13-06-2012 Insipid said...
Crusader Kings II
Some reviews first:
PC gamer: http://www.pcgamer.com/review/crusader-kings-2-review/
Crusader Kings II is a strategy game developed and published by Paradox Interactive. From the factual description one would assume that the game is rather bland. However, I have spent a mere 157 hours whittling away my free time in the medieval simulator. Yes, it is a demanding addiction.
At its core CKII reminds me of the extensive diplomatic game play path within Civilization IV combined with aspects of its subterfuge; and a rather basic form of military command. Load the game up and you’re given a large map of medieval Europe; you can pick any ruler (Emperor or King) or vassal (Duke, Count, Earl or Baron) to play as from 1066 to 1377AD. The first time I fired up the map I chose to play as King Boleslaw “the Bold” Piast of Poland in 1066AD, for no reason other than I had played the demo of the game and had played as ruler of Poland then and wanted to see how far I could get with his dynasty. CKII is a sort of “sandbox” game, there are strictly speaking high scores you can aim to beat by collecting prestige and piety; but it is far more interesting to see how ambitious you can be in your area of expertise.
Each character within the game (there are thousands) has specific character traits and strengths, simply imagine that there are characters with RPG elements and different paths to take. There is mercantile success, military prowess, intrigue ingenuity, diplomatic potential and theological leaning. Depending upon who mentors a character and some number crunching in the background, a character will develop a leaning to one of those paths during childhood. The main leaning however is not the end of character development; over time a player character will get to make decisions on “random events” and gain traits which enhance their main leaning or detract from it. For example the ‘wroth’ trait adds 3 to martial ability but detracts 1 from diplomacy and 1 from intrigue. The ‘wroth’ trait is just one of hundreds; fortunately each trait explains what it does when a character gains it. Each character in the game has an opinion of your character in the game ranging from 100 (adoration) to -100 (excessive hate); generally speaking it is easier to play a ruler as a character with traits that other characters like. For example characters with the ‘wroth’ trait dislike characters with the opposite trait ‘humble’ and vice versa, and for this their opinions of each other will drop by 10.
So here is a brief description of my first run through of CKII with the Kingdom of Poland:
I randomly created a goal; I wanted the North-Eastern segment of Europe under my rule by the time the game ran out; or until my dynasty died out. This would consist of acquiring the Kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Estonia, Rus and Finland. The Poland King Boleslaw is granted by default has very limited in the following ways (most of which I was unaware of): it has a shoddy inheritance system (gavelkind); the crown law for the king’s authority was exceedingly limited, in effect my vassals were autonomous; my territory has little access to the ocean (towns on the ocean can potentially be charged 2x the tax of inland towns); the royal coffers held a measly 50 gold; and to top things off I had a younger brother with a claim to my throne who had married the daughter of my most powerful duke.
On the upside: most of my vassals liked my character’s personality traits, Boleslaw Piast is brave, just, strong and has the highest military leaning ‘brilliant strategist’; he is unmarried (which means I can make foreign allies through marriage); has a competent set of councillors; has close heathen territories to the north east and north west (you don’t need to fabricate claims to start wars). My first move was to get my character married and get my character to get a son or daughter, or else my property would be inherited by my brother. After consulting the “brides for arranged marriages menu” I marry my ruler off to Princess Sigrid of Denmark purely for her father’s political punch; rulers are particularly cautious about marrying off their daughters; because the daughter could potentially give their husbands children a claim to their throne. Denmark at this point in time is about as weak as Poland so the arrangement is mutually beneficial; individually I can only field about 2000 troops, he can field 3500. My first plan is to invade a neighbouring heathen county by starting a ‘holy war’.
Fortunately my envious brother rebels before I declare war against the heathens. He intends to take my throne with the help of his father-in-law. I raise my levies to suppress the revolt and call in my own father in-law to help me in my efforts to which he lands his troops and lays siege to one of the counties in revolt. The civil war drags on for a year until I capture my brother in battle and imprison him. He dies in prison without any children and I land up with his estate. Seeing as I’ve used up my trump card of calling in Denmark to assist with my internal war I attempt to steal away a small strip of territory from the heathens, I succeed in my attempt. Randomly, I get 200 gold “gift” from the Pope in recognition of my struggles against the unconverted.
When levies (vassals’ troops) are raised they get a buff which negatively affects their opinion of you. The buff is temporary and takes a few months to get rid of dependant on how long you raised the levies. After two years, I attack another heathen county to extend my territory, this however was not the brightest move, the count I attacked called in two of his Rovuma comrades to defend himself. Fortunately for me I have a gold reserve and hire some mercenaries to deal with the invading pagan armies while laying siege to the county I started the war over. A year later and I’ve won the county I wanted and have boosted the tax on my vassals. Gold is now trickling in and I upgrade the villages in my core duchy so that I will have better gold inflow. In this time my wife finally produces a son.
Upon later inspection I find that my wife has recently acquired the ‘chaste’ trait which has a really affect negative affect upon her fertility. Her main personality trait is “Mastermind theologian” which also has a considerable negative effect upon her fertility. Problematic for the game because I only have the one son and no kin to take the throne should my character die, (when a character dies without dynastic heirs, the game ends). The downside to Boleslaw’s good character is that he is woefully inept at any form of intrigue. I switch my ambition from becoming a ‘paragon of virtue’ to ‘killing queen consort Sigrid’, unfortunately any potential co-conspirators like her too much to make a move against her. While worrying about my character’s dynastic problems, the heathens in Estonia mount an offence against me for the control of the first county I acquired in my first holy war. While meeting the army of the Chieftains from Estonia; Boleslaw the Bold dies in battle. This is quite annoying really, because Boleslaw’s son is now the King at age 4. After suing for peace Boleslaw II attempts to manage the kingdom while growing older; none of the vassals like him and as the character grows up he develops the most annoying traits like “slothful” and “gluttonous” under his guardian (one of the dukes with the best characteristics). At the tender age of 12; the death screen shows up and the game is over; my character was murdered by his own spymaster.
All in all I have had quite an enjoyable time attempting to play this game in various play styles. Bear in mind that there is no grand narrative, I suppose that my over-active imagination is the fabric that holds the intrigue and pull of the plot together. Is anyone else playing this? If so has anyone else started playing the Game of Thrones Mod at http://citadel.prophpbb.com/topic520.html ?
13-06-2012 Zoop said...
Re: Crusader Kings II
I bought this on the recent sale, but I haven't taken the time to properly sink my fangs into it. Never really learned my way around EU3, but will try this out once I have a bit more time available to me.