“Long live the king … or perhaps not”
What is a Grand Strategy Game ?
An average PC gamer arguably spends more time playing MOBA, MMORPG or FPS games. But there are some who seek to rule over mighty and glorious empires through the ages, eXploring unknown lands, eXpanding their empires, eXpoliting the riches of the new world and eXterminating all possible threats. These people find what they are looking for in 4X games like the Civilization series, Age of Empires and so on. But within this broader genre of strategy games there is a type of game that strays away from set rules and takes things to a truly grand scale, and these are called Grand Strategy Games. Some of the most famous and well-known Grand Strategy games you might have heard of are the Total War series and the Europa Universalis series.
If you have never played a grand strategy game and you just saw a few videos of people playing games like Europa Universalis IV or Hearts of Iron IV (Both by Paradox) on YouTube, i am pretty sure most of you are thinking these are definitely not my kind of games. The sheer amount of game mechanics to master and the daunting User Interface (UI) coupled with almost sadistic difficulty is sure to put off almost anyone.
But in CK II you do not need to know what every single feature of the game is or what every single button of the UI does before jumping into the game. I have almost 150 hours in CK II and I am still finding out new things to do and new ways to approach the game. That is the beauty of CK II it is not a game that teaches you everything in a 10 min tutorial and then just keeps on repeating the same gameplay for the next 20 hrs. You are constantly surprised and amazed at the amount of gameplay you have to experiment with, in this most grandiose of sandboxes.
Crusader Kings II is essentially a Grand Strategy game…yes…But what sets this game apart from the rest is the fact that it is actually………*Drum Roll*………..
Game of Thrones.
(Ah….I see i have got your attention now)
But what is it, exactly ?
Wikipedia describes CK II as a “Dynasty Simulator” (where would we be, without Wiki). That is the most appropriate description I can think of for how CK II’s gameplay works.
You rule your kingdom or duchy or county as a dynasty i.e a single family line through hundreds of years of history.
Surely, it must be easy being king
You start out as a single ruler of your choice between 1066 and 1453 AD (The old gods DLC pushes the playable starting date back to 867 AD), an independent tribal count in Ireland, a duke in India who is also on his king’s council or perhaps the emperor of the Byzantine Empire himself. And you literally have hundreds of characters to choose from within kingdoms stretching from Europe to parts of Asia and Africa. Once you have made your choice you are immediately given several tasks like get married (if not already married), make sure you have a legitimate heir (if not than this is your first priority), investigate the laws, council, diplomatic relations with neighboring rulers…..OK, ill stop….i can feel your eyes glaze over.
The point is, there is a lot to do here and none of it feels repetitive or micro-managerial. Most of these decisions are on a grander scale (Remember my Grand Strategy lecture from before). It is a real-time game not turn based so most of your work is just making key, over-arching decisions at certain events and just sit back and watch as those events unfold. A few hours in and you will find yourself diplomatically arranging marriages of your relatives, keeping and eye on powerful families, plotting assassinations, acquiring new lands through political shenanigans or military might, going on a pilgrimage, tackling peasant revolts, sucking up to the pope and so on.
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