It's generally hard to be surprised in the real-time strategy genre these days, but you have to give the developers at Black Sea Studios credit, because they've created one of the most original and enjoyable real-time strategy games in recent years. With that said, it should also be noted that Knights of Honor is a game that's not for everyone. This is an incredibly deep medieval kingdom simulation, and it's the closest to actually being able to put you in the ruling seat of a feudal land.
Rewrite European history any way you like. In this game, Poland is the top dog of Europe.
The idea in Knights of Honor is that you can take command of one of more than 100 different European countries from three different eras of European history. Your goal is to survive and expand. This means that you have to arrange marriages to ensure an heir for your ruling family, as well as improve your economy, make diplomatic and trade agreements with other countries, and assemble armies to stamp out rebels and wage war on your enemies. You can even dispatch members of your royal court to infiltrate enemy courts to spy. The end goal is to accumulate enough political and military might where you either win by score or are crowned the ruler of Europe.
There's no question that Knights of Honor is a deeply ambitious game, but somehow it works, thanks to a somewhat elegant interface and some well thought-out game mechanics. Basically, it's best to think of Knights of Honor as a continual-time game, because it's not really a clickfest. The game plays at a generally steady pace, during which you'll spend a lot of time managing your kingdom. A single game can easily cover centuries of European history (not to mention dozens of hours in actual playing time), and one of our major complaints with it is that there is no sense of time passing by.
At the heart of your empire are provinces, each of which contains a central town that must be conquered if you wish to control the entire province. These towns are the source of your armies, food, wealth, and more, and some towns may have access to bonus resources that others don't. For example, a town with rich pastureland can support sheep and cattle, which not only will provide meat, but will support further specialized structures, such as tanners that produce leather. These resources are important, because if you can accumulate enough domestic resources and import certain exotic resources, you may unlock kingdom advantages, which are bonuses that reward extraordinary achievement. For instance, you can boost the agricultural output of each province considerably, as well as increase the size of a town's granary, which determines how long a town can hold out during a siege.
The royal court system lets you manage heirs, as well as marshals, spies, and more.