Last year I played a multi-generational game of grand strategy Crusader Kings 2 using the A Game of Thrones mod, which transforms the historical medieval setting of CK2 into the continent of Westeros from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels (and the HBO series). My goal was to play as the most minor of lords and experience the conflict and drama of Westeros from the ground floor. Game of Checkers will run on Sundays for ten weeks.
It’s a bit jarring in Crusader Kings 2 when the character you've been playing dies and you suddenly assume the role of someone else. The to-do list you had in your mental file is now useless and irrelevant, but hard to immediately forget. The attributes you were used to are gone. The relationships you forged are different. Plans are either altered, or dashed altogether. Even if you’ve been interacting with your heir, even if you know them and care about them, when you suddenly become them, they feel like a complete stranger.
But, that’s how it goes! Ninedrick is dead. Frankly, in such a dangerous world, dying of pneumonia is surely one of the gentler ways to go. Now, I’ll squeeze into the frame of his pudgy son, Neddrick. To recap Nedd's attributes: He’s gluttonous. He’s slothful. He’s also gregarious and a decent diplomat. Instead of living in Wycliffe, he lives on the island Ninedrick managed to claim a few years ago: Pebble.
He’s also gay. That winds up helping at least one relationship, because my liege, Lord Paramount Criston is also gay, and thus likes Neddrick more than he might otherwise. Gay or not, Neddrick and his wife Lyra have had been getting busy while Ninrdrick's life was winding down. They have two children, both girls. The eldest and my heir is named Nondrosie, the younger daughter is named Nondrikki. (I renamed them using a console code.) Rosie is only a year old, and Rikki is a newborn.
Of course, some things haven’t changed one iota: there’s a war on, because of course there is. The Starks are now squabbling with each other over rotten bits of land in the North. Benjen Stark (Ned Stark’s brother) and Shyra (Ned Stark’s granddaughter) are going at it over Kinghouse, a frozen island so far north it’s practically on the other side of The Wall. What the hell does this have to with The Vale? Why am I even involved in it?
Allegiances, naturally. My liege is allied with Shyra, which means I have to side with her, too, even though Benjen Stark is sort of my father-in-law (my wife Lyra is Benjen’s niece) and my only ally. Well, hopefully Benjen will understand, or forgive me, or die, or something. For the moment, I’ll just do what I always do: follow a bigger army around and hope the fighting is over before we get up there. Sure enough, we’re not even out of the Vale before Shyra wins. I don’t particularly care, because I've got a different war on my mind, a war of my own. I've begun thinking about the other tiny island off the coast of The Fingers, called The Paps. I think I want that island too.
I send my Master of Laws to fabricate a claim on The Paps, and he does, startlingly quickly. Legally, I can go to war and try to take it as my own. The problem is, after the long wars father Ninedrick fought, I have basically no soldiers anymore, and what little money I have I need to spend on Rosie’s education (since I will wind up playing as her if I die), so there goes any chance of hiring mercenaries. Despite the claim, taking The Paps is just not a possibility right now.
Luckily, there appears to be plenty to keep me busy. Another war pops up between some part of The North and some other part of The North, and the Valemen all sigh in unison, pull on their dented armor, and begin trudging off to get involved. Then the Iron Islands, off to the west, suddenly declares independence from the Iron Throne, with old Balon Greyjoy himself, at age 65, challenging the status quo. Balon, however, dies as soon as the war starts. The rest of the Greyjoy family sort of smiles and apologizes and the revolt immediately ends. For our part, we march for half a year, then turn around and march home.
I send little Rosie to get tutored by Tyrion Lannister because he’s Tyrion Lannister, and I wouldn't mind some of his shrewdness transferring to my daugther. I also note he has three kids now, and is Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. I look for a tutor for my little sister, Nandrick, who I just now remembered exists (she was born just before Ninedrick died). I send her over to my liege, Lord Paramount Criston, and he’s happy with the arrangement.
Another war breaks out. Now Dorne is trying to claim independence from The Iron Throne. Is it even worth pretending I’m going to march my useless three hundred soldiers all the way down to Dorne and make some sort of difference? I link up with Criston’s 19,000 troops and we march and march and march until the war ends and then we march home. How productive. Exhausted, I apparently still manage to have unenthusiastic sex with my wife, Lyra Stark, and she soon gives birth to our third child, Nondruby.
Another massive war breaks out. Why? I don’t even know. It’s all getting very confusing. Fresh wars are breaking out all the time, and with all the alliances and allegiances and inter-house marriages, everyone seems to get pulled into fighting even if they have no stake in the results. Getting notifications like this doesn't really shed much light on the subject, either: