What is Crusader Kings II?
Crusader Kings II is a grand strategy game set between 1066 and 1453; expansions to the game allow the timeline to start as early as 769. It is developed by Paradox Development Studio and published by Paradox Interactive. In Crusader Kings II, the player controls a series of rulers within a dynasty over a span of decades or centuries. Additionally, the game was designed to be extremely easy to mod. The community has created an immense number of mods for the game, some to tweak existing game play and some to create entirely new settings for the game beyond the scope of the medieval world presented in the game. The game is very highly regarded, with a 93% positive rating on Steam after over 10,000 reviews. The game is available for purchase in the Steam store
; be aware that it frequently goes on sale for 75% off, usually just prior to the launch of another DLC for the game.
Please be aware that this game includes rape, incest, kidnapping, torture, murder, mental illness, and the death of children. While virtually all subject matter is handled primarily through text, with graphical content at an absolute and non-specific minimum, these things are definitely very present throughout the game.
What is game play like?
On the surface, it’s very similar to a game like Civilization. Over the long term you build up your holdings, collect income, fight offensive and defensive wars, etc. Unlike Civilization, Crusader Kings II is built around people-management, rather than nation management. The game generates thousands of NPCs, and for many players it’s their interaction that makes the game unique and memorable. Each player plays as a specific ruler, and when their current ruler dies they continue to play as that ruler’s heir, so long as the heir is of their dynasty. The game is extremely deep, allowing for a huge amount of replay value; like Civilization, it's not uncommon to see players with hundreds or even thousands of hours of game play. The game allows the player to play as any one of thousands of historical figures like Saladin, Richard the Lionhearted, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, William the Bastard
Conqueror, Ragnar Lodbrok, Eleanor of Aquitaine, El Cid, and hundreds of others. Some players like to do things like try to restore the Karling dynasty to its former glory and to retake the French throne from the Capetian kings, or to take a small, humble, inconsequential house in Switzerland by the name of Habsburg and to see what they can achieve with it. And many, many players like to play a dynasty through the centuries, growing their power through strategic marriages and warfare alike.
What do you mean by unique and memorable?
Every game effectively creates a new story through emergent game play. There are thousands of NPCs active in the game world at all times, all with their own goals and ambitions. The player will take advantage of them to murder, plot, bribe, seduce, war, raid, arrest, murder, crusade, marry, execute, ransom, murder, create factions, raise armies, banish, cheat, lie, steal, duel, flatter, murder, appoint, manipulate, build, research, plan, rebel, betray and murder their way to victory. It’s a game where you can murder your king so that his lazy, stupid heir takes power so you can create a faction to put your great aunt in power so that when she dies you inherit the kingdom. It’s a game where you can seduce your sister so that you can ensure her participation in a plot to murder her husband because her husband had murdered your wife. It’s a game where you can grant your kind, humble, contented brother a kingdom, where he can grow proud and cruel and ambitious over the decades, where he can eventually rise up against your legitimate rule and try to claim your empire for his own, where you are maimed and he is killed on the same battlefield, leading to your premature death and your five year old daughter inheriting the empire shortly thereafter. Crusader Kings II is basically the best Game of Thrones simulator ever conceived.
Say, is there a Game of Thrones mod?
Damn right there is.
There’s also a Warhammer mod
. In fact, there are hundreds of mods for the game, expanding or replacing much of the original content.
Does it have achievements?
It does in Iron Man mode, and the Achievement List
gives an idea of the scope of the game. The achievements range from easy ones like The Marriage Game and Until Death Do Us Part (“Marry another character” and “Have your spouse assassinated” respectively) to quite challenging ones like The British Raj or Legacy of Rome (“Rule the Empire of Britannia as a Hindu, Buddhist or Jain character” and “Restore the Roman Empire” respectively).
There seems to be an awful lot of DLC for the game
Yes. Yes there is. Fortunately, none of it is mandatory. Much of the DLC is graphical packs that add culture-specific portraits and armies to the game. Paradox is using a development strategy wherein they’ve continued to develop new content for the game, now three years old, funded by the sale of DLC. Each DLC brings along with it a substantial patch that increases the functionality of the base game. If you don’t buy the DLC you get some of the new features, if you buy the DLC you get all of the new features. The DLC frequently goes on sale for 75% off; the recommendation that most players would likely make is to try the base game, and if you enjoy that to consider buying the DLC that interest you while it’s on sale.
What’s are the major DLC, and what do they do?
Each of the major DLC adds something to the game. Sword of Islam adds the ability to play Moslem rulers, who have slightly different rules and mechanics than the Christian rulers of the base game. Legacy of Rome adds content to the Byzantine Empire, and adds the ability to create standing armies. The Republic adds the ability to play as merchant republics, like Venice, who have substantially different rules and mechanics than feudal lords. The Old Gods allows for an 867 start date and for the player to play as a Pagan ruler (i.e., a Viking). Sons of Abraham adds role playing content for Christians and Moslems, and allows the player to play as a Jew. Rajas of India allows the player to play in India as a Buddhist, Jain, or Hindu monarch. Charlemagne pushes the timeline even further back, to 769, adds tribal rulers, and includes a substantial amount of role playing content for some historical figures at the time. Way of Life allows players greater control over their characters ambitions and hobbies, allowing players to focus their characters interests for practical and role playing reasons.
What DLC should I get?
Opinions on the subject vary, but currently the most important DLC is likely Charlemagne, Way of Life, and the Old Gods, allowing the player to play from the earliest possible start date, to increase their role playing options, and to play as a Viking. In addition to those three, Sons of Abraham adds a fair amount of role playing events to the game. The other DLC is certainly worthwhile, but those three or four just named are probably the best value and the most important. It's important to note that the Legacy of Rome DLC offers retinues, standing armies; retinues are relatively weak early in the game and potentially the best armies possible in the late game, but they've also been substantially nerfed in recent patches and are somewhat less important than in the past.
I want to play as a Crusader Queen, can I do that?
Yes! While medieval Europe was not the most egalitarian society in the history of the world by any means, women could and did rise to power. While women face restrictions in game that men do not (i.e., they cannot lead armies, serve on the council in most roles, etc), on the basis of their statistics and potential women are fully the equal of men in every way. The Paradox forums have a thread
listing some of the interesting women in history that are available to be played in game; among them are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret Yngling of Scotland, and Isabella of Jerusalem. There is a Catholic heresy in game called Catharism that removes most of the gender restrictions that women face in the game’s medieval society, allowing them to lead armies, serve in all council roles, and to inherit and be landed on the same grounds as men. Also, several mods for the game exist to allow for greater equality for women.
Is there anything else I should know?
While there are a large number of Lets Play and tutorials for the game, and while the game is the most newcomer friendly of Paradox’s grand strategy games, the game doesn’t so much have a learning curve as a learning wall. The game unapologetically provides the player with several dozen systems, threats and mechanics from the very start. It’s highly recommend that a new player start as the count of a single province in Ireland in 1066, ideally in Dublin. Ireland in 1066 has been dubbed the newbie island, as it’s a relatively safe place for players to learn the mechanics of the game. (Please note the use of the term “relatively safe.”)
Can I ask questions in this thread?
Yes! The lying, murdering, philandering, incestuous, plotting, treacherous, warlike folk of this thread are happy to help. Please don’t hesitate to ask anything. We’ve all been at the point where we just don’t understand why we can’t plot to kill a particular child or why our troops won’t load on a ship.
I’ve played this game for two hours, and I’ve already committed five different unspeakable acts in my quest for power. Does this make me a terrible person?
Yes. Yes, it does. You are in fact a horrible person now. But don’t feel bad about it, so is everyone else who plays Crusader Kings II. Don't worry, the feelings of guilt pass, but the satisfaction you get to feel from taking their titles never fades. Welcome to the thread!