As noted in the overview of the Mil Ops Phase, Orders are processed in three stages, and the Orders in each stage have some key properties in common:
- Stage I Orders (Missiles, Demolition Attacks) are isolated explosive events that do not block or become blocked by other orders (but a successful hit cuts Support).
- Stage II Orders (Marches, Supports) are battle-ready. They do not block each other, but lead to battles if they come up against opposing Units, and they block all opposing Manoeuvres.
- Stage III Orders (Moves, Convoys, and Bombing Raids) are tentative. They are obstructed by all opposing Stage II and III orders and by opposing Units (with the sole exception of the bombed space in a Bombing Raid), and they never lead to battle.
Most order consists of 3 parts. For instance, a typical March order looks like this: B4=>B5, which indicates the space being ordered (“B4”), the type of order (“=>” means “March”) and the targeted grid space (“B5”). The order should not mention individual Units.
A Unit can only respond to one order, which must have been given to the grid space or Location Card the Unit was on at the time the order was submitted. It is not permitted to change spaces in response to one order and then respond to a new order at the new space. (Note: it is permitted for a Ground Unit to March in response to its own Ground order and then be convoyed by a Bomber Unit, because it is the Bomber that is responding to the Convoy order.)
TIP. Because Orders are executed sequentially, Messina differs substantially from the classic game, Diplomacy, where all orders are resolved simultaneously. Some aspects of Messina’s military rules do create a pseudo-simultaneous effect, because opposing orders can block each other, and Marches to the same space usually end up in the same battle, but turn order is often important. For instance, if one faction Marches A=>B, and an enemy faction Marches B=>C, turn order determines whether they clash at space “B”. Conversely, if one faction Marches A=>B and the other merely Moves B->C, there is always a clash at B because Marches are processed first. If one faction orders the Move A->B, and the other Marches B=>C or Moves B->C, the first order to B is invalid because it attempts to Move into a hostile, occupied space.
The available orders are:
- Missile Attacks – the launch of targeted strikes from Equator City at D1 or from the AI Starship.
- Demolition Attacks – Ground Units detonating explosives
- Marches – movement of Units with commitment, and leads to battles if any hostile Units are encountered.
- Supports – allow Units to add their strength to battles and return to their current Location.
- Holds – the default order, which simply represent Units’ readiness to defend their current position.
- Moves – tentative forays or defensive excursions, which are cancelled or shortened if any opposition is encountered.
- Convoys – flights by Bomber Units, carrying Ground Units.
- Bombing Raids – flights by Bomber Units to deliver destructive payloads to a hostile space.
Orders should be abbreviated as follows: Missile (“#>”), March (“=>”), Support (“+>), Hold (“”), Move (“–>”), Convoy (“>>”), and Bombing Raid (“#>”). Note that the abbreviations have built in mnemonics. The Move order is an arrow, and the March order is a stronger arrow. Convoy has a double arrowhead because it lets both Air and Ground Units move together. The Missile/Bombing symbol uses a # mark to indicate the grid on the Chance Cards that are used to resolve Missile attacks and Bombing Raids. Support uses a + sign because the strength of Supporting Units is added to the space it is targeting. The Hold symbol represents walls for the Units to huddle behind.
For all of these orders except Missile Orders and Hold, the location of the ordered Units and the targeted grid space must both be specified with a letter-number location.
Flight path flexibility. Most multi-space Orders allow the ordering faction to propose a flight path of their choice at the time of execution, which means that the starting and ending spaces of the order do not define a single fixed route but a corridor of activity – the final March or Move may end up targeting a space en route to the named target. This means that an apparently simple Order like F1=>F2, if given to an Air Unit, is actually a set of 3 possible Marches: F1=>F2, F1=>G1=>F2, and F1=>E2=>F2. The ordering faction is not committed to any one of those three interpretations until the Order is executed. This issue is discussed further in the description of the individual orders.
For the special case of Missiles sent from the AI Starship or the First Fleet Base at D1, no starting space is needed.
For Convoys and Bombing Raids, a drop-off and final destination can be specified, like this:
Bombing Raid: B4#>B6–>B5
These orders indicate that Bombers should start at B4, fly with their cargo (troops or bombs) to B6, and optionally fly on to B5. If a fly-on destination is not specified in the written order, Convoy and Bombing Raid orders are interpreted, by default, to have an optional return-flight to the starting space. (B4#>B6 and B4#>B6->B4 have identical meanings.)
Location Card Orders
For Location Cards, use a single-digit number in parentheses to identify which Card is receiving the order (number the Cards from left to right, from the perspective of the owning player). If there is only one Unit type on the Card, it is not necessary to characterise the Order as Air or Ground – all Orders to Hidden Units can be listed separately, under the heading “Hidden”. It is not permitted to target a face-down Location Card in an order; simply target the corresponding grid space. Units on face-up Location Cards will face the consequences of the Order targeting them when their corresponding grid space is targeted.
[This will be changed… ignore for now]
All factions must separate their Ground orders and Air orders, listing them under the headings GROUND and AIR. Location Card Orders may be listed separately, and do not need to distinguish between Air and Ground Orders, unless this is needed to resolve ambiguity (i.e. the Card has one Air and one Ground Unit). If Units on face-up Cards get transferred to the map at any stage, they are still considered to have received the order given to the Card. Missile Orders may be listed under the heading MISSILE, or this may be implied by listing the Missile Order first, and omitting mention of the ordered space, as shown below.
Orders for the AI faction, for instance, could look like this:
#>D1 Ground E5=>D4 Air E3>>E2->F2 E5>>D3->C3 Cards (1)=>E4
You can practice writing orders with this form, which checks your basic syntax.
If a grid space or Location Card receives no order, it is considered to be Holding. If it receives an order that is geographically impossible or violates obstruction rules, defined below, the order is crossed out and treated like a Hold order.
Most orders have an optional component, so a faction may wait to see everyone else’s orders before deciding how and whether to process each individual order.
Terrain Rules apply to all orders, including Support orders, and an order is geographically impossible if it requires illegal cliff-crossing or human Units passing through the North Pole, or it exceeds distance limits (defined below).
Order Validity and Hostility
The interpretation and validity of some orders depends on whether the targeted or intervening spaces are hostile or blocked.
A space is considered hostile if:
- it contains Units of another faction (including Workers) and either faction considers the other to be unfriendly; or
- it is represented by a face-up Location Card belonging to another faction and either faction considers the other to be unfriendly.
A space is considered contested if:
- it was hostile when Orders were submitted; or
- it has been directly targeted (and explicitly mentioned) by a valid March, Support or Manoeuvre Order of an opposing faction.
A space is considered blocked to Manoeuvres if:
- it is contested; or
- it is hostile.
Factions are only required to declare themselves as friendly or unfriendly to another faction when this would modify the validity or execution of an Order. For each Mil Ops Phase, factions must not change their status as friendly or unfriendly once this has been declared – if a faction opposes one Order, it is considered unfriendly for all other Orders from the opposed faction; if it is friendly in one space, it must be friendly to the same faction for all spaces. The status of a faction during Military Bonus Actions, prior to submission of Orders, has no bearing on its friendliness after revealing Orders.
Whether a space is hostile or contested is only relevant to an Order that targets the space or attempts to enter the space during execution of the order. When leaving a space, it does not matter if the space is hostile or contested. Note that, if the starting space of a Convoy or Bombing Raid Order is blocked, a return flight to that space is not valid.
Empty Utilities and Shields do not render a space hostile or restrict movement of opposing Units.
Missiles and Demolition Attacks do not involve entry of Units into spaces, and so they do not interact directly with other orders. For both, each hostile space en route increases the effective distance used to calculate damages. Also, if a grid space is hit by a Missile or Demolition Attack, those Units can no longer provide Support.
For Marches, it is permissible to enter zero or one hostile space. A March must finish at the first hostile space encountered, leading to a battle if there are Units there, and it must not attempt to pass through that hostile space to a space beyond it. Similarly, Support can be projected into a hostile space, but not through a hostile space. Both Marches and Supports can ignore spaces that are merely contested, if they are not hostile.
A Bombing Raid may enter a single blocked space to drop bombs on it, but cannot enter or fly through any additional blocked spaces. It may land on the bombed space if it is not hostile at the conclusion of the bombing.
For Moves and Convoys, no blocked spaces may be entered.
Orders that do not comply with these restrictions are considered obstructed. A March or Support that attempts to enter a single hostile space or a Bombing Raid that attempts to Bomb a single blocked space is perfectly ordinary and is not considered obstructed. A March, Support or Bombing Raid that meets opposition before reaching the targeted space is obstructed. Two Moves from opposing factions that both target the same space obstruct each other, and neither can succeed in their original form. Two Marches targeting the same space are not obstructed but will usually lead to a battle.
If an order is obstructed or geographically impossible when it is first revealed, without considering any other orders, it is invalid.
If an order is invalid, it is crossed out and has no effects on the game. For a Bombing Raid or Convoy, if only the second leg is invalid, that leg is crossed out. Multi-space paths are flexible: an order is valid if any possible multi-space path consistent with the order is valid The validity of orders given to Hidden Units on face-down Cards only needs to be confirmed when the Units are Exposed by turning the Card face-up.
Prior to attempting to execute an order, obstructions to the order should be reassessed. For orders that are allowed to use multiple spaces, the ordering faction must now propose one specific path that is geographically consistent with the order and its distance limits. It does not have to be the path that allowed the order to be considered valid. If an order faces an obstruction on its proposed path when it is about to be executed, it is considered valid but obstructed. The opposition can consist of opposing Units, including Workers, Location Cards, or spaces targeted by valid opposing Orders, including other obstructed Orders and Orders that have not been processed.
If the proposed path is obstructed, the route may be shortened, stopping at one of the intervening spaces. If it is not possible to create a shortened, unobstructed route along the proposed path, the order cannot be performed. Note that it is always possible for Marches to be shortened, and they remain compulsory: they simply stop at the first hostile space.
Permissible approaches to shortening an obstructed path are discussed below, in the detailed description of each Order. Note that multi-space paths remain flexible at each stage of Mil Ops: a multi-space Order is valid if there is any valid path geographically consistent with the original Order, but this path does not need to be the one proposed when the Order is about to be executed. A faction may ignore an unobstructed path and deliberately choose an obstructed one, instead, with the sole intention of meeting the obstruction.
Even if an Order does not get represented on the game board because, for instance, the relevant Units are destroyed before the Order is executed, or it is obstructed en route, or the ordering faction has a change of mind and decides not to execute the Order, the original target is nonetheless considered contested and provides an obstruction to opposing Manoeuvres. (Only the written targets originally mentioned in orders block Manoeuvres in this manner – not the ad hoc destinations of Orders that have themselves been modified to avoid an obstruction. Units stopping at modified destinations may render the space hostile, but have no effect on other Orders if they are cleared from the space.)
TIP. Players can use the blocking properties of an order to defend multiple spaces. For instance, a Bombing Raid ordered as A#>B->C constitutes a blocking Manoeuvre involving all three spaces, A, B and C, and prevents opposing Manoeuvres in that region even if the Bomber Unit eventually decides to stay at A, is forced to stay at A, or is destroyed at A. In this setting, the attempted military activity is considered to have taken place to a limited extent, with several minor skirmishes taking place that are below the resolution of the game components and not depicted by the final resting positions of the game pieces. Think of the order as a sustained defensive patrol in the corridor A, B, C, with bombing focussed on B, rather than as a single event.