Book Report: The Fortifications of Ancient Egypt 3000-1780 BC from Osprey Publishing

As regular readers know, I am a huge fan of using history as a foundation for game campaigns. Nothing beats a little reality to spice up your next RPG campaign. To further my goal of injecting history into game campaigns, I occasionally do a “book report” on a history book that I find interesting and applicable.  I am not qualified to review any history books, but I can tease out some interesting tidbits that gamers might leverage and share it with my readership.

Today’s entry is The Fortifications of Ancient Egypt 3000-1780 BC from Osprey Publishing.  First off, Egypt does not receive due credit for its military installations. Thanks to a focus on the pyramids and tombs, people do not release that Egypt was a formidable empire and empires need castles and forts.  It even overlooked my notice until I received this book.

Egypt’s castles and forts, for obvious reasons, resided near the Nile river or its delta. This allowed garrisoning of key crossings and choke-points to enforce royal edicts or collect tolls.  The fortifications look quite familiar. High, thick walls, crenellations and fortified entrances resemble the later European and Middle Eastern castles.  That said, they do have a very Egyptian feel to the design and resemble the more familiar temples and tombs that most of us know and love, but with a more functional design. People lived and worked in these structures, not visited on the day of Pharoah’s funeral.

One fortification caught my eye because I thought it simple, but very effective. The graphic below is an Egyptian watchtower.  Usually placed by itself to oversee  a road or small town, it is just an elegant, simple design that brings real challenges to an attacker.

I am very fond of the retractable ladder. Sieging this tower is nothing short of a nightmare. Like all good fortifications, it takes far more men to achieve the tower than to defend it.  Next time your PCs think that taking out the local guards is a cakewalk, put them in one of these….

Another tidbit is the Egyptian method of portage. Rather than just dragging the boat around waterfalls with brute force, Egyptians installed semi-permanent mud race ways.  The mud functioned as grease and combined with some oxen moved boats quite efficiently. I see the encounter now, the PC are portaging their boat, knee-deep in a mud pit when the enemy arrives. Good times.

Overall, I really thought this book had some fresh ideas for the game master and a new take on the standard castle. I highly recommend you check it out.

Trask, The Last Tyromancer



Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.

One thought on “Book Report: The Fortifications of Ancient Egypt 3000-1780 BC from Osprey Publishing

  • October 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

    History books in general, and Osprey books in particular because of their wonderful illustrations, have always been a favorite resource of mine.

    Thanks for the review. That tower would be useful for defense against raiders who would not have much in the way of heavy weapons (or magic). Just wait for them to decide it was not worth starving you out (or for help to arrive, hey, an adventure!).

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