The Neighs Have It: Crusader Kings II – The Horse Lords

Paradox are preparing to inject some of that “Khan-do” spirit into Crusader Kings II [official site]. The eighth major expansion for the grand strategy masterpiece was announced a couple of days ago. I didn’t report on it at the time because Paradox had dropped me in the middle of an altogether different war and I was somewhat distracted (full coverage of that on Monday).

The Horse Lords deserves my attention though. If the new nomadic and horde mustering mechanics are effective, it could be as impressive an addition as The Old Gods. Trailer and full details below.

As well as feeding my desire to live a nomadic life (the migratory post-Rome strategy of At The Gates is also tickling my fancy), The Horse Lords looks to improve trade considerations. While the timeframe of the game hasn’t expanded this time around, the map is pushing further into the Central Asian plains.

I’m still half-convinced that Crusader Kings II will eventually cover the whole globe and extend its tendrils into antiquity. It may have to gain sentience first, growing without the aid of human developers, but do not discount the possibility that Europa Universalis: Rome II is nested somewhere within the future of Crusader Kings’ past. Either that or the great migration to China has begun.

Nomadic rule: Distinct from the tribal governments already in game, nomads need lots of space and resist the trappings of settlement
Clan politics: Rule a clan within a nomadic tribe, split clans that get too large, fight for dominance, and proclaim feuds and blood oaths
Muster Hordes: Raise vast armies of horsemen and archers, mobilizing your entire population to ride forth and conquer
Silk Road: This rich trade network can bring great wealth to whomever controls the cities along the route – but it’s especially ripe for pillaging.
Larger Map: The Central Asian plains have been expanded
Tributaries: New diplomatic relationship for nomad states forces defeated enemies to keep the Khan’s coffers filled.
Forts: build temporary fortifications to hold a province under your sway for just long enough for you to finish the war.
Horse Lords is the eighth major expansion to Crusader Kings II and will be coming to major digital retailers very soon. In the meantime, prepare to meet the Great Khan on the field of battle; your stone walls won’t help you.

One level of Crusader Kings II campaigning is all about control of land, not just through war and conquering, but through dividing to control. The ability to mobilise and trot across the map changes the fundamental aims and tensions of the game. I haven’t been as excited about an expansion since the pagans arrived.


  1. varangian says:

    I usually end up fighting these guys so it’ll be interesting to try and be them. Though they’ll have to join the queue, I still haven’t played as rajah yet which I definitely should get round to.

    On a related note what’s happening with your AI only CK2 game that you trailed in April?

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      I had savegame issues (my own fault) but am back on track. Planning to publish a significant chunk soon rather than chopping it up over too long a period.

      • varangian says:

        Good show, look forward to seeing how your AI proxy gets on. And am preparing to be vexed if it does better than I would have done.

  2. Greg Wild says:

    Looking forward to this. It should make fighting against the hordes a little more interesting – if they have systems which dictate the ability of the ruling Khan to maintain control, then it should give you options for fighting against them a little beyond “Mustering 150k men and trying to defeat the hordes before then manage to doomstack you”.

  3. All is Well says:

    Jesus they just keep adding it on don’t they? I wonder how many more there’ll be before CKIII. I’m hoping for a Chinese one!

  4. Arathorn says:

    I wish they would offer the option to play on a smaller map. All those expansions and free additions to the base game are great, but if I don’t buy for example the Rajah expansion, there’s still a lot of simulation taking place without me ever interacting with it. I’d rather strain my laptop a little less.

    • Beanbee says:

      Your best plan is to use Steam to play an old version.

      You can select 1.111 in Steam by opening the properties of CK2 and going to the BETAS tab.

      You must remember to disable any DLC you may have that came along after old gods.

      This will take you back to the older map size/old russia.

      • v21v21v21 says:


        Thank you kind Sir, for elucidating us masses. So far I were keeping backup copies of the whole folder, starting since v.1.191. Had no //idea// it could be steamed. Even installed EUIV last week, bought months ago, for the sole purpose of backing up, as I had heard some upcoming version would //make changes//.

        Ooooo… I think i just lost some selfasteam.

        (note to the paranoid: no sarcasm whatsoever was included in the making of this comment. Also, is that guy following you?)

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      The upcoming patch (to be released alongside the expansion this post refers to) is apparently laden with all kinds of speed improvements along with a myriad of bug fixes. They’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to fix the code cruft all the previous expansions & patches have accumulated.

  5. riadsala says:

    The auto-save times on Ironman are also painfully long

    • Beanbee says:

      I’ve not had a problem with this (3-5s at most) with an SSD and last generation CPU.

  6. Aiven says:

    Khan-do spirit, well played sir ;)

  7. Maxheadroom says:

    I keep meaning to find the time to play this but failing. Picked it up in a Steam sale forever ago but at the rate they’re adding these ‘Major expansions’ I feel I’m being left behind. Are there any essnetial ones?

    • P.Funk says:

      Unlike with most games the expansions for CKII don’t block off access to the improved game to those who don’t ow the DLC. So major engine changes and game balance and whatever goes along with the vanilla, you just get to fight the new things rather than play as it.

      As a result the majority of the core gameplay is still just vanilla. I’d say most people would suggest you start CKII playing from a vanilla faction even if you had splurged and bought all the DLC.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I own all the DLC expansions for CKII & have 500+ hours played with about half a dozen different starting points.
      Of those only one has been non-Catholic (it was Byzantine, I played from the Alexiad bookmark) and none has been pre-1066 so I could have played almost every game I have so far without owning any expansions & experienced the same gameplay.
      I also have at least another half dozen similar games (as in post-1066 and Catholic or Orthodox religion) in mind before I even think about trying out Muslim or Indian religion dynasties.

      There is a list on the CKII Wiki of what features the expansions unlock for the player here.

  8. Erithtotl says:

    I haven’t played CK II since the early days. I almost feel overwhelmed at all the expansions at this point and its kept me from getting back into it. Plus I feel like if I did get back into it without all the expansions I’d be missing out. I realize this is largely irrational on my part. But if ever a game needed a season pass up front this would be it.

    • burn_heal says:

      There’s really no need to worry about having all the DLC. The idea of most of the expansions is to give you a new type of people to play with for a different play style, whether that be Muslims, Byzantines, Republicans, Pagans, Jews, Indians, or now Steppe Nomads.

      Since you can’t play as all of them at once, my advice would be to pick just one of those that interest you and just get that expansion. Or, if you are still happy with playing Catholics then just keep playing without. Remember that a lot of the content from the new expansions is incorporated as a patch into the base game. I would however recommend Way of Life, which is a cheaper DLC but adds more interesting things to do no matter who you are playing as.

    • P.Funk says:

      It totally is irrational because the core game is completely the same in the vanilla version. You simply wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the new features of all the new DLCs even if you owned them all without playing several different campaigns through. As such you could simply pick the one that looks most up your street and play its peculiar taste of basic CKII.

      I doubt very much that most casual CKII players haven’t done much more than played a lot of vanilla, then stopped or lapsed, played more again when a DLC came out, lapsed, got back into it with an new DLC… etc.

      Unless CKII is all you played for a month or more I doubt you’d notice the difference of having or not having all the DLC while having instead just one or two of the bigger ones.

  9. darkath says:

    The major expansion come together with a free patch that keeps the vanilla game essentially the same as the game with all the DLCs, but with a few features locked.

    For instance without DLCs, you’ll be still be able to play as a French duke in 1066 and enjoying an up to date game, but you won’t have the ability to start in 769 as a Norse viking or in 867 as a Raja in india.

  10. raiders says:

    Forgive my petulance, friends, but that trailer sucked. They have done sooooo much better in the past. I mean, the very first trailer for CK2 was enough to make me buy the game eventhough I had absolutely NO CLUE on how to play it. This trailer… NEXT!

  11. Great Cthulhu says:

    I’d love it if CK2 would go all the way back to Roman times, but I can’t imagine Paradox ever going back to a period in time in which Muhammed is alive (or hasn’t yet ascended to heaven, if that’s what you believe). That’s just asking for trouble.

  12. M4rtyr says:

    Wow they just don’t stop witht he over priced DLC do they… the game has such a low production value and if you bought it and all the DLC separate you’re probably well over $100.

    It’s a mildly entertaining game, aside from bugs and the most dumbed down combat system ever, but yeah they are just milking the hamster wheel at this point.

    • fauxC says:

      Sorry but this is an astonishingly ignorant comment.

      • M4rtyr says:

        How so? Where is the production value that deems it should cost more then $20 for the base and $2-3 per DLC. There are plenty of Indies far more intricate that don’t even cost that.

        How is the combat not so insanely simplified? There are -minor- modifiers but it 99% of the time comes down to the bigger stack… Except for when it completely breaks down and a battle with no modifiers has one side doing 5x the damage in the skirmish phase when they have almost no troops that take part during said phase.

        Paradox are just masters of milking things. It’s a shame because the base is a good game, just stop making freaking DLC’s and make 3 with some real updates instead of more playable cultures.

        • Beanbee says:

          There are certainly 10,000 with more tactical nuances than Crusader Kings, including ones made in the 80s if not 70s.

          However, even if I combined every single more tactical game combined into a single playtime, I will have still spent more hours with Crusader Kings II.

          Make of that what you will, I’m currently running at somewhere around 5p per hour of entertainment, including the (ouch) cost of the DLC I own.

  13. v21v21v21 says:

    Interesting to see Paradox move away from the multi-person storyline and focus on just one hero, Hu.

    I was a surprised, but it clearly says so in the trailer.

    Then again, who am I to know.


  14. v21v21v21 says:


    “We are the people of the step; sweeping across […] so our children grow strong”

    Are those Swedes doing it on purpose? An expansion about cleaning ladies?

    Or, mayhaps, is this some buddhist monk saga, sweep harder Daniel-san, wax on wax off?

    Then again, Hu //is// a Han name, so there might be a connection.

  15. Arglebargle says:

    While this plays heavily into my interest in the waves of steppe nomad movement, it’s also a font of trepidation….

    I pretty much only play mods nowadays, and usually the ones far from recorded history. (Lux Invicta, Game of Thrones Mod, Elder Scrolls mod, etc). Every new major change ends up requiring a ton of work for the volunteer mod designers, on top of managing to break both old and new things as part of the package. Paradox’s penchant for reordering their lists and nomenclature is legend.

    • eggy toast says:

      I think they keep all the past versions as betas on Steam, so you should be able to play the game as it was before Rajas existed, and not have India on your map at all.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      If you play those mods then you shouldn’t be complaining as new functionality in the base game allows them to add more functionality to the mod e.g. Horse Lords sound a hell of a lot like a bunch of chaps who call themselves the Dothraki in a certain A Song of Fire and Ice themed mod does it not?

    • Arglebargle says:

      My experience is that the mods usually do it first, and then the idea gets picked up by the paradox team (and redone with the serial numbers filed off). At least one top modder ended up getting a job with Paradox.

      I essentially copy off the game folder to a different place and finish up games that I am in the middle of when a new a new patch or addition deploys. Of course, this causes my Steam records of play to be grossly undervalued. For record keepers who might care.