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Campaign vs Scenario – In Board Games

I often talk about this is my Kickstarter Back or Brick articles. You can see it in today’s article for Zombicide: Undead or Alive. And I talk about them because I like my campaign games a lot, but both of them do have some benefits or negatives to them. Let us dive into the two different types of games and see what they might have that’s similar and what is different.

Campaign vs Scenario – Similarities

Both of the game styles tell story, that is going to be the biggest similarity between them. In fact, in campaigns you play through a series of scenarios often. With Gloomhaven, for example, each dungeon crawl is a scenario. And the scenarios are one of the ways that story is driven the most generally in both of the games.

Mechanics can also be a commonality between the two, but that is mainly that being a campaign game or a scenario driven game, the mechanics can really be anything. They might lean more into certain types of mechanics, but they can be often more focused on dice chucking.

Image Source: Polygon

Campaign vs Scenario – Differences

One of the differences is that throughout a campaign you are likely leveling up or improving things. A scenario is generally going to be more of a one off. Also the scenarios in a campaign are going to be at least loosely tied together. For a scenario driven game, they might be tied together by theme, but won’t be a fully progressing story.

There is also just a time commitment aspect as well. A campaign having a story that is strung together over time and you play it much longer. I think that some scenario based games will have longer scenarios because it is a one off, but that’s not always the case.

Is One Better Than The Other?

Both of them have a space on my shelf, and I like having both of them there. One advantage to both is that they are often an experiencial game. The scenarios are great because you get that experience but you can do it with any group of people, and you can play them over again with a new group if you desire. Whereas a campaign is going to tell it’s story most likely over multiple sessions and scenarios.

So you can consider the how you want to play. The campaign, theoretically, will have more of a story overall, and that is fun, but do you have a consistent group or a consistent time to play. It took me two and a half years to get through all of Gloomhaven and now we’ve been playing Tainted Grail for a couple of months. So it really depends on your situation which one is better.

Image Source: Board Game Geek/Awaken Realms

I also think that scenarios can be better for groups with a ton of games that they want to play, or players with a more limited focus. I started playing Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion with a friend, and I do want to get back to it, but I also had gotten in a number of new games that I wanted to get to the table. So there is a balancing act for myself and for a lot of people, it’d be very easy to only ever play campaign games and neglect other parts of ones collection.

How Do You Decide?

Like I said, I think this all comes down to your group. Some groups play campaign games all the time and the limited different games played is perfectly fine and I’ve even seen this done with scenario driven games before as well. So know your group, I like to have a variety, so I try to create gaming groups and spaces to play one off games and then other spaces to play campaigns. But it depends on your taste and how much story you want. I love that campaigns can have so much story, but that isn’t everything, all the time.

Do you prefer campaign games or games with one off scenarios?

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