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Tabletop Game / The Hyborian Campaign

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Tony Bath, the organizer of the Campaign, concentrates on a battle.

"As it happens, I enjoy organizing working out systems of military service, taxation, family lineage and such items came easily to me and in fact gave me many hours of enjoyment... Howard...had worked into his stories far more background detail than exists in the normal fantasy. He had provided an outline map... and while the geographical picture was rather vague, featuring few cities, there was a wealth of ethnological detail available. On this I proceeded to build."
— Tony Bath on the original inspiration for the campaign, White Dwarf Issue #4

Before War Machine, and before Warhammer Fantasy, there was Conan the Barbarian.

Tony Bath was a noted Wargamer during the 1960s and 70s. He was likewise a ardent fan of Robert Howard's Conan the Barbarian series, and so it was natural that he would come to combine the two. What followed was what may be one of the most in-depth and influential fantasy wargaming campaigns conducted. This was not a mere lifting of the Conan the Barbarian: in order to provide a suitable background for a wargame, Bath expounded deeply into the world of Hyboria, describing its armies, society, and economy, and the end result was a setting that was as much Bath's as it was Howard's.

The rules, likewise were as in-depth and detailed as his Worldbuilding. Virtually every detail of warfare— movement, soldiers' pay, character traits, and economic resources, where elaborately expounded on in order to provide a realistic experience of warfare. Initially beginning as a two-player matter between Bath and his associate Donald Featherstone, it grew rapidly as more of their friends wished to join in the fighting. In the end the campaign lasted for several years, conducted not only on the tabletop but also in mail as players sent their orders and complete with a newsletter sent out to the players to keep track of everything that was occurring.

The rules, background and history of the Hyborian Campaign can be found in "Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming", available on Lulu. A digital memorial to Tony Bath and an overview of the campaign can be found here.

Tropes of the Hyborian Campaign

  • Alternate Universe: Of Conan the Barbarian, of course. Even accounting for the initial differences between Howard and Bath's Hynorias, the Hyboria that emerged once the dust settled was radically divergent from the original setting.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted. An entire chapter of Setting Up a Wargames Campaign examines the maintenance of armies from pay of troops to production of weapons. Failure to supply troops would result in them losing effectiveness every turn.
  • The Empire: Cimmeria united to become Cimmerian Empire early on, though as the campaign passed it became defunct and was replaced by the Confederation of Varnar. The Shemite and Vendhyan Empries are "present day" examples of this trope.
  • The Federation: Aquilonia eventually became one after assimilating several border states. Each member state is autonomous, with issues like defence and diplomacy being nation-wide.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Downplayed: At one point in the game, the campaign newspaper, the Shadizar Herald, was taken over by one of the players after it reported scandalous rumours about the Queen. The Game Master had to stage a riot in the city in order to wrest back control of the paper.
  • Low Fantasy: As per the original source. Bath went even further in this regard, doing away with magic all together and just keeping the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures intact.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Vendhya (which was originally a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of India) could definitely be considered this once the campaign ended. It began with conquering minor NPCs, went on to conquer even one of the players' empires and going on to subjugate Khitai in the east to parts of Shem to the west and everything in between by the campaign's conclusion. Note that Shem is the setting's equivalent of Egypt.