We played a game of Hero's Banner just now. It was really fucking good. Reading the text did not really convey how the influence and passion rules bring everything together.
The characters were: Stelion, a duke's son from Uran; Horea, the dispossessed prince of Tucaescu and Prince Gregore, son of the man who usurped the Tucaescuan throne.
Things started pretty strong with war between those kingdoms. In the Tucaescan army, Gregore's older brother was assassinated (by Gregore) at a dinner. Stelion, attempting to reach the army to murder his blood-enemy General Valentin, realised that he needed to return to the border garrisons to warn them of the size of the army. He failed, and his futile attempt to disrupt their advance left his squadron dead.
There was a threat that Horea, incognito in the army, might have his true name revealed. The informer was shot before she could do so.
Then Stelion was instructed to lead the Uranian army in defense. His battle plan failed, and the defending army was slaughtered to a man. In the formal meeting to admit defeat he attempted to murder General Valentin, and for this Gregore branded his forehead in punishment for his dishonour, before releasing him.
A few other scenes had some smaller scale back and forth, with some rivals murdered and various choices made about the influences.
Then we got kicking again with a royal wedding between Prodan and Ryeic. In the mansions of the Church, Stelion led 70 knights into the Tucaescan apartments and slaughtered them. Horea had disguised himself as one of them and joined in - mainly so he could kill the usurper personally. Gregore escaped with his fiance and some servants, only to be headed off by Stelion. The branding was repaid but only after Gregore saw his companions dead.
Horea rushed back to Tucaescu to claim the throne, and decided (at the advice of his dukes) to once again invade Uran while they were weak. Suffering a breakdown at this point, he led the army with a curtain of frost that slew the defenders in their path. Then the invasion was pulled back, as Gregore made a play for the throne in Horea's absence.
Stelion left his wife, soon after the wedding, to pursue General Valentin, who led the retreating army. Fighting on the same field as they had previously, they killed each other in the thick of the fighting.
Gregore made his final effort to take the throne back, and failed while reaching 100 passion. He instead elected to become a hidden master of spies and assassins, working to returning his family to power in later generations.
Finally, Horea reached 100 passion too, and ruled Tucaescu as a wise king for the rest of his days. That lasted until he was poisoned at his legitimate son's fifth birthday celebration.
Now, that was some meaty stuff for a one-off, with no preparation (the expected game was canceled due to an illness), and with a group who normally plays more for humour than this savage blood opera would lead you to expect.
Just sitting there after the epilogues, I can just see how well it will play as a campaign, too. Taking that terrible mess and crafting characters who look back on some of those we generated as their hero influences for the next episode will create a powerful, organic history of the kingdoms. I am really looking forward to playing more of this game.