Simplifying Phoenix Command

June 29, 2001

Last Updated May 8, 2003

Update: My fiance has gotten into painting miniatures (and she's better at it than I am), so I made up a game that's easier to digest. Check it out here.

The following are ways I have found to simplify the play of Phoenix Command. While I have tried not to change the rules, I will make note of the places where I have.

1.      Use miniatures without hexes. Hexes are artificial and make it harder to use terrain. In the course of doing so, we have started ignoring the Action costs for turning. It makes the game go much faster.

2.      Make a GM screen. It puts all the important charts in one place.

3.      For longarms (PEN at least 10 and DC at least 6) against unarmored targets, assume that all hits take a character out of play. 83% of them do at least 200 PD, and another 13% cause broken arms. For large battles, accept the approximation and things will go much faster.

4.      Make a ruler with the range ALMs marked. I use a straightedge cut from the aforementioned manila folder. I graduated the ALMs from one to two inches, and the maximum ALM is still 33; no bonus for being closer than an inch.

5.      If you can find a set of Phoenix Command counters, mark the ALM Modifiers on them. I put the Shooter’s modifier on the left and the Target’s modifier on the right. For instance, on the ‘Ducking’ counter I put –10 on the left (for Shooters who are Ducking) and –5 on the right (for Targets who Duck). ‘Standing’ has a 0 on the left and a +7 on the right. There is no counter for Running, but the penalties for Running and Ducking are the same so I decided that they were the same condition; one can either Run in the open or Duck behind cover (not both). Running actually has a variable penalty for the Target, but I took the minimum –5 to simplify things. Update: As a rule of thumb, double the positive modifiers when using Automatic Fire.

6.      Buy some of the aforementioned blank counters and mark them with the ALM modifiers for:

·        The character’s skill. Or, create a ruler for each skill level of each player (it helps if each player’s characters all have the same skill level).

·        The number of actions spent aiming. Create a set for each weapon in the game (or as many as you think you’ll need).

Notwithstanding the modifiers for visibility and a few other things, you should now be able to calculate the ALM without looking at the charts or the character sheet. Just use the ruler and add up the modifiers on the counters. Now for the most important chart lookup: the Odds of Hitting.

Since the Odds of Hitting use percentile dice, the ‘ones digit’ will not be needed nine times out of ten. For instance, say your Odds of Hitting is 53. You could roll one ten-sider, and as long as the roll is not a five, you know if you hit or not. If you roll a five, then you need to roll the ‘ones digit’, hitting on a 0 through 3. When the Odds of Hitting ends in a nine, you don’t even have to roll the ones digit because you succeed on a 0 through 9 (remember that 00 counts as zero rather than 100). For the Burst Fire table, that’s 93% of the time you don’t need the ones digit (more, if the target dies from other bullet wounds which are resolved first). So:

7.      Buy some 10-sided dice, preferably larger than normal, and some small stickers. I use blue for the Burst Fire dice and red for the Single Shot dice. Write the range of ALMs corresponding to each ‘tens digit’ on a sticker and attach them to the dice. If an Odds of Hitting ends in a 9, don’t include it in the range (I’ll explain why in a moment). For instance, paste a sticker with ‘-1 to –17’ over the ‘0’ digit for a Burst Fire die. It doesn’t have to be pasted over the zero, but doing so helps me keep track. Note that the ALM of zero, corresponding to an Odds of Hitting of 09, is not included in the range.
Update: Check this file for a sample sheet of stickers, using the bottom part of an Avery 5196 or 8196 sheet of diskette labels.
Now the player can pick up a die and try to roll lower than his ALM, looking directly on the die rather than looking it up on the chart. If an entire squad has the same ALM, the player can roll a handful of dice at once to resolve fire for the squad (which is more tactilely gratifying, I might add). Suppose his ALM is zero; the ‘-1 to –17’ will always succeed and he need never roll the one’s digit (which would succeed on 0 through 9 anyway). If his ALM were –5 and he rolled ‘-1 to –17’, then he would need to lookup the ALM on the chart to see what value he needed for the ones digit.

Update: I also pasted some small stickers with the corresponding burst-fire ALMs on each face of a d100, for single attacks.

8.      If you are using the Initiative rules (which I highly recommend), put the available actions on stickers, attach them to poker chips and let the players lay out their actions, face down, on a time chart with about thirty impulse slots (I use the board from the game Europa). As time goes past the end of the chart, wrap around to the beginning. Players can place a number of chips equal to their actions, starting from the current impulse plus their Initiative time. It helps if all characters have 4 Action Counts, so each Impulse allows one Action. For aiming, players hide a counter with the number of aim actions under a poker chip. This way, the order of fire can be fairly resolved.