One of the newest hobbies I picked up whilst living in NZ was wargaming... Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 to be specific, produced by the arguably the most successful gaming company in the world, Games Workshop.
Why did I come to this thread?
Well, I enjoy history in general, also I am a history and politics double maj. student at the moment, with a healthy dose of South Pacific history (considering I'm in NZ) as well as Southeast Asian history.
However my real intent to join this forum was to ask you all a small favour. You see... at the 'warseer' forums for war gaming, there have been numerous arguments over the representation of Cathay as a faction in the Warhammer fantasy universe (so fantasy, not sci-fi). As you can tell from the name, Cathay is the representation or caricature of China when Marco Polo visited. You see, the factions in the game are all caricatures of human history, either the worst of human emotions, or the worst of human actions... or the best of human history with a cynical twist.
Easy examples of this idea are;
1. Bretonnians - based around medieval Europe, especially medieval France and the legends of King Arthur. As a result, the faction comprises of a poor serf infantry based army (literally meat shield in gaming terms) and a collection of knights as the social elites. Visually, the serfs are more or less in-bred in appearance, and haggard. The Knights are the opposite.
2. Empire - based around Late Medieval period, the Holy Roman Empire, the Italian republics, and the European Renaissance in general, the Empire is a collection of 12 states. The faction uses a lot of gunpowder weapons (the handguns used before muskets were developed) as well as a large artillery train. Also their infantry is the most powerful aspect of its military, comprising of halberdiers, spearmen, swordsmen, the militia, crossbowmen and elite 'Greatswords' a fantasy representation of Landsknechts. They also use a lot of heavy late medieval period knights, plate armour, plumes and feathers ... Visually they are typically the 'puff-and-slash' army. With loads of religious connotations through skulls and animal bones and trinkets.
3. Ogre Kingdoms - based around Central Asian nomadic tribes, Ogres in appearance are very 'Asiatic' and ... well you can go to the Games Workshop website and check them out... they are a nomadic race of mercenaries who are brutally fast because they are simply bigger than normal people, after all they are Ogres.
Now, amongst the dozen or so factions, there are only two official human factions... there have been others mentioned in the history (the gamers call history within the game 'fluff'). But these 'eastern kingdoms' have only been mentioned in the maps, or few snippets of 'fluff' written by 'contemporary' human scholars. These forces are as follows and they are not canon.
Land of Araby - Arabian kingdoms
Kingdom of Ind - India
Grand Cathay - China
Nippon - Japan
Hinterlands of Khuresh - possibly Sri Lanka ... but not really talked about amongst the gamers, but geographically it is next to India, so it could be the south of China, Yunan province, or maybe even Vietnam... or Tibet that's been twisted around to the south...
Some of the most recent 'fluff' says of Cathay - 'of the East, little is known... most is rumour and speculation ... greatest power in the east is the Grand Empire of Cathay... the Celestial Dragon Emperor, believed by some to be an actual Dragon in the form of a Man ... untold millions of subjects ... north of Cathay is protected ... by the Great bastion ... massive wall that stretches for hundreds of miles ... garrison tens of thousands strong ... armies of Cathay are said to be unnumerable, and draw exotic warriors from all across the realm ... fiece hill people ... strange warrior monks and well disciplined armies supported by heavily armoured warriors and ornate cannons...' (7th edition Warhammer Rulebook, Alessio Cavatore ed.)
From older texts they are generally characterised with information like this;
- jade cities
- spice trades across the Araby (middle-east) on the Silk Road
- temples for astrologists (so they are obviously more reliant on science and astrology rather than the Empire which is a puritanical religious force where science and innovation is very limited)
- a presumably meritocratic scholar administration who record every word of the Emperor
- mystical temple guardian animals - stone dogs, serpent dragons
- polytheism rather than monotheism
- mystic brotherhoods of monks who can kill you with a touch of a hand
- strange monkey warriors living high in the Mountains of Heaven
So that's the current situation, Cathay has the most amount of history compared to other minor human factions. However, they are exactly that, mostly fanciful stories of travelers, with great possibilities of exaggeration.
What has been happening recently is that a lot of suggestions for a Cathay army has been the following 'guidelines' by the public;
- Numerous peasant infantry (low fighting skills and low armour and basically peasants that have been forcibly drafted into service with no training)
- Fast cavalry (based around nomadic tribes)
- Heavy Lancers (from the few people who have seen the movie Hero)
- Infantry armed with gunpowder weaponry
- Jade dogs as mounts for martial artist generals
- Astrological 'wizards'
- Warrior monks in numerous numbers (like 40+ as a single fighting unit)
To my argument I proposed a refined selection of guidelines, after visiting this forum several times as a guest, I decided on several of these features;
- Infantry as a professional army; (after all in the 'fluff' they are meant to be professional soldiers, not conscripts)
- Cavalry as an extension of the 'professional' cadre of soldiers
- Weapons wise a lot of people proposed scimitars and fighting sticks... again, I proposed various different types of Chinese blades and weapons.
A lot of people disagreed with the guidelines, they said, that I am simply promoting Cathay as the nice army because I was Asian...
So ... I decided to reform some of those guidelines, and bring it to a level which people MIGHT enjoy more;
- Medium Armour - wealth of state and professionalism
- Tridents with shields/Two-man Crossbow teams - just to mimic Hero
- Numbers - should have numbers, but we haven't really figured out how to make this 'balanced' in the game.
- Heavy armour
- The veteran sort of unit- so overall better at everything than the cheaper infantry
- A small suggestion to make these guys a bit 'gung-ho' or learned in the Art of War (i know it's unrealistic but again, like said, Fantasy element, push the facts to extreme); so these guys would stick around to fight a little harder than the normal soldiers. But they wouldn't be die-hards like the Empire elite soldiers (these guys had rules to never give ground, no matter the cost; i viewed the Cathay elites to be some what different in that, they will fight doggedly, but if it makes sense to give ground, they will)
- Swords and Shields - just to be a little practical - but this is where I'm not sure on history wise, would there really have been an elite cadre of soldiers with specific weapons configurations?
- aside from the warrior monkeys and brotherhood of monks, I personally felt that martial arts wasn't really part of Chinese military... so I elected an idea that it should be reserved for peasant/monk heroes. This was based on the justification that a single lowly hero who could fight for the masses was a better ideal - sort of the Hero idea again.
- a second point I raised was that Martial Arts would increase not only fighting ability but the person's mentality and persona would be influenced as well, in this sense, the European martial arts and ways of making war will also contribute in their own way, and therefore Martial Arts itself shouldn't make the Cathay heroes any superior to the Empire or Bretonnian Heroes.
I think the whole forum was a little unsure about the following idea;
- Medium-Heavy armour with barded horses, lancers, swords ... again, this was mainly based around my younger days of reading the Korean comic version of Romances of the Three Kingdoms... and just as an homage to that point, decided to add a cavalry hero with a Guan dao...
- Here I simply gave an impression of mobile artillery based on traditional siege weapons - such as ballista and catapults, with light cannons and heavy crossbows. because from my knowledge Cannons weren't usually lugged around too much? But again this is why I'm here...
- I also proposed an idea of Chinese chess cannons... that IF there were to be mobile 'cannons' then they would be attached to an infantry regiment and will act as a fire support unit... - of course in gaming terms, the artillery cannot fire and move at the same time, so the infantry will either have to remain with the artillery to allow it to fire, or the artillery will have to sacrifice it's ability to fire for mobility. However, this way, it would be like the gaming piece in Chinese Chess as well, how it starts off behind the infantry. Again, this is for the 'Chinese flavour in a fantasy way'... rather than being anything based on real fact.
- I didn't know how to treat monsters historically, so I decided to treat them as gaming pieces first, than history second. In this sense they were proposed as several different types of gaming pieces;
- Shock unit - in the form of infantry, cavalry, or artillery form
- Centrepiece - basically in gaming term these are super units that tend to get a lot of attention from enemy missile weapons...
- Hero mount - see above
So... after that incredibly long introduction, I am here to ask you, to post your ideas of a fantasy-Chinese army under the name Cathay. I wish that everyone will contribute in terms of creating ideas, in refining what I have already put with curt historical arguments...
Please, any contribution would be great. It doesn't matter what it is, I would like read about it. It doesn't matter which period of Chinese history the ideas may be from, after all, the Empire alone condenses 500 years of European history into 12 different states...
Also, I plan on using the information you post here as a personal project, I will NOT post your ideas and suggestions and corrections on any other website other than this one. I will also ask your permission first to post them elsewhere, once I have refined them for the gaming world. And even then, during the research and development phase, I will constantly ask you for your help...
Lastly, I will also be doing my own research on the forums constantly, checking out the military, history, art and folklore/mythology sections. So just know that I am not here to sit by and copy-paste your ideas… I will do my best to counter and add to your ideas.
Thank you for reading this
Mods sorry if this is in the wrong section or breaks any rules I have forgotten about, like I wasn’t sure if this was the right place to create the thread, so move it about to the place you see fit.