Cultural Expansion: CK II – Sword Of Islam

New horizons to pursue

June 2012 will bring the Sword of Islam expansion to Crusader Kings II, allowing players to select any Muslim dynasty at the beginning of the game and “delivering a wealth of specific new mechanics distinctive to these rulers, creating a whole new gameplay experience. Laws, marriage, holding, traits, titles and more will work completely differently.” Equally exciting is the news that a major patch will be arriving at the same time as the DLC, expanding the map into Mali-Songhay, and adding more complexity to claims, a new plot and expanded combat. The actual DLC will set you back $9.99 or an equivalent of your local coinage. A trailer of maps below.

I’m still infatuated with the game and haven’t been too bothered by what is admittedly extremely basic combat. I enjoy the balancing of campaign length and levy demands enough that the brute arithmetic simplicity of conflict hasn’t been much of an issue. That said, I await the changes eagerly, although expanding the map cruelly makes me hope that every patch will make it a bit bigger until the entire world can be mine.

And then the moon.


  1. Njordsk says:

    Yay, let’s play Saladin or Nuraddin !

    Didn’t play CKII yet, might be the occasion.

    • Martel says:

      If the reason you haven’t played it is because you don’t own it, it’s on a pretty big sale at Amazon right now (at least in the US). $10 by itself or $12.49 as part of the Plentiful Paradox Package [Download], which includes a handful of other Paradox games.

      • ShineyBlueShoes says:

        I already had Magicka and the first SotS but for 2.50 more I figured it was worth it for all the Magicka DLC (including The Stars are Left), Victoria 2 and SotS2 (which is supposed to be reasonably decent and still improving after all the patches)

      • Londoner says:

        I’ve tried getting this twice from the uk, the first following the instructions on my own account, which lead to my password being reset due to suspicious activity, the second from a fake American account I’ve used for the Amazon app store which lead to the account being locked.
        If you’re not American you should be wary of doing this.

    • Crazy Horse says:

      Not really the expo to make you buy the game. The muslim factions will never be as well scripted and mechanically fun to play as the christian ones. Really wish they would have done a HRE and Papal expansion to add some depth and fix the brokeness there.

      Besides, playing as muslims just isn’t CK.

      • sPOONz says:


        Crusader Kings is a great game and even better now the muslim factions are playable. I dont see why playing the opposing factions should be considererd “not CK.” Thats like saying EU3 shouldnt have bothered with the rest of the world.

      • Gormongous says:

        I agree so totally. I’ve gotten shouted down several times on the Paradox forums for suggesting how egregious it is that an Investiture Contest can’t really happen under the current engine.

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    I’ve put in a couple games of CKII and I still feel bewildered. I just never feel sure how to progress, other than taking counties very very slowly (and don’t get me started on playing a character with a lower ranking where I just have no idea what is going on). It’s not that I hate complexity – Dwarf Fortress is my favourite game – just that I always feel as though I have no idea what on earth is going on. Does anyone have a good general strategy guide?

    • idiotapocs says:

      This :/

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      You need to be registered on the paradox forum to use this, but this might help you get going.
      link to

      Good luck! :)

    • Duffin says:

      When I get bored I kill my wife.

    • Schaap says:

      The main tip that I would give to new players (also valid for other paradox games) is that you shouldn’t be ashamed to savescum, to just save the game before trying anything. The learning curve is steep enough without you being severly punished everytime you make a bad decision because you can’t see the consequences of your decisions yet.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      There really isn’t much of a “general strategy” for CK2 but it depends entirely on (1) your current situation and (2) what you want to do. Since there’s absolutely no victory conditions, there’s no real way to say any particular strategy is best for accomplishing anything.

      I suppose the standard play-style would be to maximize your dynasty’s prestige and piety, which means holding and/or lording over as many titles as possible, whether personally or through your relatives. That means having lots of vassals, putting your relatives on thrones outside of your own realm, etc.

      There’s many different ways to attack your neighbors. In any given situation one might be better than another. It really depends. If you’re near Muslims or pagans, attacking them is always good (assuming you can win, and if not, invest in your buildings). If not, invite claimants to foreign titles, matrilineally marry them to your princesses, and then press the child’s claim. The child will become your vassal (as the child is of your dynasty) and you’ll have expanded your realm. If your neighbor is large but weak and unpopular, ask the Pope to authorize your invasion.

      There’s plenty of extremely non-standard ways to play, too, like converting your dynasty to Islam or joining up with the Mongols when they show up.

      The list goes on. The game is mostly about figuring out what’s going on around you and then exploiting that to the max.

    • kaffis says:

      I can’t claim to be an expert in CKII by any means (with 50 hours logged on my first serious dynasty after two rapidly aborted false starts trying things out, I still discover new things routinely), but I’ve quite thoroughly enjoyed taking advantage of unexpected opportunities as well as trying (occasionally desperately) to see long-standing, meticulous plans incrementally come to fruition.

      I started out as a minor duke in France with one county to my name. About 6 months into the game, young King Henri offered to make me his marshall. I accepted. It turned out King Henri really enjoyed crusading, so he had my duke prancing around North Africa winning battles left and right, and jacking up his military attribute. In fact, he liked his Marshall’s success on the battlefield so much, he named me his heir.

      I said “Thanks, your majesty!” and promptly turned to my excellent spymaster and had him assassinated. 150 gold for a throne was quite a bargain. That’s the biggest example of taking advantage of the unexpected and unplanned.

      Holding that throne, however, has been a much more deliberate affair. From stomping out the wars of succession that crop up whenever a ruler dies, to carefully plotting how to wage holy wars in the Iberian Peninsula to expand the holdings of France duchy by duchy, I’m currently about halfway through kicking the Muslims out of Spain. This has proven a much faster process than my plan to fabricate claims until finally absorbing Bretony.

      Plotting assassinations to bring the Kingdom of Denmark under my dynasty on one of my sisters’ behalf has been my single favorite scheme thus far, however.

      So, yeah — long story short: expanding your holdings can be quick (1 county -> Kingdom of France in one death) or arduous (generating and pressing claims). Work with what you have, and always keep several options open and in play — you never know what will coalesce in the end.

    • sinister agent says:

      As has been suggested, there’s no one size fits all thing to do, really, however, a couple of fundamental things that you should probably be aiming for from the start, and throughout:

      1) Ensure you have a decent heir.

      2) Set things up so that you and/or your heirs will inherit good titles and/or land.

      The first is relatively simple – marry well, try to protect your heir. The second is trickier, and will involve carefully choosing a spouse, buttering up allies, and occasionally assassinating or plotting to kill someone else’s heir so that your close relatives and/or allies are bumped up in the lines of succession.

      Sometimes you’ll have to think decades in advance, though of course that is generally riskier as there are more unknowns. Eg: marrying your widowed mother off to a neighbouring king, then killing that king’s only son, so that mum will inherit when he dies, and your son/grandson will inherit the whole kingdom when she dies. One guy was causing me trouble for four generations before I finally got the bugger’s title away from him, and his grandsons’ widows are still giving me grief.

      Oh, and get a good spymaster. Your mum and wife can become spymaster (in contrast to most other council roles, which must be filled by men), which can come in really handy. The better your spymaster, the easier it is to scheme, and the less likely you’ll fall prey to the schemes of others. And sometimes, depressing though it is, loyalty is more important than ability.

    • Fiatil says:

      The best advice I can give for a newbie is finding a good starting territory, i.e.: be Irish or Welsh. Either of those will start you out as an independent lord with plenty of room for expansion into other small independent realms. If you’re Wales you can unite Wales in a few years, and then move onto sniping off the small independent Irish realms. By that time you’re probably cool enough to mess with Scotland or even grab some territory from England, and begin The Great Welsh Empire.

  3. inawarminister says:

    Been waiting for this since the start!
    Now I can hold Al-Andalus against the Catholic scums! And hopefully the Muslims are not as underpowered as it is in vanilla…
    (Come on, how come only Catholics got OP holy warriors? Sunnis have ghazis too in this time period, and they have heavy equipments like their Crusader counterparts)
    I’ve only played it once though in my friend’s place. I need to buy ittttttt

    • Captain Joyless says:

      There are Muslim “holy orders”, like the Templars and Hospitallers. The problem is they are all based in the Middle East so you can’t recruit them from Iberia. Lots of people don’t notice but there’s actually a distance requirement for recruiting mercenaries/holy orders. If the group’s “home” province is too far away from your capital, you can’t recruit the group.

      • Fanbuoy says:

        Huh, did not know. Can you work around that by granting land to the orders closer to where you want them to be available?

        • JB says:

          If you play as Norway, for example, you’ll find your list of available mercs a fair bit smaller than if you’re in France or England, say.

          (I think it was only 6 merc bands before the navies were patched in.)

  4. Mahkasad says:

    This game has been amazing from the start. Paradox came out in true fashion and improved on ever aspect of their Crusader Kings series. The fact that things just keep getting better only makes me so much happier. This more than makes up for the disappointments of Sengoku.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      Indeed. I went back to try Sengoku again recently and it just felt limp after CK2.
      I’m guessing they’re going with a seperate pagan pack eventually then? Not moaning though, the CK2 DLC prices so far seem reasonable considering the amount of play-time I get out of the game. Paradox make the most entertaining big maps ever.

      • kaffis says:

        While I wouldn’t turn one down, I’m not sure expanding pagan play makes a lot of sense — there’s no centrallized religious authority to interact with.

        • Captain Joyless says:

          The same is often true of Muslim play. No caliphate = no central authority, and they don’t have all the typical “excommunication”/”invasion” rules either. Doesn’t really work for Orthodox play, either, yet there it is.

          Playing Catholic is really just a higher-stakes game – getting excommunicated can be a major pain. Playing Pagan is more…. meh. You can’t start holy wars, which limits your expansion possibilities.

          • kaffis says:

            Right — but when you make a Muslim DLC that adds Muslim-centric play enhancements and game systems, presumably adding in those elements is the entire point of the DLC. Yes, currently, the Muslim game is shallower than the Catholic or Orthodox games for the lack of that elaborate religious angle.

            But there’s a solid historical reference to build that religious angle in with.

            Such a thing doesn’t exist with what the game labels “Pagan,” because Pagan in CKII represents several different (and more or less unrelated) decentrallized religious traditions.

  5. man-eater chimp says:

    YES YES YES – Now we just need to be able to start as a Norse and decent Democracy gameplay (for Essos in the GoT mod).

    I’m still lost whenever I play this game, but it is so much fun. An RPS diary of this game would be awesome!

  6. Anthile says:

    YES. I always had more fun playing as the non-western nations in EU, even if it usually was much more difficult. However, I guess they have a much better position in this point in time.

  7. MythArcana says:

    Great game! Shit marketing! This DLC spam is INSANE!

    • killias2 says:

      DLC spam? Okay, sure, there are a couple micro-DLCs, but they’re pretty much explicitly presentation only. There was the make-your-own-ruler DLC, but, again, that’s about as far from necessary as possible. Up to this point, it’s actually a pretty good DLC system. They give the game huge free updates and patches, and, if you want, you can buy some DLC not at all necessary for the core game.

      This DLC, I’ll admit, is something else, but it’s basically half of an expansion for half of an expansion’s cost. Also, again, it comes with a big free update and patch.

      Paradox treats its customers better than most competitors. For crying out out, the simple act of selling DLC is neither “shit” nor “INSANE.” It matters -what- the DLC is, how core to the experience it is, how well a company is supporting a game generally, and what the players want.

      Personally, I haven’t bought any of the other CK2 DLC, but I’ll likely pick this up sooner or later.

  8. Darko Drako says:


  9. wodin says:

    Game of the year..maybe game of the decade.

    • kaffis says:

      It certainly puts strategy games from more mainstream developers to shame. Particularly RTSes. I can think of no better way to make a StarCraft fan cry in the utter realization that his grasp of “strategy” is pathetic and meaningless. “You think you can play strategy? Here, try this.”

      • Dolphan says:

        You know, some of us Starcraft fans have been known to play a Grand Strategy or 5 as well …

      • Fiatil says:

        I love Starcraft 2 and CK2 as well! Both have lots and lots of strategy you know, just on a different scale.

        • kaffis says:

          I wasn’t clear. I don’t hate on Starcraft.

          I just find the strategic depth in Starcraft to be remarkably light when you step back and look at things. The majority of play centers around very simple, formulaic rules centered around out-producing the opponent and scouting to ensure you’re on the right side of well-known rock, paper, scissors unit balance.

          There’s nothing *wrong* with that, nor with liking it. But there’s a vast gulf between “Build 3 SCVs, then a barracks, then 2 more SCVs, then a supply depot, then start cranking out marines and SCVs to keep your queues full while scouting” or whatever the build order in vogue is and well-executed grand strategy titles like CKII or EU.

          They’re just vastly different genres, and I meant only to comment on which I find the label of “strategy” to be more appropriate to describe.

  10. Kandon Arc says:

    I can tell you one thing; I’m definitely going get the most untrustworthy bastard I can find and make them my Grand Vizier… anything else would be playing the game wrong.

  11. Captain Joyless says:

    Expanding the map to West Africa is going to be awesome. Personally I would have hoped for India instead but I suppose it’s a much larger area.

  12. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    I’ve played hundreds of hours of EU3, and one thing is keeping me from getting into this game: the unit reinforcement mechanism. Having to disband your levies just to reinforce them makes zero sense and is annoying.

    • sinister agent says:

      You don’t have to do that at all. When more troops are available, you can raise them in the usual way, and send the new ones over to the existing army, then either merge them or use them as another army.

      • Eich says:

        Which patch would that be? I did not play since 1.3x.

        PS: gritz meant CKII or am I wrong?

        • sinister agent says:

          Yeah, I was talking about CK2 as well. I don’t know what version – probably the most recent, as I only started playing it about two weeks ago.

  13. Fitzmogwai says:

    MORE complexity? Between this and DCS A-10, I’m already fried as it is. I fully expect a neighbour to find my body half-eaten by cats in a couple of weeks, and my brain mysteriously missing, after it leaked out of my head.

    • wodin says:

      Not sure I see CK2 as complex…A10 oh yes..CK2 not really even with more choices, you have time to experiment in CK2 where as A10 you mess up you crash and burn. I sat through the tutorial for A10 to turn the Warthog on and after about 7 minutes thought…no played it on arcade found it lacking in immersion and quit, as it is really for those hardcore flight simmers.

      • GraveyardJimmy says:

        Depends on your brain I guess. DCS A-10 ha pretty good tutorial, got through them and now I can at least throw a few mavericks around and drop some bombs on enemy troops. CK2 is still a lot more difficult for me for some reason, even after all tutorials.

  14. AstaSyneri says:

    Well, I am still waiting for those Steam achievements to appear. In a really open sandbox game like CK2 I like to have some direction for my personal games.

  15. Brise Bonbons says:

    This DLC sounds amazing, definitely going to pick this up immediately when it’s out. I would also happily grab a pagan DLC, if it was robust enough, just for the sheer variety of the thing.

    CK2 is easily one of my favorite games of the last few years. Just so good in every way: Stable and refined, huge value for money, interesting mods, fair DLC, and really smart design and presentation. And the emergent narratives it generates are some of the best I’ve seen in gaming. The stories to tell! My poor old duchess of York, who spent most of her rule with her capital besieged or occupied – first by the Swedes, then by the French, then by the Scots… Then her eldest son declares war, to be pacified with mercenaries, later to die of illness, leaving his only son her heir. So she sat in her castle, in her 50s, with the cold winter setting in and occasionally taken by an intense desire to torture her prisoners. With a vague feeling that she can’t leave things to chance much longer, she sends an assassin to kill her grandchild. Meaning, when she dies suddenly of natural causes 2 weeks later, her second (and favorite) son inherits York, which he happily adds to his other 3 duchies, becoming easily the most powerful man in England. I think he/I shall be king soon…

    I just wish I wan’t stuck playing on a tiny old 1024X768 monitor until I can afford a larger one. When there are a lot of wars going on, the little progress icons prevent me interacting with my chaplain. :(

    Oh, but what a game!

  16. phenom_x8 says:

    Yes, have been waiting for this expansion very much. Love you paradox! One question : Is there any historical accuracy here??

    • kaffis says:

      There’s a quite sobering amount of it, in fact!

      You can slide your start date around anywhere from 1066 onward, and play up through 1350-something. AFAICT, the vast majority of the characters and lineages included are correct no matter your start date, up until the point you choose a character and begin your game, at which point all bets are off!

      The game even includes links to Wikipedia, for goodness’ sake.

  17. sinister agent says:

    This is very good news. Finally, I can be a civilised, educated modern culture!

  18. Arglebargle says:

    Know we know why they’re have a sale: ‘The first one is cheap, kids!’

    It certainly worked here, got one to gift, and convinced another friend to jump in the pool as well.

    My former Bretagne Duke, now ruling Scotland, Ireland, Aragon, Jerusalem, and half of England, has just put dynastic heirs to thrones of Castille and France in place.

  19. Carra says:

    Finally, a polygamy simulator.

  20. The Malkavian Bear says:

    Never in a game have i had so much fun even though i have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

  21. DeathPig says:

    Won over by seeing the name Timbuktoo.

  22. jakattack says:

    I wish they would do a DLC where you could change the titles that are occupied when you start. The HRE and other empires that start big are basically unbeatable because they always have more resources. Tired of every game I play eventually having HRE controlling almost the entire center of the map =/.