Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book: The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

Recently Man of Tin blog had a couple of posting on the Bronte siblings' "imagi-nations" from their childhood.  About the same time I downloaded the most recent Lone Warrior magazine. In this issue there was a book review by Rob Morgan . The book is "The Dictionary of Imaginary Places", by Alberto Mnguel & Gianni Guadalupi. After reading the review, I found a used copy for $7.00, postage included. I strongly advise anyone interested in imagi-nations to buy a copy of this book. At 730 pages and over 90 maps, it will provide endless ideas for games. And while it doesn't have the Brontes Glass Town in it, it does have their imago-nations of Gondal and Gaaldine.   One country which caught my eye was the Azanian Empire, off the coast of Africa. After reading the "history" of the Empire, I started thinking of the possibilities of what Peter Laing figures could be used. I can see using Arabs, Zulus, Fuzzy Wuzzies, Mamalukes, Ottoman Turks, from Renaissance to WW1 and French forces. As can be seen, this book opens a potential of literally a lifetime of gaming. I strongly recommend this book, especially those who are into imagi-nations.
This is a photo from Lone Warrior magazine; my copy doesn't have the dust cover.

Map of the Azanian Empire.

A different kind of imago-nation.


  1. I have never had trouble coming up with my own Imagi-Nations, though I'll steal good ideas from others!

    So far I have:
    1. The 18th Century Empire of Trockenbeeren-Auslese, with the neighbouring Electorate of Altmark-Uberheim, the Grand Duchy of M'yasma, and the Pricipality of Ursaminor.
    2. The 'Latin Wars' of 1944-50 involving Orotina (Germany), Gran Bolovaria (Great Britain) and the Pan-Andean People's Republic.
    3. The Amazonian Civil War (ACW) between the United States of Anaconda against the break-away Confederated States of Amazonia.
    4. The Pike and Shot nations of Austeria (Empire) and Severia (Sweden). I did toy with adding the Torquemada Empire, but changed my mind.
    5. 19th Century nations of Ruberia (RED) and Azuria (BLUE) I have added a 'bit-part' 'nation' - the Empire of Turkowaz (TURQUOISE).
    6. The Wars of the Clover (haven't quite decided on the names for the rival factions yet. Working names Yorcaster and Lank.
    7. The Ionian Empire, presided over by the Emperor Dementius, with his generals George Maniaces, Manuel Psychopathes - vaguely Byzantine c.1000AD. As my own front name is Ion, I simply can not let that go to waste. Nor ought the Historical George Maniaces (d.1041) disappear into the twilight of history.

    Maps, though! for some reason, others' maps have more appeal than my own. I have no idea why that is.

  2. Unfortunately, I am not very cleaver coming up with names. In my latest campaign, the name of the towns are from roadsigns I pass while doing my route. I do have some old wargame magazines with some articles on coming up with names, which I have used in the past. This book will provide a shortcut to getting some gaming in. What's more, at the end of every description of the "nation", they give a bibliography.

  3. Using actual place and person names and reversing or mixing the letters is a good one for fantasy names. I like to use names of people I don't like and make them into villains!

    I have just ordered my own book for just over $5 plus reasonable postage of about the same from the US. So thanks for the idea!

    My own fictitious countries, including those from literature include Ruritania, Gerolstein and Lionia. I have armies or most of the funny Little Wars nations that are stylized versions of real countries. My German equivalent is called Hermany.

    My medieval fantasy countries are Bogavania and Beerstein along with non-human nations - Necrolia, Orkland, Chaos and Dark Eldar lands. I have a nation called Fezia which in this period is a combination of ancient Persia and medieval/renaissance Turkey. (I also do a 19th and 20th century version).

  4. Maybe I will try your idea of reversing or mixing letters. The idea of using people I don't like as villains wouldn't work with me. I retreat into my miniature world to escape those people! It is a good idea if you can handle it.

    I have used other names from books. My current campaign uses Redia and Bluvia; from the book Shambattle. The idea of using stylized versions of real countries is one I hadn't thought of.

    Of course, I have used an imago-nation from my childhood, Shiak, in my wargames. Their main enemy, Brookshire, is the name of the street I grew up on.

  5. I had a law student friend years ago who used names from legal cases for his characters. I'll sometimes use a phonebook to look for likely names.

    My American Civil war armies are peopled by characters stolen from varios sources:
    Gen. Jubilation T. Cornpone CSA (song)
    Lt. Gen. Titus E. Canby USA (comic strip "Bringing up Father")
    Lt. Gen. Montgomery J. Klaxon CSA (TV cartoon "Calvin and the Colonel").
    Maj. General Miles Long USA (from the punchline of a well known joke)

    Others come from other plces:
    Justin Cayce USA (a friend came up with that one for his own Union army. I took over his army, and this general)
    Scraxton Scragg CSA (Obvious)
    Brig-Gen Willett B. Allwright CSA (Surname from a phonebook)
    Brig Genl Praughan USA
    Brig-Gen Zander Z. Zebedee CSA ...
    ... etc

    Even the name Archduke Piccolo is a kind of a steal. He derives from an Imaginations character who makes a brief and ignominious appearance in Young and Lawford's book "Charge!" , to wit, one Archduke Guitar. I simply could not let that go to waste, but at the same time did not want to steal him direct. The military family name 'Piccolomini' gave me the hint. Of course Archduke P has a far more martial character than the amorous Archduke G!

  6. I have in the past used the phonebook. Recently I have been spending so little time gaming, just getting the game together is hard. To take the time coming up with names will slow down the process. As can be seen in my latest campaign, I haven't even given the generals names. However, by not naming the generals, it does take something away from the game.

  7. I seem to have dropped out of the habit of creating names and countries since over complicating too many role play campaigns in my youth. However, I personally find that giving generals a name brings The Invading Army/Army of the North/Loyalist/Imperial to life.

  8. I do agree with you about giving generals names. With my recent campaign, the lack of having named generals started bugging me by the third game. Somehow not having a name to blame for defeats, or to praise for victories.

  9. What a fantastic book, I will have to keep an eye out for this, especially as Gondal and Gaaldine are mentioned.
    I think naming names for Generals works really well.
    I have come across fictitious or factitious illegal countries through their stamp issues from a friend who collects stamps from countries such as 1949 to 1955 Republic of Malaku Selatan (Dutch East Indies / Indonesia). There were also the non existent countries such as the kingdom of Sedang in Vietnam (19th century) and the Caribbean Principlaty of Trinidad. Bizarre!
    There was also the Free State of Jones in the Deep South / American Civil War, recently a film and book.

    1. It might be worth trying to find and buy online. Anyone who is interested in imago-nations should have this book. The other book, "How to start your own country", tells about Micronations and tells of the different countries started by people. It jus worth an evening of looking up micronations online.

  10. For choosing names, I forgot to mention the Bond Girl Name Generator type website and also this Bond Villain Name Generator such as
    Type your name and friends' names into this - in one version you are Lieutenant Sergei Wintavel. Ian Dury is General Andrei Karlof of Obscuraland.
    Other famous games bloggers such as Bob (Robert) Cordery becomes Governor Sergei Borgenstein of Obscuraland, Ross Macfarlane is General Konstantin Kalifa. Great fun!

    1. I will have to look up the Bond Girl Name Generator; especially since the examples you gave have a decidedly Eastern European sound to them. I do have a strong interest in Eastern European history.