Games of 2013: Crusader Kings 2

January 13th, 2014 by

Yes I know it wasn’t released in 2013.  I played it in 2013. So there.
 
Crusader Kings 2 is a grand strategy game about intrigue, vice, popes and plagues. Blackmail, subversion, plotting and arson. Madness, murder, adultery and torture. Treachery, demons… and so on and so forth. Crusader Kings 2, then, differs from other strategy titles as its emphasis lies firmly with family.

It’s all about your heirs and your dynasty.

medieval_wedding_family

A typical game start for me would be as Earl Blathmac of Ulster. The dude is 40 and unmarried, but also content, gregarious, paranoid, honest, and something of a scholarly theologian. Every character has varying traits dependent on events that occur randomly, or not-so-randomly, throughout their lives.
 
So all well and good – he’s not possessed or infirm – but he’s got no kids! It’s game over right away if we can’t have an heir of my lineage, so first things first: get this bloke a bint tout suite and start knocking out prodigious progeny.

super baby

So we scour Europe for a suitable betrothal. What do we want from this marriage? Well, primarily strong sons. But what of political alliance? And what sort of genes/traits should this lady possess? Wives, since time immemorial, have been serious business.
 
Of course, you can’t see all the characteristics of your new love until you’ve actually got them home with you. It’s always a bummer to discover that your beautiful, vivacious new filly is also completely barking and given to deceit. They covered that up at the court of Brittany quite well, as per usual. Still, we now have a possible ally.

tywin

And so to the kids, apples of your eye each and every one. Well, maybe not. ‘Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man,’ said St Francis Xavier. In CK2 their education begins at six. But who do you trust to educate your offspring? Your brother? Your mother? Barry the Bishop? Should your mother have always preferred your brother for the throne, don’t be surprised if ickle Blathmac suddenly develops an interest in sadism. Or other blokes. Or cowardice. You can of course educate them yourself, but only a maximum of two at a time.
 
So the lineage is (kind-of) safe. You have a son, but he’s quite dozy. And then you have another one, and this guy’s a bit sharper. But he’s, er, second-in-line to the throne. Hmmm. I think you can see what sort of options are developing here. Should we make the first-borne a priest? Marry him off matrilineally? Change the succession laws? Or just, you know… bump him off?
 
So much to think about.
 
Meanwhile, you have a court to run. And they’re all, for the most part, utter barstewards. Everyone in CK2 is out for them and theirs, as I think Kissinger once put it. Oh, they’ll suck up when you wield power, but should that iron grip start to seem too effeminate, expect the plotting to commence. What’s your brother been doing recently? Or more importantly, his wife?

 

the-scheming-gamblers-paradise

CK2 is from the masters of map-staring, Paradox Interactive, and so naturally we’ll be wanting to expand our fiefdom. Get a few counties in the North of Ireland, and we can form Ulster, with my bad boy Blathmac as the Duke. Maybe we’ll keep Ulster too, and allow the earls of Tyrone, Oriel and the other one to attend our court. So long as they toe the line. We’ll watch them closely for signs of ambition, greed or other concerning traits. As your court grows, so too does the quality of your advisers and the determination of your rivals. Will you make them love you, or fear you? A bit of both, perhaps?
 
Whatever way you manage it, keep them in line. We’re going to try and form the country of Ireland and in doing so, we’ll have contenders in that Englander place who are currently much more powerful. Maybe we should see if those Picts could be encouraged to break a few windows… I could marry one of their daughters. The current wife has started boring me, after all, and she’s nearing forty…
 
As I said at the start, it’s all about family.  So If you can’t face another evening of telly with the missus, why not start a virtual one in Crusader Kings 2.

 

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