Monday, August 29, 2011

Field of Battle 2nd Edition Cover Peek and Other Thoughts

Thought I'd post a preview of the cover of the new Piquet product, Field of Battle 2nd Edition.

Looks pretty cool!  Its always neat to see the final touches of years of work.  I should have copies very soon. 

The other thoughts in the post title are regarding campaigns - miniature game campaigns in particular.  I've done many through the years:  Theatre of War (FPW, ACW, WW2), node movement (FPW), mapless (ACW, FPW), etc.  They were all fun, for different reasons. 

I'm starting to wonder if the scale and intent of campaigns is what gives me fits when I'm setting up new ones.  Typically, meglomania sets in and the campaign covers a wide theatre of the conflict.  Why?  Because we can!  If you look at most historical campaigns, they tended to be between two forces that were pretty much aware of each other's size, composition, and relative location.  "Gotcha" moves, so loved by gamers, were pretty rare on the strategic scale, and would be better represented in the final move to game table or scenario set up.

Boardgames represent a perfect example of excellent campaign systems.  They model campaigns in a fixed amount of tabletop space, and a very short amount of game time.  Miniature campaigns are handcuffed by the need for each game played out to be done on a tabletop, which requires a gathering of the group.  Theatre of War effectively gets through this problem by making most campaigns 3 games or so.

In my experience, after 3 games, gamers start to lose interest in a) the campaign, and b) the period for repeated games.

So - I'm thinking of trying a system using FoB2 (which has a scenario generation system) to create games, and link the games into a campaign of 3 games or so.  The campaign would have "Campaign Points", generated in the same manner as for typical tabletop games.  For a campaign, each side would roll 3 times on the Army Morale table, and the total would be their total for the 3 game campaign.  Each side would deduct their AMP losses in each game.  First side to 0 loses.  Simple!

I'm also tinkering with allowing players to select from pre-generated tabletop terrain sets.  This would introduce a bit more of a campaign feel, and give players input into the game layout.

Hmmm.  More thinking to do.


  1. Gotcha moves at the Campaign level? - like Napoleon in 1805, France 1940 ("they can't get an armored division through the Ardennes"), 1940 Crete, Ft. Donelson, Vicksburg, Sherman's march to the sea in the ACW, Silesia during the War of Austrian Succession, Napoleon in Italy in 1800, Saratoga campaign during the American Revolution, the first six weeks of the Franco - Prussian war, Marlborough's campaign leading up to the battle of Blenheim, the Midway campaign in 1942?

    The problem with designing campaign games is that nobody wants to be France in 1940 (or 1870), Austria in 1800, the British in Crete or Saratoga, etc... When players take about a balance game (or campaign), they mean that they want to play a game where they believe they have a good to excellent chance of winning. When it becomes apparent that they are going to lose, they lose interest in the game. Gotcha campaigns usually result from a one party's failure to properly understand the strategic or technological situation or intelligence situation. They are very interesting to read about but no fun to play.

    I think a better campaign may be one in which the players are all on the same side strategically. The game should create a tension between cooperation and competition between the players - like Monty, Patton, Bradley during the Northwest Europe campaign in WWII. Points could be awarded for "publicity" generated. I love those old movie time propaganda films showing Patton or Montgomery standing around heroically giving orders.

    Actually, the problem with campaign games is the lack of commitment by the players. I agree that traditional campaign games should have limited objectives and a relatively fixed time period. In the past, one reason players advocated campaign games was to give them a reason to act more like historical commanders and withdraw instead of fighting to the death every game. This problem has largely been addressed through well thought out game mechanics like those in FOB. Once that problem is solved we, as gamers, have to face the fact that players are simply not committed to campaign games or multi-day gaming.

    I don't think increasing abstraction of a campaign system is the answer. Less chrome does not increase the players interest.

    Sorry, ran on a bit there.

    Greg C.

  2. I'm thinking the issue I have is that at what scale are you comfortable having the campaign represent? The Western front in France 1940? Or maybe a division or two's area of operations in France 1940? Another example - if I'm doing an ACW campaign in the east, the basic movements of the AotP and ANV are pretty much elastic back and forth along a pretty narrow area. Sure, some detachments here and there, but by and large the armies stayed intact. I think the decisions at that scale are more in line with "where do I want to fight" than arranging a clever march.

    I agree that campaigns are difficult if there isn't a dedicated campaign umpire. As you point out, once it starts to go badly for one side, that's usually the end of the campaign as nobody enjoys the end game of mopping up.

    So - as an umpire, how much time do I want to spend in creating the campaign if the end is a dribble instead of a bang?

    August 30, 2011 9:58 AM

  3. BTW, "Anononymous" is me.


  4. Hi Brent

    Good to see the cover :-)

    Re campaigns I agree gamers set aims too grand and campaigns fold under weight of expectation and sheers scope. Best are those between a mere 2-4 max of players.


  5. I think a lot of times we as wargamers think of campaigns in terms of a boardgame - a theatre map, with lots of units maneuvering and lots of battles. That's great in the boardgame environment, but each one of those cardboard battles is usually resolved in a die roll or two.

    The focus is different - there the overall accumulation of combats and maneuvers defines the campaign, and the battles themselves are individually not terribly memorable (hmmm...a stack of cardboard rolls a 5 vs another stack of cardboard).

    On the other hand, the miniatures campaign is primarily remembered because of the games, events that stood out in the games, the banter in the games, the sense of being part of a larger event.

    I think its the need to make it feel part of a larger event that is the trick. Players need decisions that involve them, game results that feel integrated, and outcomes that drive future situations.

    I'm sure none of this is particulary unique or insightful, but I'm just trying to organize my thoughts.


  6. I’ll relate a campaign style that seems to work out for me – I have run three campaigns in this style. The first was an ACW campaign, the second was a Plains Wars campaign and the third was WW2 (Western Front). “Linked Scenarios” could be a name to describe the campaign style.

    The process is the same regardless of the period. The work is all on the campaign owner, but because of the way the campaign plays out, the work should not be wasted due to players falling out with a lack of interest and challenge.

    Devise three to five scenarios that the players progress through in some fashion. I try to make each scenario about some different tactical situation (meeting engagement, defensive action, flanking maneuver, assault the works, whatever). Obviously losses from one battle carry over into the next battle, so you need some mechanism that allows some men to “return to the ranks” after a battle (not all losses are killed after all, some men run away). Also, you may wish a reinforcement strategy too. Sometimes a player will rashly lose his command and maybe you want a way to draw replacements. In the WW2 campaign, “HQ” had a pool of “replacements” that could be drawn from. The replacements were not veterans of course. Tons of possibilities here.

    Here’s the big trick I use: all of the players are on the same side. In the ACW campaign, the situation was that each player commanded a brigade in the rebel army. Their division commander was an incompetent oaf that did not really exercise any command. The division moved along the scenarios at the whim of higher command, after all brigade commanders don’t make those types of decisions.

    The players each earned points for various exploits on the battlefield – the campaign winner was promoted to command the division at the end of the campaign. So the players ended up competing for the tough assignments in the scenarios – that was interesting.

    The cool thing about all the players being on the same side is that I could amend the scenarios on the fly and introduce actual fog of war. My job was not to kill the players – but to be sure that the challenges intended by the scenario came off. One time, a Union brigade got smashed up way too easily and the scenario was going to be a bust – so, I just marched on another brigade – problem solved and the players experienced fog.

    On the topic of decisions – it is important to let players make decisions along the way, as you have stated. Those decisions can affect the next scenario, the status of their troops, their supplies, whatever. In the WW2 campaign, after a particular scenario, the campaign narrative I constructed said that the players made contact with the resistance who provided certain information. The players (one player was the C-in-C) had a choice to make about which road to take (and the campaign consequences thereof). An individual campaign has tons of possibilities in this area too.

    At the very least this style has shown to me to provide interesting battles without all the coordination of more traditional campaign styles and most importantly, provided fun times. Man, typing this makes me realize that I need to do another one!

    - Tony