The Flower Wars: A Goonhammer Historicals Project

Over in the basement of Goonhammer HQ the Goonhammer Historicals team have been throwing around ideas for all kinds of exciting projects for a while now. We have a few things in the works, but we’re now ready to announce what might be our most ambitious one: to develop and design an entirely new historical wargame for a period and place that we feel doesn’t get enough love.

To do this we’re going to be working as a team, however we all have our own special skills. Edwin “Lupe” Moriarty and Laurence “HardyRoach” Phillips are going to be taking the lead on the game design itself, as that’s their day job anyway. Meanwhile Aaron “Lenoon” Bowen is going to be forging the path on the historical research side – if you’ve ever read any of his Road to Austerlitz articles you’ll know how fun his historical insights are, and he has an academic background in archaeology too. They’ll be ably supported by Marc “Ilor” Renouf and Jackie Daytona as well as anyone else we can convince to join this enterprise. As the project goes forward we’ll be putting drafts and ideas out to our patrons, and getting feedback from the wider community, to try and make this as good as it possibly can be.

Aztec Warriors in Battle. Credit: Wargames Atlantic

Obviously before we can start on this endeavour we need to work out what the game we’re making is. And we were strongly inspired by the new Wargames Atlantic Aztec Warriors kit for this, because it’s a great kit and an era and place that’s badly in need of some attention from the historicals community. We didn’t want to portray everything from a myopic European perspective, so instead we’re going a little further back in time than the arrival of the Spanish and looking at the Flower Wars of the Aztec Empire (otherwise known as the Aztec Triple Alliance) and its neighbours (including the city-states of Tlaxcala, Huejotzingo and Cholula and the nearby rival confederation Chalco).

The Flower Wars

The Flower Wars were a kind of ritualised limited war that seem to have been intended to limit the devastation of warfare on the Aztecs and their neighbours. As with all pre-Columbian subjects in the Americas we don’t have perfect records, but as far as we can tell there were a number of different motivations for the Flower Wars. Ultimately it reduced the resources and bloodshed required by warfare between those who fought in them, while providing plentiful human sacrifices to ensure religious stability in the kingdoms.

So why did we choose this particular setting for the game? Well, the Flower Wars were quite formalised – comparatively small numbers of combatants would take to the field, with a higher percentage of them nobles and skilled warriors, and the fighting would be up close and personal. Instead of favouring ranged volleys and hit and run tactics as they would in a “real” war, Flower Wars usually involved individual feats of bravery in melee, clashes between skilled warriors where the goal was to capture but not kill your foe. Killing was, in fact, considered somewhat dishonourable and shameful, as the slain could not be sacrificed, and showed a lack of skill on the part of the attacker. Though the Flower Wars could, and did, involve hundreds of participants, they often clashed in small numbers, with a focus on one on one combat that involved a lot of movement and demonstrations of prowess.

All of this makes it perfect for a skirmish wargame. We’ll zoom in on just a little corner of a Flower War, pitting a small warband of warriors against each other, all of them eager to show their skill, capture enemies, and win the day. That lets us make a game that anyone can engage with by buying a single box (or splitting one with a friend), and make it a small form factor game (played on a small but dense board).

Aztec Warriors in Battle. Credit: Wargames Atlantic

We’ll start by diving into the history of the Flower Wars, and also looking at the Aztec Warriors kit from Wargames Atlantic, which they have kindly provided several of to us for this project. We’ll then start sketching out the basics of how the game works to get a version to table as quickly as possible, and when we’re happy with the direction we’ll get a first playtest draft together. That’ll be play tested internally first, and then when we’re happy with the revised draft we’ll throw it open for feedback from our patron and community. When we’re happy with the game it’ll get written up and laid out as a PDF and we’ll host it on the site for you all to download.

What’s Next?

Over the next few weeks we’ll start diving into this project:

  • Lenoon will be diving into the history of the Flower Wars with an overview of the history we have available, some references to the codexes that contain a lot of the evidence we have, and what it means for the kind of warfare we’d expect to see
  • We’ll all be putting together a kit review for the Aztec Warriors box, looking at what options there are and how it stands up as a modern plastic kit
  • Lupe and Hardyroach will begin to unpack the design process, explore our specification for the project, and talk about how to get a new game off the ground and get the initial design in place

It’s likely this is a going to be a project that goes on for some time, so we’re sure we’ll have plenty of future articles for you all.

Aztec Warriors in Battle. Credit: Wargames Atlantic

As another note, we’re painfully aware that we’re a group of (mostly) white (mostly) dudes who are writing about a people and place none of us have a personal connection to. We want to do this anyway because we think it’s really important to have that people and place represented sensitively and authentically, and we’ll do our best to do that. However, we know that we’re almost certainly going to get things wrong, and we’d like to fix that.

As the project goes on we’ll be reaching out to people who can help correct us on the details, offer a more authentic perspective on their own history, and otherwise keep our white privilege in check. If you’re someone who feels they can do that please do let us know. If you know someone who can do that, then please absolutely encourage them to reach out to us, or let us know who they are if they’re someone happy to be contacted. If you want to reach us then is the place to send emails, and we’ll do our best to get back to you.