Lewis Pulsipher(lewpuls)United States
Three Subjects in One Blog Post
• Games are not inherently nice
• The Supernatural as an explanation of history - Bad Idea
• Heavy dependence of Ancient and Medieval armies on their specific leader
I am "old school" in the sense that I think of games as involving conflict and opposition, as challenge and mastery, not as story-telling or being nice to everyone. Games are not inherently nice.
But the latter sentence is why I stopped playing games against other people more than 40 years ago, and prefer to play co-operative games: fantasy role-playing is the epitome of co-operative game.
Add to that I dislike puzzles. so I'm not at all attracted by parallel competitions (Euro "games" commonly) even though, for the most part, they are "nice" games - if you can call them games at all.
One of the worst examples of historical "scholarship" is to attribute causation to the supernatural. The supernatural, whether gods or spirits or something else, can always be adduced as a cause of something, but explains nothing. The historian's job is to explain not only what happened but Why, and using the supernatural as a why is a waste of everyone's time.
I don't think "supernatural" exists. The trend of human history begins with suggestions that the supernatural is involved in many phenomena, then finding naturalistic explanations that don't require the supernatural. "The supernatural" keeps shrinking. Is there any reason to think this won't continue? No.
Yet even if I did believe the supernatural exists, I'd object to its use in historical scholarship. It's not an explanation.
One of the most marked, and interesting, characteristics of ancient and medieval armies was their psychological dependence on a single leader.
If their leader was killed, or even wounded, they lost heart and retreated or even broke. There's a story that William the Conqueror's horse was killed under him twice, and that nearly did in the Normans even though he was unhurt. There wasn't a clear chain of command so that a second leader could take over. Very different from modern armies, of course.
This is perhaps understandable when the leader was the king (or wannabe king), and there was no adult heir present. But it happened with non-royal generals with great frequency. Yet the leaders were expected to be in the thick of the fighting. Alexander the Great was crazy brave for a monarch, once leading an escalade on a city (Tyre?). At least once he was barely saved from battle death by a companion.
Even Napoleon took some big chances when he was younger. I should think the French army might have lost it if the later *Emperor* Napoleon had been killed in battle (there was no adult heir anywhere), but in general armies survived the loss of their leader without breaking. Many, many generals were killed during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, though rarely the commander of an army - but artillery nearly hit Wellington at Waterloo.
This heavy dependence on one leader is why the death of William or Harold, in my game Hastings 1066, makes so much difference (though less than it would have historically). Whereas in Stalingrad Besieged (1942) using a variation of the same system, there are no leaders, it's all faceless struggle.
A reminder that my “Game Design” channel on YouTube continues to offer free videos about game design, one every Thursday, nearly 300 available. I say free: I cannot control the advertising, and don’t make any money from it as I don’t have enough subscribers. The channel exists thanks to contributions from my patrons (https://www.patreon.com/LewisPulsipher).
Latest video has the LONG title "Good and weak gamers, with respect to chance and randomness, and how this affects game design" at https://youtu.be/0Kg3NbqHrAU
This blog contains comments by Dr. Lewis Pulsipher about tabletop games he is designing or has designed in the past, as well as comments on game design (tabletop and video) in general. It repeats his blog at http://pulsiphergamedesign.blogspot.com/
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