How To Campaign Like Me

Commander's Intent

We all enjoy war gaming, or else I would assume you would not be reading this article. What better way to have much deeper and more meaningful experience than to run a campaign?

The main selling point of a campaign style game is trace ability. What this means is that you follow what happens to the participants from engagement to engagement. See green units mature and gain experience under fire and become veterans unto themselves. Watch that one pesky horse unit charge against all odds and emerge relatively unscathed time and time again. Ah, what a sense of esprit de corps!

The other beneficial facet of a campaign game it to prevent the "all in" mentality purely to achieve an immediate victory without thought for future battles to be fought. Adversaries are much less likely to throw their forces away to senseless objectives that might cost them the campaign tomorrow when the absence of those poorly utilized units is felt. Soon the tempo of the battle field changes ever so subtle as opponents not only think about winning *this* battle but tomorrow's as well...

Keeping Track of Things

What are we really talking about? What are the key things that need to be tracked from battle to battle as the campaign develops? Well, that is entirely up to you, as you don't want the mechanics of the campaign slowing down and diminishing the fun of your individual battles. That being said there are a number of things that a campaigner can keep track of:

  • Troop Ratings: The main idea here is to allow units or individuals to become more proficient at what they do. It may be as simple as increasing their rating after a certain number of fights, or increasing skill levels at specific tasks which they can then perform. My favorite technique for the Damned Human Race (DHR) fights is to have the soldier fight a number of battles equal to their Rating. Once this has been achieved the soldier gain one level in their Rating; a Trained (2) soldier who fights in 2 battles and survives would become Seasoned (3) for their third battle.
  • Ammunition: Everyone likes to shoot up the battle field, but you're more likely to conserve your bullets and artillery if you're running low. There are a number of ways to keep track of this but I generally determine the availability of ammo at the beginning of a battle based on supplies available to the forces I am commanding. If supply is good then there is no effect on the fighting (save that the result of the battle will be that the available supply for next game will go down if there is no fresh ammunition available); after their first battle supply wagons fail to come up and thus reduce the amount of ammunition to the soldiers. For their next battle all firing will have to pass an ammo test of -1 requiring the shooter to get a 5 (6 -1) on each of their dice they want to fire. Any result of 6 would mean the shot is lost due to lack of ammo. If the same troopers were not re supplied after 4 more engagements that out of ammo check would drop to a 1 - rather bleak situation indeed.
  • Food & Water: Ever go a few days without water or several without food? Try it and you'll see why subsistence is so important. For game purposes a human needs to have a ration of water every day and food every four days or they gain a -1 to all stats. Pack, draft, and combat mounts require their fill also. Animals can graze where possible as determined by the Host or Referee. Medium sized animals require two rations of water, and large animals require four. A Veteran (4) would fight like Seasoned (3) soldier, and so on. A mount would reduce its movement by 1D6, etc. etc.
  • Injured & Wounded: In DHR there are five categories of wounded:
    • Flesh wound - figure operates at a -1 penalty and heals up after a day of rest (no marching, fighting etc.).
    • Ambulatory - same as above and cannot walk.
    • Serious - out of fight and improves one level of injury per week of rest.
    • Severe - same as above but invalided. Can never improve beyond Ambulatory.
    • Mortal - out of fight and dies in D6 days.
    Now, there is also the handling of the dead. In some situations the bodies of the deceased *need* to be brought out (officer, etc.) and thus their transport and handling must be accounted for. As for the still living, the key thing to remember here is that if the injured and dying are not cared for properly then the remaining soldiers will drop a level in their Rating due to demoralization. It's one thing to die for your country and be shown some respect, it's another thing to get shot and have your carcass pulled apart by vultures for the whole world to see.
  • Illness: Depending on the location and available treatment soldiers can and will become ill due to exposure to hostile environments. In general you have to determine the chance that a soldier will get ill, and then the level of severity that the soldier becomes ill. So think of it as risk and severity, or two separate roles that must be addressed by proper care and facilities to treat effectively. An example is typhoid - let's say that the chance of a soldier getting it is 1 in 6, and if caught, then it can be as severe as a -5 to effectiveness.
  • Rest: Soldiers not allowed to recover from the rigors of the daily grind are going to be worn down physically and mentally. If pressed into combat after having made a forced march they will start the fight at a disadvantage, the severity of which will be determined by how hard they were driven. Defenders of a fort are going to incur a similar penalty if they have been shelled every night for the last three nights. A good rule of thumb is to assign a -1 penalty for each rest break or nights sleep that the soldiers are lacking. When they get to 0 they fall asleep no matter what - the body just shuts down and they are forced to take the much needed rest.
  • Transportation: To simplify things a daily food ration, a ration of water, and an ammunition load for a single soldier to fight a battle weigh one pound. Artillery shells etc. weigh the gun shell weight doubled per shot. Medical supplies weigh 10 pounds per person per day of care. A two wheeled cart can carry loads of 1000 pounds with wagons carrying loads up to 2,500 pounds. A horse can pull 500 pounds 50 miles in a day, an ox can pull 1,000 pounds for 20 miles a day, and a mule or donkey can pull 250 pounds 35 miles in a day. Simply link up as many beasts of burden that you need to get the weight you want delivered to move. Mules and horses can pack 160 pounds 40 miles, but don't forget that everything from a dog to an elephant has been used to move supplies - research the details yourself!

The list can go on and on, but I think you get the point. The main thing is to understand what elements you are going to have impact the campaign and then track those variables as they change during the process. Soon poisoned wells and lack of grazing land cause serious problems for commanders. The decision to leave the majority of the supply wagons near the port town becomes a serious mistake as the "tip of the spear" suddenly runs dangerously low on ammo and food. Worse still is that a sizeable portion of the column has to be assigned to guard the wagons as they move along the exposed lines of supply. Your care free days of just fighting the battle are long gone, and the most decisive fights become the ones which determine the fate of your baggage trains!

Keep the paper work light by creating a battle roster and assigning each soldier a line. On that line keep track of the various elements important to your campaign as well as any personal history of importance which might be of interest. An interesting study is when a single figure becomes that guy who made the miracle roll last game and the game before that. Perhaps you just found an alternate way for the figure to become a hero or some other battle field influence, and more importantly, and influence that was earned and not just bequeathed!

An Example

Here is a quick and dirty campaign sample. Let's say I have a Trained (2) force of five squads of ten men led by a Captain and a First Sergeant. Each squad contains a Sergeant and a Corporal. All are fed, watered, rested, healthy, and rearing to go. The following are determined by dice rolls using the Online Dice Generator.

The first battle occurs after the force marches out of the port town, where they were landed as part of a force of occupation, and they are ambushed by guerrillas. The Captain has not been pushing the men too hard so they are not tired and the other variables of the campaign remain the same. At the conclusion of the fighting the following results:

  • The Captain is seriously wounded and the First Sergeant takes over having emerged unscathed.
  • 20 men of the ranks become casualties:
    • (1) Flesh wound
    • (3) Ambulatory
    • (5) Seriously wounded
    • (3) Severely wounded
    • (4) Mortally wounded
    • (4) Killed
  • Ammunition goes down by one factor.
  • Rest goes down by one factor.
  • Water goes down by one factor and food down by a quarter factor.
  • All surviving soldiers gain one experience factor under their belt if they engaged or were engaged by the enemy.

The First Sergeant posts security and re supplies his men with ammunition and tends to the wounded. The Captain is loaded on to a supply wagon with the 15 ( Ambulatory through Mortal) wounded and sent back to the port town to rest and recover in hospital. The four killed are given a soldier's funeral and buried nearby. Once the wounded are seen off the First Sergeant feeds the men and prepares for a defense until first light. During the night no further mischief is done by the enemy and everyone gets sufficient rest, food and water. Due to the surrounding terrain and weather no illness check is made as determined by the Host. The deployed force has been reduced to 32, one of which is operating at a -1.

The next morning the First Sergeant moves the men out and they spend the next week searching the hillsides for any trace of the guerrillas in the gently rolling hills surrounding the port town. During that time a temporary camp has been made and minor defenses created. The patrolling soldiers are fed, watered, and rested as needed. No other factors change for them during this week. The Flesh Wounded fellow recovers after a days rest, and the three Ambulatory return to the camp on a supply wagon having fully recovered (48 hours solid rest) they bring word that the Captain improved (to Ambulatory) and should return to duty within the week. Four others (the Mortally wounded) pasted on and three more (Severely) are too injured to return to service - they will await the next supply ship and then be evacuated. The remaining five (Seriously wounded) have also improved and should return with the Captain on the next supply run. The deployed force has now increased to 35 fit and ready for duty.

The next day a patrol of a Sergeant and ten men surprise a small guerilla patrol and a fire-fight ensues. At the conclusion of the fighting the following results:

  • The enemy force of five men is wiped out and captured: 2 Flesh Wounds; 2 Ambulatory; 1 Severely.
  • The Severely injured guerilla is executed (this is also a factor that can effect a campaign).
  • The Sergeant removes the enemy equipment and has the two flesh wounded enemy help the two ambulatory enemy.
  • The patrol takes 3 casualties: 1 Flesh Wound; 1 Ambulatory; 1 Seriously.
  • The Ambulatory soldier is helped by a mate, the Seriously injured soldier is blanket carried by two others.
  • All surviving soldiers are now considered Seasoned (3) having fought and survived 2 fights as Trained (2).
  • All soldiers are down one factor on ammunition and rest.

Once the patrol returns to camp the First Sergeant rests them and the men grab supplies to update their ammo, food, and water needs. The prisoners are placed in a temporary stockade and allowed to tend to their wounded with whatever they have available to them (these prisoners will take longer to recover as they are poorly fed and cared for - another factor that can effect a campaign once their buddies find out). The force is now at 35, with 1 Flesh wound, 1 Ambulatory, and 1 Severely wounded.

The next dawn the enemy has discovered their missing men and tracked the prisoners to the location of the soldier's camp. They spend the whole night preparing and planning for the upcoming fight ( they are considered Seasoned [3] and will receive a -1 due to the strain of the all night preparations). In the morning sixty guerrillas attack the soldier's camp and another battle ensues. Keep in mind that none of the wounded from the patrol have recovered and lose that day of rest due to the attack. All were allowed to sleep during the night so they do not incur a penalty for sleep deprevation. The First Sergeant now has 24 Trained men and 11 Seasoned (3) at his disposal ( keep in mind one is operating at a -1, as is another but he also cannot move under his own power. The remaining Seasoned soldier is too injured to be of any help and is laying in a tent waiting for the next supply wagon to take him back to the port). The enemy prisoners may come into play at some point in the battle, but operate under their specified limitations as determined by injuries, rest, and opportunity.

As you can see things can get interesting pretty quickly. We have a force being led by a senior NCO with some Seasoned mixed in with the remaining Trained. Several wounded add some different considerations for the upcoming battle, and the hasty defenses coupled with the tired attacking enemy makes for another interesting battle. We can go on, and on, and on with this watching as the camp is surrounded and slowly strangled of its supplies. The Captain and the five recovered soldiers arrive several days later and have to decide whether to fight through the siege or retreat for more reinforcements. Meanwhile the supply situation in the besieged camp is getting worse as ammo, food, and water are getting low and the casualties are mounting with poor hospital conditions....

Cheers & Enjoy!

© 2008, Gabriel Landowski