Sunday, August 3, 2008

A bit of philosophy

I have been following a bit of discussion on the Old School Wargaming Yahoo Group concerning fictional countries/worlds and Napoleonic era gaming. That and other thoughts from other groups about starting new periods got me to thinking a bit about imaginations and ImagiNations (ImagiNations = imaginary countries).

The aforementioned discussion revolved around why so few of these ImagiNation campaigns seem to take place in the Napoleonic era and so many in the 18th century/Seven Years War era. I don't know, but I suspect there are several reasons, some of which were expounded on in that discussion. Among these are:
  • possibly a "cultural" bias in the sense that earlier practitioners and writers on wargaming chose to use the SYW era for theImagination campaigns, thereby giving the idea a certain stamp of approval. While their counterparts who wrote of Napoleonic gaming mostly confined themselves to more historic and less fictional participants. I haven't read all of the literature so I may be characterizing the differences incorrectly.
  • possibly, as some have said, the Napoleonic gamers tend to be more "serious" about the history of the period they play in.
  • possibly, as others have said, Napoleon so dominates the era that people can hardly conceive of gaming in the period without the little corporal and the French dominating the game (witness some of the recent proposals to have Nappy assasinated to remove his influence from the premise for a campaign, or moving the time period forward a bit past so Napoleon is out of the picture, imprisoned on St. Helena for example)

So, while there have been some ideas for more or less Napoleonice era campaigns they still seem to remain rooted for the most part in real countries. But there is no reason you couldn't have a couple of minor states battling it out as surrogates of the major powers or even as a completely separate conflict, neither affecting nor affected by the Napoleonic conflict. After all, the mid-18th century ImagiNations are often a world apart from the Seven Years War and Frederick and Maria Theresa and other lofty personages.

There are, of course, the rare exceptions, but by and large most of the ImagiNations do seem to find themselves in the mid-18th century. I haven't seen or heard of many WWII or American Civil War era campaigns using ImagiNations, for example. A few do break the mold to be situated in other eras (or places?), and some gamers indulge in a bit of time travel and visit their ImagiNations in more than one era (or even genres). And then there are the games and campaigns that are conducted in mythical places like Afriboria, Hyboria, and the like. Not to mention all of the fantasy and much sci-fi games and campaigns.

So my point is it's okay to use your imagination and some artistic license and discover new worlds, at the very least new geographies situated within the lighter corners of our own world.

Have fun!


rpardo said...

I agree with you.... The XVIII century atmosphere is more irreal and, at least for me, brings shadows of our childhood's tales (Cinderfella?). It is very difficult, for a smalls dukedom, to survive in a world dominated by the "corsican ogre"...

Bluebear Jeff said...

Besides everything else, the 18th century has tricorns . . . which tend to inspire the imagination and, as a result, Imagi-Nations.

-- Jeff

A J Matthews said...

I agree with Jeff, tricorns rock! One thing that does seem to have marked the Napoleonic era - the rise of nationalism.

Before then the ruler of a state was the state. If he got into a disagreement with a neighbor they could raise armies without resorting to conscription, and settle the matter like gentlemen without a lot of nasty jingoism.

andygamer said...

I agree with a.j. the most, although with the other points made, too.

And the other thing is that armies were much smaller then, usually about 50,000 tops, unlike those after the rise of mass armies. So even if you want to model the equivalent of a Prussian or Austrian field army, contrasted with a small duchy's army, it is still possible.

And there were alot of tiny duchies and the like then than after the fall of the H.R.E. and Napoleon's map re-drawing. So having a small force for a fictional state isn't too outside the realms of possibility.

tradgardmastare said...

It would be interesting to project our 18th century imaginations into the Napoleonic age . I often have thought about what would happen to Tradgardland under Napoleon but have not come to any conclusion. I am tempted some times to put my ideas into practice but time constaints/energy/ over diversification have not allowed this so far.
best wishes
p.s I have made a list of Dukes since the Duchy was founded and often think about wargames ideas from many other periods of history.

CWT said...

A very good point, and nice to see such a thoughtful article. I'm not sure about the reason is for the 18th Century imagi-nations bias.

I've often thought about a fictional imagi-nation war in some other period, but haven't yet got round to it. Has anybody else thought along these lines, and if so - how did it go?


Martin said...

Hi Fitz,

Yeah; when I started my Imagi-Nation (Raubenstadt), I was inspired by Grant and Young's writings, and the 18th Cent. seemed like a good place to "test the waters" with rules, background stories, and other fluff.

Now all that seems second nature to me, and I've started wondering how my little country would have fared in other times, both earlier and later than the Age of Reason. While cleaning out the basement, I found eight unopened Airfix Napoleonic French Omen?



Jerry said...

It seems like everything from Napoleon forward belongs to modern history. It lacks that romanticism important for the imagination.

With Napoleon came modern war, conscription, rudimentary mass production, massed artillery, and so on.

It was a titanic struggle that swallowed small nations whole. It has attractions all its own though for those very reasons.

Years ago I had a Command Decision rule set. It had the Russian front as a bathtub campaign. I've always wanted to do that with the Napoleonic Wars. Maybe not every year but one or two particularly interesting ones. 1809 would be my personal choice.

Just divide distance and population by 100 or so across the board. That brings 100,000 men down to one or two thousand. The distance from Paris to Vienna would be about 120 kilometers. Five or six days of good marching on the campaign map.

Now that is a campaign more in the style of ImagiNations.

Byrhthelm said...

Alan said,

"It would be interesting to project our 18th century imaginations into the Napoleonic age . I often have thought about what would happen to Tradgardland under Napoleon but have not come to any conclusion."

But I have. As many of you are aware, I started my Imagi-nation of Ober Nord Westfalen as a Napoleonic State. It is only since I was bitten by Louys that I became infected with tricornes, and am currently writing the back-story to tie the two periods together. And I'm having great fun in so doing!