Gaming General: Starting a Campaign


Hey everyone, today I'm publishing an article by my friend Britton. He's been enjoying Kings of War lately at his FLGS and is even starting a campaign for it. Today he's going to talk about what it takes to get a campaign up and running with a good group of players.

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Starting a Campaign from scratch has a lot of challenges, luckily a group of great gamers got together to build a flexible campaign/league system one winter evening in Fort Collins CO. These gamers didn't know it at the time but years later their system would be used in three different game systems (more if you count edition changes). So I want to start off with a huge thank you to these gamers before describing the newest incarnation of the campaign.

Success of a campaign or league in any game depends on a lot of factors: the competitive level of players,the type of game experience a group desires, and finally the flexibility players have setting up games.

Campaign scheduling- Forfeits suck

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Let’s say some buddies want to get together and play a campaign and all of them can commit to one Tuesday a month to meet and play, great! Assuming life doesn't get in the way… Oh okay let's say we set up matches each week, great that way friends can play outside of Tuesday's. But if you and your buddies’ don't have the same schedules sometimes you still just can't manage to meet up. Forfeits suck but are a natural outcome when using these types of play structures. Also, how lame is it if you show up to play a game and there are a bunch of people playing but you can't find an opponent because you are not part of the campaign. Well, these problems arise in campaigns all the time. So how can a campaign account for this issue? Campaigns could have people play whoever whenever. “Oh The Chaos, the Hordes of players you will need to track, what is this craziness!” But, an open campaign style will help grow the hobby and invites new players to join so everyone can play! In this style there is but one restriction, no playing the same player twice. Now I might have you wondering how to logistical pull this style off and I will get to that in a bit.

Embellishing the Game

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As I mentioned earlier a driving force of a campaign is the type of experience desired by the group. This can make or break a campaign. If you have a great storyteller in the group then you might have epic casual encounters during the event; but, if you have a bunch of tournament players sharpening their skills you could see some strategies that move away from the heart of the storytelling to say the least. It just depends on your crowd. Matching this to your player base is important but impossible to micromanage. If you have an open campaign players can make their own decision on whom and how they play. This solution takes a balanced campaign that allows for flexible games and allows the community to develop their own story. I like the motto “keep it simple stupid”. To make it simple keep the storytelling alive through changes to the game, add in some items or locations (if it is a map campaign) and let the players develop the story (or not). Keep it balanced including the items or locations in limited ways. Give one effect to an element so you can keep the game balanced. Give choices to the players so they feel they have a hand in the campaign, for example in my events one rule for each player was applied from a small pool the player chose from. Choice, change, and balance are the goals.

Win at All Costs vs Casual Gaming

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The level of competition players have matters a great deal when designing a campaign. If a new player wants to learn and tell a story and your grumpy vet wants to trash the net list then you have different levels of competition. Players have been known to change their level of competition too, for example, if they want to practice for a tournament. How, in an open system, can you please everyone? Well, you can't, so to help give players options. The ability to choose their own opponent your players can figure it out for themselves. But if your campaign is close to the standard rules for the game you can still hold on to the tournament practice game and then turn around and play a small demo game.

How to Make it Happen

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Now that you understand the thought process behind the campaign ideas, let us turn over to the logistics. So how does this system work? The key to success here is being prepared to limit your involvement as a campaign organizer. Keep the government out of the bedroo... I mean game table. If you can let go control and just record then your players can run the show for themselves. I’d started off with an intro story, intentionally vague, to get the creative juices flowing. Next, I built a flexible rule generator to add flavor to the games. I think a deck of cards is a perfect way to easily do this 52 different cards, 54 if you include the jokers! Each card can have a rule for the campaign. Another major benefit is that you can play anywhere, not just where the map or deck is stored. As long as you can get your hands on a standard deck of cards, you can play! Finally, I gave players a starting ability to help get the games off the ground. Get some players interested, watch, record, and supplement the storyline if you feel it is needed.

The Specifics

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In the current campaign I am running, each player has a hand of these campaign rule cards. The players take turns picking one to use the effect of in game and then one they want to steal from their opponent. Then fight over a new card from the deck plus the four cards just described. The winner gets first choice, taking turns collecting the cards.

Each week can have a hand limit to keep people from running away with the campaign because they play a lot. But I didn't want to discourage playing more games so players can play a ton of games if they want in search of the best cards.The key to success in this system is that cards have effects that change the play in game but these are balanced by their effects for the campaign. Each card also includes points that count towards winning the campaign. Some cool abilities to help you win games are low point cards and the lame abilities are still desirable because they count as high points towards winning the overall campaign. Again all about player’s choices, in this case hard choices.

Stay tune for some pictures and details about the Kings of War Campaign I started!