by Henry Gorman
I promised that I would give you more recommendations about what to do now that you have finished watching Game of Thrones. I struggle to be a Ned Stark and not a Petyr Baelish to you, dear readers. Today, I make good on my word.
Making good on your word is the opposite of what my next recommendation is all about. Today, I dip my pen in praise of my beloved Crusader Kings II, a medieval dynasty simulator crafted by a team of thoughtful and meticulous Swedes at Paradox Interactive, and my personal Game of The Year for 2012.
CK II places the player in the middle of slaughterhouse Europe and hands her a butcher knife. You start the game as a landed medieval nobleman or noblewoman. You will have a motley court, consisting of your bannermen (er, vassals), your family, and a passel of assorted hangers-on. There will be a few wise councilors and dedicated servants among them, but most will be scheming vipers plotting to take each other’s lives and lands, when they’re not trying to murder or depose you. You will likely serve at the court of some greater nobleman, where, if you’re any good, you yourself will be scheming for glory.
Like the Lannisters, you will ultimately begin to chafe at bending the knee to a mightier lord. So you will gather whatever power you can to yourself. You might win glory and land on crusade against the Heathen Turk (or, if you play a lord of the Muslim persuasion, on jihad against the Heathen Frank). You might expand your domain by forging claims on your neighbors, whether or not you share a liege. Much as Robert secured Tywin’s support on the throne by marrying Cersei Lannister, you too can find yourself powerful allies with the right wedding. And, with a few strokes of the knife, the younger daughter who you married while seeking an alliance might become an heiress whose son will unite your lands.
When you finally march on King’s Landing and take your uncomfortable seat on the Iron Throne (er, rather, by accumulating enough lands or plotting a rebellion, becoming your country’s king), life doesn’t get any easier. You will constantly be pressured to expand your realm, help your allies, and give land to your children. And, after you perish and your son or daughter takes the throne, he or she will have to face the murderous ambitions of his or her siblings.