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Iron Age: Council of the Clans

A political strategy game
of power, honour, and democracy.

"Iron Age" is a political strategy game, in which players compete and co-operate with each other to build a community. The better you manage your village, and the better you manage your relations with other players, the more honour you will gain. And the more honour you gain, the better your position will be at a special democratic assembly called the Landsmoot, where one player is elected the Chieftain.

Originally designed as a teaching tool for a college course in political science, the simple rules of Iron Age allow many strategic possibilities. From the “hard power” of the army to the “soft power” of trade and culture, just about every facet of politics in the real world can be represented here – all depending on how you play!

  • Build farms, workshops, Great Halls, temples, and more!
  • Recuit specialists like warriors, priests, and poets!
  • Trade with other players to enrich your village, or put other players in your debt!
  • Raise an army to protect your village, or to loot and pillage your neighbours!
  • Build voting blocks, coalitions, and alliances!
  • If you can get elected Chieftain of the Landsmoot often enough, and remain Chieftain long enough, you win the game!

    Players: Between 3 and 8

    Ages: 15 and up

    The 60-page rulebook includes:

  • Basic and Advanced versions of the game
  • Commentary on the philosophical roots of the game, especially in the political thought of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume,
  • Fifteen fun illustrations,
  • and a short essay on the nature of "soft power" games.


  • Character sheets for each player (available for free on the author's web site)
  • Three or more 6-sided dice.

    A Note for Philosophers and Educators:

    This game began as a project in experimental philosophy, which I presented to students of my "Theories of Social Justice" class. It is not mainly intended to teach facts: rather, it is intented to help students develop skills, especially in public speaking, political strategizing, rhetoric, and rational persuasion. It is also designed to reproduce and to experiment with what some philosophers call “the circumstances of justice”, meaning the social or economic or political problems that call for a justice- based solution. David Hume is perhaps the first to draw up the list of circumstances that most philosophers have used ever since. On his list of these circumstances are: moderate scarcity of resources; approximate equality of power among all players; and moderate self-interest. Would players in these circumstances reach the justice-based conclusions that Hume claimed they would? Or would they remain in a Hobbsean "state of nature", leading nasty, brutish, and short lives? As players calculate the best way to either win the game, or else at least avoid being eliminated from the game, they end up negotiating and co-operating with each other to handle these circumstances.

    In the course of play, "Iron Age" also helps demonstrate to students things like:

  • how political supporters are won and lost
  • how players with the most power are not always the clear winners
  • how to find the right "balance" between co-operation and competition
  • the importance of public speaking, argumentation, and persuasion
  • the importance of being alert to the movements of both allies and rivals
  • how political power flows from numerous sources
  • how to plan for the future, and how to grow a community sustainably
  • how much of our lives are unpredictable, and why it's important to prepare for the unexpected.

    "Iron Age" also demonstrates some features of Iron Age culture and history, such as the Heroic Feast, the importance of Honour, the role of fate and luck, and the early development of democracy.

  • Purchase the fully-illustrated softcover edition, from Amazon.com or direct from the printer.

    Also available as an un-illustrated ebook, from Amazon Kindle.