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Three Moves Ahead Episode 163 – Fifty, Alive, and King

April 6th, 2012 by Rob Zacny · 12 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Rob welcomes freelancer Rowan Kaiser and designer Jon Shafer to talk about Crusader Kings 2. They swap stories, discuss the impact of making a family-based strategy game, and question whether there’s all that much crusading going on here.

Remember to attend the 3MA panel at PAX East this weekend, at 4:30 on Sunday in the Cat Theater. Spread the word!

Listen here.

Rowan’s review for GameSpy

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Bryce

    Just in time for a slow Friday at the office.

  • Nathan

    You’re thinking of “Wing Commander: Armada” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_Commander:_Armada]

    “This is the main game type featured in Armada, available both in singleplayer (player vs. computer) and multiplayer (player vs. player). Armada is a strategy driven game type taking place in a randomly generated sector of space which is depicted in the game’s main screen: dots indicate star systems connected through one or more line representing the available space lanes for starships. The players choose a side (Confederation or Kilrathi) to play with and start playing with their forces placed on the opposite sides of the sector. Since both sides start with a carrier and a complement of two light fighters, players can build mines on the planets they visit to gather resources with which to build shipyards for more fighters or fortresses to defend specific planets. Action takes place in turns: during a turn one player can move his ships or build mines/shipyards/fortresses, while the other has to wait for his own turn. The game ends when one player is able to locate the opponent’s carrier and attack it with heavy fighters: if the assault is successful a cinematic of the carrier blowing up is displayed and the game ends.”

    I remember playing it when I was way to young to appreciate strategy games, but I do not remember it being particularly deep.

  • AK

    Did someone just claim CK2 is less complex than Civ? I’m going to have to recheck Civ4’s religion system, don’t remember intrafaith schisms, excommunication, endorsed invasions, conflict between secular/religious rule, etc. I love both series but I was surprised no one challenged that claim.

    I have long experience in paradox games and can usually jump in and be somewhat competent. CK2 is able to cram a lot more complexity than EU3 into a interface that is much easier to get a handle of. I do agree that the whole marriage interface, from top to bottom, is the worst of the system interfaces.

  • Rob C

    I have to chalk CK2 up as the most liked game that I don’t understand what everyone likes about it. I found arranging marriages and managing my council boring and province improvement pretty limited. I see how arranging profitable marriages for your dynasty is challenging, but I just didn’t find it fun. I thought the interface was nice though.

  • Dirk

    Enjoying this episode, as always.

    It seems like Paradox is (unwittingly?) raising interesting issues about the meaning of life. In the west, particularly over the last ~300 years, we’ve been taught to live our lives for ourself, and perhaps our family, and in some very rare and specific cases our nation. Of course, over the bulk of human history and particularly in non-western cultures, the purpose of an individual life often fits into a larger narrative and shared collective context. CK2 is inherently exploring those questions: what “level” truly matters? From the context of our very selfish and short-term notions of existence this presents some interesting opportunities for considering ourself in the longer now. Very cool.

    I couldn’t keep track of which guest was which, unfortunate because I was interested in hearing more from Jon as a member of our OOTP league.

  • Procyon Lotor

    I was intrigued about Rob’s comments about the game map. It really is secondary to what you are doing in this game, but we are so used to the tropes of the 4x genre — expand, expand, expand — that it is hard to wrap your mind around a strategy game with a different goal. I think this is why so many players and reviewer come away from this game confused. CK2 doesn’t make this easier by using an engine designed for a series of 4x games. I would like to hear you explore this a little more — if not a map, then what? Since CK2 is really about family and dynastic/court dyanamics, maybe CK3 should take place in a throne room, where you can interact with people, read your letters, and (yes) look at a map. Food for thought.

  • tboon

    I thought the map focus was fine. At the end of the day you are a ruler of some sort of realm; you need to know who is doing what to whom and a map shows this quite nicely. Mostly, I set the map to show relations so I can see who is allied with whom by just clicking on them. Occasionally I will switch to see if I can expect (another) revolt in one of my provinces. When I see a bunch of armies mustered, I click to view independent realms to see who has just declared independence and whether or not I can take advantage of that. I think the map focus shows the dynamics present in the game better than anything else I can think of.

    I do agree with pretty much everything else said on the podcast though. The mechanics around marriage are clunky if you are trying to find the perfect match. It would be nice to be able to have multiple character screens up at the same time.

    Like other Paradox games, you have to unlearn some things that games in general have taught you over the years. Like sometimes doing nothing is the right thing to do; you should not do something just because you can. In addition, CK2 breaks the stereotypical strategy game trope of a straight path of progress. Things get messy. Your realm can regress. I’ve read a number of posts on various forums (fora?) where people don’t like that but I think it is a interesting and a positive. And, as noted on the podcast, it also handles an number of issues with becoming too powerful late in the game. If people try to play CK2 like Civ they will be disappointed. If they play it on its terms, they will find an over all great game.

  • Rowan Kaiser

    @AK – Yeah, I did claim that, and I think it’s an easy claim to stand behind. Certainly CK2 has plenty of complexity in its various systems, but in terms of what the player has to do with their time, I don’t think it passes Civ. Most of the time in Civilization is spent moving individual units, exploring, considering terrain, making economic decisions about each city on an individual basis, gathering and trading resources, all the technological decisions, and so on. I think it’s fair to say that over the course of an average play session, you make more and more varied decisions in Civ than in CK2.

  • huxley

    Excellent talk!

    Will the pax panel be available in audio form anywhere?

  • Troy Goodfellow

    The Pax talk will be the next episode.

  • Erik Hanson

    Hang on a minute with all this presumption that crusades only happened in the Mediterranean. I’ll have you know that there were plenty of crusades against “infidels” in the Baltic as well.

  • Gormongous

    Well, only one formal crusade against the “Saracens” of the north, as Bernard of Clairvaux called them. The efforts of Pope Eugenius III to make the Second Crusade a pan-European affair did a lot to build the awareness and prestige of crusading into the European mentality, to the point where later wars of conquest by Scandanavian and Eastern European nations were called “crusades” as well.

    Related to comments made on the show, I think it’s unfortunate that crusading is not a bigger deal, for all that Paradox builds mechanics around it. In the end, it’s just another way of acquiring territory, which is a very old and very obsolete way of perceiving the crusading movement. There were pragmatic reasons to take up the cross, the d’Hautevilles show us that quite clearly. But the major benefits of crusading were prestige beyond the wildest dreams of anyone since the Carolingians, which is why a lot of later romances conflate the two. Families like the de Lusignans, the Montforts, the Montferrats, and the de Avennes were nobodies before they went on crusade and powerful players when they came back, regardless of the material gains or lack thereof. There’s a good argument being made by Gaposhkin and others that the reason for the Capetian dynasty’s power at the close of the Middle Ages was how successfully it had managed to associate itself with the crusading enterprise through Louis VII, Philip II, and Louis IX, despite being a relative latecomer compared to England.

    Really, participating in a crusade should put you on an entirely different level from other dynasties, with options and mechanics available exclusively to those with crusading ancestors. I know that to do that, a lot of content would have to be locked away and it would be resented by a modern audience who wants secular and rational reasons for everything, but it’s the only way I think you can model it, at least in a game where “winning” still involves having the most toys when the game ends.