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.