I wrote a love letter to Crusader Kings 2’s intricate dynastic backstabbing a while ago, and I thought I should let you know about the game’s semi-sequel Europa Universalis 4. I’ll even toss in a few tidbits about the myriad DLC available for both titles at no additional charge.
First, a brief introduction: Crusader Kings 2 is strategy-as-individual, a fascinating look at the intimately personal nature of politics and power, spanning the years from 1066 CE (867 CE with Old Gods DLC) to 1453 CE. Europa Universalis 4 follows this with a shift from the myopically personal to the strictly national, covering the years 1444 CE to 1821 CE. With both games and the appropriate DLC, it’s possible to convert a CK2 save game into an EU4 mod, letting you pick up the reins of your budding nation-state right where your Machiavellian ruler left them.
I loved CK2 from the start, even though it took a long time for me to feel like I could play the game without stumbling over my shoelaces. Despite having an easier time learning how to play EU4, it took longer for me to really fall into it. I think it was because the game is simply less personal. It certainly wasn’t because of the interface, which has only improved.
In my first game of CK2, I was presented with a moderately ugly portrait of a lecherous Irish earl, told that that was me, and told that I really ought to get married. I lived that earl’s life with gusto, trying (and failing) to better my position in the world, and I still have fond memories of him. I identified with him, in much the same way that I have since identified with Queen Ximena and several other rulers of mine, and I felt connected. EU4 simply doesn’t offer that experience, and at first I was dissatisfied. I didn’t understand why I would want to play this grand strategy game without all the little people desperately trying to grease the wheels of power in order to ease their rise to the top. I put aside the game and didn’t come back for a few weeks.
I’m still not sure what it was that pulled me back in, but I’m glad it did. Despite looking so similar to CK2, EU4 is a very different game; it offers you the chance to shape a state as it transitions from the deeply personal politics of feudalism to the larger scale conflicts of colonialism, nationalism, and empire. It gives you a chance to make Thomas Hobbes proud.