Friday, 16 November 2018

Yet another Interim Post...

Painting for the next big 1/72 project is proceeding. Meanwhile, a quick word about:

Campaigns, Maps & Mapping ...

I like campaigns, though I rarely have time to do them justice. They not only supply a narrative background to my battles, but give me a "reason" for my bods to be battling in the first place. To me this is important; one of the reasons I am largely a solo player is that I have no competitive spirit (in Art , as in Life). Battles which have no narrative drive behind them, unless the rules are themselves something new and interesting or the company is particularly special, can therefore be as personally meaningless (and dull) to me as watching a sports fixture (yes, I really am that person. Sports do not entrance me at all). However, stories grab my attention - and a campaign has all the elements of a story: characters, a plot, a narrative and - hopefully - a satisfying conclusion. Below I am going to run through a few methods I use to generate these stories...

A) From Board to Table: a simple way out.

Table battles fought as part of a board game. Out of the huge range of board wargames out there a significant number lend themselves to producing table battles with meaning with minimal preparation. The strategic map has been done for you. The rules and make-up of the armies are already there. Supply, politics, the backstory etc. etc. has been provided. All you need to do is play the board game, then fight the battles out on your tabletop. You may of course chose to do a little extra research, tweaking or add paperwork re. casualties etc. but that is down to you. Basically the background is already there. Play the game, and fight out any resulting battles on the tabletop.

The trick is, of course, to play the board game solo too. Many of the methods I will have touched on/will touch on in this Blog can be adapted to board games - e.g. attitude of the "players", introducing imponderables, "choice of action" tables based on IMP/political/supply issues/personality of commanders/councils etc. etc. 

 Once you have a battle you can, with Google Maps (see a previous post) and a bit of research, get an idea of the type of terrain in the area where the battle is to take place. Add your normal solo tweaks and you have a battle - and, most of all, the story and strategic reasons for it taking place at all.

There are lots of good boardgames (or half-decent but tweakable games) out there. For the ancient period my own favourites are SPIs "The Conquerors",
GDWs "Eagles" & AH "Caesar's Legions " but there are others out there. I have also used Robin Hood board games as a basis for developing table-fight scenarios. We are only limited by our imagination - especial when someone else has done all the hard work... 

B) The Home-made Map Method.

My "This Ain't Siluria" posts gave one example of how this can be done, using a stylised zone map, roughly based on real geography, but meant not as an actual recreation of a real campaign, but more as a historical theme (in that case the Roman subduing of a Celtic area). This had elements of a board game approach - and I have used this method before, using home-made hex or square grid maps maps, very successfully. 

I have also used sketch maps/traced actual maps or made maps of real areas; but the type of maps depends very much on what one wants to do. They can be closely detailed, or very basic.

For some years (literally) I ran a Middle Eastern wargame covering the post-Davidic period (from The Brook of Egypt, across to the Euphrates, down to Edom and up to the Anatolian foothills) using a series of hand-drawn & coloured maps traced from atlases.

My actual battles were fought out as boardgames, rather than with figures, but this was a very satisfying exercise; from grand scale politics down to dusty skirmishes. With this type of thing a War Diary is essential. 

C) The "Where The Hell Are We?" method.

Great for exploring games/ventures into the unknown, from Darkest Africa or Darkest Peru to the darkest outliers of the Krikkit Nebula. Start with a known area (a port, a coast, a known and mapped inhabited zone) then set off into the Blank Space; generating hazards or terrain based on cards & tables, drawing the map as you go. 

In the "Spanish Expedition" venture (see below) each day of movement I threw a dice. On a throw of 4-6 there was some change in terrain for that day's movement. The suits were stacked/shuffled separately, I recall, and I threw again to see which suit changed. In the case of draws a card was pulled from all drawing suits. Thus a map was created as I went along.

Ambushes/raids could come from uncontacted minor tribes on rout of march or the "Main Enemy". Ditto Embassies (to allow for allies, delaying tactics by "the "Main Enemy" - or "buying off" of any of my detached forces) .

Your map can be as simple or detailed as your skill or desires run. Warning... This is FUN - and addictive !!!

D) The Unplanned - a tabletop campaign.

Occasionally a campaign will start with what is meant to be a one-off, but an interesting, battle - but I think "Lets leave the table up and refight" continuing the narrative.

An example of this is one from the other year (written up on the FB Groups I've referred to before) - a Roman v Celt scenario; "Rescue the Romanised Rascal" (a simple get in, locate a target, get it out situation). This was going to be a one off game to test and write-up/demonstrate some ideas for one of the FB groups.

The Romans (that is, I ) blew it (unlucky dice/cards; in the dark before dawn my my lads ran into a returning raiding party of locals, and the maroons went up - destroying any chance of a stealth attack), but I thought - "OK, I have the scenario backstory, and the table is set; let's continue".

A second rescue attempt became necessary - but the locals were now alert to the possibility of a rescue attempt. THAT ended successfully for the Romans, but not without them getting a bloody nose; with several units of Romans being treated disrespectfully..

The story then logically progressed of itself. "Would the Romans put up with the loss of prestige involved? Could they afford to, out here on the frontier?" . The answer to that had to be a big fat "No". So a "Butcher & Bolt" punitive mission was launched. Simple idea.... But..

THAT, again, ended really badly for me; the locals had realised they'd overstepped the mark, so had tooled-up and roped in some friends (cards & dice). My lads panicked at an unexpected flank attack - and several Roman units ran from the field. Prestige went right out the fenestram.

In the end the Imperial forces turned up mob-handed in "total overkill mode", set up a camp on the field, caused serious ecological damage and freaked out the locals' allies.

After two skirmishes, a night raid and an attempted assault of the Roman camp (plus a lot of Celtic argument among themselves) the troublesome tribe finally felt the firm smack of Roman retribution (i.e annihilation).

From one table I therefore got eight very different battles & skirmishes, each with their own different objectives and quirks, and a satisfying narrative of a little, local campaign. 

Well, there we are. A "proper post" working in a "proper scale" will be produced shortly. meanwhile, as always any queries or thoughts are welcome.


  1. Blimey, you really do get involved..I´m going to have to re-think my ACW (just a series of battles aint going to Keep me going) and my Bodstonian world. Ok..I was going to make a map of bodstonia but like a lot of Things it´s stalled.
    One question...the Terrain it for free to copy (for my own use naturally) ?

  2. Ha, ha... "Stalling" is my middle name.... You reminded me - there's an old Don Featherstone ACW "pre-made campaign" in his "War game Campaigns" - saves some work... :)

    Re. the table: sure - anything I shove up here is there for folks' personal use - and improving.....


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