I’ve been on a little bit of a Napoleonics obsession recently. Part of it starts from reading the Bernard Cornwell ‘Sharpe’ novels and then following up by downloading the entire collection of TV movies from iTunes. At £14.99 for 15 episodes (each 140 minutes), it’s a bargain to me. And I’ve loaded them on computer, streamed to Apple TV, watched on iPad. I even got a hold of the soundtrack!
In addition to that, I’ve bought a wee raft of books to go along with the obsession and a quick internet search brought me to an evil place of lust. I’ve not bought that lustworthy gadget and I doubt I will, but isn’t it a thing of beauty?
It’s not entirely a new development as I have always been a fan of Jane Austen period dramas and they’re obviously set during the same sort of time period. It’s therefore no surprise that an examination of the period would lead me to the officers of the stories – Colonel Brandon, George Wickham, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Captain Harville, Captain James Benwick. Some of them refer explicitly to the wars (such as Wentworth, from Persuasion) but most dwell on the officers at home.
I always thought that getting interested in the Napoleonics was something that good gamers did when they got old and grey and, to be honest, I was right. I am old and grey and I’m now, after all these years, interested in Napoleonics. Not in the miniatures stuff of course, but in the preparation of a game set around the time of the Peninsular war.
The problem with “military campaigns” is that there is a rank structure. Every game with rank structure, from Twilight 2000 to Star Trek, suffers a little from this. There are orders to be followed, missions to be completed and it’s important to be able to run a cohesive unit. Disasters in this have led to numerous in-jokes such as “Uh oh, he scanned the planet” (referring to the use of active sensors on a stealth mission) and others.
Some games get around this by giving the player characters an uncommon degree of independence – SLA Industries system of BPNs overcomes this extremely effectively with the illusion of choice. The method I intend to use would be to provide the players with relatively senior roles and “specialist” reputations and skills – not unlike Major Hogan, Major Nairn and Major Munro of the Sharpe TV series. There’s something awfully romantic about the period and when you add in the necessary degree of independence, that enjoyed by Hawkeye (in The Last of the Mohicans, set in 1757) and you have an epic story in the making – and epic stories is what this is all about. There will be death, but there will be great heroism.
I’ve played with the idea of a small group of disgraced nobles who had enough money to buy a commission being shipped around Europe doing dirty work for various rulers, receiving treaties and mission papers, purchasing graces to win back their reputations and garnering their own wealth. The opening of the campaign is delivering a bribe to the Russian court, which goes slightly awry and leads them to be named the SOBAKI (‘dogs’).
So, what do you think?