Crusader Kings

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Crusader Kings is a historical grand Turn-Based Strategy / Real Time Strategy 4X game produced and published by Paradox Interactive. It's set chronologically before its sister series, Europa Universalis, and uses a variant of the Europa Universalis II engine.

The game was originally developed by Snowball, who abandoned it in a very unfinished state, forcing Paradox to do some last-minute fixes before release, this makes the game exceedingly buggy and all but unplayable in its post-release state. Some furious activity both by the community (via modding) and Paradox Interactive itself (via both patching and the Deus Vult expansion) has rendered the game significantly more stable and fixed many of the gameplay mechanics.

The gameplay itself is somewhat original in concept: Rather than playing a particular nation you play as a dynasty (with direct control being vested in the head of said dynasty) in medieval Europe starting in 1066 and ending in the early 1400's. While you can raise armies, form alliances and so forth the most important aspect of the game is management of your family and estates: The amount of land you can directly control is limited by certain factors, and thus you have to parcel out land to your vassals. These vassals have their own personality traits and ideas (some of them which makes them butt heads with you... Or each other) The focus on individual characters and the dynamics within your dynasty gives the game a quality that is almost The Sims-like. It's also notable for being one of the first Paradox Interactive games to rely on Random Events with complicated triggers rather than chains of Scripted Events to drive the game, which would go on to become the staple of the company's later games.

A sequel, Crusader Kings II, was released on February 14th 2012, and a demo has also been released. An expansion pack, Sword of Islam, has been announced for June 2012, which in addition to expanding the map and introducing new mechanics will feature (intentionally) playable Muslims, with different rules to reflect their different culture.

Amongst other gameplay changes, the sequel introduces character ambitions, an expanded plotting and intrigue mechanic, a revamp of the holy order and mercenary system and the sub-division of provinces into baronies, bishoprics and cities, all ruled by vassals.

Tropes used in Crusader Kings include:
  • Altum Videtur: The decision seal reads Audaces Fortuna Juvat, or in English Fortune Favors the Bold. Which makes sense, especially with regards to declarations of war.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Especially if the heir of the realm is under 16; Larger realms will feel the pressure especially for younger leaders, as they have low stats (which do grow as the ruler gets older).
    • Furthermore, being subject to an underage ruler is cause for yet another loyalty hit for one's vassals.
    • Not as bad in the sequel, where underage or otherwise incapable-to-rule leaders will be appointed a regent to rule in their stead.
  • Aerith and Bob: A character's given name is determined by their culture, not that of their parents. A character usually inherits his father's culture, but has a small chance of either inheriting his mother's or identifying with that of the home province of the capital. This can lead to such oddities as a Christian crusader kingdom being led by a Catholic "King Muhammad."
    • The sequel lets the player choose a the name of his character newborn children, so one can either avoid this trope or intentionally cause it.
    • In the sequel, there's (in addition to all the other ones) a chance for the child to be named for a parent or grandparent... Which means that if you give a character a silly name, chances are it will spread.
  • Anachronism Stew: Mostly averted except for when game mechanics require the use of anachronistic terms. The most obvious example is the cultures mechanic, which, for example, differentiates between "Castillian" and "Portuguese" cultures. Such distinctions were not so obvious during the game's timeframe (even after the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal as a separate entity from Spanish Castille and Leon) and cultural-linguistic similarities between the two cultures exist in Galicia until this very day.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The title history for unstable kingdoms can come off as this, with the title going from legitimate king to powerful duke to pretender and back again over the course of a few years.
  • Arranged Marriage: A HUGE part of the game is marrying off your children to the right people. (and possibly arranging a few deaths on the way) so that your heirs can inherit. A variety of systems of inheritance makes this a bit more complicated than it might seem.
  • Authority in Name Only: The sequel introduces the concept of "Crown Authority" which measures how much power a king holds over the nobility - A king with little or no crown authority can't even revoke vassal titles or prevent nobles from waging independent wars.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Some inheritance rules favor the son with the highest martial score rather then the eldest.
  • Axe Crazy (potentially): Beware keeping "Schizophrenic" or "Crazed" characters in your court for very long...
  • Badass Grandpa: Any king who lives long enough is likely to become one of these because of how the aging mechanics work.
  • Badass Moustache / Badass Beard: Depending on culture and traits, these can be grown by male characters. Whether or not the character lives up to their hair's reputation is another thing entirely...
  • Bastard Bastard: There's a sequence of events by which a bastard son of your ruler might try to take his revenge for not being part of the inheritance. This stands a good chance of killing or at least maiming the victim.
  • The Beard: An event chain in the sequel deals with rumors about your character being a closet homosexual. You can then choose to embrace them and become a homosexual, or prove them wrong by visiting several brothels and becoming a "whoremaster".
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Crusader Kings II has an event chain that starts with a neighbor complaining, potentially followed by you sending roses, potentially followed by...
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Due to the nature of the gameplay, you'll almost certainly end up like this.
    • The plot mechanic introduced in the sequel means everyone is plotting against everyone. that includes heirs, wives and brothers-in-law all attempting to stab you in the back simultaneously. If you're not the plotting type, your poor king can sometimes come across as the Only Sane Man in a cast of psychopaths.
  • Bill, Bill, Junk, Bill: Played with in the "Sloth" live action trailer for Crusader Kings II.
  • Black Comedy: Event and trait descriptions can be pretty tongue in cheek. Even without those, though, the sheer amount of backstabbing and craziness that your Big Screwed-Up Family will go through Crosses the Line Twice. In fact, quite a few After Action Reports use this as a staple of their humor.
  • Black Dude Dies First: The Kingdom of Nubia is playable in the first game, an Orthodox one-province kingdom on the borders of the Fatimid Caliphate. It is incredibly doomed. The sequel extends the map farther south and adds the Duchy of Axum and Kingdom of Abyssinia, which are only slightly less doomed.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: The "You have fallen in love with X character" event does not check if said character is a family member...
  • Cain and Abel: Really, it's more a question of which brothers won't try to kill you for the inheritance.
  • The Caligula: It's perfectly possible to have one of these leading your dynasty, sometimes at your discretion and sometimes... not.
  • Civil War: Get used to this happening.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: In Crusader Kings, characters with the "Rebellious" trait. Possibly the player as well, whether it's to advance your power or just because this game provides fertile ground for such behavior. In Crusader Kings II, vassals with the "Ambitious" trait have distinct tendencies this way.
  • Church Militant: Crusader Kings has the crusading orders appear as states after Catholics take control of provinces in their particular areas of concern (they demand a province from whoever gets there first). Crusader Kings II has them appear as (effectively) mercenaries, whom you hire with Piety instead of Gold.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Crusader Kings II uses different hues of the same color to indicate similarity in its various map modes. On the political map mode, the Iberian Christian kingdoms for example share similar shades of yellow and red, while their Muslim neighbors are green. Similarity, in De Jure Duchies mode all English, French and German duchies are colored in different shades of red, blue and white, respectively.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Oh so much. Computer factions never go into debt, so they're able to keep their armies fully mobilised at all times, and are always able to pay the transport fee over bodies of water, leading to interesting things like the Sultanate of Oslo and the Emirate of Wessex.
    • Crusader Kings II alleviates this somewhat; the computer can end up in debt, and it's easier for the player to avoid.
  • Corrupt Church: Potentially.
  • The Crusades: Well, yeah.
  • Dark Horse Victory: There's an achievement for conquering England as Svend II of Denmark, a somewhat more obscure monarch who also had a claim on the throne, rather than William of Normandy or Harald of Norway.
  • Dark Messiah: Schizophrenic characters can become convinced that they're Christ Returned, which leads to them getting labeled as heretics. Heretics tend to eventually get excommunicated one way or another; if they happen to be rulers, this allows other rulers to claim their titles much easier. This (and the inevitable loyalty hit the vassals get) often develops into an ever-worsening cycle of civil war, violence and general mayhem that only ends with the death of the Messiah-King (sometimes...).
  • Deadly Decadent Court: There are events for your courtiers, many of which tend to consist of them bickering about how one of them is more suited for some post than the current holder. You will also likely get complaints from untitled offspring and offers from your Spymaster to "remove" inconvenient bastards. And finally, there's the one courtier who inevitably goes off the deep end and starts either trying to rebuild the Tower of Babel or murdering the rest of your court.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: You can beat someone around, disable them permanently, kill off their family, and invade their country, yet they tend to agree to your offers to join your army after being defeated. Flipping vassals is one of the principle means of destroying a rival kingdom.
    • Crusader Kings II kills "vassal flipping" stone dead; you can't seize a vassal's territory by force without defeating their liege.
  • Delivery Stork: Used as a short-hand to indicate that a particular character is pregnant.
  • Demonic Possession: Characters in the sequel can become demoniacally possessed, which isn't a very good thing if they happen to be in charge. Of course, it's most likely some form of mental illness that medieval science doesn't recognize yet.
  • Disability Superpower: While carrying hefty martial and lesser stewardship and health penalties, blind characters get a bonus to their diplomacy and intrigue.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Did the next count over look at you funny during the last banquet? Claim his titles, go to war, and strip him of everything he owns!
  • Downloadable Content: Crusader Kings II has two day-one-DLCs: A Mongol portrait pack and a dynastic coats-of-arms pack, with more likely coming in the near future. Paradox claimed these packs to be cosmetic changes that were outside the original development plan (thus paying for them helps paradox recuperate the costs of hiring the artists). This hasn't stopped some fans from accusing Paradox of money-grubbing.
    • As of patch 1.05, due to be released on April 2012, Paradox promises they will release additional content periodically for free via patches, while DLC packs will be limited to "bonus" content like the upcoming Ruler Designer DLC which would let players create their own characters, coats of arms, etc.
  • Driven to Madness: As with "Driven To Suicide" below, stressed characters have a chance of thoroughly cracking, becoming either Schizophrenic or just plain Mad. Sometimes this is funny, sometimes it's tragic. And yes, it can happen to your ruler.
  • Driven to Suicide: Pushing your kids too hard can make them stress. Stress often worsens into depression. Depression often leads to suicide.
    • Note that there are situations where you might want your kids to die.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Several of Europe's later historical dynasties are present in the 1066 start, but are unimportant to the point of irrelevance. For example the Hapsburgs start out as Counts of a backwater Swiss province. Recreating their rise to power is...difficult.
    • The addition of baronies and several preset courtiers in the sequel introduces even more famous families: the Romanovs begin as High Chiefs of the Samoyeds, the Hohenzollerns begin as the barons of Zollern and the Trastamaras (one of the royal families of Spain before the Habsburgs inherited the lot) begin as lowly courtiers in Galicia. Heck, even the Pushkins appear with a child courtier in Rostov.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted - Armies are EXPENSIVE, and you're strongly advised not to keep them mobilised when you're not at war. Large armies can also suffer attritional losses which can make entire stacks disappear if you don't manage them well.
    • Played straight by the Mongols, who never take attrition damage. This is a big part of why they're considered Demonic Spiders.
    • Crusader Kings II adds an opinion penalty for having vassal levies raised too long.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Combined with Never Live It Down - a character with the Kinslayer trait will never be liked by anybody else ever.
  • Evil Chancellor: A definite possibility, especially in the sequel, where they can easily be plotting to kill you and steal your title. If it's the Spymaster, who's responsible for finding out such plots, God help you.
  • Evil Laugh: When a character goes insane, the confirm button on the pop-up reads "Muahahaha!"
  • The Evil Prince: Almost certainly the player. It's that kind of game, really.
    • This tends to happen a lot more ofter in the sequel - if your ruler gives his heir a title, the heir will occasionally attempt to quicken his ascension. If a ruler has two sons and only one can inherit, expect a lot of murders to happen as both princes try to out-evil each other.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Some historical kingdoms (Portugal, Finland, Ireland and Rus, for example) start the game fragmented into several independent duchies and counties or occupied by foreigners. Liberating enough provinces lets a character found their own kingdom.
  • Gambit Pileup: Crusader Kings II introduced the ability for characters to form secret conspiracies to achieve some goal or another, called "Plots." It's pretty much inevitable that at least two are going to crash into each other sooner or later.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: Now that Crusader Kings II allows the existence of queens, this naturally follows.
  • The Good King: Taking actions that generally give piety, being fair and just, etc.
  • Good Shepherd: Depending on appointment policies, your bishops can be this. Otherwise...
  • Game Breaking Bug: There's a bug that makes a siege reset upon the siege progression meter emptying, and it does this every time the siege "ends" meaning that you have to make your army physically leave the province and come back again, possibly killing off thousands of soldiers through attrition. If this happens your best bet is frankly to reload.
  • Game Mod: Almost a given, it's a Paradox Interactive title. Range from simple balance tweaks to total game conversions, such as the Post-apocalyptic United States scenario, a Galactic Feudalism Mod, and a Game of Thrones scenario. Oh, and the Touhou mod.
  • Heir Club for Men: Enforced in the original, but Crusader Kings II allows you to loosen the restriction a little and even (if your characters belong to the Basque culture) adopt full gender equality in the succession. Also, the addition of matrilineal marriages means that a woman can inherit a title and pass it on to her children which count as a part of her own dynasty rather then the father's.
  • Heroic Bastard: If a bastard son receives his own fiefdom and doesn't end up trying to kill his father, he may sometimes end up being legitimized on the strength of his rule.
    • Crusader Kings II allows you to deliberately legitimize your bastards even if they aren't particularly noteworthy.
  • Hell Gate: One chain of events in the sequel has an actual Gate to Hell open as a result of an earthquake, complete with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Fortunately, it's not too hard to close.
  • The Heretic: Can crop up sometimes in the first game. The second vastly expands on it, allowing you to convert all of Europe to Catharism if you're up to the task.
  • The High Queen: Now that Crusader Kings II has queens, this naturally follows.
  • Hilarity Ensues: The vast majority of event options that aren't either practical or malicious tend to be this. Sometimes the game comes up with rather hilarious juxtapositions of the former, too (such as the "Ruler Commits an Act of Cruelty" event triggering at the same time that one of your provinces discovers a new weapon... or goats).
  • Historical Domain Character: Many, obviously. In addition to the actual playable characters, random events include others such as Thomas the Rhymer and Robin Hood.
  • Hopeless War: This is what Harold Godwinsons defence of England is set up to look like during the conquest. He faces not only the larger army of William the Conqueror, but also Harald "Hardruler" of Norway. Luckily, Harold has some very loyal vassals and a superb-rated spymaster.
    • In Crusader Kings II, the sanest way to keep the throne as Harold Godwinson is to assassinate William the Bastard, since his claim on the English throne dies with him.
  • The Horde: The Mongols.
  • Hot Consort: Your spouse can have the "attractive" trait. The actual appearance of the character can sometimes subvert this--they might appear to be very beautiful or handsome, but various traits they possess will make them repulsive to everyone.
  • Incest Is Relative: Only Brother-Sister Incest and Parental Incest are explicitly forbidden by the game mechanics, and then only for marriage; the falling in love event doesn't check to see if the lover is a family member. Also, only blood relations are forbidden; a stepson can marry his mother.
    • Though you can marry your grandchildren. Fun!
  • Informed Attractiveness/Hollywood Homely: The "Ugly" and "Attractive" character traits in CKII have no effect on the character's portrait, so these tropes can sometimes happen.
  • In the Blood: Characters will pass onto their offspring a tendency to have similar stats. This was strong enough in earlier versions that a form of Darwinian evolution could be observed, where since characters with higher stats were more likely to survive and to succeed as rulers and pass their traits on, everyone in the late game had insanely high stats.
  • It's Been Done: Bad luck could result in a province making a discovery, while the rest of the world has already moved on to better things.
  • Just Friends: Averted. The game assumes that any two characters of the opposite sex who are friends are actually lovers.
    • Crusader Kings II replaces friends and the loyalty meter with an asymmetric (you can like someone who hates the very soil on which you stand) relationship meter. Romantic love remains as a separate modifier applied to the relationship.
  • Knight Templar: Anyone with the "Zealous" trait. The real deal also makes an appearance.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Randomly generated, true, but there are tons of them. Thousands in fact.
  • The Magnificent: Characters in the sequel can gain monikers based on their traits and actions. These range from "The Great" and "The Holy" to "The Cruel" and "The Drunkard".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A number of events in both games are seen by the characters as explicitly supernatural or miraculous, but could have more plausible explanations.
  • The Middle Ages: Covers the both High and Late Middle Ages.
  • Moral Myopia: In order to attack a coreligionist, even if you're a king and he's a count, you need to have a claim on at least one of his titles. There's no such limitations for attacking heathens, though.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Every patch seems to alter gameplay in the direction paradox forum posters complain the most about. Such changes include having smaller peasant revolts, making it harder for counts to marry into ducal titles and nerfing the Byzantines.
  • Offing the Offspring: If your heir is a Sketchy Successor, or has failed to produce a son with the aging Duke of Norfolk's daughter and only child, or just isn't in line for all the nifty titles your second son by another wife is, this is always an option.
  • The Pope: The Papacy is not playable, but the Pope can be a major asset if he's your friend, or a deadly threat if an enemy. Of course, if he gets too uppity you can always claim his provinces and remove the problem.
    • The sequel lets the player create anti-popes and even replace the pope if they're prestigious enough - and under certain circumstances, people have managed to have their character become Pope.
  • Patronymic: A feature introduced in the sequel - characters from certain cultures (Scottish, Norse, etc.) gain their father's name after their own.
  • Puppet State: Very strong element. The player is able to create vassals by giving the aristocrats in his court titles. Assuming relations are good enough he can force these vassals to raise troops for him and even force to them to surrender their title and land (though this is very likely to result in rebellion instead.)
  • Put On An Ox Cart: Characters will sometimes retire or join a monastery; the game treats them for all purposes as though they'd died.
    • Crusader Kings II averts this; if the game says someone's dead, they are pushing up daisies.
  • Regent for Life: The sequel introduces regencies for underage rulers, and sometimes regents won't give up on their power so easily.
  • Risk-Style Map: It's a Paradox Interactive game.
  • The Rival: Via random events characters may acquire rivals, with appropriate relationship penalties depending on your political relationship to each other. If one of your vassals is a rival of you, always be prepared for them turning on you, whatever their other traits or their loyalty. (They also get a nasty -3 to loyalty per month, meaning even quite loyal vassals can start sliding towards rebelllion.)
  • Robin Hood: A secret event chain in the sequel deals with this famous brigand and you have a chance of playing the legend straight or trying to subvert it.
  • Royally Screwed-Up: This can happen, and when it does things get very interesting. And by interesting we mean civil wars and the attention of opportunistic neighbours.
  • Sanity Slippage: If a character stays Stressed for too long, watch out...
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Kind of a given since the game is a Wide Open Sandbox with no set victory conditions, but probably the most amusing one this troper has seen was to breed a harelip into the Habsburg dynasty.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: They have traits for all of them, as well as for the seven virtues.
    • Crusader Kings II explicitly flags the deadly sins and heavenly virtues with numbered icons in red and green respectively.
  • Shout-Out: if you select a plague-ridden province, a sound clip of a man saying "Bring out your dead" will play in the background eventually.
  • Shown Their Work: The amount of research put into history and genealogy in the sequel is incredible. One can find lists of Byzantine, Russian or German rulers dating back centuries to Constantine, Rurik and Charlemagne, including character traits and family relations. Even minor Irish counts can trace their family line all the way back to the fourth century, and the Papacy goes back to the third Pope, Anacletus, in AD 79!
  • Sketchy Successor: Another big threat. Having a poor leader who nonetheless can keep things stable isn't a big deal. Having a great king who was able to keep everyone in line, and then having him suddenly replaced by someone with a low diplomacy stat, can swiftly reduce a great empire to a series of warring duchies.
  • The Starscream: As mentioned below, disloyal vassals are a bigger threat than almost anything outside your kingdom. Also, if the player character is anything less than a king, chances are the player themselves will be this. Characters with the "Realm Duress" trait will have all their vassals turn into The Starscream. Hilarity inevitably ensues.
  • Succession Crisis: This and disloyal vassals are probably your greatest threats. Other kingdoms are a distant second, unless you're in the path of the Mongols...
    • Speaking of the Mongols, this is how they're kept in check. Mongols have all sorts of bonuses such as no demesne limit, no attrition, and the incredibly powerful horse archer unit, which allow them to rampage through Europe with impunity. The only thing stopping them is that when the Khan kicks the bucket, his enormous realm is divided among his male children (which tend to be a lot), who promptly start fighting amongst themselves, making them much more manageable. There's a much-hated random event that forces the player to institute a similar system of succession or take severe penalties. (And don't think you can cheat and immediately change it back; you can only change your succession laws every 25 years...)
    • The succession laws of each Kingdom you rule in the sequel are tracked separately, leading to much potential succession trouble if you don't make their laws similar. There's also the Elective, Gavelkind, and Open succession laws, which are just asking for future wars.
  • Stupid Evil: You can raise your children to be cruel, slothful, envious, wrothful, greedy sons-of-bitches, but your vassals will dislike such a ruler and several of the 'sinful' traits are rather bad stats-wise compared to their virtue counterparts. Also, there are several events where you can, for example, choose to torture some of your prisoners, but there's no actual benefit to that (Unless you want someone dead or maimed) except For the Evulz
  • Suddenly Sexuality: There is an event that causes characters to fall in love with members of the same sex, with the accompanying option to tolerate it or have the character banished.
    • In Crusader Kings II, even happily married 40-year-olds with children can discover strange urges when attending a tournament.
  • The Resenter: Bastards, tend to end up like this.
  • The Teutonic Knights: They make their first appearance in this game, crusading against the Baltic pagans.
  • Vestigial Empire: Say good bye to the Empire of Byzantium [1] (Unless it stops being vestigial.)
    • To a lesser extent, the Holy Roman Empire Kingdom of Germany as well.
    • Tends to be averted (for both Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire) in the sequel. A large part of this in the case of the HRE is the abolition of the Realm Duress mechanic (which used to result in the Kingdom of Germany routinely suffering complete implosion in the 1080s).
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Much, much more difficult than the alternative. Rebellious vassals mean that you are forced either to tyrannically crush dissidents or face part of your realm breaking away, and opportunistic states are a constant danger, meaning keeping the peace while maintaining order is on its own difficult. However, it is there. Keeping low taxes on your peasants and burghers, stubbornly sticking through thick and thin to popular law, gifting your vassals the money they need to develop their lands, (and even giving money to nobles outside your kingdom if you have provided all that your developing kingdom needs) caring and nurturing your offspring and ensuring they are provided for, and even vassalising a state which has been attacked by a larger one and paying for its preservation via tribute to the attacker... its possible to be nice. Its just not easy.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Pretty intensive. You start playing and then after a few hours of gameplay you realize you've been spending most of your time and effort assassinating six-year-olds so that your literally-idiot nephew can inherit the throne of Bavaria.
    • Among other things. This game is essentially to 4X games what Dwarf Fortress is to city management sims, both in complexity and cruelty potential.
  • Video Game Historical Revisionism: Inevitable, and as usual for Paradox the extent to which it applies is a topic of debate. One major deviation, however, falls under Acceptable Breaks From Reality since it would be something of a Game Breaker. When a Mongol Great Khan died, all other Mongol military activity was to cease and the leaders were obliged to return with their armies to Mongolia to see the "election" of the successor. Historically, this was the only thing saving Western Europe from annihilation when Ogedei Khan died in 1241. This rule does not apply to the Mongols in either Crusader Kings.
  • Villain Protagonist: We call them "successful rulers."
  • We Have Reserves: The AI for some reason thinks its funny to send soldiers that just spent a month marching and retreating back into battle, no matter how many times they have already been smacked down.
    • It does this because there is always a chance that if you are besieging a province, an attacking army will manage to interrupt the siege and set it right back to square one. If you're defending or have beaten off an invading AI opponent they will hang back and let mounting debt and attrition, the first of which they don't suffer from, weaken the player instead.
    • The Mongols in the sequel both subvert this trope and force the player to use it: Mongols do not suffer attrition, but can't reinforce their units. Therefore, the only way to beat them is to basically send every soldier you have against them until there aren't any Mongols left.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: Out of the four eras covered by Paradox (this game, Europa Universalis, Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun and Hearts of Iron) this game is the easiest game for conquering the entire map; with a decent start (England, say) you can do it in two generations. It is also the game where revolutions are the most dangerous; you can easily lose the entire thing as vassals rebel against you in vast quantities during a Succession Crisis or realm duress event. Even if you have claimed the entire map, holding it and trying to build a stable, united super-kingdom is a game in and of itself.
  • You All Look Familiar: Played straight in the first game, in that there are only so many individual portraits for each culture. The sequel moves it closer to Cast of Snowflakes due to a more random generation system, and the fact that portraits change in relation to traits (such as gaining scars or boils) or when characters are assigned jobs (marshals have helmets and armor, dukes wear golden tiaras, spymasters wear hoods, etc.) .
  1. and welcome the Byzantine Empire of Russia!