Theatre of War: A Piquet Campaign System. Includes: ToW Rulebook, reference sheets, and ToW cards. Requires Piquet Master Rules and any period supplment.
8.0 Designer's Notes
I find that one of the first things I read in a set of rules is the Designer's Notes. It tells me two things right away - one, the designer had a design goal in mind when he wrote the rules, and values his work sufficiently to further take the time to add a little more depth to the discussion. Second, if a rule set doesn't have Designer's Notes, it tells me that he either doesn't want to explain why he did things the way he did - or - maybe the rules don't have enough depth to them to bother with additional discussion! Since these campaign rules are quite a bit different than anything previous available, I think an explanation of my view of miniature campaigns is warranted.
We've all seen, or participated in, miniatures campaigns. They always begin with an abundance of enthusiasm. "We're doing the whole Eastern Front campaign!" "I'm Napoleon". This initial burst of energy is seldom maintained beyond the first real time month or two of the campaign. What happens?
Unfortunately, real life has a way of interfering with our miniature campaigns. Family and work obligations intrude on precious playing time, making each game something to be savored. Yet most miniature campaigns demand the drudgery of record keeping ("OK, the 14th Panzer Division is low on petrol" ) without providing much in the way of drama and suspense. They often require an umpire, who finds it difficult to participate in any major way in the campaign because of his knowledge of both side's intentions. Umpiring a campaign may very well be the most difficult job in miniature gaming - keeping the campaign going, keeping players interested, resolving problems, etc. As the final stake in the heart of the campaign, when battle is finally joined, it turns out to be an encounter battle with all the troops both sides can muster! Every battle is Borodino, Leipzig, or Kursk! Traditional campaigns also tend to encourage miniature arms races as both sides continually buy and paint new units in an attempt to form the Nth Brigade, which is needed to officially fill out the order of battle for the Nth Corps. So much work with so little payback. So how is Theatre of War different?
To begin with, Theatre of War uses mechanics that at their core are very familiar, and therefore comfortable, for the Piquet player. Sequence decks and initiative rolls are second nature to a Piquet player. Theatre of War takes the fog and friction of war that is supplied by the sequence decks and initiative rolls and pushes them up a few scales to deal with campaign issues. Battlegroups won't always be able to move when they want, and in some cases won't be able to move when the opportunity arises due to a lack of impetus. Rating the territories for movement costs reflects the difficulty in organizing and moving large forces of troops in rough terrain. Players will find that it is much easier to launch an offensive through relatively open territories than attempting a blitzkrieg through constricted terrain. On the other hand, the opposition might be prepared for such a maneuver....
The three types of terrain (Light, Medium, and Heavy) are a simple game mechanic to aid in translating map movement to tabletop game terrain. One of the concerns when maneuvering Battlegroups is to consider what type of tactical engagement you wish to fight, given your available miniature force composition. If your force is heavily populated with cavalry (Mongols, Huns, etc.), you probably won't want to attack your opponent in Heavy terrain. Light terrain would be much more suitable for such a mobile force. On the other hand, Heavy terrain is usually ideal if your force is predominantly infantry - especially if you prefer to play defensively on the table top. Of course, there is no guarantee that you'll be able to force the type of battle you prefer.....
The terrain generation system is an incredibly clever method developed by David McKinnis and Timm Meyers. I have yet to see a tabletop battlefield that has failed to be interesting and unique. Another advantage of the randomized terrain generation system is that it does indeed force gamers away from habitual terrain placement. No two battlefields will ever look alike!
The use of Battle Hands with Sequence cards is an easy method to move from the campaign map to the tabletop. Players need to weigh the possible repercussions of acting on Campaign cards, or choosing instead to build a Battle hand. The Battle hands will determine what type of tabletop battle will be fought, as well as any particular advantages (relative army sizes, terrain, set-up) that will exist. This combination and interplay of Battle hands is the heart and soul of Theatre of War. It allows the campaign to be fought without an umpire making rulings about force strengths and scenario definition, as well as giving the players some sense of pre-battle maneuvering as both sides attempt to gain an advantage. You know what you want to do, given the Battle hand that you've built. But you don't know what the battle will be since the final tabletop scenario will be dependent on the combination of your Battle hand and your opponent's Battle hand. Additionally, you may get the type of battle you want, but end up being outnumbered due to the particular composition of the relative Battle hands! Theatre of War places the gamer in the predicament of never knowing for sure what the tabletop game will hold - that is, never knowing until they've played their cards! Players are encouraged to add a bit of background descriptive color to the scenarios. While the combination of Battle hands may specify an Attack/Defend scenario, there is nothing to prevent the players from adding their own detail. An examination of the specific tabletop terrain, in combination of knowing that side A is defending may allow the players to define the scenario as a desperate defense of an important village or an attack on a vital crossroads. Additional detail and scenario plots are only limited by player's imaginations.
I purposely wanted to keep the campaign map abstract and not require special maps for play. The 8X10 gridded map accomplishes what is necessary for the game: establish relative positions of friendly/enemy troops in a campaign setting, and provide some additional flavor (terrain classes of the territory) for the campaign. I kept the map abstract because I very much wanted Theatre of War to be extremely flexible. The abstract map style allows gamers to choose the scale of campaign they wish to play - Tactical, Grand Tactical, or Strategic. The floating scale for the campaign maps also provides the guidelines for the turn time duration. Since Theatre of War had to fit all the periods allowed by Piquet, there was no option of providing maps for all those time periods or campaigns! The gridded map provided in the rules is a guideline. Gamers should feel free to use their artistic talents to spice up the map. Indeed, some game groups have simply taken a regular map and used the 8x10 campaign grid as an overlay to segment the map into game territories. Hex and area maps can also be used with the suggestions included in the map generation sections. Any of these methods work well; use the map style you prefer. After all, its your campaign!
Theatre of War: A Piquet Campaign System