A few weeks ago, you’ve read the tale of the birth of Islam – Muhammad’s revelation, his initial teachings, and the flight to Medina. That’s where we continue the story of early Islam today. As Muhammad, the protagonist of this story, juggled with several balls at any given time, this account will not be entirely chronological. Instead, we’ll look at his early clashes with the Quraysh from Mecca, his ascendancy in Medina as well as his political and social reforms there, and finally his unification of Arabia under the banner of Islam.Continue reading
Board gamers dig archaeology. Board Game Geek lists over 140 games with an archaeology or paleontology theme, and seven of them have 10,000 or more ratings. That’s even more impressive if we consider that archaeology is not exactly a ubiquitous human activity (unlike other popular themes like commerce, construction, or warfare). Why is archaeology so popular? – I think the main draw is that it’s perceived as an exciting activity which combines physical and mental challenges. Let’s have a look at the three main roles archaeologists fulfil in board games – that of an adventurer, of an excavator, and of a scholar.Continue reading
What can be said to have lasted long in history? As I post this article, Liz Truss has been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for only twelve days. Queen Elizabeth II has just died after a reign of 70 years. The United Kingdom itself has been in existence for 201 years.
What can be said to have left its mark on history? – Liz Truss certainly hasn’t (yet). Elizabeth II has, a delicate fingerprint of ceremonial monarchy. And the United Kingdom has left indelible traces almost everywhere in the world.
Yet all of them pale in longevity and importance to the story you’re going to read today. It begins almost one and a half millennia ago. It has swept the world from Spain to Indonesia. And almost two billion people follow its teachings today. I’m talking about Islam, of course (you read the headline, didn’t you?).
The story of early Islam is a story of a remarkable land – Arabia. It is the story of a remarkable experience – revelation. And it is the story of upheaval which was not only religious, but also social and political.Continue reading
Brazil is many things. One of the largest and most populous countries in the world. Home to an unrivalled biodiversity. A melting-pot of indigenous, European, and African culture. All of these aspects have shaped the history of this fascinating place, and it is almost criminal that in five years of blogging I have never written about Brazilian history before. I will make amends for that amidst the preparations for the bicentenary of Brazilian independence. This article aims to shed light on this atypical, and, in many ways incomplete decolonization process. As I assume most of my readership is unfamiliar with Brazilian history, I’ll give a quick rundown of Brazil’s colonial history and the dramatic events of the Napoleonic period which acted as catalyst for Brazil’s independence before going into the independence process itself. As you rightly expect, board games will feature on the way – yet I have to warn you that there are way too few which are published so far.Continue reading
Back to the book & game pairings to educate & entertain about a certain historical topic! Today, we’re looking at the power struggles of the 18th century with Britain and France occupying center stage, often called the Second Hundred Years’ War. Our book & game for this topic are The Rise of the Great Powers 1648—1815 (Derek McKay/H.M. Scott) and Imperial Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games).
Check out my previous Book & Game posts here:Continue reading
This article was originally published in the first issue of Conflicts of Interest magazine. You can read the entire zine – with its excellent articles on topics ranging from queer history in the 18th century over tips for Vassal play to a full re-skinning of a game on a 20th-century American scandal to fit 17th century Britain – here for free!
The wealth of popular depictions sets Vikings apart from less-common game subjects. When designers come up with a Viking game, they know that their audience already has a preconceived notion of what will be featured therein.
Of course, one of the most popular conceptions of vikinghood is combat. Because the historical Vikings spent most of their time farming, crafting, trading, raising children and a wealth of other non-violent activities, combat and battle is often blown well out of proportion in popular depictions. Most of these base their interpretation on the frequent Viking raids from which their name is derived: a “Viking”, originally, was the term for the raid rather than for the people who undertook it.
In this article, we’ll examine depictions of Viking combat in five of the most popular board games with a Viking theme. “Combat”, for the purposes of this article, encompasses typical Viking raids, full-blown wars, and other forms of organized struggle by these predominantly Scandinavian seafaring people.
Welcome back to the third and last part of the Barbarossa miniseries! Now that we’ve looked at Barbarossa’s earlier and later life until his death, one would think we’re done with him. Far from it! Barbarossa had an active afterlife in the memory and myth of those who lived after him.Continue reading
Welcome back to the second part of the Life & Games of Frederick Barbarossa! In the first part, we’ve seen how this fascinating medieval emperor gave everything to establish imperial rule over the Italian cities and the pope in the first 25 years of his reign. In his later years, which are the subject of this post, his style of governance changed – Barbarossa turned from a universalist aiming for the highest goals into a pragmatic politician (who still conducted ambitious projects). These relate to Italy, the stomping ground of his early years as a ruler, to Burgundy and Germany, the western and northern parts of his empire, and finally, even to the Middle East whence he crusaded in the last years of his life.Continue reading
900 years ago, one of the most famous and fascinating rulers of the Middle Ages was born: Frederick of Hohenstaufen, who would be the first emperor of his name. He is known more commonly by his nickname “Barbarossa” – Redbeard. While not nearly all of his enterprises succeeded, the sheer amount of them – and how close he came in fulfilling even his highest ambition – leaves the modern onlooker in awe.
This is the first of three parts on his life & games, dealing with his early life and the rise to emperorship, his first failure and success, and his protracted struggle with the pope and the Italian cities. Future parts will look at Barbarossa’s later life and his legacy.Continue reading
Back to the book & game pairings to educate and entertain about a certain historical topic! After our kickoff with the Eastern Front of World War II, we’ll go a little bit further back in time, landing in the early 16th century: The Reformation is shaking up Europe, and powerful rulers try to make the most of these turbulent times… both in Four Princes (John Julius Norwich) and Here I Stand (Ed Beach, GMT Games).Continue reading