Being a small collection of ways to lose:
Not Enough Relatives
1. Lack of male heirs. No sons, no other applicable males, and no time to rush through that female inheritance law.
2. Failure to read the fine print. Matrilinear. Important word. If your heir is female, it’s the single most important word in the English language after “tea”. It means that her offspring will inherit her dynasty name, i.e. you can play as them. Marry your little princess off in a standard marriage – in which she joins her husband’s family – and it’s the end of your line, no matter how many bratlings she produces.
3. Mass death. So you’ve done your duty and provided for the succession. Then the plague/Mongols/assassins/tournament come to town, and before you know it, people are dropping dead left, right and centre due to freak bad luck.
Too Many Relatives
4. Ill-considered gavelkind. You succeed, overwhelmingly. Title after title falls into your sweaty little hands. Heirs pose no problem: you’ve got sons and to spare. Then, your character dies. Suddenly your realm fractures – and you discover that under gavelkind law, the eldest heir only receives a single “copy” of the highest level title. All “duplicates” at that level will be handed out to the younger heirs. Where before you were the King of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, you are now the King of England, with neighbourly Kings of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Back to square 1; say hello to fraternal in-fighting, and freshly predatory neighbours.
5. Uncles. Your new character is a 2-year-old with the ‘drooling moron’ trait. He’s rated at 0 in every stat. Even his twin sister hates him. Thanks to dear Daddy’s martial exploits, the treasury is empty, the armies are dead, and family authority shaky. Along comes dear uncle with his shiny blood claim, and it all goes like the proverbial fairytale. In no time at all moron-boy is reduced to count of a single African province which provides no income and no levies thanks to being recently conquered. Did I mention kindly Uncle has a different dynasty name to his darling nephew? Control will not pass to him should Tiny Tim have a tragic accident…
Own Petard, Hoist By
6. Wives. So your wife hates you, you’ve got no children, and she’s just gained the ambition to become your spymaster? She’s got a good intrigue score, and fulfilling her ambition will make her happy. What’s the worst that could happen? This could be the turning point of your relationship, the start of many years’ happy contentment and, more importantly, the source of a child or three. Two months later you notice your wine tastes funny…
7. Wives II: The Revenge. After 20 years of marriage you still haven’t got a child. A beautiful young courtier looks at you in a certain way, and something pops up. No, not that, thank you! An event offering you the chance of an affair. The tooltip says you have a chance at producing a bastard child! You click “Woohoo!” as quickly as your mouse will allow, brain already alight with plans for legitimising your bastard and using it as an heir. Score – one baby on the way! Then you die. Belatedly you recall that your wife has a high intrigue rating and a jealous disposition. Since it’s a mite difficult to rule a kingdom whilst in the womb, game over.
8. Being too liberal. Your son and heir is now a grown man. Capable of making his own decisions. Right? You give him some titles and off he goes, leaving your court to establish his own and begin building his prestige. Wait – you did marry him off before you let him go, right? You didn’t?! Now he’s free to choose his own wife. Next thing you know, you’re pasting a fixed smile on your face, shaking the hand of your chaste, octogenarian daughter-in-law and wondering how much it will cost to get her removed. Then you notice your son’s spymaster is way better than yours, and you’ve no chance of killing her. Oh well, at that age nature will soon take its course, right? Amazingly, this elderly lady out-lives both her husband and her father-in-law.
9. Marriage. You marry your daughter to the son of a powerful neighbour. It’s all good, right? You’ve got a powerful ally, and the next generation on that throne will have your blood – oh crap! Your blood! Thanks to your current laws, that means a claim on your titles, and their army is like ten times bigger than yours! Kill the happy couple? It’s the only hope! Assassin fail, assassin fail, assassin fail, bankruptcy, discovery, pissed off marriage-ally, train headed down tunnel right at your face.
10. Getting too clever for your own good. Family tree grown a bit messy? Too many people got blood links and claims to your shiny stuff? The future could get scary. Why not tidy things up a little with the aid of your good friend, Mr Assassin? Yay! Now the tree is all nice and neat, like a pretty little bonsai. Then your heir discovers he prefers other men, your daughter-in-law takes to religion in a hardcore way, and your sole grandkid dies of the plague. Whoops!
Live By The Sword…
11. Pope-assisted suicide. So you’re the lord of a tiny realm with an income of three goats and a sheep per year? Life’s sweet – in another 70 years you will be able to afford that rickety wooden palisade castle upgrade which you’ve been eyeing for the last 2 generations! Then along comes Il Papa with his talk of glory, religious duty, and sweet, sweet loot, and off you rush on Crusade, eyes a-gleam at the thought of funding a new chicken coop with liberated gold. Only to realise that one province target has a whole alliance network, meaning half of the Muslim universe is now coming to visit you at home. Peace? They don’t want peace – they want your chickens, your palisade fund, and your sole title! Meanwhile, the rest of Christendom wisely decided to sit this one out.
12. Ambitious AI lords. When your liege, King Suicide McDeath III, declares war on a more powerful kingdom for the twentieth time that decade, you’d better find a get-out clause in that vassalage-contract, or you’re going down in a flame of bankruptcy, rebels, stress, battle wounds, and angry mercenaries.
13. HRE. That’s Holy Roman Empire for those of you who don’t have the game. You are a minor lord. You’re outside the HRE. The HRE think that by rights you should be part of it. They declare war. Approximately 100,000,000,000 soldiers are now headed your way, supported by the wealth of half Europe. Your army of 11 people and a pig stand no chance! Swiftly, you send a grovelling peace offer. Denied! They want your title, without you attached. And since you can’t give away your last title, that means…
14. Pagans. Hi, I’m the King of Poland. My realm is compact, and pretty, and peaceful, and rich, and it’s got some nice armies too. Life is happy! Oh look, one of my neighbours is a one-province pagan dude with no allies. He will be easy to crush. Based on the number of soldiers I get from my provinces, he should have around 250 soldiers. War time! Let’s loot – er, convert the savages. Argh! Where did they all come from, the thousands of angry pagans, with the anger and the pointy weapons, and did I mention that there’s thousands of them!? Gah! My armies are all dead without so much as denting the hordes! Now all my other pagan neighbours are declaring war on me too! God? I need some help spreading Your word (and not dying) here. God? Are You there? God? God!?
Being a small collection of ways to win:
1. Survive over 300 years and reach the end date. You’ll get shown your score, and probably be told you did worse than various historical dynasties.
3. I mean it: lose.
4. Losing is far more fun than building a huge kingdom and holding it until 1453. Thus, winning is losing by another name. Losing, now that’s a whole pile of win!
Rachel McFadden (aka frogbeastegg) has been gaming since she discovered the original Prince of Persia on the IBM 286sx PC. Whilst strategy and RPGs are her preferred genres, she is a multiplatform gamer who will play almost anything provided it isn’t sport, car racing, or multiplayer only. Under the frogbeastegg name Rachel has written guides for many of the Total War series, various AARs for strategy games, and a few pieces of fiction. When not engaged in reminding various virtual populaces that she is in fact the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and the One True Hero, Rachel can typically be found with her nose in a book.
Note: the above comments are based on a review copy supplied by the game’s developer, Paradox Interactive.