When I first booked my spot on Kingdom of Seasons, I don’t think I fully appreciated how far north Glasgow is. As I got on the four hour train up from Leeds, I began to regret my decision.
But that feeling quickly went away as I got swept up in the world of Ærth and the ongoing battle between Summer and Winter…
Kingdom of Seasons
KoS is the first original design by everyone’s favourite mad Scot, Seumas Bates, as part of True North Megagames. It’s a fantastical feast of manifest deities, human-sized penguins, warring empires and all the best fantasy tropes.
My role was as Baroness of Tzoulou, part of the Kingdom of N’Tchalou. No, I don’t know how Seumas intended us to pronounce that either, but we agreed as a team that we would pronounce it like one cello in French – “unchello”.
Speaking of my team, also within the Kingdom of N’Tchalou were: our glorious Queen Rebecca; Duke Jonathan of Tsonglay, who I was sworn to; Baroness Cerys of Garca, my cousin and first-time megagamer who was also sworn to Jonathan; and two other Barons, Ciaran of Verao Sifra and Matt (Mr Megagame) of Castelo Branco, who were sworn directly to the Queen. All in all, it was quite the powerhouse of a team. It was also, as Matt described it the day before the game, a pit of snakes, and by our briefings we could tell Seumas expected us to spend most of the day infighting.
Other teams included the other three Imperio Solaire teams (Orlen d’Or, Vladmor and Lochngavie), the Northern Clans (Frost Witches, Wulvers, Kasai Daimyo and the Pengali Thalassocracy), the Orken Hordes and Dwarven Under-Realm of the East, the High Church of the Seasons and the Royal College. Oh, and two goddess: Summer and Winter.
Needless to say, the costume game was STRONG AF.
My secret objectives
Each player had a personal briefing containing a mix of public and secret objective, motivations and facts. My briefing was almost completely secret or very secret – in fact, the only open part of my role was “Trusted Friend: Pengali Trader”. Yes, my BFF was a penguin.
But the rest of my sheet was Top Secret, because I was a baroness with a mission. The world was rotten to the core, and needed fixing. My objective was to BREAK THE WHEEL. Serious Daenarys vibes.
To that end, I had joined two of the largest and most opposing factions within the Imperio Solaire – the Party for Progress and the Imperialist Party. It seemed my plan was supposed to be to pit these entities against each other for the common good.
A cohesive start
To the surprise of pretty much everyone both inside our team and outside it, N’Tchalou started the game in a very unified way. Duke Jonathan took the team’s finances and production completely in hand, and helped us share construction materials to make sure we had a good supply of all the main resources in the game: gold, food, starglass, supplies, and Faith.
A new feature for this game was the introduction of a personal character sheet for each player. This sheet contained spaces for up to three buildings, up to four items, up to two companions, one mount and various other essential aspects of the game. Honestly, while it took a bit of time to get used to, this was a FANTASTIC idea.
Within the first turn, I’d built a large farm on my holding to ensure the smallfolk had enough to eat. But this wasn’t going to be enough. I had to seek out the rest of the Party for Progress.
Making progress on progress
The first PfP member I found was the Arch-Magister of the Royal College. He was pretty easy to track down, to be honest.
I asked him what he thought we needed to do, then told him of my plan. Schools. Schooling for everyone! If I built a school in Tzoulou, would he send scholars to teach there?
Honestly, he seemed very suspicious of me, and eventually gave me some gold mostly to go away, I think. My earnest support for the smallfolk would clearly not win me many friends… or maybe it’s that people didn’t trust I was genuine. This ended up a recurring theme throughout the game.
Mind, I was ten gold up now, which was more gold than I knew what to do with.
When I finally tracked down the other members of the Party for Progress (Baroness of Bitter Meadow and Baroness of Strathmagi), they were full of ideas themselves, and also happy to support my scheme to build schools across the realm.
A meeting of moots
Meanwhile, I was speaking to lots of people to persuade them to vote for my Queen as Empress of the Imperio Solaire. I mean, obviously the nobility was a terrible thing and that eventually we would need to get rid of the very concept of an Empress, but for the time being, having a direct line to the person in charge would be handy. Plus this way we could actually start passing reform laws!
I promised the Baron of Shadows Crossing that my Queen would support the Church of the Seasons, I promised the Baron of Wailing Point that my Queen would support peace between us and Vladmor, I promised my fellow members of the Imperialist Party that the Queen would help get rid of the Vampire King of Vladmor and I promised the Party for Progress that my Queen would support the reforms we needed. I had no idea whether any of this was true.
Eventually the Noble’s Moot was called in turn three, and there were two candidates – the King of Vladmor and the Queen of N’Tchalou. I began to doubt myself. Was it a bad idea to have an Empress so soon? Was my Empress really on my side? Would she support the reforms? Would I have more luck with the alleged Vampire King? But when the call came to make your vote, I strode firmly over to stand next to my Queen. If she won, she would never forgive me for my lack of faith.
Time seemed to stand still as I watched the crowd seem to form around the King of Vladmor. But then it sped up in a rush as the people surged to stand beside my Queen. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The new Empress needed to be crowned by a Theist figure, and I was excited when the Arch-Magister stepped forward. Him confirming her election would be a major win for the progressives. But then the High Pontifrax came rushing over, affronted that anyone else would dare crown the Empress. I had high hopes until it turned out that he was the Empress’ trusted friend. Oh well.
Not content with the one school I had built in Tzoulou, I decided that the best way forward was to build a University! Control told me I needed to build two more schools – easy peasy, though it meant getting rid of my farm. I think the rest of my team thought I was totally nuts in replacing my resource generators with schools that only lowered the chance of unrest and didn’t provide me with anything at all.
To officially open the doors of my new university, I wanted to create a grand spectacle that would attract people from across the land. I asked the learned Duke Jonathan to give a lecture. I arranged for the Empress to appear on her unicorn. I had spells for flying and invisibility that I would use on some mundane horses to make them perform amazing tricks.
I asked the Arch-Magister about affiliating our universities, and he agreed they could be sister institutions. I also asked if he wanted to give a speech in person at the event. He asked if the Empress was coming; I said of course. Then he told me the unthinkable – that the Empress had been replaced by a daemon! He was working on ousting her from her human form and bringing her to justice, and returning the trapped Empress to her rightful place.
I told him that I believed him, but that I couldn’t uninvite the Empress – it would be too much of a scandal.
Affairs with a Phoenix
Meanwhile, Baroness Cerys had concerned herself with the capture of a phoenix that had been terrorising the land since before the start of the game. She had bought a barbed net from the dwarves and had recruited some orks to help her battle the dread bird. But she wanted support. My university was mid-construction and didn’t need any further attention, so I agreed to come along.
This was the first time I’d moved my army away from my home holding, so I was a little nervous. But the orks turned up as promised, the bird was almost defeated, and then Cerys threw the net… and the beast was caught.
Naturally the ork tried to trick us into signing a fake contract that stated he had defeated us in battle, in return for a higher amount of the plunder from the phoenix’s nest. We held our ground, and walked away with two healing potions and five gold. I ceded the gold easily to Cerys, in return for her showing up to my university opening on the back of the phoenix!
The N’Tchalou University of Higher Learning was opened with great fanfare, including a very long lecture from Duke Jonathan and a veiled insult to the Empress by the Arch-Magister. But mostly it went off without a hitch, and I announced that the University would be open to all – nobles, smallfolk and inbetweenfolk.
I looked at my holding, the great university city of Tzoulou, and I realised… it wasn’t enough. The lives of the smallfolk were still being taken for a ride by the wars of the nobles and the whims of the goddesses. By this point in the game, it had plunged into a cold cold winter and then a hot hot summer and autumn, causing famine, plague and, no doubt, the deaths of many nameless faceless people.
The bad Empress
Baroness Cerys turned to me and said “I don’t trust the Empress”. I’d confided in her my opinion of the rotten state of the Imperio Solaire, and she pointed out that during the hustings for Empress, many of the people had asked the two candidates of what they would do for the smallfolk and needy in the land. Neither candidate had given any sort of satisfactory answer, to be honest. I decided against saying that these two hecklers were my fellow members of the Party for Progress.
Instead, she suggested that we overthrow the Empress and put me in her place, running on a platform of equality for all. Now, I’d started the game saying that I didn’t want to be Empress, but who was I to say no if it would be better for the people?
Additionally, there were a lot of rumours going around about the Empress being alternatingly a daemon, a vampire, or both. I happily fueled these flames for a while.
Meanwhile, it was pretty clear that Baron Matt was in fact almost certainly a daemon. He had been collecting corruption (a black card that blocked off a slot on your character sheet but also allowed you to cast black magic spells) by the bucketload, and was definitely up to something nefarious.
And Baron Ciaran (now Duke) was off doing who knows what. It felt like the previously united Kingdom of N’Tchalou was splitting apart…
Let’s moot up and talk about it
The Arch-Magister had got hold of a card that would allow him to confront the daemon that possessed the Empress. He just needed an opportunity to speak to her in person.
Meanwhile, the Baroness of Strathmagi had created a manifesto for progress, which she hoped to put to the Empress at the next Moot. The solution was obvious – we needed a Moot! Luckily it was Autumn, so I asked the Empress to call the Nobles together.
To my surprise, the Empress gladly put the manifesto for progress on the agenda. We read out the terms in full, and she was actually happy to put the entire thing through as written! Control said that to do so would require the entire contents of the Royal Treasury. For the next 25 turns. Paid in full this turn. So that was a no.
But we did a vote on schooling for 7-15 year olds, and that was passed by the Moot! It was decreed that every Kingdom should have a school in it. Hurrah for progress, hurrah, hurrah!
After that vote, the Arch-Magister stood up in front of the people and named her the Singer in Crimson. Sadly, nothing happened. It turns out the Empress wasn’t a daemon after all.
Shortening the long game
It was clear that I wasn’t going to create any real change for the people, not in the gamespan at least. I was playing the long game, and while the rights of the people were slowly improving, it wasn’t enough. I was more Varys than Daenarys, and I didn’t want to wait seventeen years for the change I needed.
Instead, Cerys and I decided we would track down those most selfish lords, who had spent the time since the start of the game simply improving their own lot rather than thinking of the common folk in their lands. One extremely successful dice roll later…
And we were pouring over the building records of the lords of the land. We found two people who had only increased their gold and/or corruption. One was the King of Orlen d’Or. The other… our own Baron Matt.
We considered our options. If we were going to take on Matt, we would need to steal his Crown of Badness which was keeping Cerys’ phoenix tamed, and possibly destroy his Throne of Skulls. Yeah, it was pretty obvious he was evil…
The challenge of the King of Orlen d’Or was a completely different one. He had a lot of money (his kingdom literally has gold in the name) and that meant he had VERY strong armies. Also, we didn’t actually know where his main holdfast was…
Our thieves guild was almost built, and I planned to give them my flying and invisibility spells to allow them to break into Matt’s holding, potentially with more support from the Royal College. But then out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone plunge a dagger (okay, an imaginary dagger, this isn’t LARP) into Matt’s back.
I rushed over. Another dagger was plunged in. I immediately spoke to them – what’s going on? Did you just kill Matt? Did you kill him in a good way or a bad way? I felt sure that he was being sacrificed to some eldrich horror, and that he’d asked them to do that.
They went off with Control to resolve the issue, and the next time I saw the killer, who was the Baron of Wailing Point, he told me Matt had died. Indisputably. I also asked for details about why he’d done it, and he’d said that his liege, the Black Prince, had told him to do it.
Reaching the end of my tether, I asked what the Black Prince could do for the poor. I was willing to do almost anything to help the people of the realm. But the Baron told me that I needed a lot of corruption, and I had yet to even see a speck of it. He looked at me somewhat patronisingly and told me that I could come speak to him again if I ended up acquiring more.
Back from the dead
Somewhat smugly, I sauntered up to Matt. “I heard you died?”
“You heard wrong.”
Yep, Baron Matt was apparently still alive. In fact, he’d turned into a giant daemonic monster (a la Cthulhu) and was now calling himself the Black Prince.
Honestly, at this point I gave up a little bit. I asked him what he thought of the poor. He wasn’t against them – that was good enough for me. I mentally took him off my destroy list.
The cabinet of curiosities
I wandered back over to chat to my friend the Arch-Magister, when I saw him talk briefly to a penguin trader (not my bestie), then usher him to a peculiar cabinet. Curious, I followed.
And what wonders did this cabinet behold! The head of a frost giant! The chalice of the Creator! An artifact known only as “Friendship is Magic”! There were wonders here, and I begged the Arch-Magister to let me have one small relic to display at my own University.
I must have asked about every single item in there – “This?” “No, that could destroy the world.” “This?” “No, that’s older than time.” “This?” “No, that’s gives you power over one of the Goddesses!”
Finally, I reached into the cabinet for the last item. A Useless Spoon. I could see I had exhausted him with requests, and he closed his eyes as he slowly nodded. I left with my spoon before he could change his mind.
Movement on the map
It was about 3pm, and I was doing my first movement on the map! Ciaran had told me the King of Orlen d’Or was up north with him fighting the Northern clans, and I siezed my moment. I asked Matt and Cerys to come with me, and we marched on his main holding.
We were briefly delayed at l’Orleons, as the Baron there didn’t want us to pass through his land.
But one sharp word from the Empress (who also looked VERY busy at the map) and he relented. We made it to the castle of the King and laid our siege. As promised, there was no army in sight.
I had just finished digging the last trench when the ground shook. I took my fastest horse and ran east, but I didn’t need to get too close to see the massive plume of ash and dirt thrown into the air. And where the Royal College once stood… there was only a crater in the ground.
I immediately went to the cabinet of curiosities, only to be told it was covered in several layers of rubble. A Control was currently telling the Arch-Magister how much it would cost to rebuild.
Luckily, I was in fact terribly terribly rich, so I paid it in full. With one proviso – I wanted an artifact of my choice from the cabinet.
(A note on my richness – I had actually spent very little money all game, so the 60-odd gold I had at that moment was quite the sum compared to other more spendthrift players).
The Arch-Magister sunk his head into his hands, but he knew he had no choice. “Okay, just… anything but the Leaf of Resurrection.” That was fine by me, as that wasn’t what I wanted. I reached in and drew out the item which was, to me, the most powerful. A bracer that granted immunity to the powers of Summer.
I was now untouchable by one of the goddesses.
I went and told her this, and it turned out she could still deal me corruption – my first corruption of the game, in fact. But she seemed impressed. By this point she was very powerful, and the land was swept by a burning heat. But I felt cool as a medieval cucumber.
The King of Orlen d’Or came back from campaign in the North and somehow made it into his castle despite my siege. I asked if he agreed to surrender, and he said no. I asked if he agreed to my terms – to replace his selfish, egotistical buildings with hospitals, farms and schools.
He pointed out that he was already decreed by Royal mandate to build a school. I pointed out that he hadn’t done so. He agreed to replace his Grand Castle with a school. I briefly pictured Hogwarts, and acquiesced… but did not choose to move my army just yet.
Then another Moot was called, and the Party for Progress put through a bill about hospitals. Every kingdom needed at least a small hospital. The King of Orlen d’Or came to me and said that there were no blueprints for schools left in the entire realm, and asked if a hospital would do instead. Frustrated, I agreed.
Helping a friend
My bestie, the Pengali trader, came to me and asked if I’d seen a giant sapphire. I actually had, and told him I would help him find it.
I approached the dwarf trader who had tried to sell it to me two turns earlier, to ask if he still had it. He pointed out the ork he’d sold it to. But the ork was in a range, because it had been stolen. Then the Empress mentioned that Duke Jonathan had been seen with a large blue stone not long ago.
I went to him and asked him his price. He said that the stone was invaluable to him, but that he would be both willing and able to forge an excellent fake. I thought… well, fuck it, it’s the thought that counts. If the Pengali trader wanted a sapphire to be happy, then if he thought he had the sapphire he’d be happy. I commissioned the fake, and before long it was delivered to me.
But before I could find my friend again…
The skies darkened and took on a reddish tinge. A crackle spread over the sky. A mortal yell went up, then was silenced. It was the fire age, and the goddess Summer walked manifest upon the Earth.
All mortal men had to choose their side – for Summer, and a never-ending heat, or for Balance and the Church of the Seasons. Knowing that I would only grow stronger as others perished in the heat, I chose the former.
But then I had an even better idea. As Summer rode north to destroy the Seat of Winter. I went to my Arch-Magister friend and showed him the bracer. “Can you make me one of these, but against Winter?”
He eyed up the bracer, and said, “well, I’d need to talk to some dwarves.”
The dwarves were all on the side of balance, but I had an in with their merchant, who brought their master forger to me. I needed Starglass, and a lot of it, in order for them to do their work. Luckily my University had been producing some Starglass, but not enough. I had six, they needed at least 10.
I dashed to my old Pengali friend and held up the sapphire. As he reached out for it, I said, “I need all the Starglass you have”. “But I only have two,” he wailed. I held strong.
He went to his fellow Pengali and together they got together nine for me. I thrust the fake sapphire into his feathery hands then took the Starglass to the forges.
Power over all
As I was presented with a matching bracer, forged by dwarven folk and imbued with magic by the Arch-Magister, I felt a rush of cold. I believed then that it was from the bracer. As I slipped it onto my wrist, I felt confident. Now, I needed one more thing.
I turned to the Arch-Magister, who looked like he regretted pretty much everything about this.
“In order to truly become a demigod, I’ll need something that makes me immune to the weapons of man.”
“To become a…” he gaped at me, then recovered his composure. “I have just the thing.”
Down in his cabinet of curiosities, he presented me with a glorious steed. Her mane was bright pink, her coat a lighter pink, and she had “Friendship is Magic” embossed into her bridle.
I leapt onto her back and rode out to challenge the goddesses to a dual. When it turned out neither of them could hurt me, and when the jealous lords tried to hurt me and found that I was untouchable to them as well… well, surely they would proclaim me a demigod at least, and throw themselves down at my feet.
My name was to be Change. Change of the seasons. Change of the religion. And Change for the poor forgotten smallfolk of this realm.
Then Seumas called time on the game.
Tying up plots
My bracer against Winter said that it gave me “protection” from Winter (including airquotes). So that was obviously going to fail and I was going to be killed in a short icy snap.
Summer had tried to destroy the Seat of Winter, but the Empress rode up on a unicorn and defeated her.
The Pengali trader realised quickly that the sapphire he’d received was a fake.
The Empress was never a daemon, and the “trapped Empress” was in fact just a doll. She was however briefly a vampire, but she got better.
Matt was the daemon that the Royal College thought the Empress was. He was trapped in a cage by Summer before the final confrontation. He says he will one day be freed again.
The phoenix ended up being lent to Ciaran for his battle in the north alongside the King of Orlens d’Or, and was eventually lost to Summer.
Duke Jonathan became the lecturer of High Arts at the University of N’Tchalou, and taught the ork who had originally bought the blue sapphire. Jonathan stole the sapphire from him when he reneged on a deal over Starglass, and tried to trade it back for the Keystone for Winter. He traded a second fake sapphire, and received a useless pebble from the ork in return.
Balance was restored to Ærth. Summer was locked away in the Heavens, to continue her never-ending battle with Winter.
The King of Orlen d’Or may have built the hospital. I honestly didn’t check.
My next megagame is Monsterville Mansion by Horizon Megagames – will I see you there?