When one is war gaming its fun to use one’s imagination and sometimes its even more fun to use one’s own imagine-nation. What’s an imagine-nation? It’s a fictional country created by the player to take part in battles or campaigns.
People create them for lots of reasons. Historic armies are limited in some ways; they fight historic enemies, in historic wars. An imaginary nation can fight anyone and be allied with anyone. They offer a freedom a historic nation and army cannot. Let face it: if the setting is the 18th or 19th century, the idea of France and England teaming up to take on Prussia and Austria is just plain silly.
On the other hand, an imagine-nation using France as a model could easily be allied with an English army or English-inspired imagine-nation.
Those of you in the RPG world may have already started running an imagine-nation at some point. Most players get some land, start building a stronghold, and hiring retainers, and those retainers usually include some soldiers.
This in fact was the origin of the imagine-nation I have been using for games of Maurice. Guiscard D’Argent was a nobleman (a Duke in fact) effectively running his own small country in a campaign run by my friend Scott. I liked the name because it sounded a bit like D’Artagnan, the main character from The Three Musketeers (the real man was just as cool) and I found a wine using that name (sadly I have not seen it in a while) which I could claim was my family vintage.
When I found the game Maurice, I decided I would recycle the name to build a whole nation and army that would be all my own. So, the Grand Duchy of D’Argent was born. D’Argent is located in a region similar to Southern France/Northern Italy. My inspiration is the Kingdom of Piedmont, a nation that was known for its small but skilled army and for the political acumen of its rulers. You’ll see more about my imagine-nation and its army in later posts but if you cannot wait to see it check out my blog.
I feel giving one’s imagine-nation an anchor of sorts by loosely modeling it on a historic nation is a good idea. There are lots to choose from, the major nations to the small ones… and the “small” ones work best. The early-modern period (1500 to 1800 or so) in Europe was a time of small nations. Counties, duchies, principalities, and even individual cities mattered in the calculus of war and politics. Prussia and Piedmont grew by taking advantage of these conflicts and eventually they would unite Germany and Italy. Saxony, Bavaria, Burgundy, Hanover, and Brunswick all were mid-sized countries with significant armies that nations like France and Britain could not ignore. There are options beyond Europe, such as Japan’s Warring States period, the city states of India, and in North America the Iroquois Confederacy. These are all excellent models for an imagine-nation. Really, your options are limitless.
Think about the imagine-nation as you would a character. Is it a republic, oligarchy, or monarchy? Who are its friends? Does it model its army on another country, like France, Britain, or Prussia? Any bitter foes? Can it even field its own army or does it lead a coalition of small states within a confederated army? How does it subsist? You don’t need a full-blown economy but you should know how you support yourself, farming, trade, mining, etc.
Think about the geography of your imagine-nation as geography creates culture and cultures create armies. Rolling hills and plains probably means an army were cavalry plays a major role. Is your nation covered in woodlands and crossed by mountains? Then, irregular infantry. A nation crisscrossed by rivers with several sea ports will be very different from one in a land-locked desert.
One more thing: if you are doing a blog or even using your imagine-nation in a game store, try to make it clear that this is not a real place. It is amazing to me how many people think stuff is real just because they see it on the internet. Trust me people can be really dumb, present company excluded.
Check out more imagine-nations here at http://emperor-elector.blogspot.com/