My current project is to design and stage a Steampunk Skirmish Game. This is how I am doing it.
First of all, the game is based on one of the most popular genres of writing during the period (1870 – 1914) Invasion Literature. The first and one of the best in my opinion was “The Battle of Dorking” by George C. Tompkins. It was originally published in 1871 by Blackwoods Magazine and told the story of a successful invasion of England by a Foreign Power. It was very popular and controversial in its day and led to a host of other such stories including another one of my favorites “The Riddle of the Sands”. In almost all of these stories, the invading force was usually the German Empire although in several it was a Franco-Russian alliance. The choice of invader was generally dictated by the political leanings of the author.
America produced its own invasion literature usually with the British Empire cast as the invading power. The rationale given was an attempt to force the US back into the Empire. In most cases, local pluck and courage eventually drove the Invader from Our Beloved Native Soil.
In real life, the Germans actually did plan an invasion of the US. Dr. Holger Herwig in his excellent book, “The Politics of Frustration” details something called “Operations Plan III”. Imperial Germany was frustrated by the US conquering the Phillipines in 1898. In fact, the tensions got so bad in Manila Bay that the US and German squadrons leveled their guns at each other. Only the timely intervention of the British prevented a shooting war from taking place.
In the aftermath of this, the Germans felt there was no other recourse but to force the US to give up some of its colonial possessions. Ops Plan III was born. The plan called for the Germans to land at either Bar Harbor, Maine or Long Bay, South Carolina. The invasion force would consist of around 14,000 men. The objectives were to seize a portion of the US and force President Theodore Roosevelt to the negotiating table. Hindsight shows us that this was almost laughable but the Germans took it seriously. However, cooler heads prevailed and the plan was eventually shelved. Still, what an inspiration. What if instead of Maine or South Carolina, the Perfidious Hun had decided to seize a chunk of Florida instead?
This then is the foundation for our tabletop adventure.