The Mongols - The Biggest Baddest Empire of All Time
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They came out of nowhere, one of the nomadic tribes on the steppes of Eurasia. They conquered the largest empire in history.

Who were they? The Mongols. Read on, to learn about the Mongol conquests. The Mongols were the baddest empire builders of all time.

And if you know of any other games that deal with the Mongol conquests, please add them.

Note: not all of the games correspond to the part of history described; I just want to list as many games about the Mongol conquests as I can.
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1. Board Game: Gobi [Average Rating:5.09 Unranked]
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The Mongols and their ancestors lived in the steppes of Eurasia - in the Gobi, which is a dry but grassy plain rather than a Sahara-style desert. You can trace the traditional border between the Chinese and the northern nomadic peoples like the Mongols and their predecessors by plotting rainfall; to the south of the line there is consistently 10 or more inches of rain a year, suitable for agriculture. That's China. And that's where the Great Wall of China lies.
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2. Board Game: Khan: The Rise of the Mongols [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:8487]
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As of 1162, the nomadic herders of the Gobi comprised several different groups. Naimans, Merkits, Uighurs, Tatars, Keraits, Mongols. All were nomads, raising animals, moving to new pastures with the change of seasons, and raiding each other for wives, plunder and sport.
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3. Board Game: Temujin's Battles [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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In 1162, a boy was born to Yesugei, a member of the nobility and chief of the Borjigin clan. The boy was named Temujin. Legend has it he was born with a clot of blood in his fist, a sign of great or terrible things to come.

When Temujin was 12, his father was poisoned while eating with the Tatars, long enemies of the Mongols. Yesugei's band was dispersed. Temujin, his mother, and brothers lived in poverty, eking out an existence on the steppes by hunting.

Temujin married Borte (an arranged marriage by his father) at age 16. At 20, Temujin was captured and held as a slave by another of the Mongol clans.
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4. Board Game: Genghis Khan [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
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More misadventures. Borte was kidnapped by Merkits; Temujin with the help of Togrul Khan of the Kerait, and Temujin's childhood friend Jamuka, khan of the Jadaran, rescued Borte and defeated the Merkits. Temujin became a vassal to Togrul, and began his ascent.

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5. Board Game: Dschingis Khan: Bewegung an der Großen Mauer [Average Rating:5.18 Overall Rank:10021]
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Over the next twenty-odd years, Temujin grew more powerful. The story of how he unified the Mongols is long and complicated, full of treachery, conspiracies, betrayal and blood - a real soap opera on the steppes. Temujin, strong and charismatic, gathered more followers to his banner. Temujin fell out with Jamuka and Togrul who were jealous of Temujin's rising power; Temujin defeated them and destroyed the Keraits. Jamuka escaped and became khan of the Naimans. Temujin defeated them.

By 1206 Temüjin had accomplished something no previous khan had been able to do. By diplomacy and by conquest, he unified all the tribes of the region, collectively known as the Mongols. In that year, the Mongols acclaimed him as Genghis Khan - "Oceanic Leader" or "Universal Leader". (Better rendered as Chinggis, based on a phonetic rendering of the Mongolian name).



Note this is a Chinese painting of the big guy from well after his death. No contemporary images of Genghis survive.
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6. Board Game: Protector of the Empire [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Having unified the Mongols, Genghis turned his eyes south, to China. Contrary to the otherwise excellent movie, "Mongol", Genghis had never been a prisoner of the Chinese. But that's where the action was.

China at that time was divided into several competing dynasties, making a strategy of divide and conquer possible.

First, Genghis took out the Western Xia Dynasty (in northwest China) , defeating them in 1209 despite facing an army twice the size of his. Genghis then turned to the Jin (north-central China), defeating them easily in the field but having a harder time cracking their city defenses. So Genghis did what a smart commander does - he and his staff studied the problem and developed techniques to assault fortifications, and completed the conquest of the Jin. He captured Yanjing (Beijing) in 1215, and by 1234 the rest of the Jin lands were annexed.
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7. Board Game: Chinggis Khan: almidras Allah (the flail of God) [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Turning from China. Genghis next conquered Khara-Khita (west of Mongolia) in 1218, spreading a little sedition first to weaken Khara-Khita.

This gave the growing Mongol state a border with Khwarizm, a strong Muslim empire in Persia and Central Asia. Genghis sent a trade mission. But the governor of Otrar attacked the caravan. Genghis then sent three emissaries to meet the Shah of Khwarizm, who contemptuously beheaded one of them.

Genghis was not amused. He put together an army of 200,000 and in 1220 invaded. Genghis divided his force into three divisions, two of which conducted a pincer movement against Samarkand, while Genghis led the third division to attack from the northwest.

The Shah made the classic military mistake of dividing his forces into small groups, trying to defend everything and failing to defend anything. The Mongols took Otrar and killed the governor by pouring molten silver into his ears. The Shah fled, and died on an island in the Caspian. Khwarizm, a powerful empire, was conquered by 1221.

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8. Board Game: Age of Battles: Kulikovo's Battle [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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After taking care of Khwarizm, top general Subedai made a suggestion that he take 20,000 men into the Caucasus and Russia. Genghis agreed (Genghis took an army through Afghanistan and northern India on the way back to Mongolia).

Subedai's operation was one of the greatest raids in military history. He pushed through Armenia and Azerbaijan. They smashed Georgia, raided the Crimea, and defeated Kipchacks. At the Battle of Kalka River in 1223, the Mongols defeated a Kievan force that outnumbered them four-to-one. The Rus princes had made the mistake of executing a Mongol emissary; in return, Subedai executed them in typical Mongol fashion. Mongols would not execute nobles in such a way as to draw blood, so the princes were wrapped in carpet and put under a platform and slowly crushed to death while Subedai and his generals dined on top of them.

Subedai's armies then returned back to Mongolia north of the Caspian in 1225, with valuable intelligence about eastern Europe.


A Chinese drawing of Subedai.
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9. Board Game: The Story of Genghis' Conquest of the West [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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In 1227, Genghis Khan died. Mongol armies all returned to Mongolia for the hurultai (assembly) to choose a new Khan. Ogedei, Genghis' son, assumed the title of Great Khan.

At the time of Genghis' death, the Mongol Empire was four times larger than that of the Romans.

But the conquests did not stop with Genghis. They continued to pacify large parts of north and central China, and invaded Korea in 1236.
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10. Board Game: Hexostrategy: Invasion of Mongols [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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The Mongols were ready to return to Europe. Subedai and Batu Khan, one of Genghis' sons, led the armies.

First, the Mongols again defeated the Russians and Kiev (1235-1240) and others in the area. They then crushed the Poles at the Battle of Legnica in 1241. Next, they invaded Hungary and smashed King Bela's forces, although they could not occupy fortified cities. Mongol armies invaded Austria and Serbia as well. The Europeans were terrified

However, Ogedai Khan died and the Mongol generals and armies had to return home in 1242 to select a new Khan. Historians question whether the Mongols intended to conquer Central Europe or just raid it, but at the time the Europeans were relieved that the Devil's Horsemen were returing whence they came.

Mongol armies based out of Russia returned again to Central Europe at various points in the 13th century, but these were not as large as this first invasion.
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11. Board Game: Devil's Horsemen [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:2455]
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The Mongols weren't satisfied with "just" northern China. During the 13th century, Mongke Khan conquered Yunnan.

The Mongols had been allied with the Song Dynasty which ruled southern China during wars against the Jin. But relations broke down and the Mongol campaign against the Song began in 1235. There were basically three phases of the war between 1235 and 1276. It was long and bloody and all that. Kublai became Khan in 1260 and oversaw the final defeat of the Song.

China was reunified - under Mongols, who established the Yuan Dynasty, which ruled China from 1279 to 1368.

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12. Board Game: Kulikovo 1380: The Golden Horde [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:4589]
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China, Russia, Persia. And now the Caliphate.

In 1251 Mongke Khan (Genghis' grandson) sent his brother Hulegu to conquer Mesopotamia. Hulegu based out of the Mongol controlled territories in Persia. Beginning in 1256, he invaded modern-day Iraq and Syria. Some of the local leaders surrendered (for example, the infamous Assassins of Alamut) and were annexed; others fought and it didn't go so well for them.

Hulegu's armies approached Baghdad. The Caliph declined to surrender, and insulted Hulegu. The Mongols besieged the city and took it. Baghdad was nearly destroyed; the Abbasid Caliphate was over. Some claim the Mongols were responsible for destroying the irrigation-canal-based agriculture of the region, but from what I've read, it was in steep decline already due to growing salinity in the soil -- a common problem for irrigated areas.



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13. Board Game: Khans and Kings [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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But after this triumph, Hulegu and the Mongols met their first significant defeat. The Mongols, allied with the French crusader kingdoms, conquered Damascus and Aleppo, ending the Ayyubid Dynasty.

In 1260, Hulegu sent an envoy to Egypt, and demanded the surrender of the Mamluks, the military caste ruling Egypt. The Mamluks said 'no'. Unfortunately, Mongke Khan died before the campaign began, and Hulegu had to return to Mongolia to take care of dynastic business; that meant the Mongol army facing the Mamluks was smaller than planned.

The Mongols met the Mamluks at Ain Jalut in September 1260. The Mamluks, powerful warriors themselves, defeated the Mongols in a battle that featured the use of gunpowder explosions by the Mamluks. The Mongols had been checked; they never reached Egypt.
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14. Board Game: Kamikaze [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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Farther east the Mongols suffered another defeat. In 1274, after sending emissaries offering Japan the chance to join the glorious Mongol Empire, Kublai Khan assembled a fleet in Korea and launched an invasion of Japan.

In 1274, 23,000 Mongol, Chinese, and Korean soldiers invaded Kyushu, the western-most of Japan's four main islands. The early going was good for the Mongols. But the Japanese brought up reinforcements, and a storm arose that badly damaged the Mongol fleet and much of the Mongols' weaponry. The Japanese repelled them.

The Mongols returned in 1281, again landing on Kyushu. As the Mongols were attempting to carry the coastal defenses, a typhoon arose and again destroyed their fleets.

Kamikaze - "divine wind" in Japanese.
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15. Board Game: The Golden Horde [Average Rating:4.28 Unranked]
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So as of roughly 1280, Mongols ruled lands from Moscow in the west down through Damascus and the Middle East, Persia, Central Asia, the steppes of modern-day Russia, China, and Korea.

A pretty nifty empire.

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16. Board Game: Heirs of the Golden Horde [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
 
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It was a bit big to rule. It was basically divided into four parts during the reign of Kublai Khan. Kublai himself ruled the Empire of the Great Khan - Mongolia, China, Manchuria, Tibet. The Golden Horde ruled in Russia and Ukraine and the northern Caucasus. The Ilkhanate had Persia, Mesopatamia, and much of modern-day Turkey and Pakistan. And the Chagatai had Afghanistan and Central Asia.

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17. Board Game: Hexostrategy: Invasion of Mongols [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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So, how'd they do it? How did a group of nomads conquer China, Russia, Persia, the Abbasids, Afghanistan, and all the rest?

Organization was a big part of it. Genghis organized his troops into groups of 10, and groups based on those, with officers reporting up to the next level. The top level was the tumen of 10,000 (tumen is the modern Mongol word for 10,000). Tumen were then organized into hordu - hordes (trivia: horde is the only word of Mongolian to enter the English language).

Mongol leaders had significant leeway in how to operate, and were generally promoted on merit. Genghis also had the bright idea of assigning soldiers to different leaders, not keeping them in tribal groups, both uniting them as Mongols and making it harder for a general to unify his troops against the Khan.

Mongol armies trained constantly. That was not the norm in the 13th century, and it gave their armies significant advantages of discipline and coherence. And it meant the troops were able to carry out the plans of their generals in battle. Mongol armies routinely divided into two or three parts and outflanked their enemies, difficult maneuvers made possible by experienced leaders and well-trained troops.

The Mongol lifestyle contributed. Being a nomad was tough work. They learned to ride horses often before they could walk, part of the reason they were supremely skillful cavalrymen. And this gave them their greatest weapon - mobility. Mongol armies covered vast distances - up to 100 miles in a day. And being from a very cold place, the Mongols weren’t afraid to operate in the middle of winter even in Russia, increasing their flexibility and placing their opponents, not used to fighting in such weather, at a disadvantage.

The mobility also gave the Mongols a great advantage - tactical and operational intelligence. Their scouts could usually determine the location and size of an enemy force, and the Mongol generals could plan the battle with this information. By contrast, their opponents rarely knew what they faced. Mongols would gather intelligence on a foe for years before launching a campaign.

The Mongols were also very good at learning and adapting their tactics to meet the needs. For example, Genghis learned from captured Chinese engineers the art of the siege and assaulting fortifications. When facing heavy European cavalry, the Mongols (very lightly armored) would often fall back in the center, drawing the knights into the middle, and then destroy them with a hail of arrows, shot from horseback. The Mongols had stirrups - sounds like a minor thing, but this helped Mongols to shoot accurately from horseback. And Mongols incorporated conquered peoples into their army and their government.

And there were psyops. The Mongols gained many victories without loss, by offering the foe the chance to submit before battle. Those that submitted were allowed to live and to keep their property, under Mongol rule. But if they refused, they would be annihilated; the few survivors would spread the story, which would help encourage others to reconsider resistance.
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18. Board Game: KHAN! [Average Rating:6.80 Unranked]
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Mongol rule began to wane in the 14th century. Their rule in China ended in 1368, defeated by the Ming. The Chagatai lasted into the 1600s. The Ilkhanate rulers of Persia and Iraq collapsed in the 1330s. And Mongolia itself ended up under the protection of the Manchu Dynasty in 1690.

The last survivor of the Mongol Empire was in the Crimea. The Golden Horde which ruled much of Russia lasted until around 1470. The Khanate of the Crimea fell under Ottoman protection, and lasted until Catherine the Great of Russia annexed it in 1783.
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19. Board Game: Mongolian Goat Rodeo [Average Rating:6.28 Unranked]
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The Mongols of course are still alive and well. It is now a democratic country - the only former Communist country in Asia to make the transition to democracy.

The Mongols revere Genghis. During the Communist era, Genghis was downplayed - after all the Soviets didn't really like the idea of commemorating a guy who had conquered Russia. But with the end of Communism in Mongolia in 1990-91, Genghis returned to daily Mongolian life. He's on their money and is a hero to Mongols. Not so much because of conquering China and Russia; more because they see him as the founder of the Mongolian state.
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20. Board Game: Mamluk [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked]
Wendell
United States
temporarily Arlington VA
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Adding this after

Jon
Canada
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brought it to my attention!

Another fun Mongol Empire fact: it was also administered pretty efficiently, with a system of communication like the Pony Express - stations every 25 miles or so apart where horses could be changed and messengers continue on. They covered 125 miles a day.

Oh, and it is widely believed the Mongols introduced bubonic plague into Europe after besieging a Genovese trading post in the Crimea; the Mongols catapulted dead people into the city. Genovese fled, taking the plague back with them to Italy...
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21. Board Game: Shagai Bones [Average Rating:6.66 Unranked]
Larz Welo
Indonesia
Kalimantan
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As an actual guest in the Mongolian country for a summer, I felt I must add to this list! This is a game that I actually played in Mongolia, that was apparently (if what the Mongols who taught it to me were telling the truth) radically changed by Chingis himself.

See, when a society spends all their time watching sheep, they think of all kinds of fun things to do: sing songs about sheep, use sheep bones in games, throw rocks at sheep (all of which I've done). The problem is...its boring. And after a few hundred years of tedium, other games become popular...like raping and pillaging!

Actually, that was another game that was played, where two guys stand about arms-length apart and punch each other in the face/chest until somebody moves a foot. You've seen dumb highschoolers in America do it by pushing their hands together. Now imagine two 140kg Mongols smashing each other till their both bloody...and neither of them has budged a toe...that's commitment!
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22. Board Game: The Barbarians [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:7490]
Thom Denholm
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Yaquinto's "The Barbarians" contains two games, "Sack Rome" and, importantly for this list, "Mongol".



The Europeans in this one have a decent reinforcement schedule, but many are not allowed to enter the war until attacked (or a die roll), while others cannot leave their own country. The Mongol player must conquer most of the board to win, and it helps that their units are the swift ones here.
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23. Board Game: Ancients [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:3335]
Wendell
United States
temporarily Arlington VA
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This little tactical level wargame includes the Battle of Leignitz. Well, the boxed version does - it's possible there are other Mongol-related scenarios available on the web.
 
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24. Board Game: History of the World [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:399]
Colin Dearborn
Canada
Regina
Saskatchewan
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The Mongol hoard dominates epoch 5 of this classic.


20 armies strong, (no other empire tops 12 in that trun) coming out of the Steppes to kick ass all over China.
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25. Board Game: Medieval [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:3935]
Magister Ludi
Australia
Fremantle
Western Australia
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This Richard Berg game closes with the Mongol Horde appearing . Generally the players spend their time waiting for the bad guys to show up and trying to put speed bumps in their way...

"But hovering like a very, very black cloud over all of this are The Mongols. No player knows exactly when they start to arrive, although the card play does give them hints … and some time to prepare, if they choose to heed the warnings. But when they do arrive, all Tartar Hell breaks loose, as The Mongols, also represented by cards, literally eat the map, east to west, conquering Powers, chewing them up and making them disappear from European view."
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