Paper invasion

It's a good plan on paper

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I decided that during 2024, I'd design one game every month. This month, I've created Paper invasion, a wargame designed to be played entirely with pencil and paper. The design challenges for this one were that I didn't want to rely on dice for randomization, and there's a lot of notation required to keep track of different game "tokens" because it all happens on paper. This game would work just as well with miniatures, but I developed it specifically as a way to pass idle time when you don't have miniatures available.

To play, you can either download the official Game Sheet, or you can make your own. The benefit to using (or copying) the official Game Sheet is that you get random tables for the Event and Vault game mechanics. You can play without the random tables, though, and just make up your own Event and Vault. You can even play the game in just text, using a text editor on your computer.

Theme and goal

In this game, you play as a group of [probably doomed] Heroes fighting back an invasion of a malignant force of Enemies. The game can be played using any theme that appeals to you, so pick a theme before each game.

Here are some Theme ideas:

  1. Space miners vs. aliens
  2. Survivors vs. zombies
  3. Secret agents vs. killer robots
  4. Knights vs. skeleton horde
  5. Cowboys vs. vampires
  6. Teenagers vs. swamp things
  7. Librarians vs. demons
  8. Wargamers vs. body snatchers
  9. Cheer leaders vs. blobs
  10. Nuns vs. killer clowns

To win, all Enemies must be vanquished, and at least one of your Heroes must survive.


First, think of a word that comes to mind when you think of your chosen theme. For example, "undead" describes a skeleton horde, "bloody" describes a vampire, "gross" describes a blob, "disgusting" describes a body snatcher, "cantankerous" describes a zombie, and so on. The word must be one you've never used in this game before.

Write the first 6 letters of your word on your game sheet. If your word doesn't contain 6 letters, just write it again until you fill 6 slots.

Under each letter, write its numeric position in the alphabet. For example, A is 1 because it's the first letter in the alphabet, D is 4, H is 8, Z is 26, and so on. When there are two digits, add them together. The eleventh letter, K is 2 instead of 11 (because 1+1 is 2), and L is 3 instead of 12 (1+2), and Z is 8 (2+6) and so on.


You now have 6 relatively unexpected numbers.

If you start to impulsively "game" this system after you get used to it, consider reversing your word, or starting two letters into the word. Whatever it takes to get unexpected numbers. In a pinch, you can also just roll a D6 or D10 (reroll 0) to generate six single-digit numbers.

In this game, each of these numbers, in sequence, is called a Slot. Slot 1 is the first number, Slot 2 is the second, and so on until Slot 6.


Now it's time to create your Game Board.

Draw rooms

Slot 5 +1 is the number of rooms on your game board. Using pencil, draw your game board in the Play Area of your Game Sheet. Don't draw doors and things like that. It's assumed there are doors, or passages of some kind, between rooms. The line between each room is called a Single Barrier.

Give each room a lower-case letter (a, b, c, d) for reference.

Game board

Each lines you draw represents a Wall. A Wall has three states:

  • Single Barrier: The default is a wall with a door. Heroes move through a Single Barrier freely (opening and closing doors as needed). Enemies cannot pass a Single Barrier and must create an Opening.
  • Opening: When an Enemy creates an Opening, erase part of the Wall. Enemies and Heroes can pass through Openings. An Opening can only be closed by creating a new Single Barrier with the Seal action.
  • Double Barrier: When a Hero reinforces a Single Barrier, draw a second line. Both Enemies and Heroes must use the Smash action to break down a Double Barrier before they can interact with the Single Barrier remaining.
Barrier states

Place Hero tokens

Slot 1 is the number of Heroes you have on your side.

Write a capital H for each Hero in any room of the Game Board. You can place any Hero in any room, or all of them in one room.

Place Enemy tokens

Slot 2 ×2 is the number of Enemies.

Starting at the top ("North") position on your Game Board, write a capital O (actually it's just a circle) to represent one Enemy outside one of the rooms. Move to the East position, and write another capital O outside one of the rooms. Do the same thing for each cardinal position, in order, until you've placed all Enemies. When an Enemy is killed, you can erase, fill in, or X-out the O (whatever's easier for you).

Add a Vault

Write the letter V in one room of your choice. This is a Vault, a locked cache of supplies that your Heroes can open during the game.

Add an Event marker

Write the letter E in one room of your choice. This is an Event that gets triggered during the game.

A game board setup and ready to start


Turns are taken as a group. If Slot 5 is an odd number, Heroes go first, and then Enemies go.


On the Hero turn, each Hero may make a Move and take exactly one Action

Possible Actions are:

  • Kill: 2 Enemies in the active Hero's current room. When you do this, fill in the circle representing the Enemies killed, or just erase it.
  • Seal: Create an additional Barrier between the Hero's current room and another room. Draw a new line over an Opening or Single Barrier.
  • Smash: Break through a Double Barrier. Erase one line between two rooms, creating a Single Barrier (Heroes can move through Single Barriers).
  • Loot: Open a Vault.

Possible Moves:

  • Move through a Single Barrier or Opening, from one room to an adjacent room.


On the Enemy turn, each Enemy makes a Move and exactly one Action.

Possible Enemy Actions:

  • Smash: Break through exactly one Barrier. Erase the Barrier from the Game Board.
  • Grab: Change 1 Hero in the Enemy's current room to an Enemy token. Erase the H and replace it with a O.

Possible Enemy Moves:

  • Move through an Opening, from one room to an adjacent room.


A Hero in a room with a Vault may open it using the Loot action. Change the token of that Hero to a P (Power-up) while the Hero has the Vault item. A Vault item is single-use, but it doesn't have to be used right away. Once the Vault item has been used, change the token back to H.

Refer to Slot 3, and then refer to that number on the Vault random table on the Game Sheet. If you're not using the Official Game Sheet, make up a bonus for your Heroes.

Here's the Vault random table from the Game Sheet:

  1. Flamer: Kill 3 Enemies in current and an adjacent room
  2. Builder: Change any one Opening to a Single Barrier, or any one Single Barrier to a Double Barrier
  3. Mover: Move through one extra room for free
  4. Shaker: Skip one Enemy turn
  5. Shover: Move all Enemies from one room to an adjacent room
  6. Sniper: Kill 1 Enemy in any room
  7. Dodger: For one turn, when an Enemy Grabs a Hero, it fails (this uses up the Enemy's action)
  8. Survivor: Add a Hero to the Game Board
  9. Fixer: Close an Opening in any Wall


An Event is triggered when there are only 2 Enemies left, or the first time there is a turn in which Enemies are unable to Move for any reason other than a special effect from a Vault.

An Event happens immediately. If it's a localized Event, or you need a way to determine what Game asset is affected, start in the room with the Event marker in it, and then moves clockwise around the cardinal directions (North, East, South, West).

When an Event occurs, refer to Slot 4, and then look at that number on the Event random table on the Game Sheet. You are required to trigger only one Event for each game, but you may trigger an additional event of your choice any time you want an extra challenge. If you're not using the Official Game Sheet, make up an Event.

Here's the Event random table from the Game Sheet:

  1. Sleeper awakens: Change one Hero into an Enemy
  2. Paper thin: Erase one seal
  3. Kool-aid man: Create an Opening in any room containing a Hero
  4. Secret passage: Add one room
  5. Terror-stricken: Skip the next Hero turn
  6. It's a trap: Erase 1 Hero
  7. Freak accident: Erase 1 Enemy
  8. Bad: Add 2 Enemies
  9. Worse: Add 4 Enemies


The "randomization" method is good, because it disassociates the choice of numbers from your pre-calculating game brain to your creative brain. For most people, choosing an adjective to describe a killer robot isn't the same as choosing six numbers that are going to determine your odds of winning a game. Of all my dice-less methods of getting unexpected numbers, this is one of my favourite personal innovations to date.

This game also uniquely encourages cut-throat gameplay. It's every Ripley for herself in this one. Creating Double Barriers to keep out Enemies and your fellow Heroes is merciless, but it might just win you the game.

Like Skuffle Wammer, this is a game I play often. It's a great solo game that's playable anywhere. It's extremely accessible, too, because the assets can be tracked in so many different ways. You could set this up on a board with miniatures, or draw it on paper, or just track it as a bullet list in a text editor.

Header photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

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