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Da Twelve Days ovv Christmas

Mighty Empires mod

by Avian

I had hoped to be able to run the Mighty Empires campaign as straight out of the box as possible, preferably with no modification at all. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be a very good idea, as the rules have some loopholes that are too easy to exploit and we thought they could do with some additional rules to make them a bit more exciting.

The first version of the modified rules

The second version of the modified rules

The third version of the modified rules

Note that the events did not change from the second to the third version, which is why there is no separate file with events cards for v3.



The first version of the modified rules

The second version of the modified rules

The third version of the modified rules


The first version of the modified rules

Changes to the rules are mainly bases on experience with our four previous map campaigns that have used a series of refines home grown rules. Thus I believe we do have a good deal of knowledge about what works and what doesn't, at least around here.


Campaign structure

The most obvious change is the structural change. The original Mighty Empires set has single-player realms and quite short turns, while this version has two-player realms and a lot more happening each turn (roughly four times as many battles). As a consequence, it assumes that each turn lasts three weeks. This is the basic structure we have used here for all the previous local map campaigns and as I see it, it solves a lot of the problems map campaigns often run into. A campaign that requires (or at least strongly encourages) all players to show up once per week means that players that are not highly dedicated have a quite high chance of dropping out. Everybody has some kind of Real World commitments that can get in the way of their gaming and a very tight campaign schedule is not ideal. Two-player teams means that only one player actually has to show up for each campaign meeting and longer turns gives more freedom for when you play your games. By being more flexible, I belive the chance of the campaign actually being completed is much greater.

Another change that was done to make sure the campaign gets completed is having a fixed lentgh (6 turns), and having the largest realm at that time be the winner, rather than the original victory conditions which meant that the campaign could be over in one turn, or it could drag on indefinitely, with no winner at all.



Another change we thought would be important to add was some way for the actions on the campaign map to influence what is happening on the battle field, instead of just the other way around. One thing that players in our earlier local mapg campaigns kept asking for was just this, for example having a battle for a mountain tile be different from one fought for a tile with lots of woodland, and this aspect is completely missing from the Mighty Empires rules. Thhis has only been partly implemented in this version of the modified rules, as the basic rules of Mighty Empires do not place battles in any specific place. If you don't know where a battle is being fought, you can't really make terrain rules for it. Thus what we did was to just make the features (cities, castles, etc.) built on the tiles in a realm affect what the armies can consist of. From experience I know how difficult it can be to balance building costs in campaigns such as this - too low cost and everybody build like crazy to get the maximum benefit as soon as possible; too high and nobody bothers to build anything. As it is, the cost is kept the same as in the basic rules, but the benefit is increased, which might turn out to be a bad idea, but we introduced a limit to how many features you can have, to hopefully limit any abuse. The limit is probably also necessary for another reason, as you get quite few features in the set and might soon run out of cities and mines.
We also chose to not follow the official rules (found on the GW website) for the Wizard's Tower, Dwarf Brewery and Orc Idol at all. Army specific rules are notoriously difficult to balance, and if only a few armies get them, the rest will probably be somewhat upset. Instead, we kept the rules for these abstract, classing them all as monuments, giving them all the same rules and letting all armies build them.


Leaders and laggers

One thing I think is very important in map campaigns is that players who are doing well get some benefit, while players that are doing badly get a break. Being the biggest isn't any good if all it means is that all the other players start picking on you, while being small and weak gets very boring after a while. Now, the Mighty Empires rules actually have a rule that gives small players a break and which I really like, namely that they get to take their actions first in all the phases. However, being allowed (or, rather, forced) to issue challenges first isn't really much help if you are an inexperienced player and everybody else will massacre you anyway. What is lacking is an underdog bonus in the actual battles - you won't be doing well unless you can rack up those empire points and there is nothing to help out an inexperienced player in that regard.

What we have done is to increase the points you get from playing against a bigger realm, while reducing the points you get from playing against a smaller realm. Thus there is little point in splatting the noob when you are a veteran player and you will get more points (and more challenging battles) against players who are less badly off.

To compensate for this and give bigger realms more of a benefit, we have altered the rules for how many points you get when you fight more than one battle per turn, something most players will do now that every player can issue a challenge, even if they have been challenged by somone else. Your score from the battle phase is now not equal to your average score in the battles, but your highest.


Team battles

Another issue was team battles. As it stood, there was essentially no benefit for the players teaming up as they didn't get any more points to play with. Team battles, like building costs, are one of those areas that are very tricky to balance out as it is very easy to make it either much too good or much too weak. With the alteration, we hope that team battles are interesting, but not something you'd want to use all the time.


Experiences with the first version of the modified rules

The first set of rules worked quite well, though there were some problematic areas. The first was that there was tendency for people to fight the same old opponents every turn, which got a bit dull after a while. You could attack people further away, but people did not see a whole lot of point in it. This is often a problem with map campaigns (the 40K players here in town are currently running a campaign where this is a particularly great problem). I had some ideas for how to tackle this right from the start, but I did not want to apply these to the first version of the rules as there was a lot of other untried mechanisms and I wanted to keep things relatively simple (rare for me, I know).

Secondly, the gold mechanism, one of the few things left pretty much unchanged from the standard Mighty Empires rules, did not work well. It required too much book-keeping to keep track of how much gold each realm had and it could have too big an effect on battles. And the limitation that mines could only be built on mountain or river tiles never made much sense to me (specifically, the river part). Cases where realms got heaps of gold which proved near-impossible to keep track of brought back memories of the first map campaign I ran, which were not particularly pleasant.


The second version of the modified rules

The modified Mighty Empires rules did in fact work quite well, so the sixth local map campaign used rules that were only slightly modified from the previous season (always a healthy sign). After the first, quite limited, season, I was eager to introduce more stuff from earlier campaigns (all things being more or less equal, I prefer more stuff).


Improving interaction

To attempt to remedy the problem with people only fighting the same old people every turn, two new measures were introduced, one of which worked decently while the second almost lead to disaster. The first was to add a couple of new features which we had markers for from the old, original Mighty Empires set (ships and settlements, called 'fleets' and 'trade routes' in the rules set). Both of these let tiles that were further apart count as being next to each other, so that if you had a fleet on a river tile, you could conquer other tiles further along that river, for example. The requirement that all tiles in a realm must be connected was removed and instead there was a 25-point penalty to a realm's army size for each disconnected tile. And as mentioned, fleets and trade routs could provide connection between tiles that were not next to each other. None of these things were really new, and similar ones had been included in older map campaign rules we have used up hereearlier. To make these rules work, the build phase was modified a bit, a prime example of a lot of thought beforehand ending up in a quite simple solution that is often not even noticeably different from the old rules.

The second measure that was introduced was to do away with the old setup where starting areas were pre-defined and instead let the players choose starting tiles freely. This quickly proved to be a horrible idea, with one realm starting in an excellent position with a large hinterland of neutral tiles that were very difficult to get at for the others, while another realm started in a very bad position, with very little room to manoeuvre and enemies close by on all sides. Had it not been for the introduction of a seventh realm in turn 2, which ended up behind the realm with the large hinterland (by pure luck, I might add), the result might have been a foregone conclusion from the start. The method for introducing a new realm into the game was mostly an improvisation, by the way and was added after the campaign had actually started and we wanted to fit in a couple of extra players.



In addition to two new features, the existing ones were tweaked. Castles let you place out garrisons (using yet more markers from the original Mighty Empires set), which made enemy tiles easier to conquer and own tiles more difficult. Garrisons could also be pulled back to protect their castle if it was threatened, a little addition I quite liked but which a lot of the other players found very counter-intuitive. I also liked how this made the map more interactive.

With mines I changed the way gold worked, so that mines now generated three gold toked per turn in mountains and two gold tokens everywhere else. Each token could be used in one battle and gave 50 pts extra in that battle only, which greatly cut down on the book-keeping, and the limit of two gold tokens per turn made their effect more balanced.


Other stuff

Other changes included a slight modification to some of the events. For example, 'Elite army' was further toned down and I really can't understand how people find the version in the standard ME rules workable. A couple of others were also fiddled with, but that was all minor stuff.

To cut down on the amount of rules, some things that had never been used in the first version were dropped. Amongst these were rules for team battles, which we admittedly have never found a good way of handling in our campaigns.


The third version of the modified rules

As it should be, the third version of the rules had fewer changes than the second, and a lot of them was simply to clear up wording and give more examples. Or things were made more intuitive, such as the rule for withdrawing garrisons, a rule I think worked perfectly fine as it was but which a lot of players did not like because they felt it made little sense the way it was written in version 2.


Starting areas

The third version goes back to the first version's method of having pre-defined starting areas, as free choice in starting areas was the major problem with the second version. Also included in an appendix to help with this are some suggested setups, two for campaigns with six realms (the recommended number) and one each for three, four, five or seven realms.



The option to trade was also included. This was actually something I thought I had included in the second version of the rules and I was greatly surprised to find out mid- way through the campaign that I had in fact not done this. This was very annoying as my realm had thought out a good trade with one of the others and it just did not seem right to suddenly introduce a new rule to favour us.


Army composition

Other than that there are only minor changes, mainly to the composition restrictions. Wizards get a bit more limited and High Elves end up following the same restrictions as everybody else (having fought more against them, I see no real reason to give them an exception when bretonnians for example get no extra Hero choice for their BSB.


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