Clash of Clans in Historical Context

I’ve been an avid Hardcore Gamer.   That is a broad term, but think of it as someone spending countless resources (time and currency), to finish storylines, conduct war planning and immerse into a created world.   You know you have such a hardcore gamer when he invests not only a casual commitment but a deep passion for his game.   He rages at levels that have no seeming solution, dives deep into the world and adopts it as his own.   He begins discussing the language, the people and the culture of that world.

In either case, the PC has always proven to be the great alternative to consoles.   While consoles would give you immersive First-Person Shooter experiences, it is in PC that the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) or MMO simply has prospered.   World of Warcraft is a powerful example of the success of the PC game.   Other games has since adapted to this strategy, utilizing online multiplayer interaction to entice would-be gamers to a game with an otherwise linear storyline.

For me, it has always been RTS (Real Time Strategy).   The thrill of being your own Caesar and conquer distant lands and territories.   Commanding armies of various design, and balancing resource management with strategy.    I’ve had experience with the myriad of strategy games that offered themselves to PC.   Red Alert.  The Command and Conquer series.   The Starcraft universe.   RPGs (Role Playing Games) that utilize micromanagement of squads, like Dragon Age.   And during the 2000s, the Generals series.   And who would forget Civilization, where you create an empire from a fledgling settlement, and possibly conquer the world, or Total War, where you… pretty much do the same, except with limited ambitions.

It was therefore a disappointment to me that there was no such epic RTS in Android as there was in PC.  It is possible that with the limited physical specifications restricting the mobile phone (or even the tablet), an immersive world would not be possible.   So what are you left with?  Some are Racing games, where you turn the phone to turn the wheel.   The First Person Shooters are a delight, but the one good original game is the only one you can take seriously: Modern Combat.   It is unabashedly a Call of Duty clone, but it makes a damn good game.

So what drew me to a hack game like Clash of Clans?   Of all the RTS games that were available on Android (and they were pretty basic), this was the blueprint.   This was the game everyone copied because it worked.   The advertising was also good (heh, Liam Neeson in one commercial doing a Taken impression, or Kate Upton modelling for one of the ads).   But there was no foreseeable endgame to it.   Like the Ragnarok series where you level up your Mage/Warrior/Rogue and go to different levels to no end in sight.

It was a huge mistake to try it.   Downloading it cost less than 50 megs, but the cost in time was immense.   There was some satisfaction to be had building your village, upgrading resources, but an even deeper gut feeling when you build up an army you send on raiding parties to loot resources.

In the end, it’s all about wars that loot resources.   You cannot get ahead if you were not constantly at war.   This may have reminded me of Europe before the Modern Period, where every state fought to gain an inch of land.   However, if you are to be more accurate about it, CoC reminds me of an immersive world further east.

Southeast Asia was divided into two geographical types: the peninsular and the Mainland.   The Peninsulars traded, warred and mainly interacted on sea.   Most of their history they were unified under one or a few banners.   In this case, the Sri Vijaya and the Majapahit.    But the area of interest is not in peninsular SE Asia.   It is in the mainland, where the four major states were the Ayutthaya/Siam, Toungoo/Konbaung Burma, the Dai Viet and Champa.    The Dai Viet and Champa pretty much acted like North and South Korea of the modern times, except the northern Dai Viet in the end conquered Champa.

I forgot the last fifth state: Angkor.   It was an empire older than those kingdoms, but owing to barbaric invasions it weakened and became a hollow shell of its former self.   It soon became a puppet state to whoever was currently the power in the region.    We can gloss over the wars between the two Viets, and instead turn to the glorious wars between the Burmese and the Siamese.    If you read the histories of both states, they were constantly at war and the borders constantly fluctuated.   However, if you look closely at the histories, you can see that they did not fight for land like the Europeans did, but for people.   The region was largely struggling for populations, and to settle lands the Burmese needed to go to war against the Siamese (at this time Ayutthaya), enslave their people, and use the captured prisoners to populate their lands.

I used this reference (about Mainland Southeast Asia) as research, and admittedly as pastime–I was fascinated with how the mainland was similar and yet also different to the fractured European heartland.

In the end this was the logic behind the Clash of Clans game.   You did not create armies to set to conquer lands, settle and maintain them, you instead created armies to enslave resources and use it to feed your village.    Medieval Southeast Asia was largely static in terms of territories (although there were some highlights, like the conquest of Ayutthaya or the collapse of Champa), but it was fought for resources, which in that case was people.   In CoC, it was fought for currency and mana, which you use to enlarge your existing village structure.

Am I saying that the average Clash of Clans game is like one of the Medieval Southeast Asian kingdoms that existed?   And that Clan alliances was akin to Southeast Asian politics between independent polities that tried to survive large kingdoms?   Well, you decide.

This was a good mental exercise.

But now it’s time to feel the thrill of trampling your enemies with the might of your bloodthirsty soldiers.

CoC feeds the inner general.

Tip: You have to do the Goblin levels.  Not for the experience, but to loot essential resources without the unwanted consequence of being attacked yourself.   These resources will help grow your settlement at a lock-in time when you can’t attack or be attacked.

Good advice I heard: upgrade resources before leveling up.    You will lag behind in development, and with a fully upgraded resource factory, you will be able to amass needed fuel in just a few hours.