De Ganda, or: What can MM borrow from Ghent’s history

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De Ganda, or: What can MM borrow from Ghent’s history

Postby EmperorJay » Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:39 am

De Ganda, or: What can MM borrow from Ghent’s history
A few weeks ago I spend a weekend in Ghent, Belgium. A town once the second largest of Europe, larger than London, only surpassed by Paris. I found it’s history quite interesting and I’ve selected a few topics, which I think could inspire some gameplay elements in Medieval Mayor.

For dates I’ll use a somewhat artificial timeline for easy reference, although technically not entirely correct. 500 to 700 AD: Late antiquity; 700 to 1000 AD: Early Middle Ages; 1000 to 1300 AD: High Middle Ages (I suppose this is where MM will “end”); 1300 to 1500 AD: Late Middle Ages.

On Dukes, Kings, Popes and Priors
In late antiquity Franks settled the area. The Romans had build a small border town in an area where two rivers (Leie and Scheldt) meet, which acted as the commerical centre. Saint Amand founded two abbeys, one somewhat south of the city and one near the old Roman town.

During the Early Middle Ages Viking raids were common and this lead to the construction of the first fortified structures. During this time the city grew in importance: the duke of Flanders constructed a castle and the Emperor of the Franks, Louis the Pious installed the biographer of his father, Charlemagne (a.k.a. Charles the Great) as abbot of both abbeys.

The city flourished and this led to Ghent becoming the largest city of the Low Countries from 1000 to about 1500 AD. The four important locations (abbeys, castle and commercial centre) slowly grew, forming one single city shared between common folk, noblemen and clergy
Both abbeys were so important and rich that they controlled real estate and farms well beyond the city limits.

For Medieval Mayor:
There are a few elements in this overview which I think hold true for most medieval towns. First, they were rarely “new”. Many of the modern city centers may not be located exactly at same location as Roman (or pre-Roman) settlements, but at least they are nearby. While it would require some extra artwork, I think it would be an interesting concept if certain maps came with a small pre-built (Roman) town as part of a challenge. Either that or some important, abandoned structures could be present which the player can restore for certain benefits: old churches, mines etc.
Second, abbeys were very common and important. To such an extent that they gave rise to cities themselves or at the very least influence a town’s growth and status. Perhaps some maps could feature abbeys as already present. Depending on the status of the abbey, the player and the relation with the duke/king/emperor, the player receives demands from the abbot, do trade with the abbot, be subject to taxes or the other way around, make demands to or receive payments from the abbot. Another take would be that players may be able to attract saints, not unlike Zeus/Emperor, who may establish an abbey, providing benefits to the town.
Third, while MM will be a city-builder, some politics may be interesting. At certain points in time ecclesiastical power and secular power would be separated, while at other points in time one person would hold both. Perhaps players should be able to chose who to please and depending on world events, pleasing one may positively or negatively influence the opinion of the other. Pleasing the ecclesiastical power may provide more religious benefits (and perhaps the standing with abbeys and the like), while pleasing the secular power would provide more commercial or military benefits.

On wool, trade, crafting and democracy
During Ghent’s history it has been a major centre for clothing. Mainly wool, later flax, linen and cotton (industrial era). The first few families who gained their wealth through trade had control of the city of Ghent in the Early Middle Ages (note: this excludes the areas owned by the abbeys and the duke). During the High Middle Ages, Ghent’s wealth and status still relied heavily on importing raw materials and producing fine clothing but the internal power started to shift from the patricians to the craftsmen through guilds.
During the early Late Middle Ages and the Hundred Years' War (between the kingdoms of England and France), Ghent actually chose the side of England to ensure the delivery of raw materials. It wasn’t a patrician but rather a wealthy trader who led this movement.

For Medieval Mayor:
Again a few elements which may inspire interesting gameplay concepts. First, perhaps all too obvious, the importance of trade. I’m fairly sure Medieval Mayor will have plenty of trade opportunities but as Jeff already mentioned in another thread on this, world events can affect the trade opportunities drastically. Perhaps a player who relies on clothing would rather choose the side of England, losing access to wine (or whatever) while a player who wishes to build a grand cathedral would want to keep easy access to France, losing access to plenty of wool.
Second, guilds could provide interesting challenges. Perhaps guilds may offer increased clothing production for a full year if you provide the city with a certain relic from Saint Onuphrius (patron of weavers) or demand trade with England, halving production if you don’t comply.

There were a few more topics I’d like to cover, but for now I want to leave it with this as some other things mainly occurred later during the Late Middle Ages, and are therefore perhaps unappropriate for MM. I’m not sure yet what to think of Religion beyond abbeys, but Ghent has a few cathedrals with an interesting history, so I may come back at that later.

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