Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's Spring, and a young mans fancy...

...turns to campaigning (well what did you think I was going to say??!) J

It must be the weather, but as I cycled into work the other day I was thinking that it had been far too long since I had last run a campaign (there goes that rush of oxygen again...). One off games are great fun, but campaigns are a great way of introducing the bigger picture, and they also have a habit of throwing up those lop sided games that provide such a mental challenge....

Last year I started the campaign in Charles Grant's "Programmed Wargames Scenario's" book ( highly recommended b.t.w, whether your a solo gamer or not - click on the link for details..), but somehow lost my way and never got round to finishing it. Rather than waste this effort then, I decided to pick it up where I left it, but when I looked at the campaign diary, and my assorted notes, I was struck with the idea that, really, I'd prefer to start it again, and rather than do it solo, I'd challenge DG.

Suffice to say, that after an interesting weekend tidying up the logistics, maps, rules etc. I banged off an email to him with the challenge. Now I don't know if it was DG being nice, but it happens that in his response he happened to mention that he'd just been thinking about a campaign that morning! Great minds....

Anyway, by way of an incentive, I thought I'd document the campaign here as a way of tempting you to start your own campaigns, and who knows, perhaps giving some idea's that people haven't thought of before??

So where did I start...??

  1. Step one is the map; with me it's always the map, as without an interesting map I can't summon the enthusiasm to launch my miniature forces across it. In this case I used the map from the book (hereafter referred to as the 'master map'), which I simply scanned into the PC and coloured (no reason to do this, but the original is just black and white, and I think it looks better now)....

    The map is shown above and to the left (clicking on it, or any of the other pictures, gives you a bigger image by the way), and as you can see it was already gridded, ten rows by eight.

    In the book Charles gives the size of these squares as being five "table" feet across, and if you were to solely use the map "as is" (ie. putting it on a pin board and using pins to mark units and movement)then a quick calculation from your favourite rules would allow you to figure out how far your miniature forces can march on a hourly/daily basis...

  2. Next, I usually then work up the reason for the campaign, troop numbers, period, etc but in this case most of this was provided and I only needed to decide on "period".

    In this case, because of the numbers of troops required, it's going to be set in the American War of Independence; I wanted to make it Marlburian, but don't quite have the numbers required yet.

    NB. The book has a huge amount of detail, that allows you to play the campaign solo, with programmed responses depending on situation - I have no intent of duplicating that here, and in fact will give as little information from the setup as I can get away with by way of an incentive to go out and buy the book... J

  3. As I'm playing against DG (who lives in deepest darkest Wales) then email is going to play a part, so I knew I would be using Berthier to manage the campaign.

    There are a number of other applications you could use, but Berthier for me has some distinct advantages - most importantly all movement is hidden until sightings are made, it has scouting rules, the ability to use couriers, ability to use email to send move files, etc etc. Some of these I'll cover later..

    I loaded the master map image into a little application that comes with Berthier (which you can get by clicking here) called GridMap. GridMap allows you to open any map graphic (bitmap format), superimpose a grid of any size you want, and then define each of the squares in the grid with a terrain type. What it means in this instance was that I didn't have to stick with the bigger grid, but could go to a much smaller one to allow greater control of movement/time... this resulted in a Berthier map that looked like the following:

    Once you finished that, GridMap then allows you to save the file as Berthier Campaign file.

  4. Now it starts to get (even more) interesting - opening up Berthier, and loading the campaign you just created, you can then edit your campaign to set up the final pieces of information that Berthier needs; there is also the option to add in some fog of war... (NB. Berthier comes with a very handy instruction manual which shows you step by step how to do the following, and what each of the variables does.... far more informative than my updates following!)

    First, I set up the movement as I'd already done a little of this above, so it was a quick and easy... a quick calculation gave me the ratio of Berthier squares to master map squares, which then allowed me to work out how far my miniature forces could march across the Berthier map in any period of time. Once I had that I then took the basic move, and modified it for the terrain types that I had present on the map. Again, this is fairly straight forward, and basically I just used the modifiers from the wargames rules (click here) I use, which happily are expressed as a percentage. You can then enter these in the "terrain effects" table, see mine following - these are hourly rates:

    You'll also note that supply is "off" (more on that in a minute) and that I defined five troop types (Line Infantry/Light Infantry/Cavalry and two types of Artillery); you can define up to eight but these were the only types that are present in my campaign so that was all I set up.

    Finally - at the bottom of the screen you can see I've set a courier rate for messages. DG and I use an honour system - only those units in the exact same geographical location as the C-in-C can act as desired - all other units have pre-defined orders, so couriers are required if you want to change them. Berthier handles all that for you, you send the message, and at the proscribed point in time that it decides the courier has reached you, you get the message - very neat!

Stay with me - in the next post I'll be going into a little more detail on "fog of war" etc. and finishing off the campaign set-up


  1. sounds good so far; am looking forward to reading all the juicy details.

  2. I agree, it sounds very good... I am considering a similar approach for my Leipzig campaign
    Thanks for sharing

  3. Sounds excellent. I was working on my own Berthier map for this very campaign, but yours is far better?

    Any chance I can pinch your Berthier files?

    Ed v. H-F

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Cheers guys, and Ed, no problem - I'll give some links in the next post to the basic files... :o)

  6. Steve,

    Actually I've been thinking of the campaign in the other Grant Scenario book . . . but this is a cool looking map as well.

    As for Berthier, does it run under Linux?

    -- Jeff

  7. Hi Jeff - Berthier is a DOS program so the answer is "no, not in native mode", but I understand that you can use a program called a DOSEMU which gives a DOS emulator to run programs in under Linux....

  8. Beff - Berthier should under Linux using DOSBOX. See http://members.tripod.com/delyall/berthier/dosbox.html

  9. Jeff - Berthier should run under Linux using DOSBOX. See http://members.tripod.com/delyall/berthier/dosbox.html