Crusader Kings II

So:  Right now I’m the King of Ireland and I have a problem. I’m in my late 50’s and death is stalking me. My son is set to inherit half of my kingdom, and another son will inherit my other title: King of Scotland. I didn’t plan it this way. Welcome to Crusader Kings II.

Gleaning the news every day for hilarious stories to write about simply got too depressing last week. So when Steam had a sale, I snagged it on the cheap. Paradox strategy games (Victoria, Europa Universalis, and Crusader Kings) are a breed unto themselves. They come with a steep learning curve and a barrel of frustrations, but once you adapt to the spirit of the game they play more like a puzzle game than anything else.

I started in Ireland. Crusader Kings II calls it Eire and players call it “newbie island.” The year is 867, and I’m the mediocre Chief of a small province with one asset to my name: an exploitable family.  By “exploitable family,” I mean: completely. If you can’t explain to your daughter that she is being shipped off to Aquitane so her nephew (my grandson) will benefit in 70 years, then you shouldn’t play this game. If the Prince she is marrying is a cruel, craven dwarf, she’ll just have to suck it up and do her dynastic duty. We need the alliance he provides now. I’ve want my dynasty to rule the known world before Columbus sets sail.

I tried to groom my successors for empire. But when my grandson came to power, at the ripe old age of 28, a pack of raiders appeared in his home territory. There were 143 of them, which might sound dangerous, but is actually equivalent to a duel with a level 1 rat. Since fighting helps improve a low martial score, I sent him to lead the army. He got wounded. A month later he got ill. A month after that he caught pneumonia and promptly died. Imagine your level 10 Knight fighting a single level 1 rat, getting bit, and dying a fortnight later from disease. Now you know my pain.

Having your king die doesn’t end your dynasty in Crusader Kings II. The game keeps track of your extended family. In my case I had an uncle far back in the family tree, from a branch long since abandoned by me. He has three sons. The middle son is both inbred and a stutterer. The first son isn’t terrible. I marry off the third son to a Queen in Mercia. England is next to be conquered: gotta plan ahead. I didn’t realize this meant that instead of the daughter joining my court (the way things have worked up until now) my son would leave. Stupid different cultures.

So I continue along my sanguinary and heartless way. Even though I hold the title “King of Scotland,” I haven’t exactly crushed all the Chiefs who won’t recognize me as the new landlord. Inbred Imbecile middle son wants a title to something early because he is set to inherit a few provinces once I die.

What can I possibly give him that he can’t screw up? Ah hah! I just captured a Bishopric. This is a church, they don’t pay taxes because if I give them a tax rate they’ll either pay me or the Pope, and they like the Pope more. Lots more. I’m not what you would call “saintly”. So I set their tax rate to zero, this way my Bishop Vassals will keep the money and build more stuff in their churches, which means more troops which I can call on in time of need. Which is often. So, here you go son, enjoy your property!

A miracle occurs. Apparently when a ‘toon becomes a priest they take vows of chastity and poverty. Score! A whole list of provinces I was going to lose control of will now be inherited by first son when I die. Except for the Kingdom of Scotland, which goes to third son, far, far away from my court and influence. Bummer.

My first instinct is to assassinate him. I’ve poisoned people, dropped people into manure pits, and once pushed a child off the parapet walls. Like I said, there’s a reason they all like the Pope better. It’s not like I, personally, did those things. I just provided the backing so that other people with good reason to hate my enemies will murder them for me. It is not risk-free: if you are suspected of being involved, there’s a reputation hit, which you can scarcely afford. Low rep is most likely why you’d be removing a person in the first place.

Except you can’t plot to murder your own heir in Crusader Kings II. The one unrealistic feature. In fact, since my son isn’t even in my own court I’m pretty limited on what I can do. Normally, if the landed spouse dies, the unlanded spouse returns to the court of their dynastic family. Sooo…

I guess my daughter-in-law will have to die. I set up the plan. To my surprise, my son, her husband, also wants her dead. Badly. He joins me and we almost have enough points to put the plan in motion.

At about this point I realize I’m a total bastard. And I’m good at it!

In the end, I gave the Kingdom of Scotland to my first son, losing control of it for a few years. Yes, he managed to screw it up in that short amount of time. When I died, he inherited the Kingdom of Ireland and a handful of provinces I’d managed to capture in England. Since he was already King of Scotland, my empire was more or less intact. Number three son got nothing. Them’s the breaks. He should have plotted to have his brother killed, like I would have.

Inbred monastic son eventually did manage to screw up his Bishopric. He got into mysticism and died at the tender age of thirty-six. Luckily, he didn’t die alone. Before he kicked the bucket he was possessed. Yes. As in “demonic.”

I love this game.

12 thoughts on “Crusader Kings II

  1. . . .

    So . . . not being able to murder your heir isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker (because I am going to go check this out while wondering why I’m always late to the Awesome), but why must we fight with one arm tied behind our backs?

    Honest question: is the no murdering of heirs completely verboten, or is it possible to arrange the murder of the daughter-in-law in such a way that the odds of her husband surviving are dramatically diminished? Indirectly speaking, of course. 😇

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    1. If you can murder inheritors you can control who you play next way too easily. Part of the “fun” is when your hand-groomed perfect designated heir dies when the pox hits. When an NPC is the target of a plot no other NPC gets hurt. Except for you, if you get caught – everyone in the game knows you are a murderer and it is a pretty severe penalty. If you kill your own family members, it is ‘kinkiller’ and I’m not sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound happy 🙂

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  2. Ah. That makes sense. Yeah, kinkiller would be one of those unhappy designations that would probably put you on the ‘Do Not Invite’ list for life. 😋 While inconvenient, I like that you have to be thinking in more of a 3-D abstract geometrical shape than in a straight line. Thanks for posting about this.

    *cough* I feel like I should insert a disclaimer here about only ever having killed or plotted the deaths of imaginary people who only exist as digital representations. 😇

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  3. Ah, Crusader Kings 2. Easily my favorite Paradox game. One of my favorite comedy moments was when for the sake of preserving a key alliance, I (King of Jerusalem) accidentally married my son and heir to his own aunt! Lucky all the grandkids were healthy and not inbred, lol.

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    1. I’m working on an update to this post, potentially entitled Crusader Kings II: Pagan Badness, because it turns out there are a whole host of ways pagans can have more 👿

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      1. Haha, yeah, starting with sexual rituals and ending with human sacrifice! Though playing a demon-possessed Christian can be a barrel of laughs too.

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          1. Well, playing a possessed character actually can be pretty normal – unless you go on Pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see what happens. That’s when things started getting nuts.

            My character (prince mayor of the Hansa) demanded that all the other pilgrims bow down and worship him on the temple mount as Christ returned! He was banished from Jerusalem of course and left swearing vengeance on all who denied him! When he returned home, demons started appearing in his dreams, first removing virtues, and then granting vices. He also was made a lunatic by one demon, so those events starting showing up to (e.g. “pass the Turnip Act,” “make your horse chancellor”). The last three visitations were a demon who turned him gay, then another who made him a Lollard heretic, and finally I got the modifier “Satan grants military advice” which is a freaking +20 to Martial! Yeah, that plus the free Holy War CB on all Catholics meant that I could easily thrash any HRE army whenever I wanted, so at that point began what future historians no doubt called “the Lollard Deluge:” As the Hansa, I began a non-stop program of holy war to purge out the Catholics, conquered all of the Low Countries, Lorraine, and Burgundy and established a heretical, demon-ruled republican dictatorship over all the land between France and Germany! Not even the Emperor + the Holy Orders could stop me with that martial score. He was my single longest-lived player character in that game (of course) so there was something like 25 years of fire and sword devastating Germany and Frisia.

            Somehow he died without any other family member becoming a Lollard, so with my next character I decided being the sole ruler of 6 wealthy duchies would make the last 75 years too easy, so the next prince mayor was overcome with remorse for his family’s misdeeds, forced all the Lollard vassals to return to Catholicism or be banished, and then granted the local counts independence and focused on the core trading areas (they all quickly swore to France or the HRE). The rest of that campaign I played on autopilot (it was almost 1400 IIRC) but Oh, the LULZ I had there. 😀

            For comedy gold, the closest I ever came to that was my Karling game (started 1066 as count of Vermandois) – provoking a civil war in France by first seducing the Duke of Champagne’s wife at the king’s feast, then publicly acknowledging her son as my bastard. THAT was a feud that lasted decades! Top kek.

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          2. Comedy gold indeed. I don’t think I’ve ever started a ruler with possession, and I almost always go on pilgrimage as the first thing. Unless I forget. I did get the lunatic events, get he just didn’t live long enough to see it through.

            Was he leading your army, or was the Martial score just for the super-levies? Every time, and I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME I put my ruler in the field Bad Things happen. I regularly appoint problematic family members and would-be inheritors to generalship, and surprisingly often the problem just goes away…

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  4. Yeah, combat is crazy dangerous for traits. Every long campaign seems to leave me with a realm full of Wroth Cravens, and that’s leaving aside the lifetime cripples… But this guy was such a wild card character I had no qualms about risking him, so he was permanently leading my army, and martial score affects morale, offence and defence. His flank regularly collapsed entire armies with 35+ martial score.

    ” I don’t think I’ve ever started a ruler with possession.” Normally it’s very rare, because normal gameplay allows grooming heirs, but in a merchant republic, you automatically take over the oldest male member of the house when your player character dies. No idea how long this clown was possessed before he became my PC.

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    1. I have not played as a republic yet. That explains it. Yeah, I always groom heirs unless my specialization is only one or two stars, then I find somebody decent to move them up to something with 3 or 4 stars and just figure on “probably not great”. The funny thing is, they are all playable. Especially when you keep a decent cash stash for an emergency 3 or 4 stacks of mercenaries…

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