1066 is a strategy game that mirrors conflict in war by placing players in control of an army engaged in a medieval battle. By taking turns with a computer or other players through each round of play, players must make decisions about the formation and actions of their own army as they attempt to defeat an enemy army.
1066 was produced in collaboration with a UK television channel to accompany a two-part historical documentary. Its explicit goal was to offer a standalone digital experience that could engage 10-16 year-olds and pique their interest in history. While its interface is relatively simple, the game has high production value, with evocative, atmospheric audio and beautiful animations that drive the game’s storytelling. Animations provide context for the game’s central conflict between the English, Normans, and Vikings over control of England, as well as depict the battlefield action that results from a player’s decisions during each round of play. Intense music and battlefield sound effects (including blood spattering and swords clashing) help create an immersive experience, while the armies exchange historically-informed verbal taunts to damage the enemy’s morale.
The importance that 1066 places on morale elevates it above other strategy war games that focus solely on the number of enemy combatants killed or damage wrought. In 1066, the battlefield commands that players execute are not the only important element in an army’s success. Players must be aware of their army’s morale in addition to the results of their own strategic decisions in maneuvering and deploying their troops with different capabilities. The detrimental effects of taunts hurled by the enemy army (as light-hearted, comical, or ridiculous as they might seem to contemporary audiences), make themselves increasingly apparent as an army’s morale stat decreases in response to both battlefield losses as well as protracted taunting from the enemy. In order to achieve success in 1066, a player must combine consistent taunting with savvy strategic choices.
Importantly, taunts and their effects on morale call attention to the fact that the troops engaged in these historic, medieval battles, while represented by icons on-screen, were human beings who had emotional responses to the action that was happening around them. While these emotional responses are only examined on a basic, surface level through the “Army Morale” stat on screen, they are nonetheless present for players to consider as they decide how to best deploy their army’s capabilities to defeat an enemy army.
1066 is an engaging game that places players in a decision-making role in a particular historical context. Because of this, it has the potential to serve as a gateway for young people to learn more about medieval history and battle strategy. However, it does not do very much to actually examine how a loss of morale can manifest itself on the battlefield among individuals; instead, it merely recognizes that, in addition to tactical and strategic decision-making, morale plays a role in warfare. Ultimately, the game could go further to connect young players to relevant historical resources and engage them in critical play. One possibility for critical play is encouraging players to think critically about timeless, universal themes around human, emotional responses to battlefield action, which could be a compelling extension for what is currently an “entertaining but hollow” experience.