History of Norman Conquests

The idea of this game came up as a sudden enlightening during a lengthy trip across mountains and forests. A set of public “lectures” of modern Russian historian K.A.Zhukov and his comrade blogger D.Y.Puchkov (a.k.a. Goblin) was so inspiring that it took just several months before the prototype of the game was crafted for testing of its mechanics. It took much longer though to bring it in line with actual history and to create proper visual components.

There are several games in the market covering the same theme. Therefore, besides of fashion “card game” engine we implemented several additional mechanics to make it less predictable and more re-playable. We also introduced 3-in-1 concept where the same set of gaming components could be used for different ways of playing covering those younger and more impatient and those more mature and passionate.

Historic background

Normans - tribes inhabiting Scandinavia (territories of today’s Sweden, Norway and Denmark) by the end of VII century came to a natural saturation. The amount of land suitable for acceptable harvests was limited, while the number of people was steadily growing. At the same time, primitive technologies of agriculture were not allowing for extensive usage of available plots. Consequently, many ordinary community members (called “bonds”) were trying to leave their homeland. The decomposition of the family / clan system among the Swedes, Danes and Norwegians accompanied by segregation and rise of local nobility – mainly military leaders – soon to become feudal. For them plunder and booty served as the most important source of enrichment, while locally it was hardly achievable. The progress of specific shipbuilding techniques by the Scandinavians (traditionally skillful sailors) made it possible to sail not only along the Baltic Sea, but also in the waters of the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea and, most importantly, along all main rivers of that time.

Many families and clans were forced to flee their homeland in search for better and richer places. Some went way up to Americas or deep into Slavic territories and settled there. Those who stayed adapted to harsh local conditions and observed overall deterioration of life. This entire social and economic situation had natural overlap with religion. Remarkably, Normans are almost the only “nation” at that time, which hardly had any kind of priests or servants of cult. They were polytheistic to certain extent, acknowledged other people’s gods (at their premises) and also believed in spirits (shamanism). The highest deity was Odin – God warrior, who was leading his “sons” to Ragnarök - end of days for all worlds and the final battle, where Gods will stand in line with souls of heroes. Dying in a fight with weapons in their hands and thereby joining the army of Odin was one of the sweetest dreams for most of man among Normans. It was such as obvious, natural and unquestionable event for them as it is to expect a sunrise in the morning.

These all conditions gave birth to what we call today “expansion of the Vikings”, which includes the search for new lands and relocation (e.g. colonization), predatory attacks, piracy and large military campaigns, trade trips, closely intertwined with yet again piracy and robbery. Everyone was fighting with anyone. To finalize the picture it is worth to mention that Normans were closely “interacting” with inhabitants of Northern Europe – the slowly degrading Empire of Franks, British islands, with Slavs at the East of Baltic Sea, and even with Byzantium Empire at the Black sea, which was the most civilized and true state at that time. All of the factors became the driving force for the expansion and made it plausible.

Some Normans (called themselves Ros’ and later Rus’ from Scandinavian “rods” - paddle) joined Novgorod, formed part of local military elite and later settled in the entire territory, which became known as Kievan Rus. Locals called them “varjags”. Some nobles even started local ruling dynasties and were negotiating with Byzantium. Some of them were also serving Byzantium Emperors as elite warriors. Remarkably, but they have accepted local Gods and their equivalents to substitute those of their own. For instance, Perun was the God of warriors (just like Odin) and counted as the top deity by Kievan rulers up until acceptance of Christianity.

On the other hand, situation at the territory of today’s France, the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Spain, Italy, Morocco and others was much worse for the people living there. Small but highly mobile and skilled military units of Normans were pirating and pillaging cities, monasteries, trade routes along the entire shore of Europe. In the absence of central power and poor ground communication regular armies or local militias were physically unable to defend against Drakkars (military long ships), that where suddenly appearing from nowhere and disappearing just as quickly. Due to sea-river going capabilities of their boats, Normans were able to penetrate deeply into the continent along main water routes thereby attacking cities like London and Paris.

Those who were going into raids were called “Vikings” (comes from old Swedish verb “vika” or Scandinavian “víkja” – to change paddle rowers). They were led by sea Konungs - military chiefs, who usually had no land in contrast with traditional landlords comprising Normans’ aristocracy. Obviously, only the most skilled and vicious in combat were usually accepted, because number of seats at a Drakkar was limited. Remarkably, but being a crew member and a rower was a privilege, not a punishment, in contrast with slave-powered galleys of Byzantium for instance.

Among Viking fighters there were those who have completely dedicated themselves to Odin and truly desired to die in combat. They usually lived outside of settlements and people fed them just to keep away. These were called Berserkers. Their sanity and controllability was under question, but in close combat, they were one of the most desired allies. In any case, Normans were accepting and supporting sea Konungs and their troops as a stable source of supply of precious metals, expensive fabric, and pieces of art, slaves, and other sorts of plunder. More than that. Vikings and their raids were naturally “expending” local most non-socialized community members, like Berserkers and those alike them. So, the phenomenon became widely spread.

This is the time our Game is about to draw its players into. Each player will lead one of the Konungs. Warlords, who tries to gain fame and wealth out of raids along sea-side. Three regions are there for pillaging (although in reality it was the entire Europe): leftovers of Frank Empire, British Islands and Ladoga (North of Novgorod) – important trade center for Dnepr river route to Byzantium.

Each Konung will have his own village, which is yet to be developed. Each may hire troops or chose to fight himself thereby earning fame quicker. However, dying in combat brings one to Odin, but does not help in winning the game. Only the one with the highest fame may become the hero of sagas. Konungs will be able to fight against the Game itself, but also against each other. Both in “peaceful” Ting games for glory and gold or in attacks against settlements of rival players.

Of course, intelligence was one of the most important success factors for Viking raids. Therefore, hiring of a spy is as important as equipping one’s crew properly.

The game is designed in such a manner that it could be played by both young and adults. The level of difficulty may be chosen by excluding or simplifying some of the gaming rules. There is a “blitz” mode, which is a short but intense game with next to none strategic elements. There is also a strategic mode with the map and village tablets in play. The most advanced mode includes divine powers, struggles among players and interaction at a Ting - the game become longer, but much more diverse.

This is a card game and its components are mainly made of paper or carton. However, Collection edition will also include metal coins, polymer stone or tin figurines in a nice box and the art book.

We at Gryphon Studio pay great attention to details and history therefore our artists do their best to depict events and material artefacts just the way they were in IX-X centuries. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to capture the look of Vikings because they had very developed burial rituals with lots of material artefacts laid down with corpses. Of course, some of the facts were simplified or altered. For instance, several of in-game characters lived in different time and could have never met with each other. We choose them because of their interesting story of life and in order for the player to learn and associate. Another example: Vikings were hardly using ballista (though it is known since Ancient Greek time), but they could have had and thus we brought it into the game as local Wunderwaffe, etc.etc.

You may follow the trail of our creation in the small blog below.

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