Playing Crusader Kings II

So, I played my first full game of Crusader Kings II.

I started in the safest part of the game, aka Iceland. I spent most of it ruling a county in one half of Iceland, but sometimes grabbed the other half and ruled it as a duchy. The only military interventions were ones of my own making, save for one. The game ended when I ran out of male heirs in the early 1300s.

The game is a little clunky and overwhelming, but it was still fun and I can see why its fans like it.


The Girl Who Held The Atom in her Hand

The Girl Who Held The Atom In Her Hand

Breakfast came early for her, and by now she knew the routine-eat as quick as possible, before the big blast came.

Gulping down the scrambled eggs and washing them down with some orange juice, she moved over to the couch and did what she normally did. That would be sitting blankly and waiting for the big smash. There were near-constant little smashes, ones that she knew she had to deal with, since after all, the young woman was overseeing a war.

And then it hit her again, a barrage of terror, pain and fear. Into her mind flowed the waves of hundreds if not thousands. This time it was at sea, on a warship near “Iceland”. It was always Iceland. No one would know the place names in another universe if it wasn’t their job, but she knew them better than any geographer.

Fulda. Iceland. Kola. Orkney. Norway. Berlin. Bonn. Kamchatka. Hokkaido. Sakhalin. Occasionally there was some variety, like “Long Island”, “Newfoundland” and once “Moscow”.

She grimaced and got to work, which was falling asleep and dealing with more of her battle nightmares. Whether or not they were better handled asleep than awake was an open question. There could be a dream of burning up in a tank, then waking up, thinking “oh, it’s a dream”, and then getting hit by a cluster bomb.

Besides, the child knew it was not a dream.

She was saving the world. Or the worlds.

Or was she?

Was she just being an enabler? The elders understood the mechanics of the “subconscious projection.” She did not. But what she felt and suspected was that if the true fear of nuclear combat was there, would it not keep them from sliding into the wars she felt every single day?

That would be nonsense-she was giving them a chance to be resolved without an apocalypse. But was it better off being held off altogether? She didn’t know how they started or how they happened, only that they happened.

And somehow, she didn’t want them to happen. But they kept going on nonetheless.

Another blast hit her, this time of a barracks being hit by a “B-52” (this had given her an experience in the education of weapons systems, too). There was a fire, and it seemed like it was spreading to her body, making her double over. The B-52 was shot down-that’s what it was, and it was making her hurt even more.

Eventually, panting, the girl sat up again.

Looking at the clock, she grimaced. Eighteen hours to go before another day of “atomic peace”.

_ _ _

This came about from the “nuclear handwave” common to World War III stories. I’ll admit the exact mechanism is reminiscent of Louis Lowry’s The Giver, but that was more about emotion in general.

I’ve wanted to write this for a while, and now have done the basic story. The reason why the hands are off the nuclear button is that someone is forcing them-and destroying their mind and life in the process.

The Gameplay Reason For A Soviet Iceland

Having mentioned the common trope of the Soviet Union launching an amphibious attack on Iceland popularized in Red Storm Rising, I was playing another Command scenario set with that premise when I saw something.

I can see the reasons for a Soviet invasion of Iceland being so common in potboiler fiction, regardless of the real (im)plausibility. Attacking Iceland is dramatic by itself. To have the invasion initially succeed also gives the “heel” (wrestling villain) the credibility they need to be more than a “jobber” (constant loser) so that the “face” (hero) can have an earned victory.

(Sorry, VGCW has inserted pro wrestling terms into me 😀 ).

But as I played, I saw the gameplay advantages an Iceland base gives. It makes sending aircraft to the North Atlantic far easier than it would be if the AI had to stage them from Kola, even with the refueling changes.

So at least for Command, gameplay reasons may be another (sometimes unintentional) reason for the popularity of the Soviets taking Iceland.

Red Storm Rising

I got Red Storm Rising. How could I not get it? I’ve played Command, so why not get the book that inspired so many wargames? Why not read the traditional genre classic that simulated the battles in the Harpoon boardgame?

So I got the book and read it. And it was-mediocre. Not bad, in the sense of the horribly bad books I’ve read far too many times. But it just didn’t have the sense of “wow, this is a giant classic”. I think there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that the prose just wasn’t the best. The hopping-around viewpoints to show every front of World War III took away from a sense of continued immediacy, and even without that, the writing wasn’t the most powerful. Although a far different period, HMS Ulysses captured northern-latitude naval combat in a much more intense and well-written way. In addition to that, the book stumbled as well by giving an inevitably contrived explanation for starting the war (and a horribly composed Politburo scene), rather than just saying “The war started, now let’s fight it”, and going past it to the real draw.

The second was not the fault of the book itself. Rather, I think it has to deal with the context I read it in. A lot of things in it that were novel at the time, like Tomahawks and (inaccurately speculated) stealth fighters hitting key targets just don’t seem very awe-inspiring to a post-Gulf War reader who sees them as standard procedure.

Then there’s that I’ve seen so many imitators that the original doesn’t seem so original. To someone who’s seen many Backfire regiment vs. carrier group scenarios, I especially don’t have an interested reaction to watching one in a book. Also unsurprising is the Soviet invasion of Iceland-a pipe dream out of place for a defensive fleet, which only works in the book itself as a jury-rigged surprise attack. Yet after that book, Iceland landings are ubiquitous in WWIII fiction, as if standard Northern Fleet procedure was to attack it that way.
While not a totally bad book, through some things that are its fault and some things that aren’t, I just didn’t find Red Storm Rising the most engaging.