Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fun with 'Imagi-Nations'

I was recently reading some reviews, comments and AARs on various forums about the newest set of rules from Nordic Weasel Games, titled Fivecore Brigade Commander. What I had read intrigued me, so I paid my hard-earned and downloaded the rules in PDF from Wargames Vault.

Whilst I haven't had time to play the rules yet since I downloaded them last week, they look very interesting. They seem to be nice and simple, should play very fast and are very 'effects-focused' (being quite abstract, and not simulation, detail, or process focused). Most of all, from what I've read they seem fun! So I will give them a try very soon (report to follow I hope).

One of the aspects that I was immediately attracted to in the rules was the "War Generator" system contained in the rules. This is basically a random generation system comprising a number of tables to create a couple of fictional protagonists for a conflict, to provide context for a one-off battle or small campaign. This kind of thing is right up my alley, as I've always loved the idea of 'Imagi-Nations' .

Imagi-Nations are now a reasonably traditional wargames concept, dating back to such stalwarts as C.S. Grant and Tony Bath. They are a great way to fight battles, without the sometimes controversial subject of real-world politics, or the constraints of adhering to absolute historical accuracy. They give the gamer an opportunity to "explore the space" in their wargaming (to borrow a quote from the SNL "more Cow-bell" sketch). So I like them!

Imagi-Nations have always been popular in periods where small countries  could plausibly exist. The 18th century has always been a very popular setting for this (with its many small kingdoms / principalities / duchys / etc, what's a few more?!). But in recent years the concept has also become increasingly popular in the 'modern' period. Again, the most popular settings are commonly fictional small African nations (or factions) in "Brushfire Wars", but South America and Eastern Europe (former soviet republics) have also been used. These all provide plausible settings for new countries that have broken away from others, or have just been insignificant enough otherwise that no one really paid them much attention! All of this is great gaming fodder, as it provides some key advantages:
  • The ability to field whatever equipment you want, including new, old or downright obsolete kit. This can be sourced from whatever diverse mix of suppliers you can justify cobbling together. This aspect is particularly good for gamers buying on the second hand miniatures market, or scrounging odds and ends from friends, as you can throw together whatever acquisitions you end up with;
  • limited conflicts with whatever scale forces you want to play with. Being generally quite small, these countries often field only small armed forces - perfect for fighting anything from skirmish actions up to small 'armies' of multiple brigades;
  • the ability to design the force structures, uniforms, traditions and key 'characters' in your force;
  • the Imagi-Nations can easily be used in a campaign context, adding more factions / bordering nations in as required. They tend to generate a narrative of their own as the campaign evolves.
So because of all this, the "War Generator" from Brigade Commander already looked like a great bit of fun. And then...

...NWG released more tools for the prospective Imagi-Nations builder!! Also on Wargames Vault is the Nation Generator, and soon to be released is the Military Generator. These allow for the random generation of Nations, including their size, population, system of government, important issues, level of corruption, government legitimacy, alliances, etc - all great stuff for providing background and pretexts for our fictional internal or international conflicts. The Military Generator provides the background for the country's military - size, structure, equipment supplier(s), etc.

So, by way of experiment I thought I'd have some fun and demonstrate the tools by 'generating' a pair of Imagi-Nations to square off against each other in a fictional conflict. As I already have one imagi-nation (the "Republic of Red") in my existing Oz Invaded! campaign setting, I thought I'd use the tools to add a few more to provide some other options for the Reds and the other factions in my existing campaign to get involved with.

I decided I'd roll up a couple of countries, and then tweak where needed to shoe-horn them into the existing setting. As such, these are going to be some of the smaller islands around Red. I used the "War Generator" from Brigade Commander to determine the situation, which came up with "war of independence" and "minor skirmish". As I like to play 'ultra-modern' period and my Oz Invaded! campaign is set in 2025, this therefore became the 'base year'.

So what did I generate? Well here it is:

Country 1 (which I named "Russet") is:
  • Massive. ~ 5m (the result was actually >50m, but I divided the population result by 10, since I thought a country of 50m would probably have been noticed by now! I wanted my countries to be much smaller...)
  • Resources: Strategic Position, Cheap Labour. (I decided that Russet is to the east-northeast of Red, on the shipping lanes between Red and Asia & Australia)
  • 'somewhat urban'. (I'll give the island a number of coastal towns of substantial size).
  • ~10 years behind leading edge technology
  • Plentiful Heavy Industry (a worker's paradise! - plentiful coal has provided cheap electricity, and coupled with the cheap labour has attracted plenty of heavy manufacturing. The Russet Tractor Works produce some very fine agricultural equipment!)
  • Moderate socialist state (The "Islamic Republic of Russet" - Russet followed Red's socialist inspired independence movement in the 60's)
  • Govt viewed as reasonably legitimate (70%)
  • but very unpopular
  • dominant religion in the region (Islam - Sunni)
  • endemic corruption
  • very low cultural coherency (I decided the country is plagued with ethnic/tribal/religious rivalries, one of which has led to the independence bid by Country #2)
  • allegiances: neighbouring nation, patron state (strong). (I decided that this country would be a close neighbour and client-state of Red)
  • pressing concerns: corruption, cultural coherency, informal economy
  • Military:
    • tactical doctrine: Offensive Operations (the RuDF follows Soviet/Red doctrine)
    • air force: focus - token, status - limited, tech - 8 years old (Russet has been a close ally of Red for a long time and has not focused on its air-force)
    • armoured forces: focus - MBTs, status - very limited, tech - 25 years old (Russet has limited armoured forces, equipped largely with Red (Russian built) surplus equipment. It has, however, bought a small number of more modern Type-99 MBTs from China)
    • elite units: commandos
    • source of weapons: primary - Russia (via Red as surplus equipment), secondary - China
    • Level of Support: somewhat limited (The Russet army is fairly poorly equipped)
    • training level: acceptable training but lacking practical experience (largely Red-trained)
    • army corruption: unusual, army politics: as per society
    • morale level: accepting (conscripts)

From this, I'm thinking thatthe Russet Defence Force (RuDF) is an Infantry based force of three "Motor Rifle" Brigades (the 7th, 12th and 55th Brigades). These are largely organised and equipped along Soviet lines, with two brigades (7th & 12th) mounted in wheeled APCs (BTR-70s), and one (55th) in tracked IFVs (BMP-2). Each brigade comprises three infantry battalions and one battalion of tanks (old in 2025, but with some modernisation - T-55MV or T-64BM). There is also a single Independent Tank Battalion (2nd Guards Tank Battalion), equipped with Chinese ZTZ-99 MBTs. Artillery is largely towed (D-30 and D-46).

Vehicles and Uniforms will be Green.

Country #2 (I decided Country #2 is a breakaway region from the island of Russet, named "Ambertan"):
  • Large: ~ 2m (the result was actually 20-50m, but I divided the population result by 10, as per country #1)
  • Resources: Cheap Labour, Control of vital territory (Ambertan province contains newly discovered significant Uranium deposits).
  • 'somewhat urban' (as per the rest of the island of Russet)
  • ~1 year behind leading edge technology (Ambertan has received significant recent investment and modernised infrastructure from French companies that have invested in the area).
  • Some Heavy industry (mainly focused around Uranium mining and processing, plus support of mining equipment and operations).
  • Limited Democracy. (The people of Ambertan have always been fairly progressive, and have long agitated for more autonomy and freedom. Additionally, a large portion of the population identify themselves more strongly with Ambertan than with Russet, largely because the majority of the province's population is Christian. With the extreme unpopularity of the Russet central government, the provincial government in Ambertan has declared autonomy as the "Commonwealth of Ambertan" and held democratic elections - hence 'limited democracy').
  • Govt viewed as somewhat illegitimate (50% of the population are uncertain about independence - mainly the Islamic and ethnic Red parts of the population.)
  • but very popular (most of the population are thrilled about the prospect of democracy and economic advancement, and therefore support the new Government)
  • offshoot / alternate denomination of regional religion (Christian and moderate Islam)
  • corruption accepted but infrequent
  • imperfect cultural coherency (The ethnic Reds in the Province don't get along very well with the other Ambertan residents, and agitate to return to Russet or Red).
  • allegiences:  former colonial power, patron state. (In their bid for independence, the Ambertans have received solid diplomatic support in the UN from the UK (as their former colonial power), and the US and other western nations (including Australia) have also supported Ambertan in its democratic aspirations. Also from France, which sees the country as part of the wider struggle to limit Islamic fundamentalism, and for commercial interests with its companies having just signed 50 year mining leases on the new nation's Uranium deposits).
  • pressing concerns: wide spread drug use (actually alcoholism from the plentiful home-made rum), informal economy, cronyism
  • Military:
    • tactical doctrine: Special Operations (the Ambertans recognise they are a small army, and have embraced western special operations and doctrine).
    • air force: focus - ground support (with the low threat from the Russet Air Force, air to air combat is not a priority), status - moderate, tech - 8 years old
    • armoured forces: focus - Infantry Support (actually combined arms), status - limited, tech - 23 years old (old equipment in 2025, but solid and has been modernised)
    • elite units: paratroopers (a single battalion), particular regiment of armoured forces (1st Mech Battalion)
    • source of weapons: primary - France, secondary - Other (mix of opportunity buys)
    • well supported
    • training level: limited, hasty or outdated training
    • army corruption: endemic, army politics: as per the population
    • morale level: steady
Militarily, the fledgling Ambertan Armed Forces (AAF) were raised around a former battalion (the 83rd) of the Russet 8th Infantry Brigade. This battalion was garrisoned in the province, and, having been largely recruited from the Ambertan population, these troops quickly went over to the new Government as regulars (on much better pay and conditions than they had previously been). UK advisors have provided advice and training to the AAF. The 83rd Battalion has subsequently been re-organised and re-titled as the 1st Mechanised  Battalion within a new 1st Combined Arms Brigade (1 CAB). The 1 CAB has also been supplemented with the raising of an additional reserve combined-arms Brigade (the 2nd CAB).
Despite the UK advisors' training of elements of the fledgling RuDF, the overall training level is still 'limited' in the 2nd CAB and most of the 1st CAB, and slightly better ('acceptable') in the remainder of the 1st CAB. Morale level, however is 'steady' as the troops are ready and willing to defend their new nation. Following the mining lease negotiations with France, sufficient credit has been extended to Ambertan to purchase a fairly decent armoury of French surplus equipment (early 2000s era and older). This included VBCI and AMX-10 armoured vehicles for the Infantry battalions, LeClerc MBTs for the armoured units, GCT SP guns, and a small number of Rafale aircraft. Whilst this all looks good, units have suffered variable provisioning, due to corruption in the procurement officer's ranks allocating funding and equipment preference to family connections or for favours.
Uniforms will be Tan (for AmberTAN) and Vehicles will be Tan with Green and Black camo.

I think I can have some fun with these. The two new countries can fight some relatively small actions against each other (up to about Brigade level). Or Ambertan and Russet could both fight some insurgencies, special forces and militia cross-border raids in small skirmish type actions. Or it could all escalate to multi-brigade conventional fighting, as there is plenty of opportunity for Red aggression in support of their Russet allies re-taking the wayward province, or in 'protecting' ethnic Reds in Ambertan. The AAF can call on its allies (UK, France, US, Australia) to assist it.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog post! Your comments sum up my feelings about ImagiNations. I recently bought both Brigade Commander and Nation Generator. I played around with the Nation Generator. Its pretty good, but I think there are a few tables that I would switch around or have it so that one table has an influence on another. For example, I rolled largely rural, but then I rolled that it was highly industrial. I can't justify those two.