The Ballbusch Experience: Where is the historical line?

Note: Due to the heady intellectual environment here at House of Paincakes, I’m going to state certain assumptions. For the sake of discussion throughout this post I am going to assume that there is an objective, material reality, the past is immutable, and the flow of time is linear. I understand that all of this is debatable, but I’m trying to keep this under 2,000 words.

4eb4f05c3b94c9b5c0a2da7740e92bf2They’re Saxons!

A question that’s come up a few times during the intense intellectual street fights that characterize the HoP comments section is where we draw the line between a historical and non-historical subject.  Like so much in life this is one of those things where the line is very clear, until you find yourself sinking into the boggy middle ground between earth and water.  Warhammer is a fantasy, but it takes place in a slightly modified Holy Roman Empire.  Game of Thrones has dragons and zombies, but the politics more or less mirror the War of the Roses.

All games are based or rooted in history in a fundamental way. AoS is about as much a simulation of medieval warfare as Pokemon is a recreation of cockfighting. Still our understanding of combat comes from contemporary or historical examples. Often this is grossly misunderstood by fanciful writers and game creators who want to make something ‘exciting’ or ‘cool’.  However, once you’ve got a guy in plate armor running around with a sword you’ve created some sort of European medieval proxy.

The D&D assumed setting from AD&D second edition on is more or less Lancastrian England. The game is not ‘historical’ at all, but there is still a historical basis. It’s bastardized, there are bits and pieces pulled in from all over the place. All the same, the heart of the setting remains obvious. Personally, I find the pseudo-high-medieval setting nonsensical without centralized monotheism, but that topic makes a lot of designers nervous.

A trend that has been with us from the beginning, but has become more pronounced over the last twenty years is discomfort with the portrayal of cultural variance. So, at this point most fantasy and sci-fi settings feature 21st century occidentals in funny suits; rather than really attempting to present people from a different time and place. I’m less sure as to why this is.

I suspect that, despite more communication, many people these days simply have less friendly contact with people or ideas with a radically different cultural prospective. The global educated-affluent class has become strikingly homogeneous and insular over the last generation Most Lawful D&D hero-types tend to support truth, justice, relative equality, and the American way.  A medieval member of the noblesse d’epee might be down for the first two (as he understood them), but enlightenment concepts of the rights of man would be alien.

This is made worse by the fact that a first level adventurer is almost certainly gentlemen, or at least yeomanry. Your average fighter can expect to start his career with a war sword, chain hauberk or coat of brigandine, a mule, and various other sundries. Further, cruising around the countryside looking for trouble is generally the purview of men who don’t expect to come into property. Only a very wealthy family could afford to give a second or third son such an impressive start in life.

colonel-smithI’m sure ‘disperse ye damned rabble’ was in the running for his family motto.

Obviously, the murderhobo lifestyle is going to attract an odd assortment of characters and personalities.  However, being a freelance isn’t necessarily anti-establishment in a medieval context.  After all, at 9th level you get you own peasants to start oppressing.

Many factions or states in a speculative fiction setting has some obvious real world parallel. Sometimes these are painfully obvious. The more creative manage of hide their inspiration, or pull from so many sources that that they create something largely new. Of course, the genius of fantasy (and sci-fi) is that it presents an opportunity to discuss sensitive, or proscribed, topics by proxy. Sadly many writers don’t understand this potential.

Taking the all of the above, where then do we draw the line between a ‘historical’ wargame and a ‘fantasy’ wargame? Personally, I think the line is drawn between games that deal with people places, and things that actually existed (or are believed to have existed) and those that deal in things imagined. So, is something like FoW a historical wargame? Sure. World War II happened with more or less the participants and equipment that FoW allows. It’s more or less a Hollywood, John Wayne vision of the war, but it still involves historical events.

Any disagreement with FoW involves debating facts and interpretations. There is no disagreement that it’s real. The primary issue people have with FoW is the army lists. Granted, they allow for lavishly equipped forces that, potentially, could have more hardware then ever actually existed. However, the rules themselves while simplistic (except where they are overly complicated) are not unreasonable from a historical standpoint. Even the army lists can create semi-realistic forces so long as you play at around 1000-1500 points don’t take any support beyond battalion/regiment level.


FoW Tank Company

If we’re worried about accuracy, a more pressing issue is that FoW presupposes that you’re company is in ideal condition. No man in the entire outfit is sick, injured, drunk, missing, under arrest, or has the clap (no one is going to let you off for that, but it might be good for a -1 to hit). Plus, all the equipment working in peak condition. In peacetime this would be a minor miracle. In the midst of a major land war it’s inconceivable. If 80% of your establishment is available and fit to fight, you’re in good shape. In the middle of a campaign that number might fall to 40-50%, worse if you’re losing.

In FoW’s defense, it doesn’t really count figures, so a rifle team count stand for three men as easily as five. Still, your boys are in freakishly good condition.

Similar issues exist with any points based army list system. One of the things I like about Peter Pig’s Square Bashing is that once you’re selected your army you then endure weeks, even months, of attrition. So, whatever finally staggers onto the battlefield is much the worse for wear. Which accurately simulates the imperative of the force on the strategic offensive to force a decision as quickly as possible.

There is nothing wrong with army lists per se. The quantity, quality, and types of soldiers available for a campaign are based on economic, social, and political considerations going back decades or centuries. And an army list essentially says ‘this is what you state or nation can or could put in the field.’ The inaccuracy comes from the amount of player choice allowed. You reality don’t get to hand pick the troops you’re given to command (unless you have some serious pull). Sure, you ask for a detachment of Seabees, close air support, and the promise of major reinforcements if things get all FUBAR. You’re also not going to get any of it.

On the subject, FoW handles that fairly well at low point levels since the player is forced to fill out rank and file requirements before he can snag anything cool. Battlegroup does it a little better by limiting the player’s number of elite/rare/seconded troops to a (small) percentage of total strength.

Then we have more troublesome waters. There are many great warlords and captains whose historical existence is debatable. David, Arthur, Mohammed, Jingu, to name a few. If you were to ask me, from a strictly factual prospective, were any of these people ‘real’? I would tell you that such smoke issues from some sort of fire; however, that what we have are garbled stories and likely composite characters who don’t exactly match the words or deeds any one person.

Really, anything before AD 1500 is a matter of serious conjecture. While many a serious wargame covers these periods, how historical they are is a matter of opinion. They are based on speculation, and reconstruction. But, two completely reasonable and educated people could make two very different games covering the same period.

Speaking with HoP’s very own “Beat Ronin” on the subject of Saga. I argued that elements of historical wargames could be divided into the true, the likely, the plausible, the conceivable, and the fictitious. Norsemen fighting some sort of proto-Algonquin tribe? Plausible. Shieldmaidens out of the Icelandic Sagas? Fictitious. A highborn Norsewoman possessing enough military training to lead her retainers in defense of the estate? Likely. So, if you really want your force to be led by some blonde warrior maiden, you could concoct a reason and remain ‘historical’. Though if you’re after warrior women you’d be better off with Picts or some Irano-skythian group. Of course, then they likely wouldn’t be blonde in either case.  Not that that should stop you, I’m very fond of doe-eyed, raven-haired ladies myself…

Valkyrie2So, that whole tangent was just to an excuse for a cutie-pie Valkyrie?

How much history you want in your game is a matter of personal taste. I belong to the ‘as long as you know the rules, it is okay to break them camp.’ Learn the history, get the facts (to the extent there are certainties) straight, and they decide what you want to do with your toy soldiers. I’m well aware that lavish Napoleonic uniforms were largely for the parade ground and troops on campaign wore loose trousers, drab overcoats, and fatigue caps. This doesn’t stop me from sending my men forward in plums and lace, but I know that my army is idealized. Likewise, I tend to paint in fairly vibrant colors.  I try to avoid colors that were unavailable for a specific culture of time period, but my figures are much more lively than the muted earth tones that would dominate any pre-Renaissance force.  Partly this is simply for effect.  Drab looks well, drab.  Of course, warriors tend to be wealthy, so a certain amount of flash makes sense.

There is the biggest complaint I can lay against FoW. It doesn’t do a very good job of identifying were liberties have been taken. This leads to the uninitiated doing things ‘wrong’ not because it makes for a more fun army of game, but because they don’t know any better. For me it’s less to do with the game, or the game creator’s intention than it does with the player’s intention.  I can take the most historically inclined rules out there and use them to game Sailor Moon versus the Zombie Dinosaur army.  I can also play a historical wargame with Warhammer (maybe not AoS, but Warhammer Historical worked fine).  If the player sets out to recreate his vision of history (as it was or how it ought to have been) then you have a historical game.

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  • Von

    I am informed that cute Valkyries are their own excuse and see no reason to argue with this.

    ” So, at this point most fantasy and sci-fi settings feature 21st century occidentals in funny suits; rather than really attempting to present people from a different time and place. I’m less sure as to why this is. ”

    I’m looking for the relevant Lawrence Miles blog-post which I can dump in here instead of expressing my own opinions: the short version is that the majority of writers either can’t, or can’t be bothered to, actually adopt a register that’s distinct from their own, or to risk controversy/misunderstanding/effort by presenting a societal structure and set of mores noticeably different from their own either. It’s easy, convenient and safe to write the twenty-first century occidental petty-bourgeois – they are People Like You, and they are also People Who Buy Books and People Who Are Generally Not Expecting Very Much Other Than The Latest Dollop Of Banality To Pass The Time.

    The even shorter version, to paraphrase Ursula LeGuin, is that the majority of what we call fantasy is not fantasy. It lacks the imaginative gumption to cleave away from the present and the material and the rational.

    Found it:

    Relevant passage: “Indeed, one of the most alarming things about the Tennant era is the way the voice of the Doctor has become the voice of the liberal-minded early-twenty-first-century viewer. The ideals he represents are the ideals of those in the audience who believe themselves to be generally “good” human beings, on the grounds that they occasionally recycle and don’t use the n-word. […]

    What went wrong is the desperate urge to keep the audience squirm-free. Beyond the confines of Doctor Who, this has led to a culture of drama in which all goodies are good as we see it, while all baddies oppose the basic freedom to choose the colour of your iPod. By default, protagonists now have “issues” which might occasionally make them behave in out-of-character ways, but we’re never in doubt that they share our world-view. They can never be racist, sexist, or homophobic (that’s the baddies’ job), yet nor should they ever rock the boat. They should never make us doubt ourselves or our consumer society, because even if it isn’t perfect – hey! – at least we’re living in a democracy, right? Right…? Inevitably, this turns every drama series into a sequence of contrived confrontations between insipid non-characters, and Cult TV programmes are more prone to this tendency than any genre other than cop shows.”

    For Cult TV, substitute Genre Gaming. I think the cantankerous sod might be on to something.

    • Cedric Ballbusch

      I notice Word Press ate my careful paragraphing. This has been corrected. Thanks for wading through the wall of text.

      Part of the issue is that most writers are part of the same petty-bourgeois as their audience as have an equal wish to remain squire free. Lack of imagination and skill, of course, factor into this as well.

      Still, there is increase aversion to ‘fair’ representation of the ‘other’. In the gaming materials ( and sci-fi) of the 70’s and early 80’s there was some nascent understanding that cultural variance existed. This has largely been abandoned. Those who aren’t like ‘us’ are simply ‘bad’ or misguided and will be shown to be foolish or wiped out.

      It’s the Star Trek phenomenon (not that I’m a Trekkie, but it is illustrative). In ToS there is an understanding that other people have different mores that they will not easily give up. If they get too far out of line they will have to be killed or mocked, but other societies have some right to exist.

      By TNG all civilized people are late 20th century yuppies and anyone who disagrees is a barbarian, an overgrown child, or a zoo animal. Any ‘respect’ for an alien civilization comes with a large amount of patrician disdain.

      A colleague of mine once said to me that he didn’t think one of his (teenage) students could dress herself in the morning and eat breakfast without some measure of cognitive dissonance. While hyperbole is larger point was that the ‘liberal-minded early-twenty-first-century’ mindset is nothing more than a collection of opinions the gestalt has deemed ‘nice’ or ‘good’ (neither of which does the philosophy really define). Even if you generally agree with it, the worldview isn’t really based on much besides fashion. This makes it very difficult to defend in any serious debate.

      The solution is simply to by-pass the debate. People who disagree are bad. Period. We ignore why, exactly they’re wrong. Or, at least why ‘we’ are right.

    • I think he is definitely on to something, as is LeGuin as usual. We have this situation with fantasy where the whole point of the genre was supposedly that you can invent any rules you like, yet people insist on aping the sorts of rules that previous writers established, working inside the historical examples (which have become conventions), yet struggling at the same time to subvert them so it’s still interesting.

      Maybe I’m an insufferable arthouse hipster, but my personal theory is that it’s happening because high culture has lost its cache in people’s minds. Art and Literature (with respective capitals) have been replaced as the default mediums of creative expression in the pop consciousness by people fooling about inside genres. I know high art was pretty wanky, but so much modern genre stuff is just so limited precisely because the creators are self-consciously trying to create within genres.

      • Von

        Ahh, good, the little tank made it. Everything OK? Nothing broken?

        I think a lot of modern everything is grist to the mill, to be honest. Stuff produced for the sake of keeping the wheels of economy turning. Every so often something succeeds and spawns a wave of imitations, every so often something genuinely good comes along, every so often some smartaleck decides to take the piss and we can all have a giggle at our own expense for a bit.

        “Struggling to subvert them” might be giving people a little more credit than is due. Subversion sounds a little more active, a little more… grand in its ambitions, perhaps. Subversion feels like something that’s done to make a broader cultural point than merely making MY derivative cack sufficiently different-looking from the other derivative cack that I can look myself in the mirror in the mornings and call myself a creator.

        Blah blah, cynic cynic. Whaddayagonnado?

        • You’re probably right. About everything you just said.

          I told you how I read submissions for an SF magazine? I had to take a hiatus because I just got worn down. While there are some outstanding stories I get to read, a great many of them have this “revolutionary” structure:

          1. Character is placed in awful situation in fantasy/sci-fi setting.

          2. Character struggles for a bit, almost escapes said situation, and then dies, thereby demonstrating the hopelessness of life and subverting traditional heroic themes.

          As far as I’m concerned struggling for a bit and then dying is not a story. It’s basically real life magnified. I just feel as though there are all these people who are earnestly trying to be writers but don’t… have what it takes. They just cook up a setting safely within genre conventions and then have a character die because you know, emotions. Fuck G.R.R. Martin is what I’m saying basically I guess.

          I’m not sure who’s more cynical though: you for thinking these things are being written just as grist for the mill, or me for thinking the people writing them genuinely believe in what they’re doing but sadly, just suck at telling stories.

          Oh and yeah, nothing broken. All good.

    • Captain Kellen

      Cantankerous sod… sounds like you read my resume. Please continue…

  • “I am going to assume that there is an objective, material reality, the past is immutable, and the flow of time is linear.”

    Utter piffle clearly all moments in time happen simultaneously and linear is just subjective interpretation of the in flux of perception so we all perceive are selfs as linear but your linear isn’t the same as everybody else’s.

    Apart from that great article

    • Cedric Ballbusch

      Sounds like someone’s been reading Slaughterhouse Five (or an advanced physics text). I like to cling to my sense of place. Besides there I so many place I wish I’d never been I sleep more soundly thinking those times are gone rather than living with the thought that in some way I’m still there and always will be.

      I need a drink and a lie down…

      • Well I’ve not read Slaughter House 5 but I might be quite stoned admittedly less now then when I wrote that but I can remedy that in short order.

        I might have fallen off the wagon and head first into a big green bush.

        I sleep more soundly assuming that very little means anything at all

        • Cedric Ballbusch

          That explains it.

          I think I was about twenty-six (though I’m not too sure, there is a whole decade in there that is sort of a blur, sometimes I can nail things down generally by remembering who was president, but I disgress) when I came or seriously suspect god conceived the universe as a large, cruel, and slightly childish joke, possibly while high.

          • Would explain the Platypus and placing the male genitalia externally in such a vulnerable position

  • Michael Sellwood

    May I direct your attention to a quite interesting post on the lack of actually representing different mindsets / the people who actually lived:

    Essentially the writer sets out why he believes we get the creatively bankrupt option of modern people wearing armour and POW! fantasy. Basically it comes down to familiarity of the audience and seeking ratings / sales.

    The article comes from a role playing mind frame but has some interesting Wargames applications. For example, for victory conditions we often assume that victory is measured by kills on either side. But what matter a peasants death? Maybe the only measure should be how many nobles die, and how many they kill or capture? Should we be able to win the game if our knights are particularly glorious irrespective of anything else achieved?

    For me however all history is fantasy. We know so little for sure, and our own reality bleeds into our interpretation of the history (written, visual and material) that we do have, that any attempt at history is merely an individual interpretation of the evidence that we have. In that context we create artificial barriers and mindsets around fantasy versus history.

    No game is more ‘true’ than any other as none are true – some reflect hollywood, some reflect academic theories, some reflect contemporary presentations, but none can claim objective truth. So, is playing a game informed by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings any more a fantasy than playing a game informed by Froissart’s Chronicles, or Nennius’s Historia Brittonium, or Malorie’s L’Mort de Arthur, or El Cid, or the Troy movie? Is casting spells more fantasy than providing the Norman invaders a morale bonus for carrying the true cross due to their belief in it?

    There was an objective history that actually happened. But our understanding of the events and the people are so limited that it is like looking through murky glass at a shattered picture – the gaps are filled by the viewer (with the ‘Three blind men describe an elephant’ issue inherent). My view therefore? Relax. Do what you enjoy or that appeals or that inspires. There is no right or wrong in wargaming only what gets you to buy models, paint them and play games. Forget genre distinction. Forget ‘the truth’. Everything is true, just as everything is wrong.

    • I like the cut of this guy’s gib.

    • Cedric Ballbusch

      Thanks for the link.

      Wargamers make too much of battlefield slaughter. Professional armies seek to capture an object or complete a mission, neutralizing the enemy is necessary simply because they are attempting to prevent the achievement of that goal. Hereditary warrior-types want plunder, prisoners, or glory. Actually killing people is again, sort of secondary.

      Sometimes this even transcends the concept of ‘side’. Samurai were not gentlemen and acquiring personal glory was far more important than ‘winning’. Throughout the Imjin War the Japanese frequently thwarted their own side by completing for trophies, bragging rights, and honor.

      Different people within the same army can have very different victory conditions. The commander wants to conquer, allied nobles want glory, yeomen want loot, mercenaries simply wish to minimize casualties (in order to maximize future paychecks).

      • Von

        All of which makes me wonder: what manner of monster takes such delight in the amassing of casualties, caring not for victory or defeat provided it’s a good stand-up fight with lots of killin’s? For some reason, I imagine our small soldiers planting spears in the earth, dedicating these deaths to Odin – or whoever. Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows…

        Back when I played the Retribution in that Warmachine thing, I generally took the line that the scenario was largely irrelevant and I was only going to attend to it to ensure that I didn’t lose by it. What I was there for, always and forever, was the decapitation strategy; the elimination of the enemy commander; the Mage Hunt, to put it as bluntly as possible.

        What you’ve written here makes me think hard about the concept of Skornergy (it’s you mentioning samurai that does it). The soldiers, to a varying degree, want survival or exaltation, and exaltation demands personal glory, and that surely leads to some crossed wires within the army as everyone’s competing for trophies, bragging rights, honour… and a glorious death, if die they must. Well, everyone except the various ancestors, who are already dead and presumably want to survive lest the Void take them… and the warbeasts, which don’t want to be there at all…

        • Cedric Ballbusch

          I wrote a piece that touched very briefly on this subject, but it might be time to revisit the idea in more detail.

          To go back to what we were discussing before, different peoples (or thing sci-fi/fantasy into the mix different beings) are going to view warfare through a different lens. Some nations (early Gauls, the Chin, samurai) are interested mostly in headhunting, so simply slaughtering the enemy is an end itself. This probably comes at the cost of a good deal of tactics and planning.

          For most semi-realistic forces if you achieve you objective, but take 50% causalities doing it you’d still likely be shot or cashiered. Most games ignore that. I’ve had the thought that loses should be a negative factor. So, losing men decreases you pool of victory points, killing the enemy decrease his score, but does not improve your own.

          For Khorne, the total number of figures killed is likely all that matters, win or lose, and who died, matters far, far less that the scale of the killing. Medieval knights are going to be more interested in capturing other men of rank than petty details like killing footmen.

          For the player ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ should be based on the faction’s culture, relatives with the enemy, and goals in the campaign. A lot of work, but it would make for better games. How does an orc, or an elf define ‘victory?’ What about a necromancer, a dragon, a god?

          • I’d love to see that sort of detail being put into games. Instead of artificially differentiating factions by equipment and dubious cultural traits, you differentiate them by their required victory conditions. Then in games like 40k where there really are wildly varying species, they become even more different. It would make space marines and Eldar extremely cagey, defensive armies for example.

          • Von

            Remember the special Tyranid missions from second edition? Or the Orks never going for decapitation strategies because they don’t grasp the idea that a particular leader might be indispensable?

    • Von

      Middenmurk’s a good blog. Should read more often.

      As far as the distinction between “fantasy” and “history” goes, I return to LeGuin’s admonition that fantasy ceases to be fantasy when everybody’s doing it. Your wizard is not innately fantastic; wizards are pop culture, they are a commonplace sign, a known thing. Your wizard is not fantastic just because he rides a dragon; that is the sort of thing wizards do. I have yet to establish exactly what it is that can make your wizard fantastic; I think it’s perhaps less what your wizard says and does and more what your wizard thinks while doing it, the texture of your wizard’s beliefs and attitudes and ideas and language.

      The greatest works of fantasy are distinguished because the people in them do not seem Real – Tolkien’s Feanor or LeGuin’s Tenar are not the sort of people you’d bump into at the coffee shop, dressed up in cod-medieval clothes. (You might bump into Eddison’s Fiorinda; if so, you yourself are not Real, and you have probably been dimly aware of this all your life. Congratulations, my lord.) All these people think and talk in a way which is fantastic, uncanny, unholy even (to translate three of the terms in which literary theory attempts to pin down this stuff): this behaviour, and not their trappings, is the stuff of which other worlds are made on.

  • Thuloid

    Very interesting. A thought occurs to me–I don’t know if it’s quite right, but it’s late here and so I’ll just spit it out and you all can help me correct it later: Western liberals, at this stage, are more averse to actual difference than their often overtly racist forebears.

    I don’t mean this in a “today’s bigotry is even worse, because it’s hidden” register. I mean that for the most part we’ve overcome difference only by insisting that difference is unreal. The belief that deep down we’re all really the same is so strong, so fundamental, that it overrides any evident difference. I think on RE Howard’s stories of 80+ years ago. He revels in cultural difference. Conan is unlike us. But Howard is deeply racist–the stories are often framed by racial narratives of ascent and descent, so that different cultures are practically different species. As distasteful as some of that is, there’s also a vibrancy to his work (and not just the Conan stories–Howard’s less fantastic stories are often set in dusty Middle Eastern towns or ports in Southeast Asia) that Cedric points out is generally lacking today.

    Educated readers today are likely to dismiss many of these depictions as “Orientalism.” They wouldn’t be wrong. But it turns out that the kneejerk alternative to Orientalism isn’t honest engagement with difference, it’s blind insistence that people on the other side of the globe are exactly like me. And if they’re like me, then they aren’t all that interesting to study. There’s no romance, no mystery, nothing to spark the imagination. At best, they’re to be selectively invoked in support of the same things I already supported. The great Orientalist scholars studied their subjects in minute detail. We’re afraid to, because that might threaten our confidence that the world is filled with people like us.

    • Cedric Ballbusch

      Interestingly enough I had Howard in mind when I was writing (and too a lesser extent Vance).

      “Western Liberalism” using the term as Mr. Miles does, to define the currently popular sociopolitical worldview of the elite, is a strange philosophy. It claims leftist roots and has adopted some left-wing terminology. Yet, it is very much an ideology of the great and powerful, and while not high Toryism, it does justify oligarchic tendencies in its adherents.
      Your statement: “Western liberals, at this stage, are more averse to actual difference than their often overtly racist forebears.” The philosophy is founded on an ideal of multicultural inclusion and tolerance. The restrictions on and application of this tolerance is so strict that the ideology cannot comfortable coexist with any other. So, you adherence is simultaneously informed that he is tolerance and broad-minded and that anyone who disagrees with him is fundamentally wrong, ignorance, stupid, and in need of conversion.

      Really, this is an evolution of the older concept of cultural superiority. The sense of superiority has been expanded upon, applied to the individual, and internalized. But, since it is also denied contact with the ‘other’ is highly disturbing, and challenges core assumptions. Even if you think you’re better you are able, even comfortable seeing others as different.

      • Thuloid

        Yeah, I had Kant in mind. A cosmopolitanism that must see any resistance to it as irrational and lacking structure, or dismiss the same as imaginary.

    • This is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. Great articles spark great comments. Really good work all around.

  • Great article Cedric, you’re really holding the line in these troubled times 😀

    I think your definition of a historical wargame is a good one. It includes things like FoW and SAGA but excludes 40k and Kings of War. So it works in principle and in practice. There’s a lot of other stuff to talk about in there but I think others have already got the ball rolling so I might leave it to them. I will say though, I did not know that Napoleonic armies were allowed to be drab! That opens up a whole new chunk of history for me. Everything I paint ends up grey or muted cool colours, and one of the reasons Napoleonic never appealed to me as a period was the brightly coloured uniforms.

    You know what period I find intensely fascinating and can really nerd-out over for no reason I can identify? The English Civil War.

    • Cedric Ballbusch

      As for as Napoleonic uniforms go it’s one of those things that’s open to debate. The general consensus seems to be that most men fought in overcoats, loose trousers, and peaked or garrison caps (which, I believe commonwealth-types call a field service cap). Particularly as the war dragged on and the formal niceties of 18th century warfare were abandoned for the realities of national struggle.

      Some formations may have tried to give smart turn out on the day of battle, but from a logistical standpoint I don’t know how you could present a per-industrial or early modern army in anything like a clean, uniform appearance when the men only got one clothing issue every two years and had to walk everywhere over dirt roads.

      While outside the period, I read a letter from an officer in the Army of the Cumberland to his wife commenting on how strange regiments from New York were because they had uniforms. Every soldier he’d ever seen took a “come as you are” approach to the war.

      Have you seen Empress Miniatures’ ECW figures? Costly, but lovely (and historically accurate, British fashions were rather distinct from that on the continent. So all those 30 Years War/ECW figures are sort of suspect)

      • Wow they are nice. I might wait until there are some Scots Covenanters though. I have some Wargames Foundry ECW models I bought as a boy lying around somewhere. I think I even painted some of them.