in Part One and Part Two. I will be making one modification to the scenario, which should have no bearing here, regarding the firing rate of gunpowder-era weapons. I will not write out the entire game as I typically do, but focus in detail on how I translate the cards in HTAI into actions for the British side in OHSW.
Given that the British have fewer than 16 models, I will assign a different shard to each model. This will allow me to draw a HTAI card at the start of each British Action Phase to determine which model will take action. Then based on the orders in HTAI, it will consume a certain number of OHSW action points (AP). If there are points remaining I would then draw an additional HTAI card to determine the next British model to act (it cannot be one of the models that have already acted in that Action Phase). As casualties mount, I will more than likely have to draw multiple cards before I get a shard designating a model still in the game, but that is just a guess.
Given the ground scale of OHSW I will have all British models in Attack mode rather than Patrol mode. This will save me from having to consider who is in and out of line of sight, who that is out of sight has and has not fired, how much noise has been generated, etc. all of which HTAI seemingly takes into account. Too much detail too early on. So, the position designations (text in the center of the black section of the card) will be used to see which model the British model attacks. (An asterisk in the compass will be applied to the position designation.)
Movement distances in OHSW are fixed. Infantry move 6" per move action. I could use the dice roll to simulate a model's hesitancy in moving, but that implies a morale and/or terrain difficulty aspect that takes no other factors into account. I am not sure I like that, especially as the French (player) side would not be bound by that limitation. However, OHSW does have the concept of multiple moves being allowed a model, assuming it has enough action points to complete them. If a 1D6 is indicated, I could allow that to refer to that figure being allowed a maximum of one Move action. The rationale being that even if you rolled a maximum of '6', that is still only a single Move. However, if 2D6 is indicated, if the player draws a '7' or better, this allows for two Move actions to be performed by the model, assuming the British has the necessary action points remaining.
Generally speaking, the Attack Order contains a modifier, indicating the aggressiveness of the order. This will be followed as accurately as possible, but until I play through all of the options, I won't know if I have to fudge a bit.
Many of the order indicate 'objectives'. The intent is to use shards to indicate objectives, so that a card draw can determine which way a model moves, but there is only one physical objective for the British in this scenario, so if the objective is mentioned, it means the cannon in the center of the board.
Well that should cover it for now. The next post will go into playing the game using HTAI as the 'artificial intelligence' for the British player in a scenario using the OHSW rules.