Yes two updates in one month.... try to remain calm. I'm really trying to get back into the swing of blogging :-)
I've been having a lot of fun doing research for Paradiso.
(I keep adding and removing the San- prefix at random as the fancy takes me. I think I might officially add it if only to differentiate between this and the official (planet) Paradiso campaign for the Infinity wargame)
How might you do research for a place that doesn't exist?
Well it's absolutely the best kind of research, as anything goes. I can look at people and places and things that are a bit like my imaginary setting and if I like them, I can include them. If I don't, I'm free to change them to suit my needs.
For example, as a tropical island holiday destination that shares an island with a failed state, it's not much of a secret that I'm taking a lot of inspiration for Paradiso from the Dominican Republic. So time spent studying the real-life Dominican Republic armed forces yields a lot of useful material for Paradiso. The DR has the second largest armed forces in the Carribbean (presumably after Cuba), with six infantry brigades, one Airmobile and two support brigades. That's interesting and useful, but I want to use some tanks in my Paradiso games, so two of those Infantry brigades become Mechanised with Armoured support.
Looking at Wikipedia and various other sources, I can see the equipment used by the DR - a real mish-mash with a lot of it donated by the Americans. That works too, since I'm using Vietnam-era US infantry for my Paradiso army, along with whatever toys I can scrounge up cheaply enough. So while the DR might not have Panhard VBLs, it's the sort of vehicle they might have a few of, and so they're good for Paradiso.
Looking at one briefing page showing pictures of parading DR soldiers, I'm struck by several of the non-army paramilitary units that seem to be tied to various government ministries. The Ministry of Public Works and Communication, the Specialised Port Security Corp, the Specialist Airport Security Corp, The Tourist Safety Corp, the National Environmental Protection Corp.... At this point I know very little about each of these units, however the fact that they exist is itself great inspiration. We now have a Paradiso where various branches of the Government raise their own troops for whatever reason, which has the potential for much hilarity in a coup-d'etat scenario. Imagine an army plot being foiled by the Cuerpo Especial de Postale y Telefonica Securidad? It's like something out of the Very British Civil War, but with palm trees.
A quick note about language and the way I'm mangling it. One of the inspirations for Paradiso, believe it or not, was the "Channel 9" sketches from the comedy series The Fast Show. I loved the nonsensical "foreign language" they used for that, mixed up with the occasional English loan-word that leapt out at you, which did a great job of parodying how English-only speakers hear foreign media. To approximate that, while the official government language of Paradiso is English (a hold-over from their colonial past and the recent US occupation), 99% of the population's daily speech is in Spanglaise, a creole mix of English, French, Spanish and any other language I feel like throwing into the mix, all of it improperly conjugated :-)
Back to the DR armed forces, and those parade pictures reveal an elite unit of Cazadores in green berets, and a Presidential Guard in very unusual orange berets. Both are so splendid, they're transplanted straight into Paradiso wholesale right away. How they'll be represented on the tabletop is another matter - I have some spare boonie-hatted chaps left over that can be pressganged into the Cazadores, but the Presidential Guard are going to require a special purchase somewhere down the line. I already think I know how to do them - Empress Miniatures US Army troops, headswapped with some British Para beret heads that I've already got.
Then we look at the air force, and it makes us sad. The DR has virtually nothing in the combat aircraft field apart from a few Super Tucano counter-insurgency aircraft. That's no good! We want to do some air-to-air gaming at some point. OK let's look elsewhere.... and a bit more googling reveals information about the US's policy of equipping lesser allies with older but still capable aircraft. The Paradiso Air Force therefore gains a modest number of F5E Tiger fighters, with a few aging A4 Skyhawk attack jets to supplement the Tucanos. Further down the line, they're bound to be trying to get hold of some BAe Hawk jets to modernise their inventory, but that's another story. As it stands, that gives us a Paradiso Air Force that can provide an entertaining game if pitched against the Mig-21s and Shenyang F6s from their unruly neighbours in Culo Raton.
Yes the joys of obsolete kit in an Imagi-Nation setting. Cutting edge modern gaming does occasionally have a tendency to be very one-sided, depending on who's performance stats you believe. But older, less technologically advanced equipment tends to smooth out that imbalance.
If this seems implausible to you, here's a mind bullet for you: The real-life, real world Dominican Republic army is still operating a number of M3 half-tracks. Yes, World War II vintage US Army equipment is still in active service there.
And so the process of building up a picture of the military of Paradiso (and of Culo Raton) continues, an unholy mixture of what I can learn from the real world (which may drive future modelling or purchasing decisions) and what toys I already have or can lay my hands on cheaply (Like the Panhards)
It's all part of the fun of building an Imagi-Nation, and while it's something that you can't do when building strictly historical forces, ironically enough these days you can't do it with most Science Fiction or Fantasy games either. The modern trend is for games with their own, tightly defined background and "official" miniatures ranges. They don't leave much room for imagination or original creations any more, Which I find a crying shame.
Moving on, here's a glimpse of my WIP map of Paradiso
You'll notice a distinct lack of detail at this stage, and that's entirely deliberate. Once something is pinned down an written on the map, it becomes fixed and limits future options. I want the flexibility to throw whatever things I need to into this setting in order to produce fun games, rather than being limited by what I've already fixed in place. For example, if I want to do a battle set in a petrochemical port facility, right now I'm free to locate that facility anywhere I want on the map, then that in turn will suggest further details that we can add (like road and rail links). If instead I'd fully mapped out the country before doing any games, I'd have to hunt around the map for a suitable battle location, and if I hadn't already added a petrochemical port or left plausible room for one I'd be SOL.
The games add to the map, rather than the map inhibiting the games. As we do more games, so the detail on the map will grow.
As it stands I've added the locations referred to in the Farmers' insurgency proto-campaign that I've talked about previously in this blog. I've decided to add the results of our recent game on the Industrial scenery to the campaign, in which the Guerillas were prevented from taking control of or damaging the Sunrise Corp facility. The Army will use that defeat as an opportunity to move in and take control of it themselves - as it's a currently uncontrolled asset they succeed automatically.
The campaign status is as follows...
Farmers - Control of the Foothills of Monto Blanko, The Bridge at El Humber, The Goodwill Of The People.
Army - Secure base of operations at Verdaville. Secure supply of food and supplies, The Airfield at Los Anillcamino, The Sunrise Corp Processing Plant
Uncontrolled - Foreign media interest. The fertile Piso River valley. Support from the Church.
This has led me to consider some changes to the campaign rules discussed previously. As it stands the rules are great for reflecting an overall result for a number of otherwise random unconnected games, but they don't allow players to exercise much strategic thought. I think we need some option to allow one side or the other to "take the initiative" and have some say in dictating the course of the campaign.
So how about this....
Campaign Rule - Raids
If one side wins two consecutive campaign battles they may "take the initiative" and declare one of their opponent's campaign resources as a specific target for the next battle. All participants must then agree on a scenario and game setup to accurately reflect the attackers offensive against that campaign resource, for example through appropriate terrain setup or victory conditions. Once everyone is happy with the setup, the battle is fought as normal.
If the defending player (not taking the initiative) wins, they may attempt to gain control of other campaign resources as per the normal rules.
If the attacking player (who did take the initiative) wins, they may either automatically render the target resource uncontrolled, or atttempt to take control of it for themselves requiring a roll of 3+ on D6 (basically one step easier than normal) They may then keep the initiative and declare another raid target for the next battle, and so on.
If we introduce this option to our campaign rules, I think the next battle will see the Army launching an offensive to secure the vital Bridge at El Humber. Hmmmm I sense a modelling challenge coming on.