Modern warfare is a messy, and complicated, business. I’ve written at length in a previous article about wargaming modern conflicts and the difficulties in doing so tactfully. Of course, recent events as of writing this article have made that issue even more difficult, with Russia invading Ukraine. I won’t dwell on the politics for long, but it unfortunately comes up once or twice here. Your mileage may vary.
I play two games that suffer from this problem; Spectre Operations and Team Yankee. Spectre Operations is “set” in the ultramodern period, with conflicts being representing with all the latest gear. I chose to wargame that in a different way then most, with it being in “our” world, but using a fictional region derived from Arma 2, the Green Sea Region. The precedent was set for using a video game as a resource.
For Team Yankee, most of my opponents had no issue, being that it was set firmly and cleanly in a fictional 1980’s escalation of the Cold War. However, I did encounter a few gripes. My local club is a fantastic place, but us historical gamers are rare there. The owner of the Club, once said he didn’t like to play historical games because it felt a little too much like “playing with real peoples lives”. This is an entirely fair opinion to have, and while others have different reasons, many have avoided historical gaming for one reason or another.
The few players I had recruited for Team Yankee mostly came in to play with neat plastic tanks, and to use cool looking military technology. They weren’t necessarily enamored with the setting, despite the tagline of the game becoming a local meme, “The Cold War JUST GOT HOT!” being a fun joke. But with the advent of what is increasingly looking to be a legitimate Cold War brewing…well, the joke doesn’t land anymore.
I had, even for just a moment, a few players who played Soviets express a discomfort about playing them now. Both recovered pretty quickly, but that initial shock of seeing what they were using(even if it has been modernized to a certain degree…) on the news still made them think a bit. A few others simply decided to focus on Warhammer 40k, and let Yankee lie. It felt weird to play a game that while set in the 80’s still had a lot of relevant equipment in active service to them.
Personally, even I felt the sting. I wanted to invest heavily into the new Warsaw Pact releases, but felt incredibly…odd, doing so. Of course, the Soviet Union isn’t exactly the Russian Federation, and comparing the two directly isn’t always wise…but you can’t always help an emotional reaction.
So, I sought a solution. I don’t want onlookers to our games finding it gross, even if they are too polite to say so. I also don’t want my playing group to feel uncomfortable about playing either. In the end, I want to play Team Yankee as its a fun game, and I can’t do that if people find issue with the setting being too close to our modern life.
So, I turned again to video games. Enter Ace Combat.
Ace Combat, for the most part barring a few odd entries, takes place in a world the fans call Strangereal. It is simply called Earth in-game. The idea of the game is to have real world equipment, mostly aircraft given the context, but fighting over fictional nations and with the addition of insane super-weapons.
The conceit is that nukes in this universe were used once, and it was so horrifying to the nations of the world that they pretty much have written off the use of weaponized nuclear power again. A thoroughly Japanese take on things, certainly, and given its a Japanese game that makes sense.
Of course, this also allows for very unrestricted and devastating wars to happen pretty often. While the focus on the game is thrilling air-to-air combat, it does have stories that focus heavily on geopolitics, conspiracies, morality, and the nature of warfare. Some of the stories(looking at you Ace Combat 6!) aren’t as good, most of the time they are pretty fun and interesting. And the world has a lot of fleshed out backstory for why things are the way they are, but have gaps big enough to allow for some creativity.
Of course, explaining the entire backstory of Ace Combat would take forever, so if the next section makes literally zero sense to you, my apologies! But if you are aware, its a great time. I highly recommend looking at the Wiki and Youtube if you are interested!
So, I pitched the idea to a few people. Some really liked the idea of fighting in a fictional land, as it both cleared up some of the issues people were having, while also allowing a great deal of narrative freedom, as well as some painting freedom too! The people interested decided we would not necessarily paint our stuff differently(oddly enough, the people most interested also found the original Cold War setting really cool!) so that we can easily play them in the original Team Yankee timeline as well! However, my one friend is absolutely going to paint his stuff in Ace Combat colours, which should prove to be really cool! NATO vs NATO fights aren’t an issue anymore, as is Warsaw Pact fighting themselves. A true free for all!
We decided the year would be 2008, a few years after Ace Combat 4’s Continental War. We figured that the Federation of Central Usea would collapse, and the nations once within it are now vying for power.
While my one friend’s nation, The Volsinii Empire, has not yet been fully fleshed out yet, I can share what I have for my nation. Names for leaders I have yet to come up with!
The Lothian Confederation is a constitutional monarchy, although one that has had in recent years a massive upheaval in politics. For 15 years, from the mid-80s to the late 90s, the Confederation was a Communist state, having ousted the monarchy. The state fell into the hands of a Chairman “for life”, who tried to institute a Cult of Personality and lead with with an iron-fist. He ruled too heavy-handed though, and an unlikely alliance of democratic idealists and monarchists managed to overthrow him. As a concession, the restored King has handed over much of the power to an elected parliament, with him having limited veto power. He does have a strong say in guiding the country, and his position is secure. But for most day-to-day affairs, the House of Commons and House of Lords governs. It is not a perfect system, but it is a damn sight better then the misrule of the Communist period.
In terms of military doctrine, however, the Communist period has a long shadow. The Royal Army is still organized much like the previous People’s Army, and uses Yuktobanian(read: Soviet) Doctrine. While Yuktobania is still willing to supply the Lothian Confederation, the restored King wishes to return to a Emmerian(read: British) style of organization. Therefore, during the transition period, the Royal Guard, with Emmerian Advisors, is moving to using the best and latest military hardware, while the Army remains using tried and proven Yuke tech.
From a Team Yankee perspective, that means I will use as my primary nation a Warsaw Pact faction, whereas the Royal Guard will be using the British Army list. This should prove quite fun to do!
My main opponent will be using the West German army list for his Volsinii “Legions”, whereas his “Auxiliary” formations will be using the Canadian army list. He’s going for a much more fascist style governance, with a strong authoritarian angle. His flag is pretty neat too!
We are working on a set of house rules for a campaign, featuring his nation invading his neighbour, the country of Margreen, while my nation goes in to help defend it. In the mean time, I have written a small document for it!
While this whole project is still winding up, of course one needs models for it!
For that, luckily, it circles back to the Warsaw Pact release. The boxes are insanely good value, and I picked up quite a few from various sources(as to not totally drain the Canadian supply), and as they come in I will document the progress on it. The new T72b’s look very nice, and all the models will come in handy for several projects, not just this one.
The hilarious side of things is, with me now working again, I have the money for projects…but far less time. No promises will be made on speedy progress. But I have found another local opponent for this game, and I have a good chance to play much more regularly.
With Yankee being a resurgent game in my area, it should be easy to stay motivated, however!
But for now, until I build some models, that is all. Happy Wargaming wherever you are, and “Yo Buddy, still alive?”