Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Monday, April 3, 2017

Campaign Games. Part One. Are they worth the trouble?

We all agree that fighting a tabletop battle should be fun, exciting and thought provoking. If you don't, then you wouldn't be a subscriber to this blog or even bother to read this article. Some of you may know, from previous posts on this and my own blog, plus comments on Tabletop Commanders Paint & Chat sessions, that I love a back story.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a throw down game to pass an enjoyable hour or two, just rolling dice and pushing the metal or plastic around the table. It is after all why most of us research, buy, assemble, paint and base our figures. Watching them successfully smite or run from the enemy, depending on how the dice god feels at the time of course.

The Marquis of Newcastle's 'Lambs' defending a ruined church against the Parliamentarians.

The ominous sight of approaching enemy musketeers. The English Civil War.

As much as I enjoy those throw away type battles, I am always looking for what happened before, the circumstances and maneuvering that led to this battle, and what will happen after. In our throw down games, this is of little consequence, but if the battle was part of a larger affair, then the result could be critical for both sides.

The Union Army of the Potomac ready to march.

The answer could well lay in a campaign game, it does entail a lot of preparatory work, which you may or may not have the time, or the wish to undertake. You also need an opponent, or do you? more of this in a future part, who is happy to give up a substantial part of his or her time also. There will be a need for record keeping throughout the campaign, which again, could put a lot of people off.

A heavily protected supply wagon ready to hit the road in a Wars of the Roses battle.

The wargaming legend Don Featherstone, captured my imagination with his book, Wargaming Campaigns. It contains many ideas and also some examples of possible campaigns. The one that always appealed to me was his ideas for 'Jackson in the Valley,' a campaign game based on that epic series of battles in 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia.

A Greenspan map of the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War.

I decided to create a campaign game, based on the writings of Featherstone. Though I have chosen to draw a fictitious map on which to move and fight my armies. For anyone choosing to fight a campaign, a map is probably the very first consideration,be it real or imaginary.

My campaign map measures 96 miles from top to bottom (north to south) and 54 miles east to west. Each square measures 3 miles top to bottom and left to right and therefore contains 9 square miles. (More of this map in future postings)

The next thing to decide is the purpose of the whole campaign. As mine is based on Jackson's exploits, then three Union divisions are tasked with finding and either destroying Jackson's force, or driving it southward off the map. Whilst also making sure that Jackson does not slip past them and exits the northern map edge.
Jackson will have a corps, consisting of just two divisions, so is immediately outnumbered 3-2 if, and it is a big if, the Union can find him and concentrate all their forces against him in a large battle. Jackson's brief is to tie down as many Union troops as he can, for as long as he can, without his force being destroyed.

The gamer now needs an Order of Battle (OOB) for each force, movement rates for the map, weather conditions, temperature, dawn and sunset plus a number of other factors.

I shall show those and give my reasoning behind them in the next article in this series.

I will leave you with some photographs of previous battle using my 6mm ACW armies, hopefully they will whet your appetite for more of the same when the campaign begins.


  1. Campaign games give more meaning to a game and therefore for me more enjoyment. But have many pitfalls. Battles no one wants to play, one sided battles, campaigns that get lopsided due to heavy losses. As long as you address the possible issues it is well worth the effort. Flames of War with its Firestorm and Blutcher with its campaign have done a fair job. I would say in my experience you need 5 or more true objectives to get people from massing one huge army and marching to it or severe limits to the stacking of units.

    1. Thank you Texseals, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. As will be revealed later in the series, I shall be fighting this solo, with all the extra work that entails. I have a fair idea of how I want the campaign to go, but of course, once it starts anything could, and probably will happen. I totally concur with you on giving games more meaning and consequently far more enjoyment.

  2. I'm looking forward to the rest of this.
    My efforts at solo campaigns have involved much writing in detail and then changing periods as I became overwhelmed :0) It has happened twice now!
    I intend to go back eventually. Honest!

    1. Thanks Nobby, the second part of this series is posted for your delectation lol. Becoming overwhelmed is a hazard of this sort of exercise, hopefully I can keep it all in reason and actually make a go of it. Doing it all solo does mean I can take as much time as I need.

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  4. Good to see Don Featherstone referenced.... One of my inspirations, "back in the day".

    Good luck... I love campaigns since they give a purpose to the individual battles/skirmishes and "ready made" or "real" objectives in the way one-off battles sometimes don't (or where the objectives are arbitrary). I also like the fact that one-sided incidents etc. will occur: a "lets get out of here asap" or the fighting withdrawal - or pursuit - of a lesser force can be fun. Campaigns can also allow for development of "character" of the commanding officers (or units) - which, again, can give a "motive" or "style of fighting" to an army or detachment....

    On my part, the advantage/luxury of mainly being a solo player means that there are no time constraint and small actions etc. are not a chore, but can add interest & challenges... Keeping the "Battle Diaries" of some campaigns for later reading might seem a bit odd - but I still occasionally dig out some of my old ones..... :)

    1. Many thanks for commenting Ian. Don Featherstone was the first author I discovered covering this hobby back in the mid to late 60's. I remember being shocked and pleased, to know that grown men also played with model soldiers and actually had rules too.
      Solo does have its advantages as you rightly point out, no time constraints or organising a meet up with an opponent. I do like the narrative side of a wargame, and a campaign allows me to run riot in that department, I enjoy writing the story and throwing in eye witness accounts to give a flavour of what is happening. Don was a huge believer in keeping a Battle Diary, but of course that was in the days before blogging was an option. I will be using this blog to record the whole thing, with the added bonus of being able to also include photographs alongside my map moving and battle reports. Something Don would have enjoyed for sure.