Thursday, July 17, 2008

Campaign Terrain Idea --

(About a week and a half ago I re-posted "A Simple Campaign Format" from a couple of years ago. Today I'm re-posting a "companion post" about terrain selection. This is intended to work in conjunction with the Campaign Format if you don't have your own terrain ideas. I hope that you find it useful.)


Friday, November 03, 2006

Terrain Selection Concept --

One of the great challenges of tabletop gaming is to fight on interesting terrain. However, most "terrain selection rules" tend to either be completely random or allow far too much "gamesmanship".

Today I'm going to suggest a system that should allow for both interesting and varied terrains AND provide a way for players to have a choice in selecting where they'll fight.

Okay, some of you will recognize the germ of this idea coming from a science fiction novel by Piers Anthony. I admit it. You're right. I'm borrowing the concept . . . from "Split Infinity" (if memory serves) . . . of course he wasn't using it to select tabletop terrain, but the concept comes from his novel.

Let's take the simplest situation . . . there are only two of you. First, collect the various terrain pieces that you have available between you. You probably have various sizes of hills and woods. Generally you've got some buildings and strips of material that you use for roads and rivers. You might even have some bridges and some fencing.

The above step is so that you both know what you have available.

Discus between yourselves as to what you feel the minimum and maximum number of terrain selections you'd like for your battles. This will, of course, depend in part upon the size of your table and the size of terrain pieces which you have access to.

Where I am on Vancouver Island, we're gaming in 25mm on 4' x 8' tables. For the examples I'm presenting here, I've decided to use from three to eight pieces of terrain per table.

Okay, to start, get some blank index cards. Larger is better, so look for the 4" x 6" or 5" x 8" cards (which can usually be found for a very reasonable price at discount or office supply stores).

Now, since our tables are 4x8, I will cut down a couple dozen index cards so that they are the proper relationship (in this case, twice as wide as high). Each player will get a dozen cards. Each is to then diagram two different tabletops for each of the six "numbers" (i.e., three pieces, four pieces, . . . eight pieces). Note that roads (and there always must be at least one present) do NOT count for the number of terrain pieces (nor does "open space").

Now for any number of terrain pieces, one should be fairly even (not symetrical -- it just should give a relatively fair shot for each side) and one should definitely favor one side of the table but you should remember that you might end up playing the weaker tableside -- so keep that in mind.

Here is an example of a terrain diagram. It has six terrain pieces (remember, the road network doesn't count) -- 2 hills, 1 knoll, 2 light woods and a town. (Note -- my rules differentiate between light and heavy woods -- yours might not).

Anyway, each of the two gamers would create his dozen diagrams. These would then be shuffled together (be sure to "twist" some of them around so that there's no consisant "north" and "south" to the diagrams).

Now you should have 24 potential tabletop terrain diagrams (four each with three through eight pieces of terrain exclusive of roads). Note, if you have three players, you'll have 36 index cards; if four gamers, 48 cards.

After shuffling, deal four cards to the two opposing C-in-Cs. They will each get to discard one of them to the bottom of the deck. Then, the other three should be placed down in a 3x3 grid as you see from the diagram. (Note -- it doesn't matter who designed the card . . . it might be one of yours or it might be one of your opponent's designs).

Place them face down, remembering that the defender will be playing the "north" side; and the invader (attacker), the "south" side (which doesn't mean that that is the role they will play on the tabletop -- this is for selecting terrain).

The two C-in-Cs should carefully place their three cards face down . . . making sure that they have the "orientation" they want correctly set. Also be sure that cards are turned over from side to side so as not to change the "north" orientation.

Now, thee cards from the "master deck" should be placed in the other three places. At this point, all of the cards are turned over. This will result in something like the third diagram -- with nine potential tabletops.

(Remember, if you "click" on the diagram, you will get a better look at it).

The "invader" selects which of the three terrain columns (A, B or C) he chooses as his path. The 'defender" selects which terrain line (X, Y or Z) he'll choose to meet his opponent on. Where the two paths intersect is the tabletop which will be used. These will be recorded secretly.

Each column and each line includes one setup which YOU selected and one which your opponent selected and one randomly selected.

This is the fun part. Since line and column selections are "hidden" until both are selected, you have a chance to "outsmart" your opponent. Which path do you think your opponent will select? Does he like lots of terrain? or little terrain? Which path is most dangerous to you? Will your opponent figure out what you're going to avoid? Taking all of this into consideration, which path should you choose to get the best terrain possible?

Use whatever tabletop is cross-referenced. After the battle, the winner of the fight gets to name the battlefield . . . and that index card is removed from the pool of potential tabletlops. Once you get too low, just draw up more tabletops and mix them in with the remaining cards in the pool.

Sure, this is a "rock / paper / scissors" type of thing . . . but it's fun and just as in the child's game, a clever general might be able to outwit his opponent.

-- Jeff

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ouch! A Rough Weekend --

Late friday night . . . well actually about 3 am saturday morning we heard the sounds of a vehicle revving its engine, what sounded like a collision and the squeal of tires. My wife looked out of our bedroom window and saw a vehicle exiting the cul-de-sac behind us.

I went to our front door to see if they were headed down the street. When I opened our front door I saw that the 12' flowering pear tree on our front lawn had been knocked over and branches were everywhere.

I told my bride to phone the police . . . and as I stepped out onto our driveway I could see something lying there besides a lot of leaves . . . turned out that it was the license plate of the truck that did the damage . . . (yes, occassionally there is some justice).

As more of our neighbors came out, we realized that the truck had gone down the block driving over peoples' lawns and smashing down all of the trees and street signs that they could find.

One neighbor had seen them drive down a road that had no other way out . . . so when the police showed up (four cars of them), they had a good idea of where to look.

Bottom line was that they ended up in jail and we saw the truck get towed away . . . and so much for getting sleep that night.


As I write this, I've just returned from three hours in the Emergency Room of our local Hospital. My wife has not been feeling well since the above incident and her symptoms (including chest pains) said that she needed to be seen by a doctor.

Well it isn't her heart . . . that's the good news . . . but they'll need to run some more tests this week to determine what it is. At least she's back at home now and feeling a bit better.

All-in-all this has not been our best weekend stresswise.

-- Jeff

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Simple Campaign Format --

(This is a re-post of my October 26, 2006 post. I have re-posted unchanged it as part of the discussion begun on Stokes' Grand Duchy of Stollen blog about campaigns.)

-- Jeff

Here is a simple format for a two-person campaign that requires little bookkeeping. It is particularly designed to encourage the building of new units.

Featured above is the "campaign map". The two armies (blue and red here) first meet in the white circular area.

This should be an even battle with similar forces . . . for the 18th century, this might be something like four battalions of Infantry, one regiment of Cuirassiers, one regiment of Dragoons and one Medium Artillery Piece each, with comparable (mainly mid-range) morale.

All troops "lost" in each battle are diced for at battle's end. Dice by "stands" (or even individual figures, if that's how they're based) rather than by whole units.

The winner has a 2/3rds chance of recovering each lost stand (anything but a 1 or 2 on each d6); while the loser of the battle only has a 50% chance of recovering each lost stand (he needs a 4, 5 or 6 on each d6). These losses need to be retained for the next battle.

Note that, even if a unit is completely destoryed, it still gets to dice for each stand to recover. If such a unit fails ALL of its rolls and is completely "wiped out", it is considered to be lost for the remainder of this campaign.

In addition, each winner of any battle selects one unit to improve a morale grade and the loser selects one unit to drop a morale grade. This allows you to "reward" good units and "punish" those that disappointed.

For subsequent battles, the loser will get reinforced by one new unit (although losses will remain from previous battle or battles). The exception to this is if you are forced back to your own "Area B", where you have your choice of either a new unit OR bringing all of your current units up to full strength instead.

Any winner of two consecutive battles may also be re-inforced with a new unit OR may choose instead to bring his current units up to full strength.

If you are pushed back to your "Area C", you get to both get a new unit AND to bring your current surviving units up to full strength.

If pushed back to your Capitol, you get to add one guard-class unit and a heavy gun -- however, you've exhausted your reserves so you don't get to bring any "wounded units" back to full strength.

So, there you have it . . . a simple campaign format that encourages unit building. (By the way, there should be a prior agreement as to the morale grade of new units -- I would suggest either veterans or green units depending upon your preferences).

-- Jeff (as posted on 26 October, 2006)