Campaigns with a Computer


Campaigns with a Computer


Since 1986 I have been building a computer based campaign engine. Way back then it was on my BBC-B Computer. Infamously when I was using it with friends for the first time at a convention I had organised we discovered some really stupid programming by yours truly. Buried in the movement process was a command which basically said:

If Nation=”French” then don’t move any of their units

Over the years I have dusted the ideas of and tried again a number of times as computers became more powerful and accessible. For the last couple of years I have, for the geeks, been using Visual Studio and Visual basic to create a wargame campaign management system.

In order to help the development and try out ideas I have been running a campaign. The results of the tool I have developed seem so far to be working well and they seem to give a reasonably good campaign. At least for my purposes it generates some interesting games, based on a strategic context!

The Campaign Management System


  • Horse and Musket periods only
  • Later periods are a work-in-progress
  • Square based movement
  • Units generate reports to HQs on enemy forces and their own location and situation
  • All reports are relayed up the chain of command
  • Time delays for messengers
  • Screening and combat when forces are in the same square
  • Logistics and supply are also a work-in-progress
  • Flexible unit and ground scales
  • Battle casualties and fatigue losses can be recovered and returned to units through the hospital system
  • Table-top battle orbat print-outs tell you when the units arrive

Game options

In setting up the campaign you can choose the following options


Maps and Terrain

The campaign operates over a map which you create. The maps the campaign creates and uses are square-grid based. I chose this rather than hexagons for the ease of development and the simple way it is to create campaign terrain and map from proper maps.


  • The base map are internet maps used to create the terrain
  • The system overlays a grid based on your selected ground scale
  • The Terrain Map is a representation of the terrain types you select for each grid square
  • The Game Map is a representation of the final digitised map you create and which the campaign is fought over

Main Screens used in the Campaign

These give you a feel how you interact with the units and provide orders


Movement Orders

Rather than typing in endless grid squares a unit is going to move through. The system presents movement based on the map. Here you select the unit and provide up to 5 waypoints and then allow the system to generate the quickest route following these waypoints.


Messages and Reports

The HQ can pass orders to units and receives reports from all the units within his command. The reports flow up the command chain. Therefore, for example, a subordinate Brigade’s intelligence report (INTREP) would pass to the Brigade’s parent Division before being sent to the Division’s parent Corps etc

HQ Situational Awareness

Although one could sit down and transfer all these reports to a map, I have provided a crude but effective overlay of unit reports to the HQ. One can scroll back through each day’s reports to see how things have changed on the map!


Table-top Battles

The whole point of the system is that it provides strategic and operational context for a table top battle. Therefore the system needs to allow table-top combat to take place and to present to the commanders the forces that are on the table or when they arrive!


The Valley Campaign 1862

As I mentioned I have been running a solo-campaign to see how the system works and to help make tweaks and develop ideas as I am going along. You can see how the campaign progressed here.


If you have any feedback on the approach or ideas or indeed might be interested in taking part in using this tool to help develop it then please let me know and we will see what we can arrange.

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