Being Invaded

I was listening to the always-interesting Perfect Information Podcast the other day (episode 25) and enjoying the deep, opinionated discussion (also loquacious and somewhat sweary) about some of those tricky subjects that get glossed over, ignored, whitewashed or romanticised in games.  Like slavery, or representation of indigenous peoples in colonial settings.  There are a lot of interesting thoughts there, but the one that really caught my attention was the assertion that while there are many games where players control colonial powers, there aren't any which treat the indigenous peoples as anything other than an obstacle to be overcome.  Okay, so there is Archipelago, which is a little more nuanced, but I think the point still stands.  The general assumption is that the colonial powers are the "good guys" at some level.

So why are all the games from the point of view of the colonisers and never about the colonised?
I gather it doesn't always go well for colonial powers.
Source: By Melton Prior (1845-1910). - The Illustrated London News May 14, 1881, vol. 78, p. 469. Scan provided by The Library of Congress., Public Domain
So this got me thinking.  Can I make a game where players actually control indigenous tribes in a land, getting on with whatever alliances and rivalries they have, and then an external colonising power arrives to steal their lunch?

This is still early stages, but I think I can go somewhere with this.  I'm writing this post largely to just put something into a more tangible form which might encourage me to actually turn it into something playable.

Just as some rough notes for now...

  • Tribes can have a number of possible strategies:
    • Fight the invaders.
    • Trade with the invaders.
    • Collaborate with the invaders.
    • Flee.
    • Aim to get rich.
    • Try to use the invasion to wipe out a rival tribe.
  • I'm not sure about overall objectives, but presumably being in a better position than other tribes at a certain point is important.
  • The invaders can be assumed to be almost unstoppable and with technologies that the tribes can't really compete with.
  • This could be cooperative, but I would like it to be competitive.  Maybe there could be different play modes.
  • Basing this on a historical period and location (colonisation of Africa, North America, South Pacific, etc) could offer some really great opportunities for a really interesting game.
That's about what I have right now, but I've had a chat with a game designer friend about this and some more ideas are starting to swirl around, so the next step is probably to put something basic on the table.