As you know, I love the COIN Series and anything associated with it. In the March Monthly Update from GMT Games, a new series was announced as well as the first game in that series. This new game is not a COIN Series game but it shares some of the same elements. In Fall 2020, there was a game design contest held called Consim Game Jam where designers had to repurpose a COIN Series game and it’s components and make a new playable game in about 48 hours! The game that won the competition was called Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India, 1290-1398. The game is an asymmetric 1-3 player game depicting the epic, century-long rise and fall of medieval kingdoms in India over two dynastic periods. Since winning the contest, the team has continued to roll up their sleeves and continue the hard work of focusing the design and developing the final playable product to be published by GMT Games.

The Irregular Conflicts Series, of which Vijayanagara is the first volume, attempts to bring some of the mechanics of the COIN Series to bear on conflicts that are just outside the Counterinsurgency-based model of COIN. If you want to better understand this new series, you can read the excellent InsideGMT Blog post by Jason Carr at the following link:

We have agreed to provide a home for this series of quick articles on the History Behind the Cards involved in the game as they game continues to move through development and playtesting. We are lucky to be able to bring these articles to you and will be hosting a series of at least 6 posts over the next few months (I am hoping to do more!). This project is being led by Joe Dewhurst as developer and the design team includes Saverio Spagnolie, Mathieu Johnson, Cory Graham and Aman Matthews.

*Note: The cards and their event text, as well as any pictures used showing any of the various components, are still just the prototype version which is only intended for playtesting purposes and the design and event effects and text might still change prior to final development and publication.

History Behind the Cards #1: Capital Relocated

The story of the Deccan Empires begins in the long shadow of the Delhi Sultanate, which reached the apex of its strength in the 14th century under the Khalji and Tughlaq Dynasties. Although the Sultan would send armies to attack and plunder smaller kingdoms south below the Vindhya Range, for over a century the intent was not to develop a standing presence in the Deccan Plateau. Instead, upon asserting its dominance and control there, the Sultan’s armies would retreat entirely, leaving local rulers intact to send continual tribute back to Delhi.

The Tughlaq Dynasty (1320-1414) would take hold of a Sultanate that remained only loosely controlled, particularly after years of upheaval following the transition of power. In the wealthy region of modern day Rajasthan to the west, powerful chieftains like Hammir Singh, ruler of Mewar, had asserted their independence. The important economic hub of Gujarat, through which critical war horses and other military technologies were being imported from far-away lands, was host only to a few garrisons of the Sultanate’s troops. And Delhi’s governors, stationed too far from the capital to be easily controlled, were beginning to engage in their own rebellious acts. Delhi was simply too far north to control the entirety of the Indian subcontinent.

In response, Muhammad bin Tughlaq (r. 1325-51) would make one of the most consequential decisions of his reign.

In 1327-28, aiming to establish a permanent presence in the Deccan and to bring such kingdoms as the Yadavas and Hoysalas into closer reach, the Sultan ordered the capital to be moved from Delhi to Devagiri, a stronghold south of the Vindhya range. He would rename it Daulatabad.

In an attempt to bring this vision into reality the Sultan forced many high-ranking families in Delhi to relocate, an action which proved politically devastating. Most of the transplanted families bitterly resented their forced removal from their homes, where their families had risen to prominence over generations. In 1337 the Sultan abandoned his vision of Daulatabad. Sensing a growing tension with potential rivals, he ordered many of the same elite nobles and their families from Daulatabad back to Delhi, but they had now grown resentful of his tyrannical rule. Only two decades would pass until this resentment erupted into widespread rebellion.

The “Capital Relocated” card offers two Events, either (or neither) of which may be chosen by the factions in the game in place of standard actions (Commands and Decrees).

The unshaded Event is more favorable to one or both of the rebelling factions – in this case either faction opposing Delhi may benefit from the political damage and chaos which ensued from the fateful decision to move the capital. The Sultanate takes a substantial Resource loss, and 4 Troops may be displaced into any adjacent Provinces. The faction which selects the Event also remains Eligible, so that it has an opportunity to act on the next Event card to come as well, important for action economy during a short, tight game like Vijayanagara.

The shaded Event is more favorable to the Delhi Sultanate – in this case the Sultanate gains the benefit of having a shorter reach into the Deccan, and is able to place a powerful Governor piece, a Qasbah which enhances Troop mobility and offers adjacent attacks, and 2 Troop units into a Province. In addition, Delhi can potentially Demand Obedience in the same space, returning an Independent Province to Tributary status, and flipping all Rebelling Units there back to Obedient. Bringing Independent provinces back under the thumb of the Sultan is critically important for keeping the resources flowing, which in turn is crucial for defending Delhi from repeated Mongol invasions!

In the next article we will start to see what the resentment of the elite nobles of Delhi would unleash upon the Deccan.

I for one am very interested in this one and cannot wait to get more information on the mechanics and history as they work on the game. In addition to hosting this History Behind the Cards Series, I will reach out to the design and development team and try to get an interview up on the blog pretty quickly.

If you are interested in Vijayanagara: The Deccan Empires of Medieval India, 1290-1398, you can pre-order a copy for the special P500 price of $54.00 from the GMT Games website at the following link: