For lack of anything else to blog about, let me tell you about a computer game I've been playing: Knights of Honor. It's set in medieval Europe. You play the "guiding spirit" of a kingdom, and you can choose from a very long list of kingdoms, from Aquitaine to Zeta.
The ruler of the kingdom is always male (alas), and you have to find him a foreign princess to marry so he can start producing heirs. When your little princes and princesses grow up, you can marry them off, too, to strengthen your bonds with other kingdoms. I find it very amusing to click around the map of Europe, holding audiences with various rulers in hopes of arranging royal weddings, although it isn't always easy. After being repeatedly turned down because my kingdom is unimportant or my king's children are "too ugly," I can't help feeling more sympathetic toward the rulers who had to do this in real life!
It's also necessary to hire knights for your court. You assign each knight a profession: marshal, spy, merchant, cleric, landlord, or builder.
Marshals are the most important because they lead your armies. Spies are also useful — they can infiltrate rival royal courts to carry out various dirty tricks, such as inciting an enemy's armies to revolt or assassinating a member of a foreign royal family. (One of my spies even managed to get himself elected monarch of another kingdom, then promptly turned his crown over to me.)
Merchants trade with other kingdoms to earn extra money for your royal treasury, and clerics can convert conquered provinces to your kingdom's religion. So far I haven't bothered with landlords and builders, but landlords can increase a province's population and builders can speed up construction in a town.
You can hire up to nine knights. One nice touch is that you can use your king or his adult sons as knights, if you wish. Unlike other knights, royal knights don't have to be paid. However, knights can be killed in the line of duty, so it is risky to use your king or his heir as a marshal or spy.
When your king dies, the crown passes to one of his sons. If the king dies without heirs, one of the knights of his court will seize the throne, but this may cause the other knights to rebel against him.
If you have married your princesses to foreign royals, it is possible that those kingdoms will try to lay claim to your provinces when your king dies, forcing you to lose territory or go to war. However, at times you too can claim foreign provinces through your princesses, making it worthwhile to arrange these royal marriages.
You win the game by conquering all of Europe or becoming powerful enough to be elected "Ultimate Emperor of Europe." I haven't managed this yet, but I did win a minor victory by amassing enough trade goods to claim all of the "Kingdom Advantages" (such as Crop Rotation, Silk Route, and Urbanization).
Right now I'm playing as East Anglia, and I'm involved in an epic war against Lotharingia (that'll teach them to turn down my offer of royal marriage).
It takes a while to learn all the ins and outs of this game, but it's not difficult to understand or play. It's a bit slow at times; sometimes there's not much to do except sit and wait for gold to pile up in your treasury, or watch as one of your armies makes its way slowly across the map. But these are minor complaints. The game run smoothly, is nice to look at, has great music, and is, quite simply, an awful lot of fun to play. If you like strategy games, I recommend this one!
This game at Amazon.com: Knights of Honor
The game patch (install it before you play): Knights of Honor