Northern Beholder

Where history and gaming collide.

Month: November, 2012

XCOM: Wait, what?

So as much of a hit as XCOM is proving to be (wonderfully showing off that, yes, turn-based tactical games still sell and not everything needs to be a first-person shooter), and as much as I enjoy playing it, the game isn’t without its problems.  Some people have chosen to complain about the graphics not being quite as bleeding-edge as they’d like, or only having a dozen different hairstyles to give their soldiers instead of two dozen.  Personally, I’m more concerned with the gameplay.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Missing the Monday post was mostly due to my ISP exploding in a fiery conflagration of incompetence and poor infrastructure.  Mostly.  Thing is, even if my internet had been working, I’m not sure I would have remembered to post anyway.  Because I’ve been playing XCOM.  The new one, not the old one.  Remaking (or “re-imagining”) old, beloved titles has been something of a fad in the games industry lately.  Deux Ex and Syndicate both got a similar makeover, one successfully, the other … less so.  The Baldur’s Gate series has a shiny new HD re-release coming out soon.  And then there’s X-COM, a title nearly twenty years old.

You thought this was a gaming post, didn’t you? This totally counts as history!

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Dead Templars Remix

Like Underappreciated Empire, Death of the Templars is a topic I’m likely to revisit in the future.  There’s a lot of salacious detail surrounding their fall, particularly the way the trials were structured and allegations brought forth, that didn’t make it into the final cut of the series but still very much deserves to be told – and is enormously entertaining to read.  Well, I thought, but then I think ancient Byzantine diplomacy is entertaining, so …

At any rate.  I’ve studied the Templars’ downfall before, of course, so I’m going to have a dig around and see if I can’t find my notes about the stuff I didn’t cover this time.  It’s sure to be worth a post or two, sometime in the future.

Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, VI

Although it’s not part of the narrative of the Templar’s downfall, it’s worth pointing out that Philip IV wasn’t as smart as he thought he was.  Part of the reason for his enormous debt was the amount of money he had been forced to spend fighting the English at the turn of the century.  He was only fighting the English because, as part of his plans of centralization, he tried to use a diplomatic incident and the complex legalities of the feudal system to wrest control of the duchy of Aquitaine from the King of England.  Not only did he fail, but the peace agreement he eventually agreed to would be a direct cause of the Hundred Years’ War three decades later, much to the dismay of his descendants.

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Northern Beholder is sick. Again.  Death of the Templars wrap-up on Wednesday, hopefully.

Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, V

The motives behind King Philip IV’s arrest of the Knights Templar vary. It is known that he was deeply in debt to the Order after taking out a series of loans to supplement his own empty coffers, to the amount of 260,000 livres (a monetary unit used in medieval French accounting; a livre was worth roughly one gold coin, but confusingly, the coins themselves were not referred to as livres). The destruction of the Templars would not only wipe out his debt, but give him the opportunity to appropriate the Order’s lands within France, many of which were quite valuable and encompassed profitable farmlands and forests.

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Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, IV

The true frictions generated by the monastic arm of the Order of the Temple did not come from their mere presence within the societies of the Christian kingdoms of western Europe – at least not directly. The real problems came from the wealth which financial common-sense said was being generated from the Templars’ many estates, and which rumour said was being stockpiled away in treasuries the size of which would move the kings of nations to jealous shame.

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Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, III

The supporters of the Order of the Temple, of whom Bernard of Clairvaux was one of the most prominent, were expecting from the new warrior-monks more of the warrior than the monk. An examination of the sources regarding the record of the Knights Templar in service in Outremer bears out that reality coincided with the expectations placed upon them.

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Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, II

Now, before we get into the juicy conspiracy part of the Templars’ tale, we need to contextualize it with a good dose of the order’s history. The Order of the Temple was a unique organization when first founded in the twelfth century. Although founded by a small group of fighting knights expressly for the purpose of battling bandits and raiders along the pilgrim roads of Outremer (the Frankish term for the Holy Land), they lived their private lives in imitation of the monastic orders, swearing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were to become officially recognized as a monastic order in 1129 in direct contravention of existing belief and custom regarding the permission of monks to engage in violence (specifically, they weren’t – monks were meant to be peaceful lambs of God, and violence was strictly forbidden for members of monastic orders). Unfortunately for the Knights Templar, their dual identity was not a balanced one, and while they achieved great success and renown as holy warriors battling against the infidel to preserve the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its many fiefdoms, their exploits in Christian Europe – where their primary function was not as warriors, but rather as monks – were continuously dogged with suspicion, rumour, and mistreatment. When the Crusader kingdoms in the East finally fell for the last time and the Templars could no longer trumpet their exploits as warriors, the weak and unstable monastic side of their brotherhood quickly collapsed under the weight of dangerous accusations and political intrigue.

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Political Masterclass: Death of the Templars, I

Most gamers will know the Templars from their role in Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games, where they are presented in the meta-story as a shadowy global organization conspiring to control the world through a variety of silly ways that ultimately detract from the main narrative of the game and probably should have been axed because seriously, Desmond is boring and his sequences are boring and I’d like to be playing more awesome Altair stuff now, please.

Wait, that kind of got away from me there. Let’s try again.

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