YMMV / Crusader Kings

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: If you completely wipe out the Aztec Invasion in Sunset Invasion, then you will get a message stating that one day the nations of Europe will follow the Aztecs back to the Americas and repay them with interest. This implies that the upcoming decimation of the Aztec Civilizations in the Age of Discovery was a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The "Cadaver Synod" global event that pops up whenever a Pope with the "Wicked Priest" trait dies, in which his successor digs up his corpse and puts him on trial for his crimes posthumously, is sometimes assumed to be yet another of Paradox's tongue-in-cheek gags by new players — but the inspiration is entirely historical.
  • Anti-Climax: The Mongol and Aztec hordes sometimes adopt local religions such as Catholicism, which causes them to lose access to their Tribal Invasion casus belli and stops their invasion dead in its tracks.
  • Awesome Music: Plenty, but in particular:
  • Best Known for the Incest: The Zoroastrian religion. A unique religion of a fallen empire, with fire-worshiping priests and the ability to bring its priesthood Back from the Brink and become a prophesied Messiah? No, as far as the fandom's concerned, it's the religion with the incest.
    • And with Rajas of India, we have an entirely new continent, new cultures, new Indian events and a potential for the early establishment of Hindustan. What does the fandom care about? The new Messalian heresy, which has incest and the worship of Lucifer as a god figure. To wit.
    • And to complete the trifecta, the most loved addition of Way of Life is not the new Focus system, nor the addition of new events specifically for roleplayers, but the ability for any character to seduce their sister. This was even mentioned specifically as a feature on the DLC release trailer.
  • Broken Base:
    • Sunset Invasion, a not-entirely-serious DLC focused on an Alternate History where the Aztecs invade Europe. Some loathe the concept, some like the idea of western Europe having an equivalent of the Mongols, others appreciate it as a potential countermeasure against the Moors, and some are content to buy the DLC and just deactivate it for certain campaigns.
    • It also happens with the some of the more recent Portraits DLC. The artist changed, and a big part of the community thinks the art comes off in poorer quality than before. Some people (keeping up with the recent fad in the forums of making petitions for everything) are petitioning the mods to redo the facepacks. The issue often descends into a Flame War.
    • The current trend of DLC expansions has players divided on how Paradox is treating previously implemented content, and if favorites are being played. The Old Gods was one such example, as discussion of favoritism being given towards the Norse due to the far greater degree of content and lack of pre-patch balance, with other pagan religions showing a far thinner amount of content. Critics have also argued the lack of post-expansion attention to various mechanics, despite players demanding attention, such as the Decadence system that was implemented with the Sword of Islam expansion.
      • The Horse Lords Content Pack deserves special mention, as it lumps together content of different natures (unit looks, portraits and music), and the individual components are not sold separately. This raises the ire of buyers who resent having to buy the whole package when they really only want one or two individual components.
    • Rajas of India breaks the base even further. The patch containing free content disrupted multiplayer capabilities, while the expansion of the map to include India meant that lower end computers who could play the game previously now struggle to do so, and Paradox's attempt to compress portraits to free up memory resulted in bugged portraits. These problems persisted for over three months after ROI's release.
    • Charlemagne continues the base breaking tradition. Several features in the DLC itself didn't work as planned, while the patch containing free content introduced new bugs. In addition, the fanbase is divided over the inclusion of "Zunist" pagans. It's either a fun exploration of a fascinating pre-Islamic faith in Afghanistan, or overly obscure add-on that no-one asked for, ignoring fan interest in adding content to existing religions and heresies such as Hellenismnote  or Yazidism. The earlier start date has also proven controversial, with detractors saying that the feudal system as present in the game did not exist that far back.
    • Way of Life introduced focuses, some of which (especially seduction for the adultery and business for the "free money" event) are viewed by a very vocal group of players as gamebreakers.
    • The free patch that will be included with Conclave (the DLC that will follow Horse Lords) is already being described as either the death or rebirth of Crusader Kings II, and it hasn't even been given a full changelog yet!
      • Now that the free patch is released, issues with shattered retreat and coalitions had been raised, and Paradox has promised to look into them.
      • The most recent patch (2.5.2) seems to have fixed most of the problems with Coalitions.
    • A more subtle example is high quality player mods. Some players praised the developers of such mods for great improvements to the base game, and doing it essentially for free. Others think that Paradox has "gotten lazy" due to such mods, and are leaving bug fixes to such mod developers. To be fair, many modders have clearly indicated that there are some areas of the code which cannot be modified at the user's end, and thus require Paradox's attention to get things thrashed out. The counter point is that Paradox is opening up more parts of the code with each expansion.
  • Crack Is Cheaper: Though the base game's been out for a couple years by now, it's still listed on Steam at its original list price of ~$40. Since then, the series has steadily accumulated a mass of DLC expansions, none of which have yet been discounted themselves, so that to get the full functionality out of the game you'll have to spend well over $100... and that's before you get into the aesthetic unit and face packs. It's mitigated by the fact that the series goes on sale relatively frequently, but the price tag will only get worse as expansions continue to be developed.
    • Another mitigation is that many popular/high quality mods make use of assets from the expansion and/or portrait DLCs.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: One player discovered that he could farm money by finding rich landless men, matrilineally marrying them to his daughter, then excommunicating, imprisoning, and executing them. The forum collectively lol'd, and one guy even made a sweet fake tabloid cover of it.
    Kurblius: I used my daughter to entrap 6 old men, collecting over 6K. She is just 17 and she's been a widow 5 times.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • The Mongol Hordes. Huge numbers, with little or no attrition to speak of.
    • Also, the other scripted event that makes its first appearance on the east edge of the map, the Bubonic plague. Unlike the Mongols, there's no way to hide from or resist them. Even if you can avoid having your court (or worse, your family) being wiped out by it, it'll kill your economy and, with it, your ambitions stone dead.
  • Ending Fatigue: It's entirely possible for a player who knows what they're doing to achieve their goals — up to and including World Conquest — well before the game ends. The rest of the game then becomes about protecting what you've already gained from being conquered or breaking under its own weight, which is usually not quite as compelling as the initial goal.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • The d'Hauteville family, the Norman rulers of southern Italy and later the kingdom of Sicily before their country was inherited by the Hohenstaufens, are a very popular choice among players, apparently. Reasons for this include a very convenient geographic position in the middle of the Mediterranean, proximity to both several small and easily conquerable nations of various religions which make it easy to expand your territory and the Papacy which makes for an interesting diplomatic partner, the absence of a Muslim superpower that tries to curb-stomp you from the get-go, and a huge number of (mostly male) family members convenient for both political marriages and diminishing the risk of interfamilial rivalry. They have basically lots of exploitable options in every aspect and don't start overpowered enough to make your achievements seem ordinary. The fact that it is reasonably easy to trump their real-life achievements certainly helps.
    • Haesteinn of Nantes is a very popular start character because of his good starting stats and event troops and his unique position (a norse pagan in France, and ever since Charlemagne one of the only feudal pagans) that can take him almost anywhere on the map in a single generation. He's especially beloved by Achievement hunters.
    • Pick an Irish count, any Irish count. Everybody on the island begins with relatively equal strength, and nobody off the island has any claims to its territories, so the only real foreign danger is from Viking marauders. In earlier dates Ireland is also tribal (one of only two Christian tribal regions in the game, the other being Scotland at that date), allowing you to raid and to choose between feudalism and merchant republic.
  • Game Breaker:
    • North Korea mode, a popular strategy which circumvents a lot of the restrictions on ruler actions by adopting a reign of tyranny, stripping lands from vassals, forcibly passing laws they'd never agree to, and executing or banishing anyone who objects. In the short term, it's easy to replace the now-disloyal followers with more loyal ones, or at the very least, find a skilled spymaster and chancellor, find ways to make them loyal to you, and have them counter plots; your angry nobles will be plotting to kill you right off the bat, but as long as your spymaster is sufficiently skilled he can stop these plots dead in their tracks, and if you can identify the conspirators you can simply order them dead. Alternatively, wait and do this at the tail end of your ruler's lifespan; when he dies, none of the negative penalties are passed on to your heir (until the 2.5 patch, which added a temporary buff or debuff for vassal opinion giving the heir half the opinion the vassal had of his predecessor, though elective succession is exempt), and you now have a kingdom with vastly more favorable laws, all of the territory under your control, most of your hated enemies dead or banished, and your new ruler suffers none of the penalties associated with any of it. Some players even take this a step further and go tyrant their entire campaign, resulting in a brutally rich and powerful dynasty with massive armies, loads of taxes, and a long line of corpses behind them.
    • Note that an autocratic and hegemonial rule as described here is only a Rule of tyranny. North Korea mode refers to an Awesome, but Impractical ruling style that involves holding all counties in one's own territory by oneself, i.e. not having any vassals whatsoever who have the ability to rebel (and thus, no rebellions, factions, etc.) However, depending on demesne size the penalties incurred from doing so might be so large that it can completely negate the monthly income and prestige bonuses one gets from their holdings. A not quite as popular strategy called Guantanamo Mode is to keep all vassals who can rebel imprisoned at all time, the drawback here being that every attempt at imprisoning somebody will cost you 10 piety, and that failed imprisonment typically leads to rebellion.
    • Muslim merchant republics are exempt from the Decadence mechanic and patricians can designate heirs or rely on seniority, while polygamy means plenty of sons for extra trade posts (potentially magnified even further with the Seduction focus), and Islam's religious casus belli mean one need not rely on the underpowered CBs of merchant republics for expansion. For bonus points, play as Shi'a or Ibadi to get holy war CBs on most of the Muslim world in addition to infidels.
    • A relatively infamous one is the Horse Archer unit, a combat unit type mostly exclusive to Altaic and Turkic cultures. It is by far the most powerful unit in the Skirmish phase of combat in the game (which is the phase every single battle starts in) and does an obnoxious amount of damage. All elite knights in the world are of no use if they get massacred before they can even reach their enemy. Even worse, Altaic cultures also have what is generally considered to be the most dangerous culture-specific combat tactic in the game, Retreat and Ambush, which besides boosting the Horse Archers' damage output by 200% also immediately changes combat to the skirmish phase again. One reason why the Mongols are so bad is because their Doomstacks consist mostly of Horse Archers who are all led by excellent tacticians and will use that tactic to eradicate any resistance on the way.
    • As a Catholic, having a vassal Pope (which can be achieved by making an Antipope and pushing his claim on Rome, making him the official Pope). Putting aside that you need to be an Emperor to have one in the first place, once you have one you get free claims on any catholic duchy or county in the game and the power to excommunicate any catholic character who annoys you, letting you imprison them penalty-free and making it nigh impossible for them to form factions. This doesn't so much break normal mechanics for vassal management and expansion as snap them neatly in half.
    • The Yazidi heresy of Sunni Islam. If you can manage to become the Yazidi sheikh, you get holy war casus belli against basically the entire world, the ability to call jihads, plus the ability to excommunicate fellow Yazidis you don't like. (Of course, like vassalizing the Pope, getting there is extremely difficult: only two counties in the game are ever majority Yazidi by default.)
  • Genius Bonus: The blue-clad blond knight featured on the game's box art isn't some generic crusader, but Walter Scott's Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe himself: http://imgur.com/92J4u3Y
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • The Old Gods adds raiders who will plunder your territory, then flee back onto their longboats before your army can get to them.
    • The Karlings largely owe their status as The Scrappy to being this in the 867 start. They aren't necessarily a threat, but they take up huge swathes of Europe and are very difficult to dislodge.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • The demo for the sequel restricted play to only four characters. However, almost imminently players found out they could play whichever character they wanted by picking a character from the demo list, then quickly clicking on a province on the map before the game loads - and play as the ruler of said province.
    • They also found out that the demo doesn't end twenty years later but specifically in 1086 and that if you set the start date at 0AD you could get 1086 years of playtime out of the demo. However, this screws up the triggers.
    • A bug in the release version of Rajas of India allowed men to become pregnant from homosexual couplings. There was much laughter. The eventual fix to this bug included checks to ensure the potential parent is actually female... though another overlooked loophole means that the "father" can also sometimes be female, so it's not entirely fixed yet.
    • A very particular bug with Greek characters had them continuously looking to see who they could blind and castrate in the world, leading to some very odd issues where left unchecked, Byzantine Emperors might go to war just so they could castrate somebody. This was also one of the main things leading to slowdowns, and has since been fixed.
    • The Conclave expansion added the ability for Insane characters to add, like Caligula before them, a horse to their council. This makes the horse an actual character. This isn't the bug. What IS the bug is, using the Seduction focus from Way of Life, you can impregnate the horse and force it to give birth. Using this, you can make yourself a dynasty of horses (since they follow the horse's culture, which is appropriately "Horse"). And play as them. Never has the "Different Culture" opinion modifier made more sense.
      • The horse character spawns with a special Horse trait that makes them infertile, normally preventing this. However, a workaround exists for religions that can nominate heirs to bishoprics (e.g. Catholics). Nominating the horse as the heir to a bishopric will cause a bunch of horse courtiers to spawn when the horse inherits the title. These newly generated horse characters do not have the Horse trait, and can be married/seduced and used to conceive horse children. This allows for such strangeness as a female horse Viking restoring the Roman Empire.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: CKII has a decision and achievement for mending the Great Schism between the Orthodox and Catholic branches of Christianity. Though in the game you can only do this as an Orthodox ruler, it would appear Pope Francis is trying to win it.
  • "Holy Shit!" Quotient: If "From Holy Kingdom to Unholy Nightmare" is any indication, Sons of Abraham does this for the second game. Having your children and heirs to your realms be the spawn of Satan (complete with insanely high stats) will do that for anyone.
  • Less Disturbing in Context: Due to this game's cruelty and perversity potential, rather strange topics and questions can pop up on the game's subreddit and forums, such that posts asking about "How do I murder my retarded inbred heir so that his attractive strong genius brother can inherit?", "How do I destroy the Vikings? They're annoying me", and "Should I divorce my sister-wife to marry our daughter?" are not seen as unusual at all.
  • Magnificent Bastard: What the player is aiming to be. Results may vary.
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: There are records of players starting a game in the Hundred years-war period for the sole purpose of marrying Jeanne d'Arc. No, really.
  • The Scrappy: The Karling dynastynote  in The Old Gods 867 start, who start with the powerful and prosperous kingdoms of East and West Francia,note  Italy, and Lotharingia (among others) within their realm. Due to the way alliance and title mechanics work in the game, they often hold onto their thrones much longer than they historically did, and any attempt to unseat one of them (or half the wars they get involved in at all, really) ends up dragging literally half of Europe into the fray. Charlemagne didn't improve matters, as certain deaths can result in a Karling blob of either the Empire of Francia or a Holy Roman Empire that includes France. Fortunately, the alliance system was changed in the patch for Conclave to be a diplomatic option that has to be initiated instead of something automatic. Non-aggression pacts, which are a pre-requisite for alliances, are still automatic, but only for your in-laws and close relatives.
    • The Abbasids in the Charlemagne DLC's 769 start (and to a lesser degree in 867, where even the AI can easily restore their 769 borders). They start out owning a good sixth of the map as-is (Arabia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Syria/Jerusalem) and Empires in-game tend to be much more stable than in real life, so most games started in that year end up with the 'Abbasid blob' locking down the entire Middle East for the rest of the game unless the player intentionally starts antagonising them. Unlike its historical counterparts, the Abbasids will laugh off the Seljuks and even halt the Mongols' advance into Europe. Ditto the Umayyads in 769, who start out with solid control of Andalusia, and unlike real life will invariably conquer the entirety of Spain without player intervention.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • The Decadence system, which, while not necessarily a bad idea, means that in practice, Muslim players can see their entire dynasty collapse because they have one drunken second cousin, whose existence somehow brings enough shame on their house to trigger an invasion by fundamentalist desert tribesmen. Eventually, Decadence was reworked such that only male relatives with the Decadent trait will actually add to the dynasty's decadence rating. Also, relatives with the trait who are imprisoned or not living in the realm do not contribute to the rating. Players can (and should) devise ways to throw such relatives into the dungeons or exile them.
    • The game also automates guardianship contracts for female Muslim characters, operating, apparently, under the assumption that anybody who plays as a Muslim won't care who mentors their daughter. Not only can this destroy one's immersion in the game (it's hard to stay in character, when the game decides your worst enemy would make a dandy mentor for your daughter and assigns her accordingly), but it can actually become a serious problem when the computer decides that it would like to reassign her to a new mentor, and, in the process, earns you a massive -30 "Lost a Ward" penalty with the old one. Worse yet, the game can then decide that this pattern worked out so well statistically, that it is going to repeat it exactly, earning you ever increasing negative penalties with her previous mentors. Finally, it only gives Muslim players access to one kind of succession, which aside from being historically inaccurate (not all Muslims are the Ottoman Empire), pretty much ensures a civil war after your heir takes the throne.
      • Again, with the decadence mechanic being reworked as noted above, it is entirely possible to land only one son, although landing male relatives with any title will reduce their chances of getting the Decadent trait. In addition, the automated guardianship process for Muslim girls has been fixed. The devs probably noted that assigning guardians for girls can raise the guardian's opinion towards the father-ruler.
    • Adventurers, introduced in the Old Gods DLC, randomly lets characters gather a host to assault a realm they have a claim on, or which follows a heathen religion. Adventurers automatically scale with the realm they assault no matter how little sense that would make, making it perfectly possible for a pre-christianised Finland to produce a 50,000 man army out of nowhere to attack your Frankish Empire or for one of your courtiers to go adventurer and form a 20,000 man expedition to take your kingdom... from inside your own capital. Worse yet is that adventurers are treated as non-rebellious and saddle you with tyranny, dishonourable or kinslayer penalties for dealing with them (clearly, arresting your son-in-law for openly declaring the overthrow of your realm from inside your own court is the mark of a tyrant) and leave you at the mercy of the RNG.note  Removing the diplomatic assassinate option just made this mechanic even more annoying.
    • The tribal transition to feudalism or republicanism is a real thorn in the side of pagan players. Reforming a tribe into a more advanced form of government is expensive and time-consuming at the best of times, but pagans can't reform their government without first reforming their faith. The AI almost never does this on its own. This means that pagan players have to conquer essentially an empire-sized realm first, since it's impossible to reform pagan religions without controlling at least three holy sites. Pagans by design have great difficulty holding a large realm together, and given that the realm is militarily gutted immediately after the transition, it leaves the fledgling kingdom defenseless before surrounding states who would ''really'' like to get back at you for a few decades of continual raiding — which, incidentally, is the only way tribal states can support their economy.
      • This transition got so painful that Paradox eventually streamlined it; you now only need a single fully decked-out holding in your capital to turn your entire demesne feudal/republican, and your vassals can switch governments for free (and usually will very quickly as long as they like you). While this makes the process much quicker and cheaper than before, it's still painful for pagans and leaves your realm vulnerable.
    • Gavelkind inheritance. For the uninitiated, this inheritance law means that your senior heir gets the current ruler's primary title and capital holding on succession, while they compete with their brothers and / or sisters (depending on gender inheritance laws) to parcel out the remainder amongst themselves. Despite gavelkind being present from the earliest versions of the game, no one has managed to work out what sort of logic the game uses to parcel out the titles (and Paradox has so far refused to release the code governing succession mechanics), which typically happens in such a way as to ensure very fragmented, disjointed, and aesthetically unappealing territorial splits. While it's moderately effective at keeping AI realms split, most players hate it for the chaotic results it produces and try to switch to something else at the first available opportunity.
      • The trick to managing gavelkind succession is something of a Violation of Common Sense. You must be willing to parcel out titles to your junior heirs voluntarily, as opposed to the arbitrary distribution done by the AI. On top of that, you should aim to have only 1 title at the highest tier (e.g. not holding multiple kingdoms as a king or multiple empires as an emperor), which does reduce the amount of prestige you get from such titles. However, it would ensure that your heirs will not become independent of the primary one. Elective gavelkind further complicates this by forming same-tier titles whenever you control enough de jure land of said title, giving them to your heirs, and making them independent (e.g. if you are the king of Sweden and also control the de jure land of the kingdom of Denmark, even if you have not created the title, one of your heirs will become an independent king of Denmark). Also, all junior heirs have the option of going independent peacefully during succession.
    • The Seduction Focus. Not so much that you have the option of extramarital affairs, but rather that all the AI characters do and have no rhyme, reason or discretion in using it. AI seducers tend to eat up processing power and your patience jumping everything in sight including your spouses, your siblings, your children and your siblings' children's spouses and spreading STDs and bastards with your character having no way to stop it. The focus has been nerfed at least twice, and even then the only thing it's done is to make Chaste or even Homosexual the most valuable traits to look for in a spouse.
    • Patch 2.5 and Conclave-related:
      • The Coalition system was extremely contentious upon release. Not only was it very ahistorical for the time period (the closest thing to coalitions in the medieval era were the Crusades, who are already modelled in-game), but a flawed implementation where a character could be saddled with 200% infamy for defeating his own rebellious vassals in a civil war or the Pope would freely join an Orthodox war for the Holy Land on the side of the Muslims caused Paradox to backwheel the whole thing in Conclave's first patch.
      • The "Increase Council Power" faction added in Conclave generally just makes managing one's vassals even more difficult than it was before. The council also seems not to have been tested thoroughly, as strange problems can develop with nomadic realms and secondary titles that used to be held by a vassal.
      • The automatic call to arms for an allied ruler going to war was mostly disliked. While it eliminated the problem of allies abandoning each other, it also made doing things that require peacetime (such as changing succession laws) very difficult if you had a large network of alliances. Players also commented they didn't need Byzantium bringing their whole doomstack to help deal with a single rebellious vassal or independent count. Paradox eventually announced they'd be eliminating it in favor of a modified version of the old manual call-to-war system, with penalties for refusal greatly increased to make AI rulers more reliable.
  • SNK Boss: Basically the entire point of the Mongols, particularly in the first game. An absurd amount of free event troops (who suffer no attrition damage) plus the ability to invade anybody at any time and, in the first game, no demesne limit are just the ways in which they cheat.
  • Spiritual Licensee: A Rock Paper Shotgun review of the second game calls it "the best Game of Thrones game you will probably ever play."
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The original game, while it had its fans, was definitely a flawed game, with a Troubled Production and quite a lot of bugs. Crusader Kings II, on the other hand, has received by far the smoothest launch of any Paradox game to date, and received almost universal acclaim from the fans. Expansions like Sword of Islam, Legacy of Rome and The Old Gods have only served to make it even better.

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