Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back again after a business trip

A couple more character sketches done, but otherwise nothing new to report.

Next time I get the graphics bug I will probably work on some combination uniform/standard/regiment name images, like those you know so well from the Defiant Principality ( To my eye, those Catalonian uniform/flag plates are extremely attractive, and also a blog-friendly way to go. For uniform templates, I expect I will use the very helpful and attractive templates from Not by Appointment (

In the meantime, the intrigue game is still, as always, very much on my mind. I am looking forward to seeing the Estrian nobility screwing each other big-time, both literally and figuratively, in the run-up to the coming electoral conclave.

In which regard, does anybody have any experience using the VASSAL game engine? In particular, has anyone ever designed modules for it?

I have downloaded VASSAL (but not installed it, since I would be running it on a different computer). It looks intimidating but potentially very flexible and possibly adaptable to an intrigue game. It seems like it can be used as a moderated PBEM game engine, and possibly also, with refinement, a stand-alone real-time online game, possibly without a moderator. Does anybody here have any thoughts/experience?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Arms and Flags for the Fifth and Final Duchy

That would be the Ducato di Rimaldi. The double-headed eagle on the coat of arms displays the sword-and-key so emblematic of the Rimaldi dukes.

Rimaldi, like Marignac, is a small duchy with a small army, so it was quick work to do up all their standards.

First, the Reggimento di Fanteria di Rimaldi:

Next, the Reggimento di Fanteria del’Estroponte:

and the Reggimento di Fanteria della Fera:

and finally, the guidon of the Reggimento dei Dragoni Ducale:

And that is about it for designing arms and flags for Estria. I do have to redo the arms of Brescegna, but that is a matter more of execution than design.

Time to move on to other things: those interminable character sketches, and also rules for the intrigue game!

Friday, March 18, 2011

and so it goes...

I am up to 22 character sketches, a little shy of 20% done. For the flags, I can't look at those dolphins any more. I have now blown them up a few 100 times, greyed them out and I am slowly tracing them out with finer lines.

In the meantime, to cleanse my palate, I thought I would try something easier: The Duché de Marignac.

Maroon and grey/silver is the theme here, and this will play out in the Duchy's uniforms and standards as well. In fact, since the Duke fields only a tiny army, with two regiments of foot and one of horse, I can clear the standards in pretty short order.

First, the guidon of the  Régiment des Dragons du Confluent (maroon coats, powder blue facings):

Next, the Régiment des Fusiliers des Trois-Villes (maroon coats, grey facings):

And the Régiment des Fusiliers des Saints (maroon coats, salmon-pink facings):

Finally, there is also the small Compagnie des Artilleurs du Duc:
Their standard mostly gathers dust in the depot but now and then they bring it out on parade. Maroon and  black.

To me, the regimental standards of Marignac have a slightly archaic look, perhaps more 17th century than 18th. But that's okay, a little archaism doesn't hurt. Maybe I should go whole hog with the archaic theme and use outmoded GNW figures for the Duché de Marignac. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

more arms

the arms of the Granducato di Brescegna. This is the concept, anyway. The mermaid and especially the dolphin images were small to start with, so they end up looking coarse and heavy-handed. The mermaid is okay, but I am not all that happy with the dolphins. If I can find higher-resolution ones that I like, then I'll re-work this. If not, I'll live with it.

For some reason I insist that the heraldic dolphin supporters be in this doubly-embowed diving position, like on an old lamp-post. But sadly, it's not common to find drawings of them like this. The mermaid reminds me very much of one that has already been used in an Imagi-Nation: specifically, the lascivious creature on the flag of the Presipality of Monte-Cristo. I expect mine is derived from the very same image. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

...but there will still be banners and battalions....

Rather to my surprise I finished six character sketches this evening, that's 18 done in total. So to take a break from that, it's back to flags. The fleur-de-lys ground looked so nice on those cavalry guidons I decided to try using it as a ground for some Anchoise infantry flags.

Yes, I know, another flag design with terribly obvious historical precedents. Then I tried plonking the Anchoise arms in the middle of one of them:

Check it out! I wasn't going to go that route, Originally, I was planning just a simple white cross on a facing colour ground. But I like the look with the arms added. And they move the design one step further away from historical French, which is good. Yup, I think I'll add the coat of arms to the others, too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Not just banners and battalions...

Although I enjoy preparing for my eventual armies, I still see Estria in large part as a setting for a more social game, a game of actors and agents, influence and intrigue. As noted in an earlier post I have a roster of Estrian noble and non-noble personalities drawn up (now expanded to  include123 characters). Each character has a name, a portrait and a social position. I am now in the process of compiling a guidebook to the Estrian nobility, with brief character sketches for each personality.

Although I have quantified their personal attributes, abilities and character traits, I would hate to see players playing out social intrigue "by the numbers" so I intend to keep the actual numbers to myself and circulate only the guidebook. This is what anyone playing the "Game of the Estrian Succession" will have to rely on to make guesses about what characters are good at, what means of persuasion they are vulnerable to, and how their skills and weaknesses are best exploited. The guidebook will outline what is commonly known or suspected about their personalities. In many cases, character traits will only be implied or alluded to,  and in some cases, skills or weaknesses that are not well-known will not even be mentioned. So there will be more to learn about these characters in play. Hopefully the result will be a game in which players learn more and more about each character as time goes on, even as they are trying to work out how best to manipulate them.

Anyway, to give an idea of what the guidebook is looking like I am putting up screencaps of the title page and one typical page with a couple of biographies.Screencaps are awkward, but the original document is in Word and the final product will be a pdf. And I don't think I can put non-image files up on this blog (If I am wrong about that, please tell me!).

By the way. I have 123 biographies to finish and at the moment I have done 12. If I can manage 2 a day it will still take me a couple of months to finish the whole book. But once I do, I will figure out a way to put it up so anyone who is interested in exploring the personalities of Estria can download it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

moving on to the Grand-Duché d'Anchoise...

another test guidon, this time for the cavalry of the Grand-Duc d'Anchoise:

I am hoping a fleur-de-lys background works, and that it will work well in other colours as well. The little fleurs-de-lys give the whole thing a rich quality that feels very French to me. I think I sharpened the arms too much, though. I'll soften them up slightly next time.

..and now it is next time. Same fleur-de-lys background pattern but a medium-light blue, a natural colour for the Grand-Duché d'Anchoise. Coat of arms softened a bit. Let's see how this looks:

 Well that was useful. The background and the arms don't contrast enough, but I expected that. I kind of like it, even without enough contrast. The softened coat of arms works well. And as the background colour gets lighter, the diamond grid starts to show, which is nice. So I think this qualifies as progress!

It will be interesting to see how the fleur-de-lys ground works in a very light colour, like yellow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Another guidon

Again for Zeichen-Nietschbaden, this time using the full coat of arms. I expect I will use this scheme for one or two cavalry regiments. Not with this facing colour though! You can see how muddy the details get with background colours like this....

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More flags

And next up, a few cavalry guidons, again from the Grand Duchy of Zeichen-Nietschbaden. Wreathed and crowned eagle on regimental facing colour. Unfortunately, the gold elements in the corners do not stand out well against most of the colours I tried. These were about the best of the lot.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some Flags

I decided to play around with turning some of the coats of arms into flags, both plain and textured. First, the Prince's flag, issued to all Estrian regiments in addition to their regimental flags:

And now a couple of regimental flags from Zeichen-Nietschbaden. Bet you can guess which historical kingdom these are supposed to evoke!

another pair:

Even without photoshop I can add a textured effect. Generally I am iffy about textured flags but I think in this case texturing makes them look reasonably silky and also breaks up the big colour blocks so they look less pre-school.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yet more Arms

and next, the arms of the Großherzog von Zeichen-Nietschbaden:

The arms of the various duchies will rarely appear as such on any regimental standards, though I might use them on some cavalry guidons. Presently, I am thinking that for the forces of the Grand-Duché d'Anchoise, standards will contain no heraldic elements at all. For Zeichen-Nietschbaden, the eagle and crown willl certainly appear on standards, but likely not the whole coat of arms.

More Arms

This time, the arms of the Grand-Duc d'Anchoise:

Unicorns, fleurs de lys. Pretty standard stuff really.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Coat of Arms

Back to graphics for a bit and now the Principality has its Coat of Arms.

Frankly, until now I hadn't given much thought to the arms of the Principality itself, as most of the regimental standards will bear the arms and devices of one of the Principality's Dukes or Grand Dukes. But then I found a nice graphic of a shield with triton and mermaid supporters that neatly matched the design on the map of the Principality that I posted previously. So I ran with it and voila the arms of the Prince of Estria.

As the arms make clear, the Principality, and especially the princely seat at Orlezzo, is something of a maritime power.

The arms of  Estria's two Dukes and three Grand Dukes will follow in due course.

Monday, February 28, 2011

back again...

Just got back from a week and a half in Perú. Fantástico. Now once more I can slip back into the eighteenth century when the fancy strikes.

Thank you for the welcomes and the comments. And yes, when this gets to a playable point, I do hope other imagi-nationeers will be interested in participating, either through envoys and ambassadors from their own imagi-nations, or by playtesting the system as Estrian Grand Dukes, or by proxy gaming any tabletop scenarios that might emerge.

Incidentally, one of the movies on offer during the flight down was "Io, Don Giovanni."

Mixed reviews, but I found it quite an enjoyable way to kill a couple of hours. The lives of libertines in a world where religion and a preoccupation with "good reputation" still have real force and power. The Estrian nobility in a decadent nutshell. That's the stuff to give the troops!

Monday, February 14, 2011

What is the "intrigue game" about?

Basically, I am trying to create a game of lace-wars intrigue that will be complex enough to play in its own right, but also serve to create skirmish-type scenarios for the table-top. I mostly see the "intrigue phase" as a precursor to a true military "campaign phase:" something that can be played while I await my armies, but also hopefully something that will be fun all by itself . To a limited extent, the intrigue phase might continue through the military campaign, though if a full-fledged "War of the Estrian Succession" does break out, there will be much less scope for the subtlety and the secrecy of the intrigue phase.

I am still struggling with ways to achieve this. I would like the intrigue aspect of the game to be based on letters between characters, and to "feel" like an 18th century epistolary novel (most obviously, les Liaisons dangereuses), where not only is the plot revealed through correspondence, but the letters themselves are a part of the story. Players would communicate with their agents at least in part through letters, agents would exert their influence on other characters in part through letters, and report back to the players through letters. But every letter carries a risk. Interception of letters is how secrets may be learned. Publication of letters is how characters' reputations may be destroyed, or at least their influence diminished.

At the same time, I would like the plot to emerge, not through my own deliberate design, but through players acting strategically. That means creating enough complexity that players will have an enormous range of options, but at the same time, I do not want to spend hours resolving character interactions every game turn.  That in turn means I am looking at a computer-aided system. Theoretically, a true computer game would do the job quite well, and I have browsed around looking at free game engines online. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to make a game engine do what I want it to do, and in any case, I do still want to be able to move everything to a tabletop when appropriate.

Anyway, the basic plan is a three-cornered struggle between the Grand Dukes, played out through various agents. Each Duke would begin with a small number of agents assigned at random.

So far, the campaign npc  characters (all of whom are potential agents) number 114, most consisting of Electors and their their families (spouses, mothers and adult offspring). There are also a number of other influential or useful characters, including some from the lesser (non-electoral) nobility, three ambassadors (French, Prussian and Austrian, though some Imagi-Nation ambassadors would add flavour to this mix!) and two "outlaw" characters useful for the dirtier jobs (an Adriatic pirate and a  highwayman).

All characters have a variety of skills and weaknesses. I used a random number formula in Excel to assign random values from 0-6 to 15 character attributes for 200 unnamed characters. A little like Tony Bath with Hyboria, except that he used playing cards, and, as I recall, he discounted seemingly contradictory character traits? Maybe I am wrong about that, it's been a long time since I read the accounts of his campaign. In any case, I have found that accepting and reconciling the contradictions actually leads to more complex characters. Now I only have to match up the 114 named characters with the data rows on the Excel table.

Once that is done, characters will be ready to serve as either agents for the Grand Dukes, or as the targets of their machinations. Or both. And that requires defining what actions agents may take against each ofther, and how these are to be resolved. More formulas. I have already started creating these in Excel, so that once you input an agent character, an agent action, and a target character, the spreadsheet itself will plug in the character traits and calculate the results at each stage. I have no doubt this would work better with a relational database like MS Access, but I find Access intimidating. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Current Political Situation in the Principality

Although it has seen occasional unpleasant episodes of dynastic succession in its past, the Principality of Estria clings more fiercely to the ancient Germanic traditions of electoral monarchy than most neighbouring polities. The Prince is chosen by an electoral assembly of 41, including 38 noble electors, two clerical electors (the archbishops of Orlezzo and Saintonge) and one bourgeois elector (the Sindaco of Orlezzo). In addition, should he choose to call a conclave during his lifetime, the Prince himself may also choose to vote.

The current Prince, Sigismundo Baldovino II, clings tenaciously to life, but he is an elderly man in poor health. Everyone knows an election to choose his successor may come at any time, and likely sooner rather than later.

By hoary tradition, his successor must be chosen from among the five Dukes of the Principality. The Estrian abhorrence of dynastic succession ensures that the Prince's son Marco Antonio, the present Duca di Rimaldi, has no prospect to win election. Georges-Henri, le Duc de Marignac, has made clear that (for reasons unknown) he does not wish to be nominated. The contest for succession to the Principate is therefore a three way race between the Grand Dukes of the realm: Franz Eugen Amadeus, Großherzog von Zeichen-Nietschbaden; Louis-Charles Joachim, Grand Duc d'Anchoise; and Federico Massimiliano, Gran Duca di Brescegna.

The rivalry between these three worthies is intense, and the contest will likely be fiercer than any the Principality has seen for generations. With an election on the horizon, the Grand Dukes have already begun applying whatever methods of persuasion and coercion they can bring to bear on the other 38 electors to secure votes and ensure victory.

We must hope that the election, however bitterly it may be fought, will be enough to settle the issue. God help the Principality if the Grand Dukes decide they must resort to force of arms.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

where does this come from and where is it going?

Like many Imagi-Nationeers, my interest lies in creating an imaginary historical context for creating and gaming with miniature lace war armies. In this I suppose I was first inspired by some of the articles by Charles Grant back in the 70s, though at the time I did not pursue it. Since then I find myself re-inspired by seeing these ideas continued and elaborated in so many Imagi-Nation blogs. The mix of gaming and narrative, personalities, skirmish-type scenarios, and pitched battles that I see elaborated in these blogs pushes all my buttons.

Unlike many Imagi-Nationeers, I have no miniature army. Yet. I am looking forward to HaT releasing their SYW range in 1/72, and/or Revell re-releasing their SYW sets again. Either way, I know I will be waiting a while.

But there is much to be done in the meantime. Coats of arms to be designed, and standards that will be carried into battle. Uniforms. Characters and personalities. I am tinkering with a system for executing and resolving characters' "courtly" actions, and if this is successful then the characters of the Principality can start interacting with each other in the ballrooms (and the bedrooms), and the bitter rivalries can be well-established even before any armies eventually arrive on the shelves.  Here's hoping.

Friday, February 11, 2011

An introduction

At the moment there is little to reveal about the Principality of Estria (Großfürstentum Estermark / Principauté de l'Estrie / Principato dell'Estria), other than to note that the Principality is sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland to the north, Savoy and France to the west, and the Italian states to the south. The period of interest for this account is the 1760s, immediately following the Seven Years War.

However, even at this early stage, I am able to share a (low resolution) map. This 1723 chart by Ottavio Marconi of Orezzo  illustrates the duchies and grand duchies of the Principality after the adjustments of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and these boundaries are still appropriate for the 1760s. The Marconi map is significant because it was one of the first maps of the Principality to employ vernacular (as opposed to Latin) toponymy. It is also the earliest-known trilingual map of the Principality, showing place names in French, German and Italian, as appropriate for each duchy. In this respect, the Marconi map attests to the growing autonomy of the five Estrian duchies following the War of the Spanish Succession.

The map lacks a legend, but the roads and topographic features are self-evident.  The "town" symbols distinguish noble seats by rank/title, not by population size.

There is also no scale. The roads are awful and travel times longer than they should be, but the Principality is nevertheless fairly small.