Category Archives: Campaigns

Battles, Campaigns & Other Thoughts

I have been reflecting this week on the role of one-off games, historical refights and linked games. While the following has a Napoleonic and American Civil War references I see the concept as equally applicable to Ancient warfare through to the Cold War.

Regular readers will recall the American Civil War 160th anniversary series recently played. That is, six major historical battles all played in sequence. Casualties in one battle didn’t influence the next, but in some ways I likened it to being something of a campaign, though without all the hard work that comes with a campaign. The down side with such an intensive historical series is there was much terrain to be built, often in a short space of time between historical battles. Indeed, I completely failed to grasp the work required. The net result being my planned miniature painting for the year has suffered. Despite that, the project was extremely satisfying and I plan to repeat it in some form, though with different battles.

The next idea was to fight a small series of games leading to a larger game. Free from the restraints imposed by historical terrain fictional encounters seemed to offer less work. This series is also now complete. My cunning plan was to play two smaller encounters first before ending the series with a larger game with all set in 1813. The first involved the Prussians and Russians engaged against the French at the Battle of Aulzhausen in August 1813, shown below. This was a typical Friday evening game with the situation generated by a scenario system we use.

The second battle found the Prussians and Russians again engaged at the Battle of Zollengen, now set in early October 1813. Again no casualties were carried over.

The final battle of the series was that of the Battle of Kleindorf set in the middle of October 1813. This last game found Austrians, Russians and Prussians engaged against the French. While also a fictional the situation was influenced by that south of Leipzig and would result in well over 3,000 miniatures deployed and shown here.

I was pleased with the concept and how it played out. While I didn’t advertise it as a series of linked games to the players, it was my intent as is evident to the reader referencing the supposed battle dates. I think there is some merit in exploring mechanisms to enhance these games further. But what mechanisms should I consider?

The first and most obvious is casualties from one game feeding in to the next. However, I am nervous that will add too much complexity and potentially distract from the concept of an enjoyable game at the end of a busy week. The next is the outcome of a game influencing where the next battle will be fought. As I write this I am pondering the battles that made up the series of engagements between the French and their allies against the Austrians in 1809. The result of one battle influencing the location of the next.

Clearly more thought is required on my part. I wonder if others have experimented with such concepts and what worked, or indeed what didn’t?

Empire: 280 BC to 271 BC

Our Ancients campaign continues with another turn complete, this time covering the period 280 BC to 271 BC. I’m pleased with the changes to the mechanics and the support a number of locals are providing. This turn for example we have had five people involved in the games with a bit of a lottery on which armies you end up commanding. Everyone seems to be enjoying the context of the games than any focus on world conquest.

All the playing states are suffering a mix of success and setback which is adding to overall interest. Pyrrhus, who is currently King of Macedonian, is under particular pressure. Despite this after two desperate battles he still controls his Macedonian throne, just. Meanwhile while Rome and Carthage are locked in combat Seleucus was last seen campaigning somewhere in Bactria.

If you are interested you can find a full summary here.

Empire Campaign

Campaigns are something I always have a inkling to run but past experience has made me nervous of too much complication. Regular readers of my blog may recall that early last year I posted my thoughts on the Empire boardgame, developed by Phil Sabin. After some tinkering with the basic rules I converted the mechanics to a system that would allow it to be used with DBA.

Now, those who follow my Ancient & Medieval blog will have seen that we have recently completed the fourth campaign turn. Trying to simplify things further I recently moved away from dedicated players controlling states to a system where the decision process is automated. A basic decision tree is used to determine campaign offensives which is supplemented by a die roll where multiple options of equal weight exist. Games are now resolved by a group of volunteers subject to availability. The most recent series of six battles have now been resolved by a group of five players.

I’m rather pleased how this has all worked out. The revised format seems to be providing a better balance between my time investment and the value created by linking a background to an individual tabletop game. Further, it allows me to play in a few games while others are able use different armies, rather than being restricted to that of their player state. Placing the campaign in context, and despite only four campaign turns, the system has generated around 24 battles all of which have been resolved on the table using DBA. Given there are many more campaign turns ahead it will be interesting to see the campaign history develop.

If you are interested in the most recent campaign turn, covering the period 290 BC to 281 BC, you can find it here. If you are interested in additional background, visit the Empire Campaign Page.

Empire – A Macedonian & Punic War Campaign

Over the years I’ve run a number of campaigns with the intent of proving tabletop games a strategic backdrop. Some have been very successful, while others have unfortunately been far from optimal. Generally the greater the campaign detail the poorer the tabletop games. Not surprisingly large campaigns, involving a number of players, are the hardest to run.

Perhaps the most frustrating situation is one where a very successful strategic campaign can result in less than optimal table top battles due to unequal forces. For this reason the strategic elements of a campaign can be interesting with the battles resolved by a simple series of die rolls.

In 2009 the Society of Ancients published a boardgame by Phil Sabin called “Empire”. It was released again a few years later with much enhanced graphics as part of the Lost Battles board game package. The maps in this article are from the enhanced boardgame version. During the week I finally managed to play the game. With our game all battles were resolved as part of the game without placing any figures on the table.

So how does the system work? Firstly the board stretches from Spain to India and comprises 22 provinces. The games starts with the rise of Macedonia in 350BC and runs to 150 BC. Each turn, of which there are twenty, represents ten years. There are four player countries. Persia and Carthage which comprise several provinces, while Macedonia and Rome consist of only one province each. The combat mechanics are extremely simple. Each country conducts an attack per turn in random order. The exception is three great commanders who for a short period may conduct five attacks in specified turns. The first is of course Alexander, who in time is followed by Hannibal and finally Scipio Africanus. All attacks are resolved with one or two die rolls modified by a few simple modifiers.

Very briefly in our game Phillip, and then Alexander, were slow to expand Macedonia with multiple attempts to subdue Greece before embarking east in a campaign of conquest. Indeed, Alexander failed to secure Egypt and Bactria never mind advancing to India before his death. His Successors however, despite a number of revolts, did secure Bactria and Egypt over the following decades.

In the east Carthage also struggled to expand into Sicily and Southern Italy, as can be seen below at the end of turn five, around 300BC.


Revolts in Numidia slowing things further. However Rome was itself slow to grow its influence. This changed around 220BC when first Hannibal the Scipio Africanus appeared on the scene. Yet revolts continued to play their part causing delays at various times. Carthage eventually fell, but recovered and rebuilt its empire. Rome, was now torn between destroying Carthage again, or crossing into Greece to attack the Macedonian Successors who had for 150 years spent most of their military effort subduing revolts, by other Successors, or by the Persian/Parthian rump.

Above, a section of the campaign map in 150BC showing the Carthaginian Empire and the slowly expanding Roman Republic. Rome has recently secured Greece and Macedonia while the Successor States hold Thrace and Illyria. Sicily is independent, again.

From a victory point perspective the Macedonians were a clear winner, in second place was Carthage, who while smaller had grown, lost and regained their empire. Rome was clearly on the rise, but its position in 150BC, was far from where it was historically. An interesting trip through 200 years of history from the conquests of Alexander, the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars and to the Macedonian Wars. and all within two hours.

The Society of Ancients have recently released the original Empire boardgame, which has very basic graphics, unlike the deluxe version I have. Should you be interested in a copy you can find the basic game at the  Society of Ancients website.

Borsetshire and Campaign Gaming

A couple of weeks ago I finally caught up with John for a long overdue DBR game. Last year John and I enjoyed several DBR encounters and it was with some interest that for our first game of the year John wanted to play a campaign game. In particular he has been running a series of linked games set in the fictional county of Borsetshire during the English Civil War. The latest encounter being fought in the winter of 1643 on a snow covered battlefield.


As John has provided some photos and a description of the game over on his blog I shan’t go into the game details here. Well, except to say it was an interesting engagement as it involved a river swollen by winter rain. The result was the River Perch was a significant barrier to the Royalists who were on the offensive.

While this campaign isn’t laden with complex campaign rules it reminded me why I enjoy campaigns so much. Far from just an equal points based game our little encounter was placed in a context more important than a winning or indeed suffering a loss. This point was driven home this evening while discussing past campaigns with my son who has participated in both small and large Ancient campaigns with me over the years. Perhaps I need to add another simple campaign to my list of things to get around to…

In the meantime have a look at John’s report on the battle, which can be found here.