Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kings of León

The Empire of Leon, in brown
It’s no secret that I’m currently obsessed with Paradox’s Crusader Kings II (a little late to the party, I know). If you follow me on Twitter you’re probably already sick of me describing the minutia of my fictional kingdom in unhealthy detail. In an effort to curb the follower bleed-off I get every time I unleash a 2,000 character tweetstorm about the king’s bedroom habits or which conniving noble is going to end up with his head on a pike for opposing me, I’m going to reduce the CK recaps to one blog post per game. That way I can avoid spamming the followers I have who don’t follow me for videogames chat.

Since I’ve already covered the recap thing on Twitter I’ll just cover it in brief strokes here. I played as the Kingdom of León, spending the early game trying to complete la Reconquista in double-quick time, but losing out on some key territory to the Holy Roman Empire (some of which I never managed to snatch away). After that I moved into Africa, conquering Mauretania and the former Malian Empire and then opportunistically snatched Sicily, Scotland (which netted me portions of Greece too) and eventually Italy. The rest of the game was played under the restriction of a fairly heavy defensive pact against me which left me picking fights mainly with the HRE and Byzantines for individual counties. Late in the game I also conquered Hungary and Croatia.

As someone who’s maybe read too many Harry Turtledove books I love looking at these odd diversions from history and marveling at the almost-plausibility of it all. I love the way the game starts out recognisable but can deliver a vastly different world by the time the game is over. Some of these diversions are more believable than others. Here are a few of the weird historical occurrences CK2 threw in my way this game:
  • William the Bastard failed in the Norman Conquest, managing to get about halfway through the Midlands before petering out. Then instead, Norway conquered England, which only regained independence 100 years or so later when the HRE absorbed Norway. This meant that all the nobles in England were of Norwegian descent, and many of the counties were culturally Norwegian. Even so – and I’m not sure how this happened – the royal dynasty of England ended up being Ashkenazi Catholics. England had a queen called Yentl, make of that what you will.
  • The King of Scotland went on a crusade to evict the Seljuks from Greece and ended up king of that country as well. Consequently when I interrupted an attempt by the English to expand north by galloping a whole bunch of caballeros across the field to claim Scotland, I got half of Greece too.
  • France ended up in a very weird civil war situation. It won Jerusalem in the second crusade and a few hundred years later Jerusalem declared independence from France and its king took his lands in France with him. The Scots used the ensuing conflict as an opportunity to seize Brittany and it was a long time before France was united again, although Normandy remained “Jerusalem” until game end, even after the Muslims took back the actual Holy Land. Eventually the Kingdom of Jerusalem (i.e. Normandy) was inherited by a culturally Cuman dynasty, which was pretty awesome.
  • I have to say I loved some of the characters I ended up with too. It’s weird and immersive in a way I didn’t think it would be. A mean, essentially what you have in front of you is a character sheet like it was D&D or something – a list of random traits and characteristics. All the character building really goes on in your head. Where possible I tried to play my characters true to the characteristics I was given. Some of my favourites were:
  •  Queen Fronilda the Just – My second monarch and the only female character I was able to play. She was educated in the ways of war by El Cid himself, so it goes without saying she was a little bit OP when it came to martial pursuits. Conquered Galicia and Aragon, early game. Went on Crusade and won a great victory against the Abbasids while pregnant with her third child, despite being wounded.
  • Emperor Guillen the Fat “Fatty G” – Like a hyper-competent Robert Baratheon. Hobbies include drinking, fighting and making bastards. ALMOST conquered France and then fought the Byzantines to install his brother’s wife on the throne. Then he let his brother die in jail and married her. Got a taste for being an Emperor after that, so decided to start his own. Fought off a jihad for Andalusia single-handedly. Learned the hard way that dogs and cats cannot live together.
  • Emperor Diego – Louche and indolent. Furious when his son married a lowborn Muslim girl, then a clubfooted countess. Also failed to conquer France. Somehow, though, managed to fight off a county claim by the HRE. Pushed Sicily for his son and then gained a rivalry with Count Odoin the Spider of Salerno, who he could not succeed in assassinating. Eventually invited him to a tourney where he perished by accidental lance to the face. I imagine wine sprayed out of Diego’s nose.
  • Emperor Juan the Great – Married Princess Bona of Italy, who cheated on him, infected him with the Lover’s Pox, and then tried to have him assassinated. Unfortunately Guillen was unable to complete his revenge and she fled to Italy which coincidentally was the epicentre of an outbreak of Poison Dick. Conquered much of North Africa. Built a giant tower.
  •  Emperor Juan the Terrible – Not really sure what he did that was so terrible, apart from that one time he had his sister tortured for plotting with the King of England to usurp his throne. Went mad. Frequently disrobed and howled at the moon. Chased ghost raccoons. Tried to have his cat burned at the stake.
All good fun. For my current game I started as Chief of the Fortriu clan in 769 and I'll give you an update on that soon. Thank you for indulging me.

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