By Stinger Six (Mike)
We’re on the topic of campaigns so I thought I’d post up about one I ran with Stephen last year that was a lot of fun. It was called Operation Cyan Rapier and I talked about it a bit on the podcast – about the mission where I had to fly my entire force in over a beach. I’m going to talk about how I came up with the idea, the missions and how you can set up a similar thing yourself.
If you are interested in playing any of the missions we made for this campaign, you can grab this file! Operation Cyan Rapier
The doc includes a photo of each battlefield so you can see how they were set up. You can use any sort of terrain you like of course, so use these as a placement guide.
After the Reconquest book came out, I was inspired by the descriptions of the world of Shangri-la. Shangri-la is a garden world and something of a resort planet. We play a lot of games on rural terrain at EndGame now, but at the time we didn’t have the terrain pieces we do now. We did have some stuff on hand (mostly Flames of War pieces, which are 15mm but certainly will do in a pinch) and I was planning to use it. One goal I had was to do boards with rural terrain, gradually reducing the number of buildings down to none at all at the end. This was achieved, and led to Stephen building out a large number of rural terrain pieces and their use becoming much more common at the store.
Another bit of inspiration came from a really cool terrain board we have at the shop. It’s a 2′ x 4′ board with a beach. Simple, but looking at it I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did some kind of beach landing scenario?” Start your brainstorming with “Wouldn’t it be cool…” and it’s kinda hard to go wrong!
By setting this board down next to a standard 4 x 4 table (making it 6 x 4), we had a neat initial setup and an interesting tactical challenge – the attacking force would have to enter from the ocean side of the table, fly in over the water and land on the shoreline. Since the shoreline board was 24″ wide, and I would be playing the attackers with my UCM, it would mean nothing could drive on (including my command Kodiak) and although anything in a Raven could reach the shoreline in one turn, the Condors could not. And both the Condors and Ravens couldn’t land until Turn 2 at the earliest.
So, why were they doing this? The UCM had sent a Praetorian team in to make contact with the Resistance in an area that was once a beach resort. I imagined those resorts in Mexico, where they have luxury hotels lining the beach. We could do this on our table and so I lined up some standard buildings along the water’s edge. Behind it, I set up some small buildings, thinking they were like the local village where the tourists would have gone shopping.
The Scourge in the area have an occupation force and the Praetorians had linked up with the Resistance and were now ready for extraction. They had moved into the resort town and signaled for pickup. But, the Scourge had got wind of this and were rushing their forces to the area to intercept.
The Praetorian squads would start hidden on the board and I used the Hidden Objective markers to represent them. The Scourge player would have to search the potential locations to see if they were indeed enemy squads. Meanwhile, the UCM extraction force would be on the way in.
You can read the scenarios in the attached files here and see how that all worked out as far as the mechanics go. Was it balanced? Probably not, though I tried to make it even for us both. Was it exciting? Hell yes! And that’s the main point – when you’re doing scenarios with a strong narrative focus, the razor thin balance that you might want in a tournament scenario is not the top priority. Having a blast is the goal.
As far as the game goes, wow! It was one of the most exciting I’ve played! The Scourge presence on the table increased each turn, while I had to be super focused on getting the Praetorians out – killing enemy units, grabbing objectives, taking focal points, none of that mattered. The first squad I picked up made a run for the table edge but a Corsair squad came in gunning for it. I intercepted with my Archangels but only splashed one of them! The remaining Corsair fired and the Praetorians went down inches from safety! That left me with one squad of Praetorians and a squad of Snipers to try and win with. There was no way I was getting both squads off, so I decided I had to sacrifice one of them to get the other one out.
And right there, was the epic, dramatic, narrative moment of the game. This really is the goal of games like these. You’re looking for that cinematic moment that both players can revel in, regardless of who’s winning or losing. The Snipers were the furthest forward, and their Raven had been lost on the way in. They weren’t going home. I could imagine them on the radio telling the other squad to leg it – they would cover their exit. I got the last Raven in with a Crazy Pilot card and the last Praetorian squad jumped on board.
As it made a beeline for the table edge, the Scourge closed in on the Snipers. They were going to destroy them no matter what happened, and released Razorworms into the building! As the CQB started, the Snipers played a Heroic Sacrifice card and one base got out and tried to run but was gunned down by some Hunters.
The last surviving Praetorian squad in their Raven were going all out for the board edge to escape. The last Corsair rolled in again and I managed to intercept. The Archangel pilots were on target and nailed the enemy fighter, and the Praetorians escaped! I won that by the narrowest of margins and both Stephen and I had a blast!
One way (and not the only way) to structure a campaign like this, which I intended to be just a two-player thing, is to play three missions. I didn’t plan what they would be beyond the first, giving us room to allow things to develop as we went along. This also allows a classic story arc structure – beginning, middle, end. We actually went 4 missions, but going in with 3 missions in mind helped keep things on track.
After the first mission, we talked about it a bit. What would happen next? The Praetorians had escaped with a wealth of intel about the Scourge in the area. The UCM had an independent task force with enough assets to establish a foothold on the planet, to prepare for a full invasion later.
So, the next mission was based on the Decapitation mission. The UCM would be trying to take out the Scourge high command. For this one, I wanted to set it at a spaceport the Scourge had taken over. The table would show the runway and some spaceport structures, and the open, jungle area beyond the perimeter fence. We gave the Scourge an extra allotment of points to represent a hidden reserve that the UCM was unaware of. We also used some hidden setup rules for the Snipers which worked quite well.
It was another narrowly contested game, but the Scourge lost their high command. In the next game, they couldn’t take a commander of a higher level than the one that was lost. This is another way you can have the results of one game affect the next.
Mission 3 was closer to a standard mission, and because it ended in a draw, we decided to take it to one more game. In Mission 4, we did a fully rural battlefield. I wanted to have the UCM on defense this time, trying to hold a line against a Scourge counterattack. We made up some rules for fighting positions (fox holes and trenches) and went at it. The Scourge pressed in hard, and I was super lucky to win the initiative on a turn where if the Scourge had gone first, they would have totally rolled up my flank. The UCM held the line and we ended the campaign.
Again, there is more than one way to skin a hedgehog, and this is just one of them. You can make campaigns as complicated as you like, with maps, resource systems etc. Or you can go even simpler, and just play a series of missions straight from the books and decide what they mean afterward.
If any of this inspires you to run a campaign of your own, then rock on!