Weird Orientalism

The kids and I have been playing a game called Great Wall of China, which is a German board game1 (actually a card game) designed by Reiner Knizia, who judging from the prominence of his name on the box is a big wheel in the game biz. It’s a fun game you can play with 2 or more, and like a lot of games they have dressed it up with a bit of history, connecting it to the building of the Great Wall. The connection is a bit odd at first. You are supposed to be a Chinese nobleman helping build the Great Wall, which is a little odd, since Qin Shihuang prefered to work through the buraucracy. The really odd thing, however, is that if you are about to win and want to declare this the last round you have to inform the other players that this is the last round by shouting out “Guangzhou!” I can think of  a few reasons for this.

1. The game box says it was made in China. Maybe it was made in Guangzhou.

2. Most historical atlases say that the Guangzhou region first became part of the empire in the Qin, so since the game is about the North part of the Qin empire you should bring in the South part at the end.

3. Asian words and history are just cute ways of making things seem exotic, and so you don’t need to worry too much about what things actually mean.

P.S. It is a cool game. Maybe not as good as Wasabi!, or Munchkin, or Settlers of Catan, but well worth getting.

  1. Wikipedia rules 

1 Comment

  1. I think (3) is probably right, but I like explanation (2) better.

    Ever played Feilong (“The China Game”)? I picked it up at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. There are three sets of questions about the history and culture of China, corresponding to three levels of difficulty. Kind of like Trivial Pursuit. But sounds like it’s less fun than Great Wall of China, especially if the players differ in how much they know about China.

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