Magnificent And Important Advent Calendar: Day 20

Children of all ages, from Bronze to Instagram, anticipate Horacetide with a cloying sense of anxiety in their gut and a glimmer of fear in their eye. When will Ursa Infinita blot out all the stars and gleefully coil around our planet, bestowing the gifts of terror and trembling? No one can say, although some children believe that when the calendar ends, the world will too. Silly children. The next entry is thinking long and hard about those children, and what to do with them.

It’s… Crusader Kings II.


It’s about people.

Playing Civilisation in my youth, I’d often wonder about the person who lived in the palace I’d spent centuries building. Was my ruler immortal, a skeletal Caesar guiding the Roman Empire into the 20th century and across space? I don’t think that’s what Sid Meier had in mind, but the fan-fiction I wrote is very convincing. Skeletal legions explored new worlds and crushed the puny empire of Zombiezuma.

Civilisation treats the leader as an abstract concept, as do most strategy games. You’re not really choosing to be Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of the game – you’re not picking a beard and a personality – you’re selecting some abilities and a couple of special units. The entities that wage war and engage in diplomacy are rarely more than a starting point, a measure of power and a tinted window onto the world.

Crusader Kings shows you a map and then invites you to meet the people who populate that map. There are wily popes, religious fanatics, incestuous heroes and virtuous villains. In the grand scheme of Paradox grand strategy, there is a unique attempt to reflect the interests and concerns of each period studied, whether it be the industrial war machine, the blood-red stain of empire or the cult of personality that defined so much of the late medieval power struggle. The idea of nationalism and its own brutal ends are for other times; here, the tracks of history are carved by the will of individuals whose birthright is a burden of responsibility.

I’ve spent more time with Crusader Kings II than any other game this year. A lot more. Remember leaving the vault in Fallout 3 and shielding your eyes as the sun tried to shrivel them in their sockets? That’s how I feel when I peer across from my collapsing Scottish Kingdom and see mighty powers rising on the mainland, knowing that the aftershocks of every war could reach my coastlines and change the small limits of my life for better or worse.

It’s rare to be in complete control and that’s a sensation that so many games could benefit from. Paradox don’t actually remove control, destroying the player in a cutscene, instead they rely on a simulation that can be as unpredictable and as complex as the characters that are at its heart. The world is full of life and even the mightiest king cannot control the irrationality of others, nor the qualities of his offspring. Every dynasty is a ship of fools in a storm-tossed ocean.

Paradox have crafted a machine that produces stories and that, for me, is the greatest thing a game can be. One reason that the game will endure is the breadth of genres that it flourishes its quill at. There are comedies, tragedies, epics, ballads, soap operas, murder mysteries, melodramas and romances. In fact, I’ve seen a few murder mystery romances and several of those involved drunken uncles. In common with the best history teachers, the ones that make you want to read and learn independently, Crusader Kings II trusts you with the high adventure and the low lives, providing enough to spark the imagination as well as the furrowed brow of concentration and serious business.

All of that would be enough to secure a place in The Most Magnificent And Important Calendar Of 2012 but there’s more. We should have seen this coming. The first Crusader Kings was superb as well and it laid the groundwork for the best character-driven strategy roleplaying game ever created. Even though Crusader Kings II improves hugely on its predecessor, it’s not so much better that it should be receiving so much of the attention that the original failed to attract.

I’ve heard from dozens of people who reckon this is the best game they’ve played in a year that was packed with excellent choices and that in itself is remarkable. For me, and for so many others, Crusader Kings II was necessary. It showed that Paradox can deliver the product that the talent of their developers deserves and it offered experiences that are constant reminders of my own development as a PC gamer, as well as the joys of the future.

It’s been a fantastic year and yet Crusader Kings II is almost completely out of step with the rest of the success stories on this calendar and on my hard drive. Take any other game out of the equation and I’d still be singing the praises of the last twelve months – remove Crusader Kings II and I’d have been missing something vital.


  1. luukdeman111 says:

    So that leaves xcom, dishonored, hotline and far cry for the remaining days right?

    • Revolving Ocelot says:

      Hotline Miami will be the RPS favourite, you wait and see.

      • caddyB says:

        It sure is my favorite.

      • Terragot says:

        Yeah, RPS & Eurogamer gushed all over that game all year round.

      • Sic says:

        They don’t do them by quality, do they?

        That doesn’t make any sense at all, since FTL was the first day.

        • Ian says:

          The last one is a “Game of the Year” type thing is it not? Just the others are in No Particular Order.

          • Lambchops says:

            A very X Factor style “no particular order” of course!

          • CMaster says:

            “No particular order” but they do like to keep some suspense as to which will be the “Game of the Year”, so likley candidates are left until the end. Last year this mean DXHR 23rd and Skyrim 24th, but this year there are more competitors, so I’d expect to see Dishonoured, XCOM and Hotline Miami in the last 3 days. I can’t really see FC3 pipping those, so expect that tomorrow (but I could be wrong there)

          • nasbas1645 says:

            The two festivals to come! 30% discount! Apple iPhone, ipad, ipod Accessories! Many! Great! link to

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        XCom, surely.

        • NathanH says:

          It would be odd if a bunch of people who don’t play strategy games much (except Adam) decided that a strategy game was the best game of the year, but I suppose that XCOM was a strategy game designed for people who don’t play many strategy games, so it could happen.

          • jhng says:

            But Alec is an X-COM obsessive from the old days and John probably got a bit gushy over some of his soldiers — I could certainly see them all agreeing about XCOM.

            In terms of personal favourites, I suspect that Adam’s was CKII and Jim’s was DayZ both of which we have already had.

      • Jenks says:

        Hotline Miami is the only one of the three that is PC exclusive, and there is never a shortage of platform warrior mentality around here.

      • S Jay says:

        It will be Dishonored. Mainstream title that is also smart: pleases everyone.

        XCOM or Crusader Kings II would be my personal choice, but what do I know?

        • Premium User Badge

          Bluerps says:

          Mr Rossignol said in the comments of an early calendar entry that it isn’t Dishonored.

          • S Jay says:

            Plot device for a twist ending.

          • NathanH says:

            Yes, they might say “It’s Dishonoured” and refuse to accept the existence of a game called Dishonored.

          • Network Crayon says:

            Hah thats actually believable.

          • a2843012 says:

            You could try the tutorial, or watch some introductory youtube videos. I did the former, tried a first campaign that ended quickly, and after that I knew enough about the game to actually play it (instead of just pressing buttons to see what happens). It’s not that complicated, once you know the basics.

            Also this:

    • Hindenburg says:

      Dark Souls.

      • Unaco says:

        Was in already. Day 10.

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          No no, they weren’t saying Dark Souls would be goaty, they were making a comment on the bleakness and darkness inherent in the soul of all those who seek to rank games into some kind of order.

          Or perhaps I’m over thinking and they just hadn’t read the rest of the calendar yet.

        • Hindenburg says:

          So it was. Thanks a bunch, Unaco.

    • makute says:

      I really hope there is a place for Waking Mars in the calendar.

      It’s been my best gaming experience this year, and has become one of my all-time favorites.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Far Cry 3, I’d wager.

      • says:

        I’d like it. It’s so far (half of the game – I’m letting it linger..) pretty entertaining weather you go for the main story, or like to take it slow and clear a few stealthy missions just for the heck of it.

  2. RedViv says:

    Why would you NOT want your ruler be an unliving thing that still leads its people to glory? THE EMPRAH IS GREAT!

    CK2 is certainly in my top 5 of this year.

  3. santheocles says:

    I really love that Paradox managed to take the myriad little stories that a good strategy game builds in your head and actually integrated them into the game itself. More personality/personalities in Grand Strategy! Speaking of which, GOGs version of Alpha Centauri now includes Alien Crossfire. For free… just need to spend 3$ on the base game. Why am I still here and commenti

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I didn’t know they had included Alien Crossfire! Hooray! I bought it ages ago so I never looked at the game page again. Thank you, kind internet person!

      • tmargul says:

        It appears to have been added just within the last couple of hours.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          So it seems. What a great surprise in time for Christmas.

    • Faldrath says:

      Holy crap. Best news I’ve had today!

  4. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Excellent timing, because it’s still 75% off on Steam today: link to

    • Christian says:

      There’s certainly a lot of DLC for this…which of those is worth getting then? Or is the Collection enough?
      I mostly hate it when games present me with so much aditional stuff (directly on the Steam-page..), that’s just confusing because I don’t have any idea what each of those does and if any of them really adds to the game..but this game has been sitting on my wishlist for quite some time now..

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        I don’t know—I only bought it yesterday, but got the Collection package.

      • NathanH says:

        Sword of Islam allows you to play as Muslims. If you don’t want to play as Muslims then you don’t need it. So it’s definitely a DLC that you can add later at will. Legacy of Rome adds an important game mechanic, retinues, so it’s probably worth getting that. The Aztec invasion DLC is probably something worth buying later if at all to spice things up. All the other DLC are basically cosmetic.

      • iniudan says:

        Sword of Islam and Legacy of Rome, are the most important, has those include some extra game mechanic, everything else is cosmetic, along one unhistorical DLC (Sunset invasion, which add Aztec invasion on the west coast to go along the Mongol invasion in the east, but don’t think it currently available on steam)

    • rei says:

      Oh, thanks for pointing that out, picked up the first two expansions and a couple other bits and bobs. Not that I’ve even gotten through the tutorials yet, but some day…

    • Colt45 says:

      Holy Impulse Buy, batman!

      I had been looking forward to some Empire:Total War over the hols (hadn’t played the War Path yet), but the offer looked too good to miss. Picked up the all-in bundle for £11.24. Hopefully money well spent.

  5. Lars Westergren says:

    I failed again to guess the game from the intro text. “Offspring Fling? Doubtful…”

    Amazing year for PC games. I remember in the start of the year RPS reviewed Dustforce and said something like “It’s rare to know so early in the year what one of the best titles will be.” We were young and innocent then.

    • Fede says:

      Yeah, in a normal year whe’d have seen Dustforce, Endless Space and Offspring Fling in the calendar for sure. From one of his comments in late november I think that Adam forgot about Endless Space up until it was too late. :)

      • Lambchops says:

        Not to mention Super Hexagon.

        Reckon Offspring Fling would have had a hard time making it though. It’s good but it’s ultimately easily forgettable (I know I had until it was mentioned here!).

      • Faldrath says:

        Yeah, shame that Endless Space will be overlooked. But maybe they’ll write a short feature of “games that almost made it” like they’ve had… two years ago, I think?

  6. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I’d love to get into this and see what the fuss is about. But always after ten minutes of playing I hit a wall of confusion and give up on it. Part of it is the jargon, I’m sure. I keep having to look up words like levies and vassals. Not that that’s the fault of the game, of course.

    • Obc says:

      same problem for me. i watch guide videos on youtube and so many other and its so fun to watch but i still cant mimick what i saw in those videos when i try it for myself.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      You could try the tutorial, or watch some introductory youtube videos. I did the former, tried a first campaign that ended quickly, and after that I knew enough about the game to actually play it (instead of just pressing buttons to see what happens). It’s not that complicated, once you know the basics.

      Also, for a beginner it’s a good idea to play an irish Earl or Duke – Ireland is often called “Tutorial Island”, because the situation there is rather uncomplicated, compared to the rest of the world (though if you’re unlucky it’s possible that you are overrun by someone from the neighboring island, but that doesn’t happen often).

      • ucfalumknight says:

        This is the best advice for newcomers. I also was overwhelmed with all of the Medieval jargon. But, I played an Irish Duke and quickly began to understand the ins and outs of the game. There is a certain pride in reuniting the Kingdom of Ireland and becoming its king. That is of course until your pissed off brothers decide to take the crown. Then all hell breaks loose.

    • Randomer says:

      I would also love to understand what I am missing. I’ve played about 15 hours so far, but I really haven’t experienced any of the emergent stories that I’ve heard so much about. Mostly the story has been, “Annex the neighboring territory. Spend 5-10 years scheming about how to annex the next neighboring territory. Then annex it. Then spend 5-10 years scheming…” interspersed with a lot of helping people get married.

      Is it supposed to be a complete existential sandbox, with no reason to do anything other than to satisfy my capricious whims? Or will there come a time when murdering my spouse serves a goal other than “I want to murder my spouse.”

      What am I doing wrong?

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        There can be many reasons to murder your spouse. Maybe she doesn’t like you (could be plotting YOUR murder) or maybe she isn’t bearing any worthwhile heirs, or maybe you fancy another…

      • Lambchops says:

        It’s one of these things where it takes a certain bit of imagination to create these stories. Basically I find myself taking the traits of the characters and applying those to whatever a character does (or deliberately harming my own character by doing things those traits would encourage even if it’s detrimental to their ultimate well being!).

        It’s a very soap opera Sims-esque approach to creating stories as far as I can tell. I’ve found it has dragged me in but certainly your mileage may vary.

      • djim says:

        It needs some patience at first but after a couple of generations stories appears by themselves as if by magic. That is my experience at least.

      • belgand says:

        I know exactly what you mean. At a certain point your power is pretty assured or your heir is set to inherit a greater title than you currently have and there just isn’t much to do but sit back and hope nothing goes wrong. These are the times when the game falters and becomes dull. When you almost wish a war would break out just so there was something to do, some interesting decisions to be made. It’s this lack of decision-making that can often bring the game down and they really need to find a non-conquest way of implementing more of them. There just isn’t a way to be a great scholar or builder, to be a patron of the arts or a drunken wastrel given to blowing the treasury on lavish parties. It’s just about trying to take over your neighbor before he or your vassals undermine you.

        That said there are plenty of reasons to murder your wife or siblings. In my case I’d arranged a matrilineal betrothal, but when we both came of age and the box popped-up it went ahead as a standard marriage (which I believe is a bug because I saw it happen again later on) and I didn’t notice for a bit. By that time I had a daughter I didn’t want and a husband that was getting in the way of my dynasty’s future. I murdered my husband (and gave rise to a scheming new daughter upset at being disinherited) to get back on the market and then schemed my way into marrying a lesser son of the French king. Ah, but the crown prince just had a son and now I’m out of the line of succession. Well, some well-placed infanticide (as his existence upset all the other potential heirs) solved that and then waiting around until the prince ascended the throne so I could kill him as well and my husband was now King of France with his only son set to inherit. The only problem is that the game won’t let me now reunite the now-independent Kingdom of Aquitane with France so unless the laws of inheritance are changed (or male children are carefully pruned away, like when I murdered both of my sisters to gain back the lands my father knew should have been mine alone) it won’t be inherited any further.

        It would also be quite nice if plots were more complicated and involved than just a poll to see who wants to see the king murdered. I like the idea of holding a grand feast at one of my vassal’s estates so I can pin the whole thing on him once my rival ends up poisoned. Of secret meetings with the threat of discovery and the chance to wear a cowl.

      • kaffis says:

        Sometimes, it just takes some dumb luck to stumble into a good story.

        I, for instance, started as the Duke of Anjou. A young King Philip asked my Duke to be his Marshall. Then, he became obsessed with Crusading along the North shores of Africa, where I, his Marshall, won many glorious victories leading his armies under his direction. He decided he loved Crusading and my Duke’s success so much, he named me his heir since he was, himself, too busy killing Muslims to get married and sire heirs of his own.

        I said “Thank you, I accept” and then promptly had him assassinated.

        And then, my own heirs spent the next hundred and fifty years or so quelling rebellion from jealous Dukes every time one of them died off and left a rebelling kingdom to his son.

        In the few long reigns that actually let me consolidate power and expand, I managed to claim Bretony and wage Holy Wars of my own to conquer the bulk of the Iberian Peninsula, creating a truly mighty Kingdom of France, Aquitaine, and Toledo, unified under my rule.

        But the story of how I came into my crown is the real thing I remember.

    • elsparko says:

      Yeah I really ant to play this game. Bought it some months ago and secured all the DLC in the current steam sale. But I just dont ‘get’ how all these menus and stuff come together. Will try the suggestion of starting in Ireland but so far I’m just amazed of my own “dumbness”…

  7. MuscleHorse says:

    I wish I hadn’t misread ‘wily popes’.

  8. Didden says:

    Yes, definitely Paradox’s best game to date. A bit tricky to get into (And I’d got used to Sengoku, which was essentially the precursor technology for Crusader Kings and a long time Hearts of Iron 3 player), but there are some good youtube videos that soon set things right and explain some of the nuances.

    Right now I’ve managed to retake the east and south coast of spain playing as Granada, after lots of diplomacy with France. Now the Spanish Catholics are on their last legs.

  9. wodin says:

    Well CK2 and Mark of the Ninja where my top games of the year…

    XCom, Dishonoured and Hotline would have been at the other end of the list for me…

  10. Stellar Duck says:

    This game is my personal game of 2012.

    So many enjoyable hours spent. So many spectacular successes. So many abject failures. So many hilarious episodes. Murderous wives, brothers, kings, children and lords and vassals.

    It really gives me the world in a box.

    • Anders Wrist says:

      Mine as well – I’ve spent countless hours with all of Paradox’s grand strategy games, and this one is a definite favourite.

    • MrThingy says:


      I also like that this game seems to avoid the insane land-grabbing that can happen in games like EU3, even with high BB.

      In CK2 when you take territory, either by diplomacy or by force, it feels like a real victory.

      I also love upgrading my home province into a mighty self-sustaining battle fortress! >:[

  11. bigjig says:

    Will a ‘casual’ strategy gamer (Civ and Total War is about as deep as I’ve gotten) be able to get into this? That steam sale looks mighty tempting..

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      I find that the focus on personalities rather than economics or production makes it much easier to show people the ropes. The best advice I can give is to start in Ireland, which is relatively stable and uncomplicated, and concentrate on learning a couple of things at a time rather than trying to do everything at once.

      Terrible things may happen but eventually you’ll be able to work out *why* they happened and how to prevent them. Or to try and prevent them.

      • bigjig says:

        Thanks for the replies! I’m going to try it out :P

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Remember that you can pause the game at any point so you have all the time in the world to sort through what’s happening.

    • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

      I think so. It’s the first strategy game I’ve played, and while there is a lot going on it’s one of those games you can enjoy as you learn the aspects of it, piecemeal. In fact sometimes not knowing why or how something happened can provide the best stories.

      There’s also a ton of resources out there for new players.

    • Lambchops says:

      Yup, I’m as casual as they come with strategy and Crusader Kings II has been the game (ahead of FTL) which I’ve most often attempted to encourage other people to play because it’s absolutely excellent.

      Still never got that far through a game but I’ve poured tons of hours into starting new ones, maybe the Christmas holidays will give me time to actually get further than 3 or 4 generations in!

  12. BigJonno says:

    I picked this up thanks to hearing great stories from my friends and soon had plenty of my own. The defining moment was my Irish Queen murdering seven people, including five children, in order to secure the throne of Norway for her grandson. It played right into all my Cersei Lannister fantasies.

    Maybe I’ve said too much.

    • Didden says:


    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Don’t worry. I think we’ve all murdered some children some time.

      One thing that I love about my swedish dynasty was that they (or at least the main line, the characters that I played) were in general an honorable bunch of people at first. They never murdered anyone, and only imprisoned people that actually betrayed them. The biggest dick move one of them did was the invasion of Norway when the norwegian king was in the middle of dealing with a huge english revolt and had no troops at home (house Yngling ended up as minor english dukes in the end :D).

      However, when they became the scandinavian Emperors and then took France from the Muslims, they became ruthless. All of them were obsessed with toppling the Holy Roman Empire, and they betrayed and murdered without hesitation in pursuit of that goal. Children, women, courtiers – no one was safe from the swedish assassins.

  13. ramirezfm says:

    I prefer Japan over Europe, so I hope Sengoku will be on Steam sale soon enough.
    This looks mighty tempting though…

    • Anders Wrist says:

      CK2 is honestly a much better game than Sengoku, which feels most of all like a demonstration of what the engine is capable of. CK2 also has a lot of wonderful mods, which Sengoku can’t sport to anywhere near the same degree. I own both games, and I prefer Japanese settings to medieval europe (though I enjoy both), and Sengoku doesn’t really come close to CK2.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Sengoku, while enojyable enough, feels a bit like a tech demo.

        • ramirezfm says:

          As long as it’s enjoyable enough it should be ok for me. Moderate amounts of fun is still fun ;) Also I won’t have endless hours to put into it and CK2 seems like it should be worthy of endless hours.

  14. NathanH says:

    This is without doubt the best game I’ve played this year and my favourite game since Thief 2 and Baldur’s Gate 2. Adam is right that we should have expected this: the original CK was a mechanical disaster and quite wonderful, and it was clear during the development of CK2 that the mechanical distasters had been detected and fixed.

  15. megalosaurus says:

    This and Legend of Grimrock were my favourite games of the year. CK2 devoured my free time and I loved the interactions between the characters and the stories which it produced.

    Like my little, ugly dwarf king. He was, briefly, the King of all Italy (except Venice) and was hated by all. Especially women – due to his negative traits it seemed every single woman despised him. And then this beautiful young debutante came to court and she loved him. HIM! And they fell in love and she became pregnant and…. then his wife had him poisoned.

    Poor little guy! And I can’t even remember his name. Tyrion Lannister he wasn’t. But, I console myself, at least he found love before dying!

  16. Kohlrabi says:

    In my very first playthrough my ruler went on a crusade against the heathens for 1 year, while his heir and wife stayed at home in Ireland. 3 months after his return his wife bore a child. After some investigation it became clear that his own son and heir had bedded his own mother (the ruler’s wife) during the ruler’s absence! The ruler decided to throw his wife into the dungeons (I can’t remember why I didn’t punish the oedipussic son). She died several months later due to birth(!) complications in prison. When the motherloving son took over the reigns later after his father’s death, he drove the economy to the ground, seized the church’s assets and was expelled from the church. Then all his lands were seized by the neighbouring catholics, and my first game was over.

    No game before that managed to tell such a story through seemingly boring menu driven gameplay, I was truly impressed and still am today.

  17. spindaden says:

    This is by far my most played game of the year.

    On my current game i’m trying to see how big an empire I can get. Currently the empire of Hispania occupies almost all of spain, england, ireland and scotland with half of wales, and brittany. Next target is probably either france, north africa or norway.

    My emperor’s a dwarf, Sancho the Great, son of Sancho the Just, but his wife still loves him, even after he had a bastard with some random courtier, and every ruler i’ve had from the start has been called sancho, i’ve only once had more than one son and they were both called sancho. These Castillians don’t have much imagination, but they’re good with a sword.

  18. derbefrier says:

    I bought this during the last steam sale and I do like it just haven’t had the time to learn it but its one of the games I plan on spending some time on during my Christmas vacation(10 days off work w00t)

  19. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I think this is my GOTY. I’ve played this so much, and had so much fun. I loved many games this year, but none quite as much as this one.

  20. Iskhiaro says:

    It’s my game of the year, and honestly there isn’t another game this year that has grabbed me as much. Mass Effect 3 is fun but by no means the best RPG ever made and there haven’t been any worthwhile RTSs or other Grand Strategy games worth a damn. XCOM was fun until I ended up at a dead end and didn’t feel like starting again, Dishonored didn’t grab me as much as it did everyone else, and Hotline Miami just frustrated me. I appreciate there have been a lot of good games this year, they just aren’t the games for me.

  21. Joshua IX says:

    *Possible Spoiler*

    I will never forget the time my lunatic Regent kept trying to kill me, making it look less like an accident each time. It was utterly priceless to survive the final event as he screamed ‘WHY WON’T YOU DIE!?’

    In so many ways this is the defining strategy game of 2012.

  22. The Random One says:

    “Children of all ages, from Bronze to Instagram…” I had to stop reading there because there was no way the rest of the article would live up to that excellent intro.

    Don’t confuse Horacetide, the time of Horace celebration, with Horacide, the killing of a Horace. The damage may be irreversible.

  23. golem09 says:

    Seems like I have to give this another go. I never got far into it, althought I watched about 2 hours of youtube tutorials for it. But after my laptop wasn’t good enough to play it in LAN with a buddy, I somehow forgot about this game.

  24. Axelius says:

    Didn’t even finish reading, haven’t played since the three player game I was in died out two months ago. Time to kill some brothers.

  25. jhng says:

    This is such a good game. Is it *spoilery* to share CKII stories?

    I’m sure I’m not unique but my playthrough started out with pure Shakespeare:

    King Malcolm, respected and successful, governing the whole de Jure Kingdom of Scotland in its affluence, but not Caithness — poor, unproductive and, critically, part of Norway. So after a few years Malcolm had to have it. He hired mercenaries, the Breton Band, he went to war, like many historical leaders, he failed to appreciate the need to pay his mercenaries. Norway came to defend Caithness, the war dragged on, the money ran out, his mercenaries turned on King Malcolm. Then the war was over quickly — and only a few months later Malcolm, now merely Count of Gowrie and a vassal to the same mercenary captain he had hired years before, died a prisoner in his own dungeons.

    Certainly one of the most compelling story arcs I have encountered in gaming, closely followed by his granddaughter Gruoch’s slow reconstruction of the Duchy of Albany over the course of her fifty-odd year reign.

  26. Unrein says:

    I’ve tried twice to get into this game, even watched some YouTube let’s plays, but… Goddamn it seems impenetrable. Granted, I don’t think there’s a single Paradox strategy game that doesn’t feel like an Excel sheet with fancy graphics to me.

    Frankly, King of Dragon Pass does interpersonal stories in a strategy game far, FAAAAR better than this bloated monster.

  27. Ronlaen says:

    I was on the fence about buying this during the current Steam sale but after what I’ve been hearing and now this I think I’m going to pick it up.

  28. Fredrik Sellevold says:

    I literally raised my armed and gave a little cheer when I opened this window. I had every confidence Crusader Kings II would be in the calendar – how could it not! – but I am nonetheless happy to find it here at last!

    Must start a new dynasty before the year’s end. My last attempt had a sad and short career, with poor count Nikephoros, the first of his name, giving up the spirit after his first wife died without conceiving, his plot to become Duke instead of the Duke utterly failing to gain traction and the Duke imprisoning him and poking out his eyes. Ally-less, wife-less, childless, eyeless, hopeless…. Priceless!

  29. Zwebbie says:

    CK II is, unfortunately, my disappointment of the year. I’ve gotten a handful of those interesting stories that people retell in what Steam says are 91 hours. Wars and construction are absolutely not fun at all and they’re really the only way you can interact with other characters; they take up most of your time too. Oh, the joys of getting people on boats!
    I’ll admit that it may be through rose coloured glasses, but I remember the original CK as being a bit better; relations being more often influenced by being friends or rivals, none of those barons/mayors/bishops to keep track of, armies going where you want them to without having to deal with naval logistics… even that one ultimately came down to warfare far, far too often, but I can remember that long-faced dynasty in Silesia that kept harassing me for generations better than all the easily stripped subjects in CK II.
    There are building bricks for a great game in Crusader Kings II, but it’s buried in so many layers of unfun that it’s almost a torture to play through. I got the idea that the developers read too many history books and not enough contemporary chronicles.

  30. Bonedwarf says:

    My favourite run so far was ruling the north west tip of Africa when “Sword of Islam” came out.

    Details are fuzzy as this was a few months ago, but my ruler started out 72 years old. No heirs.

    Impregnated his wife when he was 74. And 75. And 76. Then had a tumble with courtier and had another kid. As polygamy was allowed he married her too.

    Anyway, he died aged 86, having fathered seven children in his final 10 years.

    I didn’t continue the game once he died. I was far too attached to the magnificent bastard and it broke my heart that he died.

  31. DonJefe says:

    CK2 is CLEARLY the game of the year for me. Best strategy game in years.

  32. Odiorne Point says:

    Okay, I’m gonna bite the bullet and buy this for $10, even though the demo didn’t hook me. The RPS hive mind can’t be wrong, and I generally enjoy strategy games. I just had no idea what to do or what to concentrate on. Maybe this is a function of the demo, too, just tossing you in with no context or ownership.

    Sooo… can anyone recommend specific resources out there for new players? I have two weeks before I begin a new job to sink my teeth into this. I know I can just youtube a tutorial, but I’m wondering if there are any specific resources that players like me have had success with.

    • nindustrial says:

      One of the best ways to learn, in my opinion, is (1) in-game tutorial; then (2) low-level duke game where you admit you are going to fail horribly. You learn as you go, BUT, use these resources to investigate questions that you have as they pop up:

      Paradox’s Forums; ESPECIALLY the “Quick Answers” thread: link to

      link to

      Search the forum itself, or even that thread. Then, try posting in that thread; people are pretty quick to answer and very friendly / helpful.

      Also of help, are these two wikis (they have a lot of material that overlaps, but not always, so search both):

      link to

      link to

      A lot of that material is culled from the forums, which should just reinforce the value of the forums as a resource. Youtube can also be helpful, but it’s never been my thing.

  33. rapier17 says:

    One of the best strategy games I’ve played (and I’ve played a few in my time) and each time I load it up I can’t help but think how amazing it could be to have the CK2 map combined with the battle aspect of the Total War games.

    I think the game shines most of all in multiplayer when you and (possibly soon to be ex-) friends plot, connive, backstab, assist, ignore, obstruct, wage war with & against each other and generally be scheming gits, that the game is at its most colourful, especially when you start marrying your family members into each others households.

    Shame the multiplayer is a bloody hassle to get under way a lot of the time; making sure everyone has updated mods, same checksum, getting everyone on to the game – the greatest chore – and ready to play often with the help of LAN software like Tuungle. Haven’t played together in a while so maybe they’ve added connecting through Steam?..

  34. Bonedwarf says:

    My big problem with the game is it refuses to work on my Macbook. On the Mac side the graphics are corrupted. Running XP on Bootcamp there’s flashing borders everywhere that make it unplayable. Can’t upgrade anything to fix it. What baffles me is it’s the same engine as HOI3 which works just fine.

  35. Brise Bonbons says:

    CK2 has easily been the single biggest revelation of my gaming history. It blends RPG and strategy in a way that effortlessly weaves intimate personal story threads with the grandest world-shaking events. What it lacks in dialog it makes up for with evocative simulation and massive variety in the areas of human experience it touches – from empire spanning war to petty sibling rivalries; from modeling complex social customs to the simplest parties and favors for old friends. And none of these actions feel like set dressing or fluff – they are all grounded in the game logic, in the world’s rules, and their effects ripple throughout your character’s narrative.

    Granted, like most strategy games a lot of the details of your characters are implied or embellished by the player. But I think that’s the sign of a mature and sophisticated work, in this case. It is perhaps less an interactive novel (as we might think of a classic CRPG) than an interactive portrait of a family in verse, carefully hinting at details and leaving the player’s imagination to meet it halfway.

    CK2 is one of those rare games which blends story and subject matter with game logic in near perfect harmony, pointing the way towards a mode of interactive narrative that is only possible in simulation-heavy games. While there are certainly important stories to be told through more linear, cinematic narratives (such as in Lone Survivor,Hotline Miami, or Dishonored), for me CK2 is one of the very best examples of a truly non-linear, player-driven, emergent narrative experience.

    I can think of few titles which have done more to inspire me with dreams of what games have the potential to become in 10 or 20 years. And in all my effusive praise I haven’t even touched on the fact that it is an elegantly and skillfully designed effort, well tested and polished at launch, and supported with creative and generous DLC which actually adds to the depth and breadth of the world.

    I could go on like this for a long time, but I’ll stop rambling and just say this is one of those special games that makes me excited to be involved with this medium. Kudos to Paradox for their accomplishment.

  36. Carra says:

    Easily my game of the year. I’ve spent over two hundred hours with Paradox games this year. No other games get even close.

  37. makute says:

    Oops. I missed that one. It sucks to be me right now.