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Triptych 13: 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.

END

Comments

I wanted to add something

In your third "section" of this thread (OP), you mentioned "dependence on a single leader"... While I CAN believe there is some historical accuracy about LEADERS ... There is a FAMOUS QUOTE that I'd like to remind everyone about: "History is written by the victors."

So while I may agree that culture portrays these LEADERS as being the "heart and soul" of their respective armies... I wonder about the OVER-GLORIFICATION!

Even Napoleon said: "What is history, but a fable agreed upon?"

That's why I think this "dependence" on a leader (think about Braveheart and
William Wallace, the 13th Century Scottish warrior) and how Hollywood portraits these "charismatic" leaders as UN-DESTRUCTIBLE.

It stands to reason that Historical writers who "re-wrote" history to what we now know of it... That they too embellished the "role" and importance of their "revered Leader(s)".

Therefore I just want to make the point that much like Hollywood, the role each one of these Great Leader portrayed could well be embellished to OVER-GLORIFY these men (and Leaders) in ways of being the ones leading the charge admits the battle... is well "questionable" at best!

I agree with the OP. In

I agree with the OP. In ancient/ medieval battles the very reason for fighting might die along with the leader. The example of Harold is a good case in point. If we're fighting to keep Harold on the throne and he cops a deadly length of willow, it's more than the loss of a general - the whole point of the battle has become pretty questionable.

At the very least, we might be conscious that we've not only lost our battlefield director but also the paymaster who was guaranteeing our post-victory rewards.

Questccg, I have a Ph.D. in

Questccg, I have a Ph.D. in history (Duke 1981), and I don't care how they're portrayed in Hollywood. The dependence was very real, not some Hollywood invention. I actually wrote that big after learning a lot about the Arab expansion through the Byzantine and Sassanid empires, where the dependence made a difference several times even though the rulers were not involved in the battles.

IDK ... How so many people could be LOYAL to a leader

These days, things have changed a LOT. Nowadays you're a Leader today and tomorrow you are "Yesterday's News" especially with the Millennials...

They're re-shaping our world and forgoing the "Power Suits" and Ties for beach sandals and a swimsuit, heck even the customary "Business Card" is going to be passe soon.

I can understand how "charisma" in the eyes of the people can elect their Leader. Heck, it's not much difference nowadays (like Trump or Trudeau). Our current leaders are often elected because of "notoriety". So I see how people could be affected by a dying leader (look at JFK).

However I think that much was "re-written" post-battle. I don't care what you say, there is a reason it's called "HIS"-story. It's the STORY about the men who were in power and how they were dominant leaders. Is it the TRUTH... That I'm not 100% sure.

BTW I congratulate you on your PhD in History... It's just that I see some people as not being "neutral". Ya I get many leaders (including today) are "charismatic" individuals (and mostly males). But the STORIES that are written to me seem somewhat "questionable".

Just look at Galileo:

Quote:
Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him "vehemently suspect of heresy", sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

That's the kind of "leaders" that ruled the World during Medieval times. And you expect me to believe the "stories"... Or HISTORY! Like I said, speak badly against the reputation of a Noble and you could be hung.

So how do people portray "actual" representation of Leaders when it is dangerous to "have an opinion"...?!

BOTTOM LINE: You need to take everything with a Grain of Salt and be a little bit of a skeptic. Believing all of HISTORY as being accurate and how it evolved over time ... Is (to me) not 100% of the STORY!

And ... About the Supernatural...

I don't care if you're a Scientist or believe in Adam & Eve. Everything on this Earth was "designed" by some kind of "Supernatural" being. The questions on many people's mind these day are:

1. Does it "care" about us? Not individually but as a collective.

2. If there was no "Supernatural" being, how come "science" can't prove that it wasn't or still is "Intelligent Design"?

3. Lastly does it serve a "purpose" to worship this "Supernatural" being?

In the 21th Century ... Those are the big questions about the "Supernatural". Religion is a MAN-MADE. That is no doubt. But LIFE itself cannot be reliant on pure "randomness". Even IF there was a BIG-BANG that started life and everything came out of the ooze as single and multiple cells... The question that remains is IF the science is TRUE, how can you NOT acknowledge that there was SOMETHING "behind" the science.

It's all "science" is a stupid way of thinking. It's obvious that on some level there is "design" and we can see it in all plants and animals and even in ourselves (and we don't need to look to far, just take a look at our bodies). Why can we breath through our mouth AND our nose?! Why do we have two (2) ears not one...

But point #3 is probably the most "debatable" point.

We know that science paints themselves as in opposition to religion. Religion is HIGHLY woven around History... So to talk about "Religion" is often to talk about "History" too. But the question remains, is "God" like Nature, only worried about "the BIG picture" or is there more to it. No doubt that today we can speak of "Intelligent Design"... And that the conflict between Religion and Science is OVER. That to me is and was the missing link.

To me the Divine rules the Science (because I can't believe this world is RANDOM). To me the "Supernatural" as you call it is "resolved". But again that's my own opinion... Point #3, I'm still not sure about. Maybe you could share some of your thoughts on this matter of "supernatural"... You have an interesting perspective, no doubt!

Cheers!

Heck... I am still AMAZED by the "Quartz Watch"

How can a "crystal" or "gem" (the Quartz) resonate at a frequency that is EXACTLY the pace of a single second... This is innate rock that is found deep into the Earth's soil (you've got to DIG for this stuff...)

I'm pretty sure modern computers still rely on Quartz to track time... From what I was able to "Google" they still use Quartz today.

I know it's SCIENCE. But that a ROCK is deep down in the dirt...! Like IF something didn't want us to figure out it's "crystal" can be used to track time... It would bury it deep down in the ground. So what do we do... We dig it up and low and behold the "science" shows that we have MATERIAL of SOME SORT that allows to produce timepieces...

Freaking Amazing! That's the kind of "science" that I LOVE...

And about that "stupid" ROCK (the Quartz)

We base just about "everything" around it:

A> We plan our meals

B> We plan our activities

C> It controls our devices

D> It allows us to track seasons (based on dates)

That ROCK is at the center of each and everyone of our lives... And like "WHO" thought up the "ROCK" (the Quartz)... Not some human being... We didn't INVENT the rock... We found it in Nature. So for this kind of rock to exists that lead to the creation of the Calendar and time (and most of life) as we now know it. Before people relied on Sundials and the Sun/Moon/Stars.

I refuse to believe that the Quartz was just RANDOM. Silly me! LOL

questccg wrote:How can a

questccg wrote:
How can a "crystal" or "gem" (the Quartz) resonate at a frequency that is EXACTLY the pace of a single second... This is innate rock that is found deep into the Earth's soil (you've got to DIG for this stuff...)
.

That’s sort of like asking how a violin string can vibrate at a perfect “G”.

The speed of the vibration of the quartz is based on the crystal’s length, so you just have to cut it very, very accurately.

(Sorry it’s not more mystical!)

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