Montségur was once a castle in southern France. Today it is a ruin long abandoned. You can park at the parking lot near the road and walk up to what remains and take a view of the ragged peaks of the Pyrenees. Or visit Château de Montségur online right now.
The Cathars and the siege of Montségur
800 years ago the castle was a stronghold of the Cathars, a religious group practicing a version of Christianity not to the liking of the Catholic Church. ‘Heretics’ the church would call them. ‘Believers’ they would call themselves. Today we call them Cathars.
Montségur means ‘secure mountain’, the mountain where we can be safe. The original castle was built by a local noble who offered the castle as a home to the Cathars, especially the leaders of the faith. These so called Perfects took inspiration in the stories of Jesus Christ and would live their live following his example: Denouncing worldly belongings and a traditional family life, they would walk the country side preaching. They also believed that the current world is Hell as created by Satan. The path to salvation is to live a perfect life to not corrupt your immortal soul. Only then would you be reborn in Heaven. Otherwise you were doomed to reincarnate eternally into this world of pain and suffering.
The belief was popular. Perhaps also because you did not have to pay tithe to save your immortal soul.
At some point, the Catholic Church decided it could not tolerate this and the pope declared a crusade against the heathens.
In 1243-1244 a siege took place at Montségur where a small group of Cathars resisted a much larger crusader army. In March 1244 after a ten month siege, the Cathars surrendered and was given a choice: To give up their heretic beliefs. Or to burn at the stake. More than 200 chose to burn for their belief. Why did they not choose to live?
15 years ago I was inspired by this story and created a story game, Montsegur 1244. Through play you tell stories of people who at the end gets to decide whether to burn for their beliefs. I created the game because I wanted to play it. I also had the privilege that the game found an international audience. Editions have been published in English, Italian, French, German. Some time ago I shared the story of Montsegur 1244.
Today I am happy to announce that a new chapter has been added: Montsegur 1244 is now available in Japanese!
Montsegur 1244 in Japanese
Back in February, I was approached by Taiju Sawada from New Games Order, a small publisher in Japan, about publishing a version of Montsegur 1244 in Japanese. This week I picked up my complimentary copy. It took longer time to get through Swedish customs than to get to Sweden from Japan.
While I can’t vouch for the correctness of the translation, I can say that New Games Order has created a wonderful little product. The game comes in a sturdy box, 310 mm x 225 mm x 20 mm. The box contains a 32 page booklet, a relationship map, 16 character cards, 24 story cards, 32 scene cards, 6 act cards, 7 fact sheets and a yellow cross and a black meeple.
The Japanese translator Akira Okawada has written an introduction text of Montsegur 1244 (in Japanese).
You can purchase the Japanese edition here.
I wish every player of the Japanese edition a wonderful time creating stories of faith, love, survival, and death. Through play you create a bond with the line of Cathars walked down the mountain to choose between faith and life. An existential choice shared across time and space.