User Notes for BAR {May 8, 2007}

Corrections {Errare humanum est}

Quick Reference Chart #2

Correct Shooter Modifier, top of page 2, “Cl. Order Regs. 1st Fire 0-20” to 0-12”

How to Play a Joker

  • When a joker is drawn it belongs to no one at first.

  • The color of the next card drawn determines the owner.

    • For example, Black = Austrians, French and Russians. Red = British and Prussians.

  • Hand the joker to the commander in chief, CinC.

  • CinC holds the joker until he wants to use it anytime to the end of the game.

  • Jokers are used solely to move or fire out of order.

  • Mêlées are simultaneous. See the top of page 3 of the QRs. Jokers do not apply here.

  • On rare occasions two or three jokers will be dealt in a row.

  • In this case the next card color drawn determines the owner of them all.


The French commander in chief was dealt a joker several turns ago. He has been holding it for a propitious moment to trump an opponent to gain an advantage. As the fire phase of turn five progresses, cards are dealt to determine fire order. At a crucial spot, enemy battalion Itzenplitz commanded by Heinz will fire before André’s 1/Auvergne. André asks the French commander in chief for the joker. After considering if this is a good idea or not, the CinC agrees and gives the joker to André. So instead of 1/Auvergne receiving fire and losing casualties first, Itzenplitz must first receive fire, remove casualties and fire back with what is left. The French hope this fog of war moment of unpredictability will somehow gain an advantage. The only way to change this is if Heinz’s commander in chief also has a joker and uses it to trump the French joker.

Some players want more control and will be troubled by jokers changing who moves or fires first. However, jokers introduce what otherwise rarely occurs in wargames but often happens in battles; uncertainty, unpredictable moments, the unexplainable, chaos, fog of war, mistakes, a sudden reverse of fortunes, greater historical immersion and for us, fun.

After several BAR games, you will find that the effects of playing jokers evens out and sometimes has no bearing on the final outcome of a battle. However, in the midst of one being played no one is ever certain. Kind of like the real thing.

Using the Card Deck

For reference see:

Quick Reference Chart #1 and #2, page 1, bottom center.

Page 35 top.

Page 43 middle.

Page 51 middle.

Assign someone to manage a deck of 52 playing cards adding one, two or three jokers.

All that matters for numbered and face cards is the color.

The most efficient means of distributing cards is for the dealer to stand at one end of the table and commence walking along one side dealing out cards till he reaches the other end. Each turn he will do so in the movement phase and afterwards in the fire phase. He may do this in a variety of ways always thinking how to make the game move along quickly and fairly. The author’s preferred method is to do this by table sector, opposing players or opposing brigades. Only occasionally are cards dealt for opposing single units

An example follows. Heinz is hosting a game with four people including himself, two per tableside. He commands his usual Prussians while André commands the French.

Heinz: “It is now Turn 1 movement. I shall draw only one card for an entire tableside. The card is black. André, you and Pierre get to move all your miniatures now. We Prussians will sit idle until your forces are sufficiently committed to their move or are fully moved. Günter and I will then move all our Prussians. There is no need to draw another card for movement this turn.”

Everyone knows there is little chance of contact on turns one or two. Thus drawing one card is the speediest method to process movement for these turns. After movement is completed….

Heinz: “Now that movement is over for everyone I will draw one card for fire. I see there is little chance someone will want to shoot muskets and lose first fire bonuses at very long ranges. Does anyone want to fire muskets? No? Okay then, the card is black again. André, any of your artillery pieces that are able may fire. Yes, all of them. Pierre’s too. When you and Pierre are finished our Prussians that can fire will return fire.”

This again is a speed mechanism so important in moving games along faster and more efficiently. At this point Heinz has used only two cards from the deck. These are placed in a discarded pile. Turns one and two are usually very fast turns but as turn 3 nears, enemy forces are often a lot closer to each other. The dealer must now change his method of dealing cards.

Heinz: “Turn 3 movement. I see opposing forces are a lot closer. Now I’ll deal cards by player. Günter and Pierre are opposite each other and the card is black. So Pierre, go ahead and move all miniatures that you desire to move. Let Günter know what you are going to do. Then once Pierre is committed, Günter, you can start moving your miniatures whether Pierre is finished or not. Yes Pierre, go ahead and start moving while I draw a card for André and myself. Günter, you will not need a card.”

It takes seconds for Heinz to say the above. Without a pause he draws a next card to determine whether the player opposite himself, in this case his old pard André, will move first or second.

Heinz: “My dear André our card is a joker. To determine who gets it, I must draw another card. Black again! Since you are the French commander in chief today, it is yours to use whenever you wish for the rest of the game in a movement or fire phase for you or Pierre. Since the card drawn after the joker was black, you get to move before me. What are you going to do?”

André places his joker aside to be used later, perhaps under his commander in chief miniature. Once André is sufficiently along in his movements and committed to them, Heinz commences and finishes moving all of his units that he wants to move. When movement is completed Heinz draws cards for fire.

Heinz: “I drew movement cards starting on the right with Günter and Pierre. For fire I’ll shift to the left starting first with André and myself. It’s red. Finally! My Prussians get to fire before your French André. Now for Günter and Pierre. Red again. Günter go ahead and fire all your units before Pierre while I fire mine.”

André: “Sorry Heinz, but I choose to play my joker for Pierre. Therefore, he trumps Günter. Pierre you fire before Günter does. Then Günter, you may fire back with only your survivors.”

Heinz: “André, I’m surprised at you using a joker so early. You might need it later for something more critical. Are you sure? You are. Okay lets fire. I’ll fire at you André with all my eligible units while Pierre fires all his at Günter. Then remove casualties and check morale if needed. Afterwards, André and Günter, you do the same. Commence fire please. No Pierre, you do not need to wait for me to finish. You and I are firing at the same time in the turn while Gunter and André will have the pleasure to receive it and throw saving throws.”

The reader may be shocked to realize that Heinz and Pierre may have several units firing before opponents can return fire. Perhaps Pierre and Heinz each have two infantry battalions and artillery. Yes. All get to fire while their opponents sit idle. It works just fine with the law of averages during the course of most games or over several games. This is also a helpful device to cause occasional horrible moments in battle when a devastating effect somehow occurs. Use this in your larger wargames or draw cards by opposing units if you think it proper or needed for some reason such as in small games with few units. For example, if 1/Auvergne opposes Itzenplitz, draw one fire card for these two. If red, Itzenplitz fires before 1/Auverge. The dealer may need to shift back and forth dealing cards by opposed individual units, by opposed brigades, opposed players or even by temporary and logical geographical sectors. The dealer is not locked into one mode per turn or per game. He may change at will so long as he is fair to the players about it. They will tell you. Nor does he have to shift dealing cards from the left one turn and by the right another turn. It just seems to be something people desire to shift luck around.

Many years ago when developing Drums of War Along The Mohawk, the dealer dealt cards only to the respective commanders in chief. They would decide who would get each card. For example, a first red would go to Heinz. He would then choose a British unit to move. It would move. A next card would be drawn. Black. That card would be given to André to select one French unit to move. After that unit moved, a third card would be drawn for a third unit to move and so on till all units were moved. This was repeated for fire. It is a very slow method suitable only for the smallest wargames. Too many people sit idle waiting to move each unit, card by card and then wait again repeating the same procedure drawing more cards for fire, unit by unit. This is not necessary and will absolutely create a very slow moving game, a bête noire for the author. Not recommended.

If the cards of your deck are all used, pick up the discarded card pile, reshuffle, cut and reuse. It is okay for unplayed jokers to still be out on the table. In our days of playing “Drums” we often would get deep into a second card deck. In our larger BAR games, we rarely do – well, maybe a little. We play faster now and it is a lot more fun for everyone. It will be for you too.