Testing Hillary Clinton’s presidential skills in Crusader Kings 2

Testing Hillary Clinton's Presidential skills in Crusader Kings 2

America will soon choose its new president, a man or woman loopy enough to want to run a country. A little while ago, I put Donald Trump’s manifesto to the test in Democracy 3, where he reigned for a short, but exciting year. Trump’s far from the only candidate, of course, so today I’ve got another prospective president to judge: Hillary Clinton. 

For more on the other big candidate, check out the best Donald Trump games on PC.

I’ve decided to mix things up a bit more, too. I feel that Democracy 3, while interesting, doesn’t really touch on the intrigue, power games or the human side of politics and governance. You know what game does? Crusader Kings 2. 

Yes, Hillary Clinton is going to face her toughest challenge yet. She’s going to be Queen. 

Obviously the choice of Crusader Kings 2 causes a few wrinkles immediately. For instance, the United States of America doesn’t exist and Clinton hasn’t been born. Not to worry! Through the magic of CK2’s ruler creator, we have our very own medieval Hillary Clinton.

You’ll likely note that she looks a wee bit younger than her real-world counterpart, and that’s because it’s 769AD, when people usually die before they’ve learned to dress themselves. It’s not possible to make a ruler that’s older than 50, so 69-year-old Clinton is out of luck. But since we’ve already travelled in time, what’s to stop us rejuvenating the ex-senator?

So we’ve got our new Hillary, but where should she begin her reign? It turns out that both of her parents are of Welsh descent, and since I’ve never been a Welsh ruler before (in CK2 or real life), I’ve settled on Wales for the site of her rise to power. 769AD is an interesting time for the ol’ British Isles. There’s no single kingdom in control, instead the islands are simply lousy with kings and queens warring for dominance and dealing with Viking invasions. It’s all rather exciting!

Queen Hillary of Deheubarth, a small Welsh kingdom containing the future capital of Cardiff, doesn’t start off with much. A small treasury, three counties and one husband, Cai (sorry, Bill, you’re still stuck in 2015). It isn’t a lot, but it’s a beginning, and one with a whole heap of choices to make and things to worry about. There’s the issue of a lack of an heir, claims to press, council seats to fill, ambitions to select and a specific character focus to choose.

She’d better get to work.

Finding an heir

Oh dear, this is a bit awkward. Despite the fact that there’s an abundance (though not, perhaps, as much as there should be) of female politicians and countless places where women are or have been leaders, there’s this tendency for people to think of women in politics as female first. A male politician is just a politician, but a lady? Well, she’s a female politician.

So making her birth an heir the first order of business, well it’s a bit medieval, but this is 769AD and Deheubarth really, really needs one. In the early Middle Ages, it’s hard to be a progressive. But that’s the challenge!

Anyway, there’s not a lot that can be done here. Hillary and Cai will just need to get to know each other better and spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of court life. Hopefully the hallways of the castle will soon ring with the sound of a shrieking infant, though not too loud, of course, because this is still a place of business.

We’ll just give them their space.

Putting bums on council seats

But not too much space, because there’s a tiny kingdom to run. There are two open seats on the council, with the positions of spymaster and steward vacant. The spymaster, well, they spy on people, don’t they? And the steward is the tax collector and an economic advisor. There aren’t a lot of people in the court to choose from, but it’s an important decision nonetheless.

When Bill was President, Hillary wanted his cabinet to reflect America, rather than just a bunch of old white men. In 769, there’s not a lot of diversity in Wales, but there is room to improve the council. The first new hire is chap called Iolo, for a number of reasons. First, his name makes me smile. It’s fun to say. Then there’s the fact that he’s a self-made man, a lowborn individual who built a fortune out of nothing.

Iolo is joined by a paunchy fellow called Rhys, which is as Welsh a name as you can get, as the new spymaster. I also come across a noteworthy courtier called Llecci, whose martial skill surpasses the current marshal’s. The problem? Her lack of a penis. Lamentably, Christian monarchs are only able to appoint their daughters or mothers to the council, and only as spymaster.

I’m frustrated, Queen Hillary is frustrated and we’re pretty sure Cai is frustrated on our behalf because he seems like a nice guy. There’s no way, beyond converting to another religion, to change this rule, and as a devout Christian, Queen Hillary isn’t going to be converting to paganism or Islam any time soon.

Something will be done, however. You can count on it.

Little country, big ambitions

In Crusader Kings, ambitions are a bit like quests. They are temporary goals that can help inform players about the choices they’ll be able to make. Two stick out as appropriate for Queen Hillary. The first is ‘Become a paragon of virtue’. As a church-going Methodist, it seems right for Queen Hillary to be a leader with faith (even if, in CK2, she’s Catholic, since there’s no Methodist denomination in the 8th Century AD). At the same time, the Church of 769 is a harsh taskmaster, extremely bigoted and very demanding.

Option number two is a bit more straightforward: ‘Become Queen of Wales.’ Yep. That’s the one. That’s the dream. And now it’s Queen Hillary’s first ambition.

Focuses are a little different. Essentially they are stat bonuses with a bit of context. For Queen Hillary, I choose family. It’s a diplomatic focus, giving a straight diplomacy bonus, increased fertility (gotta get that heir) and better relationships with family members.

Many centuries from now, our Queen will write ‘It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us’, a book that espouses the belief that people and groups, like the government, outside of the family have an important and lasting impact on children, and that society must focus on meeting the needs of children. It’s been riling up Republicans and minarchist government types for years. Now she’s going to put it to practise in the Middle Ages.

Petty kingdom? How rude

A petty kingdom is, essentially, a small kingdom, and the British Isles were full of them in this period. Europe’s petty kingdoms went on to get swallowed up by larger ones, becoming duchies and the like, but not Deheubarth – it’s going to be doing the swallowing. There’s just one really big problem: expansion in CK2 is mostly done at sword point, and Queen Hillary is a diplomat.

So she’s not a warmonger, but she has supported a lot of military action in the past future. She voted for the Iraq War (though she now regrets it), supported the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, and has been known to use rather vengeful rhetoric when speaking about terrorists. She also tried to join the Marines in 1975. On the other side of things, she opposed more funding for the Iraq War, and she first became a Liberal over her opposition of the Vietnam War.

It’s going to have to be a compromise. War is inevitable, but it will have to be done right, legally and respectably. Conveniently, the county of Dyfed, right next to Deheubarth, is a de jure vassal, meaning that it’s legally part of Queen Hillary’s lands, even if it doesn’t currently belong to her. It’s a claim that can be pressed, then, and is completely above board.

Unfortunately, this will still result in a war, and Dyfed actually has quite a few more soldiers than Deheubarth, even though it’s just one county. Maybe too many to currently fight.

Diplomacy, what is it good for?

It’s hard being both fairly peaceful and an expansionist in the 8th Century. Queen Hillary makes new friends all over the place, but this does not add more land to her tiny kingdom. But two important events offer an opportunity to grow in power.

The first is the birth of Sulien ap Cai, the Queen’s first child and heir. Royal children are very much bargaining chips, which is not all that different from the role children of modern politicians play, particularly in the US with the prevalence of gossip news and ‘family values’. A politician’s family ends up under the microscope as much as the politician.

Eventually, he would have to marry, and that could provide an important political alliance and maybe even the promise of new titles and land. For the time being he’s allowed to just be a kid, though, much like the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, during Bill’s time in office.

Tragedy strikes not long after Sulien’s birth, unfortunately. This is the second important event. Cai has died. He was only 19, as well, making this all quite sudden. It’s a shame, too, because – although Hillary and Cai didn’t marry for love – they were falling for each other, or at least that’s what a pop-up told me. The silver lining is Queen Hillary can marry again, possibly uniting two kingdoms.

With a wife for Sulien to choose and a husband for Queen Hillary, the whole world opens up. Or it would if everyone wasn’t so bloody paranoid and cheeky. Royals all over the world get buttered up, and everyone seems to love the prospective Queen of Wales and her kid, but that’s just not leading to marriage. Hillary is too old, past her childbearing years, apparently, despite only being in her 30s, while the best candidate for Sulien’s wife has a father with ‘political concerns’. That basically means he’s worried Queen Hillary just wants his daughter’s claims, which honestly isn’t far off the mark. Indeed, he’s spot on.

Third time unlucky

Queen Hillary has a new king, the heir to the Bavarian throne, which is quite nice. His name is Karl and he’s got decent stats and everything – what a guy. It’s a matrilineal marriage, as well, which means any children will belong to the Rodham dynasty, Hillary’s dynasty. Things are looking up. The new union salves what has been a pretty awful year of getting nowhere in the quest for decent match for Sulien, losing money because people keep beating up the tax collector, and dealing with scheming vassals attempting to fabricate claims on the kingdom.

Someone also wants to write a book about Queen Hillary, which sounds like a capital idea.

Court is starting to become a more lively, vibrant place as well, with the Queen bringing her 2015 pro-immigration stance to 8th Century Deheubarth. Interesting, talented people from all around the world are being invited to join Queen Hillary on her quest to be top dog in Wales. They’re all getting along, too. Queen Hillary now takes advice from her Jewish chancellor, Sulien is being educated in the art of war by a lowborn woman, and an important, but haughty and entitled (and slanderous), bishop has been replaced by a man of the people.

This is where it all starts to fall apart.

First, the new bishop turns out to be a bloody heretic, and is promptly jailed, creating a new conflict: should Queen Hillary keep him there? She’s opposed to inhibiting religious freedom and isn’t a fan of flinging everyone in prison. The bishop is placed under house arrest instead, balancing leniency with loyalty to the church. This doesn’t pay off, as he attempts escape and is jailed once again.

This pales in comparison to what King Karl is getting up to. The sociopath is discovered plotting the demise of his stepson, no doubt in an attempt to ensure his newborn daughter with Hillary, Chelsea 2, becomes heir. He’s thrown in the dungeon, where he’ll stay until he eventually dies.

The Warrior Queen

Years of negotiating marriages and alliances, starting and foiling plots, revoking and offering titles – they’ve taken their toll. Queen Hillary, though only 50, is now known as Queen Hillary the Old. Her kingdom hasn’t expanded, but it has become more stable. Both of her children are married (Sulien’s currently on his second Pictish princess), her vassals are content, and everyone in Wales seems to agree that she’s pretty rad.

Things should be winding down, but our bold Queen is just getting started. Finally, she has an army that’s more than just a couple of farmers, and she hasn’t forgotten her neighbour, Dyfed, the county that should belong to her. At last, it’s time for war.

Queen Hillary rides into battle, flanked by her son, now a commander, on one side, and her new marshal, pinched from the Kingdom of Powys, on the other. The army of Dyfed has grown as well, however, and grown a lot. It’s a good thing, then, that her son-in-law, husband of Chelsea 2, has a whole bunch of men just waiting to kick some heads in. The battle is bloody, though the troops at the centre, led by Queen Hillary herself, hold fast and claim victory.

Dyfed is back where it belongs.

A storm of beards and burly men

The Queen’s victory at Dyfed is followed up by another in Gwynedd, to the north. The region was in a constant state of rebellion, with uprisings constantly kicking off, and heretics and peasant armies stomping around everywhere, making Queen Hillary’s conquest – in the name of the Church – a peacekeeping mission, if you squint enough.

With the title ‘Queen of Wales’ closer than ever, Hillary doesn’t seem particularly pleased. Quite the opposite, in fact. She’s grown paranoid and wrothful, and who could really blame her? New, plotting nobles have joined the court, and it seems like nobody can be trusted. Someone attempts to poison her.

It can always get worse, though.

Down the Irish Sea they come, in their longships, ravenous for loot. Vikings flood the west coast, storming Welsh settlements and piling plunder into their ominous vessels. She meets them on the beach, Queen Hillary, sword in hand. She fights them off, again and again. A year of incursions, a mountain of dead Vikings, and still they come.

In the spring of 799AD, Queen Hillary tries to chase off yet another army of Viking invaders, the largest one she’s ever faced. There, cutting down hirsute men from another land, she falls, succumbing to her wounds.

Donald Trump assassinated, Hillary Clinton killed by Vikings – it’s not looking good for the candidates. Maybe they should find safer gigs. I recommend anything outside of politics.

This article first appeared on November 20, 2015.