Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sentinels of Shadows - Crossing Paths Campaign

Today I'm going to take a bit of time out to talk about a subject that's a little bit different - online campaigns.

Some of you will be familiar with the concept of online campaigns; some may never have heard of "normal" campaigns, let alone online ones, so for those of you in the latter category I'm going to start at the beginning...

What is a campaign?

Well, in the most general sense, a campaign is defined as "an operation or series of operations energetically pursued to accomplish a purpose." The word can be applied to anything, from advertising to politics. Of course, where one most often hears of it being used though is in regard to military operations, where a campaign is described as "a large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war." It is this latter definition that is most applicable to what I'm talking about today.

Naturally, we have the Romans to thank for giving us the word "campaign", derived as it is from the plain of Campania, a place of annual wartime operations by the armies of the Roman Republic. But how does this apply to wargaming?

Military in Miniature

Wargaming obviously has a connection to military matters. After all, wargames are strategy games that attempt to deal with military operations of various types, whether real or fictional. Most historical wargamers will have taken part in a refight of a famous battle at some point; Kadesh, Cannae, Hastings, Agincourt, Blenheim, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Stalingrad - there are plenty to choose from. But in the bigger picture, each of these battles is part of a wider conflict, just one action in a war that may have lasted for years. It is this "bigger picture" that campaigns aim to encapsulate. The famous battles are obviously the most well-known and 'popular' (otherwise they wouldn't be famous...) but there are plenty of lesser known but just as important (if not moreso) engagements that either preceded or followed. At it's most basic level, a campaign attempts to present a conflict on a wider scale that demonstrates the action over a series of engagements, rather than on the outcome of a single battle.

Of course, just as with the wargames themselves, campaigns can come in many shapes and forms. Historical refights are one area that certain players may want to extend to cover a series of historical engagements; perhaps a set of battles refighting the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy for WWII gamers. In it's most basic form, a wargames campaign is a series of linked battles connected by some sort of continuing narrative. The most basic ones may follow a tree diagram between two players, where the outcome of the first battle determines what the second game is, and so on. Perhaps your army is trying to reinforce your main force and your opponents army is trying to stop you. You fight a Pitched Battle. If your army wins, they reinforce the main army and the next game is a siege while they trap your opponent. If your opponent wins, the next game is an ambush, as your main army is overwhelmed without its reinforcements as backup.

More complex campaigns may involve half a dozen players each with their own army, fighting over a map to control towns, cities, territories or what have you. There may be rules for supply lines, reinforcements, seasonal effects to try and reflect the logistics of a long-term conflict. There may be neutral forces, indigenous natives or packs of dangerous animals that the players have to contend with. All of these things can be added to increase the flavour and "realism" of the campaign, whichever game it is you're playing.

Taking it online

Now that's the basics of a wargames campaign established, but where does the "online" part come into it, I hear you ask? Well, some of you who are familiar with Games Workshop (which I would imagine is most of us...) will likely also remember (or at least be aware of) the worldwide campaigns that they used to organise and run every couple of years in the summer: Storm of Chaos, Nemesis Crown, Eye of Terror, the Fall of Medusa V. These were all online campaigns - players played games, and used the results to influence the results of the campaign and determine a winner, and a campaign story. The players fight for a team (called a faction) in an effort to triumph over the other teams involved in the campaign. Usually these factions are organized roughly by race, by forum or by traditional alliances. Each faction is trying to take as much territory as they can from the others while defending their own. A map is used to represent the area of the world (or worlds) that is being contested. Each faction starts with a small amount of territory and must use points gained by fighting games to capture more.

Those are the very basics of fighting a campaign online, but over the years there have been several online campaigns run by online communities independently to Games Workshop. There are several Warhammer forums out there than organise and run their own campaigns set in the Warhammer world. Over the years, these have gradually built in complexity to become far more immersive and involved than any of the Games Workshop worldwide campaigns ever were. Sites such as Animosity Campaigns, Warhammer-Empire and The UnderEmpire have each run very successful campaigns, with Animosity now building up to their sixth (!!!) online campaign.

Get to the point already...

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, because there is now a new kid on the block in the world of online campaigning. Some of you may know that I'm an Admin on, a Warhammer forum devoted to Wood Elves and Wood Elf players, and in about April 2010 I got together a team to work on an online campaign for to follow in the vein established by other Warhammer sites. Now, after eighteen months of hard work (not to mention blood, sweat and tears...), that campaign is finally ready and waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses!

Sentinels of Shadows ~ Crossing Paths

It is the year IC 2527, five years after the coming of the Storm of Chaos and the ravaging of the Empire. Five long years in which the Empire has struggled to recover its lost strength and the forces of darkness have begun to regroup.

Yet the suffering of the Empire is not yet over. In the province of Nordland, the elves of the Laurelorn forest assemble. Provoked by the trespassing of villagers in their hunt for timber to rebuild and concerned by the dark forces advancing on the forest, the elves of the Laurelorn gather to remind their foes why they once feared to enter the woods.

The land is further troubled by news from the east of a greenskin horde rampaging across Ostland and heading west. The remnants of the Waaagh of Grimgor Ironhide, the horde has ravaged Ostland almost to the brink of utter destruction; the armies of the Empire must now march north to face this foe and put a stop to the woe it brings before it can cripple the Empire's bulwark against the north.

This threat could not have come at a worse time for the Empire. In Middenland, the people mourn for the loss of their Elector Boris Todbringer, slain at the hand of his arch nemesis Khazrak the One-Eye. This tragedy has left the province desperately weakened and facing invasion on two fronts; not only the Orc Waaagh to the north-east, but more immediately threatening is the coalition of forces gathering to the south of Middenheim. Dark rumours talk of a shadowy figure known only as the Dagger of Shadows, a warrior who commands the loyalty not only of the beasts but also of foul rat-men, vampires, servants of the Dark Gods and foul daemons of the aethyr.

While the Empire faces two known foes in the open, others move in the shadows to corrupt and subvert. Brigands and outlaws, mercenaries, petty necromancers and warlords all flock to the banner of the one they call the Cockatrice. Little is known of this mysterious figure, or what those who follow him hope to accomplish. Gold? Glory and honour? Or something altogether more sinister? To the nobles of the Empire, these forces appear disorganised and unconnected and thus present no threat but little do they know that each ambush, each robbery, each raid is but one thread in the giant net woven by the Cockatrice. What he hopes to ensnare with this net is unknown, but with the forces that descend on the lands of the Empire it will not be long before the Cockatrice reveals his hand.

Boris Todbringer’s son Hanil is now Elector but although capable, he is untried and untested. Under the advice of his spymaster Rilhert, the new Elector has established a temporary base at Carroburg rather than risk travelling through the Drakwald to reach Middenheim. Guided by the prophecies and premonitions of the captive witch-child Ikena, Rilhert follows the movements of the Empire’s enemies and seeks to find a future in which the Empire can survive these troubled times.

As I mentioned above, this is the culmination of eighteen months' hard work and determination. It's been a long journey, but we've got there in the end! The campaign opens tomorrow 10th October for registration, and begins in a week's time, on Monday 17th October. If you're even the slightest bit interested in campaigns or Warhammer (preferably both!) then it would be great to see you join in. Head to to get involved!

And just to finish off

Campaigns, for me, are the epitome of what this hobby is all about. They combine all aspects of the hobby - gaming, roleplaying and modelling/painting - into one glorious bundle. Games take on new meaning as they actually become something more than just a bunch of figures on a table, because the fortunes of your army/warband/crew/whatever depend on the outcome. You can invest time and energy giving your figures a background and a history that makes them more than just lumps of lead, and you have the drive to invest more time and energy into the physical appearance of your models when they mean something to you. That perhaps sounds more than a little corny, but it's true nonetheless. Knowing that a bunch of figures are telling a story and perhaps, in some cases, literally changing the world makes me want to invest the time in them to get them painted, write fluff for them and play more and more games with them! For me, campaigns are a self-perpetuating source of motivation in all aspects of the hobby, and being able to share that with people all over the world via the internet makes it all the more inspiring for me.

So if that sounds like something you might be interested in, why not give it a shot and see what you can get out of it?

P.S On an altogether different note, I now have two new followers (doubling the total to 4!). Many thanks to Sylvos and Hoodling! I hope you enjoy my ramblings.

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