Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Worldwide Campaigns - Part 1

Greetings all. Here is another subject close to my heart, and one that has spawned thousands of constructive and deconstructive posts over the years. Many of them by me I might add...

Below, I quote a list taken from Wikipedia's Games Workshop page. Some of you may not recognise the significance of the listed items. Others may suffer psychologically disturbing flashbacks, for which I apologise. Here it is:

1995 - The Battle of Ichar IV (Warhammer 40,000)
2000 - Third War for Armageddon (Warhammer 40,000)
2001 - Dark Shadows (Warhammer)
2003 - Eye of Terror (Warhammer 40,000)
2004 - Storm of Chaos (Warhammer)
2005 - The War of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game)
2006 - The Fall of Medusa V (Warhammer 40,000)
2007 - The Nemesis Crown (Warhammer)
2011 - Scourge of the Storm (Warhammer)

The list above represents a time line, and this time line records both the greatest events in tabletop wargaming history (speaking as a player of only Games Workshop games I should add. I would love to find out if any other companies have run similar events, so feel free to let me know), and what I consider to be the rise and fall of the worldwide campaign. This is obviously just my point of view, and if anyone has a differing point of view, good, because healthy debate is never a bad thing.

Now, though I am not a player of The Lord Of The Rings (at present, though the new Hobbit film releases starting this year may encourage me to change that), I can say I have been around for all of the other campaigns, and followed them online and, before the dominance of the internet, in White Dwarf magazine, going right the way back to Ichar IV. Yes, I was there son, I was there...

The reason I thought this topic might make a good blog post, is that, however involved I have been with the hobby since I started, I have always tried to keep up with things, and having had a White Dwarf subscription for several years has meant I haven't missed things that other people regret missing (like the WD released Sisters of Battle update from earlier in the year for example, which GW really should put up as a free download).

The result of this is that I have seen how the worldwide campaigns have changed over the years, and how people have reacted to them - to a degree at least. I won't be going into too much detail on the individual campaigns, because that would need pages and pages and would have you all snoring.

So, where did the (GW) Worldwide Campaigns begin? Officially at least, and as far as we are concerned, it started in '95 with the invasion of Ichar IV by the ravenous hive mind. As this was two years after the release of 2nd edition 40k, I'm sure that was the edition it was played under. So what about it? From what I remember, it was covered entirely in White Dwarf. No accompanying campaign Codex or snazzy online website for this campaign, no. This was run very simply. Well, simple for participants, not so simple for the GW crew running it. It required participants to fight battles, then post (yes post. That thing you do where you make marks on paper with a stick and feed it to the red Dalek with the 'email address' scratched on the front of the little paper casing) the results of battles to Jervis Johnson to compile.

I remember many pages of pictures from White Dwarf: photos gamers had sent in, extracts from their 'in character' letter reports, and a great one of Jervis Johnson kneeling amongst a sea of battle reports. His comment at the time was that they never expected the scale of response that they received.

From these auspicious beginings, the concept of the worldwide campaign has expanded, and in cases like the Battle for Ichar IV, have become part of the official back story of the game, though not all are considered to have been as successful as Ichar IV.

It seemed to me as though the simpler less ambitious campaigns had greater success than some of the middle of the timeline campaigns like the Storm of Chaos, though some have been of such little consequence that I didn't even realise they were happening till they were over!

The second campaign in the list, The Third War For Armageddon, (which was set around the Ork re-invasion of the entire Armageddon sub sector) was a great success in my opinion, taking the organisation to a new level by introducing a Campaign Codex book which detailed alternative and new army lists, as well as copious quantities of background material and modelling pics, and was a great step. It also made use of an online campaign website for the first time if I remember rightly. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong!

Armageddon was another campaign which made it's way into the official background of the 41st Millenium, and left us with a legacy of new models (an entire wave of Orks, which saw the race reinvigorated, as well as Salamander and Black Templar Space Marines, and the famed Armageddon Steel Legion, not to mention new versions of old rivals Commissar Yarrick and a behemoth of a Ghazghkull Thrakka model). The war itself, officially, is still raging even now, sucking ever more Ork and Impererial forces into this cauldron of destruction, which itself has an impact on available resources for light years in every direction.

The first of the Warhammer Fantasy worldwide campaigns was Dark Shadows, which took place in 2001 on the mystic isle of Albion, recently revealed through shrouding mists. It has crossed my mind that 'Sandy Island', recently found to be missing from it's New Caledonia position on many charts, and the rediscovery of Albion could be more than just coincidence!

This campaign saw the return of Belakor (the first Daemon Prince) in his guise as The Dark Master, and his efforts to control the ancient Ogham Stones which kept the power of Chaos in check (again, much of this is from memory, so feel free to correct me if you know better). The campaign also saw the introduction of Truthsayers and Dark Emissaries, powerful magic users working for the forces of Order and Disorder respectively, and who in the back story attempted to recruit armies from across the Warhammer World to fight their cause on the island.

To the best of my knowledge, this campaign was also considered to be a success and I would like to say more about it, but the fact that I can't locate my campaign booklet (which came FREE with White Dwarf I might add), makes me reluctant to speculate more than I have already. Suffice to say that the forces or Order were successful in preventing an uncontrollable dimensional cascade which would have destroyed the Warhammer World.

On to something really special: The Eye of Terror Campaign! This war saw Abaddon of the Black Legion, defacto heir of Warmaster Horus, surge forth from staging grounds in the Occularis Terribus to assail the Cadian Gate at the head of a host of Traitor Marines, Daemons, Rebel Guard forces and Chaotis Titan Legions the like of which had not waged war since the Heresy. This attack became known as the Thirteenth Black Crusade. The worlds that defend the Cadian Gate (the most stable space route for attacking Chaos forces) and the fortress world of Cadia itself were assailed in force, and the action during the included Orks on their own Green Croosade, Necrons, and of course the meddling Eldar all play their part, on land and in space.

This was a monolithic endeavour on the part of GW, and was probably the first truly 'worldwide' campaign. The campaign website surpassed the one created for the Third Armageddon War, and the campaign Codex was a much weightier tome, with yet more new army lists and tons of background material and maps. The articles in White Dwarf were extensive and continued to appraise us of the progress of the compaign for the duration. The only real criticism came after when suggestions were made that the final published result of the campaign might not have relfected the action that took place in the way that participants expected it to. The Cadian Gate remains under severe pressure from the forces of Chaos.

This may been seen as a portent of things that were to come...

Given the sheer volume of text required to discuss this topic, it seems sensible to call a pause to the history lesson here. Join me next time for part 2, and the biggest, most controversial campaign of them all - the Storm of Chaos!