Crusader Kings II is probably Paradox Interactive’s most successful strategy game to date. Its approachable and entertaining design, regular DLC, and frequent Steam sales all contributed to this happy state of affairs.
Thanks to Paradox’s focus on allowing mod development, a thriving mod community grew around CK2, with mods ranging from slight tweaks to major overhauls to premise-shattering total conversions. Here are some of the most popular and successful community creations.
CK2Plus, originally by Martin ‘Wiz’ Anward, is the granddaddy of CK2 mods. Sticking to the original CK2 setting, Wiz overhauled almost every mechanic, adding more kingdoms and empires to form, more starting scenarios, more interesting expansion, and a greatly expanded faction system.
After a year of exemplary modding, Wiz was hired by Paradox and forced to abandon CK2Plus. A volunteer team was assembled to maintain and continue the mod, and it entered a state of drift. Core features of CK2Plus were allowed to become incompatible, while unnecessary new additions were wedged in. Is it really necessary for CK2Plus to have a new map in which Iceland has four provinces? The province count bloated as work in other areas was left undone.
The original volunteer team disbanded earlier this year, citing a lack of time and energy to maintain CK2Plus. A new group shows some promise and has made the core features compatible, but some of the best submods, like Reign of Princes (in-use in the above screenshot) are not updated yet. With any luck, CK2Plus can be restored to its former place as a great mechanic-enhancing mod.
HIP: Historical Immersion Project
Many of those former CK2Plus players have moved on to the Historical Immersion Project. HIP isn’t a single mod, but rather a set of mods designed to be compatible with each other in various combinations.
HIP is a greatly improved CK2 experience. The map is clean and subtly improved, installation is easy, and the submods include many new features and mechanics. It’s a bit more polished than vanilla, and the additions aren’t intrusive or out of place.
Of the included submods, I’d avoid ARKOPack Interface and SWMH. SWMH needlessly bloats the map with hundreds of new provinces and has not been updated to include the Indian subcontinent – released with the Rajas of India DLC months ago. ARKOPack Interace is more subjective – it’s a revamping of much of CK2’s interface. Personally, I find the new GUI to be pretty poorly designed, but you might feel differently. In any case, it’s optional.
This is a weird one. Lux Invicta is an insanely complex alternate-history scenario concocted to give players the opportunity to play as almost any conceivable religion, culture, or entity. Want to be a Seleucid heir to Alexander the Great? Sure. Druidic Irish megaking? Fine. Any of three or four flavors of “Roman Emperor“? You bet!
The above is a shot of Lux Invicta’s religion map. The political map is similarly fractured. It is a mess, but wonderful in its own way. If you have a pet historical or religious interest, you can play ‘for’ it. By tossing plausibility out of the window and focusing on freedom, Lux Invicta created a scenario that is crazy fun. (I’m sympathetic to this, having concocted an even less plausible EUIV mod in my own time.)
LI doesn’t change too many mechanics, but the changes it does make are reasonable and suit the scenario. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and the empires that rise out of the shattered world can be very entertaining indeed.
The Winter king
Here’s a much more plausible mod, set at the dawn of the dark ages. The Winter King is based on a zoomed-in map of Britain, Ireland and Northern France after the fall of the Roman Empire, as Druids, Roman remnants, Saxons and more tangle over this corner of the world.
It incorporates many of the best features from CK2Plus, HIP, and other mods, making it a surprisingly polished experience. The scenario can be a bit deterministic, but it’s lots of fun, and an intriguing look at a historical period and scale that the CK2 engine isn’t usually applied to.
Also, you can play as King Arthur with Merlin as your Court Druid. Consider me sold.
A Game of Thrones
This is the big one, and probably a major driver of CK2’s sales. The GoT mod team did a fantastic job adapting the world of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, with a beautiful map that includes both Westeros and the lands across the Narrow Sea.
Scenarios can be a bit predictable at times; for example, the main characters from the series proper have clearly mapped-out optimal paths. On the other hand, any character in the game can theoretically fall down the stairs and die on day one and immediately derail the fictional history. If you care about the series or the characters, there’s a lot to love about this mod. Without any player intervention, the AI can get up to some pretty entertaining things.
The new features, like dragons or the “megawar” system, are well-implemented and creative solutions to problems the CK2 engine wasn’t designed to handle. It’s worth a look.
Several Something Awful goons are working on a North America mod loosely based on post-apocalyptic classic A Canticle for Leibowitz. It’s still very much a work in progress, with only America up to the Mississippi partially finished, but these screenshots are definitely exciting.
Elder Kings is an Elder Scrolls total conversion that looks very impressive. They did great work with their new map and graphical representations of the various races. There’s a Diadochi Kings mod in development now, as well, which focuses on Alexander the Great’s successors and the fractured Mediterranean of the time. Finally, there are loads and loads of minimods focusing on tweaking and improving the game in innumerable ways.
In short, the mod scene is thriving. If you own CK2, you owe it to yourself to have a look.
You can find all of these mods on the Paradox forums.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Thomas Howell.