måndag, augusti 10

Important people in world history

I played Through the Ages with a few friends yesterday. It's a very good boardgame, although it's a little bit too abstract and mathematical for my taste, I much prefer more visual and straightforward, but still strategic, games like A Game of Thrones and the godawesome Twilight Imperium.

Still, Through the Ages is fun, but there's something that irks me severely. And I know I'm likely the only person in the world or so that gets disturbed by stuff like this, but this is my blogg, and thus I'll complain as much as I could ever want.

Through the Ages is so damn eurocentric. It's about building a lasting civilisation, from antiquity to modern times, and surpassing all other civilisations in terms of cultural dominance. To achieve this, you can use a lot of different cards like buildings, strategies, and so forth, and there's leader cards that feature historically important persons that aids your civilisation.

And almost everyone is european, and the selection of persons is generally dull and predictable. we have, for example, Aristoteles, Platon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Isaac Newton, Barbarossa, Jeanne D'Arc, Winston Churchill (man what?), William Shakespeare...the few non-european choices that I remember are Hammurabi, Ghandi and Chinggis Khan.

So, I'm gonna, just for fun, put together a better list of suitable leaders for a game like this. A good leader should be both a colorful person, and one of considerable historical importance. In the latter aspect, I would say that both Churchill and Jeanne D'Arc fail, for example - they were important all right, but not spectacularly so. The choices should also be varied; both Jesus, Buddha and Confucius was extremely influental people of the ancient world, but having all three in a game with only about four-five leaders in each era would be kinda...boring. Actually, variety is what I'll pay the most attention to, both in regards to the skills and ethnicites of the candidates:

I would suggest:

Cyrus the Great - the first ruler of a big, multicultural empire, and the one who invented the structure upon which many later empires were built.
Aristoteles is already in the game, and was a good choice, his ideas were fundamental for later thinking both in Europe and the Islamic world.
Augustus was much more important than the more famous Julius Caesar. Augustus laid the foundation for much of the Roman empire's achievements, which would have a lasting and utterly enormous influence on western history and culture.
Imhotep was a polymath (poet, chancellor, engineer, architect, physicist) during Egypt's third dynasty. So awesome was he, that he was elevated to godhood and worshipped as god of medicine and healing for thousands of years.
Buddha or Confucius could represent eastern civilisations and their ideas and thoughts. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, was also extremely important; he founded an imperial structure that lasted for two thousand years. His indian counterpart would be Ashoka the Great. Another asian that is generally considered to have been among the most influental people ever to have lived is Cai Lun, although he's not that spectacular as a person, it's more about a little thing: he invented paper. Still, he ranks a fuckin' seven on Hart's famous list of History's Most Influental People.

Medieval times:
Muhammed is number #1 on Harts list, I choice I would agree with. He founded both a major world religion and a major world empire, no one else has ever done that.
Avicenna or Averroes should represent islamic philosophy and science. While Averroes has been called 'the father of secular thought in Europe', Avicenna discovered the contagious nature of diseases, the concept of momentum in physices, and an almost improbable range of other important stuff.
Chinggis Khan and his successors conquered almost the entire world, which should speak for itself, really. I personally would attribute a lot of the mongol's successes to Chinggis' chief strategist Subotaï though, who outlived him for many years. Contrary to popular belief, Chinggis was long since dead when the mongol empire reached its greatest extent; his successor's achieved that partly due to the genius of Subotaï.
As for Europe, it is true that the middle ages have an undeservedly bad reputation, but it's likewise true that asian civilisations were much more awesome than european ones during this time. Still, if one feel the absolute need to include any european (for which, really, Averroes should otherwise suffice as he was from muslim Andalusia), I'd spontaneously vote for Charlemagne, who founded the Holy Roman Empire and unified Europe. I'm open for other suggestions though, just put a comment in.

There's not many, if any, artists that have been influental on history as a whole. Still, one or two should be included in a game like this, as it really is about cultural dominance. For the Middle Ages, I'd suggest Dante or Guillaume de Machaut, as I like them so much, but it's probably best to save the artist for the next era:

Early modern times:
I can almost only think of europeans here :/
Leonardo da Vinci was a colorful figure, as was Michelangelo. Neither of them was that influental, really, but we need some artist. The original game has Shakespeare, which is probably a better choice really, I'm just so fucking tired of him.
Isaac Newton is also in the original game, and deservedly so.
Vasco da Gama or Magellan would be better and more colorful representants for the age of discovery than Columbus, who's in the original game. Henry the Navigator or Zheng He would be more unusual but interesting choices, but the latter was medieval, really.
Lorenzo the Magnificent ruled Florence for a great part of the early renaissance, and was a very important patron of the arts and sciences.
As for the compulsory military leader, well...maybe Peter the Great? Shaka Zulu was certainly not very important in the larger perspective, but an interesting and capable person nonetheless.

Modern times:
The original game has Tesla (well, its a czech game), Churchill, Ghandi, Einstein I think, and a nameless 'Game designer'. I'd go with:
Simon Bolivar, the founding father of several latin american countries.
Cecil Rhodes, to represent capitalism and imperialistic thought.
Karl Marx was certainly very influental, but Lenin makes a better leader. I'd go for Mao though, as we want more non-europeans in the game. On the other hand, maybe Bolivar covers the 'charismatic leader/visionary'-part already, let's try something else:
As scientists/philosophers go, maybe Darwin or Freud? Louis Pasteur ranks very, very high on Hart's list, he could also be a good choice, but we already have a doctor, Avicenna, in the list.
Anyhow, last but not least, the game designer slot: Gary Gygax, the father of D&D, is the obvious choice here, as he've had a tremendous impact on gaming of all kinds, and thus nerd culture as a whole.

What about women?
Well, there's really a severe lack of women that have been influental on history as a whole. Still, the game should try to squeeze in at least one or two, I think, as I've already made many choices more based on ethnicity/variety/coolness than actual historical importance. A few suggestions:

Enheduanna, first writer known by name, priestess in Ur.
Nefertiti, queen of Egypt; a bust of her is thought to have influenced western standards of beauty, and she seems to have been co-regent with her husband Akhenaten, who might have been an alien too boot ;-D
Wu Zetian, the only empress regnant of China.
Fatimah, daughter of Muhammed.
Anna Komnena, byzantine princess of Byzantium :-), and one of the first female historians.
Aliénor of Aquitaine, one of the most powerful women in medieval Europe.
Töregene, de-facto ruler of the Mongol Empire for a few years.
Two influental nuns were Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Ávila, the former a multi-talented scholar and composer, the latter a mystic and writer.
Isabella I of Castille is on Hart's list.
La Malinche, an amerindian mistress of Hernán Cortéz who aided in the downfall of Mesoamerican civilisation.
Maria Theresia, Holy Roman empress, a 'key figure in the politics of 18th century Europe'.
In the 18th and 19th century, there's lots of female writers and/or thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft.
In the 20th century, there's Golda Meir, the 'iron lady of Israel', Indira Ghandi, and others. As female scientists go, we've got Marie Curie, Marija Gimbutas (sorry, I couldn't help myself)...

Well. That's it. I'm open for other suggestions.

/Ola, bored now