My Strategy For Epic Campaigns

In 2018 I got back into board games in a big way. I had stopped playing in 2003, so did not get to experience the new wave and evolution in design of the 2000s and 2010s.

Then I dropped into a board game day at a local shop and became hooked again. So many new games. So many new designs. So many cool ideas!

I managed to butt my way into a small group who liked to play a new game every week. It was a fire hose of information, but satisfying.

Alas, the habit stopped in 2019 for reasons. But I took many lessons away and applied them to how I think about GMing and prepping the game.

Board Game Mastery

With a board game, you prepare by learning the rules. Then you simply show up to play and have a good time with friends.

To master a board game, you learn:

  1. What the win conditions are so you know the object of the game.
  2. What you can do on your turn so you know your options.
  3. How to perform turn actions so you can complete your turn.
  4. What game pieces do so you understand your constraints and opportunities.
  5. The consequences of each possible action on players and pieces so you can choose the best one.
  6. How to sequence, help, or hinder actions and game pieces so you can start using good tactics.
  7. How to chain sequences of good decisions together so you begin developing winning strategies.

This learning happens over time. The latter bullets come once you’ve got the fundamentals. And then it becomes cyclical, as a new insight about the win condition, an action, or a game piece gives you new ideas for tactics and strategies.

Campaign Mastery

As I mentioned, this approach changed the way I GM. At a high level, no pun intended, my strategy for running epic campaigns and doing GM prep looks like this:

  1. My win condition is the Infinite Game.
  2. Create my World Foundations to be the “board” on which I make my GM Moves.
  3. Create my Sandbox, Crawl, and Path so I know my options when it’s time to make GM Moves.
  4. Learn the rules and create living GM Cheat Sheets in Campaign Logger so I know how to perform my GM Moves.
  5. Create Lego pieces (People, Places, Prizes, Plots, Predicaments => the 5Ps) needed to make my GM Moves.
  6. Master my game pieces by reusing, reskinning, and recycling them, so I understand their constraints and opportunities for Combat, Puzzles, and Roleplay.
  7. Observe, evaluate, and learn the consequences of actions made on the “game board” and its 5Ps so I can make the best GM Move in the moment.
  8. Experiment by assembling, improvising, sequencing, and GMing the 5Ps so I can run ever-better sessions.
  9. Chain ever-better sessions together so I begin running epic campaigns.

It starts by playing so we can play again. We then launch with foundations and let gameplay build our game board as much as possible.

As we master rulings and game pieces with a living library, we keep things simple behind the screen but offer texture and complexity to players over time.

Finally, with intention and practice, we Master the Moment and serve up epic campaigns more often.

Have more fun at every game!

P.S. A final reminder about the Tiny Prep book sale. Buy it for 33% off today.