Your last valiant soldier has fallen, and the battlefield is left strewn with the signs of your defeat. The enemy looms nearby, boasting of their swift victory over your paltry defenses. The war is lost, and the game is over. But does the experience have to end? Wargames tend to unfold in one place and one place only – on the tabletop. However, some properties have proven that the experience doesn’t need to end (or even begin) with miniatures scattered on a makeshift battleground. The expanded universe may not be a widespread concept in wargaming, but some of the biggest properties have more for their most dedicated fans to digest, whether it’s an action-packed video game, graphic novel, book, or movie
We’ve seen just how successful an expanded universe can get with the vast offerings of Warhammer. There seems to be no shortage of material surrounding the classic fantasy tabletop game of the 1980s. From the classic game to novels set in the science fiction-based 40,000 universe, Bryan Ansell, Richard Halliwell, and Rick Priestley’s original vision has been seemingly turned into a genre of its own.
While Warhammer may be the prime example of how expanded universes can blossom from wargaming, it’s definitely not the only property to take advantage of other mediums. A more recent example comes from _Echelon Software, who’s going all out for its property Black Powder: Red Earth. Taking place in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion in an alternate history where Private Military Contractors guide foreign policy in the Middle East, Black Powder’s wargame aspect focuses on fast-paced, street-level combat. With games that can last as little as 30 minutes, the chaotic and tactical firefight sounds perfect for a digital interactive medium where _Echelon first turned the conflict in Black Powder into something playable.
Available on Steam and iPad, Black Powder: Red Earth is a turn-based tactical strategy game that thrusts players into the heart of an ongoing “proxy war between the dictatorship of a failing petro-state and a brutal jihadist insurgency.” Detailed environments serve as the playing field for brutal engagements, which unravel a grander narrative that started before the video game was even released.
The true beginning of Black Powder: Red Earth links back to a graphic novel released on Amazon. Depicted in gritty realism, the best seller launched in 2011 and has since expanded across multiple books, including the most recent Black Powder Red Earth (Awbari). As _Echelon has demonstrated with the progression of Black Powder from graphic novel to popular wargame, the viability of an expanded universe is there, and other titles may want to consider using their tabletop experience to broaden the horizon. Or, as _Echelon did, build a tabletop game from a pre-existing IP.
Frostgrave, for example, could benefit from translating its game of wizards and villainy into a digital format, giving tabletop players another outlet to enjoy stories set in their favorite universe. The crossover may not just appeal to wargamers, either, as video gamers may find themselves immersed in Frostgrave’s narrative so much that it pulls them into the tabletop fantasy wargame.
For now, though, we’ll stick to working through Warhammer’s extensive line and keeping our eyes peeled for even more from the team at _Echelon as it continues to grow all aspects of its own universe.