I don't know how successfully it comes across on the TV show, but the Game of Thrones book series makes the storied history of Westeros as important and intriguing as the current, rather messy state of affairs. Westeros: Age of Petty Kings, a mod for Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms, is set during the Andal Invasion of Westeros, thousands of years before the events of the series, which means now you can take part in the shaping of the turbulent continent and forge your own version of the history of Westeros.
The true, full name of the mod, it appears, is Westeros: Total War: Ages of Petty Kings for Medieval II: Total War: Kingdoms, but I get fined by PC Gamer if I use more than three colons in a single headline. I'll begin by quoting the modder directly, since he does a fine job of explaining the sitch:
Long before the rise of Valyria, Westeros was divided into countless Petty Kingdoms. In the south, the Reach is consumed by fire as countless Andal Kingdoms are drawn into an ever growing civil war. In Dorne, the deserts run red with blood and in the north four kingdoms struggle for supremacy, even as they face invaders from all sides. As chaos descends upon the lands of Westeros it remains to be seen which Kingdoms shall forge dynasties to last a thousand years, and which will fade into history.
You'd think one Stark, once, would move somewhere warmer.
I don't blame you if you're more interested in the current batch of characters from Game of Thrones than in the generations that came before them. The thing is, even though the mod is set thousands of years prior to the events we've been watching and reading about, there are still plenty of familiar names around. Some families have been in Westeros for a very, very long time, so yes, you'll still find the Lannisters at Casterly Rock, the Starks are chillin' (literally) in the North, the Arryns are in The Vale, and the Martells are over in Sunspear. What bright futures they all must have!
It's your chance to be the Lannister who never pays his debts.
There are a whopping 29 different factions to choose from in the mod, including House Reyne, The Stormkings (who have a stag on their banner, which was later co-opted by the Baratheons), plus House Bolton and House Umber in the North, and then a bunch more I've never heard of because I sort of skimmed through certain parts of the book, okay? No need to Google while you're selecting a faction, either: the modders have provided a hefty chunk of lore and history in their descriptions.
Lore-friendly and packed with info, it's like Wiki of Ice and Fire, the game.
The map of Westeros we've come to love is faithfully rendered, and though King's Landing may not exist yet, plenty of still-standing cities predate it. The source material seems to have been well researched and respected: even cities and castles that are mentioned only in passing in the books appear in the mod in their proper spots. There are quotes from historical characters on the loading screens, and you'll even get to listen to the familiar Game of Thrones theme song that I hope is legally okay to use in this mod but I'm not sure that it is. Point being, the mod is really drenched in the feeling and flavor of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I think fans of the books and show will feel quite at home here.
Not sure who these guys are or why we're fighting. But that's true when I read the books sometimes.
If you're not super interested in the politics and city building, you can of course whip up some custom battles on some familiar battlegrounds, like the Wolfswood, Golden Tooth, the Vale of Arryn, the Iron Islands, The Reach, and lots more. I pitted a bunch of Starks against a mass of Boltons for the Dreadfort, for no particular reason and definitely not to exact some sort of revenge. I also had Cracklaw Point battle the Lannisters in the wintery North. Why? I dunno. Why the hell not?
Lions versus Crabs. I know who I'm betting on.
The mod is still in development, and has a lot of plans for the future, including doubling the number of castles on the campaign map and bolstering them with both lore-friendly houses and some created just for the mod. There are also plans to add more units, including unique ones, as they're not particularly varied at the moment. Mercenaries will be added (sellswords, if you want to get all Game of Thrones-y about it), and there's an effort underway to add even more factions like the Night's Watch and the Wildlings.
Installation: Download the mod here. Again, I'll let the modder explain how to get it set up, because he does it well and it worked for me.
1) Make a copy the "Launcher.exe" from your M2TW folder and rename it "kingdoms" (if you already have a "kingdoms" you should be fine).
2) Put the Petty_Kings folder into your mods directory and DO NOT CHANGE THE FOLDER'S NAME.
Assuming you have the "kingdoms.exe" and the correctly named "Petty_Kings" then you can simply double-click on AOPK.bat in the Petty_Kings folder and it will launch the mod.