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On Campaign

About Wargame campaigns

 

Games Workshop recently released a boxed set called Urban Conquest. The box, which comes with rules materials, some really nifty terrain and a bunch of objectives, retails for a cool $100. The purpose of the set? To allow players to conduct interesting and characterful linked sessions (campaigns) of urban combat.

I love this set. And I hate this set.

I love it because, honestly, it’s the kind of game I’ve always wanted to run. On a wargaming level, I’m constantly attracted to the Stalingrad aesthetic of battlefields: Bombed-out and ruined buildings, debris and dust strewn willy-nilly, street-to-street fighting. I love the idea of two armies battling over a city in turmoil (this is one of the reasons that I’m also terribly fascinated by GW’s much-loved and long-lamented Mordheim [But mark my words, Dear Readers, I prophesy that in 2019, Mordheim will return!]) and of the players keeping track of the neighborhoods, boroughs and wards that they’ve succeeded in capturing.

(Actually, the more I write this piece, the more I want to buy the set. Argh.)

And I hate this set because campaigns are so deuce difficult to get going, to run and to keep going, no matter what game you play.

Strangely enough, campaigns are increasingly important parts of a lot of games these days. More and more games, whether they be board games, RPGs (where campaigns are an essential element), or wargames, the ability to run campaigns is used as a means to attract players. The “Legacy” versions of a lot of board games (from Risk to Pandemic and so on) are all campaign-based, for instance. And look at most any wargaming rulebook: likely the last third of the book will be devoted to how you, too, can run a campaign, how to advance minis, upgrade their weapons and armor, and so on and so forth. Campaign play is nothing new for GW – for instance, with Necromunda and Kill Team, while its perfectly possible to play standalone sessions, the “full game” assumes that you’ll be playing campaign rules that feature strong narrative and character components.

And of course there’s nothing at all wrong with this. Campaigns are theoretically very fun, they involve a lot of creativity and storytelling (which is always a blast), and they can result in a lot of satisfying gameplay and memorable moments.

The question for me, however, is this: Who is playing all of these campaigns??? Heck, ARE people playing these campaigns, or are they simply buying the books and the boxed sets with a hope in their heart (as I have in the past) that they’ll actually get to play it? I mean, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that at all. Every gamer I know is a cockeyed optimist, buying minis and games and books with the express desire that one day they’ll use them and have a blast with them.

The problem, of course, is that scourge of the gamer, Adulthood. Hobby time comes at a premium once you’re a grown up and, if you’re like me and have young kids, its pretty difficult to find the dedicated time – let alone the energy, and even the players – to conduct games on a regular basis. Add to this the fact that, many times, something just plain comes up and requires a gaming session to be cancelled. Or schedules clash. Campaigns are hard to conduct, flat-out because, unfortunately, the same people who have the money to afford the games also lack the actual time needed to play them. It’s a Catch-22 worthy of Joseph Heller.

And yet, something within me keeps me wanting to try. And I keep looking at this Urban Conquest set online, and thinking how cool it would be to run it sometime. Maybe with my kids when they get older.

Hmm… Let me read that product description again…

About the Author;

Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube

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