Thursday, 12 January 2017


After having fought an excellent battle, and I am not talking Waterloo with twenty figures and over in one hour, what is the next best thing for a wargamer, being victorious in a campaign, leading your forces to that final parade in the enemy capital or receiving his surrender surrounded by your loyal commanders as you magnanimously allow him to keep his sword or have him strangled later during your triumph. But how often do we get to the end, how many campaigns litter your road to military glory, have you actually managed to get one off the ground?

I was first introduced to the idea of a campaign by Tony Bath's book detailing his fantasy continent of Hyborea or some such, it sounded fantastic and I spent many an hour detailing my own continent and drawing up lists of its citizens and military only to eventually give up having realised it was far too complex and unrealistic for someone with only a couple of armies and no one else to play with.

I still wanted to be a Napoleon or Caesar though, show off my strategic skills, out fox the enemy, leave him surprised and bloodied, but of course none of my great ideas ever came to fruition. Then we managed to get our act together at my first club, we had medieval armies coming out our ears and I put together that long lost continent which none to surprisingly looked and felt a lot like 14C Europe. It was perfect for my imperial ambitions and I duly took the role of Holy Roman Emperor with my German army. I even had a mate offshore waste a fortune of Chevron UK's 'consumables' in the stores module making me an Imperial seal for my correspondence during the long night shifts.

The campaign was both a triumph and a disaster, the umpire didn't like me, yes I know it's hard to believe but he really didn't, long story, anyway he allowed an enemy army to take my capital which left me on the back foot. I tried to recover diplomatically having been dropped in the cak and engineered a marriage with a neighbouring state whose player dropped out, this seemed natural for me as it added to the storyline and would have brought me some succour, no, it wasn't allowed! I was then invaded by another player and my only army marched out to confront the enemy, I met him on the road but the umpire decided to let him move half his huge army past me and once again take my capital, or what was left of it. Now comes the triumph, even with half his army gone he outnumbered me and we fought the game with a 'hostile' audience in attendance, I was not doing well in the opening moves but somehow I pulled it out of the bag by smashing the enemy cavalry and capturing their Duke, an action which brought the game to a halt. I was then cheated of my rightful ransom and so ended the campaign, it left me sour but with a great memory of a stirring battlefield victory.

There was no more talk of campaigns until I built up my American Civil War armies and bought the ready made 'Shenandoah' campaign from the publishers of the Zouave magazine, this worked very well, it was a simple set of rules and was designed to give battles a point. I had to umpire of course as I had the thing, so no opportunity to be Bobby Lee, I think I still have it. I tried to bring some reality to it and all communications were done by couriers and these took time to run up and down the valley and the delay caused all sorts of mayhem. It also reinforced my idea that wargamers want to run everything in a modern way, the players wanted every scrap of info they could get, scouts were everywhere but even so huge mistakes were made. I gave one player at least half a dozen warnings of Confederate cavalry movements but he only twigged when the smoke from his home depot could be seen in the distance.

The players were not acting as generals, but as generals, quartermasters, brigadiers and scout troops, although the bookkeeping with 'Shenandoah' was minimal I tried to go one further. I took a small ACW campaign, took note of all the important dates, weather and happenings over the couple of months or so and wrote these down in chronological order as notes for the umpire. My idea was that the campaign would be run as a kind of narrative using these events, exaggerating or minimizing their effects without any need for bookkeeping apart from the whereabouts of troops on the map, it also had a start and end date so hopefully people would not get fed up and drop out, the number of people in command positions was also kept small.

Once again players tried to cover every road and approach with cavalry detachments, but this only served to dissipate the strength of their cavalry and spread them throughout the countryside. I do remember a Confederate force having to retreat and losing all its supply wagons, on making camp further down the road the player was told that each day more and more of his men were deserting until the trickle became a flood, he could have moved but despite all warnings remained rooted to the spot and suffered the consequences. He lost the ensuing battle and the campaign.

My Pea Ridge Campaign and one of my first digital maps

I played this particular campaign at least twice and both times it was good fun and fought to a conclusion but I was the umpire, not the military genius. Running a campaign though does make me wonder just how brilliant a lot of military commanders were and how often sheer luck of the draw and local circumstances made the reputation.

Dux Britanniarum drew me back to campaigning because the rules came with a campaign and it didn't need an umpire, it was also a great idea, sadly however the actual rules are a tad tedious to get through and the Raider supplement was even worse. We did kick off what looked like a good multiplayer campaign at the club but after a few battles the whole thing collapsed and no one now even mentions its demise. I now cannot find anyone who will go back to the original rules and play the original campaign, also Too Fat Lardies have also let it die a death, so my Warlord ambitions to unite all warring factions under my benevolent rule has also failed.

Up comes Bolt Action and it is crying out for a mini-campaign, TFL have mini campaigns and I bought several and spent long, frustrating hours trying to convert them to the BA system but gave up in the end. I also bought several independent booklets which I was told were for all systems, no, they were for Chain of Command but had suggestions for BA, this didn't work either. One of my main problems is that if you start a campaign and don't want it to die on you you have to spend time on it, usually to the detriment of everything else, so trying to find a like mind with the spare time and inclination is difficult. I need a retired old (yet still surprisingly good looking) duffer like myself who lives next door.

I have bought yet another booklet, this time it is a mish mash of CoC for the characterisation of the troops but I believe leaves the rules up to you, I haven't read it all yet, this is also recommended for solo play as the scenarios generate themselves. So this might be the way to scratch that itch which has bothered me for years and may at last allow me to show off my military skill, especially if I am fighting myself, how can I lose?


  1. The problem with more modern settings and map campaigns is things can happen very quickly. So you could run a campaign which is linear which is a series of scenarios, results of which depend on how and which direction you move along the line - not very historical but at least gives some purpose to the battles.

    Alternatively, as you suggested a minimal time period and definitely area based rather than a definitive position on a map - so although I wouldn't suggest using Flames of War for your battles - it may be worthwhile using one of the campaign modules - many of which are available on their website.

    1. Thanks for that James, I'll look at the site. Most of the WWII campaigns I have on the shelf are linear and they are a good idea, I just have to apply myself better.

  2. We abandoned campaigns years ago in favour of loosely connected games to give some narrative, particularly in the sub continent during the Mutiny and on the edges of the NW Frontier in the 1920s. Works for us.

    1. I do think that is the best approach and the results can bring their own rewards in pushing the campaign forward. You and Phil seem to have it sorted.

  3. George

    Andy and I have played three of the TfL CoC campaigns. They're excellent and certainly the best way to play CoC. If you fancy a read, Andy provides a great read on his " Tiny Hordes" blog


    1. They do look good Phil but changing them to BA takes time and effort and I am a little stuck for the former. I do read Andy's reports and they are excellent. And no, I am not going for CoC despite our games in Feb. Just got the menu sorted :)