Did you guys see that the demo was released yesterday?
I just booted up the demo and I have to say I am impressed! The tutorial is impressive and quite detailed (but the intermediate and advanced sections could use some more detail), something that should go a long way in making the game more comprehensible. The UI also has a nice amount of changes that will make the game much more of a joy to play.
After spending about four hours trying my hand, I have to say that I am really looking forward to this game's release! It's strange because the mechanics haven't changed that much from the original, but I think the new, slick UI has gone a long way in making the game more transparent, and hence, much more involving.
Having said that, the game still can be slow at time, but I felt that is was now less "spreadsheet slow" and more "Distant Worlds" slow where you are just waiting for something interesting to happen rather than just feeling shut out from the gameplay.
For example, last night I played one of the four character campaigns available in the demo - some queen of Tuscana? in Northern Italy (I didn't plan on getting this involved with a demo campaign, so I didn't really take note of all the official names and titles). Well, she had quite the wild ride under my tutelage. I first married her off to a German duke so that the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire wouldn't inherit her lands in the event of her death. That accomplished, I entered one of those boring periods where there wasn't a lot to do (there are now personal goals you can set for your sovereign, but so far I haven't found them to be all that interesting. Plots - which are nefarious goals - are more interesting, but seem pretty gutsy and risky - such as plotting the death of a spouse. But I need to explore both of these some more), so I fooled around with some minor goals, such as preparing to go to war against the Emir of Sardinia. Oh, and I also granted my bishoprics a tax-free status...it was fun to watch it go up for a vote.
But then really interesting things started happening. First, my mother informed me that she wanted to be my spymaster. Well, coincidentally(?) my spymaster just happened to die a year or so later (natural causes?), so I put her in the spot to keep her happy. Then, out of the blue, the Lombards declared war on me and marshaled all their forces. I did the same, but in retrospect I think I did it wrong as I raised not just my personal levees, but realm levees, something that I believe ticked off the Holy Roman Emperor because I believe realm levees are reserved for him? Anyway, there was a huge battle in a province where all the forces converged. It was a real nail biter too. First, we were losing. Then, when my reinforcements arrived, we were winning, and big! But then the Lombards brought in more reinforcements and we were routed (btw: the new battle mechanic is pretty cool - you can watch the battle unfold in the form of a overview plan. Hard to explain, need to get a screenshot, but you can see three wings of each army and what tactic they are pursuing from moment to moment).
What forces I had escaped back to my province, while the enemy laid siege to one of my cities. My marshal was killed in the mege-battle, so I appointed another, a bishop who had a good marshal rating. Well, this ticked off on my of courtiers who insisted he had a better competency. I told him to give the bishop a chance....and I did - resulting in another route. So I removed the bishop and replaced him with the upstart - who would lose another battle. Unfortunately, my previous bishop marshal, who was demoted to commanding a wing of the army, was captured and found himself in a Lombard dungeon.
Meanwhile, in a bit of good news during this dark war, my queen had conceived a child with her German duke and gave birth to a son I promptly named Frodo. I really would have liked to see a Count Frodo one day!
But I was still annoyed with the state of the war and desperate. So, first, I successfully assassinated the Lombard general laying siege my city. This, unfortunately, hurt my piety rating and did nothing to relieve the siege. Then, in a big gamble, I attempted to assassinate the Lombard king. I failed. Not only did I fail, but my assassin was captured and blabbed my name under torture! This was to be my downfall because I guess I crossed some invisible line. It was at that point my mother and spymaster informed me that I was to be placed under arrest by order of the Holy Roman Emperor and she would rule in my place as regent! Talk about being grounded!
So there I sat, in a dungeon, fuming at my fate. Being completely out of forces, I sued for peace with the Lombard king, being forced to give up my best province. He agreed and even released my captured bishop general. As a way of apology, I granted my bishop a landed title, and made him a prince bishop. He was happy with that. Least I could do for the time he spent in prison.
Then another crisis: I fell ill in prison with a high fever. Things didn't look good. But I recovered.
That scared me, so I immediately purchased a papal indulgence and improved my rating with the pope in asking forgiveness for my (assassination) sins.
Then another crisis: my mother died after about a year as regent (the stress?), making my marshal the new regent.
My next strategy was to start repairing relations with the Holy Roman Emperor to get me the heck out of prision...but I happened to glance at the clock and saw it was 4:30 in the morning! You can always tell a good game in the making by this time dilation effect.
So that was my six year adventure in CKII. It was more fun than I expected and I am definitely looking forward to its release. I can't wait to do a full AAR chronicling a game in detail.