Saturday, 31 October 2015

How To Run a Supercampaign - Part III

Afternoon everyone, and time for my (belated) Part III in the series, How To Run a Supercampaign.  In Part I, we looked at how to prepare for these campaigns and Part II saw a delve into the mechanics of administering them.

For the third and final part, I'll be exploring how to add character and fluff to your games, bringing them to life.  Although the mechanics of a map campaign in this level of detail are perhaps unusual, they're not unique.  Player feedback has told me that the fluff is the best part of a Supercampaign.  I don't want to tell people how to write fluff - many of you are already experts on creating it.  This is more on how to make simple, easy fluff that doesn't take hours.

The aim of fluff is to make the players love their armies.

Another great aspect for the
gifted photoshopper is the
chance to see yourself
reincarnated throughout
history, like Ollie in the
Franco Prussian War...

We play 2mm games quite often - sometimes standalone single missions.  Fun though these are, we often comment on how reckless we are with them.  Since there's no follow up, and no character, we have no compunction in charging madly at each other in a reckless fashion.  The fluff changes that - of course because we're playing a campaign, there's a motivation to preserve your army for future battles.  But fluff makes you have a tiny sense of what it must have felt like to be a general ordering men to their deaths.  

At the Second Day of the fictional Battle of Chattanooga, I decided to charge some of the Confederate guns.  The charge was repulsed with some timely double canister, and the models fell back with heavy loss.  Except, because I had been leading my army for months at this point, it wasn't just a stand of models, as this excerpt from the writeup shows:
...and Ollie in the
American Civil War!
The gunners of Lieutenant Preston’s Helena Battery saw the mass of blue come rolling down the hill towards them.  The Yankees would be on them in minutes.  Addison B. Preston ... quickly ordered double canister loaded, and calmly held his nerve while the Yankees thundered closer.  When the closest were fifty yards away, the command “Fire!” was drowned out by the near-simultaneous volley of six guns belching shot and fire at point-blank range.
 On the Federal side, the charge was immediately lost in the smoke and those who survived immediately dropped to the floor or fell back in confusion.  The 25th suffered 282 killed and wounded that day, out of 410 engaged, the majority from Preston’s one canister volley.  Among the dead in front of the guns was Colonel Buckner, whose body was later recovered “still gripping his sword tightly in his hand”.
This is what gets the players' emotional investment going.  So, how do we do this?

Staying 'in character'

The best way to do this is to make all written communication between you and the players 'in character'.  Of course, it would be easy to supply players with a convenient map, with red dots marking the progress of their troops.  However, we often give scribbled notes to each other which describe where the men are in an inexact way:
The 16th Ohio passed Georgetown this afternoon, and are encamped on the road just south of Rope Creek, some six miles from the town. 
That also gives the players an extra challenge in tracking the movements of their men, making it all the more immersive.

Relaxing in the garden, thinking
up my next campaign move...
Recording the battle for posterity

The feeling of 'history breathing down your neck' is one many soldiers have reported.  A big campaign, built up over a number of weeks, will give a sense of that.  Players know that once the campaign is over, social events in years to come will degenerate into reminisces of the glories of past battles (I can confirm this from experience).

So, it's important to make some record of your battles.  I usually scribble some notes down as the GM, to save them for a write-up later on.  I spent most of last year off work with an injury so I had time to produce books on the ACW and ECW campaigns.  This is a luxury - but the easiest way to do this is writing battle reports for our respective blogs, in an 'in-character' style.  It's something we already do, and lets you browse back in years to come and reminisce!  One blogger very good at this is Zzzzz over at Devos IV (click here for a particularly good example from the last few weeks).

Incorporate quotes and memorable moments

I always like to translate real-life events into in-character tidbits (see here for a full tutorial).  Another example from the Chattanooga campaign - in one battle, a Confederate cavalry brigade was badly mauled and forced to surrender when they were surrounded by Yankee troopers at the Battle of Commerce.

Particularly memorable episodes of battles are immortalised
forever in these battle maps - this one tells the story of
Gladden's Brigade's gallant defence of the Stone Wall and
Bloody Pond outside Chattanooga.
My brother Ollie made an offhand comment during the battle about how he would miss 'his boys' now that they were marching into captivity, which I sneakily noted down and again wrote into the book:

On the 16th, word began to filter through to the army about the scale of the defeat at Commerce.  The news affected Oliver deeply.  Surgeon Callcote recalled:

I hardly ever saw the general express any emotion whatever, but when the news of Withers’ routing at Commerce was received he struggled to maintain his composure and was heard to repeatedly mutter, “My boys!”
The joy in reading your actions and words written up as if you were a real general, then reading them later on, cannot be overstated.  It's one of the most rewarding aspects of providing write ups for supercampaigns, and the reason we love them so much.


I hope this series has been of interest, and crucially that we've covered the whole aspect.  Both the nuts and bolts of running the campaigns, as well as touching on the abstract of how and why they can be so rewarding.  Of course, the key here is the GM, and although we touched on some alternatives to GMs in Part II, all participants need a certain amount of free time and investment into the process to really make it work.

But I can tell you that it really, really is worth it.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

How to Run a Supercampaign - Part II

My last post was the first in a three-part series, looking at how to plan and prepare a Supercampaign.  This week, I'll be exploring how you can administer the campaign with a gamesmaster - as well as some thoughts for how you could do it without one.

The Campaign Map

A real map of the area around Nancy, we're using it at the moment for our FPW game.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

How to Run A Supercampaign - Part I

How much you get into character is up to you...
You may remember the two supercampaigns we've run in the last year - American Civil War and English Civil War.  Prompted by a recent comment on one of those, I'm going to do a series of guides on exactly what a supercampaign is, and how to run one:
  • Part I - planning and preparation
  • Part II - map moves and battles
  • Part III - write up and feedback
How are they different from normal campaigns?

First off, a recap on what a supercampaign is.  It's essentially a fancy map campaign, where players make their moves in secret.  A gamesmaster administers random events and feeds confusing information and intelligence reports to players, who then sift through them and create a real plan of action.

It consists of two parts - the campaign map, where generals move round their armies; and the tabletop, where battles are fought between armies which meet each other.  Anyone who's played the Total War series of PC games will be very familiar with that.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tutorial: FPW Prussian Jägers

It's been a long time since I've done a tutorial on here, so I thought I'd share a step-by-step on painting a Prussian Jäger of the Franco-Prussian War.

It's mainly up here for passing interest, since most readers are already accomplished painters, but also serves as a useful reference for me in case I want to paint the same models in years to come.  Also, perhaps it will serve as a detailed example of my painting style, which usually runs like this:

  • White undercoat
  • Flat colours
  • Army painter wash
  • Flat colours again as a highlight
  • Detail and ligher colours for final highlight
I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this method; I've been thinking a lot about other painting methods and techniques ever since I saw some of Dai's lovely RPG figures.

1.  The figure (a Foundry model) is superglued to a 2p coin and then undercoated with a white spraypaint.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

The Royalists' Last Stronghold

Perceptive readers of my last post remembered that my last Supercampaign was accompanied by a full book detailing the twists and turns of the battles, written in the style of a real-world history book, and called Burning Tennessee.

Well, I'm pleased to be able to say I managed to put something similar together for the English Civil War campaign.  It's not on quite the same scale as Burning Tennessee (I had a lot of free time earlier this year to be able to write it), but it's got all the lovely details in there.  In a similar vein as my last book it's written in the style of an Osprey book, with maps and pictures re-captioned to describe our own campaign.

The front cover - the painting is actually Dutch, but has been 'recaptioned' to show the fictional
destruction of the town's magazine during the storming of the town.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

English Civil War Superpost

My good self, the Marquess of Nottingham.
Pictures are from Jane Dunn.
Welcome back to Palladian Guard, where today I'll be sharing the results of our ECW Supercampaign!

What is a Supercampaign?

It's like a normal campaign, a series of linked battles played out on a map.  But we blur the lines with roleplaying - orders have to be written and troops moved around a master campaign map in real time.  Not using 'nodes' or 'pins', we really do work out how far the men march and how many miles they're spread out over!  There are secret notes, orders, couriers and subterfuges that make for a gripping campaign season.  Our most recent Supercampaign was the American Civil War one.

What's this Supercampaign all about?

Some might remember our recent trips to the National Civil War Centre - our gaming group are all from Newark in the UK, which was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War.  This campaign saw us playing out the Third Siege, which lasted from late 1645 to the end of the war the following year.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Death Korps Tunnelling Squad

An update from the mists of time... I found these pics buried in my computer this morning, so I thought I'd share them in all their poorly-lit gloriness.  They're part of my nascent 500pt Death Korps army - in fact the only active 40K project I have on the go at the moment.  I've almost totally switched over to historical stuff, but still enjoy painting these figures for old times' sake.

If this were an Osprey book, I'd point out the camouflage helmets and blue turnback cuffs - both distinctions of Pioneer Korps units.  They are identifiable as part of the Divisional Pioneer Battalion (as opposed to Company Pioneer Platoon), since the latter are considered 'organic' and wear white turnback cuffs like the infantry unit they're attached to.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

National Civil War Centre

I notice a few weeks have slipped by, so time for an update.  I've got a lot of projects on the go - both in the wargaming world and in real life.  However the whole month of August is booked as leave, so I hope to have plenty to share with you over the coming weeks.

If you are a UK-based gamer, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the National Civil War Centre in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.  I have an annual pass and can honestly say it's the best museum I've ever been to - I visit at least once a week.  Of course, we're currently planning our English Civil War campaign so there's a lot of research I do there but it's also quite a good family destination.  My brother takes his 8-month-old there - apparently the only thing that stops her crying is watching videos of pikemen.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Gaming in the Garden - 2mm Napoleonic Battle Report

A quick 'pic update' today with some photos of our recent 2mm Napoleonic smash.  We were using my modified set of Give Them The Cold Steel, tweaked for early nineteenth-century combat.  A 4x4 board was used, this time with a gaming mat which was very convenient - watch this space for a review next week.

As usual, I'll let the pictures and captions do the talking rather than doing a full dissection.  I played as the French, and Mike as the valiant Brits using 2mm Irregular Miniatures figures.

The gaming mat was from Game Mat EU - my favourite thing about it is
that you can easily make hills by putting books underneath the mat.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Mordheim Battle Report: Blood on the Streets

With some unexpected time off, I managed to get two games of Mordheim in with Mike today.  Smashing games they were too - both played with our Gaming Philosophy in mind - lots of terrain, lots of fluff, a few skirmishing models.

This is part of a series of on-off games we're playing as part of a casual campaign, using the Fourth Kingdomites - a shooty warband with lots of muskets and pistols.  Facing off against them were Prince Leopold's finest, a tough warband that has won just about every encounter so far. A daunting prospect!

We diced for the Street Fight scenario, where a single road running through the middle is bordered by a row of houses, the rest of the board being impassible.  The objective was to get off the other side of the table.

Fourth Kingdomites
  • John Carew - leader
  • 'Naughty' Sally - champion
  • 'Deadeye' Rupert - champion (musketeer)
  • 'Strongarm' Roger - champion (musketeer)
  • 'Bish' (The Bishop of Ropeth & Mundy) - champion
  • The Three Musketeers - henchmen with muskets
Prince Leopold's Finest
  • Leopold, Prince of the People - leader, top floor
  • Gunther - champion, middle floor (L-R)
  • Maximilian - champion
  • Josef- champion
  • Alec - champion
  • Karl - champion
  • Marienburg Dandies Fencing Association - henchmen with swords
  • Marienburg Archery Society - henchmen with longbows
  • Tiny the Ogre
My worthy opponents!