Gap Week: September 2, 2022

Hey everyone! This week is going to be a gap week as I am currently at PDXCON 2022, possibly playing the Victoria III preview as you read these very words. I expected there to be no posts this week but controversy overtook that plan so there was something, albeit not the normal fare. Fear not, I have no intention of becoming the sort of person who just picks fights on the internet constantly; I’ve said my bit on this point and don’t expect to have more to say on it. I do think a deeper discussion of the methods historians use is something we might explore in the future, but for its own sake rather than in defense of the discipline.

That said I should note that if for some inexplicable reason you are still craving more pedantry that I have been on a number of podcasts this month which you may have missed:

  • I was on the 3MA podcast, a strategy games focused podcast, discussing the medieval city builder Farthest Frontier (now in early access) and how it tries and in some ways succeeds at embracing a more historically grounded model of settlement.
  • I was also a guest on Advisory Opinions, normally a legal podcast but the at least one of the hosts shares my abiding interest in The Lord of the Rings (and the other was willing to indulge us) so I talked there about the logistics and battles of The Lord of the Rings.
  • I was also a guest on the Beyond Solitaire podcast with Liz Davidson talking about how video games can inform (and misinform) player’s understanding of history. A great conversation on the topic and well worth a listen; it seems to have slipped through the cracks a bit so go give it a whirl.
  • And finally I was also a guest (again!), along with fellow historian Ed Watts on Subject to Change with Russell Hogg where we talked about the film Gladiator, what it captures and (mostly) what it doesn’t capture about Roman history, including the battle scene at the beginning, the place of Christianity in second century Rome, gladiatorial games and the reign of Commodus.

Finally, I hope that by the time this goes up I’ve had a chance to take some pictures in Stockholm (at least of PDXCON; I plan after the con to get out to the city’s many impressive museums because that is my better half’s and my idea of a good time) which will hopefully appear here:

These two pictures of the city as well as the first picture of me in front of the PDXCON logo all taken by my better half who is much handier with a camera than I am.

So we’ll be back to our regular content next week (probably a Fireside and then in subsequent weeks diving into a deeper look at Crusader Kings III and how its vision of history differs from the other Paradox titles we’ve talked about). Until then!

28 thoughts on “Gap Week: September 2, 2022

  1. Stockholm was my first non-English language city to visit. I was only there for about a month (work), but I loved it. In the middle of summer, almost as you are, I was not at all distressed by the sun being up for most of the night. Later, I lived in Copenhagen for a year, also for work. I could happily relocate to either city.

  2. Very jealous of you getting a trip to Stockholm, and even more jealous that you get a chance to try out Vic3 before the rest of the world! Looking forward to seeing all the new content, though, and I’ll have to content myself with podcasts.

  3. I’m excited for the CK3 series. It’s always been my favorite of the Paradox games, though I do love them all in their own way.

    Is the PDXCon panel available to watch after the fact anywhere?

  4. Great to read that you are going to some of Stockholm’s museums, I was considering contacting you to recommend some but I don’t have Twitter and neither your UNC email or your guest post email seemed appropriate. I guess the Mediterranean Museum might be the first choice due to your expertise, and there are also lots of Museums about Swedish history many with free entrance! The Museum of Medieval Stockholm and The Royal Armoury are both rather close to the Mediterranean Museum (all quite near Parliament and the Royal Palace). I hope you’ll have a good time!

  5. Have you considered recommending to your hosts the possibility of recreating the Kalmar Union? Based on Paradox games (100% reliable guides to geopolitics, as we know), shouldn’t be too big of a problem to “paint the map” and expand Swedish influence by creating some Magna Scandinavia.

    1. In Paradox’s current day period game, Derivatives Funds, sentiment scores for expansion need to be raised to get your pops to support the meme of unification. Scandinavia starts with a penalty to expansionism and unity sentiments, making it take lots of idea and culture points to encourage such a thing and taking away from economic development and export sales that are much more powerful in the region. So Kalmar league is off the table for now.

    2. Oh yes, and military expansion is also hard un Europe, s it requires a lot of economy, plus Popular Morale score and Resistance idea points go through the roof in the invaded country, making any war a grinding on in this region, as Putin is finding out in Ukraine.

    3. I suggested writing an alternate history novel in which the Kalmar Union survived, and Magna Scandinavia (ruled from Copenhagen, just so we’re clear, not Stockholm) continued its oceanic exploration, becoming the world’s leading modern power based on its control of North America and the greater Baltic region. My Danish-American wife said, “Don’t quite your day job.”

      1. The hard part would be maintaining lasting control of North America. Without that, one has a regional power in this scenario, rather than a global superpower.

      2. I have good news and bad news. Eric Flint is gone, and so whatever eldritch power he possessed to make Dave Freer and Mercedes Lackey work together is lost forevermore, and thus the Heirs of Alexandria series is likely over. However, the Heirs of Alexandria series does exist, and does feature a North North Atlantic-centered multi-continent polity.

  6. The Royal Armoury and the Vasa Museum are pretty much must-sees. I’ve also heard good things about the Army Museum.

    One of my personal little favourite bits is Hallwylska, which is just an incredibly rich family’s house with a ton of knicknacks, art and stuff. Not quite as weird as the John Soames museum in London, but pretty cool.

  7. Have fun at the con and (both of you) in Stockholm!

    Are you returning directly, or taking a detour to Augusta Treverorum (Trier) to visit the big exhibition (spread over 3 museums) about the Fall of the Roman Empire (or, rather, their take on it)?

  8. This seems as good place as any to ask, if I want to try a paradox game and am about equally interested in the middle ages, early modern period and 19th century, which should I get?

    1. Europa (early modern) or crusader king (medieval), not victoria (19th) who will be either old for the last or not polished enough for the new one.

      Then those are two very different games, so don´t try them just for the time period.
      Europa being the most “classic” of the two.

    2. It depends on what type of game you like. Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, and Victoria, despite all being “grand strategy games”, can play quite differently.

      Crusader Kings (3 came out most recently, but I’ve only played 2) is about playing as a dynasty, and a single person in that dynasty at any given moment (passing to your heir upon death, or game over if you don’t have one). While you can raise armies and conquer territory, the core of the gameplay is more about character relations: finding a spouse for yourself and you children (and the thousand competing variables involved in that), dealing with other rulers, intrigues and scandals and parties, that sort of thing.

      Europa Universalis (4) is about playing as a nebulous “spirit of a state”; rulers come and go and, while they can have an influence on what you can do, are ultimately superfluous to the state. It’s perhaps the most “map paint-y” of the three, where many players simply try to become as large as possible over the course of the game either through conquest or colonization. It (unlike Crusader Kings, which focuses on Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia) includes the entire globe (minus the far north and south poles), and includes colonization of the Americas, Australia, and Africa as a core part of the gameplay.

      I haven’t actually played a Victoria game, so someone else can probably give a better explanation, but as I understand it (based on part on this very blog) it’s more about internal development of your country, keeping your populace happy (or at least not openly revolting) while trying to either modernize or hold back the tide of progress. It sounds like war will be very different in Victoria 3 from either Crusader Kings or Europa Universalis, since it’ll be conducted almost entirely autonomously by your generals and admirals and your part is more about keeping the production lines going and supplies flowing to the front(s). I believe there’s also colonization as well, though it’s mostly focused on the Scramble for Africa.

      Personally, I quite enjoy EU 4, and kind of bounced off of CK 2; in the case of the latter, I didn’t enjoy how people would die off over time and I’d have to constantly be learning who their replacements were and what they wanted and how I’d have to appease them and so on and so forth. Whereas, in EU 4, most countries generally stay put or disappear; barring some extremely unlikely events or player intervention, France is there at the beginning of the game, and will be there at the end. It’s a known quantity. Put another way, the main entities you interact with are people in CK 2/3 and states in EU 4; in EU 4 the number of entities mostly only goes down over time (as countries conquer each other), while in CK 2/3 it tends to remain static or increase (since new people take the place of old one, or new places are created as you expand your holdings). Neither approach is “better” (and tons of people love CK 2/3), my brain just personally handles EU 4 better. All that is to say, if you don’t care about the time period, it’s probably best to watch some gameplay footage or otherwise get a feel for how all three work to decide which one(s) you like best. (Just for reference, I also kind of bounced off of Hearts of Iron IV, but greatly enjoy Stellaris.)

    3. All Paradox games have locked font sizes for their in-game text that is scaled to the common monitor resolution from the year they were first released…so you should play CK3 until you get comfortable downloading and installing UI mods.

      1. I play EU4 on 1920×1080 and things are perfectly legible. Maybe that’s just an obsolete standard and everyone is playing on dual 4K monitors, but I don’t need a mod to fix the UI.

        1. My setup is 2x monitors at 1920×1080 each; game on the left screen, browser/music on the right screen. Never had a problem. 1920×1080 is still the standard resolution everyone designs for, as far as I can tell.

    4. I would say Crusader Kings, mostly because its personal focus is so weird for most strategy gamers.

      Victoria 3 after it’s had about a year post-release to bake.

  9. Part of the issue with “person-based” games like Crusader Kings is that people live and die fast in gameplay terms. In real life, you become familiar with someone over a period of months and they pass out of your life over a period of years. In a game like this, the entire life of a character is measured in hours of gameplay time, and not necessarily a lot of them unless you spend a lot of time paused.

    So you’re refamiliarizing yourself with a completely new set of characters every several hours.

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