Saturday, January 11, 2020

Other People's Imagi-Nations


I received such great responses to my previous posting on Imagi-Nations, that I just had to share them, and my own responses, in this posting.  I will add a few comments as they occur to me.


Neil Patterson:
It's interesting that your Imagi-Nations span different time periods and continents; too many people jumped on the "Old School" bandwagon fad of a good few years ago and created C18th states only. Sadly these were often derivative, lacking imagination and simply historic armies with silly names, formed into impractical sized units and never finished.

For me the key component has to be some sort of internal consistency; whether that's through names or colours as you have done or by basing the project on novels, Tin-Tin comics or other such backgrounds.
This is just the start however; the thing is you can then develop this further or just keep the bare bones or you can develop one aspect, such as designing uniforms or army lists. Where a lot of people fell down was starting here, but without the background consistency, stalled. The internet is littered with such attempts.
Myself, I have been developing Imagination-Nations for more years than I care to mention. A long running project has been to bring to life the Nation states of GDW's "Soldier King" boardgame which gives a ready made campaign system, map and geography. More than 20 years ago I opted for 30mm Spencer Smith plastics for the armies and they have been evolving since then as GDW "Volley & Bayonet" units (I know you don't like these rules!).
I also developed modern Latin American countries to fight out various internal conflicts; Costa Guano (with San Angeles and El Bravado as neighbours). In collaboration with my sadly deceased friend, Danny O'Hara, we had a brief existence on the internet as part of "el Mundo Mythico" for like minded states and players.
For "moderns" I also created the "Central Eurasian Republic" a former SSR of the USSR coping with the breakup in the 1990s; in truth, it was simply an excuse to utilise the 1/87 Soviet models I had accumulated, without having to stick to historical organizations, as in many cases I lacked the correct models or had an unusual mix, such as JS III with T-54s and T-72s. Using the brief hints emerging from the various conflicts, this odd mix was perfectly feasible.
The latter two projects had no map and only vague geography and scanty place names. Attempts at development actually hindered creativity as in attempting to anchor them to real places brought problems of consistency by way of real countries and locations. Costa Guano is vaguely Central American and the Central Eurasian Republic encompasses Caucasian flavours (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia etc.) with the steppes of Tajikistan and similar.
I have also toyed with the idea of developing different historical periods for these Imagi-Nations, such as 1920-30s Latin American or Comic Opera versions of the Soldier King countries based on Czech, Hungarian or Romanian armies of that period. More latterly this has become more generic in the form of "Ruritania v Graustark". (and don't forget Hope Hopkins's Kravonia, or R.L. Stevenson's Gerolstein!)
For me the greatest appeal in Imagi-Nations has to be in CREATING history not following it; as much as I enjoy historical research, there is also something deeply satisfying in being able to simply indulge in your own desires or delusions. No longer do you need to find a formation that used your favourite tank or search for a particular uniform colour combination, as if you so wish it, just create it without fear on censure. Likewise, if a historical battle captures you, but you lack the correct units or even armies, you have a set of proxies that can step in which will allow any result, not just the historic one.
I was captivated by the Wargame by Charles Grant, especially the creativity of the VFS and have spent much of my wargaming life in convincing myself to indulge, rather than follow the crowd of convention. I just wish I'd done it earlier!
Neil

My Reply:
Neil -
Thank you for your delightful response! I like the sound of your imagi-nations already!

One I didn't mention in this article was 'Harad', and invention of a friend, who having (after several years of trying) persuaded me to join in, moved up north to greener pastures. It was a kind of Persian Empire that stretched as far as the Mesogesean (Mediterranean Sea), the non-Iranian bit being known collectively as Khand (at about this point I realised it was J.R.R. Tolkien's world transplanted to the Middle East). The time set was c.1980, with the Empire showing signs of fraying at the edges.


I've used the idea for back history stretching back a century to encompass my 'Chromatic Wars' - the colonial aspects. Ruberia (RED) has a distant sub-continental empire, Rajistan. This has been the setting for my recent 'Long Live the Revolution', and 'the earlier' Mesofluvian campaign.

Having got this far with my response, methinks there is another article in the making!

Cheers,
Ion

Now that I think about it, I too 'jumped upon the 18th century bandwagon'.  That is where Archduke Piccolo came from, the rival realms: the Wholly Romantic Empire, centred upon the Archduchies of Trockenbeeren and Auslese (Trockenbeerenauslese
 a German language wine term for a medium to full body dessert wine); and the Electorate (later Kingdom) of Altmark-Uberheim.  Later were added the Grand Duchy of M'yasma; the Principality of Ursaminor (for my daughter Ursula); the Landgravate of Jotun-Erbsten (for a friend's daughter, the name being an anagram, including the hyphen, of their surname); and later including the late Barry Taylor's Herzogtum von Rechburg.  That last Duchy featured, not altogether peripherally, in the affair of the Ulrichstein Revolt, 1738....
Action at Zaltpig, during the Ulrichstein Revolt.  It was
a disguised scenario based on the Battle of Paltzig, 1759.
Incidentally, as their figures were Napoleonic rather than 18th Century, and as as they were still in my possession, the Armies of Jotun-Erbsten and Ursaminor became the 'Patriot' and 'Loyalist' sides in the Gatonegro War of Independence that featured in a couple of articles, starting with Something Revolutionary. The name, Gatonegro, suggested itself from the heraldic black cat on the 'Patriot' battle flags.

Gowan James Ditchburn: 
Well you know my position of Imagi-Nations. Before Oronegro there were others in the works, more fantasy really. However, I decided upon Oronegro after that trip to Argentina in 2012. I distinctly remember hammering out the story of a covert meeting of world powers to discuss the little nation on the flight home. Such was Oronegro born.

Since then it has become more than just a fictional nation for me, rather it is a prism to explore various things. A world in parallel where the rules are somewhat different. I can explore fantastical ideas with my D&D friends and more grounded ones with other wargamers.

Part of the fun is of course building up this long history for a single nation. However, that does impose limitations. Although as they say limiting factors can actually be a boon when it comes to creativity. It is quite fun trying to string all these different threads together into one, mostly cohesive (ambiguity is left deliberately, some things in history are contentious, so should that of the imagi-nation) whole.My Reply:
I think you are right that what constrains creativity can actually encourage it. I have to admit I don't usually go in very much for 'back history', but have done so with Harad (specifically, the Nawabate of Tchagai) in order to do something with the concept!


I don't generally 'do' fantasy (although in a very real way our imagi-nations ARE fantasy). However, I do recall now that about 20-odd years ago I DID come up with a high fantasy world that I was considering as a Club Project. It was called 'The Lost Kingdom of ...' I forget what I was going to call it. This kingdom had been separated for over a century from the Empire of which it had once been a part. The hundreds of miles of territory between the still existing Empire and this kingdom had long ago become desert.

The Kingdom was bordered to the east by a vast ocean, to the northeast by a sea-going warrior people (Vikingish types), north by frigid wastes, to the northwest by more frozen wastes cut through by a great ravine, to the west by mountains, southwest by forest and to the south by desert.

The precipitous Iron Coast of the desert was abruptly interrupted as the coastline turned westward into a great bay (The Dragon's Bight) that stretched almost to the Western mountains and forests, and which divided the Kingdom into the main realm on the north coast of the bay, and the settled fringe along the south coast.

The Kingdom was under pressure from all sides: Desert raiders, Iron Coast pirates, corsairs from the Eastern archipelago, uneasy relationships with the 'Viking-like' people, Orcish types (etc) to the north, Dwarfs from the western mountains, and Elves from the forests. Assorted other creatures peopled the realm and its environs.

I did consider that somewhere beyond the Great Ravine, an obscure but apparently charismatic leader had emerged that threatened to bring together the disparate enemies and rivals of the Kingdom. He caused to be a built a mighty fortress as the basis for his ambition. I did consider that somehow he had been 'transported' from our own world by some magical means of summoning. His name: Napoleon Bonaparte...

I even drew a map (I don't know if I still have it) but that is about as far as I got with it. I did toy with it as an idea for a children's fantasy novel, the central character a boy also 'summoned' (by mistake) in a sudden storm from a Christchurch yacht race. He'd barely survive, and be picked up by a Kingdom's dromon off the Iron Coast, just before it gets attacked by three corsair vessels.

That was about as far as I got with it. I haven't thought about that idea in well over a decade.Cheers,Ion

Ross Mac 
I somehow missed this post, (Don't know what that says about the new year). I like the idea of fictional worlds but I'm afraid that a nearly pathological difficulty with languages and names (inc place names) other than English and French (a bit of Gaelic) as well as trouble with spatial relations makes it quite difficult at times to follow the story lines or remember who is who and which side they are on. Rather sad really and is one reasons why in my own settings I often end up borrowing names of both people and places from my own history when making up my own fictional storylines and maps.

My Reply:
I have a lot of fun with names, but by and large, the names I choose are, one way or another, English, even when they aren't English. With a side order of Greek and Latin, maybe, and simple words from other languages, but usually disguised English.

To name the Mesogesean Sea and the Medifluvian regions, I just swapped the etymologies of Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. (see map above)

I have an anti-Napoleonic memory for names - especially personal names. I have trouble recalling names of people I even know well, which is highly embarrassing. But the word games I play with my imagi-Nations I find help a great deal, though by now, I have such a volume of them that they are also becoming hard to recall.

One idea I have had - I think Tony Bath might have suggested this in his 'Hyboria' book - is to write up a list of names for characters and places not yet identified or 'in use'. My RED (Ruberian) characters are all given 'red' names: Redmayne, Redford, Scarlett, Carmine. I have also a whole bunch of place names base on three consecutive notes of the musical scale: Dohremi, Remiso and Misofah have already been the scenes of 'Army Men' battles.
An early Jono's World action: the Battle of Dohremi.

 


In ascending order, they have a Middle Eastern or African look (though to begin with, they were used for an entirely different world: Jono's World). One can reverse into a descending scale: Miredoh, Somire, Fahsomi; or letter order: Imerhod, Osimer, Hafosim. The reversed letter order suggests (to me) an etymology different from the others, so they would be placed in a distinctly separate region.... 

All this does not stop me nicking names from other people, places, histories. About 45 years ago a law student war games buddy took names from from the legal cases he was studying. I still remember the unhappy fate of Brig-Gen Scoones (CSA) whose isolated brigade was swept up by the rapid advance of a whole Union army. And sometimes a real name from history (e.g. George Maniaces) just begs to be included among one's Dramatis Personae...

Cheers,
Ion

Jono's World, by the way, was the brain child of one 'Jono' (the only name by which I knew this young guy) who turned up at the club one day with folders under arm and some 2-3-inch Army Men figures.  I was the only club member in slightest bit interested, but, in the event I might have been too interested - taking the thing where Jono wasn't that interested in going.  He disappeared, but the ideas didn't, so it remains a project in being.  Here's Jono's map of Kiivar and Omez...



...and my adaptation.


14 comments:

  1. Ion,
    My "grumpy old man" comments about "jumping on the bandwagon" derive from my general disappointment and disillusion with what became the "Old School wargames movement"; what seems to have been a fad, now resigned to history.
    It is perhaps, worth explaining how I got to where I am with my Imagi-nation's; while at school in the 1970s I drifted into wargaming from modelling. I borrowed Charles Grant's "Ancient wargaming" from Alnwick library to entice a friend who was into ancient history, but not toy soldiers. He gave it back unread and while waiting for the library to open, started reading. I was hooked and immediately borrowed it for myself. I discovered his other book "The Wargame" in the school library (sadly defaced by phallus obsessed morons) and was entranced. So much so, that when I came to raise C18th armies (Prussians and Austrians), after flirting with 15mm (48 figure btns), I decided on larger figures but with small btns (WRG 1685-1845 rules). I initially wrote to Ronald Spencer Smith who advertised in the back of Military Modelling and obtained some crude brown plastic AWI figures. After crudely daubing with enamel paint I was so underwhelmed I switched to metal. After many years of SYW historical, in which mode I had immersed myself, I had accumulated figures, books and board games. Amongst the latter was GDW's "Soldier King". I played it as a game, but had an itch to take it further. I toyed with using my historical figures, but it didn't seem right; they were French or Austrian or Prussian and always would be. It was an itch unscratched for many years until a chance discovery of a copy of "The Wargame" in a second hand bookshop. I then hit on the idea of using Spencer Smiths and designing the armies from the game. Playing it had resulted in imagining certain characteristics; Hrvatska (yes I know that's Croatia) had lots of light cavalry and were vaguely East European, think Saxon Poland. Arcadia had ferocious Guard heavy cavalry and veteran foot. I couldn't face painting huge regiments and was working on the premise of very small units (as I had 4x armies I had to be realistic). I was intrigued by Neil Cogswell's rules which while "OSW" worked on one Spencer Smith figure = 100 men, but alas they were incomplete. Having got this far, synchronicity intervened with the publication of GDW's "Volley & Bayonet" a modern set, using stands with only a few larger figures but with mechanisms harking back decades, 6 to hit on d6 and saving throws!
    (Have to split comments)
    Neil

    ReplyDelete
  2. That was it. Plans were made and an order sent to Peter Johnston who had taken over the SSMs. This would be the mid 1990s.
    Painting plastic SSMs is not for the faint hearted; my technique involves washing and a coat of varnish BEFORE painting using a black undercoat and block colours. Many parts of these ill defined figures are difficult to "read" and I wish I knew what I do now when I started; however I'm not tempted to go back and repaint my first efforts. It's taken too long as it is.
    I have only now almost completed the first 4 armies which have expanded as the project took on a life of it's own. I have done bits then walked away when the enthusiasm waned to pick up later. It has grown to include a fifth major power and several minor duchies. Personalities have emerged from Fimo or Sculpy from Tony Bath's suggested mechanisms; all have been named with titles from the game and surnames reflecting the "colour" of their nation, red, blue, green and yellow with white, grey, black and pink following on. It is still evolving.
    I have been forced to recruit more plastic SSMs and perversely decided "no metal all plastic" for this project.
    In keeping with the figures, trees are Merit and Britain's. Architecture is Schreiber card buildings helped by other Eastern European card buildings.
    I would really like to push on and start the campaign, but so far have had as much fun in it's development that I'm not in a rush.
    As for the "OSW movement", well after discovering what I thought were kindred spirits, instead I discovered it was yet another "fad" where people slavishly adopted rules from the 1960s; bought up the plastic SSMs on eBay (someone spent around £3000 on 3x 50 figure regiments indifferently painted) and bumped up the price of such things. Most never seemed to finish their armies or simply used their existing historical units with funny names and the fad seems to have passed. A hard core few Imagi-nations remain, but many don't seem to have progressed beyond imaginary uniform drawings.
    Neil

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    Replies
    1. Neil -
      I consider myself 'Old School' but I have always disliked 'saving rolls'. I much preferred my 'rounding off' system - similar to Charles Grant's 'War Game' system.

      It seems that you and I are very much alike in our approach to the whole imagi-nations thing. I haven't used colours to generate names for my 18th Century, being more inspired by my 'Chromatic wars' (there may be more to come about this in future postings).

      My 18th Century imagi-nations were modelled fairly closely - as much as Airfix figures allowed - upon historical precedents. Oddly enough, my approach to units sizes was the reverse of yours. I had planned upon 14-figure infantry and 10-figure horse units, but fairly soon lit upon my present 36-figure infantry and 19-figure horse units. Having acquired a handful of Minifigs command figures, they have gone to command the Anhalt-Zerbst Cuirassiers. I used actual units with near to historical uniforms as I could get, their historical inhaber, and their flags.

      When I first started war gaming, we used Charge! rules with tiny units, which actually gave us army-level battles. I still remember commanding the French, 4 Army Corps, a cavalry Corps and the Imperial Guard against the combined might of Russia, Prussia and Austria - one of my earliest memories. That 1812 campaign arose from the death of Napoleon (causes unknown or not stated), and the rest of Europe thinking 'Now's the time!'

      I admit I have done less with these armies than I might have done - still work to do, after 40-odd years - on Altmark-Uberheim horse and Imperialist foot.

      Which reminds me of the names I chose for my 'Swedish' and 'Imperialist' 30YW armies: Austereia and Severeia. I feel really chuffed with coming up with those names. I still have to finish the Swedish/Severeian horse, and some battalion guns (made from Airfix Napoleonic French Artillery with ESCI Napoleonic British 6pr gun barrels - they really look the part!).

      From fairly early on I began making adaptations to rule sets to fit my own army inventories, starting with my 'Bluebellies and Graybacks' ACW rule set. And complicated they became! I've eased back on the complexities, and out of them emerged my 'The Corsican Ogre' (Napoleonic) and 'Cornet and Drum' (7YW sort of) rule sets. Very OS. All of them owed much to Charles Grant, and Young and Lawford, but I also filched useful ideas from Wizard's Quest and SPI's Terrible Swift Sword game systems.

      Three thousand POUNDS for 150 figures... wow.
      Cheers,
      Ion

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  3. Ion,
    The first lot was for his father's plastic SSM (with individual lead weighted bases) and started reasonably. I watched it climb and climb until it incredibly reached £1000 (for 50 odd figures). I thought it would be relisted when the buyer backed out. Another such bidding war followed, until the seller listed a lot at £1000 buy it now. I didn't think anyone would buy, but yes they went. Other of his lots were going for a few hundred.
    IIRC it was when you could ID the eBay user name and location. I seem to remember them going to NZ or Aus.
    £20 per figure for a crude plastic miniature. I thought I was reckless for paying £1 per figure in order to finish stuff off!

    I meant to mention that my "army colours" relate to the game playing pieces, so Bravance is blue, Hrvatska red, Argozia green and Arcadia yellow. I have added a "white" army for Imperial Estavia. These colours reflect the main uniform colour for foot. The minor states are an Electoral army in mostly blue or grey, one in black (shades of Favrat's FK and Brunswick) and one in pink (blame Otto Schmidt) as well as a maverick army based around Saxe's ideas in green.
    The commanders and personalities have surnames of German nouns associated with that colour; Sonnenblume for Sunflower yellow for example.
    Neil

    ReplyDelete
  4. A very enjoyable blog post ... and the comments brought back a few memories of my own start in wargaming.

    My first book purchase was CHARGE! although I had been using hand copied versions of Donald Featherstone’s beforehand. I already had two Northern European/Scandinavian imagi-nations (Opeland and Upsland) and their somewhat varied forces (mainly equipped with ROCO Minitank and Airfix vehicles and Airfix plastic figures) battled it out on our dining room table ... or the floor if my brother was using the table for his Subbuteo matches!

    To me, Old School means simple rules, gloss-painted figures, and terrain that doesn’t have to look like a model railway layout. The emphasis is on fun and enjoyment, and If the uniforms and equipment are not 100% accurate ... well, who’s worried?

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Bob,
    My first war gaming (as oppose to just toy soldiers) armies were Airfix having got there from models. Roco were unknown to me then, although I shudder to think how many I now own, most being post war. I had encountered the bizarre diceless "Discovering Wargames" before moving to Gavin Lyall's "Operation Warboard". All the usual "proper" rules such as WRG followed where "realism" won out over fun, and the curse of ever more elaborate painting followed.
    Looking back, I think it was a case of following the herd.
    When I look at the current scene, my interests seem to have deviated so much from the norm that it's rare I find anything in sync with me; that said it's interesting that grids and hexes are now "trendy"!
    Neil

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  6. My very first army was American Civil War Airfix, CSA: 4 boxes of infantry, 2 boxes of US 7th Cavalry, 2 boxes of artillery, 2 boxes of Wagon Train. Ten bucks the lot in 1974. That gave me, I think, 14 infantry units at 14 figures, 2 10-figure cavalry units, 4 cannon and a couple of wagons by way of logistic support. The Wagon Train gave us another unit, I think.

    Painting was minimalist: going with the base colour, and just painting faces and hands, rifles, boots and such - a far cry from what my armies became. The 3 other guys' armies (2 Union, 1 CSA) I acquired for myself, and a few years later, I picked up somebody's whole collection. Now I consider my ACW armies to be fairly vast, but I know of much bigger armies than my 1000-odd Union and 750-odd Confederates!

    I WILL get back to my 'Stonewall in the Valley' Campaign. Honest!

    Meanwhile, I've gone the grid systems, even though I still prefer the 'free table', because they do make games easier to set up, and they do have a whole different feel. With grid systems, the operations level WW2 for instance seems to me much easier to ... assimilate(?) ... imagining a single tank model as a whole battalion or regiment.

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  7. I'm also constantly developing imaginations for several campaigns, and for me, the essence is the iterative creative process. Too many gamers (whether in wargaming or roleplaying) want to get their imaginary world complete, top to bottom and bottom to top, completely consistent, before even playing a first game.

    Such an approach seems very silly and counterproductive. Imaginations should serve the games and should grow organically. I don't mind changing names or uniforms or whatever if it retro-actively better fits the developing view.

    I also try to involve my fellow-players in adding to the world. When tey want to name a unit, or invent some characters, I happily oblige. The imagination then becomes a collaborative effort (although I still wield veto powers!).

    As for names and the use of language, I made a decision in at least one of campaigns to use Dutch (since that is my mother tongue), and not use English using stereotypical foreign words. I often cringe when I see the umpteenth Wurstenteufel regiment (you get the idea), or when I see locations that are supposed to sound German/French/Danish but really sound like a bad pun using bad grammar or spelling. It's already difficult to be creative AND funny in your own language, let alone in another. So I use historical Dutch military names to name my units, and I can make them sound "just right", without weird sounding syllables and such.

    But yes, imaginations are fun!

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    Replies
    1. It is possible the books of Tony Bath and C.S. Grant on campaigns have influenced people into creating a whole world. That Jono chap I mentioned did invent a whole world - politics, flora and fauna, economy, geography etc, but I think the war gaming aspect was a sideline. Sort of.

      I've been guilty of the 'bad pun' thing, myself - actually it appeals to my sense of humour. But sometimes the source of names comes from elsewhere. The Ewige-Blumenkraft Regiment in the service of the Herzogtum von Rechburg is one such. But all the line units in my Altmark-Uberheim and Trockenbeeren-Auslese armies are 'real' ones.

      Some of my Tchagai place names are taken from the Middle East, but with something added. You might have heard of Maiwand, in Afghanistan. It didn't take a stretch to come up with Maimajikwand in Tchagai. Mind you, Tchagai is a real place. So is Baluchistan. I thought I had invented Rajistan, but I was wrong, there.

      There is more to it than stringing random syllables together (though I have done that, too). Punning (good and bad) is part of the fun, I think. Generally they are English words strung together to sound vaguely similar to the types of names and places from other parts of the world. At that I try to be consistent. And I'll adapt real names. E.g. the Bananaramaputra Regiment is the combination of 'Bananarama' and 'Brahmaputra' - a little like your Wurstenteufel, I have to admit.

      Of course, I could duck and use numbers only, but I have long found that naming regiments gives them more of an identity.

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    2. If you are wondering where the successive Nabob's of Tchagai, Maibiwih Khan and Yeswih Khan come from - that is a dig at Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign slogan. It gives a clue to how I intend those names to be pronounced.

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  8. With the exception of WII, all of my various projects are imagi-nations. Lately, I have been wondering why that is so....

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    1. Possibly to escape the constraints of history? I find it hard, sometimes, to 'fit' a major battle or campaign plausibly into a real history, so find recourse in 'altered realities' of one sort of another.

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  9. Took me a while to get around to reading this post but it was well worth the effort. It is always fun to see what others are up to. Speaking of I really should get to work on these models. Been sitting here awkwardly awaiting my return.

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    1. I have to admit to being a bit slack, lately, too. Trouble is, I have work on the house to do as well, and I just don't want to know.

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