This is simply a never ending game which never gets unexciting.
Have you ever stuck to any game which actually needs long-term gameplay and everyday you keep learning even if you’ve played this game for years? Well, if you haven’t then you don’t have to go to far, just try Knights of Honor. This is simply a never ending game which never gets boring.
It's been years that I’ve bought this game and when I started to play it, I actually thought that I had wasted my money on it... it took me five days to learn the actual ways of the game. I used to seat constantly at my computer and played it for hours and days. I’ve missed my university classes and even exams. I've been playing this game for last 3 years and I’m still playing it and the game in fact never ends. Though there are lacks of intelligence in the game and I’ve written to the publisher many times along with many others; about those lacking and after years of writings, they released a patch which made the game a bit better. The patch did make the game better on few aspects, but not too much that the gamers have been expecting. There are still much more to do, if this game wants to come to glare of publicity.
Now let us explore the game from the foundation. First I’ll talk about the relation states of the counties. At the beginning it’s some how very difficult (even in easy mode) if you have started the game with war between your neighbor countries. It’s difficult to settle down with them, unless you agree to be their vassal or pay a good amount of gold or hand over any of your provinces in case you have few. Some countries start being a vassal of bigger or stronger nation, which makes your game progress even slower. In this case, I usually make my king a merchant and prince (if I get one) a marshal at the beginning and also keep the default marshal and when I manage to survive few waves of attacks; up to building an strong army with backup in every castles, I call back the price to be a merchant and make the king a builder. It’s important that you keep backup soldiers in your castles, because when you are building improvements, you might face shortage of gold at the beginning of the game. When the situation is a bit steady after those first few attacks, it gets easier to build up a strong army and focus on province developments specially the kingdom power, which requires certain amount of gold and piety. Higher kingdom power brings more gold to your treasury and makes your population happier. When these things are settled, you can focus on the real game play and which is to dominate other countries and become the lord of Europe. For that you need vassals and treasury full of gold flow. Few strong units are enough to make other nation your vassal (I’ll come to this point later). I usually don’t make small and closer nations my vassals at the first period of the game. If I am with war with my neighbor nations, I send marshals to plunder their village or even fight wars to increase their skills, which comes handy later on the game.
Making vassals is a very dynamic part of this game and when you've have managed to make few vassals it's really easy to win the game, if those vassals are the top ranked countries. Those countries need your continuous support during their war and economic help through out the game in exchange of their loyalty. It's really easy to keep them happy by giving gold or land or support during wars and of course by attacking their enemies. But if two of your vassals are in war, you can't do much about it, except forcing them to declare war to one of your enemy countries. Sometime it works; sometime it doesn’t, depending on how badly they are related to each other. Vassals may ask for favor if they have better relation to you than other vassal of yours. To avoid this situation, just keep them equal in relation. You might sing pact of non aggression or alliance pact. But if your vassals some how lose all their lands and recovers it back later in the game, they still remain alliance with you but not as vassal. So think before you make them your alliance. Because breaking alliance pack makes your entire reputation appalling to all the countries.
Wars. The stronger army you have, more easier it is for you at the game and this actually goes for all the strategy games on earth. But there are few other verities that you can’t really escape. Your unit size, their type against the unit you are on battle and specially marshals’ skills. Marshals get skill bonus when they fight number of battles, actually wins. So when you promote them with skills, first think which one you need for the situation or your upcoming plans for the game, as a marshal can have only six different skills. It's important to have your marshal the skills based on what type of unit he is leading (it’s common sense though). I usually keep five marshals when I have more then 8 provinces and I promote them with different skills. There are two different ways to fight battles. Whether you chose to control your units by yourself on the ground or let the AI do the tricks for you. Battles fought by AI saves valuable time but can disappoint you in battle where you really though you could actually win. There will be many battles during the game and more you progress on the game, you’ll know which battle to play and which to leave on AIs’ hand.
Then comes the trading between countries. It’s simply very easy to trade in this game but sometime you may have to pay gold to certain nations to sign a trade agreement. There is no calculation about it. If you need goods and if you are not producing them in your provinces, just offer trade agreement to the countries that are producing it. It takes a valuable position of you royal court for the merchant though. Complicated trade could have given this game more interest. Hope it improves in the upcoming patches or versions. Goods produced by your province or collected by trades makes valuable contribution on you gold outcome and without particular goods you won’t be able to gain certain kingdom advantages. Kingdom advantages are very crucial, incase if you want to win the game. Try to achieve as many as you can and if you can manage all of them, you can manage the minor victory of the game. If you trade gold by your merchants, make sure they are educated to higher levels and trading with countries which have higher gold income and you have good relation with the countries.
Religion is another big part of this game if your country is troubled in this fact, you might have to spend a lot of time arranging it. Cleric and Pope plays a very important part in this game. Cleric writes books for you provinces and books are needed to educate royal court members accept marshals. If you can manage to make one of you cleric to pope, you can attach other religious nations to plunder their land or to make them your vassal. If you make them your vassal, you lose one of your marshals; as he becomes the king of that country. Pope can excommunicate a country. This damages their economic condition. So, if you have a pope, you can economically harm your enemies. But sometimes, pope doesn’t like your judgment and leaves you by excommunicating your country. So, be watchful at this regards.
Landlord and Builder don’t have much to contribute in the game and it’s not fair. Builders just increase you workforce +1, which makes province developments a bit faster and landlord increases your food production +1. Nothing much. Though Landlord contributes a little when your castle is under sedge. Compared to Landlord and Builder, Spy has much more work to do in this game. They can do serious damages to your enemy countries in such a way that, they might never stand back again. Spies are sometime more useful than marshals. They can make rebels in the infiltrated country if they are hired as marshals by the country you are spying on. They can steal gold or dismiss trade agreements. They can even take over the power of a province and hand it over to you if they are hired as Cleric. But if they get caught, it costs a huge amount of gold to free them and if you get rid of them after they are caught, you suffer a serious lose of your kingdom power. And also be cautious on being spied, because if any spy succeed against you; same consequences happen.
The main problem I face is the kings’ kin. If your king doesn't have any son, then computer selects one of you court member as next king. It's frustrating sometime, when one of your best marshals becomes the king. I try to keep a merchant and educate him up to four star levels and eventually he becomes the next king. It’s even more frustrating when you conduct your kings’ daughter marriage to a country’s king or price and they claim land when your king dies. If you deny them, your relation with them badly decreases. So there is also a bit of politics you have to understand during playing the game.
You can claim your title as the lord of Europe, if the top five countries are your vassals. The game is over now or you have to wait for the voting to come during game play and wait for your luck. Thinking of finishing this game like other strategy games will be a foolish idea. Because, one game eventually take more than days of play and the truth is, it’s not boring nor annoying. It’s rather gives the gamer think more about strategies and get to the very bottom of the game. The only suggestion I’ll leave if anyone is reading this review, learn the game; even if it takes months. Because once you’ve learnt the game, you can play it for years without any tiredness and always with new enthusiasm.