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 #5: The Raichur Doab
The primary rival of the Vijayanagara Empire would be the Bahmani Kingdom to their north in the central Deccan Plateau. The economic and political conflict was nowhere more heated than the region between the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers, which had been a region of conflict in earlier eras, first between the Western Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas, and then between the Yadavas and the Hoysalas. The Bahmani Kingdom and Vijayanagara Empire both emerged in almost simultaneous rebellion against the Delhi Sultanate, and the following decades would see these sibling rivals fighting over the lush, fertile lands known as the Raichur Doab.
Early on in their shared history the military technology of the Bahmanis overwhelmed the soft defenses of the rajas to the south, and Vijayanagara’s troops were overrun by the strong cavalry of the Bahmani Kingdom. The Bahmanis posed a geographic and military block to Vijayanagara’s desire to expand, resulting in a greater commitment of resources by Vijayanagara to build up its army. Only after decades of borrowing military personnel and learning new technologies from the Bahmani Kingdom was the Vijayanagara Empire able to find its footing against its northern rival. Military innovations and horse-riding equipment, such as foot-stirrups, harnesses, high saddles with pommels, and nailed horseshoes, eventually found their way into the Vijayanagara’s defenses. The availability of high-quality horses was another important factor in the conflicts on both sides of the Raichur Doab.
In one such engagement, the Bahmani ruler Mohammad Shah I (son of the kingdom’s founder Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah) personally crossed the Krishna river with a large army, entering the Doab. The sight of the Bahmani ruler in Mudgal sent the Vijayanagara troops in retreat back deeper into Karnataka towards the capital city, and it was written a century later that 70,000 of the southern kingdom’s troops were killed and elephants, gun carriages, hundreds of steeds, booty, and one bejewelled throne were claimed by attackers. After waiting through a rainy season, the Bahmanis crossed the Tungabhadra and entered the territory of the Vijayanagara Empire, a campaign noted as the first time cannon and firearms were freely used by the Bahmanis, including artillery manned by “Turks and Franks,” much-valued immigrants from central Asia and beyond.
Bukka gathered all the fighting forces of the kingdom and personally joined the battle near Kautalam in 1366. Commanders on the flanks of the Bahmani forces were both killed by musket balls, threatening a major rout, but 3,000 cavalry arrived just in time to turn the tide. Elsewhere in the battle an elephant advanced into enemy lines killing the Vijayanagara commander. The battle ended in a defeat of the Vijayanagaris, after which the Bahmanis marched to the capital city of Vijayanagara itself, where guerilla tactics prevailed and the city was successfully defended. Having extended themselves too far and too quickly, the Bahmanis were now pursued as they retreated.
After this major battle between the upstart Deccan kingdoms, Bukka and his chiefs agreed that a peace with the Bahmani Kingdom was in their best interests. The Bahmanis accepted, though the period of peace between the kingdoms would be temporary.
The card “The Raichur Doab” 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 – here the Sultan can play out the massive losses taken by both southern kingdoms by removing their pieces from the board, and reducing the Foundational Myths Track (monitoring the success of the origin stories propagating in the south) back to zero. The Sultanate player also remains Eligible, so that they may play again on the next Event card to be drawn.
Meanwhile, the unshaded Event, which tends to benefit one or both of the rebelling factions in the game, allows either the Bahmani Kingdom or the Vijayanagara Empire to carry out a particularly strong attack against its rival neighbor. The selecting faction may first shift its Foundational Myths Track, enhancing its ability to secure allies. Then it may move up to three of their units (here representing small armies) into an adjacent Province, then remove an opposing unit, then carry out an attack for free (no Resource cost – the economic cost of the battle was made up for by raiding forts and other storage facilities of currency and natural resources).
In the next article in the series, we will learn about A New Calculus (I really had no idea there would be math involved).
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
Card #4 – The Hare and the Hounds
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