Twilight Plays a Strategy Game

by Jay David

Chapter 1: Twilight Plays a Strategy Game

You know those moments when you feel, deep inside your gut, that something irritating is going to happen? Those moments you can't explain but always recognise when they come? Well, that was the feeling young Spike was experiencing right at this very moment. For as he walked out of the kitchen of the Friendship Palace, carefully balancing a bowl of his favourite gems in his claws, he was about to take a single bite of them when, all of a sudden, a loud and familiar voice called out to him.


The drake grumbled to this, but nevertheless went when called, his beloved gems still clutched with him as he walked. It did not take him long to find himself in the main chamber of the palace, and when he arrived, his eyes widened. It was indeed Twilight who had called him, but the Princess of Friendship was currently too busy with something to have noticed his arrival. Using her magic, she was levitating many a strange and unknown contraption around, making sure to place each one exactly to her liking. As Spike approached, he ducked just in time to avoid being hit over the head with a bunch of wires that were being levitated towards his friend. And it was here, at long last, that Twilight finally caught sight of him.

"Ah, Spike, Glad you could come."

Raising an eyebrow, Spike gestured to the strange equipment.

"So...what's all this then?"

A smile grew on Twilight's face as she answered.

"It's from the human world! Sunset just sent it over."

Looking to the objects again, Spike gained a look of realisation.

"Oh...yeah...I thought they looked familiar. Isn't this that thingamajig that shows, you know, clips and stuff?"

Twilight nodded.

"They're called computers, and yes these are the ones."

Placing one claw on his hip, Spike looked from his friend, to the computer, and then back again.

"So...what are you doing with them?"

Twilight's smile widened.

"I'm glad you asked. It turns out that, at least according to Sunset, you can actually play games on this thing!"

Spike turned to the computer with an incredulous look.

"What, as in...running around and playing catch or something?"

Twilight giggled a little.

"No, it's...a different kind of game to that. Here, I'll show you."

With that, the young Princess got to work, raising her hoof and pressing a button on the side of the computer. After a few moments, the screen lit up, and all manner of words and symbols appeared before them. Spike, naturally, was confused by a lot of it, but Twilight, ever eager to try new things, squinted her eyes, looking at each and every one of them.

"Okay, I think...yes, here it is!"

Grabbing hold of a device that Spike knew from memory was called a "mouse", Twilight soon clicked upon her chosen symbol. Soon after, the screen changed, and a new and elaborate title appeared in its place, accompanied by grand fanfare-type music.

"How did you click without fingers?" Spike asked.

But Twilight ignored him, keeping her eyes on the screen.

"According to Sunset, this is a strategy game. You take control of a nation, and you rule it."

Spike chuckled.

"Ruling a nation? For fun?"

Twilight gave him a mildly scolding look.

"Now now, Spike. I'm sure if we give it a chance, it'll grow on us. Now then..."

Getting back to the screen, Twilight glanced through the menu for a few moments.

"Okay...according to the instructions, this country here is a good starting point for new players. We'll just click on it, and...there we go!"

Again, the screen changed, and this time, it became the view of a map, with statistics, more new symbols and, most importantly, Twilight's nation highlighted above all others. As she peered closer, her giddiness was obvious to anypony.

"Oh! So many choices! What to do, what to do?"

Pulling up a chair, Spike sat down, finally sampling one of his gems, all the while looking to his friend.

"Well, what are people with nations supposed to do?" he asked.

Twilight pondered this for a moment, before breaking out into another smile.

"Well, first of all, I should probably review the country's finances. Let's see here...ah, here's the money tab."

Clicking, Twilight brought her country's financial information up. After looking it over, a disapproving scowl appeared upon her face.

"No no no! That's not right! It says half my annual budget has been diverted to military recruitment."

Spike shrugged his shoulders.


Twilight turned to him and frowned.

"So?! There are far more important things I could be doing with it, like schooling or hospitals."

She turned back to the screen, clicking a few more times.

"Okay, I'll just give the order to divert funds, maybe disband a few of our already-hired soldiers and...ha! I already have enough money for at least five libraries!"

Spike rolled his eyes.

"I get the feeling it's not gonna be this easy all the way through, Twilight."

The alicorn turned to him, patting him upon the head.

"I know, Spike. But it never hurts to put money where it's needed most."

Spike opened his mouth to speak, only to close it again when both of them heard a loud beeping sound from the computer. As they turned, they saw that a new tab had popped up, leading to Twilight reading it carefully.

"Hmmm...a visiting dignitary has arrived to discuss trade relations. Sounds important. I'd better let him in."

Another click, and the city's door opened for the visitor. After some more seconds had passed, another tab appeared.

"Your visitor promises to have a whole convoy of trade good delivered here by tomorrow, and hopes that we can be friends."

Twilight's face lit up.

"See, Spike? I told you things would be good."

The young dragon looked to her, amused, but stayed silent as she kept on clicking, building new buildings and chatting to her various court members.

"Oooh! This is just...so much fun!"

Spike sighed.

"Alright then. You control your people, and I'll just have some gems, if it's okay with you."

And with that, Spike did exactly as promised, wolfing down his meal while Twilight busied herself with her game. But, after a few minutes, another bleep was heard, but this time, more serious-sounding.

"Wait, what?! No no no no no!" Twilight exclaimed.

Spike leaned forward.

"What?! What is it?!"

Twilight pointed to the screen.

"The neighbouring country! The one that dignitary was from! They've declared war on me!"

Looking to the screen, Spike saw that there was indeed an army, and a large one at that, heading straight for Twilight's nation. Immediately, she closed the gates, but took on an even more concerned look when another window appeared. After reading it, she frowned, speaking aloud its message.

"Well...turns out that ambassador was actually a spy! He learned that our army had been reduced, and told his king that we were ripe for attack!"

Spike smirked, earning him a deeper frown from Twilight, shutting him up before he could actually say anything. When she looked back to the screen, Twilight clicked frantically.

"Okay, get everyone behind the walls? Check. Make sure we have enough food for a siege? Check. Get remaining soldiers to the walls? Check."

As the enemy army approached, they began pelting the walls with stones from their catapults, much to Twilight's annoyance.

"Hey! I just upgraded those!"

On and on the attack went, for a good ten minutes at least. Then, as swiftly as it had begun, it stopped, with all of those thousands of soldiers marching back in the opposite direction. Spike, naturally, was very confused by this.

"Did...did you win?"

Twilight sighed, shaking her head.

"No. The other side had just spent so much money on their army that they couldn't afford to keep their war going on much longer."

Spike scratched his head.

"That...sounds really stupid of them."

The Princess nodded, turning to him with a smirk.

"And that, Spike, is why you need good financial instincts when ruling a country."

Spike grumbled to that, getting back to his gems as Twilight looked back to her own affairs.

"Still...they did do a lot of damage. Houses outside of the walls smashed to pieces. Farms burned down. It's going to take a lot of money to cover all of this."

Looking back to her, Spike gained a look of curiosity.

"How much money?"

Twilight grimaced.

"More than I've got. Which means..."

She sighed again.

"...I'm going to have to raise taxes."

Spike gulped loudly, looking to her with concern.

"Um...is that a good idea? I mean...those people you're ruling probably won't like you very much."

Twilight, while having heard every word he'd said, nevertheless went ahead with her plan, making a few clicks and increasing the taxation rates to the desired amount, before looking back to him with as reassuring smile.

"Don't worry, Spike. My people aren't idiots. They'll know that this is all for their benefit."

While Twilight looked rather pleased with herself, Spike, now looking to the screen himself, took on a look of worry.

"But...they're revolting."

Here, Twilight looked to him with disapproval.

"Spike! That's not a very nice thing to say!"

Her assistant turned to her, then back to the screen, then back to her as he pointed at the thing.

"No! I mean, they're literally revolting!"

Twilight's head snapped back in the direction of the screen, just in time to see that her friend was right. Her populace had indeed risen up, and were setting every building in sight on fire. The banks, the bakeries, even her beloved libraries.

"Nooooooo!" she exclaimed.

A frantic clicking of buttons followed.

"Fire-fighters, to your marks! Soldiers, put down the mob! Volunteers, just...please help!"

Spike watched, half-amused and half-worried, as Twilight kept her eyes glued to that screen, watching as her precious city tried to cope with this unfortunate turn of events. One by one, the fires went out, and the mob was dispersed. By the time it was over, the city was little more than a smoking husk of what it once was. Spike stared at it all, as did Twilight, and after much silence between the two, the former broke it.

"So...think you'll bounce back?"

Twilight hung her head.

"Well...between the fires, the property damage, and the fact that I have to pay everyone who helped...the treasury is now officially empty."

Spike nervously scratched the back of his head.

"I guess that means no army if those other guys turn up again?"

A dry laugh escaped Twilight at that.

"Actually, I do have an army."

Spike seemed confused by that, squinting his eyes at the screen.

"Really? Where are they?"

Pointing her hoof, Twilight answered.

"He is right there."

Sure enough, one lone soldier was standing there, right outside the city gates, looking completely oblivious to the fact that he was all by himself out there. As Twilight clicked on him, he gave his customary battle cry.

"I will fight for you, my Queen!"

Twilight rolled her eyes.

"Yes, yes, very good."

Spike leaned back into his chair.

"Geez...this game's harder than I thought."

Twilight nodded in agreement.

"I'll say! I can't understand how anypony could enjoy this."

Spike, hearing that, gained a curious look.

"Wait...do...do you think it's supposed to be this difficult?"

At first, Twilight didn't understand what he was going on about. But, realisation soon dawned on her, and she started clicking around the game's menus. After pouring over tab after tab, her eyes widened.

"Aha! I knew something wasn't right!"

She looked to Spike with a triumphant expression.

"The game had been set to the highest difficulty before being sent over! It's the default mode for it, so I guess Sunset never thought to change it!"

Spike nodded, peering closer at the screen himself.

"Maximum difficulty...aka, the are-you-a-glutton-for-punishment-mode."

Twilight giggled, leaning back into her chair.

"Well, I'll be sure to lower it next time I play."

Spike smiled as he looked back to her.

"Good thing you don't have to do that in real life, eh, Twilight?"

The Princess laughed, patting him on the head again.

"You said it, Spike."

But, Spike's own smile faded when he took on a more thoughtful expression.

"Although...you are a Princess, so...maybe you will have to do it someday?"

Hearing that, Twilight's own smile disappeared, replaced instead by one of utter horror. Time passed, and she appeared to be frozen with this revelation, much to the concern of her young friend. After almost five whole minutes of nothing happening, Twilight slid down from her chair, curled up into a ball, stroking her tail in a self-calming measure.

"It's fine! I'm fine! It'll all be fine"

Spike sighed, shaking his head and looking up to the ceiling.

"Celestia...if you got through all this for a thousand years...I tip my non-existent hat to you."

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