Sunday, 16 February 2014

Forging the Narrative...#3

Greetings wargamers and hobbyists and welcome again to the War Room. We seem to be spending rather a lot of time in here lately...

Part three of my intermittent 'Forging the Narrative' series on Campaigns and my efforts to muddle through their planning and execution. This time around, I would like to talk about another element that needs to be clarified in order to allow your plans for war to progress. Two things I think you really need to know about are:
  • The Factions that will be taking part
  • The use of Alliances

Now I believe that these two points are important to get clear early on because they will impact the kind of games that will be played as part of the campaign, and the structure you will need to put in place to support them. Let's go into a little more detail about each of these areas:


A key point to work out before you can do, well, pretty much anything really as far as I am concerned, is to work out who will be taking part in your campaign, and what armies they intend to use. I find it is easier to formulate a plan and a backstory once this information is known, because otherwise you either have to come up with a very broad and generic plot idea, or you will end up having to shoe-horn armies into the plot in ways that you struggle to be convinced by yourself, let alone the players that have to play out the story.

So, question one - who is playing, and what armies are they using? If players have their own army fluff or character names worked out, this can be worked into the story, and saves you having to come up with this yourself. It also adds greatly to the players sense that their own army is developing organically and coming to life, developing it's own history based on games played rather than pure concoction.

Knowing how many players you have taking part and which armies will be represented also allows you to judge whether the armies can be allowed to operate individually, or whether you will need to group them into appropriate factions to make the narrative development and game planning more manageable.

It also gives you a chance to let the players know if the balance of armies is at all out of kilter, and let them decide if they want to rethink which army they intend to field. Heaven knows a campaign where 80% of the armies are Tau and the rest are Orks might be challenging to say the least.

I think this is one thing that caused me difficulties in the campaign I tried to run last year - for a narrative campaign there were too many individual armies roaming around and doing their own thing, and it got too complicated to organise and keep the plot straight. If it had been a straight forward map based campaign, this wouldn't have mattered so much because the plot matters less after the campaign begins, but there would have to have been a far broader supporting story, because in a map based campaign players pretty much move where they like rather than where the organiser wants them to.

 So, I advise you to try and get clear in advance how many players you have taking part and with which forces.


So, you know who is playing, and what armies will be marching to war and causing havoc. So what happens if you have players that have smaller armies than the standard size for games in your group, perhaps because they are in the process of building up an army, or you want to play some bigger games for some scenarios? Well one option is to use 'Alliances' to even things up a bit.

Quite simply, you can allow two or more players to ally for larger games, which gives you options for playing special battles at key points in a campaign, gaming events in themselves which require a little more work to arrange perhaps due to the need for a larger table, more scenery, and of course more time to play the game out, but well worth it for the spectacle and the excitement. The back stories associated with many games systems are littered with tales of alliances, pacts, oath breaking and betrayals, and sometimes you can find inspiration for your own games in those stories.

There is also another practical benefit of using alliances which takes the use of factions a step further. It is always going to be far simpler to plan, drive and complete a campaign with two opposing alliances comprised of multiple armies and factions, than to try and run a campaign involving several autonamous armies, all with their own agendas. 

If you have many players wishing to take part, it may be a good option to consider creating two alliances and save potential headaches later on, like players inadvertantly being ganged up on, or one player running away with the campaign too early on and taking the fun out of it.

If you really want to play a campaign with lots of individual players and armies all going their own way, you might like to go with a structured map based campaign rather than one with a narrative you want to play out to the bitter end...

Next time, think I'll be getting into the part of the campaign planning that can be the most fun, but also give you the most problems to solve...the games!

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Here is a photo of the progress I have made on the Hasslefree models I was painting. I expect to have these completed within another hour or two. I think I'll try and black and white check pattern floor for the bases. 

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