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Editor in Chief Bill writes:
For my own gaming, I prefer to play games that form part of an ongoing campaign. However, my attempts to participate in past campaigns have been frustrating, as I've never seen a campaign run to a successful conclusion. (And in some cases, I've acquired armies for campaigns that failed to launch!)
After some thought, I realized that what might work best for someone like me would be a 'solo' campaign - that is, an automated campaign that centered around my army, which generated battles which I could then play with my local opponents (who didn't need to participate in the campaign at all, except to play games!).
I also wanted a campaign system that would allow me to start with a smaller army, and then grow the army as the campaign unfolded.
I thought it would be nice if the campaign system randomly selected different maps for play, which would drive me to improve my terrain resources.
As an option, I thought it would be more challenging if the campaign system could generate random army lists for battles, rather than just letting me use the same "favorite" army list from battle to battle.
And finally, I wanted a system that was compatible with points-based rulesets, and would have a self-balancing feature so that the campaign would adjust the battles to keep them competitive. In other words, if I was winning too many games, the campaign system would gradually make the opposing forces larger until the games were fun for both players.
With those goals in mind, I designed an automated campaign system for fantasy gaming - Four Enemies, which is available here on TMP as a perk for our Supporting Members. The system is currently in playtest.
The Four Enemies Fantasy Campaign System
Lead your kingdom to victory in a series of great wars! Designed for fantasy gaming using a variety of rulesets.
And the next screen reads...
Your people are surrounded by relentless enemies. With the help of your allies, can you vanquish your foes and establish peace?
When you start a new campaign, the system asks you for some basic information:
The army I'll be using for this campaign are my fantasy northern barbarians (from Rebel Minis), and I've given them the name of "The Frost Peoples." I could name up to four enemies, but as I only have one opposing army ready, I put them in the north and call them "Orcs of the Blackened Fingers."
I could name some allies, but as I don't have any painted up, I leave that part blank.
Campaign Mode is where you can decide if you want the campaign system to be compatible with a particular fantasy ruleset, or if you want to go 'generic' (i.e., will work with any points-based ruleset). I've been dying to play some Mighty Armies (also from Rebel Minis), so I select that option. (Note that the campaign system currently supports Mighty Armies first edition - I haven't added support for second edition yet.)
When you press 'submit', you are taken to the beginning of the campaign. You see a campaign status report (beneath a Mighty Armies logo):
(Actually, I'm not sure if everyone sees the first three lines - that might be some debugging data... )
My current war is against the Orcs, and there is "no advantage" - in other words, nobody is winning this war yet. No battles have been fought yet, and the default season length (the number of battles that can be fought before winter) is ten games. The Orcs start at "dangerous" rating.
And the screen says...
Taking advantage of your concentration elsewhere, the Orcs of the Blackened Fingers have moved beyond merely probing the frontiers. Soot is borne on the wind as they burn your outlying settlements, looting and pillaging. You must move to defend at once, before all is lost!
(OK, maybe not the greatest bit of writing I've ever done - but if you can do better, you can write blurbs for this campaign, too... see instructions in the campaign system.)
Before clicking to go to the next screen, it is a good idea now to click on the Set/change options? link, before the campaign system generates your first battle.
The options page gives you these choices:
- Add Western Enemy
- Add Southern Enemy
- Add Eastern Enemy
- Add Primary Ally
- Add Secondary Ally
- Change Army Point Settings
- Change Campaign Settings
- Change Battle Options
- Change Map Settings
The enemies and allies options will be useful when I paint up some more armies, but I don't need them now.
However, it's very useful to review the army options...
Some of these choices are a bit "crunchy" and are best explained by reading the full explanation on that webpage. The important part is to look at the minimum and maximum army sizes (in terms of points), and change the numbers to what you're most comfortable with.
You can also determine how much variation there is in the army points per side. For example, at the start of the campaign, no side has an advantage - so the armies will theoretically be equal points, except for the randomness factor. The default setting is that your army could vary by 25%, and the enemy army by 13%, but you can change that setting. "Curved" randomness means that the random factor has more of a tendency to be "no change."
Use the Division Size if you want the system to split large armies up into separate forces.
And finally, using Handicap gives some assurance that you will eventually win the campaign. Turn this off if you are a superior player who can win most of your battles on your own...
It's also useful to review the options on the campaign page.
Victory Factor basically controls the degree to which the campaign system reacts to each of your victories or defeats. This is the "self-balancing" campaign system, which makes the enemy forces larger if you are winning, and smaller if you are consistently losing. You can turn this off if you don't want it, or set the effect from low to high, essentially.
Battles per War is the maximum number of battles you can fight in the current war. (The campaign consists of a series of wars, until you've defeated all four of your enemies.) Of course, if you win enough battles, the war can end in fewer battles (and vice versa...).
Maximum Enemy Strength determines the starting strength of your enemies - which is the number of wars you'll need to win against each enemy, in order to win the entire campaign. If you want a shorter campaign, go for "low" instead of "dangerous"!
War Victory Level is the margin of games you need to win in each war (before time runs out). The default is 4, which means you must have a four-game advantage to win the war. Lower the number for easier-to-win wars.
Growth Per War determines how much bigger your army gets, in terms of points, after winning each war. This allows you to start the campaign with a small force, and grow your army as the campaign progresses.
I'm ignoring the ally settings for now, as I don't have any allies painted...
On this screen, you can turn off two options.
If you want the campaign system to generate your army list, then keep Display Army Lists turned on. Otherwise, turn this off, and the campaign system will give you a point total and let you design your own army. (Personally, I like the challenge of trying to use with the campaign system gives me...)
And if you want the campaign system to generate your scenario map, leave this turned on. If you'd rather generate your tabletop some other way, turn this off.
These are important if you are letting the campaign system generate maps for your battles.
The default setting is for dynamic maps, which means that if your army grows in size, the scenario maps will grow larger, too. If you always want the same size maps, change this to fixed map size.
You can then set the starting map size, and adjust the thresholds at which the dynamic maps change in size.
Battle Is At Hand!
When you've tweaked all the settings to your liking, go back to the campaign page, and click to go to your first battle...
The campaign system is starting me off with an equal-points battle, has determined the terrain, and displays the set-up areas for each army. The map features a pond, some woods, and a rock outcropping - some annoying challenges for the Orcs, I think!
(I forgot to save the screen capture from my actual first battle of my campaign... but this could have been that battle! )
The screen encourages me to go play the battle, but first...
Generating the Army Lists
Clicking on the point total for my army, I find myself on the Four Enemies Random Force Generator page:
Since I'm in Mighty Armies mode, the system knows which armies are available to me. In my case, I have a Barbarian army, and since I won't be changing during the campaign, I ask the system to remember my army.
The system then proposes a possible army list:
The campaign system has an idea of which units are common and which are rare, and that in Mighty Armies, I always need to have a command stand. Other than that, the army lists are randomly generated, and may or may not be perfectly "legal" armies, or may not be exactly the allowed point total.
As you can see, I have the option to accept this list, or "roll the dice" again. In my case, I'm not sure if I have any Berserkers painted up, so I might try again...
Well, you get the idea how this works. The same system can be used for the enemy force. You can either choose the enemy army list yourself, or let your opponent have that privilege.
And That's the Start!
So from here, I'm ready to play my first game, and then report back to the campaign system (and to you!) how it goes.
Hmmm... I also need to make some new terrain...
TMP Supporting Members who would like to contribute to playtesting this campaign system can find the link on their homepage, under Features.
And yes, this campaign system went online back in 2007, but I'm finally just getting started with my own campaign!