Sunday, 5 May 2013

Campaign in the membrane. The memoirs of a campaign GM.

I recently posted some homebrew Mighty Empires rules that I had run successfully at my local club for a couple of years. They were a bit rough around the edges as the completed 3rd edition got lost forever in an inexplicable PC incident of biblical proportions. I shoved them into a blog post for the benefit (I have no idea if they were of any benefit) of Andrew over at Lawhammer who has a stunning Mighty Empires project on the go. I was not quite happy with the lack of polish so I have tidied them up a bit and hey presto! 4th Edition!

So there you go. Rather than just leave you with the rules, it would probably be of more value to those with a hankering to run their own campaign for me to mention some of the pitfalls I came across.

I should have made it more exclusive. I let anyone and everyone in and that was a mistake. Obviously they all had different levels of interest and I tried to write rules that were very flexible but even so the campaign was too bloated with time wasters from the beginning. A small core of genuine enthusiasts would have made for a better narrative and a slicker campaign.

I should not have taken part as a player. This sounds obvious, but I fell into this mistake because I thought I could manage an unambitious little Realm in the middle of the map and ally with weaker players if possible. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I had to be pretty firm with a few book-breaking, power gamers early on and I simply lacked credibility as a GM because I was a player too. I needed to be aloof from the proceedings and to hand out edicts instead of trying to manipulate things from within the game itself.

I should not have expected the players to have read the rules. I felt I had covered a lot of angles in the rules to allow a generous amount of freedom as well as the potential for real immersion. Most of it was lost on those taking part and therefore silly, avoidable mistakes were still made because reading rule books is boring and not something wargamers do very well.

One thing I got right was the managing of player's egos. Once the campaign got down to three possible winners I wrote a 'Kingmaker' scenario with three differently sized armies (one a possible traitor) that all had a shot at taking the crown. I got a really snotty email from one participant when he saw the points available to all three and a lot of depressed moaning from another. These were supposed to be the best players in the club and they couldn't get their heads around unequal points! I stuck to my guns and we played the scenario. It went perfectly, a lot of effort was made on the day and we played over a 'show' table and everyone had loads of fun, all three came close to winning with the victor edging it only on tertiary missions. Take that whingers.

Ultimately, I think the players invested in the campaign quite heavily and this is why tensions sometimes ran high. It is great that they got so into it but I would definitely try to channel that kind of emotion better next time.

I would love to hear of any campaign war stories you care to share!

*UPDATE* I have left out Banner percentile modifiers for things like terrain and weather to keep the maths tight and the rules as slick as possible. This doesn't mean you can't expand the list of modifiers though, if you have success with any tweaks I would love to know about them. *UPDATE*

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. funny I posted a comment about mighty empires on the FB group last night, great minds think alike.
    Heres what i said " I do have a nice memory of playing a WFB campaign using Mighty Empires and my mate screwed a piece of chip board to his wall and we blu-tacced the hexes to it, his wife as going mad as it was his living-room and all the visitors could see it for months, we had to take old school photos and get them developed to make sure he wasn't manipulating the pieces as he was a legendary cheat.. I still play with him now and yes he still cheats. We count the times he cheats every year and feed it back to him, hehe"

  2. *Makes 'doodoodoodoo doodoodoodoo' Twilight Zone noise*

    That's a great campaign memory, thanks for sharing (I don't do The Facebook). Your mate sounds like a friend of mine, always getting certain rules wrong at opportune moments. They should play each other, they could invent a whole new game between them.

    I love taking part in campaigns and running them too, the down side of course is that whereas having two gamers involved in a game causes the odd disagreement having half a dozen or more in a campaign multiplies your problems exponentially. Worth it though.

  3. I really like narrative map campaigns. I really like your ruleset you cam up with, so I might have to convince a few friends to give it a go.

    As far as memories go, I know in one campaign with friends that my High Elves had such a High attrition rate, that it was commonly thought that they created a fjord with the bodies of their dead!

    Good times.

  4. Thanks for the campaign anecdote, funny things like that make great war-gaming memories and hearing from people all over the world is what makes running a blog so much fun!

    Good luck with getting a campaign off the ground, I would love to hear about it if it happens.