“Instead of making complex plans with intricate maps and a lot of logistical paperwork, which actually sounds awesome as an idea, do something that you will actually finish!”
With these words a friend woke me up to the reality of setting up a campaign to be the driving factor behind setting up some wargame battles on the table.
I’ve said before that big campaign were ran back in the days of the club-store but that’s where the mind trick lies. Those were run by three GMs and relied on the club patrons to fight the battles and as such the momentum and campaign resolution was expeditious as the workload was shared amongst some 3 dozen. A couple of those were actually fed and feed back into the worldwide campaigns that Games Workshop ran back in the late 90s and turn of the century.
Yes, that is a real deal back before the internet exploded and believe it or not much of the lore that came after was the result of many battles played and many results of those same battles feeding back into the narratives.
But we are getting ahead and astray.
As a matter of fact we may take inspiration, for example, from Bath’s Hyperboria quasi-historical-fantastical campaign, but again it must be said that it was never an isolated effort campaign but rather a participation recurring non stop event that, at a point did involve players from all over.
And no one is taking a flight every saturday to go play a game ! Oh no no. You shall play the game and report the important results.
( or if you are the lazy sort you just report the result you want, but where’s the wargaming fun in that !?!?!?… yes, you know whom I am talking about and you know you did it a few times… anyway let’s continue… *sigh* )
The trick of those lie not in the battles resolutions but on how the GMs process all the necessary data to run the different powers in conflict. Of course the ultimate game is to bring the pieces to the table and play the wargame – what would be the point if not !?…
Another overlooked fact – which I find one of the most interesting ones in the “history” of wargaming – is that those pioneering endeavours of mega campaigns based upon a singular or rather a handful of rules.
Maybe that’s a clue – to focus on a select half hand of rules sets as opposed to try everything under the sun because “it might be better”.
Okay, I am not going to setup a club nor a store any time soon but there’s a slight chance that something can be done with the usage of all the new technologies. Oh the internet can be a wonderful rabbit hole.
All that matters is starting something. Picking a theme, picking a wargame to solve the battles. Start solo. Setup a little regional conflict. Something that can be easily managed and delivers a narrative to whatever audience follows it. Roll some dice, move the armies and when battle occurs go to the table and fight it out.
Do not select a complex simulation for battle resolution process – take note !
Select a pleasing game that you know well and that can easily portray the kind of warfare you are presenting. Anachronistic points systems may not be the best choice BUT usually these are flexible enough to tailor to fit the needs easily.
Then comes what authenticity we wish to give our campaign.
The mind immediately flies over a high command table full of charts and maps and battle plans. Grid movements, supply chains, numbers populating records and amounts of ammunition to carry.
Maybe, just maybe that’s too high level. Start small and then expand.
Recently I got directed by a friend to a simple “game of glory” or “snakes and ladders” turned into a wargames campaign driver – check it here on Peter’s own Grid Wargaming blog . Suddenly I came to my senses !
Instead of building an entire conflict world, using small chunks and playing half a dozen battles will add pieces to the narrative. Regions become known and a seemingly image of a quasi historical big campaign can come alive while at the same time honing the skills of running the campaigns.
In the end it is all processes to help organizing a bag of cats. To rule how the armies will meet, else the sun tzu inside will make sure to defeat the enemy without battle.
With that in mind, and not afraid of playing games in solitaire mode and splitting my brain I decided to give that method a try – “Instead of making complex plans with intricate maps and a lot of logistical paperwork, which actually sounds awesome as an idea, do something that you will actually finish!”
I selected to play dark ages arthurian period, mainly driven by my hundredth re-reading of the Warlord Chronicles, and while having the possibility of using Battles for Prydain to solve the battles ( it is one of the best rules sets if not the best imho ) I thought it to be too intricate and would slow the campaign process and also wanted something that can be used by as many players as possible in the world of the wargaming hobby, and with a ratio of 1 to 2500 regarding board and miniatures, respectively, the focus on a rules set for miniatures ( or paper cut bases ) became strong.
Second factor for choice was to not be a simple skirmish based game. We are talking about battles here, not tavern brawls, and while the possibility of using two distinct rules sets to resolve both ends, party versus party and warband versus warband, it would yet again complicate things.
Then I found Age of Penda, written by Daniel Mersey.
Maybe it is not the most interesting wargame out there. Is grid based, has a lot of abstractions and the intricate “troop types” are toned down to generic formats but at the same time that’s exactly what it had best.
Grid – no time lost with minutiae distances checking.
Generic troops – can assemble any warband on the fly without preparation.
The battle is resolved by a tug of war of decision making in a tactics matrix and then resolved by applying those tactics to the forces on the board.
Practically a battle can be resolved in 30 minutes and less while providing a rich narrative to the entire scene. This is golden to run a campaign, especially a fast small one.
( several far small ones will build up a bigger scenario, or rather, a big map campaign can be broken down in several small campaigns of the same type ).
All I needed next was a campaign map…a board…maybe even a calendar…something to move the armies.
The method I shared earlier using the “snakes & ladders” is not a geographic map per se but rather a chronological events map than the armies use to move through as they race towards ending the race first.
I like this idea of a time-event map as opposed to a geographic one. I will definitely explore this concept more.
Thus the first fully virtual campaign ran by me is born. I might be playing it solo for now, but who knows what the future brings. With Tabletop Simulator anything is possible and even an old fashioned “submit your results” can be an option to populate future exercises. It all depends on me and whomever follows this blog, the channel and the media blue bird.
At the time of this blog entry the campaign is in full swing already and battles have been fought. I have been sharing a full thread about it on the blue bird outlet but for the sake of completion I shall add chapters here in the blog.
Have a good time and may your dice roll true !