Crusader Kings II AAR: Part 1

Time to start another AAR, this time for Crusader Kings II. CK2 is what I’d consider the last truly good Paradox grand strategy game, so it’s good to get back into it. My post about streaming/vod was inspired by this game, specifically Jon’s Many a True Nerd series of CK2 playthroughs. I guess that’s the point of these things – get people interested in playing them.

But I didn’t want to play vanilla. I wanted all the good stuff. So, that meant getting DLC, but the DLC is so expensive for what it is. Fortunately (or not, if you’re my wallet), they went on sale this week. I think it’s worth going over what I got; or rather, what I didn’t get.

Basically I got all the actual expansions, besides the three above (also got the collection of unit packs). “Sunset Invasion” is just a mid/end-game event series where the Aztecs invade Europe for no reason. I don’t like those sort of things, so didn’t get it. “The Reaper’s Due” adds plagues, court physicians, and hospitals…and not much else. It’s essentially just a difficulty boost – most of the mechanics are actively against you, and the ones that aren’t are just there to mitigate those hostile mechanics. I don’t have time for that sort of nonsense, that’s just not fun.

“Conclave” was the hardest for me to leave out. It adds another layer of depth to the council and law voting systems, as well as revamping the child education system. Basically it combines the council with the law voting system, and adds the fact that high vassals will want to be on your council (meaning you can’t just invite the people in the world with the best stats to your council, you have to use what you have available). This at least is not there purely to antagonize the player, as it also adds a favor system, to get people to vote with you; but you have to manage “personalities,” not just bribe people to be more favorable to you. But the thing that made me not get the dlc in the end was the education system: while it adds the ability for children to be less directly influenced by the traits and stats of their tutors, it also adds more rng to that system. That’s just annoying.

For this playthrough I want to try something a bit different from what I’m used to. We’re going to start with a count, in NE Europe, earliest start. That means starting as pagan. I actually wanted to start in Ireland, but they are Catholic, and I’ve already done a Tutorial Island start anyways. Catholic is just so boring. Pagan, and tribal to boot, have some interesting advantages and disadvantages – having unlanded sons is a big hit to your prestige, but you also have a very low vassal limit (because tribes are independent and stuff). As a pagan, you can have three concubines (well, as a male anyways), so that should hopefully help expand the dynasty, and you don’t have to deal with all that Vatican nonsense.

I know I said that we’re going to start as a count (with two counties because why not), but that says “chief”. They’re basically the same thing: count = chief, duke = high chief. What comes next depends on your culture group; where I’m at it’s king (spoilers!), but some other places it’s despot, or something else. So, we’re just going to go with this Chief Alvydas, a Prussian fellow of the Romuva religion, and a vassal of the High Chief of Pruthenia. The counties are Galindia (the capital) and Chelmno, which roughly correspond to modern Mrągowo and Olsztyn respectively.

We see here that this…handsome…fellow comes with a wife and two underage children. He’s 36, which basically means he can drop dead at any time, though it’s less likely than when he’s older. His stats aren’t spectacular, but (besides martial, which is kinda bad news) he’s not too bad either; I think 7 is considered “acceptable” in this game, and being above that in three areas isn’t too shabby at all. He has no parents of note, which makes him lowborn himself, but becoming chief gives him a dynasty. Two war axes for his coat of arms, very nice. But that means this is all there is to the dynasty. The kids are 13 and 12, I believe, which means they’ll probably survive, but this is still a hazardous situation. The wife is in her 30’s as well, which is not a good sign of fertility. So, off to Family focus it is then, since that gives a big boost to fertility, to hopefully get with the baby-makin. I also gave him a Get a Friend ambition, since there was no way I was getting any of the rest.

Now, let’s take a look at the children:

Oh no. Chaste is never a good thing. Especially for the son and heir. Well, presumptive son and heir: this culture has an Elective Elder system, where the various Elders in the court get to vote for the heir. I can live with that: don’t have all the problems of gavelkind, as one person gets all the titles, and you aren’t necessarily going to get stuck with a bad heir, as it seems the elector ai is pretty good about choosing acceptable candidates, for the most part (without the favor system from the Conclave DLC, there’s a lot less skulduggery involved in potentially getting a crappy ruler). But yah, that Chaste is a problem when the dynasty is only three people.

Daughter doesn’t look as bad. She’s only 12 though, still young enough to pick up some more negative traits. Got her matrilinally betrothed to some horse kid from out east, I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Now that we’ve got the children and council sorted, time to get some concubines! While Child of Concubine is a slight malus, it doesn’t really matter much in the scheme of things, and they’re perfectly legitimate parts of the dynasty. And, since mothers don’t influence children that have tutors, their culture and religion doesn’t matter either, so we can just invite young women from all over the place; as long as they’ll come to court, you can do what you want with them. But why search out girls when you have them right here? Apparently the Spymaster is a 16 year old girl, who is single. Eh, why not? Without the Conclave DLC, courtiers will just walk up and demand a position if their stats are even one better than the person who currently holds it, even if they just became an adult. But this girl is 16, which means she has a lot of childbearing years left. (Also, it took me a while to notice she’s not actually present in my court; as she’s out doing her spying job, she can’t do her concubine thing.)

One of the bad things about starting as a primitive tribal is that you essentially start out with nothing as far as your towns go. But on the plus side, you don’t need gold to build most things: you can use prestige or piety to do most improvements. Of course, being a primitive, and a count, starting with nothing means you don’t build up resources very fast. After building that market town, the tax rate for that province went from 1.8 to 3.6, but the monthly gain is .91? I don’t get how all that is calculated. But I’m slowly investing in the territories at any rate. But with this slow gain, I’m going to need to expand to achieve anything.

So, we’ll end with that. Nothing much has happened yet, but this is just the setup. Next time we’ll see how Chief Alvydas becomes not cripplingly poor.