I got a request from a Follower on the "Campaign for the Kingdom"
campaign I ran a couple of years back (and I'm sure I'll run again).
The biggest problem with campaigns, as anyone who's ever ran or been in one will tell you, is the people in it. Everyone's got jobs, lives and the world to keep them from showing up on a regular basis. You have to do your map moves, and then you have to be there to play. A mapless campaign is the answer. I didn't make this up. I borrowed the idea many moons ago from an old Wargames Illustrated. No, I'm not going to go track down which one, but I am going to tell you how it goes because it's that simple.
Figure out who's "in". Your players can play as much, or as little as they want, but who shows the most is probably gong to get a better shot at winning. Either randomly, or based on who a more consistant attendee, pick a "King" and a "Pretender".
Next, figure out how long you want the campaign to last. Ten is a good point value. The King starts with 2 points, and the Pretender with one. Everyone else starts at zero. At any given point, whomever has the most points is always the KIng, and the next highest always the Pretender. Ties can rolled off, or the player who shows the most can win ties. First to the agreed amount, wins the campaign.
How do you get points? You win battles.
My ruleset of choice for the Middle Ages is "Flower of Chivalry", still available, I believe from Canadian Wargames Group. I've discussed in the past why, but briefly, I think it gives a great feel for the period without a lot of crap. I have slight changes to the rules in that I use one base for each unit instead of 6, and use a roster system to track hits.
When your group shows up for battle the King chooses his first noble to fight on his side, then the Pretender, alternating until all players have a side. (enter nightmare about being picked last for kickball). The way I did it, every player started with the same core forces: a unit of dismounted knights, a unit longbowmen, and a unit of halberdiers. Then, again, alternating between players, each player picked a unit from the pool. I had pikemen, mounted units, crossbows, etc. to give lots of variety. They picked until everyone had 6 units.
Forces thus picked, it was time for battle.
The battlefield was randomly generated before (I use the old random maps from Warfare in the Age of Reason). Next, possibly my favorite part: battlefield leader values. In FoC, you're either Brilliant, Exceptional, Good, Poor or a Buffoon. Each level, of course gives you not only Command Radius, but also battlefield flexibility. We generate them randomly before each battle. Who knows? Maybe they had a bad night? Maybe they're feeling particularly motivated? All I know is, the room is really quiet when the rolls are made. Last campaign, the King was almost always a Buffoon, and they still won.
The battle is fought.
The leader of the winning side, be it King or Pretender gets to award points. He has the option of giving everyone on his side (including himself) a point. He doesn't have to. You played like crap? He doesn't give you a point. He can give someone on the other side a point. Maybe some "arrangements" were made before the battle? He may also, at his discretion, execute one player, either side. This person loses 2 points. This usually happens to the player with next highest point value. Now you see where the intrigue happens. The background almost rights itself if you wanted this to be a running narrative.
If course, the poor nobles son will take his place (and remaining points).
As winner, you have to balance your own needs against your generals. Spurn too many players by being stingy with points, and next game, he may stab you in the back. Keep piling on the points to a favored general, he might be the next Pretender.
No muss. No fuss. Little to no record keeping. Who shows, shows.
I did a little extra of course, creating shields bearing the real life arms of my players, but renamed fanciful names. Some players that signed up for the campaign never showed. They got no points, and it didn't bog the entire campaign down.
Maps look cool. Play by email sounds like a great idea. It never works, does it? This was the first and only campaign I ran that went start to finish in a timely matter, and most importantly was fun. The KIng was a hopeless buffoon, but because of careful strategy off the field, he won.
Hope this helps.