Forward March: Turn Order in Bardsung | Board Game Design

Time to act, heroes!

First, make sure you’re following the Kickstarter

Then, let’s talk marching order!

The Marching Order in Bardsung

by Sherwin Matthews

Welcome back! So far, we’ve discussed some high level ideas and learned about exploring, combat, and challenges

Several times in these articles I've mentioned turns, rounds, and the initiative order. So, it’s probably about time we discuss those in more detail.

Bardsung’s initiative system, known as the marching order, is something we’re particularly happy with, having spent quite a lot of time tinkering with at various stages of the game’s development.

For me, it’s particularly exciting because it introduces a secondary playing area for you to interact with and build strategies around.

Marching to the Bard’s Tune

Our initial aim with the marching order was quite basic. We wanted to create a simple-to-read track that every player could see and quickly understand. 

But as we carried out early prototyping, we quickly realised we had the beginnings of a much more powerful tool on our hands.

Let’s start with an example.


The marching order is represented by a row of cards; one for each hero and enemy type in the playing area at any given time. 

You’ll use it to establish the turn order by reading from left to right, with the furthest left card indicating which miniature(s) act first in the round.

After a hero or enemy has taken a turn, their card is then rotated to one side to indicate that it’s been exhausted. You then move to the next non-exhausted card, working from the left as before. 

Simple, eh? Well, that’s the basics. But what’s so exciting about this engine is how much fun and flavour we can introduce!


For starters, let’s talk about another basic concept: rounds. 

‘Round’ is the term we use to refer to a set period of game time, where every miniature takes a turn. 

It’s really straightforward to define using a visual aid like the marching order, where you can easily track who’s taken a turn, and who’s yet to do so, regardless of how many miniatures are on the table. 

Once everyone is done, cards are reset, and we can begin again.

But using the marching order, we can also layer in additional cards to add interesting timing steps during a round. A hazard, for example, with an effect that will trigger at a set point. Or, a card at the end of the marching order representing an ongoing event, such as a room that is slowly flooding, that escalates over time.

Let’s look at a really simple mechanic as an example: shuffling. 

Because we want combat to be unpredictable, all of the cards are shuffled and laid back out at the end of the round (or when new enemies join the fray), resetting the marching order completely. 


This then resets the round, keeping you guessing as gameplay shifts accordingly. 

But, I hear you ask, what meaningful choices does that offer, if it’s completely random?

Well, that’s where hero abilities come in!

Influencing the Marching Order

Because we can influence your decisions with timing cards created by the aspect deck, we thought it only fair to let you manipulate the marching order yourselves, too. 

The most obvious example of this is letting heroes move either their own card, or an ally’s card, up or down the marching order, to affect the turn order during a round. 

This could be employed any number of ways—an innate quick-reflex ability that lets a hero move one space left or right after shuffling. Or perhaps a haste spell that pushes a hero right to the top of the order, so they automatically get the next turn. Or even a linked turn, allowing two heroes to activate either at the same time or in quick succession as part of a combo attack.

Another idea:

Imagine a brave paladin standing sentinel over their allies, that can fix their place in the marching order and ignore any shuffling or repositioning. 

A great ability already, but consider the combination of this trait and a mage casting the same haste spell mentioned above. Suddenly, the paladin is going first in the next round too, allowing the players a measure of control over the unpredictable swirling chaos.

And then there are other effects, that interact with enemies. 

A hero might trip or distract an enemy, sending them plummeting down the marching order. Or, a hunter could use an ability to pin an enemy in place on the marching order. 

Let’s reset the example above, pinning the Reaver, and then reshuffle…


Suddenly, our heroes have two opportunities to finish off their foe before worrying about retaliation!

A Powerful Tool

As you can see, the marching order is a powerful tool, and a key element for you to interact with (as well as the main playing area).

As time goes on, we’ll be sharing many other ways in which Bardsung’s mechanics interact with the marching order, including special attack types, bosses, and that classic dungeon crawler trope, wandering monsters, who’ll be the stars of our next post! 

Until next time, heroes.

In the meantime, join us in the tavern for all reveals!