Sunday, October 30, 2016

Medieval Campaign ideas - developing

My recent review of Chainmail, and subsequent organizing of a solo game of Medievals (involving some re-basing and prepping of miniatures) got me thinking again about campaign as the narrative for wargames.  Providing context and texture - why we fight, where we fight, and the bigger goals/aims of the battle other than just attrition.

Which of course had me return back to one of the things I think wargame campaigns are very interesting at - that is, providing a game mechanic for determining the composition of armies, especially in a way that is a little bit out of control of the player.  In a lot of set-piece meeting engagement games, the player will bring whichever version of his army suits him - either by spending points, or just by picking units from his collection.

In a campaign, of course, there might be constraints or circumstances that limit this decision.  One of the things in a medieval setting that would limit the troops available would be the fief system, where each noble in the heirarchy would have others who owed him a feudal obligation (of land and soldiery), and he in turn owed such an obligation to his lord.  So by determining the size and status of the fief that a noble controls, one can estimate the size and nature of the army.

Years ago, Ben King used to host a great medieval game called Feudal.  It allowed for a number of provinces in a realm to be divided up among the players.  These would then each provide some troops (knights, men-at-arms, archers, etc) depending on the type of province.  I am going to borrow some of that concept here.

Similarly, when Warhammer Ancient Battles was first published, the book had rules in it for a mapless campaign.  There, each province type would allow you to purchase different types of troops that your army might or might not have access to, but the provinces were determined randomly.  Again, these are useful ideas for what I am trying here.

The point of the exercise is to provide a basis for a medieval army.  There should be a reliable core of the army that feels distinctly medieval - maybe some knights?  Maybe some men-at-arms?  Other than that, there should be a total of, more or less, 12 units per army (just my own personal preference).  In this highly ordered idea of an generic army, I am going for a mixture of typical medieval units (both English and Continental), and not particularly the sorts of historical archetypes that arose where an army had (largely) one or two types of troops (such as early Swiss armies that were almost all halberdiers, or an Imperial force that was almost all mounted knights).  That could happen in this system, randomly, but it would be rare.

Terminology is important, for setting the tone and feel of a game.  So, rather than going with provinces, I am going to use the term Lands.  A Lord (the name for the ruler that a Player is representing) would control a Demesne of around a dozen Lands.  But lets make it random.

Dice (2d6)Lands in

Here we have a method for a Lord to have a number of Lands in his Demesne.  One of these would represent his Manor, where his castle is.  The others would be of a random type.  Each would provide two things for the Lord of the Manor - feudal troops, and money.  Here is a list of some example ideas...

Free Land - no troops provided, but the tenant peasants pay rent - $$
Port - access to foreign troops? (pike, crossbow) - $
Vineyard -infantry, money - $
Town - urban type troops (halberd, sword-and-buckler) - $
Farm - infantry, sergeants (armored cavalry, but not knights)
Forest - archers, hobilars
Pasture - light horse, slingers, money (from wool) - $
Highlands - light infantry, light horse
Orchards - men at arms (an effective manor, attracts followers) - $
Fish Ponds - sergeants (a wealthy manor, can afford to support stables) - $
Church - knights (order?)

This idea is still developing, but I am envisioning a table, maybe 3-18, with entries for the different types of lands listed above.  Each type would have a random set of troops that it would provide, and a random amount of money value.

Money would be used for either upgrading troops, or hiring mercenaries.

Commonality of Land types would be something like this...

Most Common
Free Land


Least Common
Fish Ponds

The idea is still brewing, but it has some merit, I think.


Ed M said...

Were the Ben King "Feudal" rules published anywhere?

By the way, have you ever seen Ben King's "Fusil and Fortress" rules? I don't know if you could ever play them, but what a magnum opus!


Charles Turnitsa said...

Ed - I don't know that they were ever published. His old wargaming club (the Chesapeake Military Society) would have monthly game meetings, and I played Feudal there, usually with a copy of the rules printed on an old dot matrix printer.

I don't know that I ever participated in Fusil and Fortress, as a whole game (with the Vauban siege, as portrayed in the rules), but I played in plenty of games using his TAC-50 rules (and the 18th century variant - Mitre, Moustache, and Musket - what a great set of rules).

DHBoggs said...

Charles are you aware of Adventurer Conqueror King and the Domains of War supplement? Might save you a bit of work.

Charles Turnitsa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Turnitsa said...

DH Boggs - Thanks for your suggestion!

I am aware they exist (but don't own them), and since I am such a junkie for reading Campaign Systems (and writing my own) I will definitely look them up. I wrote these when I was doing a lot of solo wargaming activities (and because I like tinkering with, and writing rules). They are heavily influenced by the systems mentioned, but I might find more inspiration in other sources (such as the two you mentioned).