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.
A Storm of Sisters
Going from playing as Ninedrick to his son Neddrick was a bit jarring. Going from Neddrick to his daughter Nondrosie (I’ll just call her Rosie from now on) who is eleven years old? I’m not sure how to describe that.
Even by Westeros standards, Rosie is still a kid. She’s so young we can’t even see what she looks like: she still has the default child avatar. We can look at her stats, though, which are disheartening: she’s a poor fighter, taking after her father, clearly. She’s also arbitrary. She’s envious. She’s deceitful. Well, she definitely sounds like an eleven year-old kid.
This is a pretty precarious spot to be in, game-wise. The war against the Iron Throne that killed Neddrick still rages on, and while I’m no longer on the battlefield, the fighting is right at our doorstep. Half of The Vale is burning with sieges, the other half crawling with tens of thousands of enemy soldiers. And, weirdly, perhaps even grossly, my first priority is to find little Rosie a suitable future husband. As a little girl, my only heirs are two other little girls, Nondrikki and Nondruby, formerly my daughters, now my sisters. It’s not much of a safety net as losing Rosie would mean I become an even younger child. Not to mention, we’re all in the same castle. If something terrible happens to Rosie, the same thing will probably happen to Rikki and Ruby a moment later. I have to at least lock down a potential husband to get things lined up for a future heir.
Finding a spouse is much trickier now. Acquiring suitable wives for male lords isn't hard, but finding husbands for women comes with a built-in problem. Typically, when a man and woman marry, the woman goes to live with the man, and their children become part of his dynasty, and are his heirs.
I can’t marry Rosie that way. Her children would be the heirs of her husband’s dynasty, not her own, which means that when Rosie died, her kids would not be playable characters for me. She needs to find a man willing to move to her court and let their children become a part of her dynasty: a matrilineal marriage. I could probably find a number of willing commoners, but it’s not easy to find highborn men, or the guardians of young highborn boys, who will agree to that.
In fact, there are only a couple non-commoners I can find. One is Viserys Targaryen, brother of Daenerys. I won't be marrying him. Sure, he’s a prince, but he’s also cruel and insane. All the prestige in the world isn't worth marrying that dirtbag.
Then there’s Moryn Blackbar. He’s son of Lord Paramount Margery Tyrell, herself a prominent book character, and he’s Heir to the Reach. He’s only 13, which is at least age appropriate, though why Margery would agree to a matrilineal marriage, where her grandchildren would become part of my dynasty, I have no idea. I staple a note to a raven, and a week later she sends back a winged response. She’s happy with the match, despite it being matrilineal. Amazing! If this goes through, I’ll have married into the Starks, the Lannisters, and the Tyrells. Not bad for a House that came from a little stretch of worthless land.
Meanwhile, the few still-living main characters from the books are looking old. Jaime Lannister is in his 50’s, and is Master at Arms for King Michael Baratheon. Jon Snow is 39, Master of Whispers in Karhold, and married with couple of kids. Brienne of Tarth is Master of Laws in Blackhaven, married with one son. Samwell Tarly is around, married and Master at Arms (surprisingly!) of The Westmarch, with three kids. And good old Littlefinger is still at it, Castellan of The Vale. He’s certainly not expanded his influence as far as he would like, but when it comes to The Vale, he’s still pulling the strings.
Tyrion Lannister is pushing 50, is married (with a mistress, natch) and has four living children including a daughter, Rosamund, whom, he reminds me in a missive, is betrothed to Nerdrick, the suspiciously thin and blond member of my family. Once my son, then my brother, and now my uncle, I give Nerdrick the go-ahead to get officially hitched.
Since I’m enabling hookups left and right, I might as well keep going. I arrange a future matrilineal marriage for my sister, Rikki, to boy-lord Aeamon of the Stormlands, but I can’t find anyone suitable for little Ruby at the moment. Meanwhile, I seem to be butting heads with my aunt Nanndrick (Ninedrick’s third, largely-forgotten child, who was born just as he died of pneumonia). She’s a year younger than me and we do not get along. I guess we just come from different generations.
Rosie also doesn't get along with… well, anyone. My sister Ruby doesn't like me much. Rikki absolutely hates me, probably because I (as Neddrick) changed the succession laws so she wouldn't inherit any titles. I give her a present of some gold which makes her a little happier. I’m sure the peasants of Pebble and Wycliffe would be thrilled to know their taxes are being given to cranky children to improve their moods.
The war eventually winds down, with King Michael again keeping his butt affixed to the Iron Throne, giving the continent plenty of time to bust up into other, smaller, even more pointless wars. My small collection of exhausted peasant soldiers wander around following my new liege, Lord Paramount Gilwood, for a few years. In the meantime, I get word that Jaime Lannister has been killed in personal combat with some randomly generated character. He was 58.
Rosie turns 14 and marries the Heir to the Reach, Moryn Blackbar. Now Margery, Lady Paramount of the Reach, is my ally. Good news, because I've started thinking, again, about that other small island in The Fingers: The Paps. Neddrick’s claim on it died with him, but I guess the paperwork is still lying around because I immediately receive a fresh claim. Unfortunately, I can only scrounge up a combined 200 troops from Pebble and Wycliffe, not nearly enough to storm The Paps. I don’t have the cash for mercenaries, either, so I’m going to have to wait.