This game is too complex.
Issue One - Part One
Alright, so let's start up the game. On the load screen, I get important hints about how this game works. Like "In order to explore, you will need the 'Conquest of the New World' National Idea". What the heck is a National Idea? I have many ideas, but what makes them National? Well, maybe if I was a nation... Another advice was that having a high revolt risk hurts my economy. You don't say...
Sooooo. I click on Single Player, because I want to play alone, because who would play this with me, right? Now, which nation should I choose? Which nation has ideas? The screen starts at France, but I don't like France. It is so... French. But there's a nice one in the middle, called Berry. It has a purpleish colour to it, so I guess it must be purpleberry. Alright, let's play as that nation! I don't care about the date, so I'll just let it be what it starts out with: 1399 AD.
So many choices...
Let's check options now! I have noooo idea what these are, so I'll just let them stay the way they start with. 'Spread of land provinces'? Please. Everyone knows that land provinces don't spread, they are just there. Well, alright, sea provinces do spread during the wet season or whatever it is called in Asia, but we don't have those here in Europe! What nonsense... While loading the game, I got another hint: Rousolline (or whatever) will be a French province before the end of the game. What stupid advice is this?
Let's play! Wait, what?...
So, let's take a look around and see what's what. 25.000 dudes in the upper left corner next to my blueberry shield covered in flowers, a pile of 141 gold coins, a royal hammer, a royal chair, a royal pair of peasant weaponry and a crownless head with a crown on royal curtains, some cut-off heads over that. And it's Friday. I love Friday, because it marks the end of the week! Except that I have a rather stupid class on Friday, but whatever.
Now, wait a minute. There's something wrong here. Oh, no! I'm France!... Ah, whatever. Let's push some buttons now, shall we? But which one to start with? There are soooo many of them! I think I will be systematic here, starting from the top left and going to the bottom right. There was that blueberry shield those flowers, let's click that! Oh, no! Even more buttons! A crown, a bag of gold, a helmet pierced through with a repier, some cross, a book with a hammer (that must be Mao's Red Book!), another cut off head (there are quite a lot of these I'd say), some pictures and then a poisoned scroll. I'm so confused... And these are just buttons, but there are tons of information on this screen, too! It says I'm a Feudal Monarchy, which is nice I guess. I'm also a Cosmopolitaine. That must be a French word by the smell of it. And I'm called Charles VI de Valois. And there's a big golden 1 in the middle of the screen. What on Earth might that be? Hovering the mouse over that revealed a truckload of other stuff I don't care about. I might try not to do that again, otherwise my lovely little brain might explode... Anyway, it is my Prestige. I have no idea if it is good or not though. Anyway, the number below that tells me that I'm number 19 among nations. And I have an honourable reputation. I thought France had a reputation for bad taste in food, but you learn something new everyday I guess.
There's a lot of text there too, concerning other nations I don't care about. Like Casus Belli. Well, yeah, I'm kinda hungry, now that you mention it. The text says that I can eat England, Alencon, Armagnac, Auvergne, Bourbonnais, Burgundy, Foix, Orleans, Provence and Berry. The only thing that I would eat from all these is Berry. But it also tells me that Berry is my vassal, so I don't think I should eat them. I'm guaranteeing some backwater places like Scotland and Cyprus, and I have a Sphere of Influence. I remember that one, it is a Rare Artifact from Diablo II, giving you tons of Intellect! It's a shame I'm not a mage in this game... I have some natural rivals and the Golden Horde is threatening me. Well, I'd say a horde of gold is quite threatening to my economy, yes! And there's this mission to "Recover Aquitaine". If I finish that mission, will I get a new map?
There's also a long list of other nations, with our relations. We have a lot of relations with my vassals of course, and we lack relations heavily with the muslims across the Mediterranean. Then there are two shiny buttons here: "Modifiers" and "Create Vassal". I click on Modifiers to check what's what. It gives my a blank page. Thanks for nothing, game! The other gives a long list of vassals I could create, but all of them would take provinces from me! I don't want that! Those are mine! Alright, let's move on.
The crown icon tells me that I have no legal heir. How sad. I have a missionary and a guy with a telescope though, but I obviously don't want either of them to inherit my throne! So I will have to create some heirs! Where's Mrs. Charles VI de Valois? Ah, there must be a "Create Vassal" button somewhere! The bag of gold gives me an account sheet. How classy. Alright, I might not understand a lot about this game, but I certainly know that you can't mint money, because it will ruin your economy. So I won't spend money on making money. Unfortunatelly that means I will lose money every month. But I'm supposed to get taxes at the end of the year, right? I've read the manual! I'll spend everything on Stability, because I'm France. I've read history, I probably will need Stability more than anything else... And it is the cheapest of them all, anyway.
The pierced helmet icon is absolutely unimportant right now, I can see that at a glance. It has a table and some sliders which probably do nothing interesting. The Cross icon says I tolerate True Chatolics but I can't stand Orthodox Heretics and a lot of different Heathens. Alright, moving on. Mao's Red Book. There are twelve TV-screens here, a "Feudal Monarchy" button (this must be my special ability!) and some eight sliders at the bottom. I have no idea what they do, so I'll just click an arrow at random! The die rolls, and it says I'll change Mercantilism <-> Free Trade. I read that the more extreme a slider position is, the better the effect is, and it was this way in Hearts of Iron 2, so it must be true here, too! So one step towards Mercantilism it is!
The merchants don't like my policies, so they must suffer!
The cut-off head is not relevant to my interest. Moving on. The pictures provide me with the fact that I have 20% Cultural Tradition. This allows me to hire one of the thirty-six guys on this page. Or more precisely one of the fifteen that are actually available. I can has three advisorses, so I'll choose one from here. I'll roll six dice, sum them up, subtract three and choose the dude that comes up as the result. I know math! The result is (5+2+1)-3 = 5, that would be a... Treasurer! He will cost me all my 20% Cultural Tradition, but I don't have room for anyone else anyway, so no worries. He will invest in my Trade tech.
Now, it didn't actually did what I thought it will. I got the Treasurer, but he was only added to a list, not to my court... And a level 1 Treasurer, too... But he only costed my 4% from my 20%, so it was only 20% of the 20% (I still know math )! Back to the crown icon! Oh, man... I had like twenty dudes to choose from already... I'll choose the one from the top of the list: Joseph de Pellefort, who is a level 6 Ambassador, giving me +3 Diplomatic Skill. On a scale of ten, it is pretty good, is it not? You are hired! By the way, my king seems to be a genious anyway, with all three of his skills being 8! Back to the pictures! There are some additional buttons to click on under the thirty-six guys, called Cultural Decisions. Well, I'm a Frenchman now, so I can only take Cultural Decisions, no? Commission Painting, Commission Tapestry, hold some Tournament or Endorse Culture. Only the first two are actually available though. A Painting is cheaper than a Tapestry, but my girlfriend will love the Tapestry, so I'll go with that! Off with the head of that Magistrate! The last page is irrelevant again, becuase there's nothing I can click on. (I could cancel a mission but that would surely kick me back to the Main Menu! This is the first mission after all!) But wait! This screen gives me the mission briefing! I need to hold Labourd and Gascogne. Where are these, anyway?
That must be Aquitaine. Nice to make your acquaintance!
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Issue One - Part Two
Alright, so I'm France. Now that I got myself through the initial shock, I should try to figure out what to do. First of all, I guess I should take care of those curtains below the cut-off heads. The first say "Possible Revolts", in Toulouse and Dauphiné with 9% of getting Nationalists and Languedoc with 7.8% of getting Patriots. Clicking the curtain activated another map mode, showing these provinces in different shades of red. Well, that is sort of useful... They are all in Southern France, and it looks like I don't have cores on these provinces... But they are in France, for crying out loud! Also, clicking on one of the provinces brought up a HUGE new interface with lots of buildings available (or almost available)... Toulouse has five buildings and a University already. Nice.
Now with that new mapmode active, it turns out that my country is actually cut in half! I have six provinces in Northern France and another six in Southern France. I don't like that! Let's take a look at these map modes, then! Terrain. Been there, done it. Political. This gives a rainbow map, I don't like it! Big blobs of different colours, and only some of it is my blueberry-blue! Religious. This turns the whole of Europe into a desert. Moving on. Imperial. Didn't know that Darth Vader was in this game... Trade. Almost as bad as the Political map mode, but with even uglier colours, and a lot of stripes. Diplomatic. Now, that's more like it! Most of what should be mine is in green, although this mode also has some ugly stripes. Region. Big blobs with stripes everywhere. Culture. This is the best so far. French culture is yellow. Who would have guessed Sphere of Influence. This artifact not only gives tons to Intellect, but also shows much of France in the same colour, with no stripes either! Neat! Most of Europe is in a shade of blueish, saying that those are in range of France's Sphere of Influence. Man is this a cool artifact! It's range extends as far as Bohemia! It also says I need 6 Prestige to extend the Sphere of Influence. Where can I buy more Prestige? Or is that looted only?... Alright, moving on. Revolt. I saw this one, next. Colonial. Now that is the most bizarre map mode of them all. It sorta looks like the radar map in "Hunt for the Red October" and other submarine-movies. Most of the map is alarmingly red, and the North Sea and parts of the Atlantic is green. I guess that means that there are no German Subs operating there. Good! By the way, most of the map is hidden under some kind of paper clips. So I will have to get an idea before I could tear that paper off?
No wonder I'm afraid of England! They have the plague!
Over the map modes, there are five buttons called different kinds of messages. I didn't even start the game yet though, so I don't have any of those. But wait! There's more! There's zoom (really?...), Menu, Goto Capital (which brings me to Ile-de-France where I have 1000 men), Goto National Focus (Which does nothing! I knew this game was full of bugs!), Ledger (which has nothing to do with the late Joker-actor), History (which tells me that I'm Charles VI the idle), Triggered Modifiers (which is a looooong list of things that don't effect France right now), Papacy (which is supposed to be the bribing ground for all Chatolics), Holy Roman Empire (which shows me a lot of stuff I can't do! What is this, a demo?!) and a button to turn on/off the outliner, which can show me stuff I wouldn't remember otherwise. Nice move, including a list of stuff I couldn't care to remember in the first place!
Now, the only thing left from the interface is the cut-off heads. They are lovely, aren't they? From left to right, I have 3 Merchants (whom I shall send to a Center of Trade in my own land if I can), 1 Colonist (whom I will leave alone), 5 Diplomats (who will certainly do something sometime...), 0 Missionaries (and I get only 0.05 of them a year!), 0 Spies (getting 0.4 a year) and 0 Magistrates (getting 1.2 a year). So, two Merchants are sent to Ile-de-France.
Oh, I almost forgot! The curtains! I can't really do anything about those revolting ones, they are nationalists and will only go away when I recieve a core on the provinces. Which will only happen 50 years from now! Aww... The other curtain tells me that about 30 countries lack heirs with a decent claim. That must be because the game just started and nobody has an heir at all. So let's just ignore that for now. I don't think I could do anything about Denmark's throne for example at the moment. By checking around a bit, I realize that the most potential enemy of ours, England, has the mission to reconquer Normandy. That means we will probably fight sometime in the near future! Which is not really good for me I guess. I will have to build up some forces in the North ASAP! In the South, I have 9000 men, half of which have horses, too. I can use these to reconquer Aquitaine, should the English try anything silly! So the Armée des Flanders (Flanders is in Belgium, is it not?!) will go to Périgord now, and I start recruiting two regiments of Late Medieval Infantry in both Normandie and Caux.
With that said and done, I still don't really feel safe. I'm preparing for a potential conflict with England, but it is hardly enough for long-term survival. I have potential enemies in the continent as well, for example Burgundy. Don't be fooled by their silly name or even sillier shield! They are number 20 on the ranking, so only one place behind me! (England is number 5 by the way!) So I will offer an alliance to them! That's one less Diplomat to spend this year. (I get six Diplomats a year, so one every two months.) I would also like to expand my influence over all of modern-day France, so I send out an alliance offer to Brittany as well. Two Diplomats spent, three more to go. But I don't really want to spend these because I have no idea what I would spend them on. Maybe some Royal Marriages? That's a good idea! Let's marry into the royal families of Orleans and Auvergne, Foix and Bourbonnais! Let's also save the game. Time to unpause!
Most of our offers were accepted.
I get some messages right away. Both Brittany and Burgundy accepted my offer of a Military Alliance. Now those pesky Englishmen will have their fight cut out for them, should they risk an ivasion! Also, Foix and Bourbonnais agreed to my marriege proposals. The fools in Auvergne declined, but that's their loss if you ask me. I also have a lot of offers to check. I'm quite popular I have to pause the game everytime something interesting happens though, because I don't want to miss anything. Alright. What's a Trade League Compact? And why should I care? Also, why do different nations brag about sending insults and gifts to eachother? It's their own business. Let's just turn these icons off. I couldn't care less.
Now there's something more interesting: England started a war against Leinster with no Casus Belli at all. Leinster is in Ireland, in case you didn't know. Four other wars also started right away: Byzantium vs. Candar (I would bet on Candar in that one), Burgundy vs. Bar (clear Burgundian victory, since they are my ally), Castille vs. Granada (Castille is almost surely a winner, unless Granada turns out to have all the Muslims as allies) and Aragon vs. Navarra (a one-province micro-state against half of Spain? Don't think so.)
Oh, yeah, Achievements. I already had two of these: "Until Death do us apart" for securing a Royal Marriage and "Pure Capitalism" for getting five Merchants into a single Center of Trade. (Which was in Ile-de-France of course.) These don't really do anything, only generate me some virtual points for some virtual board so I can brag about how awesome I am. But I don't need these 'Achievements' for that, thank you very much!
Anyway, Armée de Flanders decided to march right through Rouergue in Armagnac, which was a stupid idea becuase they suffered Attrition there. Thankfully I don't have to bother with reinforcing them, that is done automatically in this game. We also gained an "Alliance" Casus Belli against Bar, because Burgundy is fighting them. But I don't have any Diplomats right now, so I couldn't do anything with it, even if I wanted to. Naples, on the other hand did have a Diplomat, and sent him to Epirus with a Declaration of War. So did the Teutonic Order with Pskov, although they had no actual reason to, other than to push a little neighbour around. And the Pope can't sit on his Holy Bottom either: he declared that Urbino is obstructing the Holy Highway of Heavenly Goodness, and so it has to go.
Milan offered an Alliance to me. I decided to be a smart guy and ask around before accepting that offer. Turns out that Milan is a relatively peaceful little country with enemies like Switzerland, so I decided to accept. What could go wrong?
At the end of November, Burgundy decided that it would be nice to bring me along the ride against Bar, eventhough they already captured the only province they had, so I don't see the point. It would also give me -1 Stability because I'm a good friend of Bar. On the other hand, declining the request would break my alliance with Burgundy. Where's the "You are stupid and don't need my help against my friends in the first place you moron!" button?! Anyway, I will just ignore that request. Maybe it will go away on its own if I look the other way! We'll see next time!