Saturday, November 21, 2009

The abbreviated reign of King Hammursethi of Babylon

The privately published King of Kings is probably best known for one of the truly awful boardgame covers in wargame history, but underlying it was a pretty decent little strategic rule and conquest ancients game. It was by Bill Good, the designer of Ancients and there were rules for using that tactical game to resolve the battles, although every time I've played King of Kings I've used the higher level battle system included with the strategic game.

Turns represnt three month seasons, with various economic, poliutcal and military activities taking place in each turn. While best payed as amultiplayer game, most of the 15 sceanrios can be played solitaire, with the various nonplayer and neutral states acting under s et of straightforward rules.

The game, despite the military elements, is not really a wargame per se, in that military conquests are not the most efficient way to accumulate victory points. There's a good payoff from trade and an even bigger payoff for purchasing "achievements" such as Religion or Roads.

The game was later published by 32W as Imperator as an area-movement game instead of the hexes used in King of Kings, but I preferred the hexes and never bought the later game.

So I hauled out this hoary old veteran for a little amusement the other day and decided to play the first scenario, called Hammurabi, set circa 1700 BCE. As a solitaire game one plays Babylon, with the other potential player poweres (Egypt, Hittities and Larsa being neutrals instead. There are also several other neutral states. Because i was the only active player, all the game action occurred within the few hexes around Babylon and Larsa., shown here:

Year One of the reign of King Hammursethi turned out to be one of the more active of his entire reign. The year started off amidst a trade boom that boosted the treasury by 100 talents, or two years normal income. Tragedy struck later in that same years, though as a devastating plague ripped through the kingdom, decimating the army and completely disrupting trade.

The following year saw court intrigues, no doubt encouraged by the stress of the plague, surrounding the young king with enemies. The economy began to recover from the plague year and a mutually beneficial trade arrangement was made with Larsa where Babylon supplied its neighbor with Wool, while the Larsans downriver supplied Grain.

The next two years passed without incident while King Hammursethi spent lavishly on temples and other aspects of Religion to achieve a wide reputation for piety. Perhaps sensing an opportunity to take advantage of Babylon's depleted treasury, the Elamites over in Susa prepared for war. (Baghdad doesn't exist as yet). Receiving word of the Elamite plans, King Hammursethi mobilized his army and marched out to the river to meet the invaders. The larger. but lower quality Elamite army soon appeared. The core of both armies was made up of about 1,000 chariots and their crews, but the rest of the Elamite force was little more than a mob. some 20,000 light infantry and 4,000 light archers. In contrast the Babylonian army was much better equipped, with 4,000 heavy infantry, 4,000 heavy archers and about 10,000 light troops filling out the ranks.

The ensuing battle was a great victory for our king, who refused one flank while the Elamites charged recklessly and broke again st his best troops. The fighting was hard, with 5,000 Babylonians falling, but 10,000 Elamites were slain, resulting in their rout. The pursuit saw another 12,000 Elamites lost as they retreated back to their city. The Babylonians began a year-long siege of Susa that finally captured the city in the fifth year of Hammursethi's reign.

In the sixth year of his reign, King Hammursethi decided to celebrate his victory with magnificent Monuments and also quiet the discontented faction in his court with a strategic marriage to the middle-aged and fat sister of his leading rival. While annoying spoiled, the woman actually liked young Hammursethi as became a good and loyal friend for the short time he had left.

The next four years also passed quietly, as King Hammursethi amassed a large treasury for his next project. But before he could act, the king died in the 11th year of his reign. Overall it was a reasonably successful, but not extraordinary reign. Hammursethi dies with a larger and richer kingdom than he inherited, and earned a reputation for advancing Religion (helped by his magnificent Monuments), but his 806 victory points were not what he might have had had he lived a little longer. (I earned 226 VPs for talents in my treasury, 30 VPs for the value of my cities Babylon and Susa, and 550 for my achievements Religion and Monuments).

The game

1 comment:

  1. Hi Seth,
    A great report on a great, if little known, game from Bill Banks. I had never thought of playing just one country, I usually play all of them in a scenario and use a variant table to determine more realistic non-player combat responses. Thanks again.
    Phil Woolway