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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Friday, June 4, 2010

Roland's Guide to map Campaigns: Part 3

Back again all with my 3rd and final installment on Map Campaigns. Parts 1 and 2 dealt with the basic organizational set up of map campaign amongst friends, followed by a discussion of one set of rules you can use to set up your campaigns. This final article will touch on three more in depth concepts which aren't necessary to run a good map campaign, but make it more fun, involved, and dare I say, "realistic".

The first part of this article focuses on Strategic Objectives / Goals. Put plainly, these are key tasks your side must accomplish to "win" the campaign. Since most map campaigns have some sort of time limit (i.e. 3 weeks, 4 months, a year, etc.), it is wise to always keep in mind what your overarching strategic aim is when making plans, moving units, and fighting battles. It's all well and good to play games and smash your opponent on the tabletop, but at what cost? In campaigns, sometimes it's better to avoid a big fight and to maneuver around an opponent in order to secure an objective. With that said, we (my FLGS and I) typically like using 5 Strategic Objectives in smaller campaigns (i.e. 3 people per side), and 10 in larger campaigns (4 or 5 people per side). The GM/Ref will hand out the objectives to each team, so that one team doesn't know what the other team is trying to accomplish, and vice versa. Moreover, he (the GM/Ref) will break out those objectives into 2 categories: Primary and Secondary Strategic Objectives. The Primary Strategic Objectives are your "musts" in the campaign; they designate what in fact must be accomplished before the game ends in order to win. Secondary Strategic Objectives typically provide bonuses, deny the enemy bonuses, etc. While not necessary to win the campaign, it behooves the team to try and accomplish as many as possible for you never know if one of your Secondary Objectives is one of your opponent's Primary Objectives. Allow me to demonstrate from our most recent (i.e. over a year ago) campaign. It was two IG players and an SM player vs. 3 'Nid players. The breakout for goals was as follows:

IG Strategic Objectives
1). Secure the capital and hold it until the end
2). Secure the Xeno Research Facility
3). Secure the Munitorum Factory
4). Defend Deathbite Pass
5). Secure/defend Salem's Lot and Patience

Tyranid Strategic Objectives
1). Defend the Hive in the Xeno research facility
2). Take and hold the town Salem's Lot
3). Take and hold the Munitorum Factory
4). Occupy and hold the capital
5). Occupy and hold 3 towns (not counting SL)

1-3 on both were the Primary Objectives and 4-5 were Secondary. As you can tell, some of the Primary Objectives matched up making for tough battles. But the most fun arose where one team's Secondary was the other team's Primary (case in point for this, the holding of Salem's Lot). These types of situations ALWAYS lead to the most fun engagements, particularly if people got into it. Does the Guard hold the town at all costs even though it has little strategic importance or do they abandon the poor citizens to their fate? What easily starts off as a 1500pt skirmish over the town could spiral out of control over the course of a few campaign turns as each side throws more forces into it in order to win. That's what makes it the most interesting: is the enemy trying to take a Primary Strategic Objective? Or is this some well developed and planned ruse, a feint to draw forces away from where their main thrust is going?

The next thing I'll touch on is Experience. One thing I LOVE about Necromunda is the concept of gaining experience and leveling up. It brings a whole new level of depth and involvement than normal 40k. On some weird pseudo emotional level, it allows you to...god this will sound nerdy but with your army. You actually begin to have a semblance of emotional investment in how they perform and that they live. We play with the following chart for experience, but feel free to make your own our adapt ours to fit with your group:

0 EXP: Green Recruits - where every unit starts at.
50 EXP: Experienced Recruits
100 EXP: Veterans - this is the first time you can roll on the "Veteran Abilities" Chart on pg. 263 in the BRB. You can choose what category to roll under. Only change we made in our group is that a 6 under the "Gunnery" table added +1BS instead of that Fearless nonsense.
200 EXP: Combat Tested Veterans
300 EXP: Hardened Veterans - This is the second time your unit can roll on the "Veteran Abilities" chart
450 EXP: Heroic Veterans
600 EXP: Legendary Veterans - Make a roll on the "Veteran Abilities" Chart
800 EXP: Heroes of...(fill in IG/SM/Tau/'Nids/etc)
1000 EXP: Heroes of the...(fill in Imperium/Greater Good/Hive Mind/Chaos Gods, etc) - make a roll on the "Veteran Abilities" chart

Personally, I think only once have we seen a unit (it was a Chim Vet squad) make it past 450 EXP. He got them upwards of around 560 or so EXP before the campaign ended. It's always a treat though to try and see if you can get somebody up to the Heroes marks. Now that you see the standard, how do you go about measuring EXP (or more particularly what is our method)? We all believe in the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle, so we try to minimize as much as possible the ways of gaining / losing experience that survive the battle. Here's our method:

Gaining Experience: +20 EXP for fighting in the battle; +10 EXP for winning the battle; +10 EXP per kill point you gain; +25 per objective held; +10 per objective contested; +0 for a draw

Losing Experience: -25 EXP for losing the battle; -10 EXP per KP your opponent beats you by; -10 EXP per objective the enemy holds; -15 EXP per unclaimed objective; -30 EXP for conceding; -30 EXP for fleeing the battlefield

So let's say you play a KP mission. Every unit in your army gets 20EXP off the bat. You win the game (+10), and beat your opponent 7KP (+70EXP), to his 3KP. You do the math and you end up getting 100EXP per unit that survives the battle. On the other hand your opponent gets 20 EXP per unit for fighting that survives and gets 30 EXP for getting 3 KP's, yet he then loses 25 for losing the battle, and loses an additional 40 for the difference in KP's. In the end every unit that survives LOSES 15 EXP due to the fact that they'll go negative (20+30-25-40 = -15). This system has proven fairly effective in that the loser can still gain some EXP (only nominal amounts) and even when he LOSES EXP it isn't super drastic. Keeping with this above example, if he had a unit that broke and ran off the table, that unit would lose an additional 30 EXP. If he concedes the battle, then every unit loses an additional 30 EXP. So it behooves you to stick it out until the very end, or at least as long as possible, in order to gain EXP.

Tying in with this piece and with the concept of Strategic Objectives is the Grim Determination roll we implemented at the end of games to: a). establish continuity between battles; and b). to help foster and build that involvement in the game that in some ways transcends your normal "hey lets throw some dice and move are plastic dudes around on the table" game mentality. The Grim Determination rule we made is a basic LD test at the end of the game. If you pass it, then whatever the disposition of forces was at the end of the battle (i.e. where units are placed, what objectives are held, what territory is held), will carry over into the next battle as the losing side doesn't retreat but steels itself and digs in. Granted this may mean they have less room on the game board to play with and are at a disadvantage the next time they fight (for us that's usually the following weekend), but it also means you can fight long, bloody protracted battles that help feed into the whole concept of Primary vs. Secondary Objectives. For example, the IG player loses his first battle for Salem's Lot, but passes his Grim Determination roll. Well crap, the 'Nid player must now reinforce and commit more of his force to take out the guard. Conversely the IG player is thinking, crap now I need to reinforce my guys there so they're not totally overrun. And as I said, gradual escalation ensues.

Now as is true in real military affairs, sometimes you need to know when you're beat and when you have an untenable position, and thus must make a strategic withdrawal. There' no shame in it, especially if it means you can re-consolidate and counter attack with greater force. As such, the losing player can opt to purposely fail the Grim Determination check in order to regroup later on or adjust his forces elsewhere. In this way the GD check is just like a Bottle Test from Neromunda.

What happens if you fail or elect to fail your GD? The unit falls back 1 map territory. Simple as that. Yes that means in the following Planning Phase and Action Phase they can potentially be re-engaged by the same enemy on a new piece of ground. Then again, you can also move them elsewhere in your Planning Phase and ensure they're not in the way of the enemy army. Or you could reinforce their position so when the enemy does hit you, you've got a nasty surprise waiting for him. Oh the strategic plans and possibilities!

Finally, I will wrap up part 3 with a discussion of Recon Forces. I made passing reference to them in part 2, so I will go a little more in depth with them here. Recon Forces are small armies (comprised of 500pts) that are designated by the owning player as Recon Forces. Recon Forces can move up to 3 map territories per phase (akin to Skimmer / Airborne Armies). If they do not move during their Planning Phase, they may choose to do the following instead:
Raid!: The force makes a lightning raid into one adjacent territory. If there are enemy present, they fight a combat patrol against the enemy. If the enemy has more than 500pts, they come in as reserves starting on turn 4. This represents the vanguard of the enemy force being caught off guard and not being able to alarm the main body in time. Starting on turn 4, the reserves come in on a 4+, turn 5 on a 3+, and turn 6 on a 2+. The Recon Force may choose to Disengage from the enemy on a 5+ starting on turn 3. If they Disengage, the enemy claims victory. The Recon Force may move back one adjacent map territory (basically this is akin to conceding the battle and choosing to fail the DG test, only for Recon Forces there is no negative EXP connotations for choosing to do this. It's one of the benefits of being Recon Force). Likewise, the ambushed enemy may not move at all the following turn, due to the fact that they were surprised and unable to react.
If there is no enemy present in the raided territory, the Recon force stays in place and can do nothing else in their turn.

If they DO move in their Planning Phase, they may do the following:
Area Recon: The Recon Force can choose one adjacent territory to do a recon in. If this is done, the Recon Force looks around for signs of the enemy. If there is an enemy present, the following occurs depending on the Recon Rating of the force:

Level I Recon Force: The Recon finds out the general size and composition of the enemy.
EX: They discover the enemy and determine it is a 2000pt Mech Infantry Force
Level II Recon Force: The Recon finds out the general size and composition, and an estimated percentage spent on each section of the FOC.
EX: They discover the enemy and determine it is a 2000pt Mech Inf Force, comprised of appx. 10% HQ, 25% Elites, 50% Troops, 10%FA, and 5% Heavy Support.
Level III Recon Force: The Recon discovers the general size and composition of the enemy force, as well as the exact number of points spent in each category of the FOC.
EX: discover the enemy and determine it is a 2000pt Mech Inf Force, with 200pts spent on HQ, 425pts on Elites, 1000pts, 200 points on FA, and 175 points on Heavy Support.
Level IV Recon Force: The recon discovers the exact composition of the enemy force (i.e. the player is able to see the enemy players army list for that battle group).

Leveling Up Recon Forces: All Recon Forces start out with a Recon Rating of Level I. The more successes they have and more Recon missions (i.e. Raids! and Area Recons) they carry out, the more they level up. The following is the standard:
Level I Recon: Starting level
Level II Recon: Successfully complete 3 Area Recons or Raids! At Level I
Level III Recon: Successfully complete 5 Area Recons or Raids! At Level II
Level IV Recon: Successfully complete 7 Area Recons or Raids At Level III
Level V Recon: Successfully complete 9 Area Recons or Raids At Level IV

The following bonuses apply to Leveled Up Recon Forces:
Level I: All Recon units have Move Through Cover Special Rule
Level II: All Recon units gain Infiltrate Special Rule
Level III: All Recon units gains Scout Special Rule
Level IV: All Recon units gain Stealth Special Rule
Level V: All Recon units gain Fleet Special Rule

As long as we've been playing with these rules in map campaigns, I've honestly never seen anyone get a Recon Force beyond Level III. By the time they reach that point, it becomes extremely difficult to pull of successful missions and what usually ends up happening is that the Recon Force ends up pushing their luck and they're wiped out.

Anyway, that's it for Map Campaigns. I hope this has sparked some interest in you all and who knows, maybe even given you that little nudge of inspiration to take to your own FLGS to try and put a map campaign together. If you ever have any questions or comments about organizing or running a map campaign, or ideas you want to bounce around, hit me up and I'll gladly help!

5 pinkments:

Chumbalaya said...

Super cool, I want to do one now.

Kirby said...

I've asked Roland & BroLo to set one up for us on Vassal which we can follow on 3++ so hopefully us noobs who have too much time on our hands can have some giggly fun.

Chumbalaya said...


Eddie said...

Good read. This is interesting and I was really hoping to read this last part.

A friend and I want to do a narrative map campaign. I think I'll be cutting your system down and simplifying it for use by us :)

Roland Durendal said...

Chumby: Haha they are indeed fun if you can get a good group of players involved.

Kirby: No pressure or anything... :-) I've got a lot of rules tweaking to do before we put the idea out, not to mention a map needs to be made...

Eddie: Glad you enjoyed it! I say you and your friend should definitely go for it! One complaint I see often among players is that the 40K story is too "static", that GW hasn't or won't introduce forwarding elements into the plot line so we're stuck at the end of the 41st millenium. Map campaigns (and narrative campaigns) allow you to fully explore this time period and come up with minor shifts in the story that keep it still fresh and alive without forcing a major GW re-write. I'd love to hear how your campaign goes and if you have any questions let me know!

Now onto my IA8 article...

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