Back In May I posted an article by George Arnold about Campaign Narratives. In the article, Mr. Arnold lamented how too many of his campaigns devolved into endless recording keeping and logistics and never got around to any “battles”.
As a result, Mr. Arnold resolved that all he needed in the future to make a “campaign” was a good “narrative”; or some “back story” to explain why his battles were occuring.
Now I suppose this is fine if you by “campaign” you mean “narrative” or “back story” so that all that is important is that you “get the feeling” that there are other things that are going on or have transpired prior to the battle. What these things are and how they effect you on the other hand could lead to more “back story”. And how they got to that point could lead to yet more “narrative”. In the end, if you follow my train of thought you will see that what you end up with is a “book” and not a wargames campaign.
When I posted the article I suggested that what Mr. Arnold considered a problem with “detail” in campaign was actually a problem with “order”. And by “order” I mean arrangement and organization not “military orders”.
I have enjoyed many campaigns in my wargames that I have played solo and in fact rarely play solo without a campaign underlying my games. However, unlike Mr. Arnold I have never been “stymied” by the “detail” of a campaign that I couldn’t get to a battle. In fact, if anything for me it is the opposite. I am usually too stymied by the “details” of the battle to add it to my campaign I have in mind. By details of the battle I mean things like what rules to use, what army list to rely on, what miniatures, what scale, etc.
My campaigns on the other hand are far easier to incorporate into the battle if I have already worked all those details out. How do I do this you ask? By revealing the campaign in the proper “order”.
Revealing your campaign in the proper order simply means “only working out those things you need now to move to the next phase of your campaign or game”. For example, if I wanted to game ‘Custer’s Campaigns In the West’ leading up to the battle of Little Big Horn, I would not begin by working out what forces and equipment Custer will have with him when he arrives at Little Big Horn and how he got them.
Instead, the first phase of my campaign would be as follows: 1.) create or recruit an officer(s). This would simply entail deciding whether Custer will actually be there as “Custer” or else will some other officer fill the role of “Custer” in my campaign. You can work this out with a table or by simply chosing what you prefer. Next you determine what officers will Custer/your Officer have with him. For this you will determine the number of officers, rank and relative skill. Again all of this can be a roll on a table, pre-generated NPCs or purely products of your own personal construction. Once completed this is step 1.
The second step would be assigning units to the officers. First, Custer or your General would get his battalion or division whose make up will determine what companies or squadrons your other officers will command. Again this can be a pre-generated division or you can use a table to determine if it is understrengthed, or maybe “green” having suffered a lot of losses in some earlier campaign.
Once you complete these two steps you can then equip your Company or Division to include giving it such auxiliary forces as scouts, engineers, doctors, civilians,cannons, gatling guns, etc.. Even things like water, wood and horses can be accounted for at this point.
Having got this far, the next logical step is to “place your officers and their men” in a locale or territory. How far out west will they be sent. Is there a fort?
You should get the point. The best part about building your campaign in a logical order like this is that you can “interrupt” the campaign aspects of your gaming at anytime to insert a “battle”. Want to know if you got green or veteran troops. Game the battle they would have fought in right before being sent out west. Any troops that survive will become veterans. Or maybe you want to know if they make it to their new ‘post’ safely. Set up an ambush along their way and let the outcome determine how well they are provisioned or supplied for the next three months.
Another good thing about building your campaign logically this way is that once you decide on the mechanism you like, you have them in place for future use. Maybe some of your first officers get killed early in the campaign well use the same method you set up earlier to replace them with new officers.
Overall the point I am trying to make is that a ‘campaign’ need not be limited to a narrative back story and on the other hand it need not ‘bog you down’ with details about stuff that isn’t going to come into play until months later in the campaign.