Before any more jumping around probably best to explain what I am trying to do.
The norm for AGEOD AARs has always been reporting game play and this makes sense as many AARs are based on PBEM tussles. I've always felt this is a bit of a pity as the historical accuracy of the games and detailed rendition of key personalities seems to present the chance to use a more narrative and character driven style of writing. So, begging your indulgence, that is what I intend to do in this one – not least I do feel I have repaid some of my debt to this superb game in terms of detailed 'how to' guides and so on.
I'll be open about any modding and will probably put in a few posts here and there as a discussion of the game engine or suggested event modifications.
Equaly I have always been fascinating by 'what if' questions and what might, or might not, have occured otherwise.
Answering this is never easy. We are often faced with unique events, such as the French Revolution of 1789-92, with so many variables and, critically, no chance to hold some aspects steady while allowing others to change. Thus any exploration of alternatives is not a science, more a narrative art. Even in the context of a game this is a challenge as they are often quite complex systems.
One solution of course would be to have the capacity to create multiple copies of earth at a particular point. And then vary this or that factor and let the history rerun itself. Done often enough and you can move from speculation to detailed theorising.
However, such an approach is – of course – beyond us (again hence the attractions of historical strategy games?). It also implies a degree of lack of concern for humanity as it is quite possible that in changing events, the final outcome is worse. Finally what happens if such an experiment starts to develop a life of its own? Perhaps if people become aware that someone is trying to ensure a certain event?
The inspiration for this AAR comes from two main sources. The first is Alastair Reynold's Century Rain
which posits the idea of an 'Earth 2' that diverged from our own timeline at a key point (in his the German attack on France in 1940 failed, ending WW2 but also cutting off a number of important scientific discoveries that emerged from military research during the war). He then has 2 factions from 'our' earth engaged in a struggle for the future of this alternative.
As an aside, his other books deal with the issue of inter-stellar civilisations with space travel limited to the speed of light. This avoids all the easy fixes of many Sci-Fi treatments and creates some fascinating implications.
The other was the Director's A Special Providence
written based on Victoria 1. Probably the best narrative AAR I have ever read, its a joy to follow from start to end. He too has external agents interacting on our world, but this is interlinked with a fascinating insight into American history in the nineteenth century and switches point of view from his main characters (and their wider narrative) to in-game action.
As you will see, some of both of these approaches have survived – and I strongly suggest reading both.
Since I am playing Russia, it may be easy to guess what pivotal event I am interested in. As a clue it occurs almost at the end of the PoN timeline.
But for various reasons, I am using the Decembrist revolt in late 1825 as the key thing that should have been changed. As will be clear it happened as in our history and that is going to have a lot ramifications. The idea was that it would have succeeded, potentially setting Russia on a very different path ... but to what end?