Weird Wargaming: Draka

Draka

Ah, the snakies that took up so many internet arguments about alternate history. I’ll be talking about the Eurasian War Draka here.

Equipment/Organization

The relevant military appendix describing the organization of the Drakian military is here

The Hond III tank has been a little exaggerated based on its 120mm gun and general advanced technology compared to its opponents. It’s gotten compared to a Chieftain or even Abrams, but the actual descriptions make it more like an upgunned Centurion or armor-slimmed IS-3/T29 – but available en masse in 1942. It has a gyro-stabilizer for the main gun. The most anachronistic part is actually its 1200 horsepower engine, which resembles that of a T-80U (!).

The “Hoplite” APC used by the Citizens is vague in the actual books, but I can draw a conclusion from it being based on the-if the Hond is a Centurion, the Hoplite is the equivalent of the Nagmashot Centurion-APC.

Even the Janissaries outclass World War II armies. There’s reference to BTR-style “Peltast” wheeled APCs, and them being motorized at all already puts them at the level of American World War II divisions in terms of equipment.

The Jannissary organization is more vague. If in doubt, use the classic “triangular division with an attached tank battalion/regiment” or follow 1950s Soviet motor rifle divisions (being referred to as “motorized rifle” is unlikely to be a coincidence). Their exact equipment is more vague besides the APCs and lots of towed guns, but my hunch would be using World War II equipment that’s both outdated compared to the early postwar equivalent and more geared for infantry support.

(My personal fanon is something like the Nahuel tank-something you could kitbash with older equipment and keep the plants running without getting in the way of the citizens).

Proficiency

The Citizens rank among the best in the world, their training a combination of Sp-, oh wait. They’re still really good, and even the Janissaries seem “only” as good as the Soviets at their best. Yes, it’s like having Kawhi Leonard and Shaquille O’Neal on your basketball teams.

Citizens should be high-proficiency across the board. Janissaries should either be slightly lower or just played more stiffly. If in doubt, play the Citizens as a top-line Western-style army and the Janissaries as a top-line Soviet-style one.

Other Notes

-There’s been a lot of attempts by other people to make the Draka more “realistic”. I’ve come to dislike this. What does making the Honds upgunned T-26s instead of upgunned Centurions really add? You want your supervillain empire moving across World War II, you should get it in all its glory. If putting this against an actual WWII army is the wargame equivalent of a fighting game final boss, so be it.

-For a more “fair” fight, put them against a 1950s Cold War army. But still…

The Fuldapocalypse Year in Review

This has been a great year for Fuldapocalypse. Not only have I completed many reviews, and many diverse reviews, but the blog finally broke free of the shackles I’d initially imposed on it. After tinkering with the narrow scale a bit, I just tossed it aside entirely in March without any regret. Of course, my reviews became a lot more off the cuff and looser without that structure, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

It’s definitely not a bad thing that Fuldapocalypse has become a general fiction review blog with an “analytics of World War III” side-section. As I’ve said before, I would have literally run out of books had I kept trying to do that.

While I did not read a 27-book series in one binge, I did read all eleven Blaine McCracken books and all seven Black Eagle Force books.

What were my favorite literary discoveries of 2019? It’s a little hard to figure out given how much I read, but here they are.

-Northern Fury: H-Hour.

I knew very much of the Command scenarios this book started from, but was impressed by the novel itself. It managed to not fall into the pit of being just a thinly-veiled lets play, and flowed well. This is how to use wargames well for writing.

-Blaine McCracken.

If the Survivalist was last year’s “binge read a long series”, McCracken was this years, with me devouring all eleven books in short order. Jon Land tosses aside such frivolities as “plausibility” and “logic” in favor of ridiculous set-pieces. And I loved them.

-The Draka series.

This has been an infamous series in internet alternate history for a long time. Reading the actual books was something weirdly relieving, cutting through the decades-long telephone game to find. I had the suspicion that they were less than their reputation beforehand, but reading them confirmed it.

I’m left with the conclusion that, weirdly like the Spacebattles-favorite Worm, the Draka series became internet-famous for having a legitimately distinct setup and a variety of timing/circumstance-related things that had little to do with the prose itself. It’s mostly just “the bad guys win” and “bizarro-America, a continent-sized superpower founded on tyranny” used as the (interesting) setup for middling sleazy pulp in a variety of genres.

-The Casca series.

Ah yes, it’s one of those series where the background of “Guy who sang The Ballad Of The Green Beret makes a cheap thriller series about an immortal Roman soldier” is more interesting than the bulk of the books themselves. The first two books will never be more than trashy cheap thrillers, but they’re still good trashy cheap thrillers.

Everything beyond that is incredibly formulaic and risk-averse, even by cheap thriller standards. The immortality gimmick is just a way to get the same dull character into whatever pop-history period the book demands.

-Marine Force One.

David Alexander’s Marine Force One is perhaps the single most middling piece of fiction I’ve read. It’s so mediocre, so “51%”, that it actually stands out somehow. Thus it makes a good benchmark for other “51% books”, especially action thrillers, that I’ve weirdly come back to time and again.

It’s been a great year for this blog and for me in terms of reading. See you in 2020!

Review: Marching Through Georgia

Marching Through Georgia

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For a while, SM Stirling’s Draka series was a lightning rod for controversy in the online alternate history community. So I wanted to see how these tales of a continent-spanning slave empire fared as books, minus the controversy over their “plausibility”. Fittingly, I started with Marching Through Georgia.

As the paratroopers jump into the Caucasus, there are anachronistic assault rifles and Vasilek-style automortars against Kar98ks and MG34s. There are the equivalent of postwar MBTs with gun stabilizers. Now it’s not quite the most exaggerated “Vietnam technology against a WWII army” some people have claimed and the Drakan characters are certainly challenged, but it’s unmistakably clear that the Drakans are better than the Germans they’re fighting, that they have better equipment and are better fighters. The deck is clearly stacked and the “These are author’s pets” alarms are clearly ringing. So I could see why the backlash came.

In literary terms, the prose is functional even with a lot of clunky exposition to establish how the timeline diverged (a problem hardly unique to it). There are worse stories out there. The biggest problem is that the Draka themselves aren’t just unsympathetic, they’re uninteresting.

Although to be fair, this never really rises above the level of “slam-bang action war story with even more sleazy titillation thrown in”. In fact, it got to the point where I felt that all the effort expended in (not unreasonably) critiquing its plausibility seemed like punching down.

Take a decent-at-best war romp story with an inherently pulpy nation, add in a bunch of BISEXUAL AMAZONS, and for good measure, toss in some of the  understandable “commercial alternate history” tropes like “there’s still people and events the readers will recognize despite the point of divergence being centuries ago”. Now think-would something like that really stand up to massive, gigantic scrutiny over its plausibility? Would you even expect it to?