Campaign gaming and gamers
Campaigns have been my favorite way of gaming since I quit active tournament gaming about 10 years ago. Gaming fuels my imagination and what would be better, than a narrative campaign setting with different levels in the game (strategic, tactical etc.). Campaigns are also good for escalation in terms of painting miniatures: last year we first plyed a Saga Age of the Wolf campaign set in the east (Eastern Princes, Saracens, Mongols…) and then continued to escalate our armies to for a continuation campaign with larger games and rule sets like Swordpoint, Deus Vult and Hail Caesar. Read on to learn about my experiences in campaigning .
Wargaming is living it’s golden age and so is campaign gaming - many new rule sets come with a built in campaign setting; for example Warlord’s Test of Honor. In Osprey’s The Pikeman’s Lament rule set the whole setting starts with creation of a young officer character with background and personal traits. Gaming then follows the story of this character and how his honor develops. 2017 I ran a campaign with this system set in 1808-1809 and the Russo-Swedish war and several players kept a diary (in Finnish, sorry) of their character. This was very cool indeed! indeed, any rule set worth it’s salt should have a campaign setting. They are also natural ways for expanding the game systems, Warlord Game’s campaign books for their games come to mind as the obvious examples.
Here are few examples of other campaigns I’ve run or participated at our gaming Nopat & Taktiikka club here in Helsinki, I hope they can fuel interest in campaign gaming:
- Mare Nostrum - Hail Caesar Campaign in Alexander’s Successors / Early Roman era
- Saga Limes Campaign - late Romans vs. barbarians
Bolt Action New Guinea Campaign -showing the escalation in painting too.
Saga Age of the Wolf Campaign
- Middle Earth SBG Battle Companies Campaign
- Test of Honor campaign
Then it’s time to move to our main theme: how different players approach campaign gaming
Different approached by gamers - our Saga AotW Campaign as an example (names changed)
Enthusiastic Saga campaigners
As I’ve ran several campaigns during the recent years, I’ve come to “analyze” different approaches to campaign gaming (being social psychologist by education and all!). But why is this relevant?
I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way), that it’s good to understand motivations of campaign participants and also to discuss them and expectations, while setting up the campaign. In our club these pre-start discussions typically delve around historical correctness and gamification of the actual campaign level. Ends of this parallel range from “playing a serie of games based on actual historical battles” (like our Russo-Swedish War 1808-09 campaign) to “the campaign phase is a game in itself” (like our Mare Nostrum -campaign, based originally on Mighty Empires rule set from Games Workshop). Both ends are fine and can make good campaigns, even if my preference leans heavily on the latter end of the parallel.
As a lesson learned, it’s good to make sure BEFORE starting the campaign, that everybody undertands, what is to be expected and is this a such campaign, that one wants to commit to. This is very important as campaign drop outs or fade aways are a pain for every campaign umpire and often have a negative impact on active participants too! Campaign gaming with the more gamification set up are always a somewhat competitive too, so it’s also good to discuss how hard core competitive games people want / don’t want to play, even if this is hard to control as players are individuals…
So here are my findings on different stereotypes of campaign gamers. They are based on people I’ve played with. Names are changed, but they’ll probably recognize themselves ;-). Naturally we are all typically combinations of different stereotypes, but with a certain aspect dominating over the others.
Teemu (myself) the Gamer is a player, whom plays on all levels and drives to understand, and then to exploit the campaign mechanics, in order to win at all levels. A working and deep enough campaign system is important for him.
MIchael the Power Player is the above on stereoids; after understanding the mechanics or finding the too powerfull upgrade, he maximizes them to his benefit. This often leads to an unbeatable force, which is no longer fun to play against.
Jake - the Story Teller is a player, who enjoys the narrative of a campaign setting the most. Winning the games is not the most important thing for him as long as the game and it’s dramatic turns feed his imagination. His battle reports are a real treat to read.
John - the Historian is a player, who is keen (some might say a bit too keen) on historical relevance (and detail). He has studied the background and is happy to share his knowledge or to point out, if something is “wrong” in the campaign setting (or uniforms). Gamification is typically not important for John.
Jacob - the Easy Goer is a player, who prioritizes, that everybody is feeling good about the campaign. He is a fair opponent and also often makes an excellent Umpire, though sometimes decisions, that don’t please everyone, can be hard for him.
Mike - “I just want to play” -gamer is a player, who is happy simply to play the actual games with miniatures. He doesn’t always consider the strategic / tactical level of the campaign that much, if he ever even read the campaign rules. Campaign is just and excuse for him to play games.
Carl - the Casual Player, is a gamer, who would like to play a few games, but he is not that committed to the actual campaign. Possibly doesn’t like the competitive element of some campaigns. It is important to mutually understand his level of commitment, because he is a potential “campaign drop out” and should play as part of a team or as a visiting general, whom steps in to replace a player, whom can’t find the time for a game.
Thomas - the Real Life Player is gamer, who would like to play, but has serious time constraints. He can actually be any of the above stereotypes too, but for some reason his private life (work, family etc.) really hinders his participation to the campaign. Or maybe he is simply not motivated enough for this campaign. Once again this needs to be understood and same remedy as for the Casual Player should be applied. Or maybe he should just admit to himself the fact, that he can’t participate this time.
A best campaign experience is probably achieved, when most of the players have at least a somewhat similar alignment, but in real life this is often hard to achieve, so we all have to adapt a bit. Once again, this proves the value of a gaming club, that provides a platform to find like minded (at least enough so) players to play a campaign, that all participants find motivating.