Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Zubia – A 'forgotten' imagi-nation rediscovered

Some time ago – before I started writing this blog – I began designing and developing a Matrix Game based around a European invasion of a North African country during the latter part of the 19th century. The intention was to use the Matrix Game to run the campaign, with the battles being fought out on the tabletop. It was designed like this to facilitate the involvement of a friend who had been posted overseas. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, the whole thing never got off the ground, and the whole thing was filed away on my computer.

This morning I decided to have a trawl through my computer files. I do this every so often, deleting files that are no longer needed and logically sorting files out into folders. It was whilst I was doing this that I came across the Zubia file. Besides a short briefing document about Zubia, there was a map of the country.

It is very obvious that Zubia is based upon Egypt, but the map is actually a map of a river delta in Lithuania …

... turned through 90-degrees, and then re-drawn.

Thus Zubia was born.

The briefing stated:
The history of Zubia can be traced back to the beginnings of recorded history and beyond. It is one of the earliest cradles of civilisation, and its people live in the shadows of many ancient monuments. However its era of importance as a major power has long gone, and it is now just a dusty, insignificance province of the Ottoman Empire … or is it?

Zubia occupies a potentially strategic position in northeast Africa. At present its current ruler – the Khedive of Zubia – is a middle-aged, fat, and indolent individual who lives in luxury whilst the peasants live in abject poverty. He is descended from an Albanian soldier who was made Khedive over one hundred years ago by a grateful Sultan (the Albanian had saved the Sultan’s life). The country could be rich – it has the potential to grow far more food crops than the population can eat – but the Khedive has done little to improve the lot of the population. Instead he taxes them hard and uses the money to buy fine wines for himself, French dresses for his numerous mistresses, and to build himself bigger and more lavish palaces.

The River Zub is Zubia. Without it the country would not exist. The river brings the silt that makes the land fertile. Its water is used to irrigate the fields. It also provides an easy means of movement from one end of the country to the other. Along the banks of the river everything is green; away for the river everything is desert.

The majority of people in Zubia are hard-working peasants who live in the villages and settlements that dot the fertile area along the edge of the River Zub. They tend their fields, grow their crops, and pay their taxes – often under duress. They are not generally a warlike people, but when roused they can be formidable opponents. Most towns are populated almost exclusively by urbanised Zubians, whereas a cosmopolitan mix of European traders and bankers, Turkish civil servants, Albanian army officers, Levantine businessmen, and Zubian servants forms the population of the capital city – Zubairo – as well the main towns of Secundria and Port Zub.

A few Zubians still follow the old ways and live nomadic lives. They move from one oasis to another as the seasons change, and they depend upon their herds of camels and goats to supply them with almost everything the need. They rarely visit the fertile area along the River Zub except to buy essential supplies and to trade camel or goatskins.

The army of Zubia is small but reasonably well equipped (see Note 1). Its recruits are ‘taken’ (see Note 2) from amongst the Zubian peasants and the officers are mostly second or third-generation Albanians and Turks, although a few Zubians have been promoted from the ranks.

The Zubian Army is composed of:
  • 1 Battalion of Guard Infantry
  • 3 Battalions of Infantry
  • 2 Battalions of Zouaves (Light Infantry)
  • 4 Batteries of Field Artillery
In time of crisis a levee en masse would raise further troops:
  • 3 Battalions of Irregular Infantry
  • 2 Batteries of Field Artillery
The Zubian Navy is small and virtually ineffective. Like the army, its recruits are also ‘volunteers’ (mainly from the coastal area and the River Zub’s delta) and the officers are mainly Turkish in origin.

The Zubian Navy is composed of:
  • 2 ‘Flatiron’ Gunboats – ‘Khedive’ and ‘Zubia’
  • 4 Batteries of Coastal Artillery
Note 1: The regular infantry are armed with Remington Rolling Block rifles and the field artillery is equipped with modern Krupp breech-loading cannon. Irregular troops are armed with Snider-Enfield Mark I & Mark II rifles and rifled muzzle-loading artillery.

Note 2: Service in the ranks of the Zubian Army is supposedly voluntary, but almost all recruits are press-ganged.
I am really pleased that I rediscovered this 'lost' imagi-nation.

If you are wondering where the name Zubia comes from, the origin of the name came about as a result of an incident during World War I. The Royal Navy had a class of destroyers named are various tribes, and two of these were called HMS Zulu and HMS Nubian. HMS Nubian hit a mine, which destroyed the ship's forward section, off the Belgian coast on 27th October 1916. On 8th November 1916 HMS Zulu was hit by a torpedo off Dover, and lost her stern as a result.

Rather than repair both ships, the Royal Navy decided to join the two undamaged parts of the ships together, and the 'new' ship – HMS Zubian – was commissioned into service on 7th June 1917.


  1. Very nice posting, Bob. I enjoyed reading about Zubia and was delighted with the history behind the name too.

    -- Jeff

  2. Bluebear Jeff,

    I am glad that you enjoyed reading about Zubia. I suspect that had I remembered it 'existed', Zubia rather than Fezia might have fought the border war with New Morschauserland.

    I wonder what would have happened if the ships had been damaged the other way around. Would the resulting ship have been called HMS Nulu?

    All the best,


  3. Hi Bob,

    Very nice indeed! Lots of potential and ideas are abounding!

    The Balkans could certainly benefit from this!

    All the best,


  4. Ogrefencer,

    If you need any copy of the map etc., just let me know!

    All the best,



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