Monday, 21 January 2008

Nations, Imaginations, And Ladies Boudoirs

I am reading Tristram Shandy at the moment. Perhaps it would be more honest to say I'm trying to read it: this is the most difficult book I have ever encountered. So if my writings are even more disjointed and incoherent than last time I posted, I will blame Laurence Sterne. Sterne is, of course, in no position to argue his innocence on this matter. If you are going to pick a quarrel, pick it with a dead person is my motto. Still I concede he does have a point, just now and then.

...the very essence of gravity was design, and consequently deceit; -'twas a taught trick to gain credit of the world for more sense and knowledge than a man was worth (Tristram Shandy).

Incidentally, it is in Tristram Shandy that we find Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, two early wargamers of sorts.

Imaginary nations (Imaginations) are popular nowadays. There is good reason to follow the examples given by Young and Grant - Imaginations give a full rein to individual taste and self-expression, with few of the constraints of historical simulation. 18th Century Europe is an ideal setting - lots of petty states, and uniforms that do not vary greatly in cut between nationalities, so figures are almost anonymous before they are painted. By contrast, a (say) Napoleonic Prussian infantryman when painted in an imaginary uniform still looks suspiciously like a Napoleonic Prussian infantryman, only one painted in funny colours.

I confess that one of my failings is a startling lack of creativity. I do have a brain, but its virtues are entirely technical. So I use the different, if related, technique of alternative history. I have taken the history of Hesse and simply messed it about a bit. My prototype, the original Electorate of Hesse, was divided between four heirs to create the smaller territories of Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Marburg, and Hesse-Rheinfels. Historically, by the 18th Century, the last two dynasties had become extinct. By a strange twist of fate, in my alternative history it is the first two that have disappeared. So I have the houses of Hesse-Rheinfels (Empire Loyalists), and Hesse-Marburg (Northern Protestants) at odds with each other.

My units will be clothed in reasonably accurate Prussian uniforms so they can also be used to fight historic battles of the SYW. This way I can also indulge in the gaucheries of why the muskets of IR6 cannot possibly be the same colour as those of IR18, and other matters of the greatest inconsequence. The only downside to this is the drummers. It seems that 18th Century Colonels clothed their drummers with a stunning disregard for the well-being of future generations of wargamers who would have to paint them.

Recruiting wargame armies (even the sensible armies that avoid many percussionists) takes up a far greater proportion of time than actually fighting with the armies does. My rate of figure painting, two dozen a month when the going is good, makes me one of the slowest recruiters out there. So it makes sense for me to make a game out of raising the armies as well as fighting with them. My alternative history is therefore underway already, before I have armies capable of guarding anything larger than a ladies boudoir. I'm using the timeline of the Seven Years War mixed with garbled versions of contemporary events as a background: so January 2008 is also January 1758. By the time I get to fight a battle, my armies will be populated by units and generals that already possess a considerable amount of individual 'history'. For instance, the infantry companies raised in Hesse-Rheinfels in December are sadly suspect, containing in their ranks many fugitives from the wrecks of the Reichsarmee after Rossbach.

I won't be publishing my war diary in this blog, although I will give excerpts from it. So a recent story ran:

Another calamity for Rheinfels, in the form of a banking scandal. The largest bank in Rheinfels, ‘Der Westlich Reich’ collapses, although its owner is able to depart with sufficient funds to buy a large country estate and a smart new carriage for his lady wife. The Landgrave prevents a run on the bank by having IR Rheinfels perform its drill outside the bank's premises during opening hours, blocking access to frantic customers and proving the advantages of big battalions. He then shows a proper appreciation of the advantages of enlightened absolutism, arresting the unfortunate banker and having him hung, drawn and quartered. Public confidence in Rheinfels banks is quickly restored, although Rheinfels bankers seem less confident, and one banker in particular is certainly beyond all hope of restoration.

IR Rheinfels (Stadden Miniatures from Tradition Scandinavia)


DC said...

Love the Staddens...
If it's any consolation my painting output is considerably less than yours.

Stokes Schwartz said...

Hey, those are really lovely figures! And you know, a couple of dozen figures per month is a perfectly respectable painting output -- especially if they look as nice as these Staddens.

Best Regards,

Stokes Schwartz

Bluebear Jeff said...

I'm enjoying your blog . . . keep it up.

And, if you'd like to become a part of the "Emperor vs Elector" group blog, just drop me an email at . . .

. . . and I'll see that you get an invitation.

-- Jeff

Andy Mitchell said...

Thanks for the offer - I'll decline it for the moment as I really have very little idea where all this is heading.

Bluebear Jeff said...

No problem, Andy. If you should later change your mind, you can always find this comment here.

And, if not, that's fine too. I won't keep bothering you with it . . . but I will keep reading your blog.

The whole goal is just to have fun.

-- Jeff

abdul666 said...

A very enjoyable, thorough and didactic presentation of the topic and how you approach it.

I like the 'alternate'campaign setting you chose, the excert of your 'diary' is pleasant and intringuing and the 'big battalion' is very 'Old School' -but better painted!

Keep realing us, please!

tidders said...

Some nicely painted infantry there. Two dozen figs a month quite good going. I usually take about 2-3 weeks a batallion (of 30) and some other oddments make up a months output.

-- Allan