Mongol Matrix Game

Mongol Matrix Game Rules

The year is 1239. Batu, a grandson of Genghis Khan and leader of the Golden Horde, is steadily moving west through Eurasia. After conquering the steppes of the Aral Sea, he has successively captured the Kievan Rus principalities of Great Bulgar, Riazan, and Vladimir/Suzdal. Only the great Rus principalities of Novgorod and Kiev and the lesser city of Moscow stand against him. The Metropolitan of the Rus (Church), weakened by the 1204 sack of Constantinople by Western Crusaders, also looks on anxiously. In this game, you will simulate the interactions of these major players at this time as the fate of Kievan Rus is decided.

This simulation is a matrix game, which means it is primarily driven by your actions and your responses to the other players. All actions are played out on a map board in turns. Each turn represents 3 months in the game world. The order of turns is always the same: Mongols, Kiev, Novgorod, Church, Moscow, Mongols. The Mongols get two turns in each round because of their speed and immense power. You must write your action on a 3×5 card before the round begins; this is so that the actions take place simultaneously, without reacting to other factions’ moves. When it is your turn, you will turn over your card, stating the action you wish to take and why you think it will succeed. Note: you can only take ONE action per turn. For instance, if you were Kiev, you could not say “I plan to attack the Mongols at Vladimir and ask Constantinople for help” because those are two separate and distinct actions. An easy way to categorize actions is using the elements of national power: Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic (DIME).

 After you state your planned action, each of the other players will say why they think it will or will not succeed. The other players should not say whether their side WANTS the action to succeed, but should instead present arguments backed up with facts on whether the proposed action COULD succeed. For example:

  • Planned action by the Church: Excommunicate all Rus leaders who make a deal with the Golden Horde
  • Good response from Kiev: “This action will succeed because of the Church’s long history and association with Kievan Rus. Also, the Church has warned us it would take this step in previous turns.”
  • Bad response from Kiev: “This action will succeed because the Mongols are a bunch of heathens. As good Christians, God is on our side.”

After each player has responded to the proposed action, the instructor will assign a die roll to be met for success. The baseline is a seven, but the instructor may adjust the number needed depending on the assessed difficulty of the action. Players: you can directly impact this aspect of the game by making convincing arguments on whether an action will or will not succeed. The player will roll two six-sided dice to adjudicate success or failure. Especially high or low rolls can impact how spectacularly you succeed or fail. For instance, if Novgorod attempt to make peace with the Mongols but rolls a two, the instructor could assess that Novgorod accidentally declared war on the Mongols due to the language barrier!

We will play a few rounds in class, saving time for discussion. Good luck!

Mongol Matrix Game Role Sheet – The Golden Horde

You are the leaders of the Golden Horde, part of the greatest empire the world has ever seen. Your grandfather, Genghis Khan, established the Mongols as a force to be reckoned with. You are keen to continue his legacy of expansion and conquest by extending the Golden Horde to the west. You cannot expand to the east or the south, because those lands are also governed by descendants of the Great Khan.

You relish the legendary status of Mongols as bringers of death and destruction, and you use that legacy to frighten weaker powers into submission. However, your actions are tempered by the fact that dead men and destroyed cities do not pay tribute. Because you are nomads, you have no ability to build cities, farm lands, or develop new technologies on your own. Instead, you are wholly reliant on the people you conquer to offer these things to you in tribute.

Potential actions: Below are potential actions that you could take in a single turn. This list is not exhaustive; you may propose other actions as long as they are consistent with historical reality.

  • Diplomatic: Send an emissary to a city to negotiate for a specific action or outcome
  • Informational: Spread messengers in the region with tales of previous Mongol actions
  • Military: Attack and destroy a city
  • Economic: Demand that a city pays tribute to you in exchange for sparing their lives


  • Expand your territory. You want to subordinate as many principalities and lands as possible to pay you tribute.
  • Sustain the frightening legacy of the Mongol Empire. You cannot have local powers thinking you are weak, and you especially cannot look weak in front of other Mongols. They might use it as an excuse to take your territory!
  • Minimize resistance in conquered territories. A nomadic force like yours can’t be mobile and lethal if you have to constantly put down uprisings in areas that you rule.