Hi, I’ve been prevailed upon to come up with a guest editorial (series?)
This one will cover some of what a campaign means and introduce a Dystopian wars campaign we’ve been running during club days
What is a campaign and why try it instead of a stand-alone game.
(“good generals study tactics, great generals study logistics” – Omar Bradley)
A campaign steps back from the battle to cover some of the higher strategic considerations that a general will consider behind the battle. Ultimately multiple linked battles are played.
A defining feature of most campaign are gains or losses that are felt in the next battle. This means that the decisions in a battle are made not by how much you can do now, but how much it will affect you down the track. This can lead to decisions like breaking off an action, not because you will loose, but because a hard to replace unit might be destroyed. The classic Pyrrhic victory (10 more such victories and you will have nothing left)
Another feature campaigns can have is the feeling of a narrative building up that can occur. It is that lone hero who survives everything the enemy throws at it, or is it that torpedo bomber squadron whose bombing runs signal a turning point in the battle.
At the end of a campaign you will have instead of a single day’s play a story spanning several months of play.
What are some options to try in a campaign?
If you are not using a pre-packaged rules set for your own
- Persistent/Experienced units;
- Common in many games with smaller numbers of units, the classic being skirmish or naval games. Games workshop has done several skirmish games in the past such as Necromunda, Mordheim or Legends of the old west.
- Maps or not
- the classic ‘map’-basically the war games table writ large. While giving the most options in movement this can create a lot of complexity
- the ‘zone map’ – basically an area divided into areas of ‘strategic importance’ this is easier, usually attacks will be to an adjacent zone although certain game settings would give the mobility to strike further away (e.g. a planetary invasion)
- Narrative/branching tree, one alternative to a map, This instead has several sequential battles with the initial games giving advantages later on, usually concludes with a ‘finishing battle’. Eg an island assault might start with a skirmish off shore, a landing, then a fight against a main defensive line.
- No map- just battles with persistent units. Used by Necromunda, the ‘campaign’ here is small skirmishes across a supposedly much larger area.
- “the weird and wonderful”- a campaign with its narrative enables a chance to play with different forces/rules that might not be standard.
Difficulties with campaigns
- While a campaign can be fun to play in these take a bit more work tracking the logistics between battles so the group should have at least one (honest) person willing to keep the data straight
- Player drift, a long campaign can bore even the most dedicated gamer, do not set up WWI in the trenches. One way around this is specific time limits and victory conditions.
- “Snowball” effect; a player gets on the back foot, it can take them time to recover, however this slip just keeps compounding, this can accelerate ‘player drift’ if a person gets to the point where they just cannot win. This can be moderated by ensuring victory conditions for the campaign kick in before this (eg- if one side controls 75 % of the board), or ensuring that even on the ‘back foot’ the scenarios give each side an equal chance of ‘winning’ (eg ensuring that both sides get same points, or giving an outnumbered side the option to do asymmetric ‘raid’ and ‘withdrawal’ missions)
Dystopian Wars Campaign
Ok- that’s probably enough theory. On to what we are doing at the club.
The alternative past, where the Victorian’s read Jules Verne and went ‘we have the technology’. where fleets of Tzarist battleships clash with Royal Brittanian sky fortresses. ‘Dystopian Wars’ has the ability to combine land, air and sea units.
Dystopian wars is it’s own rule set published by Spartan games based on a d6 mechanic.
For most of the battles at the club we use between 750 and 1,000 points. For that you have about 6 -8 Squadrons per side.
The campaign basics
We are running a four player campaign. The setting is the South Pacific Islands roughly from the Solomon’s through to Samoa. Fleets involved are the Tzarist Russian coalition, the Empire of the Blazing Sun (aka Japan), the Royal New Zealand Navy (as part of the greater Brittania Empire) and the Republic of France.
Each side started has so many points to spend on their fleet with additional points . The map was divided into zones with players each having a home port and the other zones having special powers and effects such as access to elite commandos. Overall the campaign was it will run for 6 turns.
As at the end of round three the Russians have taken a lead, but there are still 3 rounds to go so it could be anybody’s game.
What’s the game system?
How do I get into it/What does it cost.
If you want to try a demo game feel free to pop into the club. The starting box which goes for about $85 from Hobby hub (Andrew Cook [firstname.lastname@example.org] contains roughly 700 points.
How many people play at the OMTS?
There are 4 regular players at the club in the campaign, in addition there are at least 3 other irregular players with fleets. We predominately use naval with air and land forces playing supporting roles.