Civilization V: King Kamehameha

Kamehameha001.jpgIn civilization you can play as the Polynesians under the leadership of Kamehameha. King Kamehameha was the guy who formed the Hawaiian Empire. There is a fantastic statue commemorating King Kamehameha just across the street from Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Playing as King Kamehameha, you get a bonus to navigating oceans, combat, and you have Maori Warriors as a special unit.

I find the in game ability Wayfinding (Units can embark and move over oceans immediately. +1 Vision Range for embarked units.) to be especially appropriate. The Hawaiians have a mastery and admiration for the ocean that is fascinating. To be on or in the water seems to be a necessary aspect of life here, linked to the Hawaiian history and culture. The original settlers of Hawaii were such masters of the sea that they came all the way from Tahiti in a simple double canoe. Sarah Vowell sums it up pretty well in her book Unfamiliar Fishes:

“The ancient Polynesians were some of the most skilled and talented natural-born navigators the world has ever know. Which is how the natives of Tahiti and the Marquesas settled the Hawaiian Islands at least a millennium ago–eyeballing stars from their double-hulled canoes for 2,600 miles. The missionary Hiram Bingham dismissed the Polynesians’ sailing expertise, writing of the migration to Hawaii as dumb luck, supposing that they arrived ‘without much knowledge of navigation’ just as ‘trees from foreign countries repeatedly land on their shores.’ The Polynesian Voyaging Society proved him wrong in 1976, when Hawaiians sailed a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe to Tahiti in thirty-three days without using navigational instruments.”

King Kamehameha also gets you a 10% combat strength increase if within 2 tiles of a Moai. Plaques and blurbs about King Kamehameha always sound so positive, saying that he “united” the islands. What most fail to mention is that he “united” the islands by waging a brutal war against the other leaders on the islands.

I am not aware of any Moais in relation to King Kamehameha, but in the 1790s (after he had been battling for almost a decade) Kamehameha did pause for a minute to build a temple to the war god Ku. After it was completed Kamehameha somehow enticed Keoua, a rival chief, to the newly constructed temple. There is some speculation about why Keoua would agree to visit his biggest rival at a temple that had just been built to honor said rival’s god of war, especially when there was a prophecy in the mix that said something about war ending when “one shall come and be laid above” the temple. Not surprisingly, it didn’t end well for Keoua. Kemehameha’s men killed the chief and offered him up as a sacrifice. That left Kamehameha in charge of the big island, and over the next few years he aggressively conquered the other islands one by one. In the end, it looks like that sacrifice worked out pretty well for Kamehameha, and really all of Hawaii.

Civilization V is not exactly spot on. King Kamehameha never ruled over the entire Polynesian Islands. He didn’t have any Maori Warrior. Although, because their language derived from the same source as New Zealanders at the time, Hawaiians called themselves Maoli. So, technically, King Kamehameha did have Maoli Warriors under his command. I guess the makers of Civ V just wanted to include bits from all of the Polynesian Islands, not just Hawaii. Overall, I think they did a pretty good job.


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