This series is for anything that I can’t fit into the others I’ve got and first up is my preferred style of campaign play – free form. A style of play where players have to deal with persistent effects and, if they want to, can create half decent stories. There are other flavours of campaigns; scripted, narrative, scenario based, event-tree base, mushroom, casserole… but for me, free form is where it’s at.
I was first introduced to this several years ago at my club when one of the veteran players adapted older, micro-modern, campaign rules for a WH40k setting for about 8 or 9 of us. He drew up a hex map and gave us a random starting hex which would serve as our HQ, if we were to lose that then game over. We all had several thousand points to build our initial army with, and so long as we used codex units we could organise and build our forces, or battlegroups, as we liked. Playing Tau I remember building several mechanised battlegroups and sending them far and wide to claim as much territory as I could, quickly.
Each turn we had to give orders to the umpire so our battlegroups actually did something. Orders could be as detailed as you like but you had to remember that the umpire had to understand all of it. Other than resource gathering (ie. earning points to spend) it was entirely up to the player as to how you played and what your victory conditions were. Each battle was a straight up fight between 2 battlegroups with the only objectives being what you decided, none of this objective marker rubbish. Kill, be killed, or run.
The free form idea essentially boils down to “if you can think it, and the GM/umpire allows it, then do what you want”. Being Tau, I offered a surrendered defence force an opportunity to join me or go home. The umpire, pretending to be the defeated troops, told me to convince him, so unprepared I gave a haphazard speech having not realised this was the sorta thing this particular umpire did. One dice roll later and I earned myself 10 guardsmen! After that I designed a propaganda flyer and each of my battlegroup’s rules of engagement included offering the enemy a chance to surrender after presenting them the flyer.
Other examples of crazy free form antics: The umpire mentioned above, when playing one of his old micro modern campaigns, utilised a laser targeting media camera crew and on another’ separate occasion buried a scud (ill let your imagination run with that one!). My personal favourite is when Ray and I hatched a propaganda coup depicting what looked like a retaliatory attack between our forces, but it was actually concealing a redeployment prior to a major blitzkrieg offensive.
There are a few downsides unfortunately. Free form campaigns need an umpire to really make them work. They are also more fun with more players as everyone ends up backstabbing someone and a whole of abuse fun is had. However, as real life gets in the way and whilst your waiting on folk to catch up, weeks and weeks go by and folk start losing interest.
That said, I don’t think I’d want to play any other type of campaign! I’ve uploaded some examples of the 2 campaigns I’ve been involved in and I’m working on a firestorm armada version too as popularity for it is growing in the club. If you have any stories of your campaign antics then I’d love to hear them!