Basic multiplayer campaign

So, with Spiked’s post of the Europe map, I figured we could start at least idle speculation on how something like a small multiplayer campaign might run.

I’m thinking that running something like that would make for a really awesome weekly event - rather than an ongoing thing, just hold a 2 hour set of matches arranged in some way, organized/run by a game master.

A focused event on a weekend day means that S44 players can have something to gather around and form some kind of community/dependable set of matches in an otherwise *A centric server setting.

Early forms can be really basic paper/pencil (or jpg/MS paint) affairs and still be really fun/cool to play, I think. For something like this to get people excited, all we’d need is a page on the main site with the campaign map, player rankings, and match histories or something - with a once-a-week event this can be fairly easily managed in the early days. This can be as simple as the GM being the host and /cheat /giving stuff to players as the game goes, or as fancy as an actual gadget to handle this stuff (or set of modoptions?).

Some initial thoughts on the design:
IMO, much of the attraction of a game (and especially a metagame like this) is playing out ‘might-have-beens’. So I’d argue that while the game can -begin- in a historically accurate sense, allowing very historically -inaccurate- events to occur would be much more fun. Like Britain deciding to ally with Germany against the US in order to claim French territory and make up for the loss of the 100 years war. Or whatever. The point is, playing as part of Britain’s supreme strategic committee is way more fun if you really feel like you have freedom to make radical changes in the game, rather than being locked into minor alterations of history.

Drawing from the TW series might be helpful here - run the game in turns where there isn’t always a battle every single turn, and so there’s more to it than pure combat skill (grand strategy affecting ingame outcomes). Various ‘extras’ made available on the strategic and tactical level.
Some random thoughts for tools players could win/utilize on a limited basis:

  • Strategic bombing/Naval blockade --> ingame resupply schedule for bombed/blockaded player is longer than for others.

  • Partisan/maquis informants: reveal placement/composition of enemy armies in an area on the meta-map.

  • Railroad arty - one or two big nasty shells ingame. Given that these games would largely be conducted without bases (I think), the obvious targets for this aren’t present.

  • Railroad network - more frequent resupply, or increased ability to get new troops.

This is all very fluffy at the moment, I’ll try to write down some more concrete design notes and implementations as the week goes on.

Try not to let this descend into nerdgasming over the possibilities of this sort of meta-game, and rather aim for more solid mechanics, rules, and examples of gameplay. I have basically no experience with proper pen and paper games (strategy or otherwise), so anyone who has played games like that with loosely comparable metagames (that is, a broader structure for gameplay in addition to the usual bouts of combat), please chime in.

-Special locations that when held give specific bonuses for specific factions. ie, Germany having control over Peenemunde could allow them to use Me-262s (alternatively, bombing Peenemunde could affect availability, albeit at the cost of not using bombers against other targets).

-Holding naval bases allows moving armies/assets to other naval bases/seaside cities, bypassing land routes.

-Holding airfields allows use of paratroopers; essentially an in-game asset to drop bunches of “free” infantry on the battlefield, or alternatively, give the player using the paratroopers a larger deployment zone (as paratroopers were most often used to secure areas ahead of advancing ground forces).

-German V2 rockets; can be used inplace of strategic bombers (which Germany most likely doesn’t have much of)

So here’s an idea for a framework of how the campaign would actually play out. It is very limited.

-The campaign map would be composed of a number of standard locations, signifying cities, bases, and other important places in the overall campaign. Each of these settlements (represented by a red dot in the campaign map I loaded) would be interconnected with its neighbours, forming a continent-wide webway.

-Various Campaign Assets which play a part in the campaign: Production Assets, Battlefield (Tactical) Assets, Strategic Assets

Production Assets will be usually immobile assets native to one particular city/location. They will deal with the production of Battlefield and Strategic Assets. For instance, an “Infantry Training Facility” asset located in a city will allow for the production of infantry there. “Tank Production Facility” allows the production of tanks – almost a mimic of current in-game Barracks and Yards. Every turn, a Production Facility will create a set number of Battlefield Assets, which can then be used in an actual battle. Production assets will vary from city to city, with some being rarer than others; “Heavy Tank Production Facility” will be rarer than “Vehicle Production Facility”, for instance.

Battlefield Assets are essentially formations of actual fighting units. Tanks, infantry, aircraft, etc. Battlefield assets are mobile and can move from city to city to be used in games involving those cities (for instance, if a city is attacked and it has some Battlefield Assets in it, those will become available; likewise, if an attack is launched from a city with Battlefield Assets).

Strategic Assets are assets which more indirectly affect the overall campaign. Some strategic assets can affect enemy assets – ie, a Heavy Bomber Wing, or V2 Rocket Launch Facilities, which can launch attacks on enemy assets in an enemy-held location. Logistics can also be a Strategic Asset (the production of supplies and their stockpiling in cities allows for increased supplies during a battle). Other examples are a Railway Network asset, which, if one is located in connecting cities, allows other mobile assets to travel between locations “faster”, as those assets utilize railway transportation rather than transportation by road.

A Game

A game is held when a battle is declared between two cities/locations being held by opposing factions. For instance, Germany holds Paris and attacks Caen, a British-held location.

The makeup of each force at each individual location can be problematic. One idea is to have only those assets which have been brought to a settlement play a role in that settlement; for instance, if Caen is home to several Tank Detachments, Infantry Detachments, Anti-Tank Detachments, those types of units (in specific numbers) will come into play. Likewise, Strategic and Battlefield assets located elsewhere may come into play as well; if the British hold an Airfield Asset with Aircraft, they can call them into the battle during the game (and if they have Paratroopers at that Airfield, they, too, could be called). Heavy Artillery Assets in neighbouring locations can allow players to use off-map artillery strikes during the game.

Alternatively, if the British were completely ill-prepared for a battle at Caen and had only a single Tank Detachment with a couple Infantry Detachments, and Germany attacked with a huge force, well, Britain would be shit-out-of-luck, wouldn’t they?

The problem with that is several-fold: How can such activity be carried out with multiple players per faction? Will there be one overall Supreme Commander who partially dictates the order of battle? Will players control a single city and control only the forces they’ve “brought” to the battle during a game? What about “special” cities which hold rare or unique assets, such as Peenemunde which could be the only place to build V2 Rocket Strategic Assets? Will cities/locations be on a first-come-first-serve basis (ie players sign up, look at the map, see if there are any “vacant” cities and request them; first come first serve)? If players control their own forces during a game, what if a player who has assets located at a battle doesn’t show for the scheduled game? Are his assets divided up between the others?

My idea too is very much like Total War (gee, I wonder why!). However I hesitate at going so far as to allow players to invest and upgrade in their settlements – for instance, spending a turn or two to upgrade their Tank Production to Heavy Tank Production or increase the size of their Airfield to hold larger types of aircraft. However, on the other hand, I like the idea; it lets us start out with a varying, near “realistic” composition of Assets available in each city (for instance, Hamburg would start with very advanced production facilities, while a place like Antwerp or Caen will not) which can then be upgraded on the whim of the player (for instance, bulking up Antwerp into a Heavy Tank Production center, or Caen into a Fighter-Bomber production center).

With that said, here is a very vague look at what a Campaign utilizing the above ideas could look like:

Turn 1-5ish. All players have been given a city (or cities). The Supreme Commander (eitehr nominated collectively by a faction or decided by the GM) puts forth some grand edict, such as “We’re going to large-scale attack into Russia, but make sure there are enough forces held back defending France”. So the players start. Some players simply utilize the Production Assets that come with their city to begin building forces. Others decide to upgrade their facilities, forgoing immediate production. Others do both (training basic infantry while upgrading Tank Production for instance). As production grows, players begin to shuffle their forces towards Cities bordering Russia in preperation for the offensive. The Commander issues an order: “The Soviets may be spying on our frontier cities, so hold your forces back a bit”.

Turn 5-10ish. The offensive begins. Battles are launched from multiple cities into neighbouring Soviet-held cities, resulting in several battles for that following weekend. With the forces each faction has “brought” to the battlefield, the game is played, the victor claiming the city. Germany can choose to either continue the attack, or wait for more re-enforcements to arrive to replenish detachments which have sustained casualties (this should be a semi-important dynamic, with both benefits and consequences; waiting allows the enemy to prepare more forces as well, while continuing the advance immediately can hit him unprepared, but you’ll be fighting with incomplete forces). In response, Britain launches several Strategic Bombing assets to destroy specific Production assets in targetting German cities; for instance, they hit Hamburg’s Heavy Tank Production asset, knocking it out for two turns. But maybe Germany has Interceptor Assets in Hamburg; so Heavy Tank Production is only knocked out for a single turn. But maybe Britain uses a Bomber Escort Strategic Asset, which nulls Germany’s Interceptor Asset; again, Heavy Tank Production is knocked out for two turns.

Turn 10-15ish. Britain has been building up forces for all this time and launches an invasion of France across the English Channel with all of its prepared forces. Whether the German Commander has had the hindsight to place defensive forces in the right places, the battle may be a complete slaughter or stunning defensive victory. Assets are used by individual players in preperation for the battle; a German player uses a Jet Fighter Squadron Asset to bring Jet Fighters to the battle; an American player uses a Naval Bombardment Asset to utilize off-map naval bombardments from off-shore Battleships during the battle. All come into play in one form or another. In the end, the Allies (US and Britain) succeed in getting a foothold in France. Germany responds by organizing defensive forces located throughout France and bulking them up in Paris in preperation for a counter-offensive, which they launch. A massive battle ensues. Meanwhile, German forces reach Moscow but are repelled. Soviet forces have spent time upgrading production assets in Eastern Russia and they’re starting to produce infantry, tanks and aircraft to replace and eventually supercede those built in German-controlled cities. Russia begins to push Germany back, city by city.

Turn 15-20ish. The Allied Commander orders a supplementary invasion of Italy, to throw Germany off and force it to fight on three fronts. The invasion starts climbing up Italy’s boot. Soviet forces begin taking cities in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. The Allies have taken most settlements in France and push towards Portugal while building up forces for a final thrust into Germany.

Turn 21. Some errant German player decides to launch his own personal army in a master stroke into France. However, the Supreme Commander urges against this and no other German player wants to take part – they’re too busy elsewhere. This single miscreant thus forces an entire battle in which his small personal army gets absolutely buttraped by 10 British and American players. But, this player is actually Journier and he somehow manages to win because he’s a hacker. Seeing the improbable victory, other German players begin to pour forces into the newly-captured settlement and a new offensive is begun completely on the fly.

Turn 22. Likewise, a German naval invasion force decides to set sail from Brest and invades the western coast of Ireland. Caught completely by surprise, they quickly take Ireland and push into Scotland while the British player clamours to rush re-enforcements up there.

Turn 23. For no apparent reason, Comrade Supreme Commander of the Soviet Union orders a naval invasion of southern England. Enormous Soviet forces land and an immense battle ensues, resulting in the Soviet Union taking London. Britain players are like “omfgwtf” and the entire country quickly succumbs to the Soviet onslaught. Britain is thus left only with its forces in France. Based out of a new capital, Paris, they quickly begin to buildup France’s production facilities to replace those lost in Britain.

Turn 24. America, safe far away from the campaign map and completely untouchable by anyone else in the campaign, builds up a huge invasion force and retakes Britain. However, they don’t feel like giving it back to the British faction and Britain becomes the 51st US state. The US and German factions then decide on a ceasefire and begin preparing for a joint invasion of the Soviet Union to destroy the Communist menace.

So you see, with some amount of open-endedness, things could go any number of different ways. Ultimately, I think the actions taken by a particular faction should need to be OK’d by that faction’s Commander (to a point; offensives should need his okay, but upgrading or using Assets in your own city shouldn’t). Commanders will be able to communicate with one another, and, depending on their whim, may form or break alliances with other factions. But if a Commander goes too far, his Generals (that faction’s players) can elect to depose him and replace him with a new Commander.

Oi, thoughts?

General types of maps needed for such a thing:

Land map types - map is mostly land, small bodies of water are possible, but nothing that requires the use of ships (though some maps might allow their use, in a lake or something).

Plains - a mostly flat map, for a fast-paced vehicle action. Historic examples - battle of Kursk.

Desert - mostly the same, but with different terrain. Maybe with areas that reduce land unit speed. North Africa.

Hills - a map with some height difference, but nothing resembling true mountains yet (so vehicles can pass most anywhere). Such terrain can be found in many places throughout Europe.

Mountains - high, steep slopes with few vehicle routes. Infantry plays the key role. Italy, Alps and such.

Urban/Indistrial map - represents a major city, should be mostly flat with a lot of features.

Land-water map types - contain enough land and water for full use of corresponding unit types. May require the use of ships.

Major river - the map is divided by a wide, relatively deep (vehicles can’t ford) river. Use of ships is required, but ships are restricted to at most medium (so no destroyers/subs). Europe has quite a number of such rivers.

Sea coast - one side of the map is purely water (with maybe some islands), the rest is land. Any kind of ship can be used. Suitable for something like Normandy landing.

Major river delta - a cross between major river and coast. Allows any kind of ships, requires their use (land units cannot cross the river on their own).

Water maps - mostly naval action, maybe with some possibility to use land forces

Major island - the map has a narrow strip of ‘mainland’ and a large island (attacker’s goal is taking the island). Requires the use of ships. Examples - Peenemunde (Usedom isle).

Islands - a water map with some islands, for a naval action (British channel?)

Strait - 2 narrow strips of land divided by a wide strait (maybe with some islands). A naval map. British channel again?

High seas - no land (or very few), purely naval battle. Atlantic/Mediterannean.

Sundays around 5:00pm GMT (11:00am CST, 12:00pm EST) seem like a really good time to hold an event like this. we had 25 players at once playing S44, at least 20 of them in non-singleplayer games.

Some preparatory things to consider:

  • Different game modes: Attacker/Defender (Attacker wins if he captures and holds a certain location within a pre-set time. The location could be like a flag except with a much longer capture time.); Meeting Engagement (Each side deploys forces; the first side to hold 75% or whatever of flags for 2 minutes wins.); Double Attacker/Defender aka Capture the Flag (Attacker/Defender, except each side has a victory location, and the first to capture the other’s wins.)
  • Independent, per-side setting of variables: The possibility for each player or team to have different values for the critical variables: resupply time, supply capacity, command income multiplier, command capacity, flag capture efficiency, etc. Mostly the command income multiplier and resupply time.
  • more?

My conception, still a bit rough.

While not much is changed, this is a rewrite of the first half of Nemo’s chart.

This is a blatant attempt to revive the interest we all once had in the topic.