SS-GB has a lot of elements that I enjoy. It’s an alternative history, it’s a police procedural, it has espionage/intelligence aspects and it’s set during WW2. It also has another element that fascinates me. When do you remain loyal and when should you change sides? I was always going to watch this programme.
The story is set in 1941, fourteen months after a successful German Invasion of Britain. In the opening shots we are treated to some odd sights, British landmarks draped in nazi red banners with black swastikas. This includes the houses of parliament and a bombed out Buckingham Palace. The first scene is a spitfire in RAF roundels flying low over Westminster and landing in the Mall. A BBC broadcast tells us that the last remaining spitfire is being given to the Soviets in a friendship pact. A British resistance fighter then steps out of a hut and shoots the German pilot before being taken prisoner.
The main protagonist of SS-GB is Detective Superintendent Archer of the Metropolitan Police. A career police officer, with a degree in modern languages (and fluent German), he works under German direction in civil policing. We first see him relaxing with his mistress, a secretary from his own division.
Archer and his Sergeant are called to investigate a murder. The police cordon has a backdrop of nazi posters and german soldiers conducting a checkpoint sweep in the street. The victim has been shot, and clues are found at the scene. Archer suspects the victim’s home was a resistance safe house. While he looks out the window he spots a woman in pale pink leaving. She’s a stark contrast to the rest of the people we’ve seen, all in dark and drab colours.
Archer races out of the house in pursuit of the lady in pink. He spots her entering a cafe and follows her in. She is an American journalist from the New York Post. A little too highly connected for the dodgy underworld place the body was found.
With a clear black market connection to the German military Archer turns over the case to the Germans to deal with. Here we get a glimpse of the inter-service rivalries that plagued Nazi Germany. The case is claimed from the Luftwaffe (one of their men was the connection) by the SS (because of the resistance connection) and is then dropped back into Archer’s lap. This last is the cause for concern as an SS Colonel Dr Huth is sent from Himmler’s private office to oversee Archer and his investigation. This scares Archer’s german boss because he can’t see the internal politics.
Archer is a conflicted character. We see this in his interactions with the other British characters, including his Sergeant, his son and his erstwhile mistress/secretary.
Ostensibly Archer is working for the Germans. That’s certainly how many see it, he gets questioned that way by the press and also by several others during the course of the episode. His retort is that he works to uphold the law and there is nothing political in what he does, nor will there ever be. The murder investigation, or rather his political oversight by Huth, seems to erode that.
He isn’t a nazi. He’s clear at several points that he serves law. Where references to the resistance come up he largely ignores them. He doesn’t seem keen to turn them in, and doesn’t turn over all the evidence when he passes the case on to the Luftwaffe. One of the key scenes for this is when his son and the son of his housekeeper question him from the back of the car as he’s taking them to school. He shows that he is being careful in how he deals with the nazis, and that he expects them to go home one day. When they do he wants to restore things to how they used to be. He carries on with his day job because he thinks that’s the best way to achieve that.
On the other hand, Archer knows better than to openly defy the nazis. Those that do end up dead or deported. There are plenty of background clues about this. His dealings with the germans are correct and perfunctory. He answers the questions that he is asked with only enough detail to satisfy. He does what he is told to do.
I enjoyed the first episode. It was a good scene setter, and introduced the main characters well. I’ll be watching the rest of it to see if it lives up to the promise. It will also be interesting to see if the BBC have gone further than Deighton did, or if they’ve changed anything.
Last Saturday I was control for East Asia for Watch the Skies 3. This picked up where Watch the Skies 2 left off, with some modifications to rules and briefings etc to make it flow much better. There were a number of obvious improvements, the media being a prime example.
There were more journalists all on the same GNN team and they had the technology to pull it off. As well as a laser printer they also had a projector and screen for their twitter feed. This made it easier for people to follow the headlines. There were also several hardcopy single sheet newspaper issues too. Here are some sample tweets from GNN
Another feature was that everyone knew the aliens were there. So the emphasis of game play was different. There was only one attempted SIF interception in our region. That was foiled by Vietnam escorting the alien shuttles in to land. After a couple of turns people gave up entirely on this and all the SIF where just used to scout.
Cetaceans featured in Watch the Skies 3 also. The aliens had been in contact with them in Watch the Skies 2. By the time WTS3 started there was enough translation to allow human – cetacean dialogue, albeit slowly and under controlled conditons. In East Asia this manifested as a Vietnamese embassy to the Cetaceans built in the Spratly Islands.
One thing about both the very large Watch the Skies games is that it is practically impossible to know what was going on. As map control I can only tell you what was going on at my map. I literally have no idea what the player teams for my region were doing away from the map, nor what happened in other regions.
We had two natural catastrophes in our region. There was an earthquake in Taiwan in turn 2 and then around turn 6 another major earthquake followed by a tsunami just off the Philippines.
In the Taiwanese earthquake we had a good international response and more than enough humanitarian assistance. However sorting the cracked nuclear reactor out took longer. The issue was that it needed a scientist to sort it out. So the first scientist along didn’t have anything suitable for fixing up nuclear reactors. He did have a disaster recovery advance but it was about people and psychology rather than engineering. I ruled that this helped solve the application of aid, but couldn’t solve the nuclear reactor problem. The second scientist just had lots of genetics and biology advances. A third scientist with the advanced disaster recovery, which also included engineering finally fixed it.
When the Philippines tsunami hit it was much worse. Many Cetaceans were washed ashore around the affected area, not just in the Philippines. The scale was larger as well, but fortunately the UN were ready for it. A side effect was also a series of criminal gangs trying to profit from the disaster. The Philippines was offered military aid to deal with this from both Vietnam and Indonesia, which it accepted. It took some months but law and order was restored. Generous donations (49 Megabucks in total, plus four aid teams) sorted out the infrastructure repairs too.
Throughout this there were several other things going on.
International cooperation was sorting out sea pollution
Covert action stirred up trouble with the Chinese, lots of special actions being used covertly against the Chinese government
South Korea attempting to persuade North Korea to re-unify
Pollution was a new factor in Watch the Skies 3. This was in part because sea dwellers were now played characters and there was a need to have something that showed human impact on them. The basic mechanism was that each sea area had a counter on it with six strength points. People could attempt to clean up the pollution at 3 Megabucks a time. However unless there was political agreement to limit pollution from all nations bordering a sea area the pollution regenerated a strength box every turn. In practical terms the pollution limitation manifested as a cap on country income (PR) one level above the start level (PR=6).
In East Asia there was a treaty agreed fairly early on, certainly pollution clean-up started during the aftermath of the Taiwan earthquake. I think that this was driven by Vietnam’s diplomacy with the Cetaceans. The PR cap only seriously affected two of the nations in East Asia and then only in one turn. Both it turned out had other things to achieve that cost them a PR level that they offset by their increase. They had deliberately decided to implement the reduction to stay within the cap when they were next eligible for an increase.
As in Watch the Skies 2 South Korea put a lot of diplomatic effort into reunification. I ruled that they had moved the North Korean officials from being hostile to the idea to where they were prepared to discuss it with the Dear Leader. This took most of the game.
Dear Leader was quite taken by the offer to unify Korea. He had always known that all the people of Korea would welcome him as their Dear Leader. When it was broached that perhaps that wasn’t what the South Koreans were suggesting he was less than pleased. The head of mission found himself facing an anti aircraft cannon.
On realising that the Dear Leader was a major obstacle to reunification South Korea decided to smooth the path. A sniper team were sent North and successfully assassinated the Dear Leader. However, this just enraged the new Dear Leader who mobilised North Korea and started throwing rockets and artillery shells over the border. Fortunately the game ended at that point…
Anyway my role was to keep an eye on the British war cabinet and ensure that they stayed suitably strategic and global while still providing input to the player teams at Command and Corps level. The game needs some player induced friction from the top, especially when Churchill has a wizard wheeze and send a Division Commander one of his famed ACTION THIS DAY notes.
The structure of the megagame was in two parts. From arrival until 1230 was a planning session simulating July and August 1940. Following that the German invasion lands in early September, and the game moves to 12 hour turns every 40 minutes or so.
Don’t Panic Political Game
The political game started pretty much on arrival for the players, before even the plenary briefing. I had a stack of laminated political event cards to throw in if the war cabinet looked less busy or was spending too much time in the details of the military game. I also had a panic track to keep score of how well the war was going for Britain and how the war cabinet were contributing to that. The panic track was on a 100 point scale and started at 50. Every 10 points the British got a modifier to their supply state depending on the direction of travel.
At the very start of the game I put some ground rules down for the war cabinet players.
There needed to be an official record of all decisions by the war cabinet
All decisions had to be by consensus, effectively giving everyone present a veto if they were uncomfortable with the direction
Collective responsibility applied to decisions, failure to abide by that would lose them political capital
Decisions that were unpopular or against advice required political capital to be spent (which was sometimes returned if the outcome was good)
Actions that were carried out by other players needed to be communicated by a war cabinet player to the appropriate person to make it happen
There were some interesting discussions at Cabinet, (I have retained the minutes and will make them available over on Milmud). To start with there was a discussion about the Royal Family. Should they be dispersed or remain in the UK. It was decided that at the very least the King should be seen to remain until the last sensible moment. Other members, especially the two Princesses, would be kept away from likely invasion landing areas and removed from the country if things started to go badly.
The Royal Navy
The next major debate was on the Royal Navy. Sadly Admiral Pound seemed to be asleep for much of this, which would have been OK had it not been for the consequences following the decision to move most of the fleet from Scapa Flow to Portsmouth. The Cabinet Secretary made a number of interjections to the debate and attempted to put context on the importance of keeping the Kriegsmarine bottled up and the disastrous consequences should the Germans get capital ships in amongst the supply convoys. The politicians in the war cabinet were concerned about the fact that it would take the capital ships at least 24 hours to respond to an invasion across the Channel from Scapa Flow and they couldn’t be sure how well the RAF and army would be able to defend against seaborne assault without naval assistance.
As it turned out (and I listened in to the three way debate with the German Admiral Lutyens) the threat wasn’t as clear to the Germans as it looked to me. Lutyens waited before committing to action, and even then didn’t commit all his resources to breaking out into the Atlantic. Lutyens concern was, rightly for him, that the end result for the Kriegsmarine was likely to be loss of all vessels that they put in the Atlantic. What Lutyens either didn’t seem to realise was that this was potentially a game winning move for the Germans. His fleet unchecked in the Atlantic caused supply difficulties for the British. It also increased the panic track by 3 points every turn.
Once the German fleet was out it created all sorts of bother for the war cabinet. They debated moving Force H out Gibraltar, and more Cabinet Secretary intervention was required to ensure the war cabinet was properly advised. It was about that point that the Italians started their offensive in North Africa…
The Germans invaded on a fairly narrow front, about 40km, in the Brighton to Portsmouth area. A planning failure (they didn’t follow the orders they’d been given) meant that they didn’t have enough transport units in the first wave, so they couldn’t move supplies inland. This limited the operating radius of the landed troops to about 8km from the beach. Also the Germans sent armour in the first wave, but couldn’t unload any of it without a port (which was clear in the briefings).
To help things further along the RAF got air superiority over the channel fairly rapidly, and unlike the Royal Navy, sank a significant proportion of the invasion fleet. The Royal Navy frankly didn’t know whether or not it was coming or going. The army reacted as fast as it could to the landings, but was hampered by a combination of shortage of supplies, rail capacity and their organic speed of movement. Mainly the army was a bit further East than the German landing spot. About this time the Royal Navy lost a battleship to a combination of mines and u-boats, this didn’t help panic levels even though the cabinet suppressed the news.
The panic track went into overdrive at this point, and the war cabinet got quite panicky. Their reaction helped things, although not as much as the RAF shooting down dozens of Luftwaffe and sinking about half of the German transport fleet. About two days into the invasion the front stabilised and the Germans largely became unable to land more troops or supplies. They also stopped making progress inland too. The Royal Navy lost a cruiser in the Channel too, damaging the two German Capital ships and driving them off to Brest.
All through this time I was also throwing political events at the war cabinet, making them worry about the Soviets, Japanese, Italians and the Americans, as well as domestic issues. Churchill spoke to President Roosevelt and Lord Halifax spoke to the Irish foreign minister, neither with any real success, although FDR was sympathetic.
Gradually the British Army started to get a grip of the situation (largely after Churchill personally gripped the senior officers). The RAF helped this with carefully targetted bombing of German Divisional HQs and supply dumps. In Portsmouth the Royal Marines held out although surrounded, aided by naval gunfire support over open sights. Even the Press (10 issues over the afternoon) finally became pro-British with the headline news from an anonymous German commander that their situation was hopeless.
Next week’s megagame Don’t Panic is an alternative history megagame about the German Invasion of Britain in 1940. It’s a popular what if and makes an interesting game for us British because the playing area is familiar to us from our everyday lives. At least it is familiar if you live in the South East. The megagame handbook has the village I live in centred in the combat example. German panzers occupy Redhill, the nearest town.
So could a German Invasion of Britain in 1940 have worked?
The answer is yes provided the Germans could have kept the Royal Navy and the RAF away from their invasion fleet and also managed to find enough suitable craft for moving an army across the channel. They also need to be able to sustain the landed army and reinforce it faster than the British can send reinforcements to fight them.
Personally I think that this is too much of a tall order for the Germans. They have no real appreciation of naval warfare. Nor do they have any joint planning staff. What allows the Allies to launch successful amphibious assaults later in the war is a combination of joint planning and lots of practice on a small scale before they tried bigger stuff. Even then Dieppe shows how hard it is to assault a lightly defended small port with armour.
The Kriegsmarine is smaller than the RN home fleet by an order of magnitude. Even if the German capital ships break into the Atlantic for commerce raiding the RN still has sufficient destroyer and lighter craft to wreak havoc in the channel.
The other major issue that the Kriegsmarine have is that they don’t have the tradition and corporate memory of the Royal Navy. So their skill level is confined to submarines and small to medium surface fighting vessels.
They’ve got no assault landing capability and no naval air. They also don’t have the same expansion capability the army had. So there isn’t the manpower available to them to suddenly crew loads of invasion barges. Those last need to be taken up from trade, which will have a negative impact on the German economy. So the Kriegsmarine doesn’t have the capacity to support a German invasion of Britiain in 1940.
At best the Luftwaffe has parity with the RAF. However Britain is outbuilding the Germans in aircraft. As time passes the RAF grows in strength. Also lost RAF pilots tend to land in friendly territory and so get back in the air rapidly. Luftwaffe pilots tend to get lost in hostile space and become POWs.
The Luftwaffe is an asset in one way though. It exists to support the advance of the German Army. So if concentrated on that it can help the advance, however the liaison is in 1917 levels of planned support. It cannot be called off or amended once the planes are in the air. So only limited value in supporting a German invasion of Britiain in 1940.
That said, for the invasion to be successful the Luftwaffe needs air superiority over the invasion route and beaches. This is doable, but not guaranteed to be lasting. It also needs to keep the RN at bay. I think the Luftwaffe vs RAF is the crucial battle. If the RAF win (and a draw counts as a win) then the Germans can’t invade Britain. If the Luftwaffe win then the Germans have a chance, but only a chance.
The German Army is good, experienced and tested in both Poland and the West. So it should outclass the British Army man for man on average. The better British units will be better than the average Germans. The key issue though is numbers, and logistics. The British will have the best of both of these.
So if the Luftwaffe do an excellent job and keep the RAF and the Royal Navy at bay then the Kriegsmarine could put the German Army ashore. Once ashore the most likely outcome is that after hard fighting in the South East the Germans get defeated once additional British reinforcements arrive. The Germans will have a slower build up and their supply situation will be poorer than the British.
The hope for the Germans is for a collapse of civilian or political morale in the week after the German invasion. Any more than a week and the entire British Army will be against them. British military successes are likely to restore faith.
This is where the megagame Don’t Panic will be exploring the what if of the German invasion. I’m really looking forward to it.
The next megagame I’m going to is Don’t Panic a what if scenario on Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of Britain in the autumn of 1940. I’m going to be the British Control. So no playing for me. However that doesn’t mean that I can’t look at how I would plan the Operation Sealion invasion myself.
Firstly we need to get into the nazi mindset. They’re essentially divide and conquer gamblers with no medium term view. They have an innate belief in their own superiority and on the inevitability of their eventual victory.
The other interesting thing is that the German General Staff see crossing the Channel as simply a large scale river crossing. To them it’s like crossing the Rhine, only a bit wider. This affects their thinking and probably explains why they didn’t ever attempt it. As they planned it, the obstacles just multiplied.
Since England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, shows no signs of being ready to come to an understanding, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England and, if necessary, to carry it out.
The aim of this operation will be to eliminate the English homeland as a base for the prosecution of the war against Germany and, if necessary, to occupy it completely.
The German army has been victorious, sweeping all before it. All of continental Europe from Poland to the Pyrenees is under German control. Only Britain stands alone against Germany. The British army has been defeated in Europe and has left most of its first line equipment behind.
By mid August 1940 the panzer divisions will have been refitted, casualties either returned from hospital or been replaced. The luftwaffe is established in the French and Belgian airfields. The Kriegsmarine has assembled lots of barges ready for crossing the Channel.
In Britain the beach defences are being strengthened. However, the Briitsh Army is still short of transport and heavy equipment. The situation is so desperate that the British government has even called up old men and boys into a ‘Home Guard’. Weapons are so short that some of the Home Guard are armed with pikes.
Broadly the German invasion force can expect parity in numbers with the British in the invasion area. There is a qualitative advantage in terms of equipment and experience. The campaigns in Poland and the West have proved that beyond doubt. Operation Sealion is expected to follow the same pattern as the previous campaigns.
Hitler requires a speedy end to the war. German industry is short of manpower and the army needs to release skilled men soon. Operation Sealion is intended to bring the war to a speedy end.
Considerations for Operation Sealion
Broad vs Narrow Front
Normally military strategy suggests concentration of force. As an attacker you have a choice where you attack. A defender on the other hand has to spread out to cover all possible avenues of approach.
The British can be expected to rapidly deploy their remaining mobile reserve, including an armoured division, against any landing. This could tip the balance before strong enough German forces are ashore. The speed of response is likely to be slower if they cannot be sure where our schwerpunkt is located. Multiple landing points will aid this.
We need to capture a port as early as possible to enable unloading panzer forces. Once panzers are set free in England we can be assured of victory.
Both of these point to a strategy of attacking multiple small ports to ensure that at least one is captured rapidly.
We also need forward airfields to help the Luftwaffe support ground forces. It will also enable air landing troops to be brought in. This will speed up the force build up and make it harder for the British to defeat us in detail before we can join up.
This leads to the selection of ports. RAF bases at Marston and Tangmere have recently been abandoned and are in close proximity to ports. Similarly Dover has two airfields in close proximity and the castle is a major threat to our use of the channel.
Causing Civilian Panic
Fleeing civilians are useful to the German success. They cause bottlenecks that stop the enemy bringing up reinforcements. They also adversely affect morale. This latter is important politically as well as militarily. We need the British Government to sue for peace. The faster this happens the better.
Effective ways of reducing civilian morale are:
airborne troops behind the main lines (even if only rumoured);
tank breakthroughs, especially if accompanied with pictures at iconic places for the newspapers and cinema news reels;
sinking of supply ships so that rationing is tightened;
terror bombing of cities, especially London and other industrial centres.
Operation Sealion requires a rapid buildup with simultaneous action at sea and in the air to split or slow the British response is required to give time for a foothold to be established in England. This will maximise political pressure and ensure military victory.
Operation Sealion’s broad strategic goals must be to get a foothold, rapidly expand it and encourage the political opposition in the UK. Ways to do this are
surge the Kriegsmarine into the Atlantic for commerce raiding (apart from the bits directly needed for supporting the invasion)
use a u-boat screen to stop the RN getting in amongst the invasion fleet.
select four small ports across the Kent and Sussex coast for direct seaborne assault supported from the air. Put a battalion of paras on the closest airfield to the selected beaches
reinforce success with air landed troops on the captured airfields and tanks into the captured ports
transfer luftwaffe units to the captured airfields as rapidly as possible to increase loiter time and range
collect up the paras as soon as possible for a second drop on London or wherever intelligence suggests Churchill or the Royal Family are hiding out.
So far this half a shelf is my 1689 reading list for the proposed megagame about the Glorious Revolution. I’ve read some of this already, and marked up the interesting bits. Notably Bonnie Dundee and the Bruce Lenman books as well as Glencoe by John Sadler which sets the scene for the 1692 massacre very well with a decent treatment of the 1689 campaign.
What I’m largely missing is stuff on the events in Ireland, I know that there is a load of material on the campaigns there. Albeit much of it biased by the sectarianism that continues into the present day. My bookshelf coverage of Ireland is much later than this, mainly the recent Troubles and the early 20th century events.
If you can recommend any books about the 1688-1694 period that would be good. Ideally I want material that covers the administration of the armies and government as much as the series of events. As the say Amateurs talk tactics, professionals love logistics.
Recommend me some books for my 1689 reading list please?
In November 1688 William of Orange landed at Torbay with a combined force of Dutch and British troops. Early in 1689 the English Parliament declared for William. In Scotland and Ireland things were less clear cut, Scotland was finely balanced and Ireland was more Jacobite than Williamite. The events of 1689 determined who sat on the throne, and Britain becoming a global power.
A 1689 megagame will let players explore this and see if the outcome was a foregone conclusion or not (I don’t believe it was as easy as history makes out, and the Jacobite rebellions of the first half of the 18th Century bear out the continuing support for King James II and his descendants).
The 1689 megagame will be a political and military game about the events of 1689 that historically lead to the overthrow of King James II and his replacement with William & Mary.
The events in Scotland must be played
Events in Ireland could be played
events in England are unlikely to be played (it was much less contentious)
The 1689 megagame should cover the strategic options of both Kings, and the immediate political issues from the ruling classes of the Kingdoms. Specifically there should be a real dilemma for players on whether to switch sides (and at what point to jump, and whether to jump back). Historically changing sides was common, and some major figures did so more than once.
Underlying this there is a military game. Although all out war was avoided in England (the memory of the Civil Wars was too recent) this was not true in Scotland or Ireland (where the memory was still recent, but there were more scores to settle and force of arms was used more often). Significantly the settlement was rapid in England because William threatened to take his army home.
There are also resource constraints. Money needs to be borrowed, and paid back, to finance the campaigns. William appears to have planned better and has more immediate resources.
Potential Structure for a 1689 Megagame
William has a Government in London and the Netherlands. It supplies him with money and troops and he needs to engage politically with both Parliaments. He is also fighting a war with France, of which this becomes a wider part.
Decisions here are about deployment of resources and diplomatic efforts to close down support for James, and ensure that he does not have to get blood on his hands directly. His orders in late 1688 specifically allow James to escape, he was worried that elements of the English aristocracy would push him into a position where a captured James would have to be executed.
Members of the government (not William himself) could potentially be subject to desertion to James, so they need to be kept onside.
Scaling at the lower end this can be a control role, in a high turnout game it could be a small player team to co-ordinate across Scotland and Ireland and do some diplomacy (via control).
James’s Government in exile
As with William King James II has some loyal followers with him. Initially he is in France, having fled London in December 1688. After getting help from the French he returns to Ireland to raise an army to fight against William’s troops. Throughout the period his government is in letter communications with a number of officials and sympathisers across the three kingdoms to keep them in play as his loyal subjects.
Within his cabinet there is a high level of political intrigue and this leads to it being dysfunctional. In particular the Drummond brothers are hated by many who are otherwise loyal to James. There are also other enmities, often borne of the same issues that lead to William being invited over.
Defections and desertions from and to James are common.
Scaling this could be a control role in a small game. In a larger turnout it would be useful to play some of the Cabinet roles with James as Control. In a very large game then there could be a Hitler’s Henchmen style sub game going on with this team.
This represents the Nobles, Clergy and Gentry of Scotland. It met in March 1689 and was initially neutral, however when Viscount Dundee left it then it eventually declared for William & Mary. Potentially this could have been different. Orange or Lemon deals with this area and I’d re-use it as a sub-game in a 1689 megagame.
In effect this group of players hold the Government in Scotland in their control. They have agreement of who is the King, and to some extent the office holders of the Scottish Government are drawn from their ranks. Which way the Convention jumps will have a major impact on the course of the game (if they went for King James it could lead to him landing in Scotland rather than Ireland and calling on the Scottish Army to march south (it was disbanded at Reading in December along with the English Army)).
Scaling this needs at least 7 players, of which two are staunch supporters of one of the Kings. If the ‘wrong’ King is chosen by the convention there is a role for these characters elsewhere in military opposition to the decision. The minimal player set are the leaders of the main interest groups, most of whom are undecided. In a medium sized game there are roles for up to 20 members of the Convention, the decided factions get a little larger and more undecided players are added. Each of the undecided will have agendas they want to see to gain their support, and a fear of being on the wrong side. It will take longer to make the Convention choose with more players, but it should become decisive if lobbied correctly.
These are a disparate bunch, with internal conflict within them. Typically the Chiefs are well educated men (many are university graduates, or have studied). However they have a distrust of central government and obey only in so far as the King is willing to enforce things. They recognise authority in force of arms rather than de jure. An internal power struggle will be seen as a golden opportunity to settle old scores and raid for plunder in the guise of supporting the King.
There are few that can control Highland clans, their Chiefs and people they respect. An example of this is the recent Battle of Maol Ruadh (anglicised as ‘Mulroy’) in June 1688. Though government troops were involved, the fight was essentially a localised, private power struggle between clans (the MacIntosh clan settling a land dispute against the Keppoch MacDonalds). It was the result of deeply-entrenched, on-going clan tensions exacerbated by decades of political upheaval and lack of centralised authority in the Highlands. The battle of Mulroy highlights King James’ tenuous political authority and inability to maintain order in Scotland.
Scaling the major clans need to be played, ideally with at least two players per clan to allow dealing with both political and military issues (or both sides simultaneously if they aren’t active military). This would make for at least eight players (two each of the Grants, Camerons, MacDonalds and Campbells – although the last have at least one in the Convention). With a larger turnout there are 18 major Chiefs that were involved in the 1689 battles that could be played. There is also the possibility of running the clan sub-game in a similar way to the ancient celt game.
James II disbanded the armies, but William brought his own loyal troops from the Netherlands, including a Scots Lowland brigade. There were also some other Lowland troops raised either to fight for William, or re-mobilised by William. There are also some castle garrisons.
Conventional forces operating North of the Highland line are hard to keep supplied and operational. Also the terrain makes a lot of the training and doctrine hard to implement. The primary military leader for William was Major General Mackay, a highlander who had spent over 20 years in the service of the Netherlands. He has considerable freedom of action in how he deals with Jacobite forces in Scotland. His primary constraints are money and logistics.
Scaling the conventional forces need 2-3 players as a minimum. They have a standard command structure which means that the subordinate players have less freedom of action. If the game was larger there could be scope to add some liaison officers and logistics officers, but this is unlikely to take the need to more than 5 players. The key determining factor is the number of independent forces that could be created and the level of diplomacy done by military players. In the latter case I would expect this to be done by players from the Convention once it had reached a consensus on the King it was supporting.
There are three significant castles, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton.
Edinburgh is a player role and casts an important shadow over the convention. The other two could be run by control if necessary. They guard important routes to and from the Highlands and are nominally controlled by the King. Other castles exist but these are private strongholds.
The entire revolution took just under two years, but mostly the decisive phase is between March 1689 and August 1689. Ireland takes another year to mop up, there are also some loose ends in Scotland to deal with after the clans return home after the defeat at Dunkeld.
Potentially the Convention decision cycle could be extended from when it actually happened to allow it to go in parallel with the raising of the clans. That would allow the events to take place over 8-10 turns of about 40 minutes each (longer first turn and variable end). This would give a notional turn period of about two weeks.
Thoughts or comments?
Would you play in a 1689 megagame if it was worked up?
is there anything else you think could be included or left out?
would you want to work with me to make it happen?
leave a comment and let me know what you think. If there is enough interest I’ll approach Megagame Makers and see if it can go on the programme.
I grew up seeing his name on the local war memorial, as did my father who was also named William Kemp. My dad was keen on family history, he could tell me all the living relatives and knew their exact relationship to us. He believed that all the Kemps in the Old KilpatrickÂ are were interrelated. So I’ve always seen L/Cpl William Kemp as part of my family, even though I cannot directly connect him from further research.
William was almost certainly a regular soldier before WW1, either that or a recalled reservist. The Scottish Rifles were a regular battalion and started the war in Malta. However they were recalled and sent to FranceÂ arriving in November 1914. William’s Medal Index Card shows that he arrived in France on 5th November 1914. It also records that he was killed in action.
I’ve tried to find the war diary for 2SR but it isn’t available online and I’ve not been able to go to either the PRO in Kew or the Regimental Museum in Lanarkshire. So I don’t know what was going on in early January 1915. Mostly likely it was routine in defence.
The newspaper clipping comes from the Lennox Herald which my mother found in the archives in Dumbarton Library.
I backed the Kickstarter campaign and got both the ebook and the paperback version of this as well as some pre-cut counters for playing the scenarios.
The book is a fascinating tour of the what if as well as the real history. It takes us through the technical and political backgrounds of both sides, the vessels and the commanders. Owen explains why the situation was what it was, why the protagonist navies had chosen their strategy and how they had got their ships on station when the first world war started.
Each of the battles is presented as a playable scenario, with basic rules in the annex and some counters (I got the pre-cut set as part of the Kickstarter, but the book has a copyable annex). In addition to the house rules in the book there are also suggestions for how to play the game with a couple of other popular sets of naval wargame rules.
Doing this allows readersÂ to understand how much leeway the real result had, what was inevitable, what was plausible and what was bad luck or poor judgement. The factors affecting this are also explained in the text. For example British gunnery was poor, most of the sailors were reservists recalled at the outbreak of war, so they were out of practice and many unfamiliar with the kit installed on the ships. They were also scratch crews and hadn’t had much time to practice together.
This is so much more than a history, it offers an insight into how and why the events in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean turned out the way they did.
One of the things that I often do when I am writing a story is to sketch a map of the area where the story takes place. This helps me to visualise what the characters will be able to see. The thing is though, you can’t just bang down stuff randomly (well you can, but it isn’t realistic – you want your world to be realistic don’t you?)
How settlements form
Typically people build houses where there is shelter from the elements, adequate supplies of food, water and fuel. They also like to build them in easily accessible places for the most part. All villages and towns grow from farmstead, places a farmer, and his family, decided to settle.
However not all of these farmsteads ends up as a village. There are loads of outlying farms in populated countryside, some of them are ancient or at least built on the remains of an ancient farm. What distinguishes those that get bigger?
There’s an element of luck, but mainly it is because they either have an abundance of some resource or they lie along a convenient route. Trade is the reason most of our towns exist. Certainly this is true of the most ancient ones. There exceptions to this, but these tend to be modern capital cities (Washington DC being an example) or new towns intended to displace people from densely populatedinner cities (like Milton Keynes, or Cumbernauld).
Look closely at the next handful of villages you drive through. There is a clear difference between an extended farm
with houses for the labourers and a proper village. Villages tend to have a focal point, usually a green space, but sometimes a market square. Modern villages still have them, there will be an open area possibly with a children’s play area. Around this there will be a Church, possibly a pub, a shop or two and often a war memorial. Even if there isn’t an open area there will be a cluster of the Church (with graveyard), a pub, shop and war memorial. These will be surrounded with houses, perhaps along a single linear road. If there is a second cross road this may also have houses along it. The cross roads (sometimes a Y) will often run on two sides of the Church, or the village green if there is one.
Optional extras, depending on the size of the village
village hall (needs about 1,000 residents to be viable);
school (needs a couple of hundred kids aged 4-11 within five miles to work);
more shops and pub (scale up shops per 200 inhabitants, and pubs per thousand);
larger villages have more streets, keeping everything within minimum walking distance.
Of course when you are world building for a story you make the village suit the narrative that you are conveying. It doesn’t really matter if the shops, pubs or anything else is economically viable. If you need an internal rivalry then two pubs might be a way to do it. If you need a football team, or a Women’s Institute then write in the Pavilion and pitch, or the village hall or whatever you need.
A key feature of villages is that typically people know who there neighbours are, and in the smaller more settled ones far outside the commuter belt, the lineages of all the residents. Or at least some of the inhabitants know all of that. This can be a feature for interesting stories. The other thing that happens in these sorts of communities is that the smarter kids leave for university and jobs in the big city. Some of the others join the services (including some of the smart ones) and go away that way. Often they reappear later in life, retired in their forties, or professionally qualified as the local GP, district nurse, solicitor, entrepreneur, mechanic. A good way to bring people in without having to make them complete strangers to the rest of your characters.
Towns are a whole different order of magnitude different. They don’t scale into villages, there is a sort of multiplier effect with proper towns. Almost every old town that I have looked at, and I do pay attention on my travels, is based around a market, and very often also a river crossing.
Towns tend to be on the nexus of trade routes, and they draw in people from surrounding villages for markets and also specialised trades. As well as being bigger than villages, especially with the tradespeople, they also have a lot more in the way of amenities. There will be a square, with a town hall of some sort on it, and often also a church. In many modern towns the square has been infilled, usually with parades of shops, descended from the market stalls that once stood in the same place.
Like the villages the towns are often formed around a cross roads, this can be two sides of the main square, or sometimes they join at one end of a widened high street and then split out after the shopping area (Reigate in Surrey does this, the A25 and A217 being the primary routes).
Another key feature of a town, other than being astride a trade route, is that it tends to have an abundance of something useful (or it did have in its early days). This could be something simple like weavers in a sheep farming region, or a watermill in an arable area. There ought to be something. This might not matter to your story though and you don’t need to worry about it much. However it could also be useful as a hook, or a clue.
How I draw maps
Firstly I think of the sort of place that I need for my story, and the key locations I need it to have. Once I’ve listed those out I get myself a blank sheet of paper (although I do sometimes use squared paper).
Pencil usually starts with some outline topographical features (which way is uphill, where are the water courses).
Then I put the focus of the village/town on the map, along with some routes. I see this as growing the town organically.
Next down are the key locations I need relative to each other. I then fill in the gaps between them with the other necessary parts of the village/town. i.e. the pubs, shops and civic amenities. If it is a mediaeval walled town then I add these in now as well.Â If there is a need for industry I also stick that in too.
Lastly I add in some houses for the people to live in, making sure to put the bigger ones upwind of the town (the richer districts of towns/cities tend to be upwind on prevailing winds because the rich folk can afford to build where the air is sweeter). I try to put in at least one building for every ten inhabitants, in modern times maybe two to three times that much, we live much less densely these days, even though there are more of us.