City of the Devil by Richard Hands
A megagame of heresy, crusade, inquisition, war and high politics in early 13th century Europe.
London (South), 1st December 2018
"When the final judgement is imminent the whole City of Christ shall be assailed by the City of the Devil."
St Augustine; 'The City of God'
St Augustine saw all of human existance as a conflict between two 'cities' - the City of God, which to him represented the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation, the Catholic Church, and the promise of eternal life through Christ, and the other, the Earthly City, or the City of the Devil, which represented all that he considered base and profane - humanity's tendency to greed, violence and sin. Guess which this is about...
My first Megagame, City of God, run in 2001, was about the Third Crusade, and its attempt to retake the holy city of Jerusalem from Saladin. But I've always felt that the politics back home in Europe were more interesting than the Crusades they spawned. So this game, City of the Devil, is intended to be the yang to the yin of my earliest game, and while it deals with a period of religious warfare and persecution, and even includes a potential Fifth Crusade to the Holy Land, it focuses mainly on the all-too earthly concerns of the princes of Europe. It takes as its starting point the year 1209, the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France, 17 years on from the end of the Third Crusade, and appropriately 17 years on from my City of God game.
The game is an exploration of real history, with players taking the roles of the most powerful figures in early 13th century Europe - kings, princes, emirs, archbishops and heads of religious orders, and of course the Pope. It covers power struggles, war, and the battle for souls across Europe, from Scotland to Turkey. If you have enjoyed games like Renaissance and Reformation or The Spanish Road, then this may be for you. The game will take place around six main maps, covering the British Isles, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, Italy and Greece/the Aegean, as well as a potential breakout map for the Holy Land if a Crusade does get going.
It is a time when many different struggles briefly interlinked through dynastic connections and the attempts of the Papacy to assert its authority throughout Christendom.
In Spain, the Christian Kingdoms of Aragon, Portugal, Castille and the powerful military Order of Santiago are engaged in the Reconquista against the Moorish Empire of the Almohads. In France, the Pope has lost patience with the heresy of the Cathars in the south and directed a new and strange form of Crusade - against people who declare themselves to be Christian. And at the same time, following the disaster of the Fourth Crusade, which destroyed the Byzantine Empire, Jerusalem remains under the control of the Sultan of Egypt and Syria (though Saladin is long dead and his squabbling sons and nephews are not the power he once was), and Pope Innocent is determined a new, Fifth Crusade will attempt to regain it.
But politics, as always, intervenes. King John of England is in dispute with the Pope over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and has been excommunicated. In return, he has seized all Church lands in England and appropriated their revenues. But his many enemies have seen the Pope's disapproval as an excuse to advance their own agendas, and he now faces troubles in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and from rebellious barons within his own Kingdom. And he still continues to bleed England of tax money, trying to build up a big enough pot to pay for a mighty army to re-take Normandy and reclaim his ancestral lands that he lost five years earlier.
This quarrel feeds into the disunited politics of the French Kingdom, facing rebellious vassals in Flanders and Poitou while also trying to heed the Pope's call to crusade in the south. The Count of Toulouse finds himself on the receiving end of this Crusade and in return has called upon his own master, King Peter 'the Catholic' of Aragon. Rival Castille meanwhile looks upon England's threatened lands in Aquitaine with interest.
And in Germany and Italy, Otto of Saxony fights a civil war against Frederick Hohenstauffen, King of Sicily and Duke of Swabia, for the title of Holy Roman Emperor. The Pope currently favours Frederick and has excommunicated Otto, who also happens to be John of England's nephew. The Italian maritime republics of Pisa, Genoa and Venice also shift allegiances, according to who is most likely to leave them alone, while fighting for influence in the Mediterranean and Aegean, especially now that the fall of the Byzantine Empire has opened up the area for new trading opportunities. There, in Constantinople the new Latin Emperor is fighting to keep his fragmented lands together, menaced by the Bulgars, the Seljuk Turks, the remnants of Byzantium (including the wonderfully-named Despot of Epirus) and dissent within his own ranks.
Finally, the Church continues to try and convert souls to Christ as well as preach and direct the new Crusades, but also finds itself caught between the rivalries of the Benedictines and Cistercians and the Knights Templar and Hospitaller, with the new orders of Franciscans and Dominicans also fighting for influence. Growing intolerance of unorthodox ways of thought has encouraged the new Inquisition, and will famously lead the Papal legate to the Albigensian Crusade, the head of the Cistercian Order, to command his soldiers: "kill them all: the Lord will know His own."
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© Megagame Makers 2018