Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On the theme of Crusaders

The Crusades were a thing that happened in history, and with them are associated myriad things -- not the least of which were atrocities committed in the name of religious war. There are some who have seen the title of my new game on kickstarter, Crusaders: Thy Will be Done, and assuming it is based on those atrocities, have decided it's not for them -- which, to be clear, is perfectly fine. However, just to let everyone know where I was coming from, here's how I came to that theme and title.  If you are a long-time reader of my blog, then you probably know this already: 

Originally, the theme was the Knights Templar. Players would increase the influence of the Templars until such time as King Philip freaks out and disbands them. However, as players competed with each other to win the game, it didn't make a lot of sense for them all to be Templars, so I looked up a bunch of other similar factions. Sure, they weren't all active at the same time, and they didn't all suffer the same fate as the Knights Templar -- but this was never intended to be historically accurate to begin with, so I took some artistic license there. But now that there were other factions, I needed a title that made sense, one that incorporated various different militaristic orders of knights, and preferably one which sounded cool. "Crusaders" made sense, as many of those orders were notably involved with the crusades.

That said, the game is mostly about those order building up their influence, not about the crusades themselves (and the atrocities involved there). Hence the name "Crusaders," and not "Crusades." Unfortunately, I guess those two words are similar enough, and the proximity of those orders to the action of the crusades is close enough, that some people are not going to be interested in the game just based on the theme -- and again, that's fine. There's a thread on BGG about it, which is pretty civil as complaint threads go. It's odd, on the one hand I have people saying "how can you have a game about the crusades that doesn't include the Holy Land on the map!?" (i.e. it's not realistic enough). And on the other hand I have people saying "how can you make a game glorifying wars based on hate?" (i.e. it's too realistic).

I'd take a lot of flack if I said the game wasn't about the crusades. I mean, it's called "Crusaders," and there's a "crusade" action in which you fight against [enemies that wikipedia told me those orders fought against]. So I've been saying that it's LESS about the crusades, and MORE about the orders building themselves up. But even if that information would assuage some people's concerns (and for some, it won't), they probably wouldn't get that far before getting a bad taste from the title and perceived theme :/

This is the first time I've had to wrestle with this kind of dynamic on one of my games... nobody complained about the potential genocide involved in annexing planets in Eminent Domain, and nobody worried about whether the rail workers in Isle of Trains were paid a fair wage. I've played a host of games with potentially problematic themes or dynamics, some, like the slave cards in Five Tribes, spurred a lot of discussion in various forums, while others, like assassins in Five tribes, notably didn't. 

Maybe I'm naive, but when I learned and played Puerto Rico so many years ago, it did not even occur to me that the "colonists" were de facto slaves. I just assumed they were your "workers", which meant they got paid -- just outside the scope of the game. Only years later did I notice people pointing out that the pieces used to represent the colonists were dark brown in color. I never considered that that might have been a deliberate choice, or have any meaning to the game. Even still, Puerto Rico was played by thousands, and topped the charts for a decade, despite this whole colonist/slave thing.

But I digress... As far as Crusaders is concerned, I reiterate that from my point of view, the game is about the militaristic orders building up influence until eventually disbanded by the king. I do not support the atrocities associated with the crusades, but neither do I think this game glorifies them. That was certainly not my intent.

I hope that people aren't being mislead by the theme of this game! But if you are, then maybe my comments above will help give a better idea of the extent to which the theme applies. And if it's still not your thing, then that's fine -- plenty of other games to play!


scott slomiany said...

Uh....you do realize that the cover of your game....the thing that supposedly helps draw you into the game, has a Knight Templar with a sword that is literally draining blood with a backdrop of some massive chaotic war going on, right? That's hardly a "perceived theme".

Michael Brown said...

I personally am not off-put by a theme related to the crusades time period. It is a really interesting (if sad) time period. I wouldn't want to live through them, but they are still interesting.