ToM Research, Part 2. 

In my previous post, I gave an overview of the online research I had done for Tribes of Mexica. While it was fruitful, it wasn’t quite enough for two main reasons:

  1. Online research is hard to verify, and doesn’t often go through the same level of scrutinizing and fact checking as a typical book.
  2. The internet is filled with a plethora of information on just about any topic, but the “big picture” is harder to come by as the data usually lacks context.

Needing some books, I naturally headed out to The World’s Biggest Bookstore.


My first stop was the military-focused Osprey section. Comparatively speaking it contained very few Aztec books, but I managed to find one that could serve as a great visual reference. It also contained examples of Zapotec, Mixtec, and various other warrior groups, which was a nice bonus.


The world mythologies section was my next stop, and I found it to be surprisingly small. I picked up one short primer on Aztec & Maya myths, though, which did a nice job of trying to sort out the Mesoamerican pantheon. That might sound like something relatively simple, but it isn’t. There’s an awful lot of cross-pollination between the numerous cultures that existed in current day Mexico, and that makes it rather difficult to put together any sort of hierarchy with the surviving information (not to mention weeding out all the gods dedicated to just maize, i.e., corn).


I also spotted a book entitled Latin American Folktales, but it was a huge letdown. As I flipped through the pages, I quickly realized that it was nothing more than a collection of Christian parables retrofitted onto Aztec mythology — not something that was relevant to our game.

Finally, I stopped off at the history section, which actually proved to be most fruitful. The books I found here simply contained much more information, encapsulating mythology alongside a plethora of other topics. One fascinating tid-bit I picked up was the natives’ reaction to Christianity. Granted I just alluded to Tribes of Mexica taking place in a Pre-Columbian setting — and a mythical one at that — without any traces of Spanish colonialism, but it was the reaction itself that was the interesting part.

As a bit of background info, sacrifice played an integral role in Aztec life. Yes, this included human sacrifices, but also relatively tame rituals such as small, daily bloodlettings. The sacrifices were not necessarily meant to appease cruel gods, but rather to pay back for the gods’ own sacrifices. It was something of a trade that the people had a responsibility to uphold; an honourable act rather than a horrific appeasement.

Still, when the natives heard the tales of Jesus’ own sacrifice, many were quick to embrace the religion. An undercurrent of sorts made itself apparent that revealed a certain dissatisfaction with the sacrificial obligations that burdened the Aztecs. This was something that was integral to the story I drafted, so it was nice seeing some validation of the concept.


Another fortuitous find was the imagery of rituals where the Aztecs danced around in circles. Of course this didn’t really have much to do with warfare, but it was a nice parallel to our core gameplay mechanic.

Overall my trip to the bookstore was a relatively small investment for a veritable treasure trove of content. Realistically speaking, only a fraction of it will ever find its way into the game, but it’s always better to have a surplus of ideas rather than a distinct lack of them.

Posted by Radek Koncewicz
@JustRadek, designer at Incubator Games