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: http://www.insidegmt.com/2021/03/what-is-the-irregular-conflicts-series/
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 #4: The Hare and the Hounds
The dawn of the Vijayanagara Empire would begin in the hands of two brothers, Harihara and Bukka, of the Sangama Dynasty. Harihara and Bukka were local warriors from Karnataka who first served in the army of the Hoysala king, and later appear to have voluntarily given their allegiance to Muhammad bin Tughlaq while the capital of the Delhi Sultanate had briefly been moved to Daulatabad.
In 1336, with the Delhi Sultanate’s grip slipping in the Deccan, the Sangama brothers saw an opportunity to assert independent control of the region, and a decade later in 1346 they held a major ceremony to cement their rule. Gathering at the important Shiva centre of Sringeri in Karnataka, they celebrated their conquests up to that time, and looked into a near future free from Tughlaq authority.
The location of their capital, Vijayanagara (which translates to “City of Victory”), was chosen for its natural strategic advantages but also because of the site’s mythical associations. At the time of its founding, the site was known simply as the crossing of the river goddess Pampa, where passing warrior clans would pause to make offerings (Hampi, India, where Vijayanagara once stood, is an evolution of the name of Pampa herself.)
Temples dedicated to Pampa had been constructed in the region for centuries prior to the medieval era. But by the 11th century there was an increased presence of the male deity Mahakala Deva, the violent aspect of Shiva. By the 12th century work had begun on a great temple to another deity, Virupaksha, who represented Shiva’s more universal and benign aspect. The foundational myths of the Vijayanagara Empire flowed easily throughout the Indian subcontinent, with the merging of Virupaksha and Pampi paralleling a story more widely infused into all of India, that of Shiva’s marriage to the goddess Parvati.
Another of the important origin stories spreading through the Indian subcontinent about Vijayanagara’s rise is that of the Hare and the Hounds. According to this legend, Harihara and Bukka were hunting in the Hampi region with two hunting dogs when they happened upon a lone hare. But instead of fleeing in fear, the hare instead turned on its pursuers and bravely chased the hounds away. The Hare and Hounds myth projected naturally as a heroic metaphor for Vijayanagara’s emergence out from under the shadow of the Delhi Sultanate and victory against other perceived aggressors, including the various powers of the Bahmani Kingdom to the north, providing its rulers with a mythic legitimacy.
But incredibly, the very same Hare and Hounds myth was emerging from the Bahmani Kingdom about its own brave defiance against more powerful aggressors, and here the Delhi Sultanate is a more immediate and likely set of “hounds”. This heroic survival story maps onto fundamental human fears and wishes, and it is both natural and fascinating to see it appearing in multiple regions at the same time.
The card “The Hare and the Hounds” 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 shaded Event tends to be favorable to the Delhi Sultanate. Many of the cultural aspects of the southern kingdoms were inherited not from regional empires but instead from the diffusion of Persianate culture, which has been likened to the Hellenization of Europe, in that cultural values, justice in particular, were absorbed by choice, not by force, thereby propelling such cultural ideals far and wide. These Persianate values and ideals may have provided a competing story for the development of culture in the Deccan – here the Sultan can reduce the Foundational Myths track back away from the rebel factions and towards zero. The Sultanate player also remains Eligible, so that they may act on the next Event card too.
Meanwhile, the unshaded Event, which tends to benefit one or both of the rebelling factions in the game, represents the propagation of these foundational myths, resulting in minor powers resonating with the origin stories and finding themselves naturally allied with either the Bahmani Kingdom or Vijayanagara Empire. Either faction can, by taking the Event, add up to three pieces to the map, increase their Resources (representing improved trade with friendly powers), and shift their Foundational Myth track, which enhances that faction’s abilities to gain other important allies among minor regional powers.
In the next article in the series, we will learn about The Raichur Doab.
You can catch up on the posts in this series to date by following the below links:
Card #2 – Uprising in Daulatabad
Card #3 – Kakatiya Empire Extinguished
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 have reached out to the design and development team and hope 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: https://www.gmtgames.com/p-918-vijayanagara-the-deccan-empires-of-medieval-india-1290-1398.aspx