Micro Campaigning – Part II

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).

Troop Levels

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!


16 thoughts on “Micro Campaigning – Part II

  1. Hi, I came across your blog on figoblogotheque, and I was intrigued by the paperless micro-campaign idea. I’ve played solo in the past, although I do now go to a reasonably regular club evening in Glasgow. I’ve printed off this idea, if you don’t mind; I think it would make a really good, clean, fast and fun way to have multi-player as well. I’ve been looking for a way to try out reasonably short-term different empire-based scenarios, the obvious one being something like the expansion of the later Roman Republic (we could probably do this eventually given the mix of figures we have). Something a bit lighter and less of a commitment to follow our current grand campaign. There could even be a finale between the two generals’ forces as they build an army for the final confrontation to see who becomes the first de facto ruler of Rome (or whichever central state is used). Caesar against Pompey?

    Thanks for a good post!


  2. Hi Paul,
    The multi-player Roman campaign sounds like a cracking idea, let me know how it goes if you do try it out. And of course feel free to use/print off anything you find on here and adapt it to your own needs. Thanks for the positive comments!

  3. Do you play this as a “multi-player solo” campaign? That is: each player plays 20 turns through the campaign and solo battles, but all the players compare their results after the campaign is over?

    It sounds like it would work well to have a “high score” board for the results.

    The format sounds interesting, but I have a few concerns. Many board games I’ve played suffer from “event card syndrome:” no matter how good or bad your strategy is, if you draw the right/wrong event card at the right time, it will decide the game independant of what else has happened previously. This is also known as “the golden snitch” (see Harry Potter).

    My concern with the mini-campaign is the random event table. It could result in some generals getting free money and lots of enemies, while other generals rarely fight any battles at all.

    I like the general idea. But I might prefer to have each turn result in exactly 1 battle so each side has equal chances for earning money. Then, the event table could affect the way the battle is fought. For example, it might have an influence over the terrain, troops availble to you or the enemy, weather effects, other minor rules modifications, and so on.

    I’d have to actually play the game to see whether this kind of change is necessary, though 🙂 And since it’s solo, and thus all about fun, that’s much more important than the end results being fair anyway.



  4. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments! So far I’ve only played a campaign through once from beginning to end (though I’m about to start my second one), and that was done by running the two generals simultaneously myself (i.e. no other solo players involved). So on campaign turn one I would throw dice for first general then for second general, act on the decision of the dice for each of them, fight out any battle(s), finish that campaign turn for both generals, log the results, then go on to the second turn.

    What you say about the random event table – “It could result in some generals getting free money and lots of enemies, while other generals rarely fight any battles at all” – is absolutely true. But I kind of like it that way, because it makes the game unpredictable and rather chaotic. Over a few of these short campaigns I’d imagine the likelihood is that the generals’ luck would even up, but who knows… As there are no other “human” players involved, there’s no need to worry about fairness. Otherwise I agree that it wouldn’t work – in fact uproar would probably ensue!

    However – I also like the sound of your alternative, when you write: “But I might prefer to have each turn result in exactly 1 battle so each side has equal chances for earning money. Then, the event table could affect the way the battle is fought. For example, it might have an influence over the terrain, troops availble to you or the enemy, weather effects, other minor rules modifications, and so on.” I might give that a go, and see how it plays as an alternative.

    The great thing about solo wargaming is that I can play both versions, and/or tweak either version to fit my mood 😮

    >>”This is also known as “the golden snitch” (see Harry Potter)”

    No! No! Don’t make me read Harry Potter! Please!!! 😮

    Cheers, Jay.

  5. Hi Jay – love it, though lan’s points are well made above. Nonetheless,its just the sort of hing I am after actually for either a Feudal or Fantasy setting (not sure yet).

    I am also thinking of introducing a second, random event table. It will be seperate to your above and relate more to events back in the capitl
    Reinforcements – 3 new troop units arrive
    War on another front- 3 troop units recalled (dont go below 12 total)
    Camp followers – your army has picked up more camp followers, which help care for the wounded. On the next battle, lost units are recovered on a 60% chance
    Priests/Magicians join Army
    Local knowledge- local scouts show you hidden ays though the local terrin. roll twice on the event table (unless battle is rolled)
    – this table would be tailored to the campign settling of course but would theme it very well.


    You get the picture

  6. Hi Paul,

    I really like your idea of a second random event table, splitting events between those in the field and those that take place back home. I may have to give that a try!

    Cheers, Jay.

  7. Exactly- and you could make an event apply to both Generals too, for even more interest!
    Glad I could stir the creative juices a little and looking forward to seeing what you make of it 🙂


  8. No, I haven’t seen that article before Paul but it looks really interesting – just going to print it off now for a proper read. Thanks!

  9. Paul suggested I have a look at this blog post. I really like it. I liked it so much I thought up a variation for Alexander the Great’s expedition to the east. Completely unplay tested of course. I’ve restricted it to one player. You would need a lot of armies to be able to play it through; or use DBA on-line; or make believe. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Steven (balagan)

  10. Great stuff Steven! I’ve posted a short article about it and linked to your website.
    Cheers, Jay.

  11. Hi

    interesting post. I have run several campaigns in the past but I have recently realised that I am most interested in the battles rather than the logistics so your micro-campaign ideas are inspirational. While looking for campaigning sites on the web I found this one:
    Which is pretty old but which IMO gives a great discussion of the possibilities for these more battle-centric types of campaign.


Comments are closed.