Sunday, 9 November 2014

Little Boxes Made Out Of Ticky Tacky

Memo to self
1 Update the blog on a more regular basis
2 Once a year is not regular

Work on the not so snappily titled "Modern Imagi-Nation Project" has been proceeding apace, albeit a lot slower than I'd hoped.  To recap, a couple of months back we looked at that table full of Plasticville buildings, picked out about a dozen of them, picked out a handful of figures for each of three factions (motorcycle gangers, "hip-hop" gangstas and police) and decided to prepare these for a smallish skirmish scenario to act as a starting point for San Paradiso.

To be fair, Mi Hermano Constructor, Jonesy has been joining me pretty much every Sunday for a few hours crafting session and while he's been doing the bulk of the work on most of the Plasticville buildings, I've found myself distractedly working on a hundred and one other minor terrain details, such as palm trees, scatter terrain and signage.  This could be why progress has been slower than anticipated, however I think we are going to wind up with a more attractive scenery when the buildings are completed.  We've even had one visit from our friend Crazy Eddy, who started painting all of the bikers and gangstas (thus making finishing them his job)

We've also discovered another source for a couple of small but interesting buildings.  In Japan, the "Tomica City" range of toys  allows you to create a very impressive cityscape of buildings, roads and railways in 1/64 scale.  While only a very limited subset of the range is available in the UK, several useful items have been on sale recently on Amazon..

The buildings are all basically "little boxes" like this pizza shop.  Being scaled for the inch-high toy figures as seen in this photo, they're visually a very good fit for 28mm figures, although the building footprints are a bit on the small side.  However compared to the Plasticville commercial buildings, these make quite acceptable "mini-units".  And let's face it, the pizza-delivery trike is worth the box price on its own!

Anyway outside of the project's assigned Sunday sessions, I've taken to painting figures while (half-)watching films and TV shows in the evenings.  I've found I can get through quite a lot of figures this way (not to mention quite a lot of video).  For highly individual figures, like the gangers, I can easily manage between six and ten figures in an evening.  For more uniform figures, like soldiers or boiler-suited minion guards, the bulk of the figures' paint job comes from the Army Painter colour primer and all I need to do is pick out necessary details (flesh, boots, weapon, belts and any other details that are appropriate).  These I've found I can rattle through at an alarming rate - one evening I think I managed over forty such figures in one, admittedly long sitting.

As a result, when the original planned project terrain and figures are completed, we'll immediately have a wide selection of other figures ready to play out a range of conflict types, from further urban gang violence on the streets of Port-au-Nice, to rebel farmers in armed revolt in San Paradiso's interior, all the way up to an outbreak of hostilities with Paradiso's belligerent neighbour (whose troops' uniform and equipment may or may not bear an uncanny resemblance to the Iraqi Army.)

At the moment though, the project is all about the journey, not the destination.  I'm hoping we'll be past that stage and in a place to roll dice and play with all these new toys before the end of the year.


While the overall plan is for San Paradiso to be a campaign backdrop for an ongoing narrative, I was thinking it would be nice to have some form of campaign mechanics, if only to give some structure to any sub-campaigns that might arise.  Take the farmers' revolt mentioned above.  We could simply play out a number of skirmish games, arbitrarily evaluating how individual game results affect the overall flow of the conflict.

But one night of insomnia-driven web surfing later, and I think I've found the perfect Universal Mapless Campaign system.  It's a synthesis of Rick Priestly's Warmaster Ancients campaign system, and the political system used by Kaptain Kobold in his Alto Peru campaign rules.  Having shamelessly stolen, mangled, mutilated, folded and regurgitated these ideas, I present them below for your amusement and edification.

Dr V's Slightly Derivative Universal Mapless Campaign Rules.

Each battle in the campaign is fought between full "armies" balanced according to the scenario (so for an encounter battle, the forces should be roughly even, for an attack/defence the points/numbers might go up to 2:1 or even 3:1)

Success or failure in the campaign is measured by the acquisition and loss of Resources.  A Resource can be absolutely anything, appropriate to the scale of the campaign.  It could be something substantial like control of a territorial region or access to a supply of some commodity, or it could be an entirely abstract thing, like political support from a particular group, or entirely nebulous like "The Goodwill Of The People".   The campaign mechanics can work with entirely generic, unnamed Resources, but naming them does add considerable colour and will help build the campaign's narrative.

Each force in the campaign starts with a number (suggested 3) Resources.  In addition, a pool of resources start's the campaign Uncontrolled.

After every game where there is a clear winner, they may do one of the following.

1) Take control of an Uncontrolled Resource.  This is automatically successful.
2) Attempt to steal control of a Resource controlled by the defeated enemy.  This is successful on a roll of 5+ on D6
3) Undermine the enemy's control of one of their Resources, making it Uncontrolled.  This is successful on a roll of 3+ on D6

The campaign continues until...
a) one side is left with no controlled resources
b) one side has three times the number of resources held by their opponent
c) an agreed number of games have been played
d) everyone involved is bored.

The winner is the side holding the most resources at the end of the campaign.

Using this system, you have complete freedom when it comes to the individual battles.  One game might be a 28mm skirmish using Flying Lead or Chain Reaction, another might be a larger scale operation played in 6mm using micro-armour rules.  Yet another might be an air-to-air battle using C21 or Check Your Six.  Whatever games the participants feel like playing and can be worked into the campaign narrative.

Example setup - Farmers' Revolt

A small number of landholders in the Western Foothills region of San Paradiso have been protesting against what they say are unfairly high levies against their crop production.  What began as a civil disobedience campaign has escalated into a minor insurrection, with bands of armed farmers clashing with patrols from the San Paradiso Army sent to maintain the peace.


Farmers - Control of the Foothills of Monto Blanko, The Bridge at El Humber, Support from the Church

Army - Secure base of operations at Verdaville.  Secure supply of food and supplies, The Airfield at Los Anillcamino

Uncontrolled - Foreign media interest. The fertile Piso River valley.  The Goodwill Of The People. The Sunrise Corp Processing Plant.

As you can see, that's quite a mix of traditional territories and abstract concepts, all of which can be seen as contributing to victory or defeat by either side.  For an urban street-crime mini-campaign, Resources might be control of individual streets or buildings, support from a corrupt cop or a supplier of contraband goods.  For a galaxy-spanning sci-fi campaign, Resources might be whole worlds, Support from an Alien Race, or The Force.

The rules would work exactly the same if you simply said

Farmers - 2 Resources
Army - 2 Resources
Uncontrolled - 4 Resources

... but actually giving each resource point an in-world identifier is much more colourful.

There you have it.  Not entirely original, but an amalgamation of a couple of good ideas by clever people that I think would work quite well.  |I can already think of some variations and optional rules that would add variety at the cost of the system's current extreme simplicity, but this is where the idea stands for now.

Thoughts anyone?


  1. I recognise that resource system :)

    Look forward to seeing it in play in various forms though :)

    1. What's the old saying? "If I have seen further, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of kobolds..." or something like that :-)

      My compliments, sirrah. I just discovered your blog last night and a quick scan found much of interest.

      Everybody go check out the Kaptain's blog at

  2. I missed Kaptain Kobold's original version, but this sounds like an interesting, useful and fun way to run a campaign. (I like the campaign ending conditions, including condition)
    A simple system like this is easy to get started, as is, and can also usually be readily adapted to suit one's taste or specific wants and needs for each campaign.
    Wheels are already turning. :)

    1. Over the years I've wasted far, far too much time coming up with lovingly drawn maps and elaborate campaign mechanics for campaigns which almost all immediately grind to a halt for one reason or another. This is as close to zero-prep as I think you can get. List three things for each side and four other things. Boom! Go! Post-battle campaign maintenance is about thirty seconds and (possibly) a single die roll.

      I must confess, I'm sorely tempted to just clear off the coffee table, throw down a green sheet with some of the terrain I've been working on and just start playing out that Farmers' Revolt.

    2. "Over the years I've wasted far, far too much time coming up with lovingly drawn maps and elaborate campaign mechanics for campaigns which almost all immediately grind to a halt for one reason or another"

      Pretty much my view. At the end of the day I want a campaign to link together a series of tabletop games, where the results of one game affect the next. Most of my campaigns have very little in the way of player decisions between games; the results of one battle influence a series of die rolls which then partially set up the situation for the next battle. Player decisions are made on the tabletop.

      At the end of the day, all I ask of a campaign are two or three interesting battles as part of a generated narrative.

    3. I think you drew elaborate maps and lovingly campaigned mechanics because for you that's were the fun is. Planning the big event, putting on the show, drumming up the enthusiasm.

      I can dig that!