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Saturday, 17 August 2019

A simple campaign system (Part 4): Initial play testing

I decided that the British Relief Force would comprise three separate formations:
  • The River Column (Four Infantry units, Artillery Unit, and a Machine Gun unit, all carried in steamboats) starting from Wadi Halfa and moving up the River Nile towards Khartoum.
  • The Desert Column (Three Cavalry units) starting from Wadi Halfa and crossing the desert towards Abu Hamed to meet up with the Suakin Column.
  • The Suakin Column (Three Infantry units and an Artillery unit) starting from Suakin, and crossing the desert towards Abu Hamed to meet up with the Desert Column.
Turn 1
The River Column threw a D6 die score of 5, which meant that it could move 6 grid areas (5 + 1) ... and landed on an Event grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 3, which meant that supply problems stopped it from moving for two turns.

The Desert Column threw a D6 die score of 3, which meant that it could move 4 grid areas (3 + 1) ... and also landed on an Event grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 5, which meant that it was aware that an enemy force was in an adjacent grid area. The Desert Column chose to withdraw one grid area to avoid fighting the enemy force. (I used a 50:50 chance to decide what to do in this instance ... and the dice favoured a withdrawal.)


The Suakin Column threw a D6 die score of 2, which meant that it could move 2 grid areas ... and also landed on an Event grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 6, which meant that it was ambushed by an enemy force. It chose to fight ... and for the purposes of this play test I adjudicated the result to be a draw, with both sides being exhausted.


(I must admit that I had not expected all three of the elements of the British Relief Force to trigger Events during the first turn of the campaign, but it certainly made it an interesting experience!)

Turn 2
The River Column stayed where it was, and the Desert Column resumed its advance. It threw a D6 die score of 4, which meant that it could move 5 grid areas (4 + 1) ... and yet again landed on an Event grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 2, which meant that supply problems stopped it from moving for a turn.


The Suakin Column did not move this turn in order to recover from the battle it had fought. (I used a 50:50 chance to decide what to do in this instance ... and the dice favoured a stop to recover.)

Turn 3
As both the River Column and Desert Column had supply problems and could not move, only the Suakin Column was able to make any progress. It threw a D6 die score of 4, which meant that it could move 4 grid areas ... which took it to the Location grid area where Abu Hamed was located. As a result, it had to stop in the adjacent grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 2, which meant that the Location was devoid of enemy forces and it could occupy Abu Hamed next turn.


Turn 4
All the British columns could move this turn.

The River Column threw a D6 die score of 1, which meant that it could move 2 grid areas (1 + 1).

The Desert Column threw a D6 die score of 6, which meant that it could move 7 grid areas (6 + 1) ... which took it to the Location grid area where Abu Hamed was located. As the Suakin Column had already discovered that the Location was empty of enemy forces and was about to enter the Location themselves, I decided that the Desert Column could advance into Abu Hamed but no further this turn.


The Suakin Column threw a D6 die score of 3, which meant that they could move 3 grid areas. It advanced into Abu Hamed, and linked up with the Desert Column.


Turn 5
The River Column threw a D6 die score of 4, which meant that it could move 5 grid areas (4 + 1) ... which took it to the grid area where the Third Cataract was located. It was not allowed to pass through the cataract, and it threw a second D6 and scored 3. This meant that it could not move for two turns whilst it negotiated its way through the cataract.


The combined Desert/Suakin Columns were ordered to advance towards Berber, which they were to secure prior to the arrival of the River Column. A garrison of one Infantry unit was left behind to secure Abu Hamed. The combined Desert/Suakin Columns threw a D6 die score of 4, which meant that it could move 4 grid areas (The presence of Infantry and Artillery slowed down the Cavalry) ... and landed on an Event grid area. It threw a second D6 and scored 6, which meant that supply problems stopped it from moving for three turns.


At this point in the play test I had to stop, but I felt that there were some interesting areas for further development that had arisen as a result of what had happened. As a solo player it certainly felt as if the system was running itself reasonably well. The movement rules worked as well as I had hoped, and although the Event Table needs some work on it, the concept seems fairly sound. I suspect that the Location Table will need to be tweaked a bit, but again the concept seemed to work reasonably well for this campaign.

It would have been nice to set up the battle that did take place and fight it through on the tabletop, but the absence of any terrain generation rules that fit in with this campaign system is something that I need to work on before the next play test.

As we used to say in the teaching profession, I'm 'working towards' achieving a simple, workable campaign system. As yet, I have some way to go ... but the situation looks positive and it feels as if a solution is within my grasp.

10 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,
    A most interesting report of your play testing. You've chosen the very familiar Sudan - Colonial events we can all relate to easily. Yes, Terrain Generation Rules would allow for you to set up and battle the Suakin Column against the Dervish- Mahadists...which would make for an interesting game -and upon the outcome of the battle would also influence what happens on the Map side of things during 'Turn 2'. Yes, great stuff Bob- looking forward to your further Developments in this regard. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      The next stage in the development of my campaign system will be to design a set of Terrain Generation rules. Hopefully I will be able to do that over the weekend.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Hark, is that the campaign engine revving up?

    The event table covers so much ground with so little work for the player - movement, supply, command brilliance or otherwise. The location table takes the place of hidden deployment for the wily opponent.

    The Sudan Relief Expedition strategic situation in many ways resembles a ladder campaign. I wonder how it might work in a more open environment?

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    1. William Stewart,

      I was fairly satisfied with the way the play test went, but you are right that it needs to be tested with a more open campaign. I hope yo do that, once I've developed my Terrain Generation rules.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Hi Bob,

    This is probably the dumbest question of the day, but does each box in effect represent a tabletop?

    Also, the system reminds me of an SPI boardgame from about 35 years ago on the invasion of Russia in 1812. Each area (not hex) had a supply capacity based on what it contained. The supplies would be exhausted (from foraging) after given number of turns, based on the amount of supplies that were available to begin with, how many troops moved into the area, and how long they stayed there. After that, supplies would have to come via transport from the army's main base(s).

    Obviously, the desert would not offer much of anything by way of forage, but the basic idea might work for campaigns in less desolate areas.

    Best regards always,

    Chris

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    1. Chris,

      The only dumb question is the one you think of but never ask! In fact, looking back, I have not made it at all clear that each box on the grid is intended to represent a PORTABLE WARGAME tabletop.

      I have never owned or played many SPI-type boardgames, so the rule you have outlined is new to me ... but with a minor bit of tweaking, it would certainly work with my current rules. It's something I will think about as the rules undergo further development.

      Thanks very much for the suggestion.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Hi Bob.
    I once started a similar system using the board game “Travelling around Europe” which uses city-city movement and has the added possibility of objective cards to “visit”.
    I did not get very far.
    But you have given me some good ideas for the future.

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    1. Whiskers,

      Your game sounds interesting, and I hope that my ideas help you to develop it further. It certainly sounds as if it would have commercial possibilities.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. I really like the concept of those Event squares!

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    1. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      I'm hoping that over time I can develop a set of generic and campaign specific events.

      All the best,

      Bob

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