Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Abstract Tournament Campaign with DBN

The context of this article is related directly to DBN gaming, but the concepts would be applicable to more than that particular set of rules.

The idea is to run a tournament, either at a convention-event or a couple of consecutive Sunday meetings, where the tournament took on a little more meaning than just your personal scores by adding the notion of an abstract campaign.

The campaign tournament is similar to a typical DBX tournament where numerous two-player games occur. However, within the context of an abstract campaign a player’s force can grow, shrink or even improve or degrade during the campaign based upon the outcomes of a player’s individual battles. Those outcomes also determine which “team” is winning the campaign.

Getting Going
When the players have been determined, divide them into two teams. One team is “France and its Allies” and the other team is “The Allied Coalition”. The nationalities and army lists for each team are obvious in the context of various points within the Napoleonic period.

Each player chooses an appropriate nationality within those available to his team and creates a 12-point army with which to begin the campaign. Use the following points chart and the army lists in the rules to build your army:
  • Command Element: 0 Points (1 allowed per army in beginning)
  • Baggage Element: 0 Points (1 allowed per army)
  • Horse Artillery Element: 1.5 Points
  • Linear Fortifications Element: 0.5 Points
  • All Other Element Types (Infantry, Cavalry, Foot Artillery, etc.): 1 Point
  • Element Graded as Elite: + 0.5 Points (Allowable only if in army list)
  • Element Graded as Militia or Irregular Cavalry: - 0.5 Points (Allowable only if in army list)
  • Element Graded as Old Guard: + 1 Point (Allowable only if in army list)
  • Upgrade Command Element to “Good” (+1 PIP Bonus): 1 Point
  • Downgrade Command Element to “Poor” (-1 PIP Penalty): -1 Point

With the last two options, a player can decide to begin with fewer elements than normal but enjoy a command bonus. Or suffer a command penalty, but enjoy additional soldiers in the army (because you have an extra point to spend).

Rather than typical tournament games where there really is no scenario being played, I’d prefer to invest a little time into creating scenarios. For example, let’s say there would be four scenarios – each with a pre-determined terrain set-up. Perhaps, for the sake of conversation, we can say that the scenarios are “meeting engagement”, “flank attack”, “holding action” and “break-out”. Scenarios could get creative where appropriate – allowing for things like ambushes, reserves, allied support, field works, etc.

Having the terrain pre-determined on each scenario speeds the gaming along since there would be no manipulation of the terrain between games.

As I mentioned earlier, a player’s force is not a static “12 elements” during the campaign. So, we can use this as a device in the scenarios. For instance, in some scenarios the “attacker” could be the player with the largest army or the player with the most cavalry. When conditions are equal the typical die-roll can be the determining factor I who is the attacker and defender.

Scenarios could have special scoring circumstances in addition to the normal scoring process. So, perhaps a player scores 1 point for each enemy element destroyed during the game and 2 points for winning the battle. Then any scoring for special scenario rules would also be added. Perhaps the army that holds specific positions also receives 1 point per position. Your imagination is the limit.

Sure, armies that change and non-standard scenarios may produce the occasional out-of-balance game. Not every single case would be a “fair fight” in the sense of typical (boring) tournaments. I say, good! What campaign in history is filled with fair fights where everything was equal for both sides in each battle? For the most part, battles will be pretty closely matched. We’re looking for fun and we’re looking for challenges, not cakewalks. 

Players are paired up in whatever manner is desired and matched to the scenarios. Like in the typical tournament format, it is wise to time each battle, perhaps 1 hour is allowed.

Battle Aftermath
Each scenario is scored and the campaign score is adjusted. Each battle won by a side advances a sliding-counter in their direction by a number of points equal to the difference in points of each battle. So, for example, during the first round of games the counter is at “zero”. After the first round of battles, the net difference in all of the scores of the battles fought favored the Coalition side by 3 points then the slider would move 3 ticks to the Coalition side – indicating that currently they are enjoying a minor campaign victory – hopefully motivating the French players to perform better in the next round.

After the campaign points are tallied, each player administers the aftermath of battle to his army.

Determine Status of Destroyed Elements
 For each element that was destroyed during the game, roll 1D6. On a result of 1 or 2, the element was in fact destroyed and is out of the campaign. On a result of a 3, the element does return to the army but was weakened by the losses and has a -1 for the next battle. If that element was unlucky enough to suffer the same fate in the next battle, the -1 would simply continue, we would not want a -2 element. If the result was a 4, 5 or 6 then the element returns to the army without ill effect. Perhaps it has been supplemented by a draft from the reserve battalion or the battle damage was more moral than physical.

Gods of War
It is possible, if the gods of war determine it to be so, that a player could have a lot of losses and end up with a small army. Like mentioned earlier, we’re looking for fun and challenges, not cakewalks. So, the campaign should have some mechanisms to counter extreme losses. The idea is to mitigate the effects of a player being reduced to a rump of an army – that is no fun at all.

Many things are possible. Players with small armies, let’s say with 8 or less elements, could always opt to be the defender and even claim a scenario bonus of adding fieldworks to their forces. Perhaps they could call for “allied support” and receive some free elements to add to their army – but at the cost of some campaign victory points. Maybe when determining after a battle losses no army could have more than 2 non-command elements lost.

Determine Status of Destroyed Command Elements
If a command element is destroyed during a game, roll 1d6. On a result of 1 or 2, the command element was destroyed and is out of the campaign. It is immediately replaced by a new command element. The new command element has no bonus or penalties. On a result of 3, the command element returns to the army but is weakened and suffers a -1 PIP penalty for the next battle. If the result was a 4, 5 or 6 then the element returns to the army without ill effect.

If desired, any replacement command element could begin with a bonus or a penalty. After all, casualties to command lead to promotions, and sometimes the new commander is found to be quite skilled. Of course, some new commanders are inefficient at the new level of responsibility. If this option is desired, roll 1d6 for the new commander. On a result of 1 the new commander has a -1 PIP penalty. On a result of 6 the new commander has a +1 PIP bonus.

Determine New Command Bonus or Penalty
During the course of a campaign, generals can get better or even lose ability. These things we attribute to the stresses of combat defining or reducing the character of a general.

If your general won the battle, roll 1D6. On a result of 5 or 6 the general receives either a PIP bonus of +1 or an increase of 3 inches to his command radius. This is the player’s choice to make. These bonuses can be cumulative during the campaign.

If your general lost the battle, roll 1d6. If the result is a 1 then the general receives a PIP penalty of -1. This penalty can be cumulative during the campaign.

Purchase New Army Elements
A player will typically earn points by winning a battle, but often even the loser of a battle can earn points. These points can be spent to add new elements to the player’s army or to improve the units currently in the army. The following actions are available:
  • Add a second Command Element: 1 Point
  • Add a Horse Artillery Element: 2 Points (Allowable only if in army list)
  • Add a Linear Fortifications Element: 1 Points (Allowable only if in army list)
  • Add Any All Other Element Type: 1 Point
  • Upgrade an existing “Regular” Element to “Elite”: 1 Point (Army List requirement is waived)
  • Upgrade an existing “Militia” or “Irregular Cavalry” Element to “Regular”: 1 Point
  • Add an Old Guard Element: 2 Points (Allowable only if in army list)

Big Battle
Big Battle DBN is a lot of fun. Not all, but certainly some playing formats would allow a big battle to occur pitting two players from one side against two players from another side. What interesting dynamics would be in play when two players on the same side have to look after the interests of their own army plus that of the overall campaign? “Hey Fred, why don’t you storm the hill with your infantry?” “Uh, no Bob, my army took a beating in the last battle…why don’t you storm the hill?!”

Maybe the best player on each side or the overall best player gets a prize? Maybe the winning side buys the losing side a round of Pepsi-colas?

We do play some tournaments within our club, and those tournaments are fun. I was thinking of ways to inject a little more fun and a little more incentive into those tournaments.

What thoughts can you share on this subject?


  1. Nice Tony. I like it. Let's get the ball rolling on this. Dan

  2. I've done it, and it can work very well.

    A couple of years ago, I did it with a Wahammers Ancients tournament.

    I started with eight games (16 players or teams). The loser in each of the games became the "vassal" of the winner in round 2.

    Round 2 had four games -- in effect a doubles games. The "Lords and Vassals" from round 1 fought each other. To make it more interesting, the players were only able to recover a certain percentage of their losses from the previous round. So while you wanted to win, you did not want to win big.

    The teams which lost in Round 2 then became the vassals of the teams that one.

    Round 3 was one big game with eight player per side. The team leader whose side one became the High King.

  3. Wow, Doug! What a great concept of the Lords and Vassals...that sounds really fun! Thanks for the info!