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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

VILenin

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This was a recent game experience of mine that I wanted to share that shows how CK2 brings out the absolute worst in me. It is a very brief tale but I hope it will be somewhat entertaining nonetheless. I call it:

The Rains of Makedon or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Iron Man Mode - a very short AAR

It begins with the Steam conversion a little while back. Now, I'm a crusty old gamer who hates change on a deep and visceral level. Therefore, when Paradox announced that they were converting all GamersGate versions of my beloved CK2 to Steam, my first reaction was one of suspicion and wary aloofness. After all, I hadn't even updated to version 2.0 yet! I liked my ridiculously large levy sizes! I liked the low, low cost of troops and the single-digit number of Holy Orders. And besides, there were all of those partially completed games that I had that I was absolutely going to go back and finish and convert to EU4. Y'know... eventually.

*cough*

Anyway, I finally bit the bullet, moved over to Steam, updated to the latest version, and decided to see what I'd been missing. Did a couple quick games to get my bearings and then decided to launch my first serious campaign as my old favorite Byzantium and using one of the cool new Steam only features: Iron Man mode. I'm a huge sucker for achievements, after all, and I try to play without save-scumming anyway, so it seemed like a natural choice. Besides, I'd survived XCOM: Enemy Unknown on Iron Man mode and nothing could be worse than that, right?

I was so young then. Young and full of dreams.

Starting date was 867 as Basil Makedon. My goals were the obvious ones of Mending the Schism and Restoring the Roman Empire. I had a house-rule that I couldn't restore Rome if/while the HRE existed and I left Sunset Invasion ON for some 13th Century madness.

Everything went along pretty smoothly up until around the year 1000. I was playing the Eugenics game, as I invariably due in long games, and had married my heir off to a distant genius cousin of his. My typical strategy is to try and get as grand-kids as possible so that they aren't born in the purple and I can use the Despot title to choose who I want to inherit. Generally, I find that skipping over the inbred idiots and incompetent wastrels is worth the 10 opinion bonus I lose this way. Except this time the game didn't cooperate. My Emperor dies young, his son inherits, and his pregnant wife promptly gives birth to a son who is now Born in the Purple. Oh, and inbred.

This is quite literally only the second time I have EVER produced an inbred child in hundreds of hours of playing CK2 and despite doing some, really, just terrible things involving sex and marriages. Seriously, this game does something to me that just completely throws off my moral compass. But of course, it happens at a terrible time when I can't just go back and reload even if I wanted to. That's fine, I wanted a little more of a challenge and that's what I'm getting.

As time went on I convinced myself it wouldn't be so bad. While it's true that my son was a drooling idiot, I was handling his education personally and my current character was a Grey Eminence so there was a reasonable chance he'd still end up with a solid Diplomacy score. On top of that, I was determined to marry him a physical goddess to compensate for what he himself was lacking. The new search-by-trait feature was invaluable here, saving me hours of slowly scrolling through the character finder. To hedge my bets, I deliberately let several plots to assassinate him continue in the hopes that his immeasurably superior elder sister might take the throne instead.

Sadly, my vassals proved hopelessly inept at murder-plots, despite getting the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) encouragement from their liege. At one point I was even gifting gold to the leader of the plot in the hopes that he would use it to bribe others. Alas, it was no use. On top of that, my not-so beloved son somehow bombed his education and ended up an Underhanded Rogue. Feh. Still, a combination of other traits like 'Kind', 'Charitable', etc and a fairly high base score meant that he still ended up with a passable Diplomacy of 10. His next highest stat was Intrigue which was a much humbler 2. Frustratingly, his bride-to-be had been educated by a Tough Soldier for some inexplicable reason, meaning her skills weren't quite as high as I'd hoped.

But not all was lost. In the last several years my distant-cousin Empress had decided to give it another go and to try and redeem the family name. She produced three(!) sons while in her late thirties, none of whom were inbred. In fact, they had no negative congenital traits at all! If only my stupid firstborn wasn't a porphyrogenitos I would be in the clear. I had planned on sticking with Agnatic-Cognatic Primogeniture for the entire game but I began to consider switching to Elective. I usually avoid it for RP reasons, plus it feels somewhat gamey given how easy it is to keep support and win elections. But Inbred was just so bad! I decided that if my next son came of age and was at all decent, I would change the succession laws and give him the throne.

It's funny: I was worried about being too 'gamey' as if I were still in control of the game.

Mere moments after my decision my Emperor dies and Prince Inbred inherits. Ugh. Of course, I'd just started a Holy War with a gigantic Carpathian Empire, hoping to capitalize on the distraction of the ongoing Crusade for Hungary, which meant I couldn't hold a feast or Grand Tournament. Plus, factions are more likely to fire when you're at war. That was bad. I did what I could to improve vassal relations and I hired preventative mercenaries to keep their proportional faction strength down. It took five years but I avoided a civil war, stole a Tengri holy site from Carpathia, and generally put things in order. My wife showed no sign of getting pregnant (not surprising given the Inbred fertility penalty) but my brother was 13 and shaping up pretty well.

Which is why I shouldn't have been at all surprised when I died an inbred freak at the grand age of 24. Not only did that wipe the board vis-a-vis vassal relations (invalidating all the hard work I'd done to raise them) but it also put me in a regency. At least there was a silver lining; my genius Uncle was named regent and his lowest stat was a 16. He was hyper-competent, had a high opinion of me, and I only needed to get through three years. And even if the worst happened I had a large retinue, the Varangian Guard, and roughly 8k in personal levies to fall back on. What could go wrong?

What indeed. Because while my uncle did like me (to the tune of +86) he was apparently a gutless bastard as Regent. A 'Lower Crown Authority' faction sprang up, raced to 88% support and fired. I braced myself for war and... nothing. Because the Regent had given in to their demands. I was furious. And then, before I could do spam the 'Assassinate' button to end his reign of terror, the faction fired again, just a day later, and he capitulated, AGAIN. My Crown Authority had dropped from Medium to Autonomous vassals in two days and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. Worst of all, that counted as "my" crown law shift, meaning I couldn't even raise it again in this reign. And, gauging by my luck so far, this character would probably live for another 90 years or so.

I was stunned. I was speechless. My very soul seethed with righteous indignation. No mere hyperbole can express the primordial fury that consumed me in that instant. I came very close to rage-quitting the game.

But I stopped myself. I wasn't going to let all this gameplay go to waste - not when there was a better way. Instead of getting mad, I would get even.

And so I did. The nobility thought that they'd won but I would show them how wrong they were. I would show them that I didn't need Crown Authority to make them quake with fear. When I came of age I became a Grey Eminence and ended up with a Diplomacy score of 24. The remaining factions quickly disbanded. Between that and the bonus from Autonomous Vassals, everyone loved me. Good. They would never see my revenge coming.

The first that had to go was my dear uncle, the Regent who'd betrayed the Empire and given it unto the hands of lesser men. I couldn't revoke his title now but that didn't mean I couldn't punish him. His harmless scheme to fabricate a claim on some worthless county was all the reason I needed to throw him in prison. Locking up his children cost tyranny but it was worth it. The last thing my wretched uncle ever saw was his son being castrated and his daughter thrown into the oubliette, never again to see the light of day. Then it was the nobility's turn.

My rapidly growing tyranny sparked off a succession of of Civil Wars but my decadent Doux found that an Emperor in his prime wasn't nearly so easy to bully as a 13 year old boy. It took years but, one by one, the rebellions were all crushed. In the end I had to imprison nearly every last vassal and practically bankrupt the realm, but every member of the "Lower Crown Authority" faction was killed. All except my blind, broken Uncle - weeping alone in his hall in Acre, with no one there to hear.

And that was where I ended the game.
 
Last edited:

Beladriel

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All except my blind, broken Uncle, weeping alone in his hall in Acre, with no one there to hear.
And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
That Lord of Castamere,
And now the rains weep o'er his all,
With no one there to hear,
Yes, now the rains weep o'er his all,
Without a soul to hear.
 

Paraipan

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Good story. And don't feel bad, CK2 brings the worst in all of us.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
That Lord of Castamere,
And now the rains weep o'er his all,
With no one there to hear,
Yes, now the rains weep o'er his all,
Without a soul to hear.
Where did you learn the Lannister song?
 

Stuyvesant

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Ni-ice... :) I had a similar Byzantine experience (underage ruler, regent accepts two drops in crown authority in short order - except that I believe my regent was the plot leader), but I was unable to go all Keyser Söze on the nobility. I'm glad to see that wrong righted for me here.
 

tnick0225

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Ni-ice... :) I had a similar Byzantine experience (underage ruler, regent accepts two drops in crown authority in short order - except that I believe my regent was the plot leader), but I was unable to go all Keyser Söze on the nobility. I'm glad to see that wrong righted for me here.
I have to admit this AAR did remind me of your Hollow Little Reign AAR as well.

So thank you very much for sharing this one VILenin it gave me a little chuckle :)
 

VILenin

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I'm glad you guys enjoyed it.

Normally I would hesitate to post just a monolithic block of text like that but I didn't think to take any screenshots at the time and, being ironman mode, I couldn't go back to collect some. Oh well. From now on I imagine I'll be compulsively hitting f10 everytime something happens just in case I want to write about it later.

I remember Hollow Little Reign, Stuyvesant. I'm still amazed how ruthless and, well, byzantine, your AI managed to make you sister.:D It's those games where you crash-and-burn in unexpected ways that are the most memorable. This game, for instance, didn't turn out like I'd expected but my rampage for revenge was one of the more viscerally satisfying CK2 moments I've had.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to read!
 

Asantahene

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Haha this is brilliant-good job sir!