A completely imaginary campaign, set in an imaginary world, fought by two imaginary countries over the territory of a third...
Sounds crazy? But not for wargamers, who have been undertaking such hobby projects for decades. Some players prefer the outright fantasy of pseudo-medieval worlds such as those described by J R R Tolkien, or made famous by games such as Warhammer or Dungeons and Dragons. But others, coming from the historical side of the hobby, have been well served by what is known as 'Ruritanian' literature such as the Prisoner of Zenda, where the action plays out in a world that looks suspiciously like our own, but with a few kinks.
It is in this genre that Henry Hyde has become well-known in the wargaming world, picking up the threads of such greats in the early hobby such as Charles Grant and Brigadier Peter Young, who fought countless battles and campaigns set in their own fictitious settings as, indeed, did wargaming pioneer H G Wells. Nowadays, wargamers have coined the term "imagi-nations" for such forays into not-quite-history, and hundreds of gamers around the world now collect armies that bear a suspicious resemblance to those of Prussia, Austria, France, Britain or the patchwork of Germanic micro-states during the eighteenth century and play games ranging from small skirmishes to huge, pitched battles and manoeuvre their armies across maps that are entirely made up by the players.
It is in this context that Martinstaat 1744 is firmly rooted. Back in the early 1990s, Henry and his chum Guy Hancock, both history graduates, leading the imaginary armies of Prunkland and Faltenland, pitched their wits against one another in a classic horse-and-musket era campaign, invading the territory of neutral Martinstaat in an attempt to outflank each other's northern border and grab natural resources and taxes to swell their own state coffers. This was part of what became known as The Wars of the Faltenian Succession.
This scenario, in itself, is not unique in wargaming—but what set this campaign apart was Henry's meticulous record-keeping in the pre-digital era, with page after page of beautiful, neat, handwritten notes and maps showing move-by-move precisely where the opposing forces were located. It was after posting a few pages of these notes online that a clamour grew amongst fans for him to turn these intricate records into a book—and here it is, including the full campaign rules used for that season.
In addition, Henry did some wonderful watercolour renditions of some of the troops, at the time when he was actually designing the uniforms for both armies (no surprise that he became a graphic designer and illustrator soon afterwards) and in creating this extraordinary volume, he has added more than 30 new watercolour illustrations to show the uniforms of Prunkland's 'expeditionary force' plus a few extras. Moreover, he has added maps with overlays to help clarify the week-by-campaign-week moves of the two sides, indicating where major events took place, so that the pages of coordinates make perfect sense, like a stop-frame animation.
Alongside the campaign logs, you will also find the handwritten pages of Henry's own notes, some of them pondering his strategic and tactical options, some of them offering less than flattering opinions about the enemy troops! These notes have been transcribed so that those who may not be able to read what is sometimes slightly scruffier penmanship can, nevertheless, follow the story blow-by-blow. Sadly, Guy never kept such detailed records, but we're quite sure that the sheer depth of Henry's documentation makes up for it!
To round out the design and what will no doubt be, for some of you, an introduction to the very notion of 'imagi-nations', you will also find a large number of sumptuous colour photographs of games in progress set in various eras, ranging from ancient times (Henry is collecting the ferocious—well, sometimes— army of Byzarbia) right through to the equivalent of early WWII, when what has then become Grossprunkland is still managing to antagonise its neighbours with its bellicose tendencies!
In short, this book is unique in the world of wargaming. There is nothing else like it, and outside the world of fantasy and sci-fi gaming that tends to be dominated by 'big brands' of the hobby, Henry admits that this is a highly unusual project. It is hard to categorize and needs an audience with an open mind that will 'get' not only the pseudo-historical context and the degree of storytelling that involves, but also the author's vision of a world that mirrors our own, but with a tweak. His world-building has already spread through the eons of imagined history and extends thousands of miles around a fictitious planet. Where might it go next?
We welcome you, therefore, to take the plunge into one man's extraordinary creative endeavour. Find joy in a truly self-published project that has been written, designed and illustrated entirely by one man for the enjoyment not only of hobby connoisseurs, but of anyone who likes the thrill of a military adventure in the era of infantry, cavalry and artillery, when bright uniforms, tricorne hats and braving shot and shell on the battlefield was the nature of war. Welcome, indeed, to Martinstaat!
Extraordinary praise for the book seen on Twitter.
A sample PDF has been provided for you to get a taste of what's in store.