Mention the world 'campaign' to any grey haired long toothed vet, and their eyes will close and their faces take on a serene half smiling look as the old grey matter pulls out various memories of battles, sieges and all round backstabbery.
So, why do these veteran gamers love campaigns so much. Well, it's because they give our games a context, a narrative, a setting and a meaning. Campaigns are a way of linking together games to tell a story. Quite often, the next battle is often influenced by the previous one, giving a value to the games you play. This way, games become more than just games, they have an effect on the whole campaign. If you you can hold that bridge this game, then next game you relief force will arrive and you can push back the enemy, if you can't, they'll be at your city gates in the next battle. Now doesn't that sound more fun than just playing off against your mates?
Campaigns can challenge you in completely different ways to normal games. You can be an ubber general on the tabletop, sweeping all aside, but if you can't make sure you forces are well supplied, supported and in the chain of command, you'll soon find them dying quickly. Remember, transports are only good if you've got fuel to make them go. Campaigns test you skills as a general on the battlefield and a general in the command bunker.
Campaigns can be competitive, with a strict ruleset, it's quite possible to run a competitive campaign but they're best run co-operatively for fun. Who wins the campaign is just a bit of bragging rights, it's how they got there that makes the campaign worth playing.
Campaigns also free you from the normal constraints of W40k where you turn up with a standard force of X points and play a standard scenario against another standard army. Campaigns can throw that convention out of the window. If your forces have taken a battering and you've only got 1000 points worth of troops left holding the bridge against your friends 2000 point force - tough! Welcome to the real world where generals never fight in equal battles and the consequence of losing a battle can be far more reaching than in a pick up game.
Campaigns can also widen the game systems you play, incorporating Epic for large battles, or Aeronautic Imperialis for air supremacy runs and even Necromunda or 40k in 40mins for small scale sabotage and scout games. Campaigns are only limited by the imagination and commitment of the players involved in them.
Before you start a campaign, you'll need some regular players who are committed to playing the campaign. Just one player not bothering to play the games they need to can ruin the campaign for the other players. The more complex the campaign, the more commitment you need to see it through to the end.
Campaign come in all different shapes and sizes, from the simple escalation or ladder campaigns to the world wide territorial campaigns run by GW. In the next section, we'll be looking at the different types of campaigns and what they offer gamers.
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