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The Border Princes: a Warhammer Fantasy map campaign system

The Northern Border Princes map: normal style
Credit: Charlie/Beard Bunker. Software used: Wonderdraft

Would you like a map campaign supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Battle? Set in the Border Princes? For free? Because that's what's in this post. Of course, you could probably adapt these rules to a different game system with relative ease, so if nothing else it might be a source of ideas for those of you keen to play campaigns in 40K or some other system.

Our first long-planned foray into the Border Princes coincided with two things. Firstly, it happened to fall on the weekend after Mark's funeral, and thus brought most of our gaming group together for a geekend full of much-needed catharsis. Secondly, and deeply coincidentally, it was the day after Games Workshop announced they were bringing the Old World back in some form. Much as we'd soldiered on despite the death of the Old World, this was a real shot in the arm of our hobby enthusiasm, and we were all overjoyed that whatever form Warhammer: The Old World takes, it's just really great to know G-Dubz acknowledge there's real love out there for Warhammer Fantasy.

Today's post comes in two parts:

  1. An overview of how the campaign works, along with links to the rules, map, faction icons, and the chronicle.
  2. Assorted humorous tales from the first campaign weekend, and the preparation that went into it, including the making of the campaign map.

Part the First: Campaign Resources

For convenience, I'll open with the essential links:



The Northern Border Princes map in campaign mode, with factions starting to claim territory.
Credit: Charlie/Beard Bunker. Software used: Wonderdraft & Photoshop

The campaign at a glance
This is a map campaign designed for up to 8 players (maybe 10 at a stretch). The campaign is essentially trying to provide some strategic context to you playing some good ol' games of Warhammer Fantasy.

There are consequences to your battles, and those consequences play out on the map without punishing your chances in the next battle. There's no over-ambitious resource management or army movement. It's all about your overall control of the map, and the movements of your forces is kept more abstract so that you can always play a game against whoever's available. When one player attacks another, they choose which enemy territory to assault. It doesn't matter if your territory isn't next to your opponent's - the campaign is designed to facilitate games, not prevent them; it's simply assumed you're going on a long-range raid.

The setting
It's located in the uppermost part of the Border Princes, a lawless region south of the Empire, so it's easy to justify the presence of almost any WFB faction (even if you have to MacGuffin something for the Lizardmen... standard). Many of the names on the map were found by researching this area of the Old World, so are compatible with official lore. I've taken some minor liberties with the geography, since it's different on every map I found anyway!

Each faction is trying to achieve a stranglehold on the area so that they can control the fate of the city of Akendorf. Its high walls and decent militia would make a head-on assault impractical, so you must control the surrounding area and cut it off from supplies while growing your own resources (or, you know, protect the city out of the goodness of your heart or something). The players' objective is consequently very simple: whoever controls the most territory at the end of the campaign wins!

Campaign length
You decide how long you want the campaign to last when you start; at the Beard Bunker we're going for six months, broken down into a trio of two-month rounds in which everyone fights two battles against each other, or as many games as they can manage within those two months, after which the next round begins.

Claiming territories
If you win a battle, you take control points from your enemy's territory, and add them to your own as you walk off with sweet lutes. Strum-te-tum. Both sides, even the winner, can also lose control points if over half their troops are taken out of play during the battle. This makes Pyrrhic draws something of a disaster for everyone!

Many of the territories have special rules that affect the campaign at the strategic level. I've deliberately avoided anything that gives you bonuses in-game, as I didn't want to risk more experienced players stacking silly advantages over newer players (and we have several playing in our campaign!).

Every single territory on the map has an entry in the campaign rules document, with a little background on the area. For wilderness regions this is usually just a single line about the sort of terrain you might find within, but there's more background information (and strategic benefits) when dealing with towns and other areas of note. Some territories offer faction-specific boons, and others are particularly difficult for some races to control (so Wood Elves can't do much with towns, but civilised races can't do much with heavily forested areas).

Renowned Regiments
Regiments that survive particularly gruelling battles (any that go on for at least 5 turns) can gain random veteran abilities, which can subsequently be lost if they take 75% casualties in later games. These abilities are generally fairly mild, and are mostly just there to help add extra flavour.

Allies & diplomacy
There are also straightforward rules for allies and diplomacy, since it's perfectly feasible that some factions make natural friends. This allows for team games, as well as more strategic things like loaning control points to your friends... and trusting them to repay you...

Faction rules
Each faction (at least, the ones I knew were taking part and a few more besides) have special objectives that encourage them to act in a thematic way on the map. If they can manage to make these objectives occur, they gain major bonuses on the map. If undead factions, for example, manage to claim all the gloomiest grave-filled territories, they can instigate a zombie apocalypse grand ritual  that drops control points off everyone else's territories as their troops spend all their time battling waves of undead! By contrast, the Empire and Dwarf factions gain boons if they manage to get joint control of the Old Dwarf Road connecting Karaz-a-Karak to the Empire, because y'all know trade is important.

Again, all of these things happen at a strategic level to prevent one player becoming tediously unstoppable on the tabletop.

Interactive maps & tools for autonomous players
I wanted the players to be able to play games when I wasn't around to update the map. The solution? Give all the players write access to a Google Drawing with the map set as the background, and little individual faction icons that they could move about on the campaign map. Whilst I was at it, I also produced a Google Doc called the Chronicle, where people could record the happenings of their games for the amusement of other players. Finally, I created a Google Doc called regiments of Renown where people could record their unit veterancy. All very simple stuff, but it meant that once the campaign began I didn't have to do any bookkeeping at all.

Of course early on it's worth checking in on the players to make sure they're doing the pre- and post-game sequence correctly, particularly if they're the sort of person to not read things very thoroughly and just sort of flange stuff in a way that breaks the mechanics. Giving your players this much autonomy will test your cat herding skills early on, but makes it very easy once they're in the swing of it. And they got very in the swing of it, as part two will show...



Part the Second: how did the first weekend go?

The first thing to do was prepare. In addition to writing the rules, this meant producing a suitable map (oh well if I must). Also some extra scenery. Oh, and also the small matter of getting a bunch of my goblins based (if you're going to run and play in an adversarial campaign, then for the gods' sake, play the comedy relief. That way you can't be accused of cheating).

Maps & faction icons
Some research and experimentation taught me that there are several map-making software packages out there, and the one that suited me best was Wondercraft. It's not free, in fact it's $30, but it's a one-time payment rather than a subscription, and it's hella flexible, and waaaaaay faster than getting the same result in Photoshop/Illustrator/Dreamflange. It took a little time to learn, but was overall pretty intuitive, and most importantly can overlay things like hex grids as standard. As such, I started off with the grid and then drew in all the terrain features so that everything lined up nicely.

 You could probably use Wondercraft to make sci-fi maps, but it seems happiest making fantasy maps given its extensive library of pre-drawn icons. If I ever try doing sci-fi stuff with it I'll be sure to upload it here.

The only thing I did in Photoshop for this map was placing the ring icons to indicate empty control slots. I digitally painted the ring, then copied and pasted my way to victory.

The campaign map prior to the first campaign round.
Credit: Charlie/Beard Bunker. Software used: Wonderdraft

The faction icons I made myself purely in Photoshop. You can access a Google Drive folder containing the ones I made here, along with a copy of the Photoshop file, so if you have Photoshop (or something that reads .PSD files) then you can have a crack at making icons for other factions to stick on this map.

When you've finished working on your icon, save it as a .PNG file, since unlike .JPG, PNGs support transparency - allowing you to have a round icon rather than a square one!

The faction icons for our 8 players. Note I tried to have both distinct shapes and distinct colours, so even when small, the icons are easy to distinguish on the map.
Credit: Charlie/Beard Bunker. Software used: Photoshop

Of course it's no use making a map if people can't get at it while they're playing, or inevitably people will fail to update it and everything will become leaky and covered in bees. As such I ensured there was a table to the side of the gaming area set up with my doddery old laptop hooked up to a nice big screen and a proper mouse, because ain't nobody got time for using a touchpad to deal with a Google Drawing.

Map tables: now with no actual paper.

Reinforcements!
We all have armies, but inevitably the anticipation resulted in new things being produced. Andy and I both went on basing sprees, and Jeff in particular went on a bit of a painting bender, and even painted an angry stunty on a slab of green marble.

See? Dwarf. Slab. Green marble.
Harvey gets the main biscuit here, though, painting as he did an entire 2k army of Chaos Warriors. More on that another time, because it deserves a post on its own. He spent most of the run-up, and almost the entirety of the event, shouting "VIKING DEATH" at anyone who challenged him. And anyone who didn't challenge him. And a passing seagull. And my fridge.

Scenery
Before he kicked the bucket with memorable vigour, Mark covered some of my finished scenery in plaster and sand. Deliberately. All I needed to do was paint it, which I did... the night before the campaign was due to start.

Mercifully, after I spent ages figuring out a crazy cocktail of about four different types of static grass and various types of tufts (seriously it was one of the last things Mark did and I really really wanted to do it justice, shut up, I'm not crying, you're crying) ...and breathe... Jeff and Andy were on hand to get the other two hills done in a fraction of the time I did the first one. Andy's static grass cherry was thus gloriously popped (I know... what?! He's been into this as long as me, but never before had the man grassed).

Here's a shot of a hill in the previous style, and next to it, a hill in the new style. See if you can spot the difference:


With that final spurt of scenery complete, I sat back and waited for the carnage to begin.


Tales from the weekend
If you want to read a variety of comedic and/or glorious recollections of battles fought and lost, head over to the Chronicle. Here are some highlights:


The Battle of the Southeastern Düsterwald
The Black Hands (Harvey) versus the Blue Moons (Charlie) 

Game over in two turns following both mangler squigs self destructing in turn 1, and the spear chukkas exploding by turn 2. Also both line units ran off the table after failing all their leadership checks due to said units self-destructing next to them. The Norscans did almost nothing.

The Blue Moons attempted to navigate their way to Silkwood but got lost, found some Norscans in the woods, and aggressively exploded at them to demonstrate who is bestest, then left, quite happy that they’d intimidated them with their ritualistic army-wide haka.


The Battle of Neubrücke
Blackhands (Harvey) versus The Stormborne Host (Jeff)

As Aldebard Kragmantle - warden of Kazad Urkbavak - was patrolling the Old Dwarf Road at Neubrücke, he was fallen upon by raiding parties of the Blackhands led by Talos Frostbane. Underestimating the barbarian Northmen, Aldebard turned to face and drew up his battle lines.

His ego writing promissory notes that his well armoured rear simply could not honour, Aldebard stepped forward to face the champion of the Knights and after a lengthy duel fell, grievously wounded. Under the relentless barrage of Talos’ magic and the vicious steel of the warriors the Dwarfs accrued far, far too many casualties and self preservation overcame stubbornness. As they fled they were cut down by blood crazed warriors and chalked up the first defeat of their campaigning season.

An honourable mention must be made of a single, nameless organ gun crewman who held up an entire regiment of Marauders for 3 combat rounds.



The Battle for The South Geistenmund Hills 
Druchii (Dan) versus The Moonlit Barony (Drew) 

Whilst summoning the legions of the spent to their rightful master, Baron Ferdinand Engelbrecht Moritz Rosengart III was set upon by a mysterious dark elf sorceress and her forces.

Righteously indignant at the gall of this peasant hussy, Ferdinand immediately advanced on his foes. The elves held their ground and began to fire, completely destroying the unit of raised servants Ferdinand had gloriously situated himself in.

He pressed on, charging the filthy intruders and terrifying a unit of archers into submission (their natural place) before pursuing with The Bloody Spavs and ripping them apart.

The elves held their nerve with that naive bravery found only in flesh bags, but ultimately scattered to the howling winds of the night from whence they came.



The Battle of Gargant’s Run
Onefinger Tribe (Maisey) versus The Blue Moons (Charlie)

Wee woz explorin the place norf of Little Squighorn coz we heard from local gobbos dere might be giants innit. We saw sum big'uns, so we sent da Deadwebs off to 'ave a look. When dey came back dey said “dey might be giants.”

Dey wozn’t giants. Dey was da zoggin ogres from up Norf! We squigged ’em good and went home for soup.

Before the mangler squigs happened.

After the mangler squigs happened. Note, the leadbelchers are fleeing through the ironguts, and have just caused them to break. Burping Rhone's unit of bulls is just... not there any more. Since both armies were painted by Maisey I figure his army still won.

Particular mention must be made of the diary kept by Maisey's ogre tribe. Here's a few entries:


The Battle of Styratia (Probably)
Onefinger Tribe (Maisey) versus The Avernal Glade (Andy)

Nargutt’s Diary day summthin'. We came, we saw, Burping Rhone Burped. 'E burped all over da little pixies. Deaf Mungo went boom, so did mor pixies. Pixies run off. Left roast venison for us. Good eating, would eat again.


The Battle of North Starnek Grasslands
The Onefinger Tribe (Maisey) versus Erui Naneth (Emma)

Da treez shot at da ladz. We shot the trees back. Then da tree started moving. So we burnt down da treez. Then it got all quiet again. Da tree woz not tasty. Would eat again.

Burping Rhone burps at the trees.


And now for some educational photos.


Jeff learns about ogre charges.

Jeff rolls to rally, Maisey learns about Dwarf stubbornness.

Maisey learns about Dwarf charges.


The fallout
Despite expansive moves from the Ogres initially, Jeff's dwarfs have emerged as the absolute frontrunners - just look at the campaign map!

The Northern Border Princes: campaign map, as of today.
Credit: me! Software used: Wonderdraft

By contrast, Harvey's purveyors of VIKING DEATH made a good account of themselves on the battlefield but were initially hampered by choosing to start in an area of cursed forest more suited to other races. As such they are spread wide but thin, and only took their first town towards the end of the weekend - in the opposite corner of the map!

The winners of the 2019 Campaign Hobo award is Dan, whose Dark Elves were the first (and currently only) faction to lose all their territory thanks to a combination of cursed dice and extremely cursed dice. Spare Dan a thought. As ever, he was an absolute gent about the situation and is cracking on with painting more angry pixies to take bloody revenge on us.

Somehow, my goblins actually won a battle... twice! Admittedly they also produced my fastest defeat ever and were generally a source of absolute lower-case chaos. Bloody marvellous.

I hope you've found this entertaining, and I equally hope someone out there has a crack at playing this with their group. We've had a cracking time so far. Any questions or issues with the rules, or anything else? Yeah? Throw a comment right up in our business.

Comments

  1. Gorgeous stuff. May I ask if players will be able to hire Dogs of War in their armies? After all, the Badlands has quite a few princedoms and roaming bands of cut throats

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks :)

      If any of the players have characterful things like that, then as long as it makes sense in the storyworld, our group would probably go along with it!

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  2. This looks amazing and thanks for sharing everything. I’ll be looking to use/adapt this at our club I think. ��

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! If you end up doing so, I'd love to hear how it goes :)

      Delete
  3. Thanks for sharing. I particularly enjoyed your icon design philosophy of making them distinct at a glance when tiny.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great read, thanks! We did something similar last year (http://sowingdragonsteeth.com/2018/07/31/fighting-battles-on-thorkinsons-island-rules-for-pick-up-play-in-whfb/), but this seems _much_ more polished. Would love to have a go sometime. I'm also in Oxford (and so was Curis above for a little while ;) ).

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    Replies
    1. Oooo, some compelling ideas in those rules you wrote! Nice one! Might have to use some of those :)

      Curis and I did actually hang out a bunch of times before he headed oop north with his missus, and managed to get a game in once. Nice chap.

      Are you garage-hammering it, or do you attend a club? I'm pretty much pure garage hammer, but by 'garage' I mean 'dining room,' and by 'hammer' I mean 'squig.'

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