Crusader Kings II

Game of Thrones diary part five: staying alive in Crusader Kings 2′s Westeros

Rich McCormick at

Rich's rules: 1. Play as ruler of the North, Ned Stark. 2. Don't die. 3. No honour, only backstabbing. 4. I'd really like not to die, please.

Welcome to the Game of Thrones diary, in which Rich plays as Ned Stark and tries to stay alive in the excellent Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2. The diary may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones book one and season one of the TV show. Missed the story so far? Here's part one, part two, part three and part four.

My wife tried to kill me, but that’s OK. I’ve decided Mya Stone – King Robert Baratheon’s bastard daughter, and my new bride who professes to love me – slipped and put the poison in the wrong cup. She must’ve been trying to kill someone else in the castle. An innocent mistake. A totally innocent mistake with absolutely no troubling connotations whatsoever for my rule of the largest bit of Westeros.

I think it’s time for a holiday, away from Winterfell for a bit. Fortunately, Arya has managed to fabricate a claim for me on The Twins, the province to the south. That claim means I can legally go to war for control of the region, and as I’m a double-hard bastard on the battlefield, I’ll put myself in charge of my combined armies and lead from the front. That way, I’ll be out of the house and away from any further possible poisonings. Here’s hoping I don’t come back to a heap of bodies and Mya standing over them claiming that “wolves did it”.

Arya is a genius, it should be said. I mean, she’s a ‘genius’ according to her character sheet, giving her happy bonuses to her major statistics – but she’s also a genius for managing to fabricate a claim on The Twins for me. I previously had my spymaster Roose Bolton on the task, and despite being one of the most duplicitous men in Westeros, he failed in his job time after time. I cut Roose loose earlier in the year, and installed my brilliant daughter in his place on my small council instead. It’s not simple nepotism. Roose held the position for half a decade; in the six months it took Arya to draw up a fake claim and let me go to war, the only thing he managed was to die of severe stress.

My daughter is turning into one of the game’s best characters, and everyone else knows it. She’s inundated with marriage proposals and, as her dad, I get to choose which ones she says no to. For now, that’s all of them: not only are most of them too lowly to consider – and in the case of Narbert Whent, too stupidly named – but Arya’s too useful to lose.

"Arya’s also, weirdly, followed around by a big brown bear."

If she marries, she goes off to live in another castle, and I lose control of someone sneakier, cleverer and more dastardly than Roose Bolton. Arya’s also, weirdly, followed around by a big brown bear, and bears – as I’m sure you know – are handy to have around in a fight. Between her, Daenerys (married to my son Robb) and baby Batman (who’s responding well to her schooling), I might be able to dominate Westeros with a cabal of brilliant women in a few decades, thanks to my excellent genes and good eye for marriage.

Crusader Kings II’s marriage system is accurate to 12th century customs and, unless the female partner in the marriage is a lordly step above the male partner, the woman shacks up with the man. That’s why Bran – second in line for my seat after Robb, but not yet a full lord – has moved away to live with his betrothed wife, Lady Pia of the Vale, and why Jon Snow’s wife now lives in my house.

She’s clever but only a courtier, so I took a hit in my familial prestige. Worse, she’s called ‘Eddara’. Bit close to Eddard, that one, making me – as marriage organiser – look like a mad egotist. Jon seems happy, though, and when I attack, take and give him control of The Twins, he’ll be even happier.

I call up my armies from all corners of the north. CKII’s armies are made up of local peasants rather than professional standing troops, and the size of my lands mean it takes the most northerly men weeks to get down south. I arrange to meet them all at Greywater Watch, on the border of The Twins, and then cool my heels for a month or so. Once there, I install myself as their leader, and bring up the Diplomacy menu.

"I declare war for my claim on The Twins: a claim that’s total bollocks."

The option for ‘declare war’ is greyed out. I hover over the tooltip. It kindly informs me that I can’t start a war with armies already on the field.

Back home, lads! Yes, I know the castle we’re going to attack is just across the river, and yes I know you’ve marched for 30 days solid and some of you live half a continent away, and yes I am going to give you a Westerosi version of a phonecall when you get home to come back south again, but rules are rules.

I stay over in Greywater for a while as my troops disperse – the old gods know I don’t want to get back into the marital bed with poisoner Mya – and bring up the Diplomacy menu again. This time, I can follow the options that let me declare war for my claim on The Twins: a claim, remember, that’s total bollocks.