Friday, June 29, 2007

CAMPAIGNS: Location campaign

I think that campaigns are the pinnacle of miniature gaming. They add context, drama and excitement to games. Knowing that a city, world or sub-sector rests on the outcome of your battle adds greatly to the game. Heroes can be made as they lead their troops to victory and units develop their own stories, good or bad. This is the stuff that makes playing games a much richer and deeper experience than playing a regular board game.

Campaigns can also inspire you. To build terrain, write background histories for your armies, invent worlds and test special rules. They also create a game around the game, encouraging more 'realistic' gameplay from players. In a one-off game you might sacrifice a unit to win the game, but would you do the same in a 10 game campaign? Heavy losses might be acceptable when your troops magically raise themselves back from the dead in time for the next battle; in a campaign the casualties cannot be so easily replaced and your losses could hurt you later on. You might win the battle but lose the war.

Like many players, I suspect, I like the idea of campaigns but rarely play them. This is largely due to time constraints and the amount of work the campaign creator has to put into the campaign, and the commitment required of the players. I hope to change that over the coming months and years.

My first attempt will be low-key and short. I think this is the best way to start and will give me the maximum chance of finishing the campaign. I want to run it alongside the Games Workshop Nemesis Crown worldwide campaign over the next four or five weeks. Here are the rules I have developed.

Location campaign rules
A location campaign is played between two players. It uses a very simple 'map' to regulate the games.

The basic rules use five locations. Each player has a base at the opposite ends of the line (location one and location five). The first game is played at location three. The winner of this game captures that location and can advance one location towards his opponents base and fight another battle. If the battle is a draw, play another game at the same location. Continue playing games and advancing locations until a player wins a game at his opponent's base location - the winner has destroyed his opponent's base and won the entire campaign.

Example Colin has Dark Elves and has the base at location one. Owen has a Hordes of Chaos army and owns location five as his base. They play the first game of the campaign at location three. Owen wins the game and his Chaos army captures location three. His army marches on to location two and Owen and Colin fight another battle. Again the Hordes of Chaos are victorious and his army captures location two. The next battle will take place at location one. Again the armies deploy, but this time the Dark Elves managed to hold the Chaos attack. The game is a draw, so no location is captured. Instead a further battle must be played for location one. The Chaos army outmanoeuvres the Dark Elves and win the game. Owen captures location one, and because it is the Dark Elf base he wins the entire game.

Those are the entire rules. See, I told you it was simple!

Optional rules
You can use some of the optional rules below to change the campaign rules to suit your gaming group.
  • Change the number of locations. I would recommend five locations as a good number which will give the right number of games during the campaign. The minimum number of games would be three and the average will probably be around six games. However, you may want a shorter campaign in which case you could reduce the locations to just three (you should always have an odd number so that the first game is in the middle and doesn't favour one player over another). Alternatively, you may want a longer campaign and you could increase the number of locations to seven or even nine. Be aware that with two players of roughly equal skill, these campaigns could take a long time to complete.
  • Set a time limit. If you know you only have a certain amount of time to play the campaign, or you can only play a set number of games, you might want to set a deadline. This could either be a date (e.g. six weeks time) or after, say, six games. It is possible that no player will have captured their opponent's base by the end of the campaign, so you will need to change the victory conditions. If a base is captured that player has won a major victory. Otherwise, check the locations captured by each player. If one player has captured more locations he has won a minor victory. If the players are in the central location and have captured equal locations the campaign is a draw.
  • Use scenarios. You could assign a scenario to each location. For example, you could decide that any battle fought in a base location (one or five in the example above) will use the last stand scenario from the Warhammer rulebook (pg 249) with the player who owns the base as the defender.
  • Name and describe the locations. This will add to the character and flavour of the campaign immensely without much effort. In the above example we might imagine that the campaign is being fought in Norsca as a Dark Elf raiding force lands on the coast seeking slaves. Norscan and Kurgan tribesmen band together to repel the Dark Elves. Location one will be the Ridge beach where the Dark Elf Black Ark is drawn up. Location two will be a little inland, in a marshy river valley known as the Blackmoor Fens. Location three is a the Gorwell bridge, a vital crossing over the river Teld. Location four is the haunted woodland of the Ironwood. Location five, the Chaos base, is the township of Volsung where the women and children are kept safe. So the Dark Elves are trying to push inland to pillage the township while the Chaos army is trying to drive them back to the Black Ark. The names could influence your choice of board and terrain for each game and will give you lots of scope to expand the narrative of your games.
I plan to play this campaign over the next few weeks as part of the Nemesis Crown campaign with me using my Horde of Chaos army against Gary's Dark Elves. I'll post the battle reports and campaign progress as I go.

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