This past week I tried out Crusader Kings II, a game I actually received for free as a gift from a friend. I recall seeing him play it and realizing how deep the game play went, but let’s just say I wasn’t prepared for how… intricate the game really was.
Crusader Kings II is crack for micro-managers. It is a grand strategy game set during the high to late middle ages where you take control of a dynasty and grow it to become one of Europe’s most prestigious royal families. I say you take control of a dynasty rather than a kingdom because you aren’t truly in control of a kingdom – you are just the person holding that title. In reality, there may be dozens of duchies, principalities, or jarldoms underneath you, all of which compose your kingdom. In turn, those duchies are ruled by your house or other houses, all of whom seek more favor in your court, or who may even desire the throne themselves.
Hell, you don’t even have to start out as a king yourself. The game map, which stretches from Iceland in the west all the way to the Tibetan plateau in the east, is divided into hundreds of counties that make up the vast empires of medieval Europe, India, and even parts of Africa. It is entirely possible to start as “Duke Nobody of Nowhere” in the middle of Who Gives a Damn and build your house up to be rulers of the Holy Roman Empire.
What’s even more impressive is that the game is uber-historical, with the map constantly shifting with the times. In 1066 you may be William the Conqueror as he begins his invasion of Britain, whereas in 1187, depending on who you are you may be launching the Third Crusade, or defending against it. Each ruler even has a button which links to its Wikipedia page. The vastness of knowledge this game has to offer is simply mind-boggling.
However, after doing a little research today, I discovered that Crusader Kings II is a game that has no real objective. There is a de facto objective of simply obtaining more prestige than any other house in Europe, but it isn’t a stated objective, and it seems like there’s no real fail state in the game either. Rather, I’m invoking Rule #6 of the backlog and striking it off the list.
Don’t get me wrong, of course. This is definitely a game with a lot of depth, and one I’m definitely going to be returning to explore in the future. But for now, there are still plenty of games to be beat. One day, though, Crusader Kings II will return.