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Library heists, bandit bribes, and multiple orgasms: how I became a happy king in medieval strategy sim Norland

 Medieval strategy game.
Medieval strategy game.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of king I'd be, and every now and then a game comes along that makes it abundantly clear I'd be a terrible one. Currently, that game is medieval kingdom sim Norland, which feels like a mashup of Crusader Kings, RimWorld, and Mount & Blade. It's got strategy, settlement-building, management, and as Fraser found out, lots of personal drama and no small amount of vomiting.

I'm not sure my kingdom is going to last long enough to experience any of that: I haven't even technically begun the game when I make my first big mistake. I choose a scenario that starts me off as a king with three daughters, which seems like it'd be ideal: one daughter could be the princess type blessed with charisma and social skills, another could be a shadowy spymaster to handle intrigue and secret plots, and the third could be a bold warrior leading my armies. The four of us will rule this realm, and when I finally croak my most worthy daughter will inherit the throne.

What I fail to notice is that in this scenario all three of my daughters are just one year old at the start of the game. That means when I begin playing I immediately discover my kids (I've named them Inky, Dinky, and Pinky) can't do a damn thing until they grow up and become teenagers.

Right off the bat, King Chris has to do everything himself with no help from his heirs. Giving instructions to builders, doing research, undertaking missions, diplomacy with neighboring lords: that's all on me and me alone. No wonder I almost immediately develop a negative mood modifier called "fatal fatigue." Sounds grim. I hope it's not fatal.

The other problem with my daughters is that one of them is, like, missing. The scenario I chose told me the game would start with a family member kidnapped by bandits, to give me a fun little starter mission. I somehow assumed it would be some distant randomized cousin, but no, it's my beloved daughter Inky. How did I fail so hard in the pre-game drop down menus? Now I have to go rescue her, and since my other two kids are useless toddlers, they can't help.

Medieval strategy game
Medieval strategy game

So, my first act as king is to trudge out of the town that has nothing built in it (because I'm the only one who can tell people what to build) without an army ('cuz I haven't assembled one yet) and deliver a big pile of gold to the bandit camp.

Unfortunately, I quickly make yet another error: I choose "bribe" from the menu, which just means I'm paying the bandits not to attack my village. There's a different option to pay to get my baby daughter back, so I wind up paying the bandits two big piles of gold. Is this infant daughter even worth it? I have two backup babies at home.

Tax Return of the King

Medieval strategy game
Medieval strategy game

Not a great kickoff to my new kingdom. After that bumpy start, however… things stay pretty bumpy. While I'm in the library reading, trying to research ways to produce food and booze with rye fields, I get a warning that my trio of tiny useless baby daughters aren't being educated. I don't want them to grow up to be complete dumbasses like their dad, so I need to spend time teaching them stuff. That means less time researching rye fields, which means a delay in getting my townsfolk all the flour and beer they need to be happy.

I need help, desperately, and I finally get a bit of luck: a freelance lord shows up in town. His name is Lyutovoy, but I rename him "Helpy" because I don't know how to pronounce Lyutovoy and because I immediately burden him with 95% of the tasks in the village, including educating my kids. All I'm gonna do myself is try to finish reading this book about rye.

Helpy's opinion of me is represented by an angry red negative number, and I'd like to avoid being assassinated before I can finish learning the secrets of rye, so I pay him some gold on top of the gold I'm already paying him. Before I can check if that's boosted his disposition, I pass out in the mud from fatigue. Helpy drags me through the village and dumps me in my bed. Like me or not, at least he's earning his gold.

A medieval town
A medieval town

Before Helpy arrived I'd also spent some time trying to improve my relationship with a kingdom to the west, though most of that was just by throwing gifts of money at them. Between the bandits, the other kingdom, and paying Helpy to work for me and like me more, I'm really burning through my village's treasury. But now I notice the kingdom I've been plying with gifts is advertising one of their kin for marriage.

My mood is boosted by a recent orgasm (I'm guessing I can thank Gorana for that, but for all I know Helpy is truly living up to his name).

I put down the perpetually unfinished rye manual and run off to get married. Who is my wife? Oh, I dunno. Some lady named Gorana. I just need another person in my town who can be assigned tasks until my irritating children get older. I notice in her bio it says she is "craving excitement." I have some extremely bad news for her, unless she gets a thrill from watching a guy slowly fail to read a farming book.

With Helpy and Gorana, things in my town finally take a turn for the better. My mood is boosted by a recent orgasm or two (I'm guessing I can thank Gorana for that, unless Helpy is really going above and beyond). I've also become friends with one of my daughters, Pinky, who is now 7 and nearly halfway to being old enough to do a few damn things around here. Best of all, I finally, miraculously, finish reading the book about rye, so farms can be planted, mills can be built, and flour and booze can begin flooding my town. All it took was paying off one stranger and marrying another and occasionally keeling over from exhaustion. I am a true king.

Murky mercs

Medieval strategy game
Medieval strategy game

It's also time for a little revenge. Those bandits I made rich earlier? They're now doing so well they've actually formed a little mercenary military unit. I'd love to destroy their camp but I still don't have an army, so I just… hire them. I hire the bandits to destroy their own camp.

I put my mercenary Helpy in charge of my mercenary army, and send them out to stab their former bandit comrades to death. It works great, and I think it qualifies as a strategy: paying people to destroy the people I paid earlier, even though they're mostly the same people? It's expensive, anyway, and expensive things are usually good. That's what my constantly fainting king thinks, anyway.

Speaking of unconscious monarchs, my king has a dream the next night and awakens with a new purpose, or as some might call it, a quest: to "unite 15 Norland provinces under my control." I just bust out laughing. That's plainly not going to happen. It was a major undertaking for King Chris to successfully read a single book.

A medieval town
A medieval town

I do need to deal with the other provinces, though, because most of them hate me. That's what happens when you constantly hand over massive sums of gold to bandits: rich people get angry. A few opportunities arise to win some hearts and minds, however. One kingdom asks for help, fearing they're about to be plundered (probably from all the well-paid bandits in the area) so I send Helpy out (with all the well-paid bandits I employ), and have him raid another bandit camp on his way back. Yep, I'm a hero.

Me, the guy who almost failed to read a single book about wheat, staging a library heist.

Another country really, really hates me, so I prepare to send them huge gobs of money before I notice, whoops, I am nearly out of gobs. But I can't just leave a seething enemy king out there plotting my downfall, so I look over my options for a preemptive strike. Assassination? Kidnapping? Poisoning? Gold heist?

I may not be a great king, but I do love irony, so I choose the option that seems funniest: stealing books from their library. Me, the guy who almost failed to read a single book about wheat, staging a library heist. It detracts from the crime a bit that I send my wife to steal books instead of going myself, but I'm pleased to see she also delegates the task, hiring "cutthroats" to steal five books while keeping her own hands clean. Now, all that's left to do is read all those books, or more better still, pay someone to read them for me. Hey, Helpy… you busy?

Unfortunately my demo of Norland doesn't let me play much further than that, but I sure did have a great time being a terrible king. Norland will enter early access on Steam in May. I'll see you again then, Helpy.