Impulse-based turn system

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An impulse-based turn system is a game mechanic where a game turn is broken up into a series of discrete, repeating segments, or impulses. It can be considered a fairly complex mechanic, but has been used in three games that have enjoyed long-term success, the wargames Star Fleet Battles and Car Wars, and the Hero System role-playing game (also known as Champions or Fantasy Hero).

It is most often seen in games that feature high-paced combat where units can move much further in one turn than common effective weapons ranges. (In Star Fleet Battles, a ship may move as far as 31 hexes in a single turn, and can usually move 20. 'Effective' weapon's range is generally 4-8 hexes at best.)

Comparison between impulses, turns, and rounds[edit]

There is potential confusion over the use of the terms impulse, turn, and round in modern tabletop gaming. In games that use the term impulse, such as tabletop wargames, a single game turn generally comprises multiple impulses, in which players take some portion of their possible actions; for example, activating a subset of their units. Thus, an impulse represents one subdivision of a larger structure—the turn. However, in certain other styles of games (Euro-style strategy games in particular), a similar two-level structure can be found, but with different terminology used by convention. In such games, each time that a player acts is described as a turn, with multiple turns potentially comprising a round.

The distinction between these conventions is partly historical and partly cultural, and most games use one convention or the other. However, as defined, a game could theoretically use a three-level structure wherein a single game round comprises multiple turns which comprise multiple impulses.