Monday 25 March 2024

Eschat-Jihad and the Red Lands

an Unbalanced Skirmish Game of Deception, Madness and Causality Horror, set in the Eklipsis/Prescience Wars paracosm. 

(No, I haven’t actually worked out an entire skirmish game ruleset. I would be crap at actual rule building anyway, but I did get very wrapped up in imagining how one might work and especially in considering different types of Causal Horror and thinking about how they might be incorporated into a game. 

Here is a ‘Planning Document’ for ‘Eschat-Jihad, with a bit on the core ideas, a section on the various Factions and how they might work and be represented, and finally a very long section on ideas in Causal Horror. 

A lot of the art was suggested by people on Discord, so thanks for that.) 


Joseph Mugnaini


Core Ideas 

Inspired a bit by things like ‘Bone Forest’, ‘Trench Crusade’ and the 28-Mag, Eschat-Jihad is an asymmetric, low model skirmish game with semi-random, hidden goals, surreal terrain and Causal  Horror. 

Its models and terrain are conceptualised for artists, kitbashers, and the like to be strange and surreal, especially the terrain. 

Its meant to be a somewhat hipstery/arty game where you play as much for the pleasure of creating and seeing how the manifold horrors turn out as much as to win. It would have a lot of the card flipping and shifting goals of Warhammer but instead of producing granular somewhat non-diegetic aims it would be designed specifically to produce strangeness. So maybe a little like playing through a surrealist film as a wargame.


Kjell Daniel Francisco



The battles of Eschat-Jihad take place amongst and between the factions of a Dark Future and those of a Dark Past. 

In the Past, the Iron Path and Amber Court are are locked in the ‘Prescience Wars’, and apocalyptic magical conflict which will eventually collapse causality into the Red Lands – a Beksynski-style meta hellscape. 

In time, (if such a thing can be said to exist in the Red Lands), a True Hero emerges and leads a crusade to re-make Causality, binding up the shattered lands and strands and creating a liveable reality with a coherent chronology. 

Then, he goes, or maybe always was, insane, and summons Azathoth. Now his descendants pray to Azathoth, who hangs I the sky over their lands, blotting out the sun, in order to delay His annihilation while rebels and surrounding lands war against them to overthrow their evil rule. 

Factions from the past of the Prescience Wars send warriors into their future that is the Red Lands in order to assure their own victory and prevent the apocalypse the Red Lands represent. 

Factions from the future send their own warriors into their past in order to ensure the Apocalypse happens, for they are its children. 

At the same time, factions within the Past and Future, war against each other. In the Past the Amber Court battles the Iron Path, while in the Future the Knights of Eklipsis battle Suleman of the Black Gates and Villains from within their own kingdom. 

And throw in an extra faction; The Hordes of Causality, from the Red Lands themselves, representing the will of that anti-Causal Hell. 

Here, in the Nightmare Reality which is the Red Lands, these warbands meet and battle, though often for causes and ideas even they do not really understand, each fighting to preserve their existence and for their own view or philosophy of Causality itself.




Rules Concepts 

·        Battle as a form of performance.

·        Simple basic rules.

·        But highly metatextual rules specific to each faction. 

Each faction has an entirely different perception of Causality, different culture and a different understanding of what victory means. 

Therefore each sides objectives are fundamentally different, hidden and semi-random each game, meaning its possible, in some circumstances, for both sides to win, or for both to lose, or indeed to lose/win at the last moment as a groups perception of Causality shifts. 

Understanding the enemies culture and perception of Causality is key to intuiting and obstructing their goals for each match, (assuming you even want to do that and are not just focusing on your own, (or are just vibing)).

Piotr Rusjowski





Samuel Araya

The Knights of Eklipsis 

I already did a whole series on these guys so check the blog.


Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

They live in a Kingdom in permanent Eclipse because Azathoth is hovering in their sky blotting uot the Sun. The ‘Sleeping King’ summoned Azathoth and his Knights betrayed him, stabbing him in the back 13 times with poisoned daggers, though even this only caused him to fall into a sleep. 

These are the descendants of those Knights. They worship Azathoth and believe their worship delays the final annihilation of all things. They return to the Red Lands to make sure the Apocalypse happens so the Sleeping King can emerge from the Red Lands to remake Causality, and so lead to their current state. 

They are the dominant force in the Realm/World they come from, and everyone else there hates them because of the whole Azathoth thing, and a bunch of other stuff they do. 

Military Forces 

Knights! Dak gothic somewhat elfin knights from a whole range of groups and orders. (I already have loads of these). Also I guess peasants (blue) and Sorcerer/priests of the Black Church. 

Force is arranged around its highly individual and very odd elite heavy cavalry, with some backup from shitty foot troops, Priests, squires, footmen and animals. Only the knights really matter (everyone else is replaceable) and the behaviours and win conditions all spring from and relate to the Knights. 

Their goals are influenced by Eklispsis Dark Religion and Knightly codes of honour. 

Super-evil Brettonians plus Undead plus Dark Elf aesthetic is the closest thing with already existing miniatures. Ian Miller Knights would also work. Slender Chaos Knights also. 

Concepts of Time 

·        Religious and apocalyptic

·        Tied to the living presence of a singular God (who is Azathoth)

·        A bit similar to mediaeval millenarian Christianity if they worshipped the Nuclear Chaos.

·        A sacred trust inherited from the Sleeping King and sustained by him and by Azathoth.

·        A universally held textual description of Causality describing the entire arc of all time from beginning to end – though quite metaphorical, short on details or exact times and seemingly intra-contradictory.

·        Still, they have Faith!


Remedios Varo


Suleman of the Black Gates 

The main remaining opposition to the Knights of Eklipsis in the Dark Future of Azathoth. A faction influenced by a general grab-bag of Ottoman, North African and Arabic culture but somewhat realised and Oprey-ified by putting through a neo-Ottoman blender. Though honestly throw in a Lammasu or something if you like. 

“The Emperor Sueman has the body of a Bull, the wings of an Eagle and the bearded face of a man. He was famed for thousands of years as a just and wise ruler, a mighty warrior and a master of many magics. He spoke the language of Birds, Djinn, Devils and Ants. He commanded the Arch-Devil Asmodeus who, bound to his will, served him for many years as Vizier, before his ultimate betrayal and escape at the height of the fourth Cold Crusade. 

Suleiman can read minds, scry his enemies, see the future in a limited way, turn invisible, teleport at will and no doubt perform other miraculous actions. His seal is unbreakable once set and can be used to bind creatures like Devils or Djinn if they are subdued first. At the height of his power he commanded the direct loyalty of men, centaurs, birds, djinn, devils and ants as his subjects.” 

The Kingdom of Suleman has access to its own form of Time Travel, ripped straight off from Ted Chaing’s story ‘The Merchant and the Alchemists Gate’ and using exactly the same mechanics, but systematised and spread over an entire Kingdom. 

The Sulemites are fatalistic and so don’t believe the past can be changed, (from their perspective it never is), but one can understand it and perhaps plant things there that are yet to be revealed about their own future 

They hate Azathoth and Eklipsis and are sympathetic to the forces of the Past but believe their cause it doomed so won’t aid them. 

Military Forces 

High morale, fatalistic, professionally trained and those sent to the Red Lands are all veterans of various wars. Largely Turkish influenced, with north African and Saharan elements. 

Ottaman-style cavalry, Zuavre-style infantry, limited use of gunpowder. Their leaders can be sentient, intelligent Arabic and Persian monsters like Sphinx and Lamia but other than that no magical or post-human technology or powers (they don’t really believe in it). 

The leaders or officers can be travellers of the Black Gate, meaning they have used a Gate to travel a set distance into their own past. The forces of Suleman don’t think the past can be changed, so they don’t seek to change what they already believe has taken place, but they do work to find gaps in what is known or understood, to change the meaning or inflection of what has been and to gain wisdom for when or if they loop back into their expected timeline 

Concepts of Time 

·        Rationalist, scientific, fate-bound, fatalistic.

·        All travellers are partial-looping.

·        People are allowed into the gate in the past because the operators recognise them as having come out of it previously.

·        Gates only work in-situ and only for the persons future or past, which they are in so their culture is based around maintaining well-preserved sacred sites for as long as possible.

·        Their culture can only communicate “with itself” over the course of its own existence.

·        All of its messages are true (notwithstanding human error)

·        All ‘future events have already happened (but there may be things we do not understand about them).

·        All of this might be thrown into disorder in the Anti-Causal Red Lands.


Kjell Daniel-Francisco


Villains of Eklipsis

 (Literal ‘villains’ in the early-modern Shaksperian sense).

 A mix of rebels, criminals and Heretics of Eklipsis, those opposed to the Black Church, Azathoth and that whole culture.

 A crazy grab-bag of semi-fairytale-like Rebel Alliance who use radical time travel spells or steal the ability from Eklipsis itself and go back into the past, but with what aim? This could depend a lot on the mixture of their party and who or what is leading it.

Their aim is a fundamental opposition to Eklipsis and that entire situation. They would be fine with the ‘Red Lands’ apocalypse never happening/never having happened. Like many of the ‘Past’ factions they are trying to avert the Red Lands, but unlike them they don’t care about who wins, or about humanity at all. They would have probably been happy in the Pre-Prescience Wars Era.


Stephanie Law In Green Shadows

Military Forces 

Very wild and whacky, with lots of conditional or strange special powers. 

Vere Agentia – the children of imprisoned Summer, with a cyclic understanding of time. Cypto ents, deep cover dryads, seed dryads, woodwose and summer elementals 

Haereticorum Ineptias – literal absurdist anti-causalists. Baku, Hollyphants, Foo Creatures, Blue Dogs and Yellow Bears, the Roly-Poly Bird and Jub-Jub Bird, the Opinicus 

Backup comes from the Avis Invefernalis – Birds like Simurgh, Phoenix, Roc, etc. From minoris heretics like Moon Dogs, Monkey Men, Blink Dogs, Grims, Thaw Mephits etc

Rob Gonsalves

A ‘playful chaos’ faction, (as opposed to the Scary-Chaos of the Hordes of Causality. They would focus on deception, disruption, cycles and frame shifts. These would probably work well against the more ‘Orderly’ forces whom they can ‘bawd’ nicely, but not against the Hordes of Causality, to whom Order and Reason are no more than Dreams anyway, and who the ‘Villains’ would have to battle in a more prosaic fashion. 

Concepts of Time 

If dominated by the Vere Agentia then a cyclic impression of Time predominates and the aim is to restore the cycle. 

If dominated by Haereticorum Ineptas then an absurdist or anti-causal or playful impression of time dominates in which the aim is to disrupt, subvert or make ridiculous whatever others desire.


Remedios Varo



The Amber Court 

A chief faction of the ‘Prescience Wars’ – led by the ‘Twice Redacted King’ whose name cannot be comprehended, often commanded by one of the ‘Orouboros Kin’  - Children raised in the Amber Court in full knowledge of their own futures. This is a world-spanning Empire (in its later form), dedicated to the full exploitation of all forms of Prescience, (under centralised control). They send out their forces commanded by the various Haptic Ranks and Ocular Ranks of the Court. They are meant to have a near-perfect knowledge of the future, but the Red Lands of course often confuse and invalidate this. Their war against the Iron Path, and the ever more extreme use of magical ‘workings’ lead to the ‘Red Shift’ and the Red Lands Apocalypse. 

Obviously they completely blame the Iron Path for all of this. They go into the future of the Red Lands to make sure it doesn’t happen and to ensure the rapid defeat of the Iron Path to make certain of this. 

They are opposed to all Post-Apocalyptic forces because they are invalid spawn of a nightmare that should never take place. 

Military Forces 

Combination of 17th/18th Century France under the Sun King, Renaissance Germany and T’ang/medieval Dynasty China. Think massed armies full of braggadocio and glorious peacocking. 

Largely conventional, albeit large forces, disciplined on the surface but inwardly often riven with hysterics and secret tensions. Lots of low quality infantry with high but fragile morale, (i.e. hard to break once but crushingly easy after that). 

T’ang versions of Currassiers as bodyguards for the Emissarys of the Amber Court. High status bodyguard units like T’ang versions of Landsknechts and Doppelsoldiers. 

Tend to fight in a manner reminiscent of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms – big on tricks, deception and strategy dictated by a central commander who has already predicted and planned for everything. (Until this goes horribly wrong.)  

Concepts of Time 

·        Believe very deeply that the future can be both predicted and changed.

·        They adventure in their own Apocalypse -  the Red Lands, in the belief that they can discover enough to prevent it occurring.

·        Opposed to all future factions as they are ‘post apocalyptic’ insane barbarians. They specifically want the future indicated by the Knights of Eklipsis to not happen. They are also totally opposed to the only other faction from their own time; the Iron Path, who they blame for everything.

·        They play the most like a normal warband but with extra ‘tricks’ from Prescience and lots of ‘yes, but’ powers.

·        All according to Keikaku.


The Iron Path


from 'Cromwell'

A faction, originally radical, eventually coming to encompass all non-Amber Court aligned entities. 

The prime enemy of the Amber Court in the “Past”, they fight specifically against the concept and use of Prescience itself. Like the Court they believe that the future can be grasped and shaped by human will, but crucially, only in the absence of Prescience itself, which makes slaves of humanity. 

Like the Amber Court they battle all future factions as ‘warnings’ of an ‘apocalypse’ to come, for which they blame the Amber Court entirely. 

Early Pathists oppose the Red Lands, fighting to prevent the Apocalypse. Later more radical and insane pathist factions may have pro-Apocalypse leanings, since the annihilation of Causality is a sure defeat of Prescience.  

Military Forces 

English Civil War Puritan or Cromwellian. Radical Protestant. Muted, armoured uniformity. 

Very high morale, quite high quality infantry and muted visible power differentials. Lots of iron and steel. Think Pikemen and Shotte. Hard to break infantry means they stick around a long time. Extreme fanaticism may make them hard to control and can be a double-edged sword when confronting the horrors of the Red Lands 

Extreme radicalism later giving way to Taliban-esque murder squads. Late versions likely to make use of memetic terror weapons, unthinkable anti-causal weapons, mnemovores, or simply fire. Later instantiation have the most radical uses of magic/technology. 

Concepts of Time 

Originally a semi-humanist view in which concerted reasoned effort can shape human futures in positive ways, long years of warfare transformed the Iron Path (or perhaps these tendencies were always there), into an extremely radical, Nietzschean cult of pure human freedom and self determination guaranteed by absolute resolution, willpower and the willingness to make any sacrifice in blood, treasure or morality in order to defeat Prescience, and finally into one that believes that such sacrifices are good and noble in themselves. 

“Better Time die than Men be Slaves.”


The Hordes of Causality



Born of, or perhaps only existing with, the ‘Red Lands, these are people, creatures and entities that either come from outside Causality, or are products of its ruination. 

Relentlessly time-looped individuals or groups, Paradox factions, Mnemovore or Mnemovore-aligned. The Yellow King or other Memetic forces. ‘Bodieless’ or ‘unborn’ minds, personalities or philosophies which may instantiate themselves by varied methods, or perhaps spreading like a disease. Sometimes lost or abandoned forces from other groups which have taken to the Red Lands. 

They fight from madness, from glee, from despair, or simply by chance. All of reality is like a Nightmare to them and they would make it so for all. More a spreading wave front of anti-causal insanity and total chaos than a ‘faction’. 

Military Forces 

A seeming rabble of impossible grieving things. 

Are they even arranged together in anything like a hierarchy? Are they organised or is this simply a group of entities that happen to be alongside each other at this particular moment? 

No plan or discipline, no morale to disrupt or plan to unfurl. Call them ‘Zombies’ or ‘Mutants’ if you like, or forms of the Cybernetic undead, or broken golems, or mind-viruses, or devils or demons or the half-unreal. 

Extensive random interrupts and random actions. Highly destructive if they ever cohere but utterly unpredictable even to their own player. 

Concepts of Time 

In a sense these are anti-colonial forces. The Red Shift or Red Lands are their home and inexorably attached to their nature. They are the living breath of the Causal apocalypse. They are the final product of a Causal war and the ultimate and last fate of all that lives. They are bordered to the future and the past by those who would eliminate or destroy them, removing the Apocalypse and reasserting Causal Time. Though they have little plan, their actions tend towards the growth and extension of the Red Lands till they cover the whole of the future and the whole of the past, till there are nothing but Red Lands anywhen. They are against All Things, Forever, even Azathoth, which is a kind of formal end to reality. For the Red Shift Hordes there is no end and no beginning, there is nothing, and everything, forever and never.


concept art from Disneys 'Back Hole'



To Make the Red Lands 

But, of what are the ‘Red Lands’ composed? 

Artistically, key influences are Miller, Geiger, Beksynski. So I started there and asked for recommendations. The images in this article are the result. 

Conceptually I tried delving into concepts I had pegged in my head as ‘Causality Horror’ or ‘Reality Horror’, made up of bits and pieces I had gathered from various places. 

From that I expanded outwards through ideas or concepts that seemed linked either emotionally or intellectually. I ended up with a curates egg of an essay that doesn’t work fully as a system of classification or a means of exploration but is torn between the two, more of a ‘TV Tropes’ article, but less capacious than those. 

Still, maybe I can make it useful by considering how these ideas might be used in ‘Eschat Jihad’?



Time and Causality Related 

Kjell Danie Francisco

Cursed Prescience 

Inspired by Pauls funky journey in Dune and by the more tragic elements in Dunes racist child 40k and the questions about pe-determination, self-causing determination, inevitability, choice, the 'golden path', the idea that people with prescience tend to be devoured by their own prescience, or that the human mind or human morality become irrelevant when considering deep prescience (which interlinks with ‘Cursed Understanding of History’ below, which is after all a kind of more-accurate cursed prescience, just going backwards). 

This is a very old story and in its fundamentals reaches back to Fairytales and the fact that, in a Fairytale, whenever a prediction is made it often has some monkeys paw self-causing aspect and often the person receiving the knowledge might have been better off without it. This is Peasant logic, and I don’t mean an insult by that. Peasant logic might win out in the long term over liberal cosmopolitan thought. Loss-averse suspicious Peasants always get screwed from dealing with higher powers and knowledge from the higher realm usually has a venomous bite of some kind. There is a line of descent from the God Emperor of Mankind, through Paul Atradies, the Foundation, all the way back to some Slavic grandmother telling a tale about a fairy’s fortune. 

Use; This most powerful and abstract conflict might be the hardest to execute in a two-person wargame due to the very unpredictable nature of events but a possibility might be something like ‘Continuum’s ‘yet’ system, which is basically a dark Bill & Ted system in which you can ‘create’ knowledge and resources when you need them, because you travelled in time to place them there, but you absolutely must then make placing those resources a core part of your mission going forwards, and should you fail, be destroyed by Paradox. In wargame terms this would just mean getting free stuff in a match but then the placement of that stuff being inescapable goals in further campaign play. 


I’m thinking here more of the ‘sting in the tale’ time loop stories rather than the Groundhog Day anhedonia with its search for meaning and escape. 

Lots of this in Warhammer. In Peter Fehervari's Dark Coil stories characters are often sinking into or moving through non-causal spaces and inflecting or influencing their own or others backstories or futures and in doing so usually bringing about something rather terrible or malign. The Dolorosa Coil in ‘Fire Caste’ or wanderers in ‘The Reverie’ might both fit part of my definition of the ‘Red Lands’. 

Use; The Dolerosa Coil is something like an Amazon River system; dense jungle, hundreds of shifting tributaries, impossible to map. As some characters go deeper and deeper into the Coil, the general sense of loss and separation becomes something more; they become lost in depths which should not be there, encountering people, places and situations which are out of joint and sequence with each other. 

What forms of geography could work well with such a ‘passing into strangeness’? It seems to me that anything either very dense or very nothing might work, the key point being to avoid easily navigable geography, as well as the sense that ‘maps don’t work here’; the geography cannot be easily related to anything outside itself. 

·        A curling jungle/river system like the Coil.

·        Dense karst or close creek and valley systems

·        Dense forest

·        Hypnagogic Desert, or salt plain

·        Empty ocean 

Things to be avoided are those which aid in navigation and in relating one place to another, so; 

·        No single roads or rivers making neat borders

·        No tall points like mountains etc giving good relative directions

·        No settlements where people can give you directions

·        No roads at all

·        No neat coastline giving a clear boundary between sea and land

·        No coherent ruins, only incoherent mixtures of run should be allowed, so the ruins of two cities destroyed at different times & in different places but now overlaid together

·        No worked earth or farms

·        No clear stars or regular celestial movements (the sky is red)

·        The sun should never raise in the same place twice, and days should have unclear lengths

·        Fretted boundaries between ecologies, so no ‘treeline’ or ‘desert’, swamp, delta and islands rather than clear coastline

John Frenches Ahriman stories have its own relentlessly Time-looping protagonist at war with Fate and against himself; looping and manipulating his own timeline to being about whatever he currently thinks is the best option while also fiercely resisting his own past or future efforts to manipulate his ‘current’ existence. 

Use; This works quite well with a Skirmish game for in wargames there are always challenges when you have to fight one side against the same side as that’s what your friend has. In Eschat Jihad it can just be assumed that each of these warbands has the same actual people in them, just at different parts of their timeline, each trying to manipulate or escape the other. 

This could also work well for ‘returning’ dead units to the board as they did, in fact, die, and the new versions are from earlier in their timeline, wandering in to find their own dead bodies. (Or realising they are doppelgangers). 

Mushi-Shi did a soft and elegant version of this with a Mushi that loops someone and feeds off their life, they don't quite realise but with each loop they get worse and worse deja-vu and a formless anhedonia they can't place, explain or escape. Though Mushi-Shi has a more neutral and humanist resolution in which the main characters wife dies and in the end they sacrifice a non-looped future without them in order to experience their life over again, this time with a mixture of sadness and joy. 

(Where are the really dark Time Travel stories? Are there doom-laden Time Travel tales? There are many involving sad inevitability, personal destruction or acceptance of fate but few that are outright horror.)


Rob Gonsalves


Brain Don’t Work 

Science merely Alchemy/we are not capable of Science 

The opening parts of Three Body Problem where it seems like the flood of physicist suicides is caused by a growing awareness that science is not 'true' and is merely an advanced form of alchemy that only approximates truth (though in that book it turns out science is true after all and the evil alien CIA are just conspiring to pretend it isn't). 

Use; how on earth could this be represented in a game, let alone in a Paracosm? Is there a way to deliberately make emergent knowledge from the Paracosm deliberately near-causal? As in the ‘rules of nature’, can be learned, and will work, 90% of the time, but 10% of the time they will go slightly or very strange, just enough to indicate that you do not, and cannot, understand the actual truth, which will always be beyond your reach? 

To actually work in an imagined world perhaps some endlessly-recursive and maddening ‘yes-but’ system could be devised in which specific natural laws work as discovered, until.. some particular status or condition has been achieved. Then they work like that in that condition… until some other quite rare status takes place.. which would be an outlier so they work still differently now, but then some other condition happens… 

The aim here would be to create the deliberate sense of reason and nature endlessly and frustratingly slipping away from you, never into full incoherence, always with the illusion that you can understand if you just go a little further, but pursuit of this illusion itself drives you to madness.


We Cannot Understand the Other 

I feel this most from Roadside Picnic and Solaris, it feels very eastern European in origin, though Ballard, Harrison and Vandermeer have done versions with their own moral and emotional tonality. But at least in the Slavic originals; all the power of human reason and organised effort is put into understanding The Zone or The Alien, and we just can’t. We are inherently incapable of comprehending what we are experiencing. In ‘Roadside Picnic’ we can just grub about for semi-comprehended fragments left behind as they were useless to their creators, in ‘Solaris’ all humanities efforts result in, for a moment, something like the equivalent of a lab rat managing to scream in pain and the scientist withdrawing the probe in something that might be sympathy. 

This interrelates somewhat with ‘Powerful Indifference’ though in that case it may be that maybe we could understand the Other, but it doesn’t matter because the Other just doesn’t care enough to try. 

Use; well ‘Roadside Picnic’ and Dungeons and Dragons have prepared us for the ludic instrumentalisation of this concept with the idea of ‘useful but incomprehensible object’, a thing which might do something useful in some way, but clearly wasn’t intended for that, and also does a lot of other weird shit as well.


Consciousness is a malign virus 

From damn who the fuck is that guy? The horror writer who thinks life is a conspiracy against the human race? I have never actually read him. Anyway he thinks the experience of consciousness itself is torture and to live is an act of horror. We can throw in Peter Watts Blindsight which plays with the idea that consciousness is a kind of malign virus, or fail state or disease upon otherwise well-working brains. 

Use; perhaps perfected unconscious warriors? Sleeping warriors? A warband leader their mind replaced with clicking clockwork, immune to stress and fear but producing strategies and tactics like an ‘A.I.’ card deck for something like Kingdom Death. (It should be obvious by now that Eschat Jihad would be a relatively noncompetitive arty/hipster wargame for people as interested in playing against themselves and the rules as each other, and probably for campaign play for those who want to find out what horrors and time loops happen to each Warband.)


Kjell Daniel-Francisco


Fake Realities – Immaterial Edition 

Reality can be Raped 

From Fehervari and from Grant Morrison, reality violations; where characters and general situations remain in place but reality itself decays and changes, which we see but they can't quite sense. Meaning their world, their entire timeline, from beginning to end, gets progressively worse and they can emotionally percieve this but not reason their way out of it. 

Use; this would be a frankly insane thing to put in a game of any kind let alone a wargame. How could you do it? It would mean triggering something and some kind of games master would come in and just make everything awful and worse, and change even the background of characters as well as their current situation, and the characters and playing pieces would not be aware of this, except they might have some emotional recognition, but the players would… Perhaps this would work as a kind of nuclear weapon, an unleash-the-demon element employed either deliberately or accidentally? It might have to be a once-a-campaign thing. 

Reality Decay 

We can maybe add to it the concept of 'Reality Decay', where what is normal and causal seems to blend imperceptibly into the other-natural. This is probably most clearly shown in horror movies in which nearly all are based around a very-normal-maybe-sinister early bit and then the gradual introduction of an horrifically malevolent alteration to reality. What I'm trying to capture here isn't the 'there are hidden monsters' vibe, or even 'there are dark other powers' vibe of Hellraiser, but a more nebulous, formless, near-madness in which the very engines of cause and effect seem to be broken. Sometimes this is actual madness, sometimes demons, sometimes the Matrix fugueing, sometimes conspiracy. I can't think off the top of my head of a story where the horror has no source and no shape but exists only. 

Use? Man the dice are rolling backwards.. Maybe some semi-random alteration to the dice or other decision system that frets or inverts the results? Its hard to systematise the formless.


The Enemy are Editing the Text 

If we bring in Warhammers chaos gods then we can include malevolent extra-causal entities, who are simultaneously present at all points of the timeline and can 'edit' the story - to some extent, to produce their preferred forms of suffering. 

Use; I cannot think of any sane way to include this in a wargame unless perhaps allowing the players to mess with the metadata after a campaign?


Fake Realities – Material Edition 

From the great well of schitzoid-adjacent horror, from the Shaver Mythos to the Matrix and similar films of its era, to Comics like 'Saramis' where an entire city is a physically simulated stage set for one man, to the Truman Show, we have; 

It’s a simulation 

It’s the Matrix, the 13th Floor or similar. 

Curious thing about the Matrix; the majority of the people in it are real living embodied humans, when they ‘die in the game, they die in real life’. So, how real do you want something to be in order for it to count as ‘real’? 

Its Dero mind control machines 

Evil forces under the earth using super-technology to invisibly tilt the nature of society in their preferred manner. The ultimate untraceable outside corruption. Add memory alteration to taste. 

It’s a literal Stage Set 

In ‘Saramis’ an entire city is a literal mechanical moving backdrop, only a few places actually have interiors, most of the people are automata. You can get up on top of the stage sets and run along them. 

Use; the deeply physical and embodied nature of the deception lends it a tantalising aspect to me. 

The Truman Show is another physicalised fiction-in-fiction story of this kind with the conspiracy-victim on an actual stage set. 

The metaphor of theatre, and of theatre interweaving and overlapping reality is something that might be usable in  a game or wargame; cults and societies of theatre-like ‘players’ (40ks Harlequins are already this), grand physical deceptions and ‘plays’ put on by deranged structures of power, actors and those playing a role intermixing with those doing something ‘for real’. The structure and aesthetics of performance being counterpointed to ‘actual’ conflict. That  might be something that the already exiting five or so act structure of wargames, and their highly rules and ritual-based arrangement could actually help to bring about. It’s already the case that armies ‘perform’ differently, Ork armies going for a turn-two Waaaagh! in an assumed five-turn game, Dark Eldar used to have a ‘power from pain’ rule that made them nastier the more losses they took, Necrons popping back up unless you kill the whole squad, etc etc. I feel like there should be something there, though I can’t see it yet. 

Its Robot Rape 

I’m thinking of ‘I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream’ mainly, though there may be other forms I don’t know about. This story has some ‘Fake Reality’ deception I think, but only as part of a larger goal of specifically inflicting as much suffering as possible for as long as possible Here the hyper-powerful entity is usually non-human but still material and within the same causality. 

Use; Is there much that AM does in ‘I have no mouth’ that a reasonably wealthy King or Sultan couldn’t have done to a small select group? Some of the more extreme memory alteration, bodymorphing and resurrections sure but I could easily see a gothic story with an AM-like Sultan or King or Pope having a sadistic super-labyrinth made and getting to watch a select group of victims be endlessly tortured. There might be something there again, with the deep physicality of the idea. 

I suppose the ‘Saw’ franchise is built on this kind of thing. 


Deep Time Horror


Calum Diggle - Humanity Lost

Cursed Understanding of History 

There is also the idea that the simple action of history, when perceived across too deep a stretch of time is essentially horrific to the human mind, becoming more so when one mind becomes inexorably aware of the consequences of their own actions in a way that cannot be denied or avoided. 

I’ve often considered it fortunate that people are both quite ignorant and quite unimaginative when it comes to consideration of History as very deep views of whatever the engines of history are tend to leave me with the feeling of, at best, systems with an utter indifference, or ‘orthogonal’ to human suffering or morality, yet from which we all inevitably descend. In particular, ‘demicide’ involving male extinction and mass female rape, which forms the basis of modern European genetics, and how many more are there of like kind, stretching deeper and deeper back into history, crime upon crime? 

Use; a key element of this seems to be a ‘loss of faith’, in a manner similar to Lovecrafts guys finding out they have gypsy blood or the physicists of 3-Body finding out science isn’t real. It’s hard to have the gradual or dawning horror of realisation if you have no strong pre-existing beliefs that sustain your world. 

An advantage of a game/wargame like Eschat-Jihad is that all the factions have really extremely strong beliefs and particular points of view, and they can all be wrong somehow and therefore go mad with the terrible truth of the Universe. Not only that but some are from the future and some from the past so they can each find out some terrible thing about either how they came to be, or how they end up, and so go crazy about that. There must be a way to gamify that somehow. Hopefully without just adding ‘faith points’. 

If I was going to use a ‘certainty’, ‘faith’ mechanic, it would have to be something other than basic morale, it should only be able to be altered by scenario-specific events, should only go down, and steal a trick from the OSR and instead of just lower points add to each reduction a madness, behaviour or fetishtic action that leader or character has to perform in certain circumstances.


The Origins of Life and Humanity are malign 

From Lovecraft and I suppose from Alien: Covenant, the origins of life being, worse than accidental, some kind of weapons test or laboratory runoff or malign experiment. (Though I think in ‘Covenant’ the experiment was not specifically malign but the general tone of the film made it seem like it was). 

This hits a lot less hard in a post-Christian West where very few people think we are the product of divine creation so the loss of such doesn’t hurt much. Still there may be possibilities in the concepts of someone coming back to ‘harvest’ humanity, of being deliberately ‘made wrong’, with life on Earth being an accidental biproduct of an inherently flawed process and then in the sci fi future we discover that we are from the only planet where that happened and in fact humanity, and all of earths life, has the equivalent of Downs Syndrome, and that this is inherent to the nature of our evolution; we can’t escape it, and every other space borne life form is ‘correct’ or the product of some more perfect and fruitful system. 

Use;man is an inherently inferior species’; there must be some way for me to use this.


Calum Diggle - Humanity Lost


Biologically Instrumentalised Posthumanity in forms horrific and degraded to us. 

From Diggle, and perhaps Geiger, we have a decayed and horrific Posthumanity re-made, (wait, who made 'Man after Man'?) into bestial or horrific instrumentalised forms. Diggle has whole bio-hive worlds with everything made from human-derived flesh. Geiger weaves the human form with Biomechanoid horrors. (I guess the Matrix pod-people work for this too). 

Use; these guys could definitely go in the game. An horrific posthumanity could be anything from fauna to flora to buildings to a sufaction, to riding beasts for other groups that don’t know they are riding their own descendants/ancestors. They would go well with the ‘Hordes of Causality’ faction.


Claude-Joseph Vernet's - The Storm

No Classification 

Powerful Indifference 

Clark-Ashton Smith did one little-regarded story which was basically a Roalnd Emmerich film where Aliens arrive to terraform the world according to their liking, and do. Humanity fights back but fails and the world is gradually consumed and transformed into a wonderous but nightmarishly toxic and dangerous environment. We can add that story about Aliens who take over earth & don't really notice us & humanity ends up living like space rats in their giant machinery. There is a slight difference in inflection in these stories in that they are less about the fundamental incapability of humanity to understand the aliens, since in many of these stories we don’t get the chance, but simply that the Other is so powerful on contact that anything we can do is just irrelevant. We can’t communicate and they wouldn’t care even if we could.   

Use; there are mighty THINGS. You can barely see their feet. They are doing stuff specific to them.


Aibek Begalin

Hidden Sin/Degraded Blood/Syphilis horror 

I'm trying to avoid Lovecraft here because he is the dominant force but I suppose I shouldn't bother. Lovecraft had a kind of ‘miscegenation’ horror where the Anglo finds out they have Fish ancestors, this leading into madness and physical mutation, (though also a connection with the dark sacred truth of Reality). 

This doesn’t play quite the same way with a modern audience though I suppose later versions include the more-pure body-horror of Cronenberg where much of the terror comes from physical mutation.

Use; other than just mutating people I got nothing on this one. I guess mutations are always good, good for modelers and a kitbashing community.


Jason Shiga 

The Jason Shigaverse. I have only read 'Meanwhile' a multiple choice comic book masquerading as a kids story with a background so dark its clear none of the bougie reviewers fully understood it, and 'Demon' about a battle between a person/being who discovers they have the ability to hop bodies on death (their mind devours and annihilates that of the closest person), vs the World Government. In 'Meanwhile', depending on what choice they make the Protagonist discovers that a previous version of themselves already annihilated humanity except for them and uses a time machine to 'loop' themselves millions of times, 'filling in' every role and person again, till the world is full once more. So everyone in his world, has always been him. I suppose this includes transhumanism, time loops and reality being a malign/beneficent stage set. Also; you already lost before you walked in the door and everything you are seeing is a bandaid over your nightmare failure.


Samuel Arya


What Have We Got? 

·        Bill & Ted cursed time gifts system with a spiralling cost.

·        A geography made to allow a ‘passing into strangeness’ (I did a whole list of qualities above, not going to repeat it here.)

·        Possibly recursive of incoherently failing ‘natural laws’ (which probably means core game mechanics).

·        Arguably useful but fundamentally incoherent ‘magic items’ which you never understand which probably can’t be understood by human minds.

·        Replace your leaders brain with a Kingdom Death A.I. card system. Even you don’t know what you will do.

·        Reality Rape extra-causal nuke option; make everything worse for everyone, and always have been worse.

·        Theatre cults, theatre-type scenery and performance-based faction rules.

·        Evil Magic Sultan sadism labyrinths along with I guess the guy from ‘Saw’. Powerful sadists arranging impossible moral and personal tests could be a thing.

·        Everyone can lose their faith or certainty and go more and more crazy.

·        ‘Man is the Least of All things.’

·        Horrific Poshumanity; they’re the trees, they’re the hills! They’re the buildings! They’re the ground. They also turn up in some factions. Also they are also you from the future or past!

·        There are mighty THINGS in the distance, the ocean, the earth, the sky.

·        People get mutated and altered a lot.

·        Jason Shiga is somehow involved.

Piotr Ruszkowski


  1. I believe the author you were trying to remember is Thomas Ligotti

  2. Signalis is a wonderful survival horror game that grapples with and works with a few of these ideas, particularly ones of time loops and the decay of significance. Highly reccomend.

    I also vaguely recall a character in True Detective season 1 talking about the "consciousness as disease" thing but I'm pretty sure he was referencing anothers work (Ligotti, as chryphex suggests?)

  3. Spectacular. The Path's Nietzschean tendencies seem ripe for "saints of eternal return" who Edge of Tomorrow a particular battle indefinitely not because they're trapped in a loop but because they actively choose to re-experience it again and again forever. There'd have to be a weird mechanic for their "failures" since they're conscious efforts at following a script (ritual self re-affirmation?).

    Of course given the Red Lands no loop is perfect so I could see them on the one hand being "realler" than the mess around them (when they swing a sword at empty air it nevertheless bisects the dude who'd stood there the last near-infinity times despite them being leagues away through butterfly effect) or else said "deliberate" failures infecting other combatants with the same dice result. See the Saint succeed? Time to make those riskier plots, our success is limned by human will into eternity!

    1. Well damn, thats better than anything I came up with.

    2. I was thinking the Black Gate troops could be squads, but of the same guy looped. If the squad takes one or more casualties, all surviving members roll a d6; 1-3 they were a prior iteration and so stick around, 4-6 they were a version later in the soldier's personal timeline and so disappear.

      It sounds quite fun thematically, but also gives a mechanically-interesting situation where it's most efficient to cause a single casualty rather than several, so you'd want to spread your fire around.

    3. Only as good as the inspiration! Anyway, here's a scattershot of weaker concepts. Hope some are of use...

      I'd amend Rob's loop troops a little to bring them more in line with BG's understanding of causality. Where overwhelmed by the enemy (and more importantly their ontology) the poofing out of existence does occur however what makes logical "sense" to block time is the "future instances" pulling off their disguises to reveal they were actually somebody masquerading as that loop troop the whole time. This is supposed to be a failure state of course so either the "unmasked" troops have far worse stats and/or they and their disguises are vital to preserving BG ontology in the face of the red lands' chaos. Killing them confers a faction-wide malus (as severe and lasting as balance demands).

      On that matter muslim aniconism and Arabian Nights stories in stories could be a nice theme for such "seven veils" units to occupy. If the past cannot be changed but can be reinterpreted then creating ambiguity and recursion is a strategic resource. Beturbanned storytellers weave yarns as readily as they do silk (the "silk road" as metaphor for narrative history?) binding and swaddling all certainty around them that the BG might unknot and unveil the desired shape of history when the time is (was and always will be) right!

      Gates aside I vote for vast hourglasses which reverse the arrow of time, Tenet is one of the best examples of block time travel in media and by making the "turnstiles " vertical you end up with one of the strongest motifs of the faction's aesthetic and philosophy.

  4. I've been trying to figure that puzzle out for some years now (how to inject uncertainty/horror into the very framework of a skirmish game), and I've only come up with a few ideas. The two most obvious (and only concrete that I've found) solutions are to make it a legacy game (secret envelopes, take stickers and sticker over the rules) or to have a mechanic be that players will change the rules under certain conditions to whatever they want (presumably with guidelines, no "I win" rules). Ideally a combination of the two, but I think the latter is the easiest to implement and goes pretty well with what you are trying to do (much better than with the game I was trying to create).
    To elaborate, players changing rules can be somewhat balanced if they could only change a single word of the rules (plus I'm using "rules" generally, it could be a word anywhere, such as an objective). You see this in custom magic cards a lot incidentally.
    So, a player might change the rule "First Strike: always strikes first in melee" to "First Strike: always strikes last in melee" or even "First Strike: always strikes rutabagas in melee" (which is something the Haereticorum Ineptias might do and might be incentivized as a faction to do (make nonsense rules I mean (BUT IS IT EVEN NONSENSE!? BECAUSE THEN SOMEONE COULD CHANGE A FACTION'S "human" KEYWORD INTO "rutabagas")). Hence, your capabilities, objectives, the rules of the world, are constantly changing, devolving, until the game eventually becomes unplayable (and faction interests would likely define whether the players want to try to "repair" the damage done to the rules or break it further).
    The only other path I can think of involves understanding math on a Grothendieckian/Mochizukian level, which I do not.

  5. Finally made comments work here.
    Greatly enjoyed reading this post.
    Wished to comment that I like how this post and substack post has different pictures which sometimes are the same pictures in different places.