Friday, November 23, 2012

A BattleLore campaign already out there

I have been working on a number of Vassal projects of late and I realized that the War of the Roses module extension for BattleLore that I had been working on 1 was itself a campaign. This campaign was presented on the BattleLore Call to Arms forum on Yahoo in the Files section, and had been created as a series of Vassal saved games (using an older, incompatible version of the BattleLore module).

The campaign itself is very much like the Memoir '44 campaign books. You run through a series of set-piece, pre-defined scenarios, which you can modify by committing a limited number of reserves. Who wins or loses a scenario determines which scenario is played next, and whether you will have additional resources available to you in your reserve.

In the War of the Roses campaign, entitled A Warwick! A Warwick!, it uses a concept similar to how (I remember) the old Avalon Hill Kingmaker board game worked. As you play battles your side gains "offices", such as the "Captain of Calais" or "Warden of the Northern Marches". Each of these offices are associated with a specialist card (from Call to Arms), that can be played once during the campaign. For example, the "Marshal of England" gets the "Mounted Knights" specialist card, while the "Treasurer of England" gets the "Forced Enrollment" specialist card. In addition, some scenarios have an affinity with certain offices, and trigger further special rules. For example, in "The Battle of Hedgeley Moor" the player with control of the "Warden of the Northern Marches" office gets an additional medium (Blue) infantry unit as a reserve.

This is the sort of thing I was thinking about for my own campaign. Put objectives on the map so that if you, say, control a specific castle, you control the office holder, which comes with a complement of troops. I like the idea of specialist cards, but simply specifying the troops works well too.

Where I think these types of campaigns don't work as well is that they don't really show as much continuity between battles as I would like. For example, getting the entire army wiped out in the first scenario usually does not have any greater affect on the scenario two than if you simply lost the battle by a single Victory Banner.


One of ways of determining battlefield terrain in Call to Arms (the "points" system addition for BattleLore) is to randomly select one of the maps provided with the expansions, but simply removing all of the troops and using the troop selection method indicated in Call to Arms. To that end I started working on a Vassal extension for the BattleLore module that contains all of the maps from the scenarios. I am about done with it, now that I have made the 69 saved games with all the maps defined.

The Heroes Expansion

One other element I have been considering adding to the campaign is the use of the Heroes expansion. To be honest, I have never played a single game with this expansion, despite having it for probably two years (and once having two copies of it – don't ask). The idea is that each side will have a number of hero characters to build up as the campaign progresses, and to inject them into the game narrative. For example, by a Hero ending the game in the Witch's Hut he (or she) gains an object, which has direct consequences to a battle fought in another location (e.g. you get additional troops, you find a secret passageway through the hills, you have an object a Hill Giant desires that will entice him to join you as an ally, etc.).

As this is a solo campaign, most of these elements would be to help the player side, but there may be a few cases where the player learns that the non-player side is sending a hero to a location, for unknown purposes, that should be stopped.

I can see using Mythic to develop these ideas into story lines for the campaign.

Epic Campaigns

I started wondering how many of these "epic campaigns" there might be out there; campaigns in which the focus is not on player characters, but on armies and where character interaction can have an impact. As usual I started by using Google and found a reference to the old Pendragon role-playing game. Now I had bought quite a bit of Pendragon once upon a time (and gave it all away too, when I had to do one of my games-shedding moves) and one thing I remember about it was that players essentially played generations of characters and that between each gaming adventure a year would pass. This is how the War of the Roses campaign works; as the actual campaign was spread over the course of decades, armies being renewed after each game essentially made a lot of sense.

That said, I wanted something a little more granular. But as I was reading through the new Pendragon offerings on Drive Thru RPG, I noticed that they had two new source books: the "Book of Battle" and the "Book of Armies". Book of Battle replaces the rules in Pendragon that allowed a player character to participate in larger battles (while determining abstractly the outcome of that battle). As the description for the rules indicate:
This book is about your small unit amidst the dust and blood as hundreds of knights as confused or brave or murderous as you confront their fate with weapon in hand. Battle resolution uses the existing King Arthur Pendragon rules system, allowing you to concentrate on the over two dozen tactical maneuvers at your disposal. The system allows your knight to be involved throughout the battle. And yes, you can turn the tide of battle, for better or worse!
As I looked through it, it was quite interesting, in and of itself, but it was not quite what I was looking for, but still might be of interest to some (which is why I mention it).

As for Book of Armies, its description said:
Here are the enemies for the never-ending scenario of battle. Included herein are all the Arthurian Armies, Period by Period, to use for every battle in the Great Pendragon Campaign! Also detailed are Round Table knights by Period, as well as exotic units (elephants!) and armies (faeries!). Also presented are six British Armies – natives from savage Saxons to tribal Cymri to wily Picts or Irish, and including bandits and even peasant armies – as well as Twelve Continental Armies, each with its own quirky and particular armies: condottieri, ribauds, ulfsarkers, Pecheneg horse archers and much, much more. In addition, great battles like Terrabil, Badon, the Roman War and Camlann receive special treatment.
This source book specifies the numerous armies you can fight while using the Book of Battle to fight those battles. Again, not quite what I was looking for, but the reference to "the Great Pendragon Campaign" turned out to be yet another source book. Its' description is much more promising:
Eighty years of campaign detailed year-by-year provide the background, on-going events and adventures that define structure of King Arthur’s glorious reign. The magic is in the details, and the details are in this book. Included in this book are:

* Year-by-year details from 485 to 566.
* Maps and descriptions of Logres, Cambria. Cornwall, Brittany, Cumbria, the North, Ireland and France
* Maps of the important cities of Britain, including Early and Late Camelot and London
* Over 100 Adventures
* Statistics for over 50 Faerie Creatures and Nonplayer Characters
* Expansions for the Pendragon rules

“I’ve been working on this book for over 20 years, since the first publication of King Arthur Pendragon. This is the culmination of forty years of research, pleasure and gaming. It’s a tremendous joy to bring my love of the legend all together here.” – Greg Stafford, designer of King Arthur Pendragon
This definitely sounds like the sort of linked campaign that I envisioned, incorporating some role-playing elements and armies fighting battles, so it definitely warrants more investigation. All that said, I can see it is a long-term project; The Great Pendragon Campaign is a massive 434 pages, with Book of Armies adding another 86 pages to the reading count. Nonetheless, I think it would make for an excellent source for a massive BattleLore campaign, providing the opportunity to convert Arthurian units and armies to this game system.

Just maybe …

1 Excuse: I stopped working on the extension largely because the module kept changing and it would sometimes cause me to update the scenarios I had already completed. By the time the module had stabilized, I had moved on to something else. One of the problems of being affected by the Ooh Shiny! complex.


  1. Interesting post about BattleLore and campaigns and all. I can relate to buying and shedding stuff like Pendragon (not to mention ending up with more than one copy of a game/add-on/supplement). So much gaming material I got rid of over the decades and moves, and so much I wish I had kept. I also had some of the Pendragon stuff at one time (and Kingmaker, which some gaming friends and I used to play quite often back in the day - along with a game called knights of Camelot, which was quite fun, and often took a turn for the Pythonesque. Although I don't think that was by design. ha ha)

  2. Very interesting. I had been considering how to convert AH's Kingmaker into a Rally Round the King campaign. But that is about all I've done on it. It will be interesting to see where your thoughts go on this project.

  3. I had the same thoughts Sean. I even had an unpunched copy of Kingmaker in my hands when I had that thought. (I ended up selling it on eBay for a pretty penny instead. Part of a large lot of board games I purchased from a fellow gamer here in Sierra Vista.) Converting Kingmaker to the tabletop and back sounds easier than it is, unfortunately.