2013’s Grandest Strategy Game: Crusader Kings 2

By Adam Smith on January 6th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

Crusader Kings 2 is one of my personal favourites of 2013, as it was in 2012, but it didn’t have a place in our calendar. It could been included using the Trojan Horse of DLC, as XCOM did thanks to Enemy Within, but it’s hard to pick out the stand-out expansion for CK II. Even The Old Gods, which expanded the timeframe, felt like part of the whole rather than a distinct item. That is part of the brilliance of the design, but it also makes it much harder to say ‘Crusader Kings II: Old Gods’ is one of the games of 2013 rather than simply saying, ‘Crusader Kings II is one of the games of the year. Again.” Here’s why I think that argument is valid.

CK II has retained its place as my most played and most loved strategy title across 2013, and that’s at least partly because of the ways in which Paradox have expanded the core experience. All the DLC in the world wouldn’t make a difference – no matter how strong it was – if the base game hadn’t been as solidly constructed as it was.

When I first played CK II, it wasn’t quite a finished game. That’s nothing to do with the product that Paradox released – I had an alpha version for preview purposes – but it didn’t feel like anything was missing. If memory serves, there were some interface tweaks before release and changes to combat balance, but the biggest gap was the place where the (many) tutorials now reside. But the fact is, even before the game was deemed ready for release, it felt complete. There was enough content in the game to provide years of historical recreation and strategic roleplaying.

This was partly due to a change of approach from Paradox. The company’s internally developed grand strategy games have long been deep, drenched wells, but in days gone by they’ve also occasionally been the sort of hole in the ground that Sadako might lurk in, ready to ruin somebody’s day. There were interface problems and uncomfortable features, leading to a growing perception that the experience might not be worthwhile until a couple of expansions had smoothed the edges. It’s a reputation that wasn’t entirely deserved but it’s also the sort that can be as hard to shake as Meathook’s hand.

Over the course of 2013 I spoke to members of the Paradox Development Studio several times, as well as CEO Fredrik Wester, and a common theme was the recognition for longer incubation periods. When a game as complex as Europa Universalis IV seems well-baked, they admitted, it might still benefit from a few more months in the oven. Or in the egg, depending on which metaphor you prefer. And that’s precisely what happened – EU IV, like CK II before it, was almost fully functional long before release.

CK II seems like the beginning of a new era for Paradox Development Studio, which is the internal creative team at parent company Paradox Interactive. The hybrid RPG/strategy style brought in a new audience – many presumably ignorant of the prequel – and behind that map and all of those stats, people discovered a dynastic soap opera, with torture, incest and assassinations in almost every episode.

What strikes me, almost two years after release, is that the possibilities presented by that map have expanded to horizons I never imagined. The greatest disappointment of the base game was the inability to play as Islamic rulers but when the first expansion made that possible, the wait was justified. Rather than being Ryu to the Catholic’s Ken, Islamic dynasties had their own rules, laws and dangers. The same is true of republics, pagans and, with the latest expansion, Jewish characters. At this point, it’s possible to start a new game, even after hundreds of hours playing, and try something completely new.

In a series where an extra graphic or two wouldn’t make an enormous difference, it’s hard to think what value Paradox could add to Crusader Kings III that hasn’t already found its way into the game that we already have. But then I remember that there may well be more expansions to come and realise that I’m still not seeing the whole picture. History is a grand canvas, and Europe and its environs contain more stories than we’d see in many thousands of hours of play.

The announcement that EU IV’s first expansion would contain a randomised New World surprised me. These are games that have always created alternate histories but every campaign began with the same ingredients – the deviations were a result of player and AI actions rather than inherent differences in the world itself. A willingness to adjust the layout of the world could have consequences for future crusades and, as Sunset Invasion demonstrated, Paradox recognise that enjoying the malleability of historical recreation can create interesting scenarios.

That’s not to say that Victoria III will have an optional Steampunk campaign but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next phase of Crusader Kings expansions delving into the weirder aspects of chivalry, religion and medieval folklore. Whether that’s the case or not, I’m already certain that CK II will be among my favourite games of this year as well as the previous two. I haven’t had enough time to explore Sons of Abraham’s intricacies yet but fully intend to do so.

Every time CK II expands, I plan to write about the new additions and every time I come up against the same problem. Every new feature and play style quickly becomes sublimated into the whole game – a review of The Old Gods or Sons of Abraham becomes a review of CK II as it is now. None of the DLC is essential because the game was always thousands of hours deep and packed with plots and perfidy, but every new option and event elaborates on what came before.

From my perspective, the worst thing about CK II is that it continues to fill most of the evenings and nights I set aside for EU IV. I’m sure there are people who have time for both but those people are temporal vampires with rapidly ageing prisoners trapped in their basements. Every night the vampires descend and ingests a week of a victim’s life in a single moment, using a horrific combination of a miniature grandfather clock and a crazy straw.

CK II isn’t one of my favourite games of 2013 simply because my fascination with it carried over into a new year. If that were the case, Ancient Domains Of Mystery would have been in my personal top ten every year since I discovered it around 1999. CK II hasn’t simply existed since February 2012 though – it has grown, regularly and intelligently. It the current version, with all of the expansions, had been released as it is, in December, it could well have been received as a sequel. It certainly contains more new content than many games that add a new number after their title.

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Top comments

  1. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I wrote a manual for the game that you might benefit from. Search in the forum for “My Crusader Kings II Manual.” It’s lengthy, but I’ve tried to organize it from most-essential to least-essential and I’ve tried to cover both the way the mechanics work and why they work the way they do.

    It has not been updated with Sons of Abraham, but all other DLC should be included and accurate. Religion may be outdated, given that I’m sure something in the DLC was given away for free.

  1. Laurentius says:

    At Christmas i had time to play so although i had a game as Timruid Empire in EUIV way into 17th century i decided to start new game in CK2 after a really long break with this game and picking DLC expansions and here i am playing it evenings long hours as a Byzantine Empire. This game is a bomb !

    PS. I had a quiestion as this is my first game with Old Gods expnasion and most recent patches, is it good to create a lot of Duches and give it away ? I mean it gives you prestige but doesn’t ultimately creates stronger factions opposition against you among your vassals and more problems ?

    • Morlock says:

      Having more duchies amplifies the power of your relationship with your vassals. If you have loyal and competent dukes, they can save you a lot of trouble. If they are disloyal or stupid, they can ruin your kingdom.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Or the very worst of all, disloyal and competent.

        In general, it’s a good idea to create duchies, because it does make your realm more efficient. But always make sure your personal demesne is strong enough that you can beat them down if necessary, and keep a close eye on the Factions screen.

    • varangian says:

      If you’re playing as the Byzantine Emperor you have an advantage compared to other rulers (maybe some others get the same deal but I haven’t played any such yet) in that you can deprive a Duke of his Duchy and he won’t like it but none of his peers (i.e. all the other Dukes/Duchesses) give a toss. S/he may revolt (though probably will just sulk for the rest of their life if you don’t placate them in some other way) but it won’t usually lead to a general revolt unless you’ve made yourself hideously unpopular. So if you have a faction leader who you can’t nobble by some other means you can swiftly convert the Duke of Awesome to the Count of Never-heard-of-it and the faction will be usefully weakened. Even more amusing is when you appoint a new, ultra-loyal Duke of Awesome he will often deprive the unhappy new Count of his county, something the Duke can do without any real consequence, thereby converting a powerful antagonistic Duke to a skulking courtier in one fell swoop.

      I read advice on a wiki that you should keep Dukes weak by such tricks as making the Count of Someplace Duke of Somewhere-Else without awarding him any actual counties in Somewhere-Else. This may be a viable strategy in other realms but in the Byz I found letting Dukes own all their counties much more productive, it keeps them happy and they’ll go off claiming lands you can’t attack – due to some pettifogging peace treaty or the other – so the Empire expands at no cost. The only thing I had to watch out for was if the acquired enough lands to make themselves a Despot, as soon as one of those titles became viable I’d always grab it for myself before they could.

  2. int says:

    I managed to fail on the demo tutorial. I got stuck trying to embark and disembark troops from a ship. You may now laugh.

    • sPOONz says:

      Was that not a bug in the demo? You try it again and reveal in your disembarking mastery.

      • mike2R says:

        It was either a bug, or just something that was badly explained. I forget exactly, but it was a very common problem.

        • Baines says:

          I had a different bug kill my attempt at the tutorial. I think it was moving a unit to a neighboring province. I moved the unit, but the tutorial wouldn’t advance.

  3. Stellar Duck says:

    This has been my most played game of 2012 and 2013 and I see no reason it won’t be again in 2014. And I haven’t even touched the Old Gods stuff yet. Trying to finish up my current game as the accidental king of Jerusalem and then I’ll give Sons of Abraham a good go.

    • MrThingy says:

      Same here. The replayability is quite astonishing. Be a pagan Norse king or a heretical count of the Byzantine empire, there’s just tons to do.

      It’s also one of those games where you can be an Emperor one minute, and then through a series of family disasters and conflicts end up a Duke (or even a Count) again in a short while… and despite that… you feel determined to get back up the ladder again!

    • Bluerps says:

      Yeah. I’ve played two full campaigns (meaning 1066-1453) and two campaigns that I ended after several hundred years. Now I’m in my fifth campaign, and I still enjoy the game as much as I did when I played it the first time one and a half years ago.

  4. SkittleDiddler says:

    I have yet to play more than fifteen minutes of CK2, despite the fact that I’ve owned it for almost a year and it’s been sitting on my hard drive taking up space. The reason? The horribly confusing, ugly and counterproductive UI. I just can’t get used to it. I hate it enough that I suspect I will never get to immerse myself in a game that I would fully enjoy otherwise.

    Anybody have any tips for me? I’ve tried the tutorials, but they don’t really do a good job of explaining the mechanics. A mod maybe?

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I wrote a manual for the game that you might benefit from. Search in the forum for “My Crusader Kings II Manual.” It’s lengthy, but I’ve tried to organize it from most-essential to least-essential and I’ve tried to cover both the way the mechanics work and why they work the way they do.

      It has not been updated with Sons of Abraham, but all other DLC should be included and accurate. Religion may be outdated, given that I’m sure something in the DLC was given away for free.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Thanks for the tip. Your manual looks pretty comprehensive!

        • Drinking with Skeletons says:

          Thanks! For the most part, each chapter basically covers one of the major sub-menus (i.e. one of the buttons at the top left of the screen). Combat was probably the hardest part to explain, mostly because the game itself does a rather poor job of explaining it, so forgive me if it doesn’t make the military side of things totally clear.

          Let me know if it helps!

      • PopeRatzo says:

        The manual looks very good. I’m another one who didn’t get through more than about 15 minutes of CK2. I assumed that I’m just not smart enough for the game, which may still be the case, but at least there are others who had similar experience with it.

        I will try again with your nice manual. Thank you for doing this. It’s one of the reasons I prefer PC games, that there are people out there who will dedicate time and effort to making sure other people have the same positive experience with a game that they did.

      • derbefrier says:

        As some one who has used this manualTeven printed it out at work) I must say it was a great help in learning the basics. Very well put together and easy to use. Saw your post and wanted to say thanks for the hard work!

    • Brodo Swaggins says:

      I had the same problem that you did. I sat on CK2 from its release until about a month ago, because I couldn’t figure out how to play the game, or what things like “Agnatic-Cognatic Gavelkind” meant and how to address it. Once I figured out the UI, I got hooked.

      Honestly, the thing that helped me the most was playing Europa Universalis IV. CK2 and EU4 are very similar games, but EU4′s mechanics are much more streamlined and are effectively explained in detailed tooltips. The second thing that helped me was cheating. CK2 includes a console in non-ironman that makes it easy to bestow or remove titles, traits, cash, etc. Using it removes all challenge, which gives you plenty of time to work out the intricacies of the game. It won’t help you learn strategies, but it will help you learn structural concepts like what a de jure ducal claim is. Other people probably wouldn’t recommend either approach, but they’re what worked for me.

    • bladedsmoke says:

      I don’t know what to say to this, because I don’t want to be the guy who sneers at people for having a different experience than him. But to be honest, I’ve always found CK2′s UI to be elegant and literally as simple as it can get while maintaining the game’s depth.

      All I can suggest is that you spend some more time with it, and maybe read a manual or watch an episode of a Let’s Play. There’s a learning curve, but once you realize what it lets you do, the UI will open up for you like magic. And it’s well worth doing, because in my opinion this is the best game of the last 10 years.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        That’s the problem: I need to get past my reservations of the UI in order to enjoy the game. I won’t argue that the CK2 system is truly deep, but it just seems that Paradox could have done a better job with a more (out-of-the-gate) user-friendly UI.

        It’s a huge stumbling block for me, not because of complexity, but because of technical (graphical?) design.

        • jrodman says:

          Eh, I think any UI that presents this much hesitation in a game is probably misdesigned. It’s okay to have a lot of complexity, but you need to find a way to teach it to players or you kind of have not succeeded as a game designing company.

          Even if you have to remove parts of it and build a fun introduction path (which I’m not a big fan of), you need to find a way to get people understanding what stuff is.

          Personally I don’t mind that way being a 50 page manual that I read on the bus.

      • Fiatil says:

        It really is quite a nice UI. At the end of the day you just can’t get around the fact that there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff you can do, you need all of those buttons! It allows you to do a lot of elegant things, you just need to sink some time into it to get past the learning curve. I finally got around to buying EU4 on the Humble Bundle sale, and despite a couple hundred hours in CK2 I had the same feeling with it as you do with CK2. The first hour or two it seems impossibly intricate, but you just need to get a grasp of the basics and branch out from there. It’s no dwarf fortress where you’re constantly fighting the UI; it’s just a very deep game with limitless possibilities.

    • DWRoelands says:

      My experience is the same – I have this game that seems great that is actively defended against being played by its interface (see: Dwarf Fortress). It’s a shame.

  5. Drakythe says:

    I too have not spent as much time with CK2 as I would like, I think I total close to 10 hours, honestly, but I’ve enjoyed it everytime. I struggle to find a block of time to dedicate to it, because I don’t want to play for just 30 minutes, though I should probably get over that. Worse, I just bought EU IV too during one of the Humble Bundle Sales.

    Also, shout out to ADOM! which, btw, is getting an overhaul (you can read about it here: http://www.ancientdomainsofmystery.com/ ) Currently the pre-releases of this overhaul are limited to donors (except a couple of public previews they had available over christmas). But ADOM the resurrection is looking very worth your time if you like Roguelikes.

    EDIT: Those latest pre-releases are still available for public download at http://www.ancardia.com/download.html — if you select the with NotEye integration you’ll get a preview of the pretty graphics tileset too!

    • Leb says:

      Try watching YouTube let’s plays

      The main thing though and best way to learn – just go in and play. This isn’t a regular strategy game so no need to know about build orders or opening plays or anything.

      Pick a count in Ireland and play, enjoy the random events, try and score inheritance through marriage or forge claims.

      The UI is really not the monster you make it out to be. It is a browser used for interacting with different characters and sometimes building keeps or researching tech and it does this flawlessly. It seems overwhelming at first mainly because there is so much one could opt to do at once, but just going in and picking some small goal and sticking to it despite not knowing fully what is going on is the way to go

      Play with another tab open to the official forums to search up any problems you may have, or make a new thread if u can’t find anything. People are really helpful in pdox forums

    • Grey Poupon says:

      Considering what they call roguelikes these days many might think they’d like it only to find a confusingly complex and ugly RPG. And most who actually play roguelikes already know of ADoM as it is one of the most well known ones and deservingly so.

      If someone new to roguelikes (or ADoM) decides to stick with it after being unfairly killed a dozen times, be sure to have the ADoM guidebook by Andy Williams (or one of its updated revisions) open while playing. The game is so complex and “unfair” that reading about stuff beforehand doesn’t ruin it that much. There’s so much to know about the game that even old players often use the guidebook. You can also savescum (copy the savegame file so you can reload) to save some headache if you’re not up to starting it all over every time you enter a dungeon you didn’t know was a lot higher level than your character.

      ADoM can be a very rewarding game, especially if you have a few friends playing it too. It’s fun to chat about stupid deaths and lucky items and such.

  6. almostDead says:

    I have watched about 3 let’s plays of this game from seasoned players, in my desire to work up enthusiasm to buy this game. I have never purchased it, and have been as far as the demo.

    What I witnessed when I watched these let’s plays involved the most rinse-repeat gameplay I think I have seen in a game that is lauded as grand strategy.

    I mean there are tons and tons of data there, but none of these veterans looked very hard at it. You breed with the best stats, go through some menus to try and get good traits, and do boring raise army, group, battle, disband, repeat gameplay.

    There doesn’t seem to be anything to do other than raise army, group, battle, disband. Perhaps I was watching the wrong people, but I was expecting real intruige, of trying to marry into dynasties, assassinations (I did witness this boring faction mechanic).

    I see that this kind of stuff is possible, but these veterans could absolutely trounce the game, by just continually trashing their neighbours and just clicking through the menus quickly, almost ignoring most of the stuff supposedly going on.

    • Leb says:

      Sure it’s all really just loads of data and most of it you don’t need at any given time, but it is an RPG in addition to being a strategy title.

      Something about it just makes it easy to get immersed in

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I can’t really disagree. I’ve never gotten all the way through the game (i.e. from whatever starting date I choose to the last available) because it does ultimately get pretty repetitive. Instead I play until I’m bored, all the while trying to roleplay characters as best I can. This is what I’d call the best way to enjoy the game, creating mult-hour vignettes rather than weeks-long epics.

      The various DLC helps a lot, though. In addition to new events–a big improvement for breaking up monotony–they provide new gameplay styles. Playing a Republic is very different from playing a Pagan nation, and actually there’s a fair amount of variation simply within the Pagans (Vikings are absurdly fun early on, but I found my game turned into some sort of Decline of the Vikings simulator after about a generation).

    • mike2R says:

      “I see that this kind of stuff is possible, but these veterans could absolutely trounce the game, by just continually trashing their neighbours and just clicking through the menus quickly, almost ignoring most of the stuff supposedly going on.”

      I actually agree with that, and its true for all the Paradox games. That said I’m still a massive fanboy, for a couple of reasons.

      Firstly, you won’t be able to do that when you first start. However easy it looks, it really isn’t that simple when you don’t already know the game pretty well.

      Secondly, there are always mods that fix it when you get to the point that it needs fixing. Paradox games are pretty easy when you know how they work. Most people don’t actually want a game to be particularly hard and Paradox know this and pitch the games for the mass (for grand strategy games) audience. For some reason I like my strategy games to be brutally hard, with success to be only possible with a combination of good play and luck (not sure why, I throw other genre games across the room when they are that difficult). I’ve never had a problem finding that level of challenge with Paradox games and a well chosen mod.

      I burned out on CK2 after God knows how many hours, so I’m a bit out of the loop. But the CK2+ mod, with the optional ‘hardcore’ mode enabled did it for me last time I played. I had a game where I went from Count to Duke to King, down to Duke, down to a single province Count outside my starting kingdom. Then back up to Duke. And so on. Tooth and nail struggle over centuries, and this was with hundreds of hours experience and me trying my best.

    • cautet says:

      The gameplay itself is rather simple and some parts of it can be repetitive. I would say though that it is not so much about battles as it is about marriage, inheritance, culture, and social and political convention.

      Fighting is not only not the main part of CKII but there are loops to jump through before you can attack. You can’t just attack anyone, you need a valid claim on their land, or else a religious excuse/motivation. Also, if someone attacks you and you defeat them you won’t get their land unless you have a valid claim and you declare war specifically to stake a claim on that land.

      Having said all this the game can be simple at times, and in fact you don’t even have to do anything if you don’t want to. You can just forward time and in some Countries nothing would happen for the life of that person sometimes.

      • almostDead says:

        I appreciate all of your responses. I will never buy this game, because I have concluded it requires too much imagination from me, to make it worthwhile.

        There are no real goals to the game, except not to die out. I would have to manufacture all of the to do lists out of my own imagination, and I am not capable of this.

        This is similar to my argument against buying minecraft. I think I need my experiences much more linear and directed.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          That’s fair enough. Different strokes for different folks.

          I love the fact that I can pick something to do in this game. I’ve started games as a count with a single county in Ireland & spent years trying to get enough counties under my control to form the Kingdom of Ireland through war, diplomacy, marriage, inheritance, bribery etc.
          I’ve started as the King of Scotland with the goal of forming the Empire of Britain but ended up as the King of Denmark, Norway, Lithuania & Scotland due to fortuitous inheritances through marriage (some of which I may have helped along with the occasional assassination here & there) & then went on to form the Empire of Scandinavia while having to defend against claims on my titles from the brother/uncle/cousin whom I granted the Kingdom of Lithuania to.
          I’ve played as Alexios Kommenos, Basileus of the Byzantine Empire with the aim of reclaiming the lands taken by the Sultanate of Rum, restoring the Roman Empire & mending the schism within Christianity but ended up having to build an alliance with the Muslim leaders just to defend Europe from repeated mongol invasions.

          I haven’t even touched half the stuff in the game because there’s so much you can do. I’ve yet to play a Merchant Republic or start earlier than 1066 as a Pagan because I’ve just so many ideas for things to do which is one of it’s greatest strengths but I guess from a different perspective it’s also a huge weakness.

    • GeorgesBU says:

      http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?588118-Saltborn-A-Crovan-AAR

      Read this for a flavour of CK2, it effectively displays how fun it can be.

  7. RedViv says:

    My last great game had my Empress of Scandinavia war with an army under a young peasant woman who rose to become a grand general, aiming to reclaim Northern Germany for the Church in brutal war. One which only turned because the neighbouring Tsaritsa of Russia turned out to be the spawn of a demon. Which led to a complete devastation of the non-Norse Baltic countryside when Not-Joan switched targets, with several decades of bloody attrition, my taking over much of Russia, multiple armies led by powerful witches colliding with thousands of zealots and multiple holy orders, and all that good stuff.
    I bloody love this game.

    • Randomer says:

      This is what I really hoped to experience in the game. Every always talks about the amazing emergent story.

      Instead, my 15 or so hours of game time were 80% playing matchmaker for whiny underlings, 17% politics to slowly annex surrounding counties, and 3% warfare. Was it this dull because I was in Ireland, where nothing happens? Is it more exciting if you pick a plot of land in the middle of Europe?

      • RedViv says:

        Ireland is mostly Tutorial Island, so… Yes, unless you direct a strong mercenary force towards the other island, and go from there, it tends to be rather calm and often plain boring.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        As RedViv says Ireland is basically the place you learn the mechanics of the game. It’s too isolated for there to be much to bother you.

        Try playing as a Count or Duke in the Holy Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire. There’s a lot more scheming & stuff to be done within the empire without having to worry about people outside of it wanting your titles. Matilda of Tuscany is a fun place to start in the HRE as your goals can be to either gain independence from the HRE, create the Kingdom of Italy or both.

        One of the Spanish Kingdoms is also pretty fun. You’ve got a load of dynastic allies around you with the muslims to the south & the King of France to the north can either be your best ally or your worst enemy.

      • Kumicho says:

        As a quick note, not only is Ireland “Tutorial Island” but Catholicism itself is more about marriages, claims, alliances, and so on. You marry your heir to the daughter of someone important, marry your daughter to someone powerful for the alliance (and troops), press your daughter’s claim (or wait until you’re playing as your heir and press her claim as your wife), call in your allies and hope that your son or grandson inherits the title. Fabricating claims is primarily done in limited circumstances to get the last county you need so you can form a duchy or kingdom.

        Playing as the different religions is a drastically different experience. Muslims can invade for whole kingdoms, as can Tengri pagans. Pagans can subjugate any other pagan, and the Norse can attack any single county that borders water. And any reformed religion (so Islam, Catholicism, Orthodox, and reformed pagans) can Holy Way anyone of a different religion that they border at any time (for the whole duchy).

        Basically if you want constant warfare and invasion (but a struggle to keep it together), be a pagan. If you want intrigue and plotting and alliances and marriage ties, play a Catholic. And if you want to marry your sister, play as Zoroastrian.

        Anything beyond Catholics and Orthodox requires DLC, but it’s pretty cheap to pick up on a Steam sale.

  8. megalosaurus says:

    Crusader Kings 2, one of the games of 2013. Thank you, this needed to be said.

    It was my most played game of 2012. It was by far and away my most played game of 2013. Between about April and August it was literally the only thing I played! The Old Gods was an excellent expansion to the game, while the Game of Thrones mod (or House Bolton simulator as I liked to call it) was fantastic fun.

    If it is not my most played game of 2014…. nah, it will be. No point pondering what won’t happen!

  9. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I was about to moan that the Steam sales are now over and CKII is no longer Bargains Much Cheapness, however I have so many, and such looooong, games to play after the sales that I will probably pick up CKII in next years steam purge. I did pick up Europa Universalis however, so that will come first (sometime around August probably)

  10. derbefrier says:

    I am not a huge stratagy gamer. I prefer to shoot men and find epic loots most of the time but I do get that stratagy itch every once and a while and I always go to ck2. I have less than probably 20 hours in the game and have never actually finished a game(I tend to play figure out a mechanic then proceed to start over because I think I can do better) but even. Just a few hours during the weekend leaves me with enough craziness to tell friends about. My buddy said one time “I love it when you play ck2 cause then I get to hear about how you killed your brother pissed off your wife and secretly manipulated your way to king, only to end up dead or in jail within the first year of your reign.”

    • Fiatil says:

      I definitely loved the time I showed up at a party and my friend was telling everyone else about how I was his Sunni Caliph Overlord dad, after I had named one of my many sons after him.

  11. teije says:

    I came back to CKII when the Sons of Abraham expansion was released, which took me away from playing EUIV. It’s great fun. And now I’ve picked up Victoria II on sale and am enjoying it immensely.

    The “problem” I’m having is what to do when the EUIV DLC Conquest of Paradise comes out in a couple weeks. I don’t have time for all this grand strategy goodness.

  12. tasteful says:

    The second picture is of EU4. That looks accidental

  13. Morlock says:

    Sons of Abrahams made me feel weird, especially since I spent most of my life in Germany which made me very sensitive. I had a plot line that could have been interpreted as a variation of the Nazi propaganda film Jud Süss. A jewish man asked to be part of my court, and I invited him. He proved to be a good, even great, steward who helped my kingdom develop. Of course I knew that him being Jewish could cause trouble further down the road. I tried to convince him to become catholic several times, but there was nothing I could do. In the end, this man was solely responsible for its downfall when, two generations later, he was still alive, my underage king converted to Judaism after interacting with him. Most neighbors declared war within the next month. Of course this is not the plot of Jud Süss, but the arc felt similar.

    Of course the add-on isn’t antisemitic. It puts you a system which is rigged against Judaism. One big achievement of CK2 is that its system makes you want poisoning children, letting your brother rot in jail etc., without judging you. You do the judgment. It is a powerful experience. In the case of the jewish steward I felt the least comfortable.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I see what you’re saying, but I think his being a jew was incidental. I’ve had similar disasters when my heir turned out to be culturally Ehtiopian due to his mom being one and me forgetting that when I set her to tutor him.

      That was a barrel of fun, watching my realm tear itself apart.

      • Morlock says:

        True… there are many reasons for why someone would tear your kingdom apart. In the case of my story however, this was an event written for the DLC (I think it started with my king having nightmares).

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Ah, I missed that. That does change it a bit, I suppose.

        • cautet says:

          Jews were persecuted across most of Europe. Would you have preferred that instead it had scripted a number of your vassals instead of providing troops for the holy war instead decided to commit genocide of the Jewish people within their own Country? This was the reality of life in Europe for Jewish people. Except when they were having children kidnapped to be forcefully converted, subjected to Jewish taxes, restricted in where they could live, and what jobs they could have.

          I’m not sure why you would want the developers to gloss over the persecution of Jewish people in the middle ages to avoid sensibilities being hurt.

          • Morlock says:

            Good points, but keep in mind that I did not say that I want the game to be different. I only described my experience. Feeling uncomfortable can be a great thing to happen.

            Btw, “expelling the Jews” is an option, and it takes only little imagination to picture burning houses and bodies.

          • cautet says:

            I do know what you mean. Recently played the Gentleman of Fortune mod for Age of Pirates 2 and I felt uncomfortable with the idea trading slaves and yet had no problem with piracy on the high seas and slaughtering crews of innocent merchant vessels.

            I like that a game can force you to remember these issues and sometimes make you feel slightly uncomfortable.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            They also took a load of criticism for not having Judaism in the game at all until the Sons of Abraham DLC was released.

  14. Morlock says:

    The one feature I would like to see in CK2 is some kind of ambassador’s report: a piece of text which summarises the most important things to know about a person, a county, a kingdom, an empire etc. A service (which could cost a coin or two) which saves you some time going through stats if you choose.

  15. Carra says:

    I’ve put in 115 hours in the first few months after its release, easily making it my favourite game of 2012. But I kind of burned out on it after playing so much in such a short time. Instead, I did have a lot of fun discovering Victoria 2 (another 112 hours) and EU 4 (60 hours), both of which I played quite a bit last year.

    They’re great money for value and I’ll get back to these games to play around with the expansions, that’s for sure.

  16. bstard says:

    Best game I came across in now almost 30 years of gaming. Hope the DLC will be bought enough so Paradox continues to make new ones.

  17. Frank says:

    ” it might still benefit from a few more months in the oven”

    That’s been my opinion of Paradox-developed games as long as I’ve known them, and it’s kept me away from playing them since. Spending two hours to learn the UI and systems only to find the game is half-baked is no fun. I think Paradox must rush the games they publish, too, since they seem to suffer from the same problem (historically, and with the exception of Mount & Blade).

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that that’s changing, and might get around to playing CK2 some time. I think I must’ve gotten it in a sale already.

  18. Nate says:

    I put several hundred hours into CKII– lovely game. But there are definite flaws that keep me from replaying it further.

    a) As a player who likes to find genius peasants to marry, the whole “who’s-who” interface is tedious. I wouldn’t mind if it was more limited (should I really be aware of those no-notes in Abyssinia?); I would certainly prefer that I could do a bit of general recruitment without clicking through each vassal and bribing/inviting them individually…

    b) There was a moment when I realized that I was not just a plotter, but that I was being plotted against, and it was glorious. I was a terrible despot whilst possessed by this paranoia. Then, I realized how plots work and all of my paranoia (and a great deal of my enjoyment) dissipated. This system could be improved greatly by allowing some mechanisms for hidden opinion. (In fact, a lot of the game would be improved by obscuring more character elements, a la homosexuality.)

    c) There are a few cheaty things the AI does. Movement of armies at the last second is one (and is gameable as well, just tediously so). The decadence system is easy to outwit once you know the tricks; if you fail to outwit it, the armies spawned are ridiculous. AI protection from supply limits is frustratingly cheaty.

    None of these are very sexy in terms of DLC, but if they were addressed, I’d happily pay add-on costs. Probably won’t happen, but I have hopes for CK3.

  19. djim says:

    My most played game in 2013 easilly so of cource i agree

  20. alms says:

    Whoa, this sounded like one of the most inspired posts I’ve read on RPS recently, hat off to Mr Smith.

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    I can gift anybody who wants 4 steam coupons 50% OFF Crusader Kings II.
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  22. Soulstrider says:

    CK2 is a fun game, but I prefer EU4, since I can’t stand managing irrational vassals for long.

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