In case any of you were wondering where I’ve been the past few months, I have quite the story to tell. This past semester at Lewis & Clark college I was utterly consumed by the international relations strategy simulator, Statecraft. Throughout the course of a few months, I delved into the machinations of simulated geopolitics, ruthlessly rose in power, destroyed my enemies and alienated my friends and peers. At the end of it all, I brought peace and order to the world...of Statecraft.


Before I get too far ahead of myself, a little explanation of Statecraft is in order. I decided to take a class called International Organization this semester. It seemed fun, was taught by a cool professor and apparently we would be engaging in some sort of ‘simulation’ throughout the term. The crux of the course was to examine how international organizations (IOs) interacted with states and the world at large. Statecraft was to be a practical application of those concepts—and would constitute a not insignificant chunk of our final grade.


At the start of the semester, we created accounts, logged into Statecraft and took a foreign policy attitude test. The results of that test would be used to sort like-minded individuals into individual country groups. Each group would then be assigned a country within the world of Statecraft, and besides the initial allocation of natural resources and a few scripted events, the whole of that nation could be customized by the group.


I ended up being placed in the only all-male group in the class. The professor would have gender-balanced us like in other similarly scored groups, but our scores were utter outliers. He announced this in class however and immediately a target was painted on us. Fantastic.


Anyway, the world of Statecraft works like a typical strategy game. Thus, every country decision, whether it be tariff policy or government type, would have some tangible effect on the game. These decisions would grant a myriad of positive and negative modifiers, that over time would push your country to glory or over the edge. There wasn’t an end-goal of the game per se, much like in world politics, there isn’t a permanent end objective—empires rise and fall and life goes on after all. However, there were a series of individual, competitive awards and a smattering of global awards. Countries were paired off and rivaled to one another at the get go, competing for the individual awards. However, the global awards were positive sum, and thus everyone could get them...if they could all work together.


Sound complicated? It was. The amount of number crunching that went into that game was immense. Regardless, the moment I was placed into ‘Country 1’, I did some calculations based on our strategic position. The scenario at the beginning of Statecraft is this: Country 1 was badly beaten by Country 2 many years ago, subsequently ceding their 'Orion Mountains' province to Country 2. Country 2 then enslaved the people of the Orion Mountains and had them tossed in gold mines to toil in agony. In response, the Orion Liberation Front, a freedom-fighting group, had cropped up in Countries 1 and 4. They would lead attacks against Country 2 until the Orion Mountains were returned to Country 1 and the people freed—diplomatically or not.


So, I was stuck in a country that at the very get-go was poorly situated and harboring a terrorist organization. What about my resources? Turned out, we were poor in just about everything save for a nebulous resource called “Scientific Knowledge” (SK). And Country 2, our competitive rival and oppressor of our people? They had a broad resource base and bonuses to gold production due to their slaves. Fantastic. Also, my country was isolated at the far Northwest corner of the map, surrounded by ocean to the West, North and South. Our only land border was, wait for it, Country 2.


In short, my country was the geopolitical equivalent of the nerd stuck in a locker at the uncool end of school. Understanding that, I did some reading of the manual and realized that our best bet towards survival was to lean into our few strengths. Thus, going into the first meeting with my assigned group, I proposed we become an Industrial-Scientific Dictatorship. This was to maximize our potential for growth, capitalize on our SK and give us absolute flexibility in the event of war. To my surprise, everybody was down with that and I was subsequently elected dictator. I didn’t even have to cross the Rubicon to gain absolute executive authority. Sweet.


We met secretly in the Pioneer Log office, home of LC’s student newspaper. It was a handy spot to form a nation and plot the demise of our enemies--it helped that I had the code to the room, as Editor-in-Chief of the PioLog. Under the burning fluorescent lights of the office, the Durendal Khanate was born. I was to become Khan of Khans, supported by my Vizier and Emissary, Jeremiah, my Paladin of War, Austin, and my Paladin of Society, Blake. Our country was a modern fusion of the Frankish culture of Charlemagne and the Mongol Empire. Every city, province and unit was named accordingly and we maximized our role playing efforts as the soon-to-be infamous Durendalians in all our memos, diplomatic messages and general conduct.


The first thing we did was address the slavery situation. We knew that we needed to get our land back as soon as possible, lest the terrorism problem end up blowing up in our faces. Of course, we assumed that as an oppressed nation, we could garner some sympathy from the international community. So, Jeremiah drafted up a proposal to pressure Styrkuria (the name of Country 2) and attract international support. The final draft was a majestic exercise in Durendalian culture and we sent it off with pride. We titled it, “The Barbarity of Styrkuria & The Orion Mountain Crisis.” We figured, hey, it’s all in good fun and it’ll get everyone on our side. What’s the worst that could happen?


The very next day, my country was indicted by our rivals, accused of violating the UN charter.