Despite the new computer's real suitedness for playing new-fangled video games I've been making use of what gaming time I have to play some old ones. In particular I've been getting the hang of Crusader Kings, which I've had about five years but which my old machine wasn't really fast enough that the game could be played so its flow made sense. It wasn't insufferably sluggish, it's just the connection between action and consequence was enough that it wasn't so clear what anything was for, you see.
Crusader Kings is another Europa Universalis-type game, grand strategy against hundreds of opposing nations. In this case, you're the head of one of the noble families of Europe, from 1066 through 1453, struggling to not just maximize your nation's potential, but also (and more importantly) your dynasty's potential, and note that your nation and dynasty are not coincident. And while you need money to succeed, and to get money you need population and territory, the game also demands that you build your prestige --- accomplishing great things --- and your piety, conforming to the mythical ideal of the wise, just, powerful, Christian ruler. Oh, and if that isn't enough your vassals or even your court members may be disloyal, your heirs may try usurping, and ... oh, yeah, now and then the Pope will call for a Crusade and you have to go picking a fight with Muslims off on the far other side of the world and who never even heard of you.
Anyway. I (playing England/the Normans, to start) seem to have hit on a strategy that's working pretty well: when I get into a war --- and I'm slowly coming around to accepting that in this era war is just the natural state and it's not all that serious except if you're under siege that minute --- overwhelm the opponent with massive forces, yes, but force them to become my vassals rather than annex the territory. Result: I get the reputation for might, generosity, and forgiveness, not to mention vassals who turn out quite swiftly to be very loyal as my scutage and crown duties are low.
Reinventing the Roman Republic like this is fine, but it just hit somewhat crazy. The Pope (exiled from Rome to Sheffield, by the way) called for a crusade to liberate Burgos (in Spain). So, I fought my way in. What to do with it? Temporarily, it became part of the King of England's demesne, but what I really wanted to do was give it to some loyal vassal. Who'll be loyal and not go picking a fight with the many Muslim kingdoms in Spain? ... Well, the fresh-vanquished sheik, that's who. The Pope was thrilled getting Burgos into Catholic hands and now he's all whiny over this. There's just no pleasing some pontiffs. Plus the Knights Templar think they're at war with me, except they have no idea where to find England and seem pretty lost getting to Burgos too.
Trivia: The earliest reference to scutage in English law dates to about 1100, although commutations of military service are older than that. Source: The History Today Companion To British History, Editors Juliet Gardiner, Neil Wenborn.
Currently Reading: The United States of Arugula: The Sun-Dired, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story Of The American Food Revolution, David Kamp. Ooh. It also mentions what happened to Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet, who just kind of vanished over the course of one weekend in the late 90s.