Following on from my previous post, this is a description of the very simple ‘micro campaign’ that I’ve been running over the past few weeks. The aim, as stated earlier, was to find a way of stringing my solo games together and giving the battles some wider context without resorting to maps and complicated ‘virtual’ opponents. The emphasis was very much on simplicity and playability…so this won’t be to everyone’s taste!
The basic premise is that two generals set off to explore neighbouring but separate geographical regions, each taking his own army into uncharted territory – their brief is to return with as much plunder as possible. I set the first campaign in Mesopotamia, with the generals and their troops being drawn from the New Babylonian army list in DBA Version 1. Each general sets off with a force of 18 elements (the equivalent of 1.5 small field armies), and a coffer filled with 100 gold pieces. The generals don’t have adequate maps of the areas they’re about to explore, so they have little idea of who they’re likely to come up against. The campaign lasts for 20 turns.
At the start of each turn throw a D10 for each general, with the following result:
1: Desertion – one element lost (determine element at random).
2: Disease – two elements lost (determine elements at random).
3: Bad Terrain – miss next turn.
4: Barren Lands – no effect, no further action.
5: Reinforcements – one fresh element arrives (determine element type at random).
6: Easy Plunder #1 – 50 gold pieces handed over by locals.
7: Easy Plunder #2 – 100 gold pieces handed over by locals.
8: Hostile Force Encountered – battle will be joined with hostile force as defender.
9: Hostile Force Encountered – battle will be joined with hostile force as attacker.
10: Hostile Force Encountered – battle will be joined with defender/attacker roles determined at random.
Determine the opposing force at random from a list of possible enemies that you’ve drawn up in advance – then delete them from the list to ensure they’re only encountered once. If the list for the opposing army has selection options then pick the version of the army with the best chance of defeating your general. Choose 12 elements from your general’s pool of troops. Use De Bellis Solitarius or a variant thereof to fight out the battle (substitute your favoured ruleset if you don’t use DBA).
If your general wins the battle he receives 100 gold pieces as tribute from his defeated enemy. Dice for each of his lost units, with a 40% chance of recovering them.
If your general loses, he forfeits 100 gold pieces to the enemy – this is drawn from his reserve. If he is unable to pay then his troops will be taken into slavery, any gold he does possess will be seized, and he will be sent home in disgrace. If he is able to pay, dice for each of his lost units, with a 20% chance of recovering them; he is then free to continue with his expedition (but see ‘Troop Levels’ below).
Once either general’s troop level drops below 12 elements (i.e. enough elements to constitute one field army), he is no longer able to do battle. He may continue to advance until he encounters a hostile force in the hope of picking up some easy money along the way. However, if he does run into hostile troops then he must pay 100 gold crowns to placate the enemy and then immediately turn for home with his tail between his legs. Alternatively, once his troop level drops below the minimum he can opt instead to head straight back to his own country with his ill-gotten gains, in the hope that his opponent fails to acquire more gold pieces than he has already won.
The victorious general is the one who holds the most gold at the end of the campaign. The two generals are effectively competing against each other…at a distance! The solo player controls both, and the interest is in their contrasting fortunes as the campaign unfolds.
My two generals – Nabonassar and Nabonidas – had a good success rate in their battles, taking on Midianites, Assyrians, Later Hebrews, Libyan Egyptians, Neo-Elamites and Medes. They both picked up some easy tribute from quaking locals, and they both had their share of misfortune – disease, desertion, the odd battlefield defeat, and hostile terrain. Nabonassar and Nabonidas however both survived to make it back to Babylon in reasonably good shape – with Nabonassar returning from his adventures with the heavier war chest and therefore receiving the acclaim of his king and his people.
This simple campaign played out pretty well in practice, and was a lot of fun. I’m thinking of tweaking various aspects of the rules for future campaigns, for example by varying the outcome after a battlefield defeat. A couple of the lessons I learnt during the campaign were (a) make sure there is a good variety of opponents for your generals to face and (b) avoid picking a ‘killer’ army for your own side to add more spice by ensuring that the battles will be really tough! I’m looking forward to adapting this approach to other periods and rulesets – a Hordes of the Things variant will likely be my next project.
While this kind of micro campaign will be much too simple for a lot of the solo wargamers out there, I hope it will provide a starting point for players lacking the confidence, the experience, the time or the inclination to run a fully fledged solo campaign. Happy gaming, and may the Dice Gods be with you!