Crusader Kings II power balance

As I play more Crusader Kings II, I’m noticing that outright defeat, while possible, is rarer than in games such as Civilization, and that the balance of power is more dynamic.

For instance, in my current game I had carved out a nice little kingdom of 9 territories on the Spanish peninsula. My current ruler was just 31 years of age, and I had plans to capture more land while upgrading what I already had. Then, randomly, my rules died of disease and his 10 year old daughter (no sons) inherited the kingdom. Sensing a new, weaker ruler, a few of my lords rebelled. On top of this, a Muslim nation also sensed weakness and declared war.

If I was playing Civilization, this would basically be a game-over scenario. One by one my cities would fall, and I’d be wiped out. In Civ, you are either moving forward or you are dead. It’s almost impossible to play a weaker nation and just maintain for long, and it’s also very rare to have a major setback and recover from it.

CK is different. What ended up happening is that the Muslims looked to conquer some of my territory, but they picked the now-rebelling lord’s area to do so. The two-front war for the rebels meant I could fight them back and reclaim some land. In turn, the Muslims captured some territory and declared victory. Once I stabilized the kingdom and recovered a little, I plotted when to recapture the Muslim lands. As fortune would have it, they soon engaged in a Holy War against a different Christian nation, and with most of their troops fighting others, I declared war and began my assault.

While initially I did not face much resistance, soon the Muslim army began its defensive march towards me, and their army was much larger than mine despite already taking losses from the Holy War. I spend most of my remaining funds to hire a mercenary company, and combined the hired soldiers with my army to fight off the defenders. Once that battle was won, I sieged and recaptured all that I had previously lost.

What is really interesting is that although my section of the map looks the same, the people behind the holdings and their relationships with each other are very different. Hard to identify if overall things are better, the same, or worse, but they most certainly are different. That alone makes CK a truly interesting game that has me very enthralled at the moment.

8 Responses to Crusader Kings II power balance

  1. thade says:

    This game sounds more and more appealing the more you write about it. I just bumped it to the top of my Steam Wish List.

  2. kalex716 says:

    Okay, this narrative just compelled me to buy this game. Thanks for the insight into your recent sessions.

  3. Gank says:

    Yea, this game is the only one that has been able to pull me away form gaming-love du jour. I did a three-part post on my quest to unite Ireland under one King, but I was using the cheat codes so things went quite a bit better in my favor than they might have otherwise :)

  4. A great game. One moment you are one step away from completing your master plan and the next you are desperately playing Xanatos speed chess and no one knows what will happen next.
    Like Dwarf Fortress, it is best when things are going wrong. Losing is fun.

    • thade says:

      “Losing is fun” is really the epitome of game design. So few games manage to achieve that. Reminds me of the old boardgame, Acquire; even if you come in dead last you still sell all of your shares and retire to a small, personal island. Playing the game is fun and, win or lose, the outcome is both in-character (for the game) and enjoyable.

      • Gank says:

        Losing is never fun but having it as a real possibility makes winning all the sweeter. If losing was fun God wouldn’t have invented the save game feature.

        • thade says:

          To be fair, the save-game feature was invented so that games could take longer than a single afternoon; like the advent of the “level code” (see Mega Man) only with too much complexity for a single type-able code.

          Save games weren’t invented for cheating loss and death…despite the fact that it’s an obvious use case for them. ;) It bread a lot of lazy game design where the player needed to learn by dying horribly and repeatedly (see: basically every RPG game in the late 90s).

          I’ve had really good pvp matches where I’ve lost but had a great time; many great experiences in League of Legends were matches I lost but were great fights up to the end. It’s not so weird…I swear!

        • wormsby says:

          In CK2 I can assure you, the process of losing — watching your hard won empire getting nibbled away under some inbred halfwit great-great-great-great-great grandson of the real legend of your house who forged the thing in the white hot crucible of war and intrigue — is fun. It’s fun as hell.

          CK2 is one of those games that is all about the emergent gameplay and the epic story arc that unfolds over hundreds of in-game years. Some of the most compelling stories about your house are those when it faces real danger or setbacks. Sorta like how some of the best stories about House Stark of Winterfell come out of their direst hours.

          Conflict and struggle make for great, ripping yarns, and CK2 is one of the better epic yarn simulators out there.

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