In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Phil plots world domination from Warwickshire.
I’m from Warwickshire, a small and slightly pointless county in the middle of England. It has a scattered rural population, and a constant trickle of tourists for whom ‘Shakespeare was born there’ is a good enough reason to visit a place.
During a recent trip, I visited the region’s premier medieval attraction, Warwick Castle, and found my usual indifference momentarily displaced. It was seeing the world’s largest trebuchet that did it, and then seeing the burnt ruins of a historic boathouse that, months earlier, had become a casualty of the world’s largest trebuchet.
Crusader Kings II was a natural outlet for this brief blast of civic pride, as it features both Warwickshire and the past. Normally, I’d play a king, an emperor or a fearsome tribal leader. This time, I am Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick—a middle manager of the English feudal system. My campaign starts on September 9, 1087, when, according to the game, de Beaumont took control of the region. This isn’t quite accurate, but I’m not about to turn this into a history lesson.
Pretty soon, I realise that I don’t really have anything of import to do. I’m a vassal of William II and don’t have much autonomy. So I decide to hold a feast. It goes well, which wouldn’t be so bad if I was actually living this. The opulence would be a tangible thing, and, as I learned at Warwick Castle, there were plenty of decadent distractions. People would buy exotic birds of prey, just to witness the majestic beauty as they hunted down and fucked up a duck. In Crusader Kings II , my most exciting experience involves the Bishop of Coventry being a bit of a jerk.
Then, for no discernable reason, everything goes exciting. William II creates the Duchy of Warwick, and makes me the duke. All of a sudden, I’m the second most powerful man in mainland England, with vassals across Leicester, Worcester and Herefordshire. This also gives me a goal. Shrewsbury is part of my de jure duchy, and so I plot to seize control. To do this, I need to wage war against Count Roger the Great. To do that, I need William II to lower Crown Authority—the law that governs how much autonomy his vassals have.
I start a political faction to change the law. Then, on December 12, just as my pressure group is growing, William II gives me Shrewsbury. I have no reason to keep the faction going. Yet other vassals keep rallying to the cause. Soon we’ve got an army bigger than the king’s. And so it comes to pass that, one year later, Henry starts the English Civil War to lower Crown Authority. Or, as I’m calling it, Duke Warwick’s Petty War of Wanting Something To Do.
His army is in worse shape than I thought, thanks to an ongoing conflict with France. I’m easily able to crush his troops as they arise. It’s looking like an easy win, and I figure that in a couple of generations the de Beaumont clan could rule all Britannia. That’s when the Holy Roman Empire arrives.
William II is allied with Kaiser Heinrich III, who has just marched thousands of men into Warwickshire. How can I defeat such powerful political connections? Dejected, I surrender and am swiftly imprisoned. Having seen Warwick Castle’s dungeons, I am at least glad not to be living through this particular bit of history.