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Your Thumb on the Scales of History

In the time of the Roman Republic, your gens (plural: gentes) marked your "family" as descended from a common male ancestor. This nomen gentilicium was a loaded title, determining your allegiance and voting rights, your secret rituals and outward social norms. Unsurprisingly, it declined as Rome expanded, adding new citizens and extending rights to previously underclassed gentes. By the time of the imperium, the value of a solid nomen was no longer so estimable.

The civilization genre has always been about gluttony. Think back on all those times you shepherded a civilization from tiny settlement to grand empire. When was having more not a good thing? The success of a game-based civilization is nearly always measured in size, stockpile, quantity, output. Even digital civgames, which occasionally fret over issues like expansion stress or population pressure, nearly always treat these issues as minor debuffs on the national scale, and offer solutions as something you can build, research, or buy. To solve the inflation caused by your treasure fleets, spend extra money on more treasure fleets.

Of course, historical civilizations have no such advantage. Too much gold infused into your economy and it sheds its value. Too many stockpiled resources invites theft and pestilence. Too many cities and your borders stretch until invasion or fragmentation is all but inevitable. A soaring population is a hotbed of plague and strife. Even happiness is a double-edged sword. When low, your people revolt; when high, they grow plump and expect new amusements. It’s easy to forget that Juvenal wasn’t being shrewd when he wrote about “bread and circuses.” He was decrying the complacency of the population. In game terms, Juvenal’s Rome had a maxed-out happiness score. It just so happened that max happiness also spelled significant dings to military readiness and civic duty.

Now let’s talk about Gentes.

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