Home Forums General General Campaign map movement: free vs PtP

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    Avatar photoDarkest Star Games

    Had a bit of a discussion lastnight over Discord with some buds regarding campaign movement, using the basic premise of the campaign map as a scenario generator for tabletop games and less of a game itself.  I found it interesting how quickly everyone got “down in the weeds” of campaign management and minute details like supply lines, zones of control, force influence on area controlled, etc when no specific rules system or even time period/genre was being discussed.  Eventually it seemed that everyone sorted into only 2 camps: those that thought free movement of units across a hex map was the best way, and those that thought movement from point-to-point the best way.  Other systems were proposed, such as short ladder types, random tables for scenario and force, zone/area mélange, and a couple of others.

    Arguments for hex map free movement were: one could distribute forces to cover various areas/locales/important places under ZOC of one or more “stacks”, allows for flanking/infiltrating movements and exploitation of non/under covered areas, and some people felt it was easier to imply threats to areas while still keeping options open, as well as hexes being easier for reinforcing movements or realignments.

    Arguments for PtP were: easier to see what units would come into direct contact, supply line more easily traced, front lines more easily defined, lynchpin locations/choke points/points of importance easier to create, limited movement options create more friction, PtP creates more combats.

    I found the discussion of the importance of using supply and maintenance units for the campaign very interesting (I guess maybe it’s the “good generals worry about the fight, great generals worry about the logisitics” thing).  The main points everyone seemed to agree on was that when a battle was to occur, whether it was a big slugfest or some scout units bumping into each other it was important to be able to determine what units would be available for each side and for there to be some sort of variability due to circumstances surrounding the encounter.   So, you may have a tank platoon and an infantry company about to combat an opposing force but if your force was out of supply then there would be a good chance that not all of the tanks and troops would be available to fight.  Makes perfect sense.

    It also seemed that units on the “map” needed to have specific “missions” for a turn, such as “patrol”, “raid” or “attack” to help generate a match should they encounter an enemy unit, with the ZOC of said units to vary due to the mission they were under.  Thus, you could even forgo some encounters, such as 2 opposing units under “scout” orders declining to engage but not be able to forgo a “raid vs defense” encounter.  This works well on hex maps, but can be much more difficult on PtP maps, unless there are a great deal of points with multiple movement lines.


    What are y’alls thoughts?  Prefer free map movement or PtP or other?

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    Avatar photoMr. Average

    It depends a lot on what the focus of the campaign is. I agree that it’s super easy to end up on slippery rocks where complex campaign maps are concerned: the focus becomes wars of siege, maneuver and high level placement and the individual battles begin to lose importance, and can even feel tedious when you’re trying to plan a grand strategy. This is how I often feel about the Total War series of computer games – managing your kingdom quickly becomes far more interesting than personally leading every individual regiment in your army, and dragging you along some campaign of required missions feels like more of a chore to me.

    I’m warming up to the hybrid model – moving region to region and determining scenarios based largely on force comparisons. I do like the hex map idea but in a more limited form, more like the Mighty Empires or “Hexton” map scale, where the hex is the region and the map isn’t so extensive that you’re maneuvering these huge multipart forces along a gigantic front. That seems to me the best of both worlds. But if the goal is generating scenarios for a tabletop game, keep the campaign system in its place and don’t let it overwhelm the tabletop battle. Or perhaps, break into teams, let one person run the civilian government (campaign level) and the other one run the military (tabletop level)?

    Avatar photoMike

    But if the goal is generating scenarios for a tabletop game, keep the campaign system in its place and don’t let it overwhelm the tabletop battle

    That is what we are using Mighty Empires for, more a way to see what forces are where and to keep control of our money.
    The more money the more supplies, the more supplies the bigger the army which means you can capture more land and get more money you can get.

    A fair bit of the other rules we are just ignoring.

    Avatar photoMr. Average

    Yup. The campaign lets you do cool stuff like accumulate gold (sweet sweet gold!) and recruit neato heroes etc, but the more it’s at the service of the tabletop game, the more the battles will be what you focus on.

    Avatar photoThomaston

    I used to really like hex maps for the reasons you mentioned. Thesedays I’m with Mr Average on the hybrid area/zone method. The thing with threats from the hex methods could be simulated by rules, like scouts winning a fight in one zone could move deeper into enemy territory and have a chance of encountering supply lines. Rules could get over complicated fast though, and like Total War games it can get a lot more interesting moving units around strategically than the hassle of fighting a battle.

    Tired is enough.

    Avatar photoMr. Average

    On the upside there are also plenty of random world generators out there that give you nice regional maps to play on, to quickly do the work for you, and to avoid any kind of unconscious tendency you may have to give one or the other side an edge – both sides just play the hand they’re dealt.

    Avatar photoMr. Average

    To wit: generated this one in about ten seconds, and it has regions all worked out. Switch the names around and you’re ready to go. For historical maps it would be even easier as provinces and such are well demarcated pretty much worldwide.

    Avatar photoRuarigh

    Interesting comments here. I’ve played WW1 and WW2 hex campaigns before and thoroughly enjoyed them. As an umpire, though, I found it occasionally problematic determining where the games table should be. I did love the freedom of manoeuvre though, and the opportunity for small forces to nip through gaps and hit the supply chain. This is not something I have seen in the PtP campaigns I have done. They make determining what is on table easier but at some loss in granularity. PtP maps also allow you to highlight the important features that might have been fought over historically rather than having the troops wandering all over the place, and may reflect the realities of a particular campaign better than a hex map would. These days, despite the loss of granularity, I think I prefer PtP games for the simplicity of organising the tabletop game, but I would not refuse to play a hex campaign.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.


    Avatar photoEtranger

    PTP probably works better for logistics, strategic movement and the like, since it easily defines supply lines, depots, railheads and similar assets. Historically it also resembles 17th-18th century European warfare (& 20th century ‘world wars’) where armies really did manoeuvre like that. One downside though is that it can limit the unexpected move eg the 1940 French campaign where the Germans basically just flooded west along all access roads, largely bypassing the traditional low country checkpoints.

    Our recent WWII campaigns use a hybrid. The most recent, set ‘somewhere in the East Indies’; used a combination of hexes for movements, patrol activity and deployment, with PTP for larger manoeuvres eg “Task Force Deadwood to proceed St Georges Bay – Fort Oranje – Nieuport Ouest’ at 20 knots’. Each named location being a hex, with a known distance/travel time between each.

    As with most things it ends up being a trade off between time constraints, simplicity, bookkeeping and effort required.

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    I agree with that the campaign mechanics should not be complex. Either they become a game on their own, or interest will soon fizzle out, especially if the campaign is run “on-the-side” through email etc.

    In my experience, campaigns with a lot of mechanics such as supplies, reinforcements, economy, etc etc don’t last very long, because many of the mechanics are actually rather boring. It’s like managing an excel sheet.

    The best campaigns I’ve participated in have no framework at all and were all run in a freeform/kriegsspiel/matrix game style. Every side states their intentions every campaign turn, the umpire decides and reports back to the players. This requires an umpire though, but is a much more satisfying manner of playing a campaign compared to having actual campaign rules. It also provides a much better framework for hidden movement, storied events, keeping an overall balance etc.

    Avatar photohammurabi70

    It would really depend on how it locks into the other campaign mechanics.  What is the purpose of having a map? As the objective is to get troops on the table I always use PtP designed to produce two equally sized forces in action.  Given that player and umpire fatigue will soon wear away enthusiasm, designs are not complicated.

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    Avatar photoMike Headden

    Last campaign I ran had no map at all.

    Set in Early Bronze Age Mesopotamia, using 6mm figures but with many rather strange proxies (Napoleonic limbered horse artillery as Battle Carts springs to mind).

    Each player had a hand of cards. One was the capital city or tribal centre and generated the bulk of the available troops. Others were things like ports, trade centres, forts, etc. which provided access to allied units or other benefits.

    Players bid one of their non-capital cards and the winner kept them. In case of a draw each retrieved their card.

    Battles were fought by taking the capital cards and shuffling them then drawing pairs who fought a DBA game.

    Six of us in the campaign, just enough room on my dining table for three 600mm square battlefields.

    Winner scored 1 point per enemy unit destroyed, others half a point and enemy generals killed scored 2 points win or lose.

    Players who felt their position was hopeless could dump any remaining region cards, lose half their points and make their hand back up to 5.

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photowarwell

    I played a solo campaign using the rules for Diplomacy mixed with miniatures, using a map of my own devising. I decided on the orders for one of the factions then randomly determined the moves for the enemies. In any encounter, the main army would provide for 12 units and any supporting armies would provide an additional 6 each.

    The system generated a nice mix of different scenarios. Two armies moving into an empty territory would result in a meeting engagement. If an army moved into another army’s territory, then the static army would have a chance to prepare defenses. There would also be cases where one army was outnumbered.

    What made the system manageable was that I did not play out every encounter. Each turn, I would select the most interesting battle and play it out. I used the Diplomacy rules to adjudicate the other encounters.

    The rules of Diplomacy are quite simple so campaign management did not overwhelm my primary goal of generating interesting scenarios for miniature battles.

    Avatar photoirishserb

    I don’t have a preference particularly, other than using the method that best fits the game.  My long running imagi-African campaign is all PtP, as it is really meant to generate tabletop battles, without much concern about modelling all of the strategic elements and associated options.

    Another of the camapigns that I’m involved in uses a hex map, as the it is a strategic game, where we play out the battles with minaitures or counters, depending on details of the battle.  Curiously, I’ve won almost all of the tactical battles, am totally losing the campaign.

    Over all, probably the most fun, in my experience, was attained in a freeform campaign, as described by Phil up above.

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