Why I love this game:
Alright, I really have to rave about this game for a minute. I'm normally pretty blah on most PC games these days, but this game has really reminded me why loved in the first place. For anyone else who feels that most games these days are little more than interactive movies, I strenuously recommend picking it up.
I bought the game (and the expansion) on Impulse a few days back (only 20 some dollars) and it's quickly becoming one of my favorite games ever. Sure, the documentation is very poor, and I was kind of regretting the purchase at first, but after a few hours with it, I just fell in love. I think that the best way to describe it is a feudalism simulator with some light roleplaying elements. Between the three time periods, and all of the Empires/Kingdoms, Duchies/Principalities, and Counties, there are literally 1000's of games to be played, each with different strengths and challenges.
A couple mini-AARs:
Count of Reggio:
My first game, I decided to play as the Count of Reggio (the "toes" of the boot of Italy), as a vassal of an independent Norman Duchy. I thought that I'd start small and work my way up. Plus, that county starts with a foothold in Sicily, occupied by a few Muslim factions in the particular time period I was playing. I spent the first few years developing my land and shifting the balance of power away from the clergy toward the burghers to try to squeeze some extra tax revenue out of my two counties. So far, so good. Meanwhile, my liege sends his heir to be fostered in my court, and I accept, of course. I felt touched that his algorithms picked me out as the most desirable vassal to foster some closer relations with.
After filling my treasury for a couple years, I decided that it was time to mobilize my armies and take another province in Sicily. Since the power of the burgher class had been enhanced relative to the others, I had a good number of archers to counter the sizable force of knights in Syracuse. So I march, defeat their army, and the Sheikh of Syracuse offers me a very generous sum that would recoup my expenses x4. I refuse, because I wanted the land. So the Sheikh offers the same sum to my liege and the Duke reaps the benefits of my little expedition. I get nothing.
Fuck. So, I decide to sit back, and try again in a couple years (since I'm still learning the game, I don't know, maybe I'll take it this time).
Meanwhile, after a random event in which Robert (the Duke) and I become friends over some boar-hunting trips, I determine that my wife appears to be infertile, and I have only daughters. Also, while I was away waging war, a Thieve's Guild was established in my home province, which gives me and my court a +50% vulnerability to assassination. So, after some actual, real-life emotional turmoil, I decide to arrange for my wife to have an "accident," so that I can get an heir. (Granted, the entire Duchy of Sicily and its vassals are Guiscards, so it wouldn't have been game over, but still, I wanted a son to inherit my titles). I managed to pull that off, and I married some fine, young French thing, who ended up giving me a couple of sons. So that problem was solved at least.
Then, as I was saving up for another attempt at an invasion, my liege passes away. His heir, who I had been raising for the past couple of years, suddenly becomes my liege. I was then given the opportunity to pay him homage, or declare my independence and pursue my own interests (like in Sicily). And you know what? Even though I knew that I was going to get screwed when I tried to take Syracuse again, I couldn't turn my back on the kid I'd fostered, who is the son of the guy I liked to boar hunt with. Instead, I decided to put this one on hold and start another game as the man in charge, the Duke of Apulia- I though that there would be fewer problems this way.
Duke of Apuia:
Robert Guisard, the leader of the Norman invasion of Sicily and southern Italy was a great general, but according to the game was also kind of a dick. So, I encountered a whole new set of problems in the new game. The traits that made some of my courtiers good diplomats and stewards (for diplomacy and the economics of my provinces, respectively) tended not to like me, although my spymaster was devotedly loyal. But, as I mentioned before, my three vassals were all kin (as was my military advisor), and thus had places in the line of succession, so were loyal to me as long as the loyalty of my chancellor held out. So I started out by sending my two girls and my bastard to my three vassals as fosterlings to strengthen the relationship between our courts. I decided to raise my heir myself to shape the kind of man he'd turn out to be. (Note that the game actually gives you many instances in their young life where you get to influence them if you choose this. But, the tradeoff is stress and a decreased chance of getting busy with your wife.)
I had a claim to one of the provinces just to the north of me (Capua), and since my finances were good, I pressed it immediately, went to war, and took it without too much trouble. I granted the title to my military advisor, since he was the only untitled male in my dynasty, and I was, and still am, kind of wary about letting any of my vassals get as powerful as I am.
Meanwhile, my personal holdings are still one more than my Intrigue score will allow, so I install my Chancellor (who's loyalty is waning) as the count of the one province not contiguous to the rest of my holdings (he has a pretty good Stewarship score, too, so I expect that the the province will still net me some good money). This seems to do the trick and bring him back into the fold. I replaced him with someone who wasn't as good, but was going to stay loyal much longer.
Shortly afterwards, one of the independent Counts of a rich province contiguous to my own holdings and I become friends (although he's become rivals with two of my vassals with unknown, future consequences). Shortly thereafter, he offered to become my vassal, which I accepted (and was even a little touched about). He had previously been refusing, and apparently it was that personal relationship that did the trick. Although really it's really not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, because my heir is next in line to inherit his province anyway (the heir's mother being the Count's sister).
So after saving up for a few months, I decided to take what I couldn't as a mere Count, and mobilized my troops from two provinces to invade Syracuse. (Another somewhat touching note was that 2 of my vassals- my boar hunting buddy, and the guy I'd sent my heir to, mobilized their troops for war as well, without me even requesting it). I was wealthy enough to ferry two divisions across the Straits of Messina to occupy his land (although costal provinces net you more gold though fisheries and trade, you do have to pay the transportation costs). I took Syracuse, but now I have to decide how to proceed. I want my heir to have his seat of power in Sicily (which is very wealthy), but my economic inefficiency has jumped up a bit for personally controlling more provinces than my Intrigue score will allow. This is where I am now. I'm trying to grant titles so that they (1) stay in the family, (2) retain a balance of power among my vassals, (3) provide adequate means for my northern vassals to remain competitive against the German armies in northern Italy, (4) don't stress out [with actual in-game effects] my underage heirs by burdening them before they are ready, (5) preventing my vassals from controlling many politically cohesive territories that would give them a claim on my Duke titles (or those of my heir, when he inherits them), (6)lead them into conflict with one another, (7) leave me with the economic and militarly power to put down a rebellion, and maybe most importantly, (8) leave me enough provinces to title my bastards with at least one province each, and title my chosen heir with enough land to get him through the inevitable rough passage of succession.
So I guess the main point of this post is to:
Provide a little pubilcity for a game that I've really, really enjoyed agonizing over. Seriously, if you like to think, and the time period has any interest for you, I don't think that you'll be sorry. Also, I know that there are some other CK players out there, and I wonder if you would be so kind as to share starting points that you've had fun with. Any hidden gems out there? I'm planning on trying the Welsh duchy/counties next, but the Bourbons, Navarrese, and Antiocheans also look like very fun games for different reasons. And I haven't even looked at the later two scenerios.