Crusader Kings II

Game of Thrones diary part six: 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 threepart four and part five and part six.

The king is dead. Long live the king. Wait, let me check that second bit: Robert Baratheon’s death has pushed his son Steffon onto the throne and thrown half the kingdom into revolt, offering me the chance to rise up against my Baratheon bosses. I cast my eye over Steffon’s stats to see if I should let the king live.

He’s an average commander, and already likes me. He’ll do. I enter the war on his side to keep him sweet – it’s the crown versus a few bitty provinces who’ve chosen their moment to wrest free of kingly control – knowing full well that I won’t commit any of my forces to the conflict.

I’ve got my own stuff to sort out. My forces are camped outside Riverrun for the second time, knocking at the castle front door and trying to lure its ruler out. That ruler is Malwyn Whent, whose dad I captured and imprisoned after nicking his land. Malwyn’s in charge because his dad died of severe stress a few months ago. I can’t help but feel partially responsible.

I’ve got about 25,000 troops pissing about in Malwyn’s back garden. His own forces are ruined, so it doesn’t take long for him to poke his head out of Riverrun’s murderhole. As soon as I spot him, I grab him by the ear and put him in the same cage I used for his dad. As with daddy, Malwyn won’t surrender his lands, so I start trudging northward.

The minute we hit Stark-held territory, Malwyn pipes up from his prison, offering me the Freylands – the bit of land I went to war over in the first place. Pleasure doing business with you, Malwyn.

"Arya’s been getting marriage proposal after marriage proposal recently."

After I’ve sent my levies back home, I take one more look back at the Riverlands. My intervention has weakened the provinces, and they’re scrapping among themselves. I idly check out the reasoning for the scuffle and see the aggressors are fighting to get Arya Stark – my daughter – installed as lord of the Riverlands.

Arya’s been getting marriage proposal after marriage proposal recently, but I’ve been turning them down as she’s blessed with some incredible traits and character statistics, and the ability to pull a claim on a territory out of thin air. Ideally, I’d keep her in my court forever, wheeling her out to fabricate justifications for war with a wave of a pen, but she deserves better.

The rest of my kids are flawed: Robb’s craven, Sansa’s selfish, Bran’s boringly content with his life – Arya is the only one that’s unequivocally brilliant. I want to give her a prize for that brilliance, something tangible to show her she’s my favourite. What better prize than the Riverlands?

I pop down to my dungeon to have a word with Malwyn, still trussed up in irons, but still technically lord of the Riverlands. I say that my daughter deserves his house and all his stuff, before toddling off to give my vassals a ring to secure the services of their armies.

I’m sitting with said armies on the border between the Riverlands and the North – the Twins, the bit of land that I nabbed from the dastardly Freys last week – when I get a shock notification. The king is dead. At first I think it’s old news, Crusader Kings II bugging out, but I dig deeper. Steffon, the spritely 19-year-old head of the realm is now Steffon, the very-much-dead ex-head of the realm. While I was faffing around with Malwyn and his Riverlands, both the provinces of Westeros’s west and east – the Westerlands and the Vale respectively – joined forces with usurpers to overthrow Baratheon rule. Steffon’s life was ended in hand-to-hand combat by one of the few major characters still alive from the start of this diary: Jaime Lannister. How can one man kill so many kings?

"How can one man kill so many kings?"

The throne quickly passes to Robert’s second (legitimate, the lusty dog) son, Guyard. Guyard’s a better proposition than his dead brother, and not just because he’s not dead. He’s ‘massive’, for one, making him a powerful fighter. He’s also a good commander and an exceptional steward, boding well for the realm’s rule. I’m much happier to throw my chips in with baby Baratheon 2 than I was his predecessor, but I still don’t intend to help him wipe the remaining rebels off the map. I’ve got my own problems in the Riverlands.

My armies are besieging Riverrun, but Malwyn won’t give in and hand Arya his lordship. Granted, negotiations are taking a while because I have to keep sending ravens back up to my house to chat to the man locked in my dungeon, but you’d think having crushed his army of 20,000 with 30,000 men of my own would’ve sent a powerful enough message. Apparently not: the option to force him to surrender is greyed out on the diplomacy screen.

Crusader Kings II scores your wars using something appropriately titled ‘warscore’. Warscore is inflated by occupying territory, or winning battles, and once one side gets it to 100%, they can sue for surrender on their own terms. My warscore is stuck at around 25%, having smashed one great clump of enemies in one fight, before cantering straight for Riverrun. I easily have enough men that I could split my army into bits and send them off to siege other Riverlands regions, but that process would be fiddly and slow. Much better, I decide, to roll my men into a big burly ball and careen around the countryside battering the remnants of the Riverlander forces like a horribly spiky Katamari.