Crusader Kings 2 is nothing if not a peculiar game. What would ordinarily be a niche strategy game ended up garnering a cult following, which really can’t be pinned to any one of its strengths. Some people like it for the complicated web of politics they get to untangle, others enjoy messing with history, some people adore the many insane or psychotic acts you can commit, some love how it really lets you roleplay a character, I could go on forever like this. There is a lot to love in these games and a lot of the fun comes from the chaos that players create for themselves or unwittingly stumble into. Anybody that has played it for a good amount of time is bound to have some stories and this is mine.
I was playing the game with two friends and we decided to begin relatively close to each other. Friend #1 started as a nomadic pagan, whose mechanics mostly elude me, and friend #2 started in Greece, hoping to break free or claim control of the Byzantine Empire. I started in Bulgaria, though that name would soon fade from the annals of history for one much more fearsome.
It should be noted that I am by no means a pro at this game and had actually read up on some advice I was hoping to implement in this game. First of all, I made sure I held absolute power in a handful of regions close to one another, which became the 6 provinces south of the Danube, and I was planning to manage my vassals properly.
Now, Bulgaria starts off Tengri, which is pretty nice. You get to use the subjugation casus belli to declare an all-or-nothing war once per lifetime, which I used to immediately seize the massive territory of Avaria right next to me. From there I conquered my way through Slovenia, Croatia, and whatever else bordered me. It was around that time the Byzantines declared a holy war on me and I immediately caved and turned orthodox to appease them, cancelling their right to attack me. From there I raised enough money to create the empire of carpathia and somehow I eventually ended up gobbling up parts of Bohemia and Bavaria along the road. The point is: never before did I get this large, let alone this fast, and I absolutely succeeded in maintaining a power base from where I could organize an army to quell revolts. It’s just a shame that revolts happened.
Bulgaria eventually was no more, as the land came to be known as Revoltistan, whose people were collectively known as the Rowdy Revolters. A people, mind you, that consisted of many different ethnic identities, 3 different religions on account of me failing to get most of my country to cooperate with the sudden switch to orthodoxy, and a ton of rulers that were just slightly too big. In fact, half the time when a revolt did succeed, the new land that formed out of it was immediately torn apart itself by another revolt, as nothing in the giant mess I had created could cooperate.
However, the revolts were also frequently useful. Friend #2 was doing a good job taking over Greece and could easily jump in to aid in my wars. Friend #1, however, was really struggling against another khan that was slightly bigger than him, often needing to be helped out instead. The point is: with friends close at hand, many revolts could be put down, its leaders imprisoned, only to be put up for ransom for increasingly absurd prizes. I would only execute those that were truly too large to keep dealing with and released those with mild opinions of me, hoping to turn them friendly in time. This method brought in some mad cash, allowing me to sustain that power base and keep my military superior to my rebellious vassals and Byzantine neighbors.
In time, however, friend #1 got his act together, beat his rival, and promptly began conquering the world in a manner that would impress Genghis Khan himself. The khaganate resulting from this was ridiculous, stretching from all of France to the far north-eastern edge of the map. Eventually this friend would attack our Greek buddy and defeat the Byzantines, meaning he was now literally surrounding my land on all sides. A confrontation was as inevitable as it was unfair towards me.
Another revolt happened, former Bohemia acting up again, and so soon after I had just knocked some sense into Wallachia. I was out on the field, beating the rebels, when the declaration of war came, and the khaganate poured into my lands. At this point his army was so huge there was no tact to his conquest, he just marched in and immediately besieged anything and everything, slightly higher death toll be damned. This earned him a lot of war score early on, but we eventually met on the fields of Moravia where I was outnumber 1 to 8… and remarkably lived.
By some legendary fortune, my forces won the day, sending the horde of horsemen fleeing temporarily. Nevertheless, victory was short-lived, and the second battle was such an overwhelming defeat that I knew the day was lost. There was no way I was raising any army that could stand against his, so I opted to go a different route and offer “surrender”.
Now, when you play a lot of Crusader Kings, a lot of the common interactions become kind of uninteresting. Once you know what to click to get the best results you don’t bother to read the flavor text and just go through with it. So what I did next was open up diplomacy and, instead of surrendering myself, I went for the option where you ask your opponent to surrender instead. Seeing the familiar box for surrender pop up, my opponent didn’t think twice and immediately accepted, providing me with a massive sack of cash in war repairs, a peace treaty, and not a single bit of land lost.
We were all playing in the same room that day, so a sudden silence fell upon us all. I figure his first thought was that the game glitched somehow or froze up since none of the lands seemed to transfer. When I began giggling, a barrage of swear words were thrown around. A mix of disbelief, anger, and utter confusion, both at how low I’d stoop to save my own hide and that Mr. Khan fell for it in the first place. And between me and my foe sat Mr. Greece, who didn’t quite understand what just happened, why the Khan was livid, and Casper was tearing up from all the laughing.
We ended that game with Revoltistan slightly reduced in size, but nevertheless independent. The khaganate stood the test of time as well. Though it too devolved into a permanent state of revolts, it managed to keep all its territory in hand. That peace treaty earned me several years to rebuild and my opponent simply never got another chance to wage a war on me.