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Nan o’ War CH1: Blood and Old

By Rutskarn
on Wednesday Mar 1, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


The problem with Mount and Blade is that I’m not always playing it. At first the interruptions were minor–power outages, the minute or two of sleep I steal during loading screens, the weekly ritual I call “Dinnersday”–but after a few thousand hours it started to dawn on me that a life well-lived requires diverse experiences.And an inflexible cycle of digestion and excretion. Apparently. So I took a few weeks off to devote to a new hobby of mine, “figuring out what people do when they’re not playing Mount and Blade.”

Well, through a careful perusing of Steam’s library, I think I’ve solved the mystery: it turns out they play licensed total conversions of the Mount and Blade engine to new settings. There’s more of them than you’d think, running the gamut from “professionally produced” to “produced, inexplicably.” I actually dig some of them, even the occasional free mod, but the vast majority provide two core minigames: crashing to desktop and praying the game will crash to desktop.

Which is pretty much why I’d been declining to buy Blood and Gold: Caribbean! The exclamation mark is part of the title. Being excited about the Caribbean(!) is, evidently, mandatory. Development must have been exhausting. so far. I mean, it’s a golden-age-of-piracy conversion of Mount and Blade. It’s Mount and Blade with pirates. I love pirates, and I love Mount and Blade, and I know how this goddamn story ends. It’s as overwhelmingly likely that the game will be a buggy pile of janked garbage as it is that I’ll lose a tenth of my life playing it. I’d been steering clear, because I’m an intelligent, disciplined individual who has a few foibles but basically has his life together. Not because the game was twenty dollars and I’m a cheapass.

I hate Steam sales.

Okay, screw it. Obviously I’m gonna buy my very own Greek Tragedy of a videogame. But you know what? If I’m going in, I’m taking you with me. Get ready for a magical voyage from which we shan’t likely return.

Let’s weigh anchor.

For those of you who’ve played fewer than six thousand hours of Mount and Blade, let’s review the franchise slash genre:

You’re an immortal ageless adventurer sharing a fictionalized Europe with:

  • a dozen other immortal ageless adventurers (who can join your party)
  • several dozen immortal ageless aristocrats (who run lands, gather armies, and get involved in politics)
  • a limitless supply of ageless but extremely mortal peasants (who keep the realm stocked with wealth and guileless, star-crossed cannon fodder)

The “classic” style of play is to ride around, recruit soldiers from towns, take on procedurally generated quests to collect taxes or rescue prisoners or hunt down bandits or whatever, gain some levels, and gradually transition to conquering forts and cities as part of a faction or an independent nation. The game does have mechanics for everything from romance to politics to trade, and there’s quite a few valid builds and playstyles to choose from that don’t look like the one I just described. There’s also an in-depth array of difficulty settings that shift your playthrough’s tone between “heroic fantasy novel” and “grim and disenchanting history lesson.”

Combat in Mount and Blade is third-person with an optional first person mode. It’s vaguely realistic, at least in the sense that a battle between an armored warrior and an unarmored peasant will look and end about how you’d expect. Not getting hit is important, no matter how tough or well-armored you are, and it’s imperative that you either learn to parry or stay out of reach. All combat (and, indeed, all segments where you directly control your character and not a token on a map) takes place within instances. Assuming it’s a battle and not just a scuffle with muggers or something, your warband will be right there with you, and you can order them around with a reasonably sophisticated menu of commands.

So how does all this apply to Blood and Gold? I honestly don’t know. Here’s the buzz I’ve heard about the game so far:

“It’s great! It’s more Mount and Blade! Why do they make games that aren’t fucking Mount and Blade! I’m playing Mount and Blade with my ass while I’m typing this web comment!”

“I’ve been staring at a screen continuously for the past seven years and I’m not even sure what a videogame is anymore, but I think this one might be terrible.”

“(dying fox noises)

I think I hate Reddit too, but one thing at a time.

Here’s what I do know: the game has the same standard difficulty sliders as the others, and I have cranked them all the way up, baby. Behold 101% difficulty:

I covered this briefly when I did Firin’ Sword, but to recap: by default, M&B gives you and your men a kind of plot armor that makes it so you can survive even when outnumbered and outgunned. NPCs don’t take this into account when they decide to fight you or run away, so the difference between playing with and without plot armor is huge.

When you’ve got plot armor, NPCs are blustery overconfident fools eager to charge into battle and be slaughtered by the dozens. Without plot armor, basically every time an NPC stops and fights you–or heaven forbid, ambushes you–you are stone-cold fucked.

On a more basic and less conceptual level, removing these blocks means I take full damage from my opponent’s weapons. Assuming hit point and damage values are comparable to what I’m used to, I will be in chronic danger of being one-hit-killed by even middling opponents. So not getting shot remains priority one, as in all my enterprises.

It’s probably a bad idea to set it up this way on my first playthrough. But my other bad idea was this playthrough, so we’ll cross that Styx when we come to it.

I also get to play a man or a woman:

This has some minor but not inconsequential effects on gameplay in previous titles. Let’s go with “woman.”

Now we get to character background. Mount and Blade starts with a modest multiple-choice questionnaire that fills in some of your character’s stats and skills for you. Blood and Gold seems to replace that with a difficulty selection. I’m not sure, since I’ve only experimented a little, but I think this changes how many points you get to assign in character creation and what kind of stats and equipment you get in the beginning. Again, I should probably start out with one of the easier kits. Again, I’m far too deep into this to start making good choices. Indentured servant (hard) it is.

More like DENTURED serva--ah, dammit, I haven't set that pun up yet.
More like DENTURED serva--ah, dammit, I haven't set that pun up yet.

I don’t get many points to assign. Furthermore, I have virtually no idea what’s going to turn out to be useful. It’s like trying to prepare for a trip when you don’t know where you’re going, except it’ll be dangerous and wet and you’re probably going to have to duel a Spaniard. With that in mind, I assign my points to the following areas:

Searfaring seems like a safe bet. Looting and prisoner-management should get my finances off the ground, since selling schmucks and schmuck-accessories is the traditional early game of an M&B campaign. Ditto trade. Path-finding controls overland movement, and it’s frankly not a strong choice, but I’m hedging my bets that this whole “caribbean” thing turns out to be a mug’s game and the real money’s in wandering a lonesome tropical island forever. I’m specializing in Firearms, because it seems overly optimistic to expect an indentured servant to start with much Artillery.

Okay, time to craft our character’s sultry visagnnahh

As faces go, it’s not great. Trust me when I say my screenshot resizing’s been kind to the overall effect. I’d describe her skin as “RoseArt crayon” and her eyes as “drawn with the same.” Let’s, let’s hit Randomize. Let’s hit Randomize and never look back.

Okay, also not exactly inspiring choice. I like the eyepatch, but not so much the hairstyle that is instantly and immediately clipping with the minimal default clothing. Can I try a different hairstyle?

What’s that? The eyepatch is part of the hairstyle?

Well–which other styles have eyepatches?

Let’s just say one thing leads to another. Behold, the Nan o’ War:

More like a DENTURED serv–aw, fuck it.



[1] And an inflexible cycle of digestion and excretion. Apparently.

[2] The exclamation mark is part of the title. Being excited about the Caribbean(!) is, evidently, mandatory. Development must have been exhausting.

Comments (55)

  1. sheer_falacy says:

    This seems like it’s going to be a thing of beauty. However, I have concerns that you will die, quickly and painfully. That seems like it would cut the LP a bit short (as it did with XCOM).

    Unless you plan to go the firin’ sword route and skip all combat against armed opponents. No idea if that works in this one.

    • Syal says:

      You cannot die in Mount and Blade games, you can only wish you had.

      • Sunshine says:

        John’s explanation below sets me straight – I thought it one of those cases of “This bullshit game is bullshit, I and all the others on the forum nurse a personal vendetta against the developers and taking the game’s punishment is the only time I feel alive.”

    • John says:

      To add a little more detail, when you are defeated in combat in Mount & Blade you are captured rather than killed. (This is also true of named NPCs, but not of generic soldiers.) After a while, you will be ransomed, be released, or escape. You’ll lose a lot of your equipment and money, you’ll have to re-locate and re-recruit your NPC followers, and you’ll have to hire a whole new set of soldiers.

    • Falterfire says:

      And to cap off the explaining, in the previous M&B playthrough, Rutskarn cut it short not because the save was toast and could no longer be used, but because he decided he’d done all he wanted to do with it. Had he wished to keep going, he could have.

  2. Halceon says:

    Fingers crossed for the return of Dentured Servant in the next chapter.

  3. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!

  4. Ian says:

    I find it hard to believe that there are poor, poor souls who haven’t put in 6,000 hours of M&B.

    • DGM says:

      I’ve played zero hours, so by your measure I guess my soul isn’t so much “poor, poor” as “utterly damned.”

      Still enjoy reading these, though.

    • lucky7 says:

      I have about 20 between Warband and Fire&Sword.

    • Matt Downie says:

      I enjoyed my playthrough of Warband, but I didn’t see much reason to play it any more. I’d succeeded at becoming king of the world, aside from a couple of small rebel armies. I’d chosen the weapons I liked – axe & shield, shortbow so I could fire from horseback – and had no desire to switch to anything inferior.

      Europa Universalis IV is my only “play for a thousand hours” game these days.

      • John says:

        Huh. Did you use the axe from horseback or just the bow? I really like axes when I’m dismounted, but I find it hard to hit with them when I’m on a horse. I’ve always found swords to be much more forgiving in mounted combat.

        • Bropocalypse says:

          Depends on the axe. I haven’t played in ages but there’s one in particular I always go for, a long-handled, one-handed little number. Experience has taught me that axes are less likely to bounce off blocks than swords are, and if you have a sufficiently long one getting those ride-by one-shots become a matter of methodology. I usually fill my other slots with a lance(for couched damage when I can blindside cavalry) and a spare shield.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I don’t even own the game.

      That said I was tempted a few times and if there was a good, working conversion into actual fantasy with magic and stuff (I have no idea if the engine would even be able to support that?) that I knew about the temptation would be much harder to resist…

  5. Baron Tanks says:

    Welcome back Ruts. I was excited to see you tackle Xcom, too bad it ended as it did although it was always a risk. Glad to see you back and from the first chapter it’s obvious that your mind is more into this.

    Looking forward to more.

  6. Christopher says:

    “I'm playing Mount and Blade with my ass while I'm typing this web comment!”

    This series could end next week and it’d still have been a pretty great series.

  7. Writiosity says:

    Oh boy… Ruts is actually playing as Mama Murphy.

  8. MadTinkerer says:

    You know, guys, New Jersey was historically just as infamous for pirates as Louisiana or The Caribbean. Thanks to the specific geographic and weather conditions, the Jersey Shore is chock full of shipwrecks. Among other escapades, guys would trick ships into wrecking by coming too close to the shore, and then loot the spoils before the authorities arrived. The town where I live is less than a hundred years old because there used to be too many criminals hiding in the woods to civilize the place!

    We are a wretched hive of scum and villainy too! It’s one of the major reasons why everyone makes fun of New Jersey! Why don’t we ever get professional crime themed video games? Does no one appreciate how much organized crime happens here, even now? We have The Sopranos, but no Blood and Gold: New Jersey?

    It’s just not fair…

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Let's weigh anchor.

    Well,if you insist:


  10. John says:

    The exclamation mark is part of the title. Being excited about the Caribbean(!) is, evidently, mandatory. Development must have been exhausting.

    I blame Sid Meier. (Specifically, I blame Sid Meier’s Pirates!.) All the young, hungry developers want to be cool like Sid.

    As far as Mount & Blade total conversions for which you can pay money, my understanding is that Viking Conquest (AKA the one about Vikings) and Blood & Gold: Caribbean! (AKA this one, the one with the pirates) are the really dire, outrage-generating ones. They’re the kind of games that launch in a nigh-unplayable state only to get re-released a few months later with a new colon and a new subtitle and hopefully all new and slightly less hostile Steam reviews. By contrast, I have heard very little about either Fire & Sword or Napoleonic Wars, save that Napoleonic wars is really not very interesting unless you enjoy being a nameless soldier and taking orders from another player in multiplayer matches. So I’m going to assume that Fire & Sword and Napoleonic Wars are approximately functional.

    • Nimrandir says:

      Real talk: I got seriously hyped for a Pirates! Gold write-up and then realized the exclamation point was in the wrong place. Oh well — this should still be quality.

      • John says:

        I tried to play Pirates! Gold once. I thought it would be a nice, undemanding DOSBox game for my netbook. Unfortunately, the initial fencing match was utterly baffling. I muddled my way through somehow, but I could never muster the will to get much farther. The manual contained a wealth of information about fencing in the abstract but did a very poor job explaining how to apply that information in the game. (How am I supposed to tell which of these many stances my opponent is in? How do I change my own stance? Come on, give me something here.) I suppose I could have stuck with it a little longer, but it didn’t seem worth it when I also own the 2004 remake, an extremely similar but prettier game which is also much easier to play.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I was hoping, too. Even the 2004 remake would be a good LP.

          As for Pirates! that was my first real videogame that I played -that wasn’t just a ported arcade game. Fond memories.

          I won the duels by spamming the high attack for all it was worth.

          • John says:

            The 2004 remake would be a fabulous LP. I long to hear Rutskarn’s in- and out-of-character thoughts on the dancing minigame, his gripes about the land battles, and his frustration regarding the vagaries of commodities prices. But I’m not sure how well that would work with what I’ve come to consider Rutskarn’s usual tone for these things. What I mean is that in Mount & Blade you can customize your character’s appearance and make him look like some kind of dissipated wastrel. (In fact, it can be hard to make a Mount & Blade character that doesn’t look like some kind of dissipated wastrel.) Now I don’t know if Rutskarn plays Mount & Blade because he likes wastrels or plays wastrels because he likes Mount & Blade. (Why not both?) Regardless, the avatar’s appearance and Rutskarn’s description of his thoughts go together very well. But in Pirates! (2004), the player avatar has a clean-cut, Errol-Flynn-at-his-jauntiest sort of look which I think would require a different approach.

            • Miguk says:

              That would be interesting. Pirates stayed true to its 1980s roots, so you spend more time playing the minigames inside it than actually sailing around the main map. I would be curious to see how someone who didn’t grow up playing those games would react to it.

          • Jabrwock says:

            I played the newer version, and it got repetitive. Defeat the local big bad, get a clue, sail there and rescue family member. I felt like I was just running around with a huge wagon train of cargo ships and one good combat ship, occasionally annoying fellow ships when I was bored.

            A little variety in the missions would have been nice. Instead the only variety was in the destinations.

            • Miguk says:

              I thought it was the places that needed variety. In Microprose games from the late 80s/early 90s (Pirates, Sword of the Samurai, Covert Action, Darklands) you could travel to lots of different cities but each one was virtually identical to the others. Back then it was impossible to do any better because memory and disk space were so limited.

              But by 2004 they should have tried to give some more personality to each city. I’m not going to be motivated to capture Caracas if I just captured Santa Marta and it looks exactly the same.

              • Boobah says:

                I'm not going to be motivated to capture Caracas if I just captured Santa Marta and it looks exactly the same.

                Motivation, eh? For Caracas? Two sentences:
                The Gold Fleet is in port!
                The Silver Train is in town!

                IIRC, Caracas is where the Spanish plunder from the New World was loaded onto galleons for the trip across the Atlantic.

            • John says:

              I know what you mean. I sort of feel like I’m failing if I don’t rescue my family. But my favorite thing to do in Pirates! is to sack cities. So I generally try to get all the family quests out of the way ASAP or else deliberately avoid triggering a Baron Raymond I quest, leaving me to pillage guilt-free.

            • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              You say that like its a bad thing…

              I tended to RP a particular character -like Captain Blood, who wouldn’t fight the English, or Captain Thorpe, who only fought the Spanish. Or I’d play a law-and-order Spaniard trying to bring justice to the pirate-ridden Caribbean. That makes the Baron Raymondo quests particularly interesting, because you have to find him in the open, and then chase him into a port so you can challenge him at the tavern.

              And along the way you can learn trade routes (I made a killing on the Curacao-St. Kits Sugar Trade), or hunt pirates. And I really like the dancing minigame -so much so I’m willing to overlook that most of the music is a solid century too early…

          • Nimrandir says:

            If I remember right, my dueling strategy was to use the blade with the longest reach (rapier?) and dance right outside my opponent’s range.

  11. Zak McKracken says:

    I have cranked them all the way up, baby.

    Weell, I see three sliders in that screenshot, and none of them is turned up to max. I’m not sure whether the volume ones will do much with regards to difficulty* but if what you’re going for is hilarious gameplay, may I humbly submit that the mouse sensitivity slider does indeed affect difficulty?

    * they might, depending on your audio set-up and your habitational circumstances

  12. Miguk says:

    A game that looks very interesting but I’ve heard is no fun to play. This is exactly what I need Rutskarn to play for me so that I don’t have to.

    • Leocruta says:

      That was my experience with it. I was hoping for Sid Meier’s pirates with mount and blade mechanics, but it was so bland I got bored of it within an hour.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Mount and Blade is already Sid Meier’s Pirates! without the Pirates! mechanics. Take away the Mount and Blade -the big armies, the politics -and don’t add in the Pirates! (gunnery, sailing with the wind, hunting treasure and evil Spaniards…) and I don’t know what you’d have left.

        This is, in fact, my major disappointment with Viking Invasion -the naval battles are dull. All the ships collide, half the crew falls in the water and drowns, and then what’s left fights a completely formless battle. Whoo hoo.

        But at least you can still fight interesting battles on land.

  13. PhoenixUltima says:

    “Nanowar” sounds like the title of a cyberpunk novel.

  14. Cuthalion says:

    This seems promising.

  15. Mr Compassionate says:

    I’m so on board for this LP ahahaha… Has anybody made that pun yet?

  16. Sharnuo says:

    Really looking forward to this. I’d also love to see you do a run of Battle Brothers, early access on steam. It’s kinda like mount and blade but with even more brutal difficulty. I’d love to see you tour guide your way through that hell.

  17. WJS says:

    Oh wow, isn’t that the starting option that lacks a ship? This is gonna be fun…

  18. Hypatia says:

    “Searfaring seems like a safe bet.”

    I spent way too long trying to figure out a pun there.

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