Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Elistonian Infantry

Just another quicky for today folks!

Before Alcovia, there was my imagi-nation of Elistonia. The name was cheesy and eventually got eclipsed by the much cooler Alcovia, but the nation is still alive in my little imagi-world. for my VSF games Elistonia was going to be a landlocked nation with aspirations of becoming a colonial power. Their uniforms show the poor and simple nature of their uniforms, with very little in the way of color. These blue kepis show these to be regular riflemen. The figures are 15mm Battle Honours Wurtemberger skirmishing riflemen .


Thanks for looking.

-Eli

Monday, February 21, 2011

Kingdom of Hawaii


A long while back, I had conceived of the idea of creating an imagi-nation based on the what-if concept that Hawaii had retained its independence and not become just another nation, exploited by the world at large and bereft of its own cultural identity. Though, I did a lot of research and background work, and even a test painting for a Hawaiian militia unit, the project never went farther than that.

To make this idea work, I had to change a few things in the history of the island nation, subtle but fundamental things. The first thing I had to do was to give the Hawaiian people an edge against the diseases that decimated them and left them open to easy exploitation. this was achieved by make a slight alteration to an actual note in history.

There is a record of Spanish sailors sailing close to Hawaii in 1627. In this historical accounting, they never set foot on the island, but it is a brief footnote and leaves plenty of room for creativity. In my alternate timeline, these Spaniards landed to resupply after seeing pigs on the beach. Though they did not intend to stay long, they did stay long enough to run afoul of the islanders, resulting in a hasty retreat and the omission of their landing from their logs (protecting egos and saving face). In addition to getting in a scuffle, they also managed to pass on a few of their European cooties to the locals. This early contact with the European diseases provides an exposure early enough to have developed a resistance, even if not an immunity, to such illnesses.

Going forward in time we get to the conquest of King Kamehameha I and his unification of the islands into a single nation. At this point, Hawaii had already had contact with Europeans and engaged in trade for goods and weapons which Kamehameha had put to good use in his war of unification. It is here that the early exposure to European diseases really comes into play as it gives the people of Hawaii the resilience to maintain their population and the huge military that Kamehameha had amassed, numbering 10,000 men at one time. Another benefit of having less vulnerability to viral outbreak is that the Hawaiians would have been able to maintain their strength of culture in the face of Christian missionaries.

In Hawaii's history, much of their loss of cultural integrity was done at the hands of Christian missionaries who actively worked to dissuade the Hawaiians from their pagan beliefs and lifestyles. Much of this was built on the back of the strife that befell the island people after they were devastated by disease. Had this fate not befell the people of the islands, they would have had less cause to stray from their own native beliefs. Another step toward a Hawaii able to modernize but without sacrificing their cultural identity.

The rest of alternate Hawaii's development falls into place from here. Kamehameha's warlords are granted lands by his graces and these landed lords are able to parse these lands out to their followers. This feudal model moves nicely into the 19th century. Kamehameha was a fan of things European from weapons, to ships, science and even some of their societal developments. Hawaii would adopt what it needed and make friends with European nations, making deals and sometimes caving in to foreign considerations as was usually necessary for less developed nations in order for them to maintain relations with European nations.

In my version of Hawaii, the island nation maintains a good relationship with the British Empire and never enters into the deal with the United States that gave that nation an inroad and a reason to take the actions that eventually led to her annexation (a bit ahead of the period I'd be playing in). An early alignment with Britain is part of Hawaii's history, but a stronger Hawaii would likely have been less prone to some of the indecisive, almost wishy-washy political maneuvers that it's various leaders made over the years.

A brief rewrite of Hawaiian history might look something like this (changes to history in blue) - 

1627   
Spanish sailors land an undisclosed part of the Hawaiian Islands, seeking supplies. They run afoul of the natives but not before passing on European disease to the natives. Chased from the islands the embarrassed crew strike any record of their landing from the logs.
1778
British explorer Captain James Cook discovers the Hawaiian Islands and names them Sandwich Islands after Britian's Earl of Sandwich.
1779
Captain Cook is killed in a Big Island dispute at Kealakekua Bay, near Kona.
1789
The first Chinese arrive after jumping off a trading ship.
1810
King Kamehameha the Great unites all the Hawaiian islands into one kingdom.
1813
The first pineapple plants are introduced from Spain.
1816
First Hawaiian flag is sewn.
1817
Coffee is first planted.
1819
King Kamehameha the Great dies. Prince Liholiho ascends the throne as Kamehameha II (1819-1824). He also abandons the ancient taboo of eating with women.
1820
First American Protestant missionaries arrive aboard the brig Thaddeus from New England.
1825 - 1854
The reign of King Kamehameha III.
1840
The first Hawaii constitution of the kingdom was established.
1848
The Great Mahele is signed by King Kamehameha III which allows commoners and foreigners to own land outright or in "fee simple," a concept that continues today. Land rights are maintained as the exclusive right of the nobles and lords of Hawaiian culture.
1850
On August 31, King Kamehameha III declares Honolulu a city.
1874 - 1891
The reign of King David Kalakaua.
1882
Iolani Palace is built on Oahu.
1883
Mutual Telephone Company was started in Hawaii. The name was later changed to Hawaiian Telephone and then changed again to GTE Hawaiian Tel.
1885
The first contract laborers from Japan arrive to work on the sugar cane plantations.
1892
Macadamia nut trees are first planted.
1893
Queen Liliuokalani signs an agreement with England making her an official part of the British Empire and a protectorate of the crown.

Bookfinds

I was at a local used bookstore and came across some nice books on the victorian era.


Victorian Colonial Warfare: India by Donald Featherstone (probably considered to be the father of miniatures wargaming) is a great and informative book. It covers The Conquest of Sind, The Gwalior War, The First Sikh War, The Second Sikh War, and The Indian Mutiny. The book really captures the period and there are plenty of photographs and illustrations.



I also found a copy of The Spanish American War by Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, with J. Michael Wenger and Robert J. Cressman. Also a great book filled with information on the Spanish-American War and photographs to go along with it.




















































Mars or Die


I was searching the net to find French Foreign Legion miniatures in 15mm, and I a came across Regiment Games. These are right up any VSF players alley, Foreign Legionaires in breathing masks! Plus the website has a free rules set called Mars or Die!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Imagi-Nations?

The other day I was asked what an imagi-nation was. In defining what they were, I found myself considering the reasons why people do them. Of course, I could only answer based on my own reasons and a few reasons I had been given by other enthusiasts of the practice, but I thought it might be fun to visit some of those reasons and a bit of speculation in the context of a blog.

The way I define imagi-nations is thus - A nation that is partially or entirely fictional or fictitious that is set within the world as we know or have known it.

Based on my own definition, a fictional version of a historical nation such as my 19th century Kingdom of Hawaii or a fictional what-if nation like Chad's New Erin both count as an imagi-nation. They exist within the framework of history. However, one can go even further with imagi-nations and create them completely from scratch such as my eastern European nation of Alcovia which is not connected to any historical nation other than a thematic similarity to historical Slavic nations. Alcovia sits in a world full of the same nations we know of, so it is still an imagi-nation.

Though in a broad sense any nation that is imagined is technically an imagi-nation, I personally tend to draw the line at those that do not exist within our world in some way. Nations built on alien worlds or in fantastic realms are not imagi-nations but more a more common sort of fictional nation. It's a thin line, but I guess if the question is going to be asked, then it warrants some manner of distinction.

So, this is what imagi-nations are, but then there is the why of it. The simplest answer is simple because they are fun and provide an entertaining diversion to the regular tide of historical armies that come along. In this regard, imagi-nations become a sort of fantasy football for the historically-minded. An opportunity is provided here to try out weapons and tactics in combinations that history may not have provided. Uniforms of a favorite flavor can be tweaked and reworked into one's own vision while retaining the trappings and limitations, to some degree, of established history. There are, however, less frivolous reasons for venturing into imagi-nations.

The imagi-nation also provides a player with a chance to skirt the less appealing and sometimes more objectionable issues that can crop up with historical armies. Not all players have issues with these in the first place, but if a player should find himself in a moral quandary about playing a historical force, he can devise an imagi-nation that fits his gaming needs but that is freed from the acts of the historical nation he is wanting to portray. This is a bit of a cheat, as the imagi-nation may still engage in the same morally questionable or ethically challenging acts that the original one did, but at least not against a historical people or in the context of history as we know it. This is sort of like creating a purist fascist alien race as an analog of the Nazis but keeping them human. It's thinly veiled, but somehow seems to come in under most people's moral and ethical radar.

Then there are the purely academic reasons for doing so. These reasons are very similar to the reasons fro doing it just for fun in that they often spawn from a desire to see what a nation might do given combinations of abilities, tactics, equipment, situations, etc that a historical nation does not present. The main difference is the motivation. The player is not primarily motivated by fun, but rather an interest in examining the capabilities of the combination he has concocted.

So what makes for a good imagi-nation? Well it goes beyond a simple laundry list of this and that. Often what makes an imagi-nation good is the background and the artistic elements to it rather than the simple min/maxing of forces. Who are they? Why do they exist? What are their uniforms like? Details like motivations, political views, allies and the way they fit in with the real world into which they have been inserted will help to make an imagi-nation more than just a semi-statistical model. Often they are created with distinct personalities and a who's who of characters and figures through which the richness of the imagi-nation is illustrated. This might be a king, or a general, or a particular conflict even (if a conflict can be considered to be a character).

When it comes down to it, imagi-nations are an opportunity to play a country that never was. They are a chance to stretch our legs and still feel as though we are playing somewhere we might actually visit. Whether for fun or the interest of historical experimentation the imagi-nation is a great chance to paint uniforms the wrong color and fight in ways that one might not be allowed. Simply put, they allow us to play with history.

Take care,

-Eli

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spanish American War by Tiger Miniatures


A couple of days ago I came across another manufacturer that does Spanish American War minis in 28mm, Tiger Miniatures. They look like they have a lot of character and are well sculpted, plus they actually have mounted cavalry miniatures (something that isn't seen often for The Roughriders, oddly enough). I emailed their U.S. distributor, Recreational Conflict, and asked how they measured up to Old Glory Miniatures and they sent me an image with a size comparison.


(1st from the right is Old Glory, Copplestone, Tiger Miniatures, Wargames Foundry)









In addition to the Roughrides, they also have some nice German Colonials as well! If you get the chance you really should check them out.

The Four Feathers (1939)




This is such a great movie! It really captures the time period well. I had heard that they actually had real Dervishes in the cast. I really love the appearance of the gunboat at battle for Karthoum (something that was missing from the 2002 version, not to mention the Nile).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan


"Whether they will or no, Americans must now begin to look outward." - Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN, December 1890

This quote by the famous Cpt. Alfred Mahan was upon the completion of the first American Aethership, and the ambitions of the many great powers of Earth on Martian expansion.

Mahan being one of our greatest sea tactician of our times, and author of "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1805", turns his eye towards securing America's future in space and beyond. The Martian landscape is a prime target for intergalactic commerce and exploitation. Germany has been the first power to colonize Mars, with England close behind. America must also look to the stars if it is to compete and prosper in the ever growing expanse of the universe.

"The Milky Way can be entered and controlled by a vigorous contest," said Cpt. Mahan. "Eyes outward, instead of inward only, to seek the welfare of the country."

President William McKinley has currently convened a summit on the Martian strategy, in which Cpt. Mahan will be his top advisor.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Zulu Dawn (1979)


For me this was the movie that sparked my interest in Victorian Colonialism. I was nine years old when I first saw this movie, and right away I wanted a Pith helmet and a red coat. I thought the Zulus were very interesting as well!

***I removed the other parts of the video to make it easier to load this post***

Savage Worlds: Space 1889

Savage worlds now has Space 1889 as a setting for it's wonderfully "Old School" RPG game! I saw it in my local FLGS a couple of weeks ago but was too slow on the draw to get it. But if it's as good as the original GDW version (and it does have Frank Chadwicks guidance) then it'll revive one of my favorite games. To me this was the beginning of VSF role playing!

Music that captures the time period

Just some music to game by!

Ragtime Jazz came about 1897, so towards the end of the Victorian era but I think it fits in with my games.

John Phillips Sousa really is the quintessential composer for the time. The marching band at it's best!



I've been threatening to create a blog for my Imagi-Nations ideas for a couple of months now, so I finally decided to actually do it. I've been blogging about my ideas for Teddy Roosevelt and the Roughriders on Mars, and the Country of New Erin (formerly New Brunswick) for a year or so on Maximum Rock & Role Playing. Finally deciding to give it more focus with it's own blog.

I've been kicking around the idea of using 15mm for my Roughriders but I haven't found any Spanish American War miniatures in 15mm, til now. War Modeling (Fantassin) has some very well sculpted minis that are going to fit in perfectly! I'll probably order them from their U.S. distributor at Scale Creep, but I can't wait to get them! Just check out these minis!