An imagi-nation is, of course, a fictitious country upon which wargames can be thrust without any need to worry about historical accuracy or whether Zulus fighting Medieval France makes any sort of logical sense. I suspect that the idea is as old as wargaming. Both Tony Bath and Don Featherstone comment on the idea in their books.
Bath, of course, was by far the most enthusiastic, suggesting very strongly in ‘Setting up a Wargames Campaign’ that, at least for ancient wargaming, an imaginary continent was by far the best way of wargaming. His own continent was big, took a lot of effort to run and famous, as he wrote bits of it up for Battle Magazine, and when that closed, in Military Modelling.
Featherstone seems slightly more ambiguous over the subject. Both comment on one campaign where ACW armies fought ancient ones, and lost comprehensively. As Featherstone was the horse and musket collector of the duo, perhaps his lack of enthusiasm stems from this experience.
Nevertheless, it does seem that ancient wargaming is a more popular era for imaginary warfare, perhaps followed by the Eighteenth Century, perhaps under the influence of Charles Grant’s ‘The Wargame’ where he included a mini-campaign from the Dover group’s imaginary principalities.
I do tend to find fewer imaginary campaigns in other periods, and it is slightly interesting to speculate why. Why not, in fact, have an imaginary Napoleonic war, or an imaginary World War Two. In terms of the issues with ethics of at least the latter which I have previously commented upon, it would seem to be the perfect solution. No concentration camps, the SS could be represented as a courageous elite with no shooting of prisoners or civilians to be taken account of.
And yet there seem to be very few imaginary WWII wargames. Even something like ‘A Very British Civil War’, which I have seen at shows, does not really fit the bill as it takes as its background the real world. Even fictitious scenarios within the war are more likely to be based on a particular action, within a given campaign, than, say, your average ancients game.
I suppose that there is a lot more information around for World War Two, and an awful lot more battles of all descriptions. If you look hard enough you can certainly find, for example, British against French forces, or Russian against Japanese, alongside the obvious and main protagonists. Perhaps there is less in the way of imaginary combinations because most of the combinations which can be imagined actually happened.
The situation with ancients is, of course, very different. There are a lot more nations, to start with, giving a much, much larger pool of armies. The time scale over which ‘ancients’ wargaming spreads is also much wider, and the protagonists are, it is at least plausibly claimed, much more equally matched in terms of equipment and organisation, while armies from, say, the Napoleonic Wars and World War One (only a hundred years different) would not be a fair match up.
I suppose (and I have never indulged in this, so cannot comment directly, but someone (Chris?) observed in a comment) that colonial wargaming is a sort of imaginary world gaming. Now, obviously there were real world colonial battles, some of them quite interesting, but a lot of colonial wargaming is, I suspect, based on a sort of imagi-nation style. If you do not believe me, then check out the chapter ‘Domestic Wargaming’ in Featherstone’s ‘Solo Wargaming’. It is a brilliant idea, and one I have never quite got around to executing (along with many others, of course).
The point, surely, about imagi-nation wargaming, is that it allows us firstly to divorce our battles from real world constraints, so we do not have to find the historical precedents for what we put on the table, just some sort of justification, and secondly that, as mentioned, we can also divorce the ethics (or lack of them) of the real world armies from those of our table top.
Perhaps, however, we already do this; the person who places an SS Panzer division on the table may well have already entered an imaginary nation where the nasty brutality of the units is washed away, and all that is left is a brave and efficient unit with cool weapons and uniforms.
I suppose that all that has been leading up to a report from the imaginary front line of Fuzigore. I have no intention of posting battle reports (unless anyone really insists) but a brief resume will suffice. The battle following on from the campaign I reported a few weeks ago was nothing if not chaotic, with Ht-uos emerging a narrow winner and Ocram and his new Cillag lady friend nearly getting caught up in the rout of the Ht-uos infantry, only to be saved by the father of the said lady friend’s cavalry base.
After the battle, the T-sae army unexpectedly surrendered (I rolled a 1; what can you do?) and the campaign closed. However, some elements of T-sae were not happy with the outcome (or the loot) and promptly crossed the border in Emor and besieged a city, Trazibon. The Emoran relieving force was very neatly ambushed and defeated, and the city surrendered.
So now the full Emoram army has deployed to recapture the city and administer a beating to the T-sae. The T-sae, looking to restore their honour in battle are deployed just outside the city to defend the Cillag civilisation and their way of life, and to bring it to the barbarians of Trazibon (of course, you could look at that the other way around).
This was done with a few dice rolls and a bit of prose narrative. It probably also helps that I have recently finished painting every Early Empire Roman figure I possess, so they need a bit of an outing, although I didn’t expect them to get such a beating in the ambush.
But that is the joy of wargaming, and wargame campaigns, even in Imagi-nations.