Military History, and When Choices Matter

I’ve been pondering military history and potential choice adventure… Theory: Some points in military (and non-military) history are far more dynamic, or “choice-friendly” than others.

There is certain times where individual heroism seem to make an impact. Examples…

Bad Wars for Choices Making History

I find the the wars of the Roman Republic fascinating, prior to the rise of Julius Caesar… But at the same time, despite the immensely powerful personalities of Pompey, Sulla, Marius and Julius Casar himself, it feels like Rome is so completely dominant, and the decline of the Republic so inevitable, that there isn’t much impact you can have on history. It doesn’t matter if Julius Caesar lives or is assassinated… Rome will still dominate the Mediterranean while simultaneously degrading its Republican traditions and turn into an Empire. There’s little you can do to stop this.

A modern example is WWII after 1943. After 1943 the end outcome is not much in doubt. Of course, come great individual stories occurred, and with a little historical leeway, improved Axis V2 rockets and Jetfighters, just might have tipped the war in a different direction… maybe. But that’s a stretch. For the most part, it is all predetermined in terms of who wins, and who looses. As US President Truman, you could choose to invade Japan with ground troops, or bomb Japan, or starve Japan… but what an unpleasant choice that is!

But by contrast, other periods of history, seem to be more impacted by individual choices.

Choice Friendly Wars

Were I to do a Mediterranean military Choice Adventure, Peloponessian Wars (and the Greek-Persian Wars) are far more fun. Individuals ruling Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Macedonia and Persia make a major difference in the affairs of the state. (I of course have to finish my current England game)

A modern example… maybe the Chinese civil war? Maybe the German high command in the first 10 weeks of August 1914 (WWI is arguably completely systemic, with individuals just cogs but it at any time there was some agency, it might be there)?

Anyone else think some wars (or simply times in history) are particularly promising territory for a Choicescript game?


You may think this is madness but I would love to play a military-style ChoiceScript game centered around the Spartans in the era of “300,” but with some different events.

  • Train as a Spartan soldier!
  • Master Close Quarters Combat, Ranged, or Leadership!
  • Forge bonds with your compatriots to increase the overall strength of your fighting unit!
  • Implore the gods for aid, or forsake them entirely! (But beware their wrath if you do!)
  • After a successful military campaign, challenge Leonidas himself for the crown!
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Dude if you could pull it off Thirty Years War or the warlord During the early 20th century China. You can have the first half of the game being several different path to becoming a warlord. And the second half bouncing all the politics and Military exercises of trying to unify China during one of its most turbulent time. And you have a third part of trying to rule China. The only thing that sucks about the Chinese Civil War. Is you’re going to be playing a horrible human being regardless


Rome’s hold on power was quite precarious - if grain shipments were interrupted, or challenged anywhere along the line from Alexandria to Naples even the ability to control the Eternal City itself was threatened. It all depends on what you view as inevitable and what things that view made you blind to.

If you know your history and your material, I think you can be successful with every epoch and period of time.

A great example I’d pursue if I were not committed at this time would be the Russian civil war following WW1. From the national armies of Latvia and Estonia to the Czechoslovakia and Polish brigades on the “White” side to the struggles of Tolstoy and Lenin to control the Red army and their need to rely on former Imperial officers, there is a lot of material to explore.

What if the White forces had the actual support of the British and American troops on Russian territory? What if Japan did not pull its troops away from the Ural mountains? and so forth - there is a lot to explore in almost any war or diplomatic period of time you chose.


What’s interesting about Rome was that it was involved in warfare for almost the entirety of its existence. Each consul once elected and put in charge of a province or “theatre”. Had virtually limitless powers, yes if he overstepped his bounds the senate could theoretically punish him, but in practice the Roman Republic’s foreign policy on a local scale in a given region was dictated by its consul or governor equivalent. Essentially, I get voted as consul, I march to Greece and decide I should intervene in one of the endless wars there, I can do that. If I have the army, the funds, and think I can profit from it. I can essentially declare war, make a treaty, and return to Rome at the end of my consulship or seek a pro-consul extension of my term. It’s what allowed the minituate empires within the Roman Republican Empire to form. Essentially, you are given powers to oversee a region, its warfare, and the more people’s you conquer the more direct tribute and political power you get to go back and do it on a larger scale.
It was a remarkably unique system, almost a legitimized version of the plundering general who goes A.W.O.L except instead of being banished or arrested, he gets a triumph!

This free reign applied more to barbarians of course, if the Senate made a formal treaty with a civilized nation it was much harder to justify attaching said people as a consul. Of course, you were also in charge of making sure the terms of said treaty where followed by the other side, so theoretically you could abuse that. I don’t have specific examples on me unfortunately I don’t tend to focus on roman history.

1066 - If Harold won, The history of the English and thus the world would have been completely different.

Other English themed alternatives I’ve always been interested is Charles 1st winning the English Civil War instead of Cromwell and the American Revolution being resolved peacefully.

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U can make an imagery war. That’ll be cooler bc real life is boring i mean there is nothin cool in our world it’s just us and some animals.u can make like war of wizards ,some god vs human i donu night creatures come out hunting us.anything. and don’t forget the romance part😉

That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no space for a choice-based game, it just means that scope and scale have to be more tightly controlled. Sure, if you’re playing a powerful member of the senatorial class, you won’t be able to so much as breathe without lapsing into alternate history, but if you’re playing Flavius, a Decurion in Caesar’s army, and your objective isn’t to save the Republic or successfully conquer Britannia a century in advance; but to keep your small unit of men alive through the Battle of Alesia, there’s plenty of room for choices and consequences there.

Rome (the HBO series) did this too: you know what happens to Caesar, and Brutus, and Octavian, but Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo get a single throwaway reference in the Gallic Wars. What happens to them, and how they deal with their personal drama is plenty of real-estate for a narrative sometimes associated with, and sometimes divorced from the epid that is the death throes of the Late Republic.

Wars are full of personal stories, and the wider sweep of history can serve not just as plot, but setting.

Of course, being in the middle of writing a series where small-scale cavalry engagements have hitherto played the primary role, I may be a bit biased.


I loved that HBO series Rome; Where the Romans, even the good ones, held to some very brutal, or simply different, Roman values… they weren’t just 21st century moderns wearing togas.

And yes, there are some great stories, and writers far better than I can make life in the Gulag interesting… where you barley have any choices to be made.

But i love some of the ideas … Particularly the revolutionary periods where maps can really change color and regimes could have gone in three different.

The comments about the Russian civil war has made me curious… If Russia doesn’t sell Alaska… Then does Japan occupy Alaska in 1912? Does Alaska become a hold out of White Russian culture?

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There’s material there too. Do you give your ration to a sick fellow prisoner? Do you make a false confession to make the beatings stop? Do you denounce a friend for lighter work? Plenty of choices, none of them palatable.

One of my pet alternate history points of divergence is the Janissary Coup of 1807. If the Nizam-i-Cedid troops had chosen to fight the Janissaries instead of meekly submitting to them, they might have won (given the qualitative difference between the two), Selim III might have survived, and the Ottoman Empire might have begun its Tanzimat reforms almost half a century earlier, before Egypt becomes a de-facto independent state, before the Wahhabi are driven into the Arabian Peninsula, before the loss of Greece and Serbia. It certainly would have led to a very different Middle East and Balkans.

I think the Americans or the British would have taken over Alaska then. Britain would have a vested interest in taking over land that was geographically contiguous to Canada (which was not quite fully independent at the time), and North America was already firmly established as part of the anglo-american sphere of influence.

Japan might have extracted concessions or an outpost in the Aleutians, especially if the British took over, since they were still a British ally at the time.


A friend of mine that the Soviets scholar says the Russian Civil War least in a Darkly comedic way and sometimes just comedic is endless source of non-stop entertainment. That could be just the Russian sense of humor he picked up. But he never fails to get a kick out of the gold train white got a hold of during the war.

Falls and rises of Chinese dynasties would be another good setting for a choice game in which the player could have a significant impact. Those often had a large number of factions and contenders, as well as an open environment for banditry. There’s even potential for rise from lower origins to Emperor… see the beginning of the Ming dynasty for the most dramatic example. You can get all sorts of competing powerful families, private armies, foreign invaders, secret societies, rival philosophies… lots of good stuff. Each historical case is different, of course… anyway, they’re well worth looking at.
(That’s why this is certainly one of the main places I look for inspiration for my fictional setting idea, though I don’t have much to show yet :sweat_smile:)

I do also second the idea that a good historical choice game doesn’t have to require the player to be able to actually change the course of history, however. Being able to have an impact on the lives of others is enough. (Just look at the scope typical CoGs have in _non_historical settings.)


As @Cataphrak said, it most likely would have been occupied by a joint Anglo-American force… think what happened to Greenland during World War 2. The Japanese were overextended in the Russian Far East, so I don’t think they would have done more then send fishing/whaling fleets into the Bearing Sea…

As far as the official government of Alaska, the Supreme Leader of Russia (Admiral whathisname) at the time had close ties to the British, so much so that he was seen as a full-on puppet and the Americans were pissed off at him and Wilson actually was thinking of regime change at the time that the Czechoslovakian Legion turned him over to the Reds. There are so many what-ifs with this Admiral, you can write 3-4 complete histories with just him… he was going to join the British navy, the American navy, start a Russian free legion in France … just so many possibilities.

Another interesting what-if had to do with the Czar and his family … the local Reds did receive orders not to kill the Romanov family and the Czechoslovakian Legion was only one week out of occupying the area… so what if the local Reds actually obeyed the order from Moscow … or if the White forces were faster moving?

This actually came from the Imperial mint in Khazigan(sp) - the Admiral’s forces sacked the entire mint and took it on the Trans-Siberian RR with them to Onks(sp) where it was eventually taken back, several years later.


They are pretty much able to bribe the countryside ooh boy it was mess.

Any internal conflict where the state collapses and multiple rag-tag factions are at each others’ throats for power can’t help but offer some potential for black comedy, as you may have realised with my constant Zhang Zongchang jokes…

Admiral Kolchak? I think the Russians made a movie about him a couple years back. I seem to recall it involving mines and a love triangle.

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Yes, Alexander Kolchak - I remember his Imperial photograph easy but never remember his name. One very interesting career - from touring the American fleets at the time peace was signed with Germany until his execution at the hands of the local Red council it was a very James Bond-like story.

@Cataphrakv possible career path Paul for one storyline. He definitely has interest in career but a lot of people had interesting careers during time period. Every flavor of leftist movement was carving out their own version of The leftist Paradise state. It was like picking your Warlord. Interesting enough the Admiral is not considered a warlord. Since he did have international recognition being the placeholder for the current Russian failed state.

Even with the great tragedy that was the Civil War in American history it’s still has is really darkly comedic element to it. That’s until you start reading letters. God there’s this painful one of the private reading a poem of how his lamenting home and do they miss him at the dinner table he died the next day in the Battle of Cold Harbor.