I've been pondering the attraction of imaginary countries, armies, uniforms, and campaigns during the last several days. It seems that increasingly many of us are doing something like this in their respective corners of the world.
The latest person to succumb to the dark side is OSW member Andy Pattison, who wrote in his thread over at OSW that he too will go with BIG batallions and (very probably) rely on 15mm MiniFigs for the bulk of his troops. Bravo Andy! But I'm still left wondering, "Why?" What is it about this particular sub-branch of the wargaming hobby that grabs so many of us by the collar and apparently reinvigorates our efforts and interests?
There must be a host of possible replies out there. For me, I think it goes back to when I played D&D in high school in the early 1980s (the Basic game, NOT Advanced D&D). As dungeon master (basically the person who designs and runs each gaming session/campaign), I always got a real kick out of developing fictitious worlds, characters, situations, etc. This was actually more fun than playing the game with my classmates and friends, who often missed the literary and folkloric references woven into each adventure. But I digress.
About 1984-85, however, I concluded that Napoleonic history was more interesting in the longer term than halflings and orcs, so I put all of my energies and spare time into my 15mm Waterloo Napoleonics for many years. Until December 2005, that is, when I stumbled onto the OSW discussion board, all thought of doing anything else was ignored. Then I was bitten by the bug. . .
So why is my imaginary 18th century corner of Europe so engrossing to me? Well, creating imaginary armies enables me to combine the best of both worlds -- a love for creating characters, situations, and conflicts combined with a love of military history, horse and musket tactics along with a fascination with heraldry and "uniformology". Is there a legitimate term for the study of uniforms? Anyway, it's all about indulging my creative needs and aspirations. So, I guess you could say that I've come almost full circle with the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. Funny, this little journey took only about 25+ years!
But what about the rest of you who develop imaginary armies and countries? The era and type of army don't matter. What is it specifically that fires your imagaination? And why might this approach be preferable to going the historical route and painting up "real" armies that fought at, say, Leuthen, Valmy, Wavre, the Alma, or Koeniggratz for instance? Anyone out there care to supply a fairly detailed answer?