Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jews vs. Christians vs. Islam vs. Rome, oh my.

Rome, the pinnacle civilization and ass kicking. Caesars, Centurions, Colosseums, Debauchery ...and Gladiators! Then you have the Byzantine Empire. Which is like if the Glory of Rome had a son who grew up to be a D+ student, smoked cigarettes, listened to Iron Maiden, found religion, then drowned in a kiddie pool. That would the Byzantine Empire. A weird time where the forces of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and every other form a fanaticism worked it's hardest to drag society into the dark ages. So this week was an exploration into the oddball period.

Starting with the game Byzantium. It's been a while since I last played this interesting and weird Wallace game, and I've been itching to get it back on the table. The game takes place around the year 634 around the time of the Byzantine-Arab war. In this game you play both sides. You have an Arab Army and a Byzantine Army, and your goal is to gain the most victory points for both sides. If you keep the score balanced, then you win by adding the VP's for both. If you become to lopsided you can only claim one sides victory. To add a little "twist", you have this looming Bulgar Army on the board that anyone can use to wipe out Constantinople. If this happens, the game ends immediately and only the Arab scored is used for the end game win. This little dynamic is what really makes this game hard for people to wrap their brains around. It suffers(or thrives) with a bit of group think. Another thing the game suffers(or thrives) is that since you are working both sides of the board, it sometimes becomes chaotic in clear definable goals. Sure if you were playing one side, you can look at the board as you would risk and play an all out onslaught. But this isn't the case here. You need to balance attack from one side of the board, then come back and attack on another side of the board. And every other player doing the same. Give and take, give and take. It's crazy, but "interesting".
   In our game last night, Mark thinks Susan had an opportunity after taking off in Islam points to use the Bulgars to quickly take out Constantinople. It's tricky to take that city out as it's defended well, but it could have been a quick game and a quick victory. That is one of the quirks of the game. It can last 3 hours, or 20 minutes. Weird.

 The second part of my series into my study is the movie Agora. This someone unknown Spanish film directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar and starring Rachel Weisz that totally flew under the radar here in the US. I'm thinking because of the fact that it puts Christians and Jew into a bad light throughout the film, even's pretty much what happened. It follows the life of Hypatia, a Greek Philosopher which whose death spelled the end of the Hellenistic period, and the beginning of the "Dark Ages". The movies shows a period during the Byzantine empire that now control Alexandria, where the Romans have now embraced Christianity at the top levels while still struggling with it's own paganism. Here is where the atheist Hypatia is caught in the middle of a Christian and Jewish faction has begun to clash in a mob like mentality.  Where the roman governor Orestes begins to clash with the newly created "Pope" Cyril of Alexandria. Hypatia being a teacher of mathematics to all the main characters, both Christian and Jew, and Slaves in the Library of Alexandria. All she wants to do is to further knowledge at the same time as the ignorance of religion begins to blame the library for not putting God as the only source needed of knowledge....Then lots of Mob mentality happens, the library is burned, people are killed, and the Dark Ages begin. It's a good movie, and a biopical view into the time and place that I was almost unaware of.

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