PC Gamer
Game of Thrones mod

Have you tried the Game of Thrones mod for Crusader Kings 2? You should; it's very good inspiring whole tales of intrigue, treachery and incompetence. The mod has this week updated to v0.8, further bolstering an already perfectly playable total conversion with a full Night's Watch overhaul and White Walker rework.

Here are the basic features added in v0.8. You can find a full changelist over at the mod's forum, but be warned: they may contain nuts spoilers.

Many White Walkers improvements/fixes
Night's watch revamp
Titular kingdoms for Essos
Essos flavour
Dynamic Golden Company invasions
A new 'Prison Break' event series
Reduced Jon Snow's learning attribute to nothing

Okay, fine, I made that last one up.

Download CK2: Game of Thrones here.
PC Gamer

Paradox has announced that Crusader Kings 2 their soap opera grand strategy of medieval war, politics and intrigue has sold over a million copies. It's always nice to see a PC exclusive hit the landmark, and in this case it's particularly notable. CK2 isn't an exciting military simulation, procedural multiplayer sandbox or tense psychological playground. It's a complex game about a map, a big list of people, and a working knowledge of the feudal system.

Perhaps more surprising is the other statistic released by Paradox: the game has an average playtime of just over 99 hours. That, when you consider all the people who still have it buried away in their pile of shame, amounts to a lot of people who must have played considerably more.

It must help that Crusader Kings 2 is still being updated both with wide-ranging patches and new DLC packs. Up next is the game's seventh expansion, Charlemagne. It introduces a new, earlier start date and a story series centred around Charlemagne and The Holy Roman Empire.

If you want to see what makes the game so good, you should check out Rich's diary, detailing his exploits in CK2's Game of Thrones mod.
PC Gamer
CKII: After the End mod

Crusader Kings II is the perfect game for creating alternate history, and full conversion mods (like those for Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones) are great for creating alternate fictional history. Are you ready for some alternate future history? After the End is a mod for CKII set in North America in the year 2666, after an unspecified cataclysmic event has shattered the planet and humankind is desperately trying to pick up the pieces, regain control, and understand its own murky past.

Behold New England, Crusader Kings-ified!

After the End is still very early on in its development, but there's already lot to be excited about. While the western two-thirds of the map have yet to be populated, the east coast of North America, as far north as Canada and as far south as Cuba, is playable. The "Event", whatever it was, clearly wiped out most of the population and destroyed a great deal of human knowledge and written history. The world is essentially back in medieval times, and while some ideas, borders, cultures, traditions, and religions survive, they're distorted and half-remembered through the dark lens of the cataclysm.

Even after the apocalypse, Disney owns a lot.

Take Florida, for example. Much of it is dominated by Tribe of the Mouse, which makes a lot of sense: people wandering around in the post-apocalypse of Orlando with little knowledge of history couldn't be blamed for thinking Mickey was some sort of mighty king (he did have a huge castle) or religious figure to be worshiped.

Just don't hire the Chicago Cubs. They'll never win.

In the game I played, I had to hire mercenaries at one point, and found, fittingly, that they were named after sports teams and other ancient organizations. It makes sense peering back through time with only fragments of evidence, future generations might assume that the Philadelphia Eagles or the Buckeyes of Ohio were mighty warriors, revered and celebrated for their combat prowess and who clashed in massive, now-decaying stadiums. Poking around some of the characters in the game can yield a few fun surprises as well.

Thom and Martha of Wayne. Thomas and Martha Wayne. Hm. Sounds familiar.

Religions and cultures, naturally, have held on or sprung up, many based on whatever traditions survived the Event. You'll still find pockets of Catholicism and Protestantism, some Lovecraft-style Occultists and Pagans, a huge swath of Evangelicals in the south, naturally, and there are some heretical groups as well. There are Americanist groups, who worship the founding fathers, and a cult called the Consumerists, who treat materialism as a religion (The Almighty Dollar is their actual deity) and are convinced the world fell apart because people didn't worship money enough. We certainly don't seem to be in any danger of that at the present.

History is written by the spenders.

Just because the game takes place in North America doesn't mean there isn't an entire world out there, slowly rebuilding, expanding, and threatening to impose itself on your game. The British will get themselves together and do what they used to do best: invade and take over as much of the world as possible, so you can expect the return of the Redcoats at some point. There are also plans to add other invading hordes in the future, possibly from the remnants of Russia, China, or South America.

The Brits are a little confused, but they're back to their roots.

In terms of technology, it's just as you'd expect: there's a lot of remnants of the old world (our world) left lying around, though it's not fully understood. Future plans for the mod include adding exploration activities into old army bases, subway systems, and other forgotten tech-troves as the rising civilizations attempt to reverse engineer the secrets it once knew and use them to their advantage.

Get rid of New Yorker traders? Shoulda done it long ago.

It's especially great to see a CK II mod set in North America, and it's been fun to play on my home turf (I grew up in New York). In my game I fought desperate wars over Hudson Valley, Albany, Woodstock, and one especially bloody and extended battle in Poughkeepsie. I even fabricated a claim on Long Island, where I was actually born, and marched my troops in to conquer it. In keeping with the theme of remaining reverent to the past without entirely understanding it, I named my three children Pepsi, iPhone, and DotA, figuring there would surely be some puzzling artifacts demonstrating that these things were treasured in the long-ago.

Shoulda named her Mountain Dew. She'd have been more X-TREME

I look forward to watching this mod develop: it's packed full of interesting ideas. The modders drew some inspiration from post-apocalyptic science fiction novel The Canticle for Leibowitz (which was also an influence on the Fallout games), and they've begun to paint an interesting portrait of a shattered world trying to forge ahead while struggling to understand its own past.

Installation: The mod isn't on Steam Workshop yet, though I'm told it will be soon. In the meantime you can grab it from this Mediafire link. Once you've got it, unzip the contents to My Documents/Paradox Interactive/Crusader Kings II/mod. Then, in the game launcher, just tick the box for the mod.
PC Gamer

Last night, Paradox took to a Gamescom stage to talk about their existing and future titles. During the conference, they announced Europa Universalis 4's third expansion, and Crusader Kings 2's, I dunno, sixty-ninth expansion? Something like that, anyway. EU4: Art of War will focus on the 30 Years War, and improve naval combat and army control. CK2: Charlemagne will introduce a new 769AD start date, and chart the rise of Charlemagne and The Holy Roman Empire.

Here's the trailer for Charlemagne:

And the seventh expansion's feature list:

New Earlier bookmark, 769, almost 100 more years of Crusader Kings II
Special story event series for Charlemagne
Annual Chronicle in the style of the Saxon chronicle
Custom Kingdoms and Empires, create a new title from a lower-tier title, can customize flag and name
Dozens of new cultures
Brand new system for climate and seasonal transitions
Regency overhaul

And now for Art of War:

Features? Yup:

30 years War: Unique mechanics and events for the religious conflict that ravaged Europe.
Napoleonic Era: Fight for or against the revolution and create entirely new custom client countries on the map from your conquests.
Fighting on land or at sea: You can now sortie from sieges, transfer occupation to allies and give objectives to your subjects and allies. Entire Fleets can now be upgraded with one click, you can now mothball fleets to avoid paying maintenance, and your fleets can be set to automatically transport armies.
Marches: Turn your vessals into bulwarks against your enemies, getting less tax but strengthening their defences.
Improved Diplomacy: Sell Surplus Ships, Fight for your subjects CB, Declare War in Support of Rebel factions in other countries and new peace options.
Gameplay Enhancements: Build entire armies in one click and abandon cores that you no longer wish to support.
Free Features for the accompanying patch: Completely new rebel mechanic, local autonomy on province level, new cardinal system for Catholics, new reformation mechanics and a new look map.

At this point, you're probably all, "so when will this stuff be released?" The answer, uninformatively, is "the near future".
PC Gamer

Excited for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but can't bear to wait until next February to get some fresh Witcher action? The Witcher Kings mod for Crusader Kings 2 might tide you over in the meantime. This full conversion mod (still being developed) transforms medieval Europe into the Witcher's world. Go to war with Nilfgaard (or rule them), employ sorcerers and witchers in your court, and send your children to magic academies in hopes of developing their arcane talents. Or, like I did, become moderately obsessed with the idea of becoming besties with Geralt himself.
The mod is set around the time of the events that take place in Witcher 2, which we all know are... um... okay, to be perfectly honest, I have not played any of the Witcher series. So, I'm probably not the best person to say how accurate, or faithful to the fiction, this mod is. As far as I can tell, though, it's been made by real fans of both the games and the book series, and to my uninformed eyes, they seem to know their business. They've even gone so far as to note, in every single character's traits, whether they're a legit canon character from the Witcher fiction or just a game-generated NPC.

Right off the bat, there's some lovely new portrait work, with some of The Witcher's non-human races, like dwarves, elves, and dryads being skillfully represented. Even Geralt looks pretty accurate, right down to the vertical scar across the eye that 86% of video game heroes have etched into their faces at the Badass Academy graduation ceremony.

Don't I know you from somewhere?
Naturally, my first order of business in the mod is to find Geralt and make sure we become bestest buddies. As fate would have it, I've chosen to play as King Foltest of Temeria, and there, just chilling in my court, is Geralt himself. Well, that was easy! Geralt has a decent opinion of me, but not a great one, so I send him a gift of some gold, award him an honorary title, and just as insurance, have my court magician the mod gives you one as a council member cast a charm spell on him.

Even not knowing this world, how can I not get excited about a map like this? I love CK2 mods.
In the mod, there are sorcerers, witches, and druids, and each has magical abilities available to you if they're on your roster. Sorcerers can heal you, charm others (as I did to Geralt), and aid you with stat boosts during battles and sieges. Witches can heal but also curse, which I didn't witness in game but I assume applies penalties to some of your stats. Druids can heal, but in ways a bit more spiritual than physical: their spells lift the burden of stressed and depressed traits. Using spells drains the health of the spell-caster and prevents them from casting further spells for several months.

Ain't much to look at, but the tuition is way cheaper than Hogwarts.
Magic isn't just for adults! Every child born has a chance to posses some magical traits, and these chances are improved by magic already running in the family (so marry a magic-user, if possible). To help bring these talents out, you can send your kid to a magic academy for tutoring, though they'll have to remain there, essentially disinherited, until they fully graduate: no running off half-baked like Luke Skywalker. These magic towers, by the way, dot the map as special counties. They don't serve as a tax base but come with some custom building options, and must be run by a sorcerer.

Nilfgaard! My ancient enemy I've just become aware of!

As far as my own game goes, being besties with Geralt is problematic. He's nice enough to go fight some hellhounds that are running rampant around my country (though he gripes that he "got hurt" doing so), but shortly after leaves my court to go work in Maribor, a sizable city to the south of Wyzima. I invite him back, and he accepts, but is shortly off again, this time to Dorndal. Again, I invite him back, but he soon splits to Loc Muinne.

It eventually dawns on me that, oh, right, he's somewhat of an adventurer, crisscrossing the world for various reasons, which is presumably why his games are so beloved. Who would be interested in him if he just bummed around one county his whole life? Eventually I just have three children and name them Geralt, Geralt Jr., and Geralt Again in hopes they turn out as cool as the real dude.

Do you think he'll be flattered? Or creeped out?

As with just about every full conversion mod I've played for Crusader Kings 2, this one is enjoyable, stable, and well put together. Again, I'm not the best to judge if they've done a good job bringing all the lore and flavor of The Witcher faithfully into CK2, so I'd love to hear thoughts from any tried and true Witcher fans who have played the mod.

Installation: Download it here. Extract it to your CK2 mod directory (even if you have a Steam copy, it'll be in My Documents > Paradox Interactive > Crusader Kings 2 > mod). Start up CK2, and check the box that says Witcher Kings.
PC Gamer

Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India releases this Tuesday, expanding the map of Paradox's medieval strategy sandbox to central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Not one to venture into strange, new lands unprepared, I met with CK2 lead designer Henrik F hraeus to learn everything there was to know about what lies in wait with this expansion. We talked about historical accuracy, India's religions and castes, and more. If you promise not to plot my untimely death, you can share in my findings below.

PC Gamer: I guess the highlight of the new expansion is the map expansion and the new religions. What can you tell us about them, in general?

Henrik Fahraeus: So, there are three new religions in India. They are in a new religion group, which is basically the Indian group: the Dharma. The Dharma Initiative.

PCG: I hope Crusader Kings never goes in that direction.

PCG: Europe vanishes. Reappears somewhere else.

HF: So we tried to make them as different and interesting as possible to play. Pretty obviously we re going to add a lot of events and decisions and stuff like that to make it feel like you re playing in India. So you don t have a tournament. You might have a tiger hunt, or something like that.

One thing I wanted to do myself is playing off the concept of karma and reincarnation. A baby is born. It has a scar, and it looks exactly the same as my grandfather s scar. So everyone thinks, hey, this is the reincarnation of Ashoka the Great. And as the kid grows up, it might acquire traits similar to the ones my grandfather had. And everyone will think it s the reincarnation. Of course, it s up to the player to decide whether that s true or not.

PCG: That s an interesting point that has been discussed in light of some of the events particularly one that you wrote for Sons of Abraham. There is sort of this tongue-and-cheek supernatural element to some of the newer content in Crusader Kings II. Is that a direction you guys are comfortable with pushing further? Have you ever been afraid that it might hurt the game s reputation for historical accuracy?

HF: I think that even most people in the historical accuracy corner are willing to forgive a sprinkling of this type of content in Crusader Kings II. I tend to justify it to myself by thinking of how religious and superstitious people were in medieval times. Magical thinking was the norm, not the exception. That said, in most cases we try to keep the door open for natural explanations. (As an aside, in the case of reincarnation, I try to keep an open mind. There is actually a surprising amount of scientific evidence for it. See Ian Stevenson, particularly his work on birthmarks.

PCG: What are the main ways the Indian religions will play differently from the existing ones?

HF: Right. Since the Indian religions are so tolerant and pluralistic, which makes them very different from the European religions, they won t have any heresies. And they re very tolerant of each other. There is some friction, but these penalties will be much lower. If I m a Buddhist ruler, and all of my vassals are Hindu, they will be fairly okay with that.

PCG: How hard is it to switch castes?

HF: It depends. It is fairly easy to take a step down; by marrying someone of a lower caste your children will be of that caste. It is much harder to become Kshatriya (which is the optimal caste for feudal lords); there is a decision you can take at any time, but it costs a lot of money and piety, especially if your Learning skill is low (it's easier to argue with the Brahmins if you know your Vedas).

PCG: How is marrying between castes handled?

HF: You are free to marry anyone, but children inherit the lower of their parents' castes. Of course, marrying "down" causes a loss of prestige, and vice versa.

PCG: Since the Indian religions don't have heresies, how will they interact with things like Moral Authority?

HF: Like Pagans, Moral Authority is not hugely important for the Indian religions, but low authority can trigger a number of negative province events temple corruption, death cults, and so on.

PCG: Historically, there were divisions among these more Asian religions. You had the Theravada and Vajrayana will those be modeled at all through traits and events, in lieu of heresies? You know, something like the Ashari and Mu'tazili schools for Muslims?

HF: Yes, absolutely. These sects or branches are represented as inherited traits Shaivist, Vaishnavist, Shaktist each with its own modifiers. Like religions, these can change when children are educated. In addition, there are many character modifiers for your "patron god," which you are allowed to change, of course.

PCG: Are the Indian religions more tolerant of is it all religions, or just other Indian religions?

HF: All religions, but to a larger degree with the other Indian religions.

PCG: Do they all feel roughly the same within the Indian religion group, kind of like the different flavors of pagan, or will they have more varied mechanics?

HF: So the way that we re representing these religions is that the Hindu are the more warlike ones. We know from historical sources that they raided their neighbors a lot. They will have kind of aggressive cassus belli, parallel to the Holy War CB but a little bit different. They will also have the caste system.

The Buddhists are the learned scholars, the gurus, of the three religions, so they will have a technological bonus. In reality, they were probably mostly concerned with theological and philosophical issues. But it seems natural, since they created these massive university complexes on the Bengal.

The Jainists are the peaceniks. They are more pacifistic than the other two, but also extremely internally stable. Vassals as well as the provinces will not cause much problem due to differences of religion, basically.

PCG: It sounds like the Jain religion is very powerful. I mean, Crusader Kings is a game about keeping your realm stable. That s almost a bigger challenge than dealing with your neighbors. And if they get huge bonuses to that, how do you balance it out?

HF: Well, their CBs will suck. They will basically not be able to attack anyone. So that s the downside.

PCG: Decadence for Muslims is going to be changed in the free patch along with Rajas. Can you tell us what you plan on doing with it?

HF: The way it works now is, characters acquire the Decadent trait. They sort of become decadent. And it s much more likely that they get this trait if they are unlanded. And it s much more likely if they are already Hedonists or Gluttonous or something like that. And then, you can no longer just imprison your family members for free. I just removed that whole thing. Instead, you can try to convince them negotiate with them about their behavior. That starts a little chain, and eventually, if they refuse, then you can imprison them.

So there will be fewer decadent characters, and more ways of dealing with them. It feels a bit unnatural that you would just exterminate your entire dynasty all the time.

PCG: With the addition of war elephants for India and camel warriors in North Africa, do you plan to use the new special troop system to give other existing cultures new things to play with in the future?

HF: Absolutely. That is the idea. This is just the start of the development of that system. One thing we didn't have time to add was special troop type attrition in different terrains. I still want to do that. For example, historically, the Mongols were stopped by the Mamelukes, because Mongol riders didn't fight well in the sort of gravelly, desert-type terrain. So camel riders kind of outdid them.

PCG: Are you putting anything in place to model the fact that there wasn t a lot of interaction between Western Europe and the subcontinent?

HF: We re going to add a distance check to diplomatic actions. This is visible when you, for example, pick a councilor and send them to a job somewhere. You will see the provinces you can reach. And it goes for diplomatic actions, for plots, and for counselor jobs. So if I m playing in Scotland, I can see Indian characters. But I can t talk to them. That would be weird. Pointless, really. But I mean you can probably exploit it if you really have to. Go on a crusade, capture a province here, and then you can suddenly talk to them.

PCG: How far-reaching will this be? Will there be exceptions such as the Pope wanting to have a word with the Great Khan?

HF: It will be quite far-reaching. While we are at it, we also want to stop, say, Norse Pagans from marrying West African pagans and similar unlikely things. We are not planning any exceptions, but you will of course always be allowed to negotiate for peace if you are somehow involved in a distant war.

PCG: Are we going to be interacting with any of the areas north of India? Tibet and the Eastern Steppe are all on the map now, but they don t have provinces.

HF: No. We decided that, say, Tibetan culture is so different and interesting and their version of Buddhism is different. We would need to have almost an expansion on its own. Almost. It might be that we add it for free in the future or something.

PCG: You make it sound like the Timurids are still going to show up, which seems odd considering that whole area of the world he rose to power in is no longer occluded. Why would you not just have the Mongol successor states form on their own through gameplay?

HF: That's a really good question. The rise of the Seljuks and of Timur could indeed be seen as a form of historical railroading, which we always try to avoid if we can come up with more dynamic mechanics. So, what we're doing for Rajas of India is to make those events much more situational.

The Mongols will work pretty much the same, except they will show up here instead. There will not be much of a difference. Timur and Seljuk used to show up at the edge of the map. As it works now is they basically show up in a Turkish court somewhere if one exists. And then they exist as a courtier there for about ten years. And if they should die, their invasions will basically never happen.

If they survive, they will attack one of their neighbors like an adventurer. They will not attack their employer. They will attack outside of the realm. And they will tend to target their historical areas.

PCG: Will they get the same amount of event troops as they did before?

HF: Pretty much. Well, the first invasion is smaller now, and then there is a second step. If they succeed with the first step of the invasion, which is a duchy somewhere, they will get the huge event stacks. Because then, everyone will rally behind them. They've proven themselves.

PCG: And is it always going to be the same historical figures at the heads of these invasions?

HF: Yeah, they will actually be called Timur and Seljuk. And we added one more, which is Sabuktigin. He is basically the founder of the Ghaznavids. And the Ghaznavids basically ended up in that grey part of the timeline between 867 and 1066. So you wouldn't actually see them unless you played through from 867, but they were a huge actor. Especially since we added India, because they invaded into India and were kind of the scourge of the Hindus in India at the time.

We've also tweaked the CBs to have AI weights, so the Seljuks will tend to attack within Persia, maybe the Byzantines, and so on.

PCG: So the AI can actually be scripted to prioritize certain areas for conquest. Does that affect any other areas of the map? I know a few patches ago, there were problems with Muslims immediately going in for the kill on the Coptic Christians in Ethiopia, which was a bit ahistorical.

HF: Yeah, for example, the Golden Horde should stay in Russia, kind of. And the Ilkhanate will kind of stay in Persia to get these historical conquest routes going. I haven't done anything specifically for Ethiopia, but that's a thought. It would be really easy to do.

PCG: Can you tell us a little about the new areas on the map outside the Indian subcontinent?

HF: There s actually a fair bit down here in the Persian sphere that has been expanded along with adding India.

This is in, actually, Northern Afghanistan, centered around Kabul. This region was called Gondara or Kabul Shahi. That s new. They re Buddhists. And there was actually an entirely separate religion down in what s called Zabulistan. And the reason for that is that they worshipped a god called Zun. I love the name. I wish we could have added a religion. It sounds like something out of Ghostbusters but it s so tiny, and it s just been overrun by the Muslims. So we re just going to call them Zoroastrians.

There s a new culture here, which is the Pashtun or Afghan culture, which is part of the Persian cultures. Also the Balochi culture, which is new.

PCG: With all this expansion into Siberia, have you added a lot more provinces to the Empire of Tartaria, or have they just been stretched out horizontally?

HF: There are more provinces here. That s been rebalanced. Tartaria is enormous. Turkestan is also bigger, the kingdom. There are some new cultures up here, you have the Karluk Turks, the Kyrgyz, there s a new Finnish culture.

PCG: Could you walk us through the map changes you ve made to Africa? It s not bordering the new areas, so I m curious why you decided to make it a focus for this expansion.

HF: partially by request, partially because there is a little Jewish kingdom there, and partially because we had a kind of vague idea that we would do a mini expansion in East Africa. But we eventually realized that people probably wouldn t buy it. So we re adding in that stuff for free. So we re adding in a new culture here: the Nubian culture. And a little Jewish kingdom.

PCG: If you re playing way across the map, in Ireland or something, how many new events or features will you see from this expansion?

HF: In Ireland?

PCG: Yeah, I m just curious how far-reaching it is, in terms of maybe having a Buddhist monk or something show up at my court randomly.

HF: Probably nothing, no. I don t think so. I want to focus on making these Indian religions feel different and special.

PCG: So previously, India was this place that was kind of right off the edge of the map, and you d have echoes of it in Europe. There was an event where you get a courtier from Hindustan, for example. Now that India is the edge of the map, we re bordering on East Asia and Indochina. Will we maybe see the same sort of thing, where there s just a chance for some of that to trickle across the imaginary line into Bengal or something?

HF: Maybe. There was a lot of interaction, historically, with China. Indochina, I don t actually know a lot about the interactions that went on across the border with Burma. We know for a fact that, due to the Silk Road and everything, the Indians interacted a lot with the Chinese. And also the Turks up there. So it s very likely that we will do something that pertains to that.

If we were to pull back the timeline another 100, 150 years, you would actually have China . They actually had some of these provinces during the Tang dynasty.

PCG: What have you guys observed in terms of adding this new subcontinent onto the map. As you've iterated an playtested, has anything cropped up that made you say, "Oh, we need to stop that from happening" or "that's really strange?"

HF: It's funny, but I was really surprised by how everything just worked. Because I was afraid that either the Indians would overwhelm the Muslims, or the other way around. Or that the Cumans would be too powerful with all of these new provinces and stuff. But it was fairly easy to balance that. There's a lot of impassible terrain between India and Afghanistan, as in reality. You have to go through the Khyber Pass. So that means that the AI is kind of appropriately prone to attack through there, because of how the cassus belli and war declarations work. So you tend to get a kind of natural border there.

PCG: At this point in the life cycle of Crusader Kings II, have you run into any barriers in terms of what you wish you could do, but the current engine or mechanics would have to be too radically changed to make it work?

HF: Yeah. I have a long list of stuff that I want to fundamentally change that is not going to happen in one of the expansions. I can't really reveal any of these, but I expect that if and when we do a sequel, that's when we'll do these changes. What I can tell you is that I'm not happy with the tech system. I'm still not happy with the combat mechanics, and how troop types are hard to separate from each other and use as single units.

Thanks to Henrik for improving his karma by sharing all this info with us. Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India releases on Tuesday, March 24.
PC Gamer
Crusader Kings 2 - Rajas of India

Crusader Kings 2's patch notes are usually an amusing catalogue of historical rebalancing. As of the next free update, for instance, "hordes will be more prone to head in the 'right' direction", and "becoming infirm will abort self improval ambitions". But, aside from the mild titillation of minor AI tweaks, the patch will also make more dramatic changes to the game. As of its release on March 25th, the map will be revised, the performance optimised, and the modding scene given a home on the Steam Workshop.

Also on March 25th is the release of CK2's sixth expansion, Rajas of India, which - as the title suggests - adds the sub-continent of India. You can find more details of this paid-for addition through Tom's preview, or by watching these highlights of a recent Paradox stream.

As for the update, you'll find the full patch notes below.

- Major map revisions and additions: East Africa, Armenia, Central Asia, Siberia and India
- Added Steam matchmaking support
- Added Steam workshop support
- Added diplomatic range, blocking diplomacy and councillor actions vs too distant characters
- Factions will now revolt as a single unified realm under a temporary title
- Added attrition for units that have been "out-of-supply" for too long (can't live off the land in neutral counties, etc)
- Added support to change window mode setting: fullscreen, borderless or windowed
- New unit type system allowing for more flexible unit types, including War Elephants, Camel Warriors and Horse Archers
- Blocked "North Korea Mode"; you now lose huge parts of all income and levies if your demesne is too big
- Save games are now compressed by default (can be toggled on and off)
- Major memory and performance optimizations

- Added opinion malus for holding a character in prison.
- Added opinion malus for former lovers.
- Characters can now have up to five lovers at the same time.
- Tweaks and improvements to many events and decisions.
- Scripted civil wars in history files should now work properly. When scripting civil wars, defender must always be added before attacker for them to work properly.
- Now possible to revoke honorary titles. Revoking an honorary title with a positive opinion modifier will anger the previous holder.
- Added support for multiple lovers.
- Impregnation of lovers is now handled in the code.
- Updated all events to use the new scripting logic for friends, rivals and lovers.
- Characters will no longer get 'Marriage Ties' opinion bonus towards their spouse.
- Fixed a bug that was preventing vassals from being able to be called into war under certain CBs that were scripted to allow it.
- CBs that call other vassals into a revolt will now automatically call all vassals when war is declared.
- Sons asking for titles can now start an adventure for one of your titles if refused. Especially common among Muslims. (event 37000)
- Timur and Seljuk now arrive in a more involved fashion and need to survive before they launch their great gambit
- Children can no longer pick up the religion or culture of a guardian if the guardian does not share the religion or culture of his employer
- The Nestorians are no longer a heresy, and have their own holy order (The Order of St Addai)
- Added the Messalian heresy (Nestorian)
- Made the Paulician heresy (Orthodox)
- You can no longer usurp the sole primary title off of someone with a different religion if he has any holdings within it
- You no longer get an opinion bonus from your vassals for defending against rebels, adventurers and the like
- You can no longer call allies to help you defend against peasant, heretic and religious rebels
- Added a decision to conscript merchant ships if playing a ruler with overseas holdings
- Reduced piety gained from battles
- Increased piety cost of Muslim Invasion CB
- Whether a character is too insignificant for anyone to care if you execute them is now determined by whether they have any titles, claims, or titled close relatives
- Children, incapable characters and prisoners can no longer join factions
- The decision to acknowledge bastards as your own now works again
- Becoming infirm will now abort self improval ambitions
- Characters now lose the ambition to get married upon becoming eunuchs or homosexual
- Cathar women can now have the same career ambitions as men
- Can no longer reform the Orthodox religion, instead one has the Decision to restore the Ecumenical Patriarchate
- Events can no longer make tech points negative
- Fixed a rare crash related to loading savegames with events referring invalid characters
- Cathar vassals no longer have negative opinions for liege or liege's heir being female
- Expelling holy orders now blocks further Decisions towards them
- Holy Orders can no longer ask for the right to build castles in the lands of vassals of someone who has expelled them
- If a Holy Order is your vassal when you expel it, it will be set free
- Added missing decision to expel the Bektashi Order
- No longer possible to hire holy orders that you've expelled
- Reduced the number of standing troops of the Knights of Calatrava and Santiago
- After a successful decadence revolt, the new ruler only gets weak unpressed claims on vassals who choose independence
- Increased chances that vassals will choose independence after successful decadence revolts
- Doubled the Prestige that newborn characters get from their dynasty at birth
- Doubled the Prestige you get from the dynasty of your spouse when marrying
- Added missing de jure capitals to the Kingdom of Anatolia and the Duchies of Spoleto and Latium
- Added a prisoner age check to event 50010
- Added updated flags for titles within the Arabian, Mali and Byzantine de jure empires
- Fixed a couple of location triggers in Christian monastery events.
- Fixed bug in bookmarks reading of files
- Fixed duchies names not showing properly in de-jure duchy map mode
- Added Camel Warriors retinue type to Arabic culture
- Fixed crash bug when units die of attrition
- Tweaked max attrition just so slightly
- Improved the Sons of Abraham version of the heresy appearance event (SoA.4000)
- Strengthened adventurers in general
- The king of Jerusalem is no longer allowed to vassalize the Knights Templar or the Knights of St John if they are too powerful already
- Tweaked the cultural conversion events a bit, mainly to improve the special Mongol conversion factor
- Corrected the terrain in many provinces
- Fixed a bug where saves where primary title was dynamic didn't have CoA
- Fixed a bug that if the primary title was dynamic the character was not auto selected after loading
- Fixed a bug where kicking someone out of the lobby would make that character unselectable
- Fixed a bug where selecting a player in the outliner would sometimes navigate to an incorrect province
- Fixed a bug where map borders were not correctly loaded when going into multiplayer
- Fixed a bug where map names were not correctly loaded when going into multiplayer
- Cash, Prestige, and piety commands can now be used with values smaller than 1
- Text field cursor position fixed in multiple cases
- Fixed a bug where children would lose their guardian upon reload
- Fixed a bug where only a single opposite trait would be removed
- Famagusta is no longer an Abbasid vassal in 867
- Loot bar regrows more slowly now
- Fixed an issue where event flags would sometimes not clear properly after tournaments, feasts and similar events
- Fixed the triggers for a number of minor events where people could get the event even if they didn't have the correct religion
- Fixed broken trigger for the Decadent Warrior achievement
- Cut "succession wars" and all (mostly obsolete) mechanics to do with vassal revolt risk
- Jews can now also hire the Abyssinian and Nubian mercs
- Fixed a nasty bug where whole Patrician families could be genocided on succession
- Added events for the rise of the Ghaznavids
- Added a negative opinion modifier for vassal kings vs their emperor liege
- Improved or fixed religion triggers in many events
- Improved localization for a number of older events
- Minor tweaks to effects for many events
- Added a special decision to form the HRE
- Events are now saved and loaded from saves
- Compressed saves are now saved with meta data to improve performance
- Localisation of other languages now defaults to English
- Flags now appear and disappear when you're the correct height above the ground
- Saving the game with a dynamic title now saves the correct COA and automatically reselects the character you played upon loading
- Some minor changes to the save games format to improve backward compatibility
- Save games list now show if the save is unsupported
- Added equal-opportunity tumbling of courtiers for women and homosexuals.

- Family view now uses a larger siblings box if character's religion does not allow secondary spouses or concubines.
- The "Threats" tab in the Intrigue View is now filled with appropriate characters
- Added an "Adventurer Threat" alert (replacing the old "Angry Vassal" one)
- When choosing educate character for a child, a suitable guardian will now be pre-picked (for the cases where you don't want to bother to pick one yourself).
- Added a new tab to dynastic view that shows friends, rivals, in-laws and lovers.
- Religion/Culture filter in character finder now actually filters by religion/culture instead of religon/culture group.
- Pressing the skull icon will now navigate to the killer (if he is known)
- Court tab now shows councillors as well
- Improved a lot of title and culture colors
- Added opinion modifiers to the trait tooltip
- Fixed tooltips for trigger 'has_guardian' and 'has_regent'
- Corrected the tooltip for the trigger 'any_claim'
- Pressing on red character skulls now navigates to the murderer
- Character view now shows the correct piety icon for the selected character
- Expel Jormsvikings was missing localisation

- Much less likely to plot against characters they have a high opinion of.
- Much less likely to form factions against characters they have a high opinion of.
- Improved guardian selection logic.
- More prio on converting demesne provinces over vassal provinces.
- Less willing to marry young male characters to older women.
- Will now detach and move away if their parent stack is suffering severe attrition.
- Will now keep attrition-free event troops mostly consolidated instead of spreading them out.
- Now takes terrain and unit quality into account when determining whether to run away from enemies.
- Smarter about when to assault if there are enemy troops nearby.
- Better at determining who to attach to in war.
- Better at coordinating with allies in war.
- Will no longer declare suicidal faction independence wars that only have a fraction of their liege's power.
- Now smarter about when to hire mercenaries in a war.
- Less willing to fold to independence, pretender and antiking factions.
- Will now never fold to a very weak faction.
- Will stop more plots.
- The Hordes will now be more prone to head in the "right" direction.
- Will now execute dynasty decisions.
- Smarter about title revocation.
- Will not start claimant factions for old women, or a parent of the current ruler.
- Muslim characters are more likely to pick up the 'Gain a Title' ambition.
- Foreign rulers are now generally quite willing to take on wards as hostages

- Added support for multiple lovers.
- Can now block minor titles from being revokable.
- The faction power level at which you get a warning alert is now scriptable.
- Now possible to script vassal_opinion, liege_opinion and sex_appeal_opinion into modifiers.
- Now possible to mod whether character interactions require a character to have their cost in prestige/piety on hand to use the interaction.
- Now possible to mod out character interactions entirely through defines.
- Added new define NOT_SPOUSE_FERTILITY_MULT that governs impregnation chance between non-married lovers.
- Added new define MARRIED_LOVERS_FERTILITY_MULT that governs impregnation chance between married lovers.
- Added triggers num_of_lovers, num_of_spouses, num_of_consorts, is_lover.
- Added scopes random_consort, random_lover, any_lover.
- Friends and rivals can now be added and removed with add_friend, add_rival, remove_friend and remove_rival.
- is_friend and is_rival now check correctly against rival/friend rather than high/low opinion.
- pacifist in religion groups is now called ai_peaceful.
- pacifist=yes in religions now denotes religions with decreased aggression and stable realms. Only works on Jain religion if player does not own Rajas of India.
- pacifist=yes in script now checks if character belongs to a pacifist religion.
- Can now script AI conversion behaviour for religions & religion groups.
- Added MAX_JOINED_FACTIONS to defines, sets how factions a character can be a part of (including led ones).
- Added scriptable static modifiers for characters of different ages(0-15, 16-19, 20-29, 30-49, 50-69 and 70+).
- Added allow_join to factions, this restricts whether characters can join factions.
- Added peace_piety_gain for religions
- Added designated heir functionality
- Added flag 'feminist = yes' to religion scripts (defines that a religion is not prejudiced against female rulers).
- Added trigger 'is_lowborn'
- Added trigger 'num_of_dynasty_members'
- Added the ability to change the name of piety for religions.
- Added real_tier, lower_real_tier_than, higher_real_tier_than triggers. These work like a regular tier check except that they ignore temporary titles.
- Added peace_piety_gain for religions
- Added designated heir functionality
- Mercenaries have now been moved to their own script file
- Implemented scriptable troop types.
- Fixed portage crash bug.
- Support for ocean to ocean rivers.
- Added a 'character_modifier' to religions
- Added a 'character_modifier' to cultures
- Fixed feminist flag that can be used in religions to make em not care if ruler/heir is female.
- Added character_modifier for religions
- Can now define ranges of sea zones to make life easier.
- Can now define seperate oceans to help the pathfinding.
- Added trigger 'has_overseas_holdings'
- Added 'Player' text promotion
- Added trigger 'is_within_diplo_range'
- Added 'de_jure_counties' console command (shows a map mode)
- Added a 'manifest_destiny_invasion' CB for various special cases
- Fixed some issues with marriage texts, the 'on_marriage' action and modding
- Added effect 'copy_random_personality_trait'
- Added 'reincarnated' trigger
- Added effect 'set_reincarnation'
- Added event target 'reincarnation'
- History action 'add_matrilineal_spouse' now has been fixed
- Added error logs for incorrectly scripted birth and death dates
- Added handling and error logs of incorrectly scripted mothers and fathers (fixes certain crashes)
- Added 'secondary_event_pictures' to religions and culture
- Added trigger 'can_copy_personality_trait_from'

- Color table for converter is now in 0-255 range instead of 0-1
- Color table for converter can now script per CK2 title tag as well
- Key provinces of Europe is now scriptable
- Border provinces of Europe is now scriptable
PC Gamer
Crusader Kings 2 - Rajas of India

Crusader Kings 2 models the hopes, jealousies and paranoid plotting of around 30,000 unique actors, scattered throughout the troubled hierarchies of medieval Europe. From their varying positions of power, they marry, breed, wage wars and bump each other off with splendid selfishness. It's a pioneering sort of grand strategy soap opera, and it's about to get thousands of extra cast members.

CK2's sixth expansion, Rajas of India, will grow the map by 50% and add 400 new provinces, each with their own cabal of commanders, advisers, vassals children to be traded for political advantage. The rulers of India are mapped to three regional religions, which convey unique socio-economic boons upon their adherents, affecting their war-readiness, stability, and research competence. There's a new set of regional events to reflect the local festivities of the era, new jungle terrain and, inevitably, war elephants. It's plenty to be getting on with, but the most impressive thing about the expansion so far is how much of it Paradox are giving away for free.

That massive map increase will be free to everyone with a copy of CK2, for example. You won't be able to play as the new leaders and factions, but you will be able to meet, barter with and assassinate them. The free update also expands Africa with additions to Abyssinia and Nubia - the remnants of a planned future mini-expack that the designers decided to release as a bonus. That's in addition to Steam Workshop support, Steam multiplayer support, and smaller fixes that the CK2 community have been asking for, like a borderless windowed mode.

Evidently, Paradox are keen to keep their players playing - it's one of the reasons they love making big, brainy sandbox strategy games with lots of replayability. The free stuff encourages further playthroughs, which encourages more stories, which are inevitably shared online, creating a positive wave of word-of-mouth endorsement from which Crusader Kings 2 has particularly benefited. "We want to maintain interest in this game," says designer Henrik F hraeus, "keep it alive, keep it evolving and see what we can do with it."

India was a natural evolution for CK2, he explains. The feudal systems of medieval Europe fit comfortably with India's politics at the time, which made it easier to adapt existing systems to the new nation. There are differences, of course. The expansion should offer a more stable and peaceful starting scenario than central Europe. "The really cool thing about India is that it's such a pluralistic and tolerant society for its time," says F hraeus. "Even in these medieval times with the holy warring going on in the rest of the world, these three old religions of india, the Jain, the Buddhists and the Hindus. They were used to living together, and had been living together for a thousand years, basically, in more-or-less peace."

The Nair are the most peaceful of all. Harmonious internal relations make up for a lack of battle-nous. Hindu territories, meanwhile, are good in a ruck and have access to a wide range of creative Cassus Belli (land and title claims that are used to instigate wars), but are hampered internally by the warrior caste's relationship with the ruling classes. Buddhism's progressive musings on the nature of the soul and infinity manifests as a potent research boost that'll let you grow your society quickly.

To reflect India's tolerant nature, you'll be able to flit between religions more easily than the vanilla game. "I might want to start out as a Hindu ruler and conquer stuff," F hraeus suggests, "and then I switch over to become a Buddhist to research, and I might end up with the Jain to have a peaceful, stable realm, so my vassals love me."

The Buddhist belief system also introduces reincarnation, a particularly interesting addition given CK2's focus on succession. "I want to do really cool things about reincarnation, but I'm not sure how much we're going to be able to do," F hraeus says.

"I want a kid to be born, and people will think he's the reincarnation of a previous ruler, probably one of the better ones, and then maybe he will actually take on some of those personality traits."

I ask if there will be room for players to fabricate reincarnation claims to bestow advantage on your offspring, but the team are worried about presenting the concept in such cynical, power-grabbing terms. "It's a little bit dangerous, we're always stepping on toes. Hindus and Buddhists take this really seriously. I'm not sure if we want to do that."

CK2's rapid expansion - compounded by fantastic community mods - makes it an all-consuming pastime for avid fans. It was a tremendous story generator on release way back in 2012, and all the expansions have had to do is add neat new story beats to play with. Rajas of India's religions should do that nicely, and the extra map space will only make the formerly-squashed Eastern factions more viable. It's out in Spring.
PC Gamer

"Do you, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, also known as Strider, from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, take Shelob, a huge terrifying man-eating spider, as your wedded wife?" I do. I did. I married a giant spider! And that's just one of the many bizarre fan-fiction adventures you can have with The Middle Earth Project mod for Crusader Kings II. If marrying a spider sounds weird, it'll make more sense when I explain that I began the game playing as Aragorn's liege: a Balrog.
Before I get into my weird, sick adventure, a little info about the mod. It fully converts Crusader Kings II into Middle Earth. The map is gorgeous and detailed, and there's no shortage of characters and cultures and events imported from The Lord of the Rings. Want to play as Sauron himself? You can. Treebeard of Fangorn? He's there. Saurman the White? Ironfoot of the Dwarves? Elrond of Rivendell? One of those crazy looking masked dudes from Rhun? A Nazgul? An Uruk-Hai? A Goblin? Or something lame, like a Hobbit? They're all there.

Improving diplomatic relations with Mount Doom. Good luck!

So, using the Crusader Kings II Ruler Designer, I whipped up a Balrog to play with. Rather than sticking him in that old dwarf dump Moria, I install him in Dunedain territory, and am quite pleased to see Aragorn himself arrive and become my courtier and heir.

I'm a Balrog.

As a Balrog, I have a couple ambitions. I'd like to have a daughter. I want to research some new technology. I want to hire a capable council. And, of course, I want to kill Gandalf, that bearded prick who trespassed in my house and then had the gall to smash my bridge -- while I was on it! -- when I came up from the basement to politely ask him to keep the noise down. So, I send an assassin after him.

Now it's Gandalf who shan't pass... HIS NEXT BIRTHDAY! Zing. Burn. Pwned.

Yeah, fighting with firewhips while falling though the center of the earth looks cool, but poison is so much more civilized. I know Gandalf's pal, Radagast the Brown, agrees with me, because he immediately poisons me back, and I die. Damn Radagast, you vengeful hippie wizard. Chief Balrog is dead! And just a couple weeks after taking office. I take over as my heir, Aragorn, and quickly swear fealty to Sauron. Because, you know, with Gandalf out of the game, you can forget about marshaling the eagles, or scaring off the Nazgul, or de-witching Theoden, or any of that stuff, so it's pretty clear how this whole war is going to shake out.

I quickly learn that prior to Gandalf's death, he'd already identified the One Ring and sent Frodo off to Bree. Being Aragorn, I naturally meet Frodo there, but the story takes a turn and without getting into too much detail about who did what, let's just say Frodo winds up not having the One Ring anymore and instead it finds its way onto my finger.

Don't worry, Frodo, I'll take it from here.
The bearer of the One Ring gets quite a few stat effects, like enhanced cunning, faster movement, extended lifespan, and apparently a wee bit of a hit on fertility. Still, I should get married and at least give babymaking a shot. I scour the realm for a suitable wife, though most of my own kind are fairly appalled that I've taken Sauron's side in the war.

Some people focus on the spider part. I focus on the noble part.
I do find Shelob, however, living in some sort of Goblin realm, and since the goblin chief approves of my support of Sauron, and since Shelob has a positive opinion of me, I figure, hey, why not? Why not marry a giant blood-sucking spider? I figure the mod won't let me, but the mod lets me. And then I figure it's a goof, and the mod simply doesn't know that Shelob is a giant spider, but the mod knows she's a giant spider. The mod is well aware.

Like the song says, love the one you're with. Love the one you're with.
Sadly, the only option I'm given is to destroy my spider bride with fire, which sort of stinks. I honestly wanted to be married to a giant spider. Who the hell would ever mess with me? You don't invade the lands of a guy who marries an enormous spider. Dude's crazy.
With Shelob dead, I try to marry an Ent, but can't find one that will agree to marry me. I try to marry Arwen, like I'm supposed to, but her guardian Elrond doesn't like me -- for some reason -- and won't agree to the marriage. I have him assassinated, hoping to have more luck with his heir, Elladan, but he doesn't like me either, so I have him assassinated as well, and so on and so on, killing the next four or five successors, in a desperate attempt to find one who will agree to let me wed Arwen. I'm just a romantic that way.

I miss my giant spider wife.

I try the same with Eowyn, killing a bunch of her family members, hoping to eventually find one who likes me, but somehow their opinion of me only grows worse and worse. As it turns out, even I don't like me much. I'm not sure what the source of Aragorn's misery is. Is it the crushing weight of the One Ring? Is it that I married and then destroyed a giant spider? Is it that I killed Elrond and a bunch of other elves in an effort to woo Arwen? Is it my crippling impotence?

Anyway, I notice in my Intrigue panel that I have the option to commit suicide. Considering all the enemies that I've made, and that the One Ring means fathering an heir is almost impossible, and that I attempted to marry a talking tree at one point, killing myself suddenly seems to be the most reasonable option.

I did my best. That's all anyone can ask.
Accomplished nothing of note? I assassinated Gandalf and Elrond. I stole the One Ring from Frodo. I MARRIED A GIANT SPIDER. We have a very different definition of "accomplished," video game. Very different.
Installation: I will give you instructions, if you do not know the way. Download the mod. Extract it to your CKII mod directory (even with a Steam copy, look in My Documents > Paradox Interactive > Crusader Kings II > mod). When you start up CKII, just tick the box that says Middle Earth Project, and start playing!
PC Gamer

Paradox have blown their conference's announcement horn, summoning a horde of new games and expansions to the sweltering shores of Miami. But have those games arrived by longboat, frigate or submarine? Actually, it's all of the above, with their upcoming catalogue covering the full breadth of their internal Development Studio titles. As well as the expected expansions for Crusader Kings 2 and Europa Universalis 4, they've revealed the existence of the long-awaited Hearts of Iron 4. If that weren't enough, they've also announced a brand new Norse-inspired RPG called Runemaster.

A Hearts of Iron 4 announcement, you say? Best bring out the Churchill.

Hearts of Iron IV challenges players to face the brutal conflict of World War II in a multifaceted grand strategy game, where history can be fully relived or rewritten from the perspective of a global superpower attempting to change the world, or a small nation simply trying to survive.

Not much is known right now, except to say that Paradox want HoI4 to be "better than EU4", and that it won't be released this year.

On to the new new thing. Runemaster is an RPG from PDS, making it a pretty big departure from their grand-strategy comfort zone. It's also a fantasy title, making it a really big departure from their historical comfort zone. Here's the teaser:

"Runemaster is an RPG set in a fantasy realm based in the rich, majestic traditions of Norse mythology, casting each player in the role of a unique champion in a time of chaotic upheaval. Procedural maps and quests will ensure that no two playthroughs are identical, allowing players to tell a saga that is uniquely their own. Explore vast vistas through the six worlds of Norse myth, command troops in tactical combat, and define your champion through the choices they make."

As for the expansions, Crusader Kings 2 is getting Rajas of India, which, as you might expect, expands the map. With India included, the game's map becomes 50% bigger, incorporating an extra 300+ provinces. And Europa Universalis 4? That expansion will be called Wealth of Nations, and it'll focus on improving and expanding trade.

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