Sometime last year, I raised the idea of setting up a regular ‘league’ at my FLGS here in Hong Kong. There are many regular gamers here, representing the whole spectrum of power levels from the WAACineers to the Fluff Bunnies, and everywhere in between. To my surprise, there was no interest in a plain old league. Absolutely none. The main reason for this was that leagues were a bit boring. What people really wanted was a ‘Campaign League’ – something with a bit of narrative that they could sink their teeth into.
Narrative campaigns and regular leagues are notoriously hard to mix. In a lot of ways they are like trying to mix oil and water – you can try as hard as you want to meld them into a cohesive mass, but as soon as the initial energy is lost they will separate out into their distinct parts. Most of the time, it is the mismatch between trying to write a flexible ‘fluff’ that accommodates all the factions in a ‘believable’ manner, while trying to keep the games at a ‘reasonably’ competitive level without going over the top (i.e. protecting the delicate Fluff Bunnies form the circling WAACineers). It also needs to try to avoid the classic negative feedback loop, where winners keep winning as they generate more bonuses from the campaign system, while losers are put in increasingly harder positions until they get fed up and leave the campaign.
As if that wasn’t hard enough, they also wanted to make it team play, with two players per Alliance. And it had to be flexible enough to allow players to miss games if they couldn’t make it one week. And of course, it had to be fun.
Well, I have always enjoyed a challenge, and this is what I came up with.
The full Campaign Booklet can be downloaded from my blog here.
‘The Hemera cluster is a cauldron of suffering and strife. Its planets are constantly wreathed in smoke and ash, its space lanes filled with the wreckage of a thousand wars, its world’s abject pits of misery and anguish. The poor, beleaguered citizens cling onto life in a perpetual state of conflict and upheaval. The region lies along the north eastern limits of Imperial space, straddling the ever shifting borders of the Ultima Sector and the Ghoul stars. It is an interstellar cross roads or rival empires, all fighting for dominance.
But it seems the Chaos gods are not without their dark, incomprehensible humour. A ferocious warp storm has broken over the region, trapping its belligerent occupants behind its impenetrable barrier. With no warning, the rival forces – as well as the hapless citizens that all this system home – have been cut off from the support of their empires.
The frantic scramble for what meager resources exist in the system has begun, with each faction vying for supremacy in a battle that has now become about survival. While some factions fight bitterly for sole ascendancy, uneasy alliances between former adversaries have been hastily cobbled together in an effort to tip the balance in their favour. The poor suffering citizens of these region’s hellish worlds may have though further strife was not possible, but the escalation has only just begun…
This was truly the beginning of Hemera’s End.’
The campaign is made up for four alliances doing Battle. These alliances are made up of two player, or ‘partners’. Every two weeks, alliances will play each other according to the round system.
The rounds are pre-determined to ensure everyone battles everyone an equal number of times (i.e. like a league) and will also ensure that attacks are fairly spread among each alliance so that no single alliance gets ‘ganged up on’ by the others.
Alliances can decide to either fight the two battles separately or a single battle together (to give flexibility to what can be organized by participants). If one member of the alliance cannot make it for some reason, his partner can fight his battle for him. If neither partner can make it, a forfeit may be taken (automatic loss).
Points levels for battles are determined from the number of territories your alliance controls, as well as a partner’s position in the League (See the full booklet for more details). FOC slots available to your alliance (as well as formations, special detachments and other items) are determined by the territories your alliance controls and the bonuses those territories give you.
For each battle, a random mission is drawn from the custom set created for this campaign (See the full booklet for more details of the missions)
The result of a battle has two main effects. On the Campaign Map, when an alliance ‘wins’ a round, they may select an adjoining territory from the losing alliance and take control of it, gaining any associated bonuses. If the round is a draw, no action is taken. If an alliance loses the round, they transfer a territory selected by their victorious opponents and lose any associated bonuses.
In the league, a partner is awarded two points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss, with the league positions being updated after every round.
For the purposes of showing how the schedule works, we will use alliances A, B, C & D. You are encouraged to come up with something a bit more exciting for your alliance name!
The game schedule is based around a two week period. During this time you can organize for your alliance to play your drawn opposition in either a single 2 vs 2 battle or two separate 1 vs 1 battles. If one member of the alliance cannot make any games in the two week period, the available partner can either organized a single 1 vs 2 battle, or fight two single 1 vs 1 battles (effectively standing in for his partner). There is no stipulation as to which partner plays which partner – this is solely based on who’s availability to play matches who.
Alliances A vs Alliances B
Alliances C vs Alliances D
Alliances B vs Alliances D
Alliances C vs Alliances A
Alliances C vs Alliances B
Alliances A vs Alliances D
Once Round C has been played, the schedule restarts at Round A. This cycle continues until the campaign is won (when one player has subjugated all others)
The campaign map determines the makeup of armies fielded by an alliance. A Hi-Res version of the below map can be downloaded at my blog here.
The Hemera Cluster is made up of four regions, and each region is made up of four systems. Systems are then made up of various numbers of tiles, Each of which offer various bonuses, as described in the Key of the campaign map. As alliances expand or decline, so do the number of tiles you control, and any associated bonuses.
When a round has been concluded, the league standing are adjusted. A partner is awarded two points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss. Bonuses from the league positon are awarded and can be used in the next mission. This league is a reverse bonus system, in that players at the bottom get the biggest bonus. This is to help balance the overall campaign and give those players who might be losing on the campaign map a better chance of staying in the fight.
There is no elimination of alliances, only subjugation. Capital tiles may not be attacked until all other tiles belonging to that Alliance have been conquered. When a capital tile is attacked, the defender receives two fortification slots. Furthermore, fortifications purchased for these slots are free. If the defender loses the battle for the capital tile, the capital is subjugated. No bonus is received by the conquering Alliance for this tile. The defending alliance will once more attempt to end the subjugation in the following round. If the alliance that is subjugated wins the round, they can pick an adjacent enemy tile to take control of in the normal manner.
As the campaign goes on, some of your units may start to become more noteworthy for their consistent battlefield prowess. When a unit performs well by scoring mission VPs, you can choose to record it. Note, you can take note of as many or as few of your units as you like (e.g. you might not care about those gretchin or those nurglings – or maybe you do!).
Victory Points not only decide mission success – they represent how much experience a unit has acquired. When a squad gains enough VPs, they can spend it on any of the skills below which have a VP cost. When you write down a new skill for your unit, reduce the number of VPs they have stockpiled on your unit roster. A full List of available skills is contained within the campaign book.
Casualties of War
If a veteran unit is destroyed during a battle, it still gains experience but must roll on the following table:
6 – Rise from the Ashes: The unit was knocked out or otherwise left for dead, but has miraculously regrouped with little permanent damage. The unit suffers no adverse effects.
4-5 – Severely Depleted: The unit has not been completely destroyed but is in severe need of reinforcements, medical attention or replacement crew. With the loss of these veterans, the unit has also lost some of those hard earned skills gained through battle. Lose all but one skill associated with the unit.
1-3 A Hero’s Death: The unit is utterly destroyed, remove it from your roster.
So there we have it! Sorry it is a bit of a dense document, but naturally it is quite complex as it needs to meet all the criteria set out by the FLGS players! If any of you are looking for a ready made campaign league to run at your FLGS, please feel free to go ahead and download the booklet and map and give it a go – just make sure to come back and let me know how it went, and whether there are any suggested improvements to be made.
It also certainly doesn’t have to be as complex as this one is, so if you feel like cherry picking the bits you like (maybe just the campaign an not the league, or individuals rather than teams, or even teams of more than three in each, etc.) I think you will find the format very adaptable to being customized.