Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cry Havoc

“Space Marines excel at warfare because they were designed to excel at everything. Each of you will become a leader, a ruler, the master of your world and, because there is no more fighting to be done, you will bend your transhuman talents to governance and culture.”

Roboute Guilliman, Primarch M. 31

The recent release of Crusade of Fire has everyone at Snake Eyes Gaming thinking about campaigns.  Campaigns offer an opportunity to add extra enjoyment to the Warhammer hobby.  Most players want to experience a campaign and often have dramatic ideas full of epic battles and mighty heroes that they would love to see enacted on the table top.  Campaigns take many different forms and can be surprisingly easy to get set up.
What is a campaign?  A Warhammer Campaign is a series of linked battles.  The battles which make up a campaign can be linked thematically, with a story dictating the engagements, and/or mechanically, with a set of rules dependent upon the outcome of previous battles.  For example, a scenario in which two friends play a series of games where the winner of one game carries a benefit over into the second battle is an example of a mechanically linked campaign.  If those two players added a story and drew a map to show the theatre of war that there battles were occurring in then their campaign would have both thematic and mechanic elements.

What scale does a series of linked games have to be to be considered a campaign?  A campaign can be any size or scale.  Players often think of the world wide Games Workshop campaigns (i.e. Armageddon, Eye of Terror, and Medusa V) or store-based map campaigns (i.e.  the Minos Campaign or Nekar Quintus); but small campaigns can be equally as enjoyable for the participants.  A campaign does not need to be any more complex than a couple of players agreeing to play an odd number of games using the same Warlord each time – the winner gets bragging rights.
Often when we think of campaigns we think of map-based systems based upon Planetary Empires.  This type of campaign is immensely enjoyable and, on a small scale, can be achieved rather easily.  The Planetary Empire tiles can appear rather daunting to paint but are quite easy to finish.  A group of friends can construct and paint a map out of a Planetary Empires set in a couple of hours.  In addition, all of the rules that you need to play can be found in the Planetary Empires boxed set and/or in Crusade of Fire.

Last time I mentioned a couple of interesting escalation leagues occurring at Legions.  First, there is the Jack’s Escalation League which will culminate in a tournament in March.  Second, there a handful of players that decided to run their own Tale of Four Gamers.  While neither of these is truly a campaign in that the battles aren’t thematically or mechanically linked they do merit a deeper look.  Both leagues foster grudge matches between players which is the perfect start to a “Best of 3” style series of games, using the same general terrain, for control over a specific planet.  For example, during an ongoing crusade there is a colossal misunderstanding/miscommunication between two First Founding Legions.  As a result, the Salamanders and White Scars come to blows amidst the cyclopean ruins of a desert world.  During the first skirmish Kor’sarro Khan uses Moondrakken to ride down Vulkan He’stan and scatter the Salamanders before his fury.  The two forces meet again shortly thereafter though.  This time the Salamanders are attempting to retrieve a relic hidden within an ancient statue.  Vulkan He’stan oversees the delicate removal of the relic and then uses the Spear of Vulkan to hold off the Khan while the artifact is transported to safety.  How does this tragic tale end?  I don’t know yet because we haven’t played the third match yet.  We were both only trying to get in battles for the escalation league but once the bolter casing started to pile up and people started to gather around the small (but somehow still epic battlefield) it became apparent that the Khan and Forgefather need to have another meeting to determine the fate of this conflict.
Campaigns can and are all of the topics discussed in detail above, and a lot more besides.  I could write a series of articles on campaigns and barely scratch the surface.  A campaign is the reason to model destroyed Necron Warriors on the base of your Orc Warboss, a chance to add to the Saga of your Wolf Lord, or the opportunity to use Rough Riders even though they are not as points efficient as some other units.  Most of all though, a campaign gives you the chance to talk smack on your friends as your Warlord cuts a swathe through their army or the chance to feel despair as three Stompas dismantle your hasty alliance of Blood Angel Assault Marines and Grey Hunters.  Over the years I’ve noticed that where it concerns campaigns and thematic games we’re all dwarves at heart, which is to say each of us has a Book of Grudges in which we enter the names of those warlords and opponents upon whom we need to avenge ourselves.