Thursday, 31 October 2013

I'm not a geek, I'm a level 9 warlord!

Morning all, (well it is here).

I thought today I would talk about the idea of the campaign and stories behind characters in our wargames - by which I mean adding depth to the games themselves by making us care more about what happens to the models 'on the table'.

Some of you may know, I like to give names to my miniatures as I like the idea of them being something more than just 'bolter marine in tactical squad'. I also like the idea that that particular model has a story behind it, a marine for example will have come through a multitude of hardships and rigours just to earn the right to wear the armour, and that's not something we think about too much, because it doesn't affect the game at all. Or does it? Personally I think that story is an important part of the hobby, and ultimately in a marines case, it's part of what makes them so tough, so does have a tabletop influence in that its the justification for their higher BS, WS etc. 

Which brings me neatly on to the idea of the campaign, in terms of linking battles together, and having one game influence another in some way. Now 40k doesn't provide us with a formal method for doing this, which I personally think is a shame as it wouldn't take much to introduce a campaign system as a supplement to the core rules particularly when we see so much effort given over to creating a narrative in the rulebook and white dwarf. And yes, I’m aware of the crusade of fire, but I’m talking about more general campaign rules.


Where GW did get it right however (in my humble opinion) is in their specialist games, which they sadly don’t seem to support any more. My particular experience lies with necromunda and bloodbowl, and that probably explains the number of posts I’ve written recently relating to those games. The enduring pull of these games however for me, is that you’re playing a game that has a distinct winner or loser just as in 40k (well, technically you can draw in bloodbowl…) but the game itself goes beyond that result through their inbuilt campaign (league) systems. Bloodbowl leagues enable your players to gain star player points as they complete touchdowns, inflict casualties etc, and necromunda gangers gain experience for surviving and inflicting hurt on their opponents. Both of these methods of gaining experience lead to your models gaining stat increases or skills, meaning that as you go through games, they start to improve and become better at doing what it is they’re there for. It’s a very similar mechanic to computer games, each action increases your abilities and that makes you better enabling you to take on more deadly opponents. The bottom line with me therefore is that playing the game ceases to be entirely about winning and losing, but also about how your team/gang improves to make them better for the next game. Of course, there’s the possibility that some of your models will actually die from wounds inflicted during the games, and that just adds to the fun, after all, if there was no possibility of getting worse, getting better would be less of an achievement. The other important factor in this, is that the result is less important overall, as even if you lose, your team or gang can still improve (though it’s harder than if they won!).


On occasions I’ve used this to a certain extent in my games of 40k, particularly with my Dark Eldar – raiders of the 40k universe their whole reason for going to war is usually to capture slaves, but there’s nothing to represent that in the 40k rules. What I have been known to do therefore is to use the serious injury chart in Necromunda to work out how many of the ‘dead’ from the tabletop end up in the arenas of Commorragh. It has no real effect of course, but I do enjoy writing background every now and again, and to have actual casualties represented in those stories gives them more flavour to my mind.


So there you go, how many of you have regular gaming nights in 40k and never consider the consequences of what happens to those armies you’re using beyond them being ‘dead’ on the tabletop. Why not think up some method for determining if those models are truly dead or just incapacitated (that grenade didn’t actually kill those guardsmen, it just knocked them senseless, or injured them to the extent that they couldn’t fight on) and incorporate it into a campaign, fighting further battles only using the genuine survivors?


Till next time, remember, if you were to break Chuck Norris open, inside you’d just find a smaller, angrier Chuck Norris!