The Vampire count Von Vilkas is conspiring against the nearby villages – An evil plot to unleash a hellish nightmare upon the world will grant him eternal life and ultimate power. But can the local garrison and nearby lords turn the tide?
The above was designed using the logic in How to Build a Weekend Campaign - Part 1, here we have a strong narrative theme – A Dracula inspired story where the garrisoned churches gave way to a strong militia. Fantasy is rife with images surrounding Vampiric rituals, whether it be the overly macabre or slightly more subtle Lovecraft-esque horror.
How then, do we turn fiction into a playable game? First, let’s talk logistics:
How many players will be playing?
What is the duration of the campaign?
What is the available tablespace?
What game system will we choose?
How experienced are my players with such a game?
Knowing these 4 bits first is essential to moving forward. Often, we’ll play a game and go – ‘Wowee I want to do a campaign with this’ so that’s usually handled beforehand but it’s important to keep an open mind as certain games lend themselves better to multiplayer campaigns than others. For example, games where there are a lot of things to keep track of (The impressive and venerable Battlegroup for example), might not be best suited where there is a time constraint and some of your players are not experienced with the system.
In their own right, such games can have incredibly memorable moments and the aforementioned Battlegroup has some compelling and well-designed campaigns – But in an environment where players are giving up an entire weekend gaming, you don’t want one or two to have a terrible time learning the rules and thus the campaign slows to a halt.
Sometimes, all players want to do is utilise vehicles and units that they know and love.
Duration of the campaign is the total amount of time available – Is it a day? A week? How long are we going to be playing? Is it going to be all day as well or just a single game every day? Let’s imagine that we want to do the above campaign but only have a single day. Well – We would likely only get a single game, maybe two in so there might be a setup game and a big finale. What about a weekend? Well then we can have a few setup games and then a big finale.
The number of players also affects this however, the more players – The more complex and longer the games will be.
So, let’s imagine the following:
Friday evening, Saturday day & evening and Sunday day
18 foot by 5 foot
9th Age 2.0
Here at Wargaming Holidays, we are blessed with an abundance of table space. 18 foot by 5 foot means we can get some seriously big games involved. Whilst we don’t need to use it all, for our campaigns we want to make them as grand as possible. That means we need a system that is robust enough to handle it – That’s where a slightly tweaked version of 9th Age comes in. We know it well enough to teach it and it can be easily picked up so all eight of our players can get cracking.
Fantasy genres allow us to really throw caution to the wind and make things as grand as possible
Looking at the amount of time we can spend, we’re realistically going to have one practice game (Friday evening) and two to three setup games (Saturday Day & Evening) and a big finale (Sunday Evening).
That’s a decent number of games to really get some interesting mechanics in play.
In our opinion, campaigns with a time constraint are best played with a single grand finale. This is where the players are able to bring all the toys they’ve played with to the table with unique twists depending upon the decisions and the outcomes of the previous games.
There are three types of campaigns that we’ll look at:
Tree campaigns work like a flow chart – Win game X to play game Y, but if you lost, play game Z. This can be great for a narrative campaign where the players’ feel like the game is reacting to the decisions they make but can make creating a finale a bit difficult as you have multiple avenues to plan for.
Ladder campaigns can work in two ways: Linear or a tug-of-war. In a linear campaign, players move from game A to game C with little interaction between either. You can ofcourse spruce this up a bit by adding secondary objectives. A linear campaign works if you want to tell a specific story in a small number of games. In a tug-of-war Ladder campaign, both players have an end point on the other side and for every victory, they move closer to their objective. This can really work for a game of attrition but unless it is well balanced – Could lead to a lacklustre finish as both players struggle to move up either ladders.
Map campaigns are less structured. In a Map campaign players are given a selection of individual games, such as Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, etc. The campaign has a global objective – In this case, Von Vilkas wants to complete a ritual. But, as players play each game, they complete various objectives in order to help that goal. One way to do this is to have Von Vilkas needing to win 2 out of 3 games, this works for people who are experienced in the game system, but can really punish those who are still figuring out the mechanics. In order to get around this, Map campaigns work really well for completing secondary objectives which help towards a final battle. For example, In Game 1, a valuable relic found within a nearby crypt could unlock a powerful new monster or stop the opposing team from utilising certain priests.
Knowing that we want a big finale with potentially three other games, we’re going to go along the Map campaign route. Providing our players with three games to choose from and then a final game to complete will allow everyone to learn the rules without any massive penalties.
With all of this information you're good to go!
We’ll now quickly talk about the display of information. The information you present to each player is incredibly important and can be described as Perfect and Imperfect. Not to bore with various game design philosophies; Perfect information is where everything is known, Imperfect is where it isn’t. Chess is an example of Perfect information whilst a fog of war system is an example of a game using Imperfect information.
Tree campaigns work best when utilising Imperfect information, each turn or move along the tree adds variation and unpredictability to your campaign. Tree campaigns are famous for storytelling and knowing what happens at the end will ruin that.
Ladder campaigns only work when players know what they’re fighting for. I have played many ladder campaigns where there has been a particular map I did not want to refight and there was a real sense of achievement with every step towards victory.
Map campaigns work best with Imperfect information. Depending upon how your map campaign works, there will be a side that choose what games to play and when. For those players they will need perfect information – They will need to know exactly what happens if they succeed. What happens if they don’t? Well, imagine choosing two out of three games only to discover that the one you didn’t pick would give you a super powerful dragon, everyone wants to play with a super powerful dragon. For the opponents, before each game, give them perfect information surrounding the objectives: If Von Vilkus can reclaim the artefact then the priesthood will be forced into exile and the fabric between the mortal and Vampiric worlds will be easier to pierce.
Tune in next time to find out how we begin designing objectives and how our theme defines our terrain.