How to organise huge battles (don't)

2017-03-17 Khaiell

Every wargame enthusiast feels an urge at some point to participate in a huge battle. Such an event is something nice to have experience participating in but ultimately it is the stuff the dreams are made of - not something you really want or need in your life. Nevertheless I will give you a survival guide should you go for it.

Picture described below
Huge tank battle of Warhammer 40k I participated in
Eldar tanks galore with a super-heavy ScorpionA cetificate I prepared for participants in an eventIn the early 90s' this was a huge game of fantasy battles for us

Challanges you should prepare for:

  • The games are not optimised for huge battles. You will have to device your own, simplified house rules to make the game possible in a reasonable time.
  • Most participants will struggle to keep up with the new rules or scale. Think of giving out printed handouts with basic facts/rules/stats.
  • You will not have time or other resources to test your ideas. Try the best you can but basically the first large battle will be your test. Unfortunately most likely it will be also your last game of that scale so any learnings will be lost in the void.
  • People will get super bored waiting for their turn. Try thinking of other activities they may engage in, like binge-watching all of the „Game of Thrones” episodes waiting for the moment they will be called to roll dice. You may also organise other, normal-sized battles on other tables.
  • People will wander off and forget they play the huge battle at all. To keep their interest despite being bored to death and having nothing to do, try creating a larger narrative. Some important goal of the battle, not just „bring as much models as you can”. For small kids the usual „girls vs. boys” works like a charm. For grown-up men it is more complicated, like „let’s see whether humans or orcs have bigger balls”. In reality I always over-invested in a narrative. But writing fluff was actually more fun than the battle itself.
  • Players will get super exhausted. This is actually very important as you can get people acquiring terrible headaches or even fainting. Remember to provide a lot of pizza and beer (or soft drinks if beer would be illegal). Don’t bother with healthy foods. Such an event calls for a marathon-scale calories intake.
  • Participants will get drunk or high. Try to limit their alcohol intake and be prepared to escort them somewhere they can sleep it over safely if necessary. Also think of someone to replace them at the table. If you have several players per side you can just designate one from each as a supreme commander.
  • People will lose interest. Don’t push it. Be bold enough to end the battle prematurely with some sort of deus-ex-machina sudden death condition.
  • Players will run the event to ground arguing about rules. You have to take a stance as the ultimate law-maker. To have this position you have to be extra careful not to have any interest in any side winning. Your victory lies elsewhere:

The most important rule of huge battles is not to have fun — it is practically impossible in such mental and physical stress — but to have great stories to tell and pictures to show. So prepare some great cameras and lighting and prepare some cool handouts like certificates of participation that will push the players and spectators to forget the toil and boredom and focus their memory of the achievement of having played in a huge battle.

See the pictures as separate pages: Huge tank battle of Warhammer 40k I participated in * Eldar tank formation with the super-heavy scorpion * A cetificate I prepared for participants in an event * In the early 90s' this was a huge game of fantasy battles for us

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