Yeah it is tricky, because absent a “hidden forces” marker of some sort to conceal which forces are where, it is hard to simulate a realistic situation. However, what the cards would do here, in terms of secrecy, is still an improvement over the OOB situation. Players would know for example, whether an enemy had a card, but they wouldn’t know for sure (until the card was exchanged the following round before the Purchase phase) how many IPCs exactly that card is worth. It could be worth anywhere from 2 to 15 ipcs (possibly up to 20 ipcs if the enemy drew a Joker.) These amounts could be potentially significant in terms of purchasing strategy, and the values would be hidden until used. So even if you can’t really mask the position or value of the forces currently in play, you can at least mask the potential value of new units introduced at purchase.
That’s something at least, better than nothing.
The combat bonus likewise would not allow you to conceal the number of units in a given territory, but it would allow you to conceal the actual “full strength” of the units located there. Since the enemy would not know where you plan to use a Combat bonus until the attack actually occurs and the card is exchanged.
Again not a full expression of secrecy, but still better than nothing. Also what about this as a possibility…?
Another option not considered yet, but also possible might be a movement bonus attached to a certain card for a single unit. This could be restricted to non combat if desired.
Still another option, equally possible would be a placement bonus (allowing you to place a single unit in any location where your units are currently stationed, but not revealed until the placement phase.)
So consider the situation, each player has 1 hidden card per round that could potentially affect…
Income/IPCs (Purchase potential in subsequent rounds)
Movement (of a single unit in non com, for example)
Combat (attack potential of a single unit, or specific units/types)
Or Placement (location of single unit)
That covers nearly every game phase, providing a hidden card potential for each. Per turn
Any of these bonuses in isolation wouldn’t be very dramatic for secrecy, but taken together they introduce at least some level of “the unknown” into the conflict. You can still make general plans and formulate general strategies based on what you can see in the open, but you can’t parse out every contingency or sketch out every possibility available to the enemy since you wouldn’t know which random card was in their possession at any given time, or how they might use it.
The whole thing hinges on the secrecy of the draw. The cards must remain face down until they are exchanged (the following round, in whichever phase the player elects to use them) otherwise you lose the hidden aspect.
The card-based system you’ve outlined doesn’t provide secrecy or fog of war in the sense that I’ve described. Basically, as I understand it, it’s a system that gives players bonus IPCs on a random basis, and which conceals from the other players the R&D advantages on which those IPCs are going to be spent. The idea certainly sounds like fun, but as you pointed out yourself (“I think it would depend on whether you wish to put the focus of the randomized element on Income, R&D or Combat”) it’s more a randomization mechanism than a secrecy mechanism.
Perhaps I did not provide an adequate explanation, since I think this point is critical… All Income bonuses are concealed until the card is exchanged.
This means that at any given point in the game, no player is aware exactly how much money their enemy is holding (provided that enemy has a card). This comes close to fulfilling the first condition you laid out concealing “the composition of forces” at least with respect to purchasing possibilities, or planning your counters to the enemy on the basis of what they have to spend on forces the following round.
In order to really take it further though, more consideration should be given to combat, movement, and placement advantages.
I would suggest limiting these to one declared unit per turn, per card (for ease of use.) But other options might also work. By unit type perhaps, or other ways to coordinate between specific units and specific cards. Definitely interested to hear any ideas on this subject. I would stress again that what we are trying to achieve here is the “flavor” of secrecy. Setting a somewhat modest goal here, because it’s important that the gameplay still be accessible and fun (rather than turning into work.) So what I would hope to achieve would be just enough secrecy from the cards to give a nod to that aspect of war, but without upending the whole design of the game to get there. I think cards could work for this, and provide some entertaining randomization at the same time. What do you think?
Another trick (in an A&A environment) is to use a variation of the “task force marker” concept for the original Pacific game: the plastic sculpts that are part of a fleet (or an army group) are kept in a group off the board, while a numbered marker on the board represents them collectively. The original Pacific game didn’t use the system for purposes of concealment – it was just a convenient way to move groups of ships around the map – but it can easily be used with a few adjustments to create concealment. (I can provide more details if you want; I once discussed this idea somewhere in another thread.)
More details for sure! It is definitely a subject of interest.
Also, while I’m in here finding the right card image to edit/attach with the post… :-D
I’m also pretty open to baron’s suggestion below, of finding ways to use a card bonus mechanic in the movement phases, the combat move or non combat move. For example, by allowing a unit (or certain unit type, or specific group of units) to move farther than they might otherwise be able to, if the player did not possess such a card. Then, at least in terms of defending against attack, the ‘location and intentions’ of your enemies forces, like their options on purchase, would be harder to read. There’d be that variable in the background, allowing them to get tricky, if they had the right card at the right time, and used it in the right way.