As the fog of war clears and the fighting fades away, the campaign in Romania ends with the Axis and the Allies grinding each other to a draw. The Soviet team suffered an initial series of setbacks in Grupul de Nord, Grupul Central but were able to decisively defeat the Axis in Grupul de Sud. The big boost to the defending Axis was winning drawn areas. Not a fair rule, but it represented the need for the attacking force to punch trough quickly and avoid being tied down. It ain’t much of a victory otherwise.
The historical restrictions on force selection allowed for interesting army compositions. The fighting around Targu Frumos in 1944 saw the first use of the IS-2 and their dreaded impact of the IS-2 was keenly felt by the German players. The Soviet heavy tankers won all battles but one. The Axis brought heavy tanks of their own. I got to fight both Tigers and Panthers with my Strelkovy and their armor is tough to face without easy access to the 1945 arsenal. Tigers were especially bothersome as only specialist infantry can take them down.
About 16 games were played over 5 sundays but considering 6 people signed up in the first week, that isn’t bad. Almost no whining from the players (remember that almost), so I am satisfied how it turned out. Even if it involved map making. The players enjoyed the pace of the escalation in the campaign, except for the first weeks of 750 point games. These were not fun as tanks could quickly dominate the game with impunity. What we missed was some kind of campaign finale, a collective ritual mourning of its passing so to speak. Hopefully this will be amended by a themed tournament I will be running later.
One thing that stood was how important momentum is in wargaming. As the crowd’s enthusiasm rises, it pays off to look for ways to draw upon it and convert it into something useful. This needs be looked at before the action starts. How much hobby time can the players get out of each round? A good feature of the ruleset is the lack of limited games during each round. And for the team to win an area, every game was is important. This lets hyped up players fight 3-4 battles during a day. As people would stay longer and fight during club meetings, beginners could come in and be shown the ropes. Some people came just to watch the battles.
I tend to focus on drawing people beyond the local scene by for example having one day only-events, but this has been hard without having a strong reliable gaming brand. Gamers are a conservative bunch and they tend to avoid travelling if they can. It is better to plan the campaign for the army of players you have, instead of the army you want.
Keeping things simple and in one place
I tried a few channels to draw in players but it resulted in fragmented information and increased work load. While reaching out to potential FoW nerds is important, the essential information should be in one easy to find place. I intended for people to use the 15mm.se forum for reporting but almost nobody bothered.
Next time I will try handling everything from the blog and just pass links out in different places. As for keeping things simple, I wrote some brilliant extra rules trying to link games together but my genius writing was unappreciated. Probably because I failed to present them in a clear and accessible way. The extra Battle Skill rules were stashed on an uploaded document that had severe privacy settings. Putting those directly on the dedicated campaign page, ditching all the historical background, could solve the accessibility issue for next time. Or making sure printed copies are found at the club.
The map was a surprisingly helpful tool for explaining scoring and victory conditions. The campaign didn’t require people bringing a ton of extra shit to each game, an annoying flaw found in the Firestorm campaigns put out by Battlefront. So to conclude today’s sermon:
1. The campaign rules should be simple to find and understand. If there is a lot of them, consider using other modes of explanation besides walls of text. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, save yourself work by modifying an existing campaign system.
2. Make sure to eliminate bottlenecks so enthusiastic players can get a lot hobby time done during the campaign.
3. Pacing it is important as well as having a clear finish and an end. There should be some kind of finale to mark the campaign conclusion.
A short campaign AAR Soviet Guards Strelkovy (attacker) vs Panzergrenadiers (defender) – 1350 points – Pincer
A sweet victory for the red team. The army above was fun to play (fun for a Soviet Flames of War army). The hardest working proletarians were the ZiS-2s, they made an impact in every engagement. I also tried out the wretched SU-85, with its flimsy armor of 5 and no machineguns. Sending them against Tigers and Panthers was pointless so they spent most games hidden or shooting at infantry. I once tasked them with a real target: a pair of outflanked PaK40s. A fatal mistake as the guns rolled up and cut them to ribbons in 2 turns. Lame.