Campaign on my Brain by Andrew Ovel

2 Feb

And so as we enter 2012, and I have a new spring in my step (and I’m 2 stones heavier after Christmas); the crisp clean January breeze promises a new fresh start for my health and fitness routine. Maybe I can start jogging, and then I can… actually that crisp clean breeze is a little bit cold! Maybe I’ll stay inside and play some 40k instead, in fact during the festive break I have been mulling over some ideas for the campaign I hope to run here at Homeguard HQ.

A campaign is a series of games where the outcome of previous games has an affect on the next, and each player will normally use the same force from game to game. Now this can be as simple or as complex as you like. One thing you will notice about a campaign is you will need at least one regular opponent, now as of yet GW don’t sell these so you may need to join a club, find a group or maybe make a friend who will be able to game with you on a regular basis. I’m lucky here at Homeguard HQ I have several friends who are all looking to join in my campaign. I guess if you only play in tournaments you could create your own story/history after each game, and it would be a bit like a solo campaign just for you, and you could evolve a nice back-story for your army that way.

At its simplest you can connect the games with a simple story line which evolves from game to game (e.g. one player is using Imperial Fists and the other Orks, they play a game of 40k and the Orks win. So for the next game you could come up with a story about what happened next. Did the Imperial Fists launch a blistering counter assault to retake the objective, or did they fall back to a safe location fighting tooth and nail for their Chapter’s honour?).

I like narrative story telling campaign because it doesn’t require any complicated rules; you can evolve the story as it goes along with your opponent, and it requires minimum effort from you between games. Which is ok, but I like something a bit more complicated, maybe with a map.

Having a map to fight over, whether it be of a battlefield, a city, a planet or even solar system, can be an enjoyable way to add character to your campaign. For me it makes it instantly more evocative to be fighting over a location with some pre-generated features (e.g. the location could be an abandoned fortress, a mining facility, a bomb depot, a command bunker, in fact anything you can write on a map), so when you have a battle at that location you could add some terrain ,or some rules for that game; if it’s a swamp add some swamp scenery, if it’s an ammo dump maybe you could have some special rules like all heavy weapons count as twin-linked for the defenders (as they are not afraid of wasting ammo) or if it’s a command bunker then maybe the defender gets +1 to reserve rolls etc… It’s really up to you how you want to play it. For the Homeguards campaign I have decided our campaign will be fought over a series of planets because I can draw a planet, they’re just a bunch of circles, so it’s easy for someone as artistically challenged as me to draw a map.


Now as you include more players it will begin raising issues of coordinating games, collecting results and deciding on the evolving storyline of your campaign, and in my experience this is not something that is best resolved by a committee, you will need to have a Games Master (GM) running the campaign. A GM is a neutral player who organises the campaign; they plot the story line, choose random events to occur, play the part of neutral forces in battles and do everything else to ensure the smooth running of the campaign. Now it’s recommended but not essential that the GM remain neutral, but that really depends on the GM and yourself (sometime when the GM tells you that your forces have been hit by virus bombs three turns in a row you begin asking just how neutral they are), in our campaign I’m going to be the GM on the grounds that it was my idea in the first place and I’m the biggest.

Now this is the bit where it can get really complicated, but only if you want it to. You have a map drawn out; you have your players, the GM has a storyline involving all the forces, but you can still add more optional rules. Maybe the winner of a battle can claim immobilised, but not destroyed, vehicles left by the enemy to use them in future games, maybe you want to use the same armies and the casualties can not be replaced, or an experience system where units gain skills, abilities, stat increases or equipment for surviving games? There are so many little additional rules you could use to build levels of complexity into your campaign I could write a whole book the subject (so I’m not even going to try and do it in a paragraph). Have a look around at other games like Necromunda that has an evolving storyline built into the system already, or look online at others ideas, and maybe draw some inspiration for your own games.

You could even take thing a step further and begin involving other games apart from 40K, such as Battlefleet Gothic (BFG) for ship to ship conflicts, Epic for giant battles or even Kill Zone for some sneaky Black Ops missions. The results of these games could affect other games or the campaign in general. I have had a game of BFG played simultaneously with four 40K games, and the ships in orbit around certain planets could fire randomly from orbit onto the 40K game boards (represented by ordnance blasts) which was devastating and exciting fun.

With all this in mind I would suggest to start simple, as it’s very easy to get excited and start a campaign only to realise you have overstretched yourself. The great thing is that you will be playing with friends, and if the system you are using isn’t working you can sit down and change it. Maybe you have introduced a rule that makes one force over powered well then change it, and that neutral GM should be able to handle that.

So for my campaign I have my players, I have drawn up the map, and even written a short history for each planet in the system all I need to do now is start gaming. I’ve planned the storyline and hope to end our campaign in December, with a massive cataclysmic battle, so that’s something to look forward to.


Why not start your own campaign for 2012 and see how your group gets on; I hope it can bring a new level of excitement to your games of 40K.


If you have a campaign you have been running, or any ideas on campaigns then I would love to know more about it, so please post and hopefully it could help me to improve my own.


One thing I have to mention is Planetary Empires. This is a box set from GW that contains a whole bunch of click together tiles to create your own planetary map for your various forces to battle over. You can take apart the map and rearrange it to make multiple terrains, so it provides different options for many future campaigns. It also contains a whole load of counters, and a rules booklet by Rick Priestly and Jervis Johnson for fighting narrative campaigns. However at £30.75 I have always preferred to buy more models rather than buy this supplement (after all I could buy a Predator for that price), so if anyone out there has used the Planetary Empires set I would love to hear your thoughts?


6 Responses to “Campaign on my Brain by Andrew Ovel”

  1. Digital Unicorn February 2, 2012 at 14:52 #

    Although its complete anathema too me, I think fantasy hs a few things we as 40k players can use. I got talked through a campaign a guy at my local is running, its a book mission from some fantasy book, sorry I can’t remember the name, but it has all sorts, Bastions, Resource generating mines, secret uncoverable magic items, IC damage charts for when they are killed in combat, an experience system and victory/defeat bonus charts. I took one look at it and thought, why doesn’t 40k have one of those books? Then I thought, hell I could just take this one, change some of the wording and fantasy specific benefits and just play that, lol.

    • Andy Ovel February 2, 2012 at 16:09 #

      I agree inspiration can come from anywhere, if there are good resource for fantasy (“yuck”) then why not use them for your own campaign.

      I’ve just invested in a book called Battles: 50 of History’s Most Important Conflicts, and I’m using the battles in the book as inspiration for our own battles in the campaign. I thought drawing inspiration from real battles ranging from 331BC to 1991AD would give an air of authenticity to the battles, even if they are fighting in a fictitious universe

      For example I’m opening the book randomly right now and….. I’ve got El Alamein in North Africa. It says in 1942 Rommel’s Africa Korps where bottlenecked between the sea and salt marshes and… anyway there is stuff about them using fake maps to trick them to attacking over soft sand. (Any history buffs out there feel free to jump in and tell me all about it  )

      Well I need to read the whole entry properly, but already I can imagine a vehicle raid across random patches of difficult terrain (first time you try to cross it on 4+ it counts as difficult terrain), and I haven’t even read all about it yet.

  2. Graeme Nicholls (@TheTayne) February 2, 2012 at 20:16 #

    I do enjoy a campaign and think they bring something to 40k that isn’t found in regular games. Unfortunately, I think they tend to have a big drawback if you have some form of advancement. The players that were good/lucky to begin start getting their advancements early. The rest of the folk start to lag behind, then they play at a disadvantage and lose more, leaving the further behind etc.

    Do you have some plans to counter this if necessary? A favourite system to compensate for this was Bloodbowl in the mid 90’s (the one that had Death Zone come out for it). That had a handicap system rewarding the lesser combatant for taking part.

    • Andy Ovel February 3, 2012 at 11:26 #

      I agree entirely with you there, and it was a concern of mine from the very beginning.

      A level of imbalance can be generated quite easily especially if you start stacking up bonuses for winning games. This means if all things are equal between two players, and the first player to win gets a bonus, then this bonus can then be the “tipping factor” that guarantees him the next win, and so gets another bonus, and so on and so on, till everyone just gets board of that player wiping the floor with them, and suddenly you have no friends because it stopped being fun.

      I think it’s important to have GM that can step in and “tweak” things from time to time, so they become more balanced. In a purely storytelling narrative this can be easily achieved by giving a mission with a slight advantage to one player. It is easy in hindsight to see that some bonus or rule you introduced are broken, unfair or when placed in combination with another rule combines to make some serious game changing power. Obviously only a few of us out there are game designers, and even they get it wrong some time (psycho-broke grenades?), so sometimes you will need to say sorry I got it wrong and change the rules. Plus if you are clever then the GM can work the rules change into the storyline (e.g. lets say I decided to have a planet with a big Chaos cathedral on it and it makes the controlling players armies weapons all AP1 (something pretty obviously broken I think), well rather than just saying that the rules have changed you could have that world swallowed by a warp storm, or have a mission to destroy the Chaos Cathedral and end it’s power).

      I would also look out as well for whining players; sometimes you get players who will complain about how unfair everything is and how it’s all stacked against them, so just be aware that you although you should listen to your players, you need to keep a balanced and neutral mindset and “don’t just grease that one squeaky wheel”!

      Now in my group I have a mixed skill level of players, and I wanted to ensure that no one player was going to dominate the campaign despite there experience at 40k. So I took a look at the real world and asked myself “why doesn’t this happen in the real world, why doesn’t one country just takeover the world” and the answer of course is politics!

      In our campaign I have multiple players competing for planets on a map, each player generates a certain number of points turn from the planets they own. I have actively encouraged the players to sit and hold negotiations, draw up peace treaties, declare war with each other, form alliances and break alliances, just like in the real world, and if necessary, if one player is dominating the campaign, to “gang up” on that player. Given that each player has only a limited number of points available even if they are really good eventually there expansion will be curtailed.

      ….Well that’s the plan anyway :$

      As I said we can always change things as we go along if it doesn’t work, that’s the advantage of playing with friends. 

  3. Graeme Nicholls (@TheTayne) February 3, 2012 at 18:27 #

    Wow, that was a whole extra blog post as a response! I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said there. Try and make things as fair as possible. Chances are, at some point, you’ll accidentally “break” the game somehow but, as you said, you’re all friends, it should be easy enough to sort that out.

    Good luck and let us know how the campaign is running!

    • Andy Ovel February 4, 2012 at 18:35 #

      Well, you asked a good question so it deserved a good answer 🙂

      And I’ll keep you updated on the Campaign.

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