I’ve been involved in Campaign games since 1989. In those 20 years I’ve seem some that were enjoyable and many that fell apart. Lately some insight into this type of gaming has been brewing in my head. Ideas that are counter intuitive to my previous thinking.
Here are the main points I’d like to discuss:
1. An enjoyable battle is one where skill determines the outcome the most.
Thinking: I’ve spent the past couple of years getting involved in “points based” competition. Namely things I have avoided like the plauge for years like DBA are appealing to me more. In the past I held to strict simulations (determine how many yards to the inch, how many troops to the casting, recreate battles as closely as possible.) While that prior mentality was fun – what makes a game the most fun is a sense that, at the begining, anyone could win. This is especially so in a campaign setting.
2. Battlefield wins translate to bonuses on the larger campaign. Campaign bonuses do not translate into battle advantages (to comply with theory 1 above.)
Thinking: Balance battles are a key factor. This is counter-intuitive. Most battles in history favor one side or the other. We are playing a game though, not defending the mother/fatherland. We care more about having fun and having an ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory with really awful play!
3. Fog of War must be artfully and carefully woven into the game.
Thinking: The players need enough information to make key decision and lack just enough to make it a gamble.
4. Campaigns must have clear win conditions for both sides. they may be different but they must exist and in a form that there is no ambiguity.
This means many things but the most important consequence is that players will be able to agree what is needed and move their forces in concert with each other. Nothing is guarenteed of course; there are still a lot of inexperience players out there. It should be the objective of the campaign to cement team members into a team that has great fusion. The best games I’ve ever played were like that – each of us acting like part of a larger whole.
5. Someone needs to collect the stories that come out of campaign play.
Thinking: Nothing is more important than recording everything so that in the end everyone can see the clever hidden movement, tactics, strategy, etc. I remember some of the best campaigns I was in because this was done. Create stories you and your friends will talk about for years to come.