Paradox Interactive has a habit of bringing us some very deep, very complex strategy games. And while their games are often quite entertaining, they do require a great deal of effort to overcome some surprisingly daunting learning curves. So when I loaded up Knights of Honor
, Paradox’s latest foray into medieval European real-time-strategy conquest, I was expecting to put in some serious work before achieving any semblance of entertainment. In reality, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible this title was. While it’s still quite a complex outing, compared to many of Paradox’s other titles, it’s a walk in the park. Thankfully, it’s also quite fun.
Since Knights of Honor
is a “conquer the map” game, there’s not much in the way of plot. Play begins in one of three medieval periods, with players taking on the role of a Guiding Spirit for a particular kingdom. From there, players guide their kingdom through the generations as it gains more and more control of the land, either through direct military action or through diplomatic channels. Victory comes when players manage to gather enough votes to claim the title of Emperor of Europe. A minor victory is awarded when players manage to grab all the Trade and Exotic Goods needed to complete all 10 Kingdom Advantages, the Knights of Honor
version of technologies.
The building blocks of the kingdoms are provinces, made up on a single Town and outlying villages, monasteries, and farms. These towns are the production and building centers of the kingdoms, while the villages and farms provide the resources necessary to keep things running. Each town is highly customizable, able to be built up to best compliment the properties of a given province. Provinces can have up to three different special features, such as Mineral Deposits or Fertile Soil. These features determine in part which buildings can be built in the town, which in turn determines which kind of Trade Goods are possible to manufacture. Since these features are randomly determined at the start of each game for each province, the replay value is fairly high.
Each kingdom is governed by a royal family, and one key to keeping the kingdom together is keeping that royal family line strong. Since Knights of Honor
spans many years, rulers will age and eventually die. If there is no clear successor to the throne, bad things will happen. Therefore, it’s vital to arrange for proper (and profitable) marriages for the royal children, and hope for a fertile marriage. In addition to solidifying the family line, royal children (at least the Princes) can also work double-duty and fill in as one of the kingdom’s nine titular Knights.
Knights are the backbone of the kingdom. Each Knight can take on the role of a Marshall, Merchant, Cleric, Builder, Landlord, or Spy. There’s no limit to the number of Knights in a given office, but there can only ever be nine Knights at any one time. Members of the royal family can be assigned to Knighthood for free, while hiring Knights from outside the family will drain the kingdom coffers. And each additional type of Knight costs more than the previous, so hiring six Merchants can become prohibitive. All Knights except the Marshall and Spy can be assigned to govern a particular town, providing bonuses. The Merchant gives a town a bonus to income, or he can be assigned to open trade relations with friendly kingdoms. The Builder and Landlord increase the amount of workers and food in their province, respectively. The Cleric is a particularly useful Knight, with the ability to help pacify unrest in a province, in addition to greatly increasing the amount of Books produced. Books are useful for calming a rebellious province, or they can be used to educate a Knight and increase their effectiveness. The Spy is used a bit differently than the other Knights. They are sent to another kingdom, where they wait around to be hired as an enemy Knight. Once in place, they can cause all sorts of havoc in their office. Of course, the enemy is sending their own spies, so a Spy can also be kept in waiting at the Royal Court, as a counter-spy operation. Finally, the Marshall is the military leader of the game, and a great deal of time will be spent ordering these guys around the map.
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