The majority of Imperial citizens have very limited leisure time in their days; Imperial work schedules are relentless even if hab blocks are usually located close to places of work and many citizens who want to get anywhere in the world have more than one job. But the Imperium appreciates the psychological toll such relentless schedules place on workers and seeks ways to provide them with outlets in the form of communal sports arenas and a variety of approved games.
Many sports played in the Imperium are those played by humanity in history – though these games may have gone through several iterations and rules changes, there are old classics that simply do not die. The Imperium tends to favour those sports that promote competition and small unit tactics, and violence tends to be a common theme in most of the popular spectator sports.
Like many cultural elements in the Imperium there are a myriad of sports and games found around the galaxy – from those unique to various worlds to the (often highly dangerous) games invented by Guard and Navy personnel in long months of void travel and planetary deployments. The following examples are some of the more popular games and sports across the Prosperitas Sector.
Follis is a popular sport played in various variations across Subsector Primus, a variation upon an ancient Terran sport developed in the holds of Imperial colony vessels enroute to the Sector. Between two and four teams oppose each other across a defined pitch (some variations are played in zero-g and low-g so pitch dimensions vary). In a central zone a sphere (often ultralight metal) is deployed and teams compete for control of it before aiming to carry it into an enemy zone to score. Almost universally every planet in the Sector knows what Follis is, agree it is played with a ball, and simultaneously agree extreme violence is illegal and very fun – the rules themselves including how to transport the ball are a matter of some disagreement.
Kashisawar is a native Prosperan game originating in the West Rimward region around Subsector Tenebris that has found popularity with Imperial citizens. Played from the back of single-occupant mechanized vehicles individuals compete for control of the Sawar, usually a Munitorum issue sandbag but traditionally the corpse of a hive rat. In most versions of the game scoring is achieved by carrying the sawar to one end of the playing area, circling a pole and then carrying it to a scoring zone at the opposing end. Other players then attempt to steal the sawar by ramming and jostling the player carrying it, should a player lose control of the sawar this sequence must be repeated. There is some debate as to whether kashisawar should be played in teams and how many points are required to win, so some games can go on for days. There are some Rough Rider units that have chosen to play the game from the back of riding beasts, but it is of general agreement that this is vastly less interesting unless the beasts are particularly vicious.
The reckless human appreciation of speed continues apace in the 41st Millennium with racing continuing to be a popular pastime regardless of what world in the Prosperitas Sector you visit. From the massive mechanised derbies held in the wastelands around the sector’s Hive worlds to the death-defying glider races performed by reckless young Nobles leaping from the heights of the spires of Monacus, racing is a popular pastime across the galaxy and no less so in the Prosperitas Sector.
Gladiatorial combat or ‘Pit Fighting’ is one of the more dubious sports within the sector; officially sanctioned licences for holding such events are expensive, so there is a large unlicenced underworld. Licenced Arenas such as those of the Nobles of Korimesta make huge business on selling fight footage for mass broadcast and so are famous for their theatrics as much as they are for the brutality of the fights they put on. The majority of individuals that enter licenced arenas are indentured, though some are willing and paid champions with contracts with powerful individuals and Houses. Most Pit-Fighters are heavily modified with biological and mechanical augmentations to make fights last longer and be more spectacular. There are a number of non-lethal combat sports such as wrestling and boxing but these draw little when compared to the more brutal spectacles of Gladitorial combat.
Duelling traditions hold strong amongst the nobility, though more often than not they are constrained to non-lethal confrontations. Most duels draw a large crowd of spectators from amongst the nobility but, with few exceptions, common Citizens are barred from viewing these spectacles.
Sports are not for everyone, especially not tired and run-down industrial workers, and there are many games that don’t involve physical exertion.
As with any area where sports are common, gambling is often a popular leisure activity amongst the population of the Prosperitas Sector; given the little coin and resources supplied to the average citizen gambling can often be seen as a way to win a degree of comfort or lift oneself out of the gutter. Amongst the Nobility whole cities, ships and even planets have been gambled away as stakes have gotten truly ridiculous. Wherever there is competition there will be those willing to risk everything to gain something. Gambling itself is not illegal, though it often comes under scrutiny by Imperial authorities and it is not unknown for local laws to restrict or clamp down upon it happening without licence or restraint.
Card games continue to be popular amongst Imperial Citizens in line with widespread gambling; many card games of Earth-that-Was continue to survive into the 41st Millennium and remain popular pastimes. The Imperial Tarot, devotional as it is, is popular as a deck for card games, however citizens are heavily discouraged from playing this game with psi-active decks by the Adeptus Astra Telepathica.
Played amongst the Mechanicus of Naximus Prime, Cog is the quintessence of bluffing, a game in which everything is played in the players’ heads. Each player has a deck of cards, some displaying the Cog Omnissiah, some displaying a broken cog. Each player plays a face-down card, then each player in turn adds one more card – until someone feels safe enough to state that he can turn a number of cards face up and get only the depiction Cog Omnissiah. Other players can then overbid them, saying they can turn even more cards face up. The highest bidder must then turn that number of cards face up, starting with his own. If they show only the Cog Omnissiah, they win; if they reveal a broken cog, they lose, placing one of their cards out of play. Two successful challenges wins the game. Cog is not a game of luck; it’s a game of bluffing and calculation based upon known numbers within a deck, which can be incredibly frustrating when played with the mechanised servants of the Machine Cult.
Regicide is the quintessential board game of the Imperium a game of strategy and planning that is popular across the boundaries of class. However, like many games in the Imperium, it has no single agreed format, played on a variation of boards including three-dimensional ones, and with hand carved pieces to holographic displays, sometimes in variations where pieces are ‘shrouded’, hiding their type from the foe to make the game more challenging. It is the goal of the game to capture the opposing player’s ‘Emperor’.
Though Regicide is the most popular board game in the Imperium there are many other games favoured; most of these tend to have some reflection in warfare, be that strategic games or tactical games.
Few Imperial citizens have time for recreational hobbies, which is why spectator sports and games that can be played on breaks from work shifts are so popular. There are few hobbies accessible to most lowborn Imperials.
Tourism does occur in the form of pilgrimages to sites of historical and religious importance, but these trips (for most citizens) are short distance and on-world. The transport costs for the average citizen to travel long distances, even between Hives on some planets, are so prohibitive that such journeys are rarely made. A Hive Worlder may spend their entire life saving to make a trip on one of the hive-lifts to a shrine on the level above them.
For the Nobility the cost of travel is less restrictive; young Nobles of the Prosperitas Sector flock to worlds like the golden spires of Monacus to enjoy all manner of sights, activities and sounds.
The creation of art is a challenging hobby for a lowborn to enter, but some enjoy small crude displays of creativity – the carving/moulding and painting of small devotional symbols of Imperial saints and heroes is highly popular. It is often the biggest cause of reprimands for misuse of resources in Imperial workplaces – but despite the challenges, many aspire as a good toymaker or artist can attract the right attention and coin to leave lowborn stations.
Beyond these many hobbies common amongst humans since the beginning of history continue. The Prosperitas Sector’s worlds, especially amongst natives, have strong traditions of being close to nature and so hunting is one of the more popular pastimes.