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If you are not interested in history, or how it affects a game’s value or balance, don’t go on reading this post. This is for history fans or people who thinks history is a key question when designing and playing a game

First of all, thanks Julien and team for producing and developing this game. Second, sorry for the mistakes, I am not a native English speaker. This is a brief introduction to “The God Kings” (TGK). I am more a historian; (bachelor in Ancient History) than a player and I value the games not only for the components or playability but for their historicity as well.

I will not discuss rules interpretation, there are some mates who have done it in the forum section and I agree to them.

TGK covers a forgotten time in wargaming; few games, Kadesh being the main focus and with others the game designers have copied previous systems that worked into the era.

Julien has made a good work, the engine of the game being CDG puts some restrains into the players not allowing them to move whenever or wherever they wish; the random activity points of the cards simulates well the limits of the period to coordinate armies and communicate smoothly among them.

Besides it covers a long time favourite of myself, Mitanni, the unknown Hurrian kingdom, always shadowed in wargaming (and in real history also) by Egyptians, Hittites and Assyrians. To play Mitanni in the game is a challenging proposition. Actually starts as the power horse but with enemies all around, its position ressembles that of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France two centuries ago.

The Deus ex machina resource brings Assyria to life and ends Mitanni participation into the game. From a playing point of view a nice and refreshing idea; the player now acts as the powerful and ambitious king of the Middle Assyrian Empire.

From a historical point of view I think some of these points are missing or underdeveloped in the game:

Trade is not a key question in the game. There are some cards that reward players with victory points if they jointly control some provinces. Besides during the reinforcement phase tribute and wood points are used to build and replace units. However Hatseptshut expedition to Punt, gold and lapis lazuli trade between Egypt and Kassites, metal routes to and from Anatolia are abstracted. Besides the cities and principalities of Ugarit, Aleppo, Alalakh, Mari and Emar were important trade centers. I understand it is very difficult to integrate all these items in the game but trade should have received a better deal. It is a minor issue in an otherwise very good game.

Amarna period. Certainly there are unrest, invasions and cards that impede movement of the armies with ease but Amarna and its succession are not represented into the game. My opinion is that Egypts in the turn running from 1350-1325 should receive some kind of movement restriction and should not be allowed to reinforce its army according to the general rules. Though Amarna history is not clear at all, seems that unrest, even low level unrest, did exist. One of the reasons of the successes of Suppiluliuma of Hatti during this epoch, no doubt was the low profile of Egypt in the region after the “golden times” of Thutmoses III, Amenhotep II, Thutmoses IV and Amenhotep III. This issue, in my opinion is a little more important than previous one.

Hittites and Anatolia. If someone is interested in the hitittes, Trevor R. Bryce, “The Kingdom of the Hittites” is a must. Hittite expansion and further control of Anatolia was not as easy and smooth as the game might suggest. Arzawa and Assuwa confederations were a nightmare for the hittites, before and after conquest. Maybe some random rebellion when the hittite chariots try to put PC markers on their lands could help. The original plan of the game otherwise makes sense. Hittites must spend the first turns occupying Anatolia to get points, trade, wood and additional forces. Meanwhile Egypt and Mitanni play an adult game in Syria. I am working with some house rule to amend it.

Rebellions, unrest, barbarians. Julien does a good work. He introduces Gasga, Sumer, Karkemish and Meggido among others. But forgets Nubia. During this period there were several military operations in Nubia, mainly to protect the gold routes. They were not an enemy similar to the Lybians who could invade but hundreds of soldiers went South on behalf of the Pharaoh. Elam was a thorn in the Kassite kingdom. A player can easily (like the hittites in Anatolia), walk over the area and it was not the case. And finally the Gasga, Hattusa was burned twice by them and they were a continous disturbance and danger for the hittites. Habiru and Amorites troubles ought to be more devastating.

Kassites. They kept normally a low profile. Elam was a problem; Assyria also; they were in good terms with Mitanni, some rebellions in the deep South. The actual game forces them, especially in 4 player games to attack Mitanni, adding their forces to the demise of the hurrian kingdom. This is totally ahistorical. Generally speaking they were in good terms with Egypt, more concerned with keeping Babylonians happy and building ziggurats than in military expansion except for Elam and Assyria. Mitanni, we do not know if reluctantly or not, accepted their control or monitoring of Mari.
The real problems for the Kassites appeared with Assur-uballit and the expansion of the Middle Assyrian kingdom. From that moment on they are a big player but more on the defensive than on the offensive
I have played solitary, the three player campaign game and I think it is the best way to simulate history. With the Assyrian resurrection, the deus ex machine mechanism should provide a way to better simulate Kassite attitude, perhaps with two neutrals rounds instead of one, or forcing its activation if Assyrians move into Arraphia or Mari.

Mitanni. How to simulate a kingdom that during 150 years was a power force in the Middle East when historians are not even sure where its capital lies and when almost all the knowledge we possess comes from their rivals or subjected principalities. We cannot state without doubts if there were two states, Hurri and Mitanni despite the fact that moders historians seem to agree there was only one kingdom and two (or more) names. What about their language, and the realtionship between the hurrians and maryannu? But in my opinion they are the key to the game, what really makes this game different.

Assyria was a vassal and sometimes a rival. Some event should exist allowing in some turn a big rebellion, forcing the Mitannians to turn their forces to the east to protect Hanigalbat, otherwise Assyrians can overthrow their former masters years in advance of real life.

Diplomacy. Very few diplomacy. It is all related to give a card, reach and agreement to get 1 or 2 victory points and cede some territory with Pc markers to another player. What it really lacks is the possibility to attract neutrals. Amurru principalities, Aleppo, Ugarit and especially Kadesh, Megiddo, Kizzuwatna and Karkemish were minor but influential players during these centuries. Maybe they could be independent principalities with weak forces but able to ally with the superpowers and provide military aid and tribute.
Yes, I know, this is a big change, means a totally new game design

End of Mitanni and Assyria. This period was long, very confusing and the mitannian royal princes were used as pawns by their powerful neighbours to get territorial advantages. Certainly indeed, the power vacuum created by the dissapearance of the chariot people, was occupied by the Middle Assyrian kingdom but the hittites, at least at the beginning kept the upper hand under Suppiluliuma.
I have read that by mistake Compass printed a counter for Tushratta. Some way this counter can be used to create a totally new scenario for the end of the mitannians.

I am writing some rules and ideas and I hope I will be able to upload to the forum in some days. General idea just in case someone wants to help.I know there are a lot of amateur designers out there, I am not, so if anyone knows how to make playable all the stuff I have written I would greatly appreciate.

I have read that by mistake Compass printed a counter for Tushratta. Some way this counter can be used to create a totally new scenario for the end of the mitannians.Let's imagine Artatama I counter becomes Artatama II and he have two claimants for the throne.
Mitanni sunset should encompass some turbulence and allow Hitittes and Assyrians to replay history and try to impose their candidate to the throne before substituting the blue counters for the maroon ones. So Mitanni units, maybe a portion of the total forces and showing only the weakest side would stay one more turn on the map, acting as mercenaries and mixing with “their protectors”. During one turn the players could move and manoeuvre to occupy the land getting some victory points. Next turn the mitannians are gone forever.



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Jim F
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Hemsh wrote:

We cannot state without doubts if there were two states, Hurri and Mitanni despite the fact that moders historians seem to agree there was only one kingdom and two (or more) names. What about their language, and the realtionship between the Hurrians and Maryannu?


Having done my dissertation on Jewish identity under Roman occupation I found the lack of verifiable sources a very frustrating process. Spin the wheel back over a thousand years prior to that and the issue of tweaking game play for greater 'historical accuracy' becomes, for me at least, a bit of a non-issue. I can only wish you luck with your quest.



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Excellent write-up. A few comments from my perspective. If I don't comment on a section, it probably just means I thought your comments were right on point.

Trade - I agree that trade was a major driving force for a lot of the wars at this time. To have the control of resources other than wood (especially tin early on) would be nice, however I wonder what it would do to complexity and play length. I have already seen some people complaining about the bookkeeping involved.

Armana period - On the surface, what you say makes some sense. That being said, we are talking about a game that only gives a sense of history. If we played an exact simulation, I don't think it would be as much fun. The Armana period can be abstracted as "the Egyptians drew lousy cards that turn." I guess one could introduce random events into the game, however IMO the cards pretty much do that already.

Hittites and Anatolia - I really, really want to get a copy of Bryce's book. I know it is considered "THE" book on the Hittites, and its not cheap. The Hittites interest me a lot and I recently finished J.G. MacQueen's The Hittites and Their Contemporaries in Asia Minor (although mine might be 2nd or 3rd edition, it has a black and white cover). It was good, and I want more! I agree they did not have a smooth conquest, and again the addition of random revolts may be adding too much randomness to a card driven game.

Kassites - I agree with your observation here. Again, putting them in as an expansionist power changes history, however it may make for a better game.

Diplomacy - What you suggest reminds me of the old game Blitzkreig, where minor powers had their own armies. It might be interesting to have a variant where players could bid VPs to sway a minor to their side during a turn. At the same time, that's adding complexity to the game.

I think a lot of what you talk about is great, and I also think it could spawn a different type of game on this period driven more by diplomacy and trade than by the military aspects.
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For anyone with an interest in learning more on this period, I got a lot of value from the Ancient Empires Before Alexander course from The Teaching Company/Great Courses. I also recently listened to Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor, and its scope is really well past the period covered by The God Kings. I would say that History of Ancient Egypt is probably the single most entertaining course I've ever listened to from The Teaching Company, although again much of its scope is past the period of The God Kings.

All of these courses go on sale periodically for a LOT cheaper than their retail price, usually about 70% or more off. So unless you really, really need to listen to one now, I'd wait for a sale.
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
For anyone with an interest in learning more on this period, I got a lot of value from the Ancient Empires Before Alexander course from The Teaching Company/Great Courses. I also recently listened to Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor, and its scope is really well past the period covered by The God Kings. I would say that History of Ancient Egypt is probably the single most entertaining course I've ever listened to from The Teaching Company, although again much of its scope is past the period of The God Kings.

All of these courses go on sale periodically for a LOT cheaper than their retail price, usually about 70% or more off. So unless you really, really need to listen to one now, I'd wait for a sale.


i can still get most of them from our local library too
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grafpoo wrote:
Joshuaaaaaa wrote:
For anyone with an interest in learning more on this period, I got a lot of value from the Ancient Empires Before Alexander course from The Teaching Company/Great Courses. I also recently listened to Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor, and its scope is really well past the period covered by The God Kings. I would say that History of Ancient Egypt is probably the single most entertaining course I've ever listened to from The Teaching Company, although again much of its scope is past the period of The God Kings.

All of these courses go on sale periodically for a LOT cheaper than their retail price, usually about 70% or more off. So unless you really, really need to listen to one now, I'd wait for a sale.


i can still get most of them from our local library too


Interesting. I don't know if my local library carries these. I'll have to check! Even at sale prices, they can add up, and there are sooooo many I want to hear.

Edit: Okay, my library district does have a LOT of these courses. Unfortunately, about half of them are on DVD and I prefer CD so I can listen to my car, and its still going to be a great resource!
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Hello!

first of all, many thanks Hemsh for your long and thoughtful post, I really appreciate it and discussing the fabulous history of the ancient near east, a period I falled in love with many years ago.

Quote:
First of all, thanks Julien and team for producing and developing this game.


Thanks, it was a hard work, much harder that I would have thought, but I am very happy to see my first game coming to life with those beautiful components. again, thanks for Tim and Neil for their great work, and Compass for having trusted me in this matter.

Quote:
TGK covers a forgotten time in wargaming; few games, Kadesh being the main focus and with others the game designers have copied previous systems that worked into the era.


It was the conclusion I reached many years ago when I started the designing work on the God Kings. It was lacking a strategical game on this fascinating period.

Quote:
Julien has made a good work, the engine of the game being CDG puts some restrains into the players not allowing them to move whenever or wherever they wish;


Thanks a lot, Hemsh! It was really important for me to keep GK on historical rails. I didn't want to see an Egyptian army conquering Elam, for example, or behaving in an ahistorical way...

Quote:
Besides it covers a long time favourite of myself, Mitanni, the unknown Hurrian kingdom, always shadowed in wargaming (and in real history also) by Egyptians, Hittites and Assyrians. To play Mitanni in the game is a challenging proposition. Actually starts as the power horse but with enemies all around, its position ressembles that of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France two centuries ago.


Yes, exactly. It's really amazing how such a Kingdom as Mitanni, that held a dominant position in the Near East for a long time, is ignored today. We aren't even sure today where was situated its capital city.

Quote:
From a historical point of view I think some of these points are missing or underdeveloped in the game:


Before answering your thoughtful points, I just wanted to say that my main concern with the GK was to keep it the simplest possible, with a reasonnable play time. I also wanted some chrome of course, to give an hint of the way the people of those times behaved and reacted, but I didn't wnat the chrome elements to make GK a cumbersome game.
So, some historical items were not included in the game willingly.

Quote:
Trade is not a key question in the game. There are some cards that reward players with victory points if they jointly control some provinces. Besides during the reinforcement phase tribute and wood points are used to build and replace units. However Hatseptshut expedition to Punt, gold and lapis lazuli trade between Egypt and Kassites, metal routes to and from Anatolia are abstracted. Besides the cities and principalities of Ugarit, Aleppo, Alalakh, Mari and Emar were important trade centers. I understand it is very difficult to integrate all these items in the game but trade should have received a better deal. It is a minor issue in an otherwise very good game.


Yes, your point is well taken, it's why I included the duality of tribute and wood points, symbolizing this trade activity. It was a major motivation for expeditions in Ugarit, seizing the riches of the trade cities and the cedar wood. And in the GK, you have this motivation as the wood points give you the all important chariot units (and some events too that give you VPs). But you are right, I abstracted this aspect of the game.

Quote:
Amarna period. Certainly there are unrest, invasions and cards that impede movement of the armies with ease but Amarna and its succession are not represented into the game. My opinion is that Egypts in the turn running from 1350-1325 should receive some kind of movement restriction and should not be allowed to reinforce its army according to the general rules. Though Amarna history is not clear at all, seems that unrest, even low level unrest, did exist. One of the reasons of the successes of Suppiluliuma of Hatti during this epoch, no doubt was the low profile of Egypt in the region after the “golden times” of Thutmoses III, Amenhotep II, Thutmoses IV and Amenhotep III. This issue, in my opinion is a little more important than previous one.


Yes, I read a lot about the Amarna period. Two points: an event such as the Internal Unrest simulates those kind of inner troubles in the homecountries of those kingdoms. My second point is playability. I had to make some choice between a strict historicity and playability. I didn't want to inflict on the Egyptian player an additional penality. Those Amarna troubles are after all a possibility. If the internal unrest is played, they did take place in the game, if not, the Egyptian Pharaoh managed somehow to control this issue. It's the beauty of the CDG engine, it allows this kind of reasoning.

Quote:
Hittites and Anatolia. If someone is interested in the hitittes, Trevor R. Bryce, “The Kingdom of the Hittites” is a must. Hittite expansion and further control of Anatolia was not as easy and smooth as the game might suggest. Arzawa and Assuwa confederations were a nightmare for the hittites, before and after conquest. Maybe some random rebellion when the hittite chariots try to put PC markers on their lands could help. The original plan of the game otherwise makes sense. Hittites must spend the first turns occupying Anatolia to get points, trade, wood and additional forces. Meanwhile Egypt and Mitanni play an adult game in Syria. I am working with some house rule to amend it.


Yes, you are true, the hittite conquest was a bit more complicated that it is depicted in the GK. I simplified it to make the Hatti player more turned with interacting with the other players even right from the beginning of the game. An Hittite attack on Kizzuwadna can prevent an automatic Mitannian victory early in the game. I hesitated about creating an event card simulating the conflict with the Arzawa and Issuwa, but in the end, I decided to let the revolt cards play their role, that is to remove the PC from troublesome provinces. But an event akin to the Karkemish or sumerian revolts would be nice and appropriate.
Please post your house rule on BGG.

Quote:
Rebellions, unrest, barbarians. Julien does a good work. He introduces Gasga, Sumer, Karkemish and Meggido among others. But forgets Nubia. During this period there were several military operations in Nubia, mainly to protect the gold routes. They were not an enemy similar to the Lybians who could invade but hundreds of soldiers went South on behalf of the Pharaoh. Elam was a thorn in the Kassite kingdom. A player can easily (like the hittites in Anatolia), walk over the area and it was not the case. And finally the Gasga, Hattusa was burned twice by them and they were a continous disturbance and danger for the hittites. Habiru and Amorites troubles ought to be more devastating.


Concerning Nubia, many Egyptian expeditions in Nubia were more of projection of the Kingdom's might in Nubia, to protect their gold trade, more than a protection against a nubian invasion.
Concerning Elam, there is an invading Barbarian counter for the troublesome Elamites.
The Habiru and Amorites troubels are convered by the various raids cards that cancel the tribute value of a Province for a given turn.

Quote:
Kassites. They kept normally a low profile. Elam was a problem; Assyria also; they were in good terms with Mitanni, some rebellions in the deep South. The actual game forces them, especially in 4 player games to attack Mitanni, adding their forces to the demise of the hurrian kingdom. This is totally ahistorical. Generally speaking they were in good terms with Egypt, more concerned with keeping Babylonians happy and building ziggurats than in military expansion except for Elam and Assyria. Mitanni, we do not know if reluctantly or not, accepted their control or monitoring of Mari.
The real problems for the Kassites appeared with Assur-uballit and the expansion of the Middle Assyrian kingdom. From that moment on they are a big player but more on the defensive than on the offensive
I have played solitary, the three player campaign game and I think it is the best way to simulate history. With the Assyrian resurrection, the deus ex machine mechanism should provide a way to better simulate Kassite attitude, perhaps with two neutrals rounds instead of one, or forcing its activation if Assyrians move into Arraphia or Mari.


It's true that the Kassites kept essentially a low profile during this period, except with the confrontation with the nascent Assyrian empire.
But it would have meant bypassing the opportunity to make TGK a four players game instead of a three Players game. I chose to make TGK a four players game, while giving the players the opportunity to play it with three people (at three players, I indicated in the playbook to make the Kassites Babylonia a neutral power).
But, as always with wargames, the transformation of an historical situation leads to ahistorical behaviours, and far more aggressivity that was historically witnessed.

Quote:
Mitanni. How to simulate a kingdom that during 150 years was a power force in the Middle East when historians are not even sure where its capital lies and when almost all the knowledge we possess comes from their rivals or subjected principalities. We cannot state without doubts if there were two states, Hurri and Mitanni despite the fact that moders historians seem to agree there was only one kingdom and two (or more) names. What about their language, and the realtionship between the hurrians and maryannu? But in my opinion they are the key to the game, what really makes this game different.

Assyria was a vassal and sometimes a rival. Some event should exist allowing in some turn a big rebellion, forcing the Mitannians to turn their forces to the east to protect Hanigalbat, otherwise Assyrians can overthrow their former masters years in advance of real life.


Mitanni holds still its mysteries, but much can be assumed by reading the source of their neighbours. It's a fascinating kingdoms, really, I hope someday that we will discover more about it.
now, when you do a game on an ancient subject, much is left to some dose of subjectivity, and I portrayed the Hurrian Kingdom in TGK in a way that is, I think and hope, coherent.

Concerning Assyria, the province is not under Mitannian power at the beginning of the game, the Kingdom has to divert some forces to conquer it. After that, a revolt event will be regularly played on it, sas it is a strong province in term of VP and tribute points. An Assyrian revolt event could be possible, but I didn't want to further add a threat to the poor Mitannian player who has already his hands full...

Quote:
Diplomacy. Very few diplomacy. It is all related to give a card, reach and agreement to get 1 or 2 victory points and cede some territory with Pc markers to another player. What it really lacks is the possibility to attract neutrals. Amurru principalities, Aleppo, Ugarit and especially Kadesh, Megiddo, Kizzuwatna and Karkemish were minor but influential players during these centuries. Maybe they could be independent principalities with weak forces but able to ally with the superpowers and provide military aid and tribute.
Yes, I know, this is a big change, means a totally new game design


Yes, it's a major change, changing the dynamics of the game and complexifying it, but it could make without doubt an interesting variant.

Quote:
I am writing some rules and ideas and I hope I will be able to upload to the forum in some days. General idea just in case someone wants to help.I know there are a lot of amateur designers out there, I am not, so if anyone knows how to make playable all the stuff I have written I would greatly appreciate.


Let's post them on the forum and I will help with pleasure if you wish.

Quote:
I have read that by mistake Compass printed a counter for Tushratta. Some way this counter can be used to create a totally new scenario for the end of the mitannians.Let's imagine Artatama I counter becomes Artatama II and he have two claimants for the throne.
Mitanni sunset should encompass some turbulence and allow Hitittes and Assyrians to replay history and try to impose their candidate to the throne before substituting the blue counters for the maroon ones. So Mitanni units, maybe a portion of the total forces and showing only the weakest side would stay one more turn on the map, acting as mercenaries and mixing with “their protectors”. During one turn the players could move and manoeuvre to occupy the land getting some victory points. Next turn the mitannians are gone forever.


You know, it's funny, as late in the developpement of TGK, there was a rule a bit similar to what you write. Essentially, the Mitannian forces stayed on the board as neutral nation forces beginning turn 6 until they were destroyed. Hanigalbat could be conquered, they didn't reformed themselves during the reinforcement phase. I decided in the end to cut that rule as it added some more exception rules to the game, and I wanted to keep it streamlined, but if there is interest, I can post them on the forum as a variant.

Thanks again for your post, I enjoeyd it immensely. To talk about this histrical period is a joy for me that I can seldom experience!

Julien
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Joshuaaaaaa wrote:


Edit: Okay, my library district does have a LOT of these courses. Unfortunately, about half of them are on DVD and I prefer CD so I can listen to my car, and its still going to be a great resource!


my library has a lot of newer ones on DVD as well, and i find it annoying. they are great on CD for commuting - i'm not going to sit down and watch them at home though.

i looked up that History of Ancient Egypt one you mentioned above, and my library has that... on cassette tape. sigh
 
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Bonjour Julien,

Thank you for your answer. In my opinion the game is very good. I have taken the time to write such a long comment because there are not too many games that I am interested in, both by its historicity and final result; and this is one of them.

I understand perfectly that a balance has to be reached between playability and history and generally speaking you got it. Another favourite of mine is "Assyrian Wars" and despite the differences both show great ideas.

Having wargaming for more than 20 years, like many of us, an old time favourite was "Imperium Romanum II". A monster, too ambitiuous, full of history but maybe lacking more fun than playability. The God Kings succeeds in this, an outstanding game faithful to Middle East history as a whole despite the minor points I commented that did not harm anyway the game.

C'est un bon travail, Merci beaucoup pour ton effort.

À bientôt
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Merci beaucoup, cela me fait plaisir !

I am very flattered by the comparison of TGK with Imperium Romanum II, which is somewhat for me a mythic game. I own it, was and still is fascinated by it as I love roman history too, and played some games.
Thanks!

And I would like to post your interesting mail on the Consimworld forum of TGK. May I have your permission for doing so, please?

Julien
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[q=
And I would like to post your interesting mail on the Consimworld forum of TGK. May I have your permission for doing so, please?

Julien[/q]


Bien sûr, it is your game, you can do whatever you think suits it best. Let's see if TGK becomes a classic!!!
 
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