News for October 2009
Getting Things Done 59
A closer look at actions and action cards in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay | Published 23 October 2009

In the first installment of this two-part designer diary, Behind the Scenes, I discussed the design philosophy and approach behind the use of cards in the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I’d recommend reading that article first – it may help put some of this information into context.

In this installment of the two-part designer diary, I discuss several of the different elements that make up an action card, go into more detail on how recharge affects various actions, and provide a look at the anatomy of an action card.

Card Elements

Download the Action Card referenceThe cards convey a lot of information. In addition to descriptive text, some of the information is conveyed through the use of icons or graphics representing different game elements. A few of the game elements are described below. Be sure to download the Action Card Analysis reference (PDF, 800k) to see all the information made available through the action cards.

Difficulty Modifier: Any modifiers to the action’s difficulty are shown in the upper left corner of the card, below the icon denoting the type of action. Some actions are inherently more difficult than others, most often represented by a number of additional misfortune or challenge dice added to the dice pool when attempting the action.

It’s important to note that these are additional dice added to the pool, and some actions may have special guidelines that add or remove difficulty if certain conditions are met.

Recharge Rating: Some action cards require more effort or energy than others, and are not as easy to consistently perform over and over again. These action cards have a recharge rating listed in the blue circle in the upper right hand corner. After an action with a recharge rating has been successfully performed, the active player places a number of tracking tokens onto the card equal to the action’s recharge rating card. If a card has a ! listed as its recharge rating, the exact number of recharge tokens to place on the card may vary based on a special condition for the card. An action card is unavailable while there are any tracking tokens on it.

It is important to note that action cards do not acquire any recharge tokens if the check to perform the action failed – recharge tokens are only placed on the card after it is successfully used. Several different abilities, talents, or special situations may adjust the recharge rate of cards.

Fortune points are one method available to the players to speed up the rate at which their characters’ cards recharge. A player may spend one fortune point to remove one tracking token from any of his recharging cards. This fortune point can be spent from his personal supply, or spent from the party sheet when fortune refreshes. Multiple fortune points may be spent at the same time, allowing cards to recharge much faster.

Assess the SituationIn addition to its main function, the Assess the Situation basic action provides an opportunity for a character to remove recharge tokens from his own cards. In a similar vein, the Guarded Position basic action has a chance to allow nearby allies to remove recharge tokens from their cards.

Side Effect Triggers: On the bottom half of each action card are a variety of possible side effects that can be triggered based on the symbols appearing in the dice pool results. Most cards have at least one possible boon effect and one possible bane effect. These are in addition to any other results that may be available based on relevant talents, conditions, critical wounds, or possibly even the location where the action is taking place. Some cards feature multiple boon or bane effects. Some cards also feature special side effects for Sigmar’s Comet or Chaos Star results generated during a check.

Each individual effect can only be triggered once during any given action. However, with enough banes or boons, several different effects (possibly from different sources) may be triggered by the same pool of results. And since boon and bane symbols cancel each other out, only one of those two types of effects occur during any given action.

The acting player chooses which effects are triggered by boons he generates during checks. If banes are generated, the GM chooses which bane effects are triggered.

Action Cards & Stances

Honeyed WordsSince the action cards are double-sided, it is easy for a player to arrange his cards with one side face up, and flip his entire action deck over when he changes stance. This allows the player to easily view his cards from the appropriate stance side when making his decisions.

Many actions offer a variety of different results based on whether they are performed in a conservative versus a reckless stance. Sometimes the difference is subtle – the reckless side of an attack may inflict a little bit more damage, while the conservative side provides a chance to bypass the target’s armour or inflicts some sort of impairment. With other actions, the differences between the two stances can be quite significant.

Only cards in the player’s action deck (the cards available and ready for use) are affected by a change in stance. After a player uses an action card with a recharge rating, the card is placed face up on the table based on the stance in which that action was performed. If his character later changes stances while that action is still recharging, the recharging card is not flipped over – it is still recharging, and only returns to the player’s action deck when there are no more recharge tokens on the card.

Success & Failure

When attempting to use an action card, the task succeeds if one or more success symbols remain after challenge symbols have cancelled out an equal number of success symbols. If more than one success symbol remains, the player may be able to select from among several different options.

If an action card has more than one success line, the player may choose to trigger any one success line requiring a number of success symbols equal to or less than the number generated by the dice pool. Rolling more successes than the highest success line on a card has no additional effect – although the GM may decide that action succeeds in a manner even better than expected.


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is a roleplaying game that sets unlikely heroes on the road to perilous adventure, in the grim setting of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy world. Players will venture into the dark corners of the Empire, guided by luck and Fate, and challenge the threats that others cannot or will not face.

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Comments (59)

Published: 10/27/2009 9:03:47 PM

Ah - one answer to my dilemma comes from the other card thread via KarmicCycle - photocopy the cards.

Layout all of the spells/abilities on the green stance and copy; then copy the red aggressive stance side and voila; just flip the entire sheet over.

Published: 10/27/2009 8:28:49 PM

Here's something I've been pondering:

I am warming to the card mechanics, due in no small part that I have some friends who have never played a true RPG before and are getting very interested in this system (and they always refused to join my v2 games).

How do I handle NPC wizards? I assume that each spell is a card; are there two of each of those? Is there a mini-deck for each school/discipline?

What I like to do with my NPCs, particularly casters, is produce a 1-sheet that has all of their spells on it that I can quickly reference in game.

Published: 10/27/2009 1:15:19 PM
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Published: 10/27/2009 12:55:33 PM

 You really just don't seem to get it JapanGamer, you really don't. You are the one that continues to post the insulting remarks. You are the one that calls people that have differing opinions, "haters".. you say that people that are simply voicing their opinions are "squealing", rather than just posting their opinion in a comment section is that is a forum for people to.. post their opinions. You have created the tension here, I've only pointed out the things that I don't like about the new game.

It seems that you've come late to this discussion, as myself and others have gone through many design diaries, at one point I didn't like the game, at one point I was willing to give it a try. As time has gone by and more has been revealed, I've found that I don't like the direction that the game is going, and I am well within my right to post my opinions about that. 

If that rains on your parade or your point of view that these comment sections should be nothing but praise and happiness and butterlfies, well that's too bad. If I have an issue with a design choice, I'll continue to post that here and listen to people that want to either help me understand why they think it works or refute my point in some other way. 


Published: 10/27/2009 11:53:33 AM


It's been my experience that using any kind of ability cards, etc., can be the same as using a character sheet - if you don't want people to see what you can do, keep it covered.  It is, admittedly, a little awkward at first for people who are used to only having character sheets, but (again, in my experience) people adjust pretty quickly.  The shifty characters in our gaming group have never had a problem hiding their true selves from the rest of the party when cards/counters/etc. have been involved.

Published: 10/27/2009 11:18:10 AM

Sasquatch -

I still don't see FFG turning to just making games people can't afford. I mean, Invasion just came out for $50, and is comparable in price to Dominion. They also make a ton of low cost RPG materials, and those go on sale every year for like $5.

I didn't say I didn't agree that WHFR3 is expensive, and to some, overly so. But if you want to make a comparison, a GM has to spend $120 on buying all the necessary books for D&D, or at least $90 for two books to run a White Wolf game. In fact, it's not unusual for most printed, hardback versions of RPGs to cost anywhere from $40 to $60 a book. In WHFR3, you're getting several printed books, plus cards, plus etc.

I'm not begrudging the people who have legitimate complaints (they don't like the mechanics, they don't like the cards, they don't like the bits, etc.). I am ignoring the people who complain who then sling insults (in either direction) and basically act like this is the end of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing. It's not - I'm almost certain that in a few years, there will be another version, like every other RPG system publishes every 4 or 5 years. So take a deep breath, and just take calm approach. Either you want it and buy it, or you don't and you play v1/v2 for the next few years until v4 or something comes out. As it always does with Games Workshop products.

About FLGS:
I will most likely pick this up online for a cheap price later on next year. That's how the market works, really - if you can get it directly from a distributor (such as Amazon), you'll get it cheaper than a local store. I honestly don't care for local game stores around my area, because they gouge, deride and basically provide terrible service to their customers in the area. They are all basically hobbies run by people who have other businesses. Most of these "FLGS"s are basically comic book stores selling other materials on the side. I can care less about the FLGS. So I have no problem if the Internet runs the FLGS's in my area out of business. So that's not an argument I care about, personally.


Published: 10/27/2009 7:10:37 AM

 Anyway, enough of that dribble.  Back on topic.

I'm wondering if a card based system would be a more 'open' game than what I and my group tend to run at the moment?  By that I mean, because so many elements of the characters are shown on cards, and I'm assuming that they're played face up for reference, does that mean each of the characters has a greater grasp of what their companions can and can't do?

The main reason I ask is that my players tend to keep their characters' abilities close to the chest, for a couple of reasons.  The first is that some of them are just plain shifty.  They like keeping the others in the dark and only revealing abilities, skills, magic etc. when they have to.  I think they think they're being mysterious... ; )

Another reason is that pretty much all my players enjoy what we call the 'dramatic reveal'.  In other words, they don't share all their character information with the others and wait for just the right moment to produce dramatic effects with skills, magic etc.  We usually find this a lot of fun as they tend to be overly dramatic in the process, and it can be downright funny when it doesn't work.

The final reason my players tend to play things close to the chest is that some of them like being a 'wolf in sheep's clothing'.  We've had several memorable PCs, over the years, who either started out bad and eventually caused grief for the group or turned bad over time.  As their inclination towards evil grew they tended to get even more secretive and, once again, there was the big dramatic reveal to play.

Can a card system detract from this kind of play, or is it just a matter of flipping the cards?  Does that then detract from the reference aspect?  I ask because I've never played a card-based roleplaying system (he says showing a glaring ignorance on the subject) and would like to hear people's thoughts and/or ideas.

Published: 10/27/2009 6:56:40 AM

 To Japan Gamer,

At what point did I say I hated the game or didn't want to play it?  I want to learn more so I can decide IF it's for me.  I'm not here rubbishing the whole system.  How can I, I haven't seen it.  I have some concerns about what I've seen so far but what I'm trying to do is understand it better and find out if those concerns are unfounded.  I'm happy you're excited by the new game.  I'm happy other people are too.  But to be criticising people who don't share your enthusiasm and telling them they have no place posting here seems unfair to me.

Speaking solely for myself I am not trying to bash the game or tell anyone I'm right and they'e wrong.  I'm trying to get more detail about a brand new system that I don't fully grasp.  How on earth is that putting you off?  I don't understand that at all.

You also seem to be under the misapprehension that I have flat out rejected this game.  Not so.  I certainly wouldn't be spending all this time trying to get some clarification if I had decided that I wasn't interested.  That would be a horrible waste of time... : )

Japan Gamer
Published: 10/27/2009 5:40:48 AM

 Anyway, I'll bow out now.  I too am wasting time and energy trying to understand what is just people being people.   I am looking forward to the new game.  I can't wait to get my paws on it.   To those of you who don't like it, I'd ask that you at least consider that there are a fair number of people on here who are and maybe don't need to hear your personal issues with it.  After the game is out and people are playing and those people have criticisms, I can't wait to hear their informed opinions.

Until then,

The misunderstood abuse hurler ;)

Japan Gamer
Published: 10/27/2009 5:33:30 AM

 I put the term "hater" in quotes to indicate that I really didn't mean it that strongly.  My question was a true question and it remains.  Why do you invest energy in time in a game you are not going to play?  Even if you have played all the other editions. if you are going to play this one what is the point of posting and discussing it?  These are earnest questions.  It just seems like a shocking waste of time and energy to me, but hey, whatever gets you going in the morning.  

Published: 10/27/2009 12:20:48 AM

To Japan Gamer,

I am very sorry you feel you can speak for the rest of us and know what it is we're thinking.  The only person being overly negative seems to be you, and you seem to feel the need to attack anyone who doesn't wholeheartedly embrace this new product or shut their mouth if they don't.  It's sad you feel this way but all you seem to be doing right now is hurling abuse.  Telling someone to get off the forum because they don't share your opinion is downright rude.

While I can't speak for everyone else, and wouldn't want to try, I can say that I am here to work through what it is this game is going to be, and ask for more information so I can do just that.  We are always hearing from FFG that they like to listen to what we have to say, as fans of FFG games, and I would argue THAT is what these forums are for.

Why this is a problem for you I don't know.  But then, I guess I'm just a 'hater' so I should shut up, right?

Japan Gamer
Published: 10/26/2009 11:54:07 PM

By the way, I am not trying to set posting standards.  I just wonder what "haters" goals are.  Design diaries are a method of getting you pumped for an upcoming product.  If you find yourself disinterested in the diaries, you probably won't like the new game.  Different taste for different folks.  But why after the people find themselves not interested in playing the game, do they come on and post their criticism and vitriol....

The only possible answers I can come up with...

1.  Spoil others fun... I don't like the new edition but I wanted to and this pisses me off so I will rail against the game to show my anger.

2.  I've been playing since the dawn of time...  I feel entitled to speak as an authority on this game since I have been playing for X amount of years and I much have my grognard displeasure heard/

3.  You all are too stupid to see that it isn't any good... I know what you like better than you do and want to show you what a piece of crap this new game is going to be.

4.  I like to have my voice heard..,. I don't really care what I am talking about as long as I am talking and somebody is listening.

5.  FFG staffers must hear my voice...  I hope that FFG staffers will hear my pleas and make changes to a game that has already gone to the printers.

This sounds like snark but it isn't just that.  It is a true curiousity at why negative nellies are here squealing foul so much and then expecting people to tolerate and understand them while the rest of us are trying to get excited and pumped abou the new edition. 

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