Premise

Project Blackwater is a 4x Game combining elements of fantasy lore with civilization and total warfare.  I have played Civ since Civ II, and have always wanted a better tactical combat game to go with it.  It seems that today you can get either the world or the battlefield, but not both.

Blackwater is designed to do both.  Keeping that in mind – I realize not everyone wants to play out all of their battles, so that is being taken into consideration on the design end.

Engine

I am using Unity to create the game.  The challenges that I am going to mainly be encountering initially will all revolve around art assets.  As I am a one man developing team and am not really a computer graphics artist, I will have to fill in the blanks as I go.

As the game is hex based, I picked up a copy of GameLogic’s grids scripts for Unity.  They also had for download some basic looking image files for overland tiles.  These look fairly bad right now, but using them I was able to construct a real quick hex grid of terrain types which I can then start using to create the working pieces of the game with.

Beauty will have to be put on hold.

Blackwater_1

I will be developing the game in 2D using cpu drawn hexes and overlaying sprites on top of them.  This game will look pretty sweet if it was 1993 ;)  Once I get the engine knocked out I am going to be adding 3D meshes to work in a 3D version.  That really cannot be something that I worry about at present though.

As you can see from the screenshot, I can draw the hexes as I need and can click on each one.

Stage 2 – Hex meta data and displaying it

The next stage of development is to add some logic to the hexes themselves so that they know what they can do or what resources they hold.  Hexes, much like many 4x games, will hold food resources and productivity resources.  I do not want individual hexes to be selectable unless there is a unit or city on the hex.

This leaves the following work that will need done in stage 2:

  • Add the food and productivity values to a tile object
  • Alter the click event on the hex to not do anything at present (currently it highlights the hex with a white color)
  • Display the hex type and resource information on the screen via a form of tooltip.  I will need to obtain a food icon and a resource icon for this tooltip.

Behind the Scenes

The grid objects that GameLogic ship with their scripts work pretty well.  I did have to create my own type of cell, called an OverlandCell, which inherits from their TileCell object.  This OverlandCell object will be what the sprite cells and 3D mesh cells inherit from to capture the game logic behind it.

GameLogic’s SpriteCell now inherits from OverlandCell.  It will be that object that I add the resource information to.  More than likely I shall use a structure or a “resource object” which I will then plug into the class (as opposed to individual variables that hold the individual resources) for organizational purpose.

Up to this point I’ve created seven class objects to display just what is in the screenshot.  Things will get a bit trickier when I start implementing objects like armies, rivers, cities, etc but we will tackle that when we get to that point.

Over the past two articles in this series, we have explored what Narrative Gaming is exactly, and what Campaign Gaming is about and some of the pitfalls that one can encounter while attempting to organize a campaign event.

We now come to the part of the series where we begin to discuss some of the various types of campaigns that we can get our hands on and play with our friends, as well as some of the pros and cons of those individually.  We start with what is in my opinion the easiest of the campaign types to run to its conclusion:  the Narrative Campaign.

Narrative Campaign will follow a story arc from a beginning point to an end point.  It can be as simple as three story points that are reached one battle after the other.  It can be as complex as a dozen story points that represent a battle, each with branches that lead the players to points only accessible via a victory or defeat.  It can utilize an experience system, or it can simply be about playing a set of games until you reach the conclusion and tally a score up.  I have played in a narrative tournament that was five battles over the course of a Saturday and a Sunday, where we were put in one of two factions, and the game results would lend bonuses or penalties to our side depending on how we did as we followed an overall story plot that the event organizer had written.

Ultimately I feel that these make for the best campaigns to run if you have a more casual group, or if you are new at running campaigns, because there is really not a lot of book keeping at all unless you actively choose to implement systems of experience in.  They only need the story that they will follow, all of the battle points fleshed out, and a schedule to play the games.

Where to Begin

The best place to begin I feel is to start off with an already published campaign.  The only thing that you will have to do is to read the material and become familiar with it as well as go over any mechanics and scenarios that are present.  This will also give you a framework that you can use in the future for your own creations and will plant the seeds for many adventures to come in the months and years forward.

There is quite a bit of campaign material already out there, and I would recommend picking up something from Forge World.  If you are a fantasy player, the only real book that you have is the Tamurkhan – Throne of Chaos campaign.  If you are a 40k player, there is a large source of data and material from you to pull from.

Using a pre published campaign lets you not worry so much about mechanics and lets you focus on story.  However, that does not totally stop you from injecting your own pieces into the story either.

Tamurkhan – The Throne of Chaos (Warhammer Fantasy Campaign)

For example, in 2013 my campaign group ran Tamurkhan.  I broke down the major battles into six distinct chapters, with each chapter lasting one month.  We have a campaign day which sits on the last saturday of every month.  One of the major battles from the book would be fought on each of those days.  Additionally, we have a floating flex game where the players are scheduled a battle against an opponent that they can play anytime during the month at any location they and their opponent wish.  These battles would all contribute points toward their faction, which I record and keep track of in a database which is pulled by http://www.louisvillewargaming.com to display the standings.

As the story went on, it was possible that the actions in the campaign could not mesh up with the story in the narrative, and that was fine!  We just altered the storyline a little bit and it matched up to the Throne of Chaos campaign overall.  Our final battle consisted of a massive twenty-five foot long table and there were over thirty players involved in our game store that is located in a shopping mall.

The battle was epic, with timed rounds and a constant flow of curious onlookers taking pictures.  Tamurkhan was slain by an elven bolt thrower in the end, but his forces managed to sack Nuln and burn it to the ground!  This result stays with us in our version of the Warhammer world and in future campaigns is a part of our ongoing narrative.

Imperial Armor Eight – Raid on Kastorel – Novem

Our 2014 40k campaign runs from January through June and follows the same basic format as the Tamurkhan campaign above (I rotate six months with 40k and six months with fantasy to keep interest sparked and prevent burn out).  The 40k narrative has been running for over a decade through various campaign systems.  The jist of the current narrative is that an ancient eldar prison artefact was discovered housing an ancient necrontyr warlord and this is the object of many campaigns (to capture or try to imprison).

Last year on the planet Rubicon (completely custom created system and world) the artefact was spirited away by the orks and so for 2014 the Imperial Armour Eight campaign was run – which depicts the Raven Guard and Elysium drop troops attacking an ork world.

Some modifications were made to the narrative to allow for a third faction (the xenos eldar, dark eldar, tau, and necrons).

Faction Based Warfare

TamurkhanOne of the most challenging aspects of developing a narrative or working with a narrative campaign is that you are going to inevitably have players that want to run armies that are not featured in the campaign.

Imperial Armour Eight, for example, features orks taking on Raven Guard and Elysium Imperial Guard.  That leaves out pretty much everyone else, so some creative work was done to give other factions at least a passing reason for being here.

In addition, when you fight a campaign with only a pair of factions you run the risk of having one faction run away with the score in the beginning – which is an unfortunate catalyst in causing other players to quit the campaign because they don’t feel there is any way to win.  As such, I enjoy having THREE or more factions involved, which helps balance out factions getting out of control and also gives you a vehicle to move players around to other factions should the need arise (players quitting for example leaving a faction underhanded).

Other Space Marine Chapters – aiding the Raven Guard.  One of our players is using the Scorpions list from the Badab War (which ties in great for our next campaign which will be the Badab war) and is tying in Alpha Legion to his chapter.  That is his background and he’s really pushing the narrative in a direction where you do not know if his chapter is really for the imperium, or fighting for other reasons (one never can tell with Alpha Legion)

Tau – The tau’s presence simply followed the guise that there was a power present that needed secured For the Greater Good

Eldar & Dark Eldar – The prison holding this warlord was placed in the webway long ago before mankind was even crawling out of its evolutionary oceans as fish.  This represents a mistake or stain on their conscious that must be fixed.  This gave rise to the character The Crimson Witch – a hate filled eldar spirit seer that was set afire and became the Burning Witch – vessel for the necrontyr warlord.

Necrons – this one was more obvious.  The necrontyr warlord is sought by the necrons as either a powerful ally or as a criminal they want control over.

Thus these three were bound into one “faction” that had similar goals – remove the Prisoner from the ork factory-world and beat the imperium to it.

Players Joining and Quitting

Another benefit of factions is that one person does not control an entire faction.  This means that players can freely join your campaign whenever, and players that quit will not cripple the campaign because the faction is still in existence and there are still players fighting battles for it.  Anytime I work with any campaign system, this is one of the first things that I look at – the ability to circumvent campaigns crashing when a player quits, because as I discussed in the previous installment of this article series, quitting players are going to happen so you must be prepared to handle it when it does happen.

Tying it All Together

Apr2013CoverOnce all of your faction information is ready to go you simply need to find a system that works for your group and go for it.  As I mentioned above, we have two games a month.  One set campaign day and one flex day against a scheduled opponent.

Each battle is worth a set of points which I keep track of in a database tied to a website, but you could easily use a spreadsheet or just post it to something like Facebook if you wanted to.  At the end of each chapter the winning faction gets a bonus for the last battle.

The final battle is where most or all of the campaign bonuses get applied to.  A final big time explosive battle to determine who is going to take the campaign and who is going to go home until next season.   This setup works the best in my opinion because a faction can get really unlucky through most of the campaign but still have a chance to pull things out at the end and win overall.

This very thing happened in our Rubicon campaign that we ran in 2013.  The imperials lost every chapter, but pulled off a striking last battle win despite having their backs to the wall.  Had they not had a chance to win the campaign up at that point, there would not have been a final battle.

The key is that there is a set structure for a beginning and an end.  An end battle should be something everyone looks forward to.

Additional Mechanics

The complexity of your campaigns will ultimately depend on you and your group.  The information above is really all you need to launch a narrative campaign.  However, nothing is stopping you from incorporating additional mechanics to the campaign or house rules to further customize the set of games into fitting what the narrative needs.  Some examples of this may include:

  • An experience system where units and characters can gain additional abilities (Tamurkhan features one of these for example)
  • Ally mechanics (either new mechanics or in addition to existing)
  • Modified building rules
  • Using other games for your battles.  For example, in 40k you could use Battle Fleet Gothic games as well to represent ship battles
  • Using expansions such as Planet Strike, City Fight, Zone Mortalis, Kill Teams, and Apocalypse in your battles.  40k does not have to be the only way you resolve battles!
  • Having a Game Master present for big battles.  For example – our final game will feature a 1000 point zone mortalis game into the depths of an ork factory where the top players from each of the three factions will be fighting to recover the Prisoner’s vault.  There will be encounters that get rolled and the environment is as much of an enemy as the other forces are – and the Game Master will be running those neutral forces that are trying to stop the players just as they would in an RPG.

Creating Your Own

Using an existing campaign may be an option, but what you may want to do is to write your own.  The problem is where do you start?

The first thing that I come up with is the overall story arc.  Lets say that you have five players in your group:  two space marine players, an imperial guard player, a chaos player, and an eldar player.  I find that there is usually no shortage of imperial players so I always figure that the imperium is going to be a steady imperial presence.

So based on that hypothetical situation, I would divide the players up into two factions.  The imperium, and the opposition.

Next – why would chaos and eldar team up?  It would have to be something dire indeed.  We can always look to video games for inspiration.  Dawn of War and Dawn of War II both had chaos and eldar fighting our imperium protagonists.  Perhaps a chaos warlord has unearthed something that the inquistion wants and the eldar know that if the imperium gets their hands on it that they will use it to eradicate one of their worlds.  Very basic, you can flesh it out more, but that gives you a starting point.  You have chaos and eldar not really on the same side but fighting for a common cause though diametrically opposed view points.

So we have the basics, lets look at hooking these up into a campaign of some sort now.  Lets give it three chapters or three battles.  This is fairly easy to get through, basic enough to write for, and will give your group a sense of accomplishment at having started and completed one.

The initial contact between the imperium happens in a ruined city.  The item that the chaos warlord found was in a dank basement of an old ruined building.  Therefore, we will use City Fight for our first battle.  You could come up with your own scenario (this is a lot of fun I find) or just roll randomly in the City Fight book.

Assign a victory condition now.  What does this battle represent?  Lets say that the chaos warlord’s force is trying to send a beacon to their craft in orbit for extraction and the Imperium must prevent this.  If the chaos warlord accomplishes this task, he receives reinforcements in the final battle.  Lets say +250 points.  If the imperium wins then they have succeeded in cutting off their enemies’ communications and in the final battle they will always be able to choose who deploys first and who goes first as they have their enemy cut off and reacting to them.

Again very basic, you can flesh it out or use a different condition if you want.  I like to have varying conditions, not just say both sides get +250 points if either wins.  That is just my preference though.

Battle two could be a normal battle rolled out of the rulebook at 1500 points.  The two forces clash on a hill near the ruined city.

Battle three can be split into two battles.  One battle could be an Escalation type battle with a Lord of War and the other battle could take place inside of a building using Zone Mortalis rules and apply the victory conditions from Battle One and Two to these battles.

The overall victor of Battle Three wins the campaign and everyone can go out for a beer (or a soda if one is not old enough to drink of course) and discuss plans for the next campaign.

Concluding

Narrative Campaigns are the easiest of the campaign types to run and there is a lot of resources out on the internet as well as published by Forge World and Games Workshop to help you.

Games Workshop as of late has been publishing Apocalypse War Zones which are good for some ideas and Forge World has an entire library of campaigns that you can pull from.  The older ones may need to be modified a little bit to bring it up to speed with the current edition of the game, but the story remains the same.TamurkhanCampaign

I would strongly recommend Tamurkhan to any fantasy players, and the Badab war (Imperial Armors 9 and 10) are classics as well to look for in the narrative world.  These will give you great experiences, and will help seed your imagination for your own narrative in the months and years to follow.

The last article I posted was about what Narrative Gaming was and how that applied to tabletop gaming in where we are coming from in terms of what we are looking for in a game.  For most narrative gamers, this was not new information but I feel it was a vital primer on what we will be discussing in the next few installments of this series as everything that is written from this point will be coming from the point of view of Narrative Gaming.

Campaigning – What is it?
This is a topic that many readers may be familiar with already, but I have also found that there are a good number of people interested in this concept, but that what it is is lost in the maelstrom of rage and angst that is the community, or are coming from a gaming system that really doesn’t cater to or inspire campaign gamers so much as it does the competitive guys.  Really at its very basic level, a campaign is nothing more than a series of linked games that tie together somehow.

CampaignTitleImageA tournament can be a form of a campaign as it is a series of related games that lead to a desired outcome.  This idea is something that I have been kicking around lately as a matter of fact, as narrative tournaments I think would be a great type of event that has no real visibility to the community in general.  I have heard of a couple of narrative styled tournaments running, but when you think of tournament you typically think of things like NOVA, ADEPTICON, and events of that nature.  This type of event would be a short-term campaign taking place over a day or two, and is something that a few of us in my local community are going to attempt to put together this fall to see if we can generate some interest.

Another form of campaign that you may hear about are narrative campaigns using a storyline.  Some examples of these can be found with Forgeworld in their excellent Imperial Armor campaign books, or for fantasy fans the Tamurkhan Throne of Chaos campaign.  These provide a very detailed background story as well as a linked set of battles where you and your group can fight over a predetermined set of battles that have a clear beginning and a clear ending point.  Victories in battles tend to give small bonuses to future battles, and as such are how the games begin to matter over the course of the entire game, culminating with a final battle that determines the overall victor.

I find story-based narrative campaigns to be the easiest to run as you have a clear beginning and a clear end and they don’t require a lot of work in terms of organizing.  The rulesets can be as complex as the group wants them to be, but they can be run pretty much how they are out of the box.  The campaign group that I help organize have for the past few years run nothing but these style of campaigns because of their simple nature which helps make running them easy and allows for people to pop in and out as they need to without disrupting the overall campaign.

Another style of campaign that you may have heard about are Game Mastered Campaigns.  A Game Mastered campaign is one where there is a neutral figure, called the Game Master, that plays the role of creating dynamic scenarios on the fly that change and morph as the storyline does.  The Game Master may also be called upon to run opposing neutral forces and will often craft unique items and situations for players to find themselves in.

Game Mastered Campaigns can be uniquely tailored to any group and provide the group with an experience that they desire on the fly, changing as time goes on to suit the fluid desires of campaigners.  The onus of a Game Mastered campaign will often reside with one individual (the Game Master) and can take a lot of organizing and planning to pull off successfully.  Game Mastered campaigns were what I myself started with in the 80s under historical gaming systems and Battletech.  Often, the focus of these campaigns is not on list building, but on overcoming scenarios and situations that the Game Master devises for you (much like RPGs).

Map campaigns are often cited as being favored by many people, for they provide a visual map to fight over and provide more than just a game of Warhammer or 40k to play over; the map itself is a game in and of itself!  Map campaigns are truly my favorite as well, but are also the most difficult of any of the campaigns that I have run to pull off successfully for many reasons, those which I will discuss in a future article in this series dealing with Map Campaigns.  I will provide a link to my personal fantasy map campaign system that I wrote in 2003 then, as well as discuss a little bit of my 40k version I call The Grand Crusade which is an in depth system focused on sector battles all the way down to holding planets.

Node campaigns are a mixture of story-based campaigns and map-campaigns, wherein there are a series of nodes that represent areas or chapters in a story that have a variety of paths that can be taken depending on player choices and battle outcomes.  An example of a node campaign can be found in the Lustria campaign book released in mid 2000.  Node campaigns are a bit more flexible than the maps because the nodes themselves can shift and change whereas a map is more rigid.

I have run all of these formats in one form or fashion over the past couple of decades and each one has their pros and cons.  As I mentioned earlier, lately I prefer the story-driven narrative campaigns because it lets me as the organizer focus on the story, minimizes paperwork, and allows me to move players into factions and shift them around as needed.  Despite that, I still vastly prefer deeply logistic campaigns centered around a map; you just have to know where the hazards and roadblocks will get you.

Arranging a Campaign

The first thing that one must do is set the campaign up.  This next section is aimed at people not really sure how to do that or who would like some ideas to better get their community open to the idea of campaigning as opposed to random pick up games or tournament games.

I live in Louisville, and we have a decent gaming community going.   I realize that not everyone has access to a large community but look at the size constraints of what you are trying to do first.  A good campaign at minimum requires just two players.  For intensely detailed map based campaigns I would suggest capping your players at around four or five.  Narrative story-driven campaigns can be very flexible and there really is not a cap I’d recommend other than what a potential organizer wants to deal with.  This year’s 40k campaign featured the Imperial Armour 8 campaign Kastorel-Novem, and we had roughly fifty-five players.

Realize that in any given gaming community, you are not going to attract everyone to your idea.  Campaign gamers I find are about as common as tournament gamers in that neither are the common player, at least in my experience.  Your common player is often not going to want to dedicate the time to see the campaign through and are more comfortable with random pick up games or events that only take up an afternoon.  This is fine, the first step in arranging a campaign is to simply identify the players that are willing to invest time into a campaign and who will fit best with what you are trying to accomplish.

There are a few general rules that I follow when setting up a campaign and the very first one is simply you will never ever ever ever please everyone so do not try to.  It will be tempting to share your creation with the community in the hopes that it will be globally lauded but there will always be people that do not agree with what you are doing, and realize that that is fine.  Your target should be those people that do enjoy what you are trying to produce, so focus on them.

Start Simple

If this is your first attempt at campaigning, it will be tempting to launch out of the gate with the world’s next awesome campaign system,  complete with rules that cover everything that could possibly happen in warfare.  That will be your first mistake as well, I promise you.  Rule #2:  the more complex your system, the higher the probability of it not being seen to its conclusion.  People love the idea of complex campaigns on paper, but dedicating the time and energy into seeing one of these through is daunting and you will need to generate some good will and trust from your campaign group before you attempt to try one of these, lest it collapse midway.  Keep your rules simple.  Start with an idea and push out from there slowly.

For example, you may have read a nFinalBattleovel from the Black Library where a space marine faction does something on a world that you really liked and you want to recreate it.  Set it up!  Outline the world, its traits, its background, and why the armies are there, and put together a simply three or four linked scenarios that go from start to finish.  Set up some small victory conditions that benefit the victor for the final battle.

Your first campaign will likely have a handful of players.  Build from that!  Keep the campaign small in scale, complete it, and then build from there.  Your players will enjoy seeing a campaign to its conclusion, and so will you.  One of the more frustrating components of campaign gaming is that so many campaigns simply fizzle, which makes it hard to recruit players that have had this happen to them in the past.

Houseruling – Keep it Contained

One of the things most campaigns will feature inevitably is a houserule tweak here or there to existing framework or codices.  I find that perfectly fine; as a matter of fact if there is ever a place to tinker with rules it is in a campaign in my opinion.  I know that in the past I have written vast forty or fifty page house rule documents that pretty much altered the game largely, and that has largely not been a positive thing as for the most part players tend to want to stick as close to the published rules as you can get.  Now this will also depend on your gaming group.  Some groups enjoy tinkering more than others, and you will know your group better than I will.

I am writing a chaos legion supplement for our 2015 campaign, which is going to run off of the Badab War framework from Forgeworld (Imperial Armour 9 and 10).  These will largely be severe changes in some places, but it fits the campaign.  Other campaigns I have tried my absolute best to keep houseruling to a minimum.  Currently our 40k campaign has a small page of houserules that include limiting flyers to one per 1000 points, not allowing non-troop choices to be taken more than twice, and a rule giving painted units a re-roll during the game to encourage painting.

The Lustria campaign we limit unit sizes to 60 models or no less than 25% of the overall army in points without characters being added to prevent the death star mega hordes from appearing, which in our campaign we do not want.  The painting rule for Lustria was altered so that unpainted models simply are hated by painted models to encourage painting.  We also have it so that buildings can only be entered and exited by their access points, instead of being able to evaporate out of walls which defies any sense of “realism” we are trying to put into the game.  (this also makes scenarios like Watchtower more palatable)

Are these houserules the absolute best and the gaming world will see them as genius?  Not hardly.  I have been attacked verbally for these houserules on several forums after sharing them.  See rule #1 – you will never please everyone.  Please your campaign group first and foremost.  The rest of the global gaming community is not required to like what you are doing.

Dont Be Afraid to Get Creative

One of the biggest draws to campaign gaming is that you are not constrained to the Core-Six scenarios.  There is a lot of material out there that you can draw from.  There are narrative scenarios in the core rulebook.  There is cityfight, planet strike, Apocalypse, Escalation, Battle Missions, Altar of War Missions, Zone Mortalis, Kill team!  There are so many ways to play the game (and I just listed 40k expansions there, fantasy does not have as many but there are still narrative scenarios and Storm of Magic that you can plug in not to mention Triumph and Treachery scenarios with mercenary rules) do not feel that you have to constrain yourself to the basic six; in my opinion that would be a disservice to your group.  Explore the game!

Another thing people like to do with campaigns is come up with new units, or use fan made codices or army lists.  For Lustria, we are using the fan Dogs of War codex as well as the fan made Pirates list as they both fit very well with our theme.  Listen to requests your players make, and understand that not everything should be allowed in to the campaign but do not be afraid to use outside resources or material if it fits the campaign.  If it proves to be too powerful or too unbalancing, work with your players to right the ship.

A Chance to Model

I spend a lot of time in a game’s off season (which for us is during one game’s campaign, the offseason is the opposite game) painting my next campaign force and working on terrain for it.  Our campaigns have a final game which are intentionally made epic in scale with nice terrain and scenarios that wrap up the six months we’ve been fighting.  Last year we had a twenty-five foot long table in our gaming store set in a mall with roughly twenty players playing a massive battle and we had a constant stream of people walking in to take pictures of it.  Its still talked about months later.

For Lustria, I am building a large golden pyramid which is the end goal of the campaign.  For our 40k campaign, I am building a zone mortalis board that represents the interior of an ork munition factory which will be the setting for the final battle for the top players in each of the three factions while an apocalypse battle rages outside.

Here is your chance to build some units or terrain that reflect your campaign and begin telling your tale.

Be Prepared For Rough Seas

It would be great if all campaigns rolled smoothly but the organizer has to be prepared to play the role of the organizer, which is not always pleasant.  Tournament Organizers, Campaign Organizers, Event Organizers, they all have different names but their role is the same.  They are the ones that are ultimately responsible for seeing the event through and dealing with any rough spots.

People are going to quit.  You have to be prepared for that.  Campaigns require an investment of time, and that investment of time is not easy to come by.  If your campaign is set up where a person quitting will bring the whole campaign down, you need to evaluate the campaign system you are using.  This is especially true for map campaigns, which is one reason why map campaigns are hard to run and conclude.  People quit for all kinds of reasons, and why they quit is not really important.  You need to have contingency plans in place for when they do quit.

Some people are going to get irritated with the rules, or are going to get irritated that someone looked at them wrong, or get irritated that so
meone said something that they took personal offense to.  Regardless, people are going to get irritated and you are going to be who they go to to tell about it.  You have to play the role of mediator at times.  This is a group of people that will be playing together for an extended amount of time, and unless everyone is close friends, you will get issues crop up between two personalities that are not meshing very well together.  (this is true in tournament environments as well, though typically those are one day affairs where the two people will not be around each other for extended periods)

No Man is an Island

Your gaming group will often be a great resource for ideas.  Involve them!  Players that invest creative time into a project will often stick around to see it through and will have an enjoyable time doing so.

When crafting campaign rules, get them together to discuss what is forthcoming and iron out a final rules packet.  For our campaigns I like to go have a dinner or a painting party with people that want to discuss the rules and we iron out any issues that may arise a couple of months before the campaign starts.

Involve your players often.

Have a Solid Schedule and Stick With It

Campaigns run for an extended time.  Create a schedule that works for everyone.  If you schedule games too fast or too often, people will quit.  If you have a system where one person can play and win many games and get a serious advantage over people quickly, people will quit.  What I have found works great for the story driven campaigns is that in any given month I schedule one game with my players.  They get a scheduled opponent and have all month to play that game wherever, whenever.  Then on the last saturday of every month we have campaign day at a store.  We rotate the stores.  This places both a flex game and a set game on the schedule.  Most players cannot make every game in a campaign (ours last six months each) but the system does not allow one player to run away with the campaign and people for the most part do not feel that their side ever has no chance of coming back.

Have a Plan for the End – Reward Your Players

One of my favorite parts of a campaign is the final campaign day.  This is a celebration of everything we have worked for the past few months and a final resolution is ha
d.  TypChampionsPicturesically the last battle in a narrative game will be the ultimate decider over which player or faction wins.  This is also where I like to hand out awards to players.  We have a small campaign fee which everyone pays at the beginning which I use to pay for the website and awards.  Any money that is needed after I typically front but that’s just me.

We have a plaque for best painted army and the best player (the one that is the most fun to play against) which is a group vote.  After that I obtain a nice trophy for the overall winner, and consolidation trophies for those that came 2nd or 3rd place.  For 40k, there are three factions this year and the top players of the factions get a trophy, with the overall winner being the player that is top of his faction and that faction wins the campaign.

We have also had trophies for Best Rookie, Best Game, and so forth.  I also get medals for the members of the winning faction.

Its a lot of stuff to give out, but I do not see why campaigns cannot be treated like large tournament events that also give out nice awards.  This is not required of course, but something to consider.

Have a Central Location for Information

This one is very important in my  opinion.  In this day and age, having a place where players can go to see their standings, the map, who is winning and so forth is vital.  It keeps peoples’ attention.  Even if it is just a facebook page, create something that the players can use to meet and discuss and see how everyone is doing.

Be Communicative

Coordinators that do not say much I find lose peoples’ interest.  A weekly blurb about how the campaign is currently going may be all that is needed, but lets everyone know on a fairly regular basis what is going on.

Let it Grow Organically

Campaigns that are successful will generate a lot of goodwill and enthusiasm.  Goodwill and enthusiasm will generate more interest.  Do not push for campaign groups to grow faster than you can handle or accommodate, however.   This part here is probably one of the more important pieces to remember.  Often I will hear how it is difficult to get people to play in any campaigns and how people are tournament-focused.  There will genuinely be many people that do not have any interest in campaigns, but there will also be many people that COULD BE interested, if you show yourself as capable of doing so and start showing through successful campaigns that you see them through and that people are having fun.

Finish What You Start

This goes without saying, but is something that I see get dropped very often.  If you are going to start a campaign, see it to its conclusion.  This is where starting small works to your advantage.  You will get to see what your group wants, and how much of your own time you are willing to devote to seeing these events to their close.  Regardless, leaving campaigns unfinished and dropped leaves players with a bad experience.  Finish what you start.

Overall these pointers are what I have picked up over the years of running campaigns and I hope that they were useful.  In our next installment I will discuss setting up a narrative story-based campaign and how the Lousivillewargaming.com campaigns are created and run from a narrative story-based standpoint.  We will move on from there and explore some more complicated systems.

 

 

CampaignMapby Alex Hagerman, written for Louisvillewargaming.com

Since the beginning of the year I have been involved in a six-month Warhammer 40k narrative campaign. With it winding down I wanted to take a moment to look back at the experience and share my thoughts on the experience. To start this was my first “narrative” event even though I have been playing 40k off and on since 4th edition.  Most of my previous games had just been pick up, local tournaments, or beer and pretzels flavor of the month games with friends without any sort of connection between the games. While that was fun I can honestly say that being involved in the narrative campaign has provided me a new way to play that has also provided a new level of immersion.

First what is narrative gaming? While there doesn’t seem to be a concrete definition of what narrative gaming in 40k is we can look at some characteristics of it. First, narrative gaming typically takes place in a community where a group of people are trying to tell a story about their respective armies and heroes while experiencing other people’s stories on the table as well. Instead of simply rolling from the 6 scenarios in the book you tend to create mission parameters that match the fluff of what has been happening on the tables across your group. Games don’t have to be symmetrical and doors are opened to pull from IA, Altar of War and other sources to help reflect the universe you are in. That being said, narrative gaming is still competitive.

In the 5+ years I’ve played 40k I haven’t come across anybody that enjoys losing. You’re telling the story of your army, the last time I checked nobody wants their army to be the one that gets stomped into the ground in ever chapter. At the same time you don’t have to power-list to win; depending on the mission parameters power listing may be worthless or not entirely as effective as they are when only playing from the same six missions with the same three secondary objectives all the time.

So with the some of the characteristic about narrative gaming above laid out why would you want to take part in this community experience? One of the first things that comes to my mind is the memorable moments that stand out from the last four months of gaming.

I have seen some of the most epic moments of table top play out recently that stick in my mind better than anything in the last 4 years. In a recent Apoc game watching some Masters of the Chapter down a Warhound titan and live to tell the story through the explosion is the first to come to mind shared by three XV9 suits holding the pass against wave after wave of 20+ demons for 4 turns as they poured through a portal bent on flooding the entire bored with the will of Tzeentch.

Narrative gaming is about the moments of success or failure that we read about in the fluff and then see brought to life on the table by our own units. Along with this comes a greater sense of immersion as your units garner kill counts, survive impossible odds and tell their grimdark tale.

Along with telling your story comes the benefit of sharing in others experiences getting to hear about how your friends game played out and seeing how both of your actions lead to the games in the next chapter and how those outcomes affect a game three months later. One of the reasons I love playing 40k in this setting is it takes it from being like chess, risk, or any other one off strategy game and gets you more involved in knowing not just the rules of your army but the background, how they think, how they would act and respond on the battlefield and even allows you to add your own personality on top of that to expand the fluff for your group.

That being said, narrative gaming isn’t for everybody. Narrative gaming not only asks the player to be committed on the table, but also to spend time learning about their army and potentially adding to the fluff of it off the table. One of the things I’ve found interesting and enjoyable in my first narrative campaign is the Forging the Narrative events. These are events where players can earn points for writing about their army its previous exploits and its battles in the current event. It seemed a bit daunting at first but after sitting down and starting to do it I found myEldarPortalBattle3self thinking about ideas for my army as I was driving to work, sitting around listening to music, running, etc.

Suddenly this was something extra for me to toy with in my free time and another reason to learn more about my army. One of the key things to point out is that people don’t get rewarded for how proper there grammar is but in our system based on word count to encourage people to write. The more your write like most other things the better you will get.

Further, some people like to build a list and only run that for the rest of their life based on six static missions. Narrative campaigns tend not to be the best place for that as missions and in each chapter may require you to adapt your tactics depending on the previous month’s results, if you’re an attacker or defender, the objective of the mission etc. In this way for many it is fun because it require you to stretch your tactics and skills and try new combinations and think in different ways.

Finally, GW has recently been on a writing spree which I personally enjoy seeing as we haven’t had this much new content in a long time. That being said narrative campaigns need a way to handle this as new units popping up months into a campaign needs to be explained somehow. Further if editions or something were to change you probably need some mechanism for introducing new rule sets to your campaign community or even a day where you all get together and try them out to see what the community thinks.

So overall my first narrative campaign has probably been my best 40k experience to date. I have met new people, had some great gaming experiences, seen some epic moments play out and been given a greater reason than ever to read up on the grimdark future of 40k.

Greetings and welcome to a small series of articles that I am writing about campaign gaming and how I have gone about creating and running varioRubiconVIIus campaigns for a variety of gaming systems.  Campaign gaming can be quite rewarding if you are a tabletop wargamer, though they do require quite a bit of work to see through their conclusion.

The target audience for this piece is written for my gaming group as we prepare for our 2014 Fantasy Campaign in Lustria, but I am adapting it to be general and involve pretty much any system though I shall be focusing on Games Workshop exclusively and Warhammer Fantasy and 40,000 specifically.

Before we can really delve into campaigning though, I would like to address and discuss what a Narrative Gamer is exactly, for a lot of what I am going to be writing about deals with this style of gameplay and I feel that it is important to understand this style a little bit better before going into more depth into how they apply their style to campaigning or simply gaming in general.

There are many myths that surround the Narrative Gamer.  There are many misunderstandings or mis-truths spoken about what narrative gaming is in the first place.  For some, the Narrative Gamer is a player that can’t win at competitive Warhammer, so they have to play in an environment where power-listing cannot happen, because knowing how to not only use but go up against powerlists requires elite skill.  For others, narrative gaming is a false dichotomy created by Games Workshop for producing lousy, sloppy, non balanced rules where they are basically saying that the narrative is whatever you want it to be, and we don’t care about game balance so do what you want.  (this part is fairly accurate, the developers of fantasy and 40,000 have gone on record many times saying this very thing) and Forge the Narrative is synonymous for being bad at game design and a failure to deliver a tightly bundled competitive ruleset.

When it comes down to playing in campaigns, I have found that most run strongly under the guise of a Narrative Game as it is a great chance to tell a story and progress a story line.  It should be noted, however, that not all campaigns need be Narrative Games; a campaign at its simplest is simply a series of linked games.  Tournaments can be thought of as campaigns if you think about it!

Ok that’s great, but what exactly is Narrative Gaming then?

Narrative gaming is a style of playing in the system where the story of the gaming system is adhered to first and foremost.  It is a style of gaming where list-building comes second to actually playing the game on the table and creating a battle as the stories would present them.   A space marine army is known for its tactical marines and a narrative list would include a backbone of them as the stories would, whereas in a game played in a more competitive environment the tactical marines will often be removed as they are not as optimal or points-efficient.

It really has nothing to do with being good, bad, or indifferent with the game, it is merely an expression of how you want battles to look and including elements that may not be optimized game-wise, but would be present in the stories.

Why would anyone actively choose to take bad units?  Do narrative gamers really not care who wins?

Front of the shrine, the Troll

The chaos troll pulls its master into battle

This is a common question that I get asked, and is also a common ding on narrative gamers in general – that they do not really try or care about the game and just kind of shuffle units around randomly while making pew pew noises and making explosions with a cheetos bag while high fiving their buddies.

The reality is that I have been narrative gaming for well over twenty years and I have never once run into a player that didn’t care about winning.  Every player that I have played against cares about winning and tries to win, and every player that I have ever played with or against has put effort into their games.

That leads down to the crux of the issue:  Why would anyone actively choose to take bad units?  This is the mystery that divides narrative gamers from competitive gamers and what the campaigns that I run chooses to focus on.

A narrative game represents two armies that reflect what you would read about in the fiction.  Granted, we can be pedantic and argue that even powerlisted monstrosities can be justified somewhere and indeed that is correct.  Therefore I go with the term what you would commonly encounter in the narrative.

So again, if you are taking bad units, how can you say that you are trying to win?

When playing in a narrative fashion, we take our cues from historical games before us and games where Game Masters dictated what lists would be fighting to preserve a sense of balance.  Games like Battletech are great fun or fighting off marauding gauls with your roman legions can be a great tactical exercise, but when points come into play and you let people begin to cherry pick what they want in their armies they will naturally start choosing the best that they can (and as much as they can!)

A narrative game will feature many of these “bad units” and they will be supported and led by their elite units, not fully composed of nothing but elite units facing off against elite units.

This does a spectacular job of rebalancing.  Lets pretend we have a jar of 100 marbles.  Lets say that each marble represents a build you can make in the game.  When we are powerlisting, take about five of those marbles out of the jar and put them down.  Those are the builds that are viable and have a chance of beating each other.  The remaining 95 marbles in the jar are at a large mathematical disadvantage due to points disparities, special rules, and loop holes that exist.  Playing within a competitive environment, you will largely only see those five marbles or slight variations thereof repeatedly (until a new army book comes out, then one of the five marbles gets put back in the jar and another marble takes its place)

When we choose to use those core units that the books write about and use builds that are a step down in power, we are allowing more viable builds to enter the game.  What is not viable in a powerlisting environment is perfectly viable in a narrative environment.  We have more marbles to play with than just the five.

This also tests our abilities as we no longer have the ability to rely on units exploiting poor rules.  We have to make do with poorer units as well as our elites, much like the commanders in the stories have to do.

Narrative Gaming – Experiencing More of the Game than just the Core-Six

The Kingdom of SilkA trait that most narrative gamers also possess is the ability to be able to adapt to situations where they start off at a disadvantage.  Campaigns will often feature one side with a slight advantage due to past battles or simply due to the story.  This could come in the form of points disparity, special equipment, or special rules like veteran abilities that one side possesses.

The scenarios used in many narrative games are not just the Core-Six from the main rulebook.  There are dozens upon dozens of scenarios in existence that many people don’t even know about.  It never fails to surprise me at having a discussion with a player and talking about the narrative scenarios in the back of the rulebooks and many not knowing what I am talking about or have had even seen them before.

Narrative gaming opens the game up to many situations and tests our tactical acumen by pitting us against things outside of our comfort zone; things that we cannot optimize for.   Warhammer 40,000 has a huge breadth of environments and scenarios that can be played, from cityfight games inside heavily packed and dense urban environments, to planetstrike scenarios to a host of Altar of War missions with different victory conditions and Apocalypse battles.  Warhammer Fantasy has a host of narrative scenarios in the core rules as well as Storm of Magic.  There are also many old campaign books from the past that have great ideas for scenarios and contain scenarios themselves (for example, we are using the Lustria campaign book released in the mid 2000’s which has a couple of campaign systems and scenarios detailed within).

There are also different environments that you can test your forces in.  For Lustria, we will be fighting in dense jungle terrain where the jungle blocks a lot of line of sight, humidity puts a damper on black powder, and the jungle itself is as much an adversary as your opponent.

Narrative gaming offers a wide variety of ways to play the game and in my opinion it opens the game up to experience a lot more.  It really is not about people that do not understand how to min/max properly or people that do not care about winning.  It is at its core putting the storyline first and playing the game on the table over winning in the list building phase of the game.

Next time I will discuss putting together some campaigns and we will look at the different types of campaign systems that I have run more in depth as well as their pros and their cons.

 

For the uninitiated, many people view the world from a self-centric point of view… meaning that how they think, act, and feel is what they feel to be the standard and people that walk outside of that realm are considered “strange” at best.  The degree of “strangeness”, “weirdness” etc will depend on the degree of the other person’s differences.

These differences are often set up by locale and culture as well as how one is brought up as a child.

There are many personality traits that one can possess or lack, but the one personality trait that we either lionize or put aside are the extroversions and introversions of the world.

I first read up about these personality traits while studying for my degree in psychology, as we had to take a test to determine all kinds of things about our personalities and more importantly what they meant to us and how we perceived the world.  I scored high on the introversion scale.  I remember in that class that the majority of people scored on the extroversion scale.  Psychological studies have shown that upwards of 75% of our population are extroverted.

When growing up, I was always for the most part very quiet in public.  Privately, I can talk a lot and go on about all kinds of things that I find fascinating, but in public I prefer to watch and interject as needed.  During my time in the army, my introversion was frowned upon and often in our monthly reviews that we had to undergo it was cited that I was too soft-spoken and that that was not a good trait.  It denoted someone who was “up to something” or “untrustworthy”.

When in college and professional development classes it was hammered upon that your professional success hinges on your being friendly and outgoing.  Extroversion is what we as a culture lionize.  Professionally, you will often be judged on the merits of your work which is absolutely true, but you will also be judged based on how well you get along with your coworkers and how you fit in with them socially.

For an introverted person, this can be a daunting and challenging set of obstacles to succeed.

Personal relationships are also similar to professional ones; those that are quiet and keep to themselves will obviously not be in positions often to meet others and will seem to be assholes, rude, and too direct.  These are all things that I myself have been labeled over the years and as one of my traits is to constantly analyze everything, I have spent many hours trying to figure out exactly what I have done to be considered as such.

Let’s look at what introversion means to me.

introvert-pic-goldfish

Introversion and Extroversion
An introverted person is simply a person that prefers to spend the majority of their time either away from people altogether or with a select few people.  The reasons for introversion can vary from past trauma to neural connectors that make up the brain where people simply prefer being away from others.  Really there is no one defining reason why someone is introverted.

An extroverted person needs to be around people or they lose energy.  They get depressed.  Negative energy surrounds them.

An introverted loses their energy when they are around others.  They get depressed.  They need time to recharge.

Were you always introverted
Growing up, I think I had a fairly normal child hood until roughly junior high.  I was fairly outgoing.  I played soccer, had sleepovers, liked to run with the other boys, all of that.

When junior high hit, life suddenly got real.  When you are little, you tend to not notice as much the things that don’t matter with your friends.  If they are poor, rich, wear clothes that are in fashion, etc… those things don’t matter.  When you are little all that really matters is that goddammit I pew pewed you and you didn’t move out of the way fast enough and you should be playing dead right now and I took the hill!

Junior high was the time that kids started to take note over which of the group were not dressed a certain way, which of the group did not have a lot of money, which of the group were “unattractive”, and at that point kids can start to get really mean.

We were very poor growing up.  When I watch south park, I am always likened to Kenny.  To top it off, as a kid I inherited horrible acne that started from when I was 12 all the way through high school and a month before I left for basic training.  Being extremely poor and with horrible acne set the stage for my introversion.

I had a brief time of normalcy while in the army.  It was a good time to restart.  I left my hometown, never to return, and joined a group of guys where no one knew each other.  In school, I had learned to stand up for myself from bullies by doing what boys do… getting into fights.  I got into a lot of fights growing up.  When I say a lot of fights I mean if there was a day I wasn’t chased after by a pack of assholes throwing rocks and boards and shooting slingshots and beebee guns on my walk home from school, it was a good day.

This translated well in the army.  Soft-spoken as I was, you had to stand up for yourself and I was not afraid to do so.  I made a few friends and I went from being soft-spoken to understanding how to communicate with others.

I had a bad marriage following the army which contributed to a lot of trauma that helped finalize my view on people as a whole.

A question I ask myself daily is had I been born into a family that was not poor and/or had I not gone through a bad marriage, would I have continued to be the extroverted little boy that I was when little?  I can’t go back in time, but I think in my case that introversion developed on my part as part of a coping mechanism.

Does being introverted mean you dislike people?

hamsterballI get asked that question a lot or I read that question a lot.  The answer is no I do not dislike people.  Introverted people want to be included in socialization as much as extroverted people do.  The difference is that introverted people need a lot of time by themselves to recharge from social events.

Unfortunately this can come across as an introverted person not wanting to be around others and it doesn’t take long for people to stop trying to include them.   This is the farthest thing from the reality of the situation, but is very hard to reinforce and get across, as an introverted person is often perfectly fine sitting home on a friday night reading a book or watching a movie, whereas an extroverted person sees that as a waste of a night that could be out at the club hanging out with friends.

Big Groups, Small Groups, One on One
My most difficult environment is when I have to interact with someone on a one-on-one basis outside of a professional setting.  I have a very hard time with small talk and knowing how to conduct it.  Quite honestly, I do not know how to do it, and want to get to the point of conversations quickly.  The same can be said in a school environment for me; verbose instructors that rattle on and on without getting to the point are hard for me to cope with as I’d rather get to the solution of the problem and learn what it is I am supposed to be learning.

I actually prefer groups in my interaction with others so that the onus of small talk is not entirely on me and others can continue with the small talk while I can sit back and not feel pressured to provide what I consider are trivial answers.

Now put me in a one-on-one conversation with someone on a topic that I care about, and we can talk for hours and the entire situation is pleasant for me and I come away with it actually feeling pretty good.  The problem with me is that as I recognize things, small talk and pointless talk are a big part of socializing and I have to get better at being able to do it.   The other area that I probably need to work on is being able to care about topics that I don’t really care about and be able to contribute to a conversation.

Being Direct and Construed as an Asshole
Wow that was rude!  You intimidate me!  I can’t believe you just said that!  These are phrases I’m quite familiar with.  As I said above, I dislike beating around the bush and prattle that gets away from the point, and I prefer people being direct with me as I am with them.

The problem with this is that this is a social and cultural no-no.  It only takes one time of saying exactly what’s on your mind to someone to self perpetuate being an introvert because its not common or acceptable to do.

I found that this is a trait many introverts share.  From a personal standpoint, I value directness.  From a sociological standpoint, directness can be detrimental to social health.  A conundrum to be sure.

Introversion and Work
I found it important to select a field of work where I can largely be left on my own.  It is not an accident that I ended up as a software developer, because 90% of my work is done by myself.  When selecting a field to get into when I was still in school, all of the paths I had looked at were introverted in nature.

Despite that, the software development and IT industry as a whole requires some extroversion just like any field.  The more outspoken and friendly people will tend to be more successful and land jobs easier than the introverted people will.  A good article I found on the topic of whether or not you should target extroverts or introverts can be found here:

http://www.datacenterjournal.com/it/hiring-introverts-extroverts/

Quite plainly, people are more at ease around others that like to talk a lot.  People that internalize or keep to themselves are a lot more difficult to understand and that can be uncomfortable.

How can you sit at home?
Another question I have heard a lot from people who don’t understand how someone can actually like to sit at home.  First, I have filled my life with a good half dozen projects that range from musical to art to writing to just sitting and listening to music and thinking.

There is a keystone in all of those subjects.  They all allow me to focus on a task and my mind spins while the task is being worked.  When I say that my mind spins what I mean is that it does not ever go quiet.  I am constantly thinking about something.  Being around others in a noisy room does not stop my mind from spinning.  What it does do is prevent me from thinking clearly as I have other distractions I must respond to.  This is where my own internal exhaustion comes from and why being around a lot of people can exhaust me.  Its like a computer multi tasking between several programs at once.

When I lay down to sleep at night, often I lay there for a good hour just staring at the ceiling while my brain cycles down.  Often I am awoken at night while my brain activates and starts thinking and I can’t go back to sleep.

Writing, art, and music are all forms of therapy for me.  I enjoy doing all of those things with other people.  Sharing those things with other people is actually a way you know that I appreciate you and wanting to do those things with you means that I value your presence and is my primary way of connecting with people.  The opposite, having musical, artistic, or literary friends exclude me from their group activities, is very hurtful to me.   This is why I have such a desire to be in a band, and why I like painting with a group of people.  This is why I enjoy gaming so much, because playing a game like D&D is writing a story with other people.

This is an example of how an introverted person such as myself needs socializing and connection as much as an extroverted person does.

This is how I view the world and the people around me.

So I had to take some time to learn about some ways to draw lines and what not in my project.  I found a package called Vectrosity which was being touted as being pretty good so I dropped the money down for it.  

There is, of course, a bit of a learning curve.  However, once I figured out how to get my rectangle drawn I was pretty happy with the end result.

Image

 

The only issue I see right now is that the reticle may be a bit too “soft” in appearance.  I got the appearance totally by accident.  

Image

I was messing with some different particle effects as up to this point, the rectangle was just a solid white rectangle with ugly join corners.  I found the green/blue soft particle and applied it as the material for my rectangle and boom… it was perfect other than I may need to figure out how to make it glow a little brighter to bring the contrast up.

I will mess with that in the future.  For right now, I can target the object.

Challenges

One thing I ran into was that after I would fly by the space station, the rectangle would then render itself on my screen anyway without the station.  It would then shrink slowly… basically applying itself in reverse.

To get around that I had to research how Unity knows if an object is being rendered or not onscreen.  Turns out it is very easy.  Note the code in my IF statement…

If DrawTarget is true AND if the renderer object has its isVisible property set to true… draw the reticle.  Otherwise do not. 

Boom… problem solved.

I am about finished with this phase of the project.  I am about ready to start messing around with a backdrop and applying the earth and the moon as this station is set as a moon platform.