"Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan."
John F. Kennedy
I look around at the numerous and diverse Alternate History and Alternate Fantasy games and models available to gamers now and I see a victory. And, whilst not claiming paternity for all these offspring, I admit to being a frequent visitor to the bawdy house of their birth.
Not so very long ago, non-historical gaming was limited to medieval high fantasy, in truth a pale imitation of the worlds of Moorcock and Tolkien, and with much the same fare served up as Science Fiction. There were of course a few notable exceptions, tied in to popular television shows and films, but in truth the Fantasy gaming landscape was rather barren and, ironically, lacking in the vitality and imagination which surely defines the genre in its written and visual form.
Then things changed.
Independent companies such as Steve Blease’s Wessex Games and Flintloque’s own Alternative Armies started taking stock fantasy races and putting them in non-medieval settings. Irregular Miniatures published Tusk, my dinosaur hunting set, where the beasts could be hunted by cavemen and eminent Victorians. Two further Tusk sets followed, taking dinosaurs into space and to Waterloo.
Rules and miniatures from many sources appeared. True, some were still (poor) knock-offs of Games Workshop’s universes, but others developed into new and exciting genres; Victorian Science Fiction, Black Powder Fantasy, Pulp, Alternate World War II. And gamers bought, and clubs played, these games and now fantasy and Science Fiction gaming is at last achieving its rich potential.
I’m still writing, or rather co-writing, Alternate History games. My current project is Astronef, the fourth instalment in the Victorian Science Fiction quartet published by Wessex Games and including Aeronef, Land Ironclads, and the soon-to-be-published Aquanef. When finished, the quartet will allow players, if they wish, to fight Victorian Science Fiction battles in the ether, in the sky, on the sea, under the sea, on the seabed, underground, and on land simultaneously on the same board, using common (and relatively simple) rules mechanisms.
More on this, and the mysteries of Cavorite, in the next instalment of Tankard Tales.
This article was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 29th January 2009. After a brief absence due to one of the sites' regenerations it returned to entertain and enlighten on the 5th August 2014.