Incensed (5 players)
Incense trade kingdoms in South Arabia and the Horn of Africa during antiquity
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Special rules/information:

Incensed takes place in classical antiquity, starting in 200 AD. The setting South Arabia and the Horn of Africa. As is the case today, this region was a nexus of international trade. The finest aromatics, frankincense and myrrh, were only produced here. It is well known even in modern times that they were as valuable as gold. Ambitions to forge a monopoly over incense triggered conflicts involving power plays and shifting allegiances.

The countries are the Kingdom of Aksum, the Kingdom of Saba', the Kingdom of Himyar, the Kingdom of Hadramawt, and the City-States of Barbaria (modern Somalia).


1. Muza and Deire are connected by a land bridge.

2. Alailou includes the nearby water and Dahlak islands. The Alailou region has a coastal connection to Adulis, Arabian Gulf, and Yeha.

3. Portus Ferresanus includes the nearby water. The Portus Ferresanus region has a coastal connection to Arabian Gulf, Najran, Tihamah, and Herculian Sea.

4. All other rules are standard.


The primary historical sources that inform the map's geography and region names are the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Strabo's Geographica, the Christian Topography, the Monumentum Adulitanum, and the Ezana Stone.

Historical background:

History in South Arabia and the Horn is very old. Records from New Kingdom Egypt in the late Bronze Age reference the land of Punt as a major trade partner. Pharaohs like Hapshetsut famously commissioned state-sponsored trade expeditions. Punt is thought to have been located in the regions, with Eritrea and Somalia being the most likely locations. The Sabaeans of South Arabia were a major power in the Iron Age. Engineering wonders of the ancient world, the old dams at cities like Ma'rib brought agricultural prosperity. The domestication of the camel allowed the incense trade to prosper, too. Saba' was the land ruled by the famous Queen of Sheba. Sabaeans influenced growing city-states in Eritrea that formed a confederation known as D'mt. A city further inland, removed from the incense trade would later come to dominate these city-states. This was Aksum. During the Ptolemaic and Roman periods in Egypt, trade in the Red Sea particularly flourished. The Mediterranean was a massive consumer of goods from India and incense. Greek, Roman, and Indian traders had direct contact during this time. There are a number of Greek geography texts that describe the countries and cities around the Indian Ocean. The kingdoms of South Arabia and the Horn all wanted a monopoly over this lucrative trade. After the Emperor Augustus conquered Egypt, a Roman expedition was sent to South Arabia but ultimately failed. The southernmost Roman garrison in history was at Portus Ferresanus (modern Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia). Centuries later, Himyar would rise and dominate South Arabia while Aksum held firm influence and also dominated much of the Horn up to Egypt. In the 400s, Aksum converted to Christianity and Himary to Judaism. Religious conflict between the two kingdoms led to Aksum invading and conquering Himyar in the 500s. This hegemony did not last. The Aksumites were expelled by the Sassanid Persians who were later conquered by the first Caliphate. South Arabia became a crucial part of Arab civilization while Aksum slowly retreated from the coast into the highlands, ensuring the future of Ethiopian civilization. The region played an especially important role in the early history of Islam. Known as the first Hijra, early Muslims fleeing persecution in Mecca were taken in as refugees by the king of Aksum. Himyar was absorbed into the Caliphate early on and left a massive cultural impact. Many Himyarites were key figures in the period of the first three Caliphates.