I mentioned previously that I had developed an interest in Victorian Science Fiction. This was in November last year but it looks like being my project for the year. I started a few years ago with the Aeronef Rules and some French and British Aeronefs. They, like all good ideas that a wargamer has, sat waiting for a paint job and for me to get off my fat, lazy and start to play with them. Late last year, being back in Australia with all my ships still in Mongolia, I was looking for something to play around with. As I also mentioned before, I had come across the Land Ironclad Rules from Wessex Games and the models of some Land Ironclads from Brigade Models. The result of this was Thomo starting to get hooked with Victorian Science Fiction again.
What did Victorian Science Fiction have going for it? The following items seem to summarise it:
- Cheap – not many models were involved
- Convenient – the rules could be downloaded (and were therefore cheap)
- Size – the playing area was set to about 90cm x 90cm (3′ x 3′) and could therefore be accommodated in our Home Unit
- Innovation – the Land Ironclad Rules worked with the Aeronef rules (and will later work with the Aquanef rules) to give a game across Land, Sea and Air
- Weirdness – I like things a little out of the ordinary and these were certainly that.
So, Victorian Science Fiction it was.
I could not, however, just start to paint models and have games. There needed to be some background to it to make sense. In other forms of wargaming, history provides the background – the march of Hannibal over the Alps, Caesar conquering Gaul, Wellington standing firm against Napoleon at Waterloo, the Light Brigade charging recklessly at the Russian guns at Balaclava,
Kutuzov Zhukov (Гео́ргий Константи́нович Жу́ков) inflicting the first land defeat on the Japanese at Khalkin gol (Nomonhan) in the Second World War – always there was some history to provide the background and the colour.
What history could I use with Victorian Science Fiction as after all, one of the main words in the title of that genre is “Fiction”? Well, I guess it just had to be fiction. I started to look for a world to locate my games in. Hunting though the Internet for various tales of Victorian Science Fiction and looking at the usual authors, Verne, Wells etc, I stumbled across S. M. Stirling. Now I will freely admit at this stage that Victorian Science Fiction had not been high on my reading lists in the past so I was unfamiliar with this author. I’d run across the likes of Turtledove and such before, but always had trouble believing their alternative worlds. Whilst Flashman was appealing, his world was one of the traditional Victorian worlds and therefore not so useful for me to explain R-Matter and dreadnoughts that fly, or steam-driven Land Ironclads.
I bought a copy of S.M. Stirling’s the Peshawar Lancers. I started reading. What a great yarn! Basic synopsis is that during the time of Disraeli’s Prime Ministership in England, a series of comets collides with the Earth. This causes a few harsh winters and northern Europe is evacuated in favour of the colonies. The British move to pre-partition India and the Raj continues as India becomes the centre of the British Empire. Other European powers are represented there, the e-Rus (the really, really bad guys located in Central Asia), the French located in North Africa and Dai-Nippon, located in China and Japan to name a few. The Great Game continues in this tale and the Game revolves around Athelstan King and his family. King is an officer (and a gentleman of course) in the Peshawar Lancers.
This world then was one that it was easy for me to adapt to my needs so I am using that as the background to my Victorian Science Fiction adventures. Stirling’s book also lends its name to the name of my Great Game – Peshawar. Peshawar is, of course, a famous city on the North-West frontier of Victorian India, located near the current border with Pakistan. The real city is near the famous Khyber Pass and was on the ancient Silk Road. The name itself means Fort or High Fort in Persian and is pronounced as Pekhawar in Pashto. The area itself throughout history has been under the control of or invaded by Afghan, Persian, Shahi, Greek, Maurya, Scythian, Arab, Turk, Mongol, Mughal, Sikh and of course, the British. What better name then for my version of the Great Game.
Peshawar the town was historically a cultural melting pot in those regions and therefore perfect as the centrepiece for my Fictional World. As late as 1960 Peshawar was still a crucial part of the Great Game as it was from Peshawar in 1960 the American Captain Gary Powers flew his U2 reconnaissance plane later shot down by the Russians.
I intend over coming weeks to write up the progress of Peshawar, both the background and history to my game as well as the game itself. First will be the background, the empires at play as well as the flying things, the Land Ironclads and the troops themselves. I will cover the preparation of the game, the painting of the figures, the making of scenery and ultimately after action reports of each of the games that are played.
These items I will, over time, build into static web pages accessible from here as well as posts to the blog. In the meantime, to whet your appetite a little at what is to come, at the top of the page is a flotilla of French Aeronefs and at the bottom of this post, a view of Peshawar in 1857.