One of the hardest goals I have ever tried to achieve is to add context my games. There are plenty of ways to try and achieve that, but I think the one most gamers go for is to play scenarios in the context of a larger campaign game. Hopefully, the larger campaign provides you the forces for each side, a location to be fought over, and both previous and subsequent battles will be affected by the results of the battle you are about to fight.
So what is a "campaign"? Essentially it is a larger game intended to consist of a series of smaller games, linked together over a span of time and distance. Sounds simple on face value, but it requires the gamer to consider many factors that they normally abstract away from normal, tactical play, such as supply and logistics, marching rates (outside of the battlefield), and thinking about multiple objectives spread across distances. With campaigns you have to figure out if you want to continue to abstract many of those factors away.
Rather than talk about the different types of campaigns, this post is going to focus on a map campaign that I started with gaming buddy Justo (in Texas). It started with watching YouTuber The Joy of Wargaming's series Five Villages (which starts here), which was a map campaign he played using the rules The Chosen Men (so it was a skirmish campaign). I decided to play that same campaign after watching the first four episodes. (I should have watched the fifth episode before starting the campaign, by the way.) I drew up my own version of the map (putting it on hexes), created the opposing forces, and developed some rules (largely taken from the original campaign). The next problem to solve was: what strategic orders do I give each side?
Because my intent was to play the battles out solo – the objective of the campaign was simply to produce scenarios for battles to be played out on the tabletop, especially unbalanced and unlikely scenarios you would not play face-to-face with an opponent – I decided to enlist my gaming buddies to provide me the basic strategies for the two sides and then I, as umpire, would execute the orders for both sides and resolve the resulting conflicts.
I enlisted gaming buddies Justo and Chris (from Ohio) for the two sides, but it turned out that I did not convey the requirements adequately and it fell through in about a week. That said, Justo had a map campaign in his tool box – also based on a The Joy of Wargaming (TJoW) video series, in this case an Imagi-Nation map campaign (which starts here) – and he suggested that I give the orders to one side, he does it for the other, and we each play out our own campaign separately. Rather than use this plan for my original campaign, I decided to go ahead and try this one.
Initially Justo provided two map drawings, but eventually I ended up converting these to hexes.
As with the video series, Justo and I decided to use the system provided in The Solo Wargaming Guide (TSWG) by William Silvester for conducting map movement, dealing with supply and logistics, weather, mobilization, and determining the number of initial forces. (Because the campaign is measured in days and not weeks or months, recruitment is not an issue.) Now, my opinion of this book has been pretty low since purchase. When it comes to solo wargaming, I really don't want to lean on random tables and this book does that heavily (as does Featherstone's). But as I looked through all the variables you have to contend with, it seems like this is a good way to start until you sort out your own rules with fewer fully random tables.
Justo had created the maps, set the city sizes, drew in the terrain and roads, and stopped sort of determining the force composition and location. That is where our campaign started.
I saw that the map favored Westonia, as it had more lesser villages (class C, D, and E urban areas), and thus would have a smaller army, so I chose Eastonia as my side figuring it would likely be the defender. Here is the full process that we used for our campaign:
- Select campaign map ✅
- Select which side you represent ✅
- Roll your side’s forces
- Roll total forces for each city
- Divide Regiments into Line Infantry and Line Cavalry
- Subtract the number of Line Cavalry from individual Companies; that is the number of Artillery Batteries
- Divide remaining individual Companies into Light Infantry and Light Cavalry
- Assign Regiments and individual Companies to cities
- Name Regiments and Companies
- Divide forces into Brigades
- Define Brigades (which Regiments and Companies, from where)
- Roll Brigadier Generals’ Commander Competency Rating (CCR)
- No more than three Brigadier Generals per side
- Any additional Commanders will automatically have a CCR of ‘3’.
- Assign Brigadier Generals to each Brigades
- Name Brigadier Generals
- Make a Muster Plan
- Define the Muster Rating of each city.
- Identify Muster Point for each Brigade.
- Define travel from origin Cities to Muster Point.
- Define an Action Plan
- Identify starting time for each Brigade
- Identify general orders (attack, defense, delay, etc.)
- Identify route of march
- Identify goal of campaign
Step 3, roll your side's forces, comes straight from TSWG, which is as follows: Class A gets 2-5 Regiments (each of 5 Companies); B gets 1-5 Regiments; C gets 4 Companies; D gets 3 Companies; and E gets 2 Companies. Given that both sides started with one A and three B class cities, both sides would start with relatively the same number of Regiments. Note that 3.2 and 3.4 above defines what class of troops come from these sources, Line Infantry and Line Cavalry only come from Regiments, and thus only class A and B cities produce those troops. The class C, D, and E towns only produce Artillery (in limited amounts), Light Infantry, and Light Cavalry. So my feeling was that the extra towns of Westonia would not produce a significant advantage in troops, but enough to justify me being the defender.
As with TJoW, we decided to have one Line Cavalry Regiment for every five Line Infantry Regiments raised, rounding fractions up. I rolled up fifteen Regiments, so that gave me three Line Cavalry Regiments and twelve Line Infantry Regiments.
With three Line Cavalry Regiments, you are allowed three Artillery Batteries, subtracted from your total number of Companies (28) raised from your C, D, and E towns. In hindsight I think that may be a little too few batteries, but we press onward.
Of the remaining Companies (25) we decided to have one Light Cavalry Squadron for every three Light Infantry Company, rounding fractions up. That gives me seven Light Cavalry Squadrons and eighteen Light Infantry Companies. Along with our three Brigadier Generals, this is my total force disposition.
I am not going to bore you with the nitty gritty details of where the units ended up, but my basic plan was to pool my Light Cavalry in certain towns so those forces could muster and move faster to engage the enemy while the rest of the units muster for defense. My sole goal was to attack on the south road, taking the first C class town on that road, and attempt to hold on to that until the cessation of hostilities, hoping I could win that in subsequent peace negotiations or at least use it as a bargaining chip in the event I lose any towns or cities.
By the way, given that we are not using any siege artillery and the class A and B cities are fortified, there is essentially no way to capture the enemy's cities; only the towns are vulnerable.
The first wrench in the campaign was that Justo did not want to determine, at the start, which side was the attacker and which was the defender. Rather he wanted to have each side write attack orders without knowing who was attacking. I thought that was a little strange, but agreed to it. After all, we would each be playing our own campaign so whoever ended up attacker in one campaign might well be the defender in the other's, so I guess it made sense and was easier than writing one set of orders if you are the attacker and another if you are the defender.
My Version of the First Elope-an War Campaign
I will be reporting on my campaign here and on my Solo Battles blog, given that the tactical play will likely be solo (though not necessarily, if I enlist the aid of local or virtual players).
The Westonian Duke, after sending his daughter ahead to Eastonia to eventually be married to the Prince of Eastonia, and subsequently finding out that the Prince had absconded (eloped) with his daughter to another country, decided this was the final straw. After decades of attempts to make peace with the Eastonians, by tying their families through marriage, this was too much! With the loss of his daughter there was no treaty between the two, especially as the Count of Eastonia was claiming it was their strumpet of a daughter that lured his son and heir away! This means war!
Westonian ended up as the attacker so I have to determine how long it takes Eastonia to react to the news and send out their mobilization orders. Looking at the Mobilization table in TSWG, the Eastonian's mobilize five days after the Westonian's do. Clearly the Count did not figure the Duke would react so poorly to the news.
April 3, 1750
Light Rain (6) greets the Westonians as they start to muster. Each city has a Muster Rating to determine how long it takes the news to get to that city, and how long it takes the local garrison commanders to get their troops mustered locally.
April 4, 1750
A light rain continues. Troops in Tresvoces, Siayfin, Avrafin, and Vacaque have completed their muster.
April 5, 1750
The rain has stopped (7). The troops above are moving to their Brigade Muster Point while the remaining troops complete their muster in their respective cities and towns. (I did not roll a single Westonian city with a Muster Rating of '1', which is the slowest Muster Rating. They have clearly been contemplating this action and have been drilling.)
April 6-8, 1750
The Vanguard of the Brigade SLT completes its muster in Astaelfin and prepares to move on towards Firnskuppe.
April 8, 1750
Mobilization orders are sent out to all Eastonian units. Units will muster in their cities and towns on the 9th through 11th, depending upon their Muster Rating.
April 10, 1750
The Vanguard of the 1st Westonian Brigade arrives in Firnskuppe, just as the Firnskuppian Husaren (two independent light cavalry squadrons) complete their muster. One Light Infantry Regiment and one Light Cavalry Regiment versus these two Husaren squadrons… Not quite your normal matchup to play on game night!
Fighting Tactical Battles
The next question is how to fight tactical battles, going from the campaign map to the tabletop and back. In this regard Justo and I have again decided to take our own routes. We can use whatever rules we like to fight out the battles, but they need to be able to map to our unit structures.
I am considering using Neil Thomas' One-Hour Wargames (OHW), especially for the simpler battles. I like the basic mechanics of either moving or firing, which feels right for this period. The issue is how to represent the units?
The basic unit in the campaign is the company. Towns and cities provide a certain number of companies to the army. Cities provide the line units, and thus are organized in units (regiments) of five companies each. Towns can either combine their companies into consolidated regiments (again, of five companies each) or use them as independent companies. Given that an OHW unit is 15 hits, that can easily be translated as 3 hits per company in a five company regiment. That would make independent companies and squadrons as 3 hit units. Any permanent losses in hits from the unit can likewise be reflected back to the campaign by removing a company for each 3 hit loss.
The problem with this, however, is that a unit maintains its firepower/melee power regardless of the number of hits remaining, so five 3-hit units are far stronger offensively, than one 15-hit unit. The former would be throwing 5D6 in combat while the latter would only be throwing one. How to resolve that?
Another method would be for one OHW unit to equal a company, but force the companies in regiments to operate together (in formation). That might be interesting. Basically it would be scaling OHW up (tremendously), as this first battle would be 10 units versus 2.
Finally, I can just see forcing all independent companies to consolidate into units of five companies, with the fractional unit having three hits per company.
Justo will be using 2x2 Napoleonics by Rod Humble, which was also used in the original TJOW campaign. Although I enjoyed those rules immensely back in the day – it was one of the first rule sets that Justo and I played almost 20 years ago when we first met – I have to say that I have outgrown them a bit. Roll a D6, add modifiers from a table, and compare the result to a chart (which is fairly easy to remember). Very 1970s-80s.
One-Hour Skirmish Wargames
Interestingly, Justo and I discussed these rules on our last call. The idea was to convert the rule mechanics – using a standard deck of cards as the sole chance element – to mass combat. As I pondered the idea more I liked what I was coming up with, but I don't want to hold up the battles as I try and sort it all out. So maybe later in the campaign or another one.
Well, that's the start. I have a butt stomp to play out. I'll let you know how it goes in the next post.