Running a campaign, particularly with more than a couple of participants, consists mainly of writing a lot of messages and doing one’s best to keep things manageable. Thus spake the man sitting in front of his computer at 2 in the morning, having just composed a mammoth email to the players in this game!
Well, with just over three weeks to go, the time has come to whip the players into shape and give life to the campaign proper, so here’s what I’ve just sent them. There will be plenty of communications I won’t reveal until after the event — it would spoil the fun! — but I think that those of you either planning or playing in a campaign might find some of this stuff interesting, so here goes.
(Bear in mind that the genesis of this project has been far from normal. A collection of guys who chat on the WD3 forum have raised their own, entirely fictitious, forces for a weekend get-together near Scarborough at the end of this month, using whatever 28-30mm miniatures they prefer, and painted entirely as they please. I think — pray! — that they have adopted the basing conventions I suggested, but beyond that, whatever happens, they will see action.
You are now confirmed as The Dirty Dozen, an elite force of eccentric wargamers scheduled to appear before the Judge of Fate at the end of this month. So welcome, and feel proud to be part of this merry band of brothers!
Okay, here’s what’s coming.
First, please ensure that you have confirmed with me the following details:
- The name of your imagi-nation (if you have one — if not, I’ll allocate one for you from my existing ‘world’)
- Your name and rank as the CinC of your own forces during the campaign
- The name, type and strength of each of your regiments of foot and horse that will definitely be there (no ifs, buts or maybes at this stage, please!). Please state whether your cavalry are dragoons, cuirassiers, light dragoons, hussars, chasseurs, lancers/uhlans or Cossacks, and likewise your infantry should be specified as musketeers, fusiliers, grenadiers, militia, Jäger, chasseurs, Grenzers and so on.
- Please also tell me the basic uniform colour of each of your regiments. This will help both in allocating you to the appropriate side so that the uniforms basically match as far as possible, and also enabling me to prepare a recognition guide for the games.
This may seem like a bit of work, but trust me, getting this sorted now will really pay dividends when it comes to the game and will greatly enhance the back-story that I’ll have running alongside the campaign. A few of you have, of course, already supplied most of these details.
Second, I plan to have you make about half a dozen decisions leading up to the game. Don’t panic! These will take the form of me emailing you individually with something like “You are here at X. This is what you can see. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?” You’ll be given enough information to make these simple decisions, including sketch maps. I know that for some of you, this is your first time venturing into strategy, rather than just tactics. Relax, it’s fun and challenging, and you might even turn out to be good at it. You don’t have to worry about the campaign rules as such: that’s my department, and just like a real general, you’ll just react to events as they unfold.
Remember that it is quite permissible to split your regiments into independent squadrons (6 figures) and battalions into companies (12 figures) if you wish to comb the country or leave small garrisons and so on. On the other hand, if you get caught whilst divided like this, woe betide you! For reconnaissance, I’ll allow cavalry squadrons to split again into two troops of three figures for reconnaissance. Given my own time constraints (I can’t believe I’m doing this at all with the work on my plate!), further subdivision would leave me with a zillion co-ordinates to track which is just not practicable.
There will be approximately two brief communications of this kind per week. Please reply to them in a timely manner. If I don’t hear from you, then The Hand of God will roll the dice and decide what has happened to your forces, and you might not like what he’s got in store for you!
Third, if you wish to communicate with another player during the campaigning phase, ALL communication must come via me and I will pass on your message. Imagine it as though you have had your diplomatic service or courier deliver a sealed letter. With luck, it will get through on time… I have to trust you not to communicate directly with other players. If you do so, it will just spoil the game and wreck any surprises for the weekend.
The benefit of corresponding with other players is to get their co-operation. Perhaps they have more cavalry than you, so can scout more effectively. Or maybe they have some light infantry that you don’t, so they can check out some dodgy-looking woods, and so on.
Fourth, initially, due to the somewhat chaotic way that your forces have been hired as mercenaries, all arriving from some of the most bizarre sounding places on the planet, it may not be clear to you who is friend and who is foe, so beware! Fortunately, this is the 18th century, so things are pretty civilized and a chap can have a civil conversation with a fellow, even if he turns out to be batting for the other side. You will be given clues along the way, so that hopefully, by the time the weekend arrives, you will have shaken yourselves out into two tightly-knit teams, certain of each other’s allegiances, strengths and weaknesses, and eager to collaborate to beat the foe.
And on that note, fifth, I will now reveal that the two commanders-in-chief, by dint of fielding substantial forces and also because they are helping to organise the weekend, will be Mark Phillips (Granprix) and Tim Hall (Grenouisse). This has come as much of a surprise to them as anyone else at this point! The rest of you will be allocated to one side or the other as soon as you have supplied the details requested at the head of this email, but I already have a good idea. Now, they also shouldn’t let their promotion go too much to their heads as they will have to contend with the Hand of God throwing various spanners in the works, let alone the fact that playing alongside you lot is going to be like herding cats at the best of times. And, being mercenaries, it’s entirely possible that your allegiances might change, or you just might not feel like risking your expensively-raised and trained troops when ordered to do so. Perish the thought that any of you might behave in so ungentlemanly a fashion as to refuse a direct order.
Now, I shall also be contributing a substantial number of my own Spencer Smiths to the troop reserves, some of which I may allocate to those of you who only have small numbers of your own figures, some of which may be used for other purposes not yet revealed. I shall of course let each of you know how this affects you, but my aim is that everyone feels like they’ve got plenty to play with over the gaming weekend and we can have some nice-looking games with plenty on the tables.
I’m anticipating that on the Saturday, there will be two or three medium-sized games, leading to one mighty encounter on the Sunday, but if things turn out different, well, that’s campaigning, and as long as you all have fun, that’s what counts. Fortunately, it seems like the table arrangements at the hall, and the supply of scenery we’ll have at our disposal (which will be very much simple and, dare I say it, even ‘old school’ in feel) will allow a great degree of flexibility. It could be, for example, that several of you on one side try to gang up on one or two of the other side, who then pray for reinforcements to arrive, whilst a couple more fight a smaller tussle on a side table elsewhere.
And finally, as you are already aware, I’m going to run a blog alongside for ‘the public gallery’, so to speak. I’m not going to reveal all the details there — they can wait for the after-action report in Battlegames! — but do feel free to chime in with comments as participants. Who knows, it might get some interesting discussion going… Considering the last time I ran a campaign, the Internet hadn’t even been invented yet, this could become quite a multimedia experience. It would be nice to run a ‘live’ blog over the weekend itself, for example, and don’t be surprised to find some podcast and video commentary from your Umpire!
Okay, folks, that’s more than enough for now, so get those details to me and let’s get cracking. Good luck, everyone!
P.S. This email has also been copied to a small number of ‘secret’ participants who won’t be there in person at the weekend, but may assist the Umpire in his evil deliberations. These include Paul Brook, aka Duke Zigor of Granprix, and Brian Glazebrook, aka King Raoul of Grenouisse, whose commands, should they deign to issue any, must be taken very seriously indeed by Mark and Tim respectively, and they will be kept abreast of all developments.
So, that’s set the ball rolling, and now let’s see what happens!