People seemed to enjoy my last Crusader Kings II write-up, The Promised Land RELOADED, so now that I’ve finished Persona 5 I thought I’d do another one. I asked Twitter what I should play, and the response was in favor of being a Viking, so it’s time to figure out how to vike.
Some of the same caveats as last time — I usually don’t play CKII to “win” but for fun, so my decisions are often sub-optimal by hardcore player standards. This is actually my first time playing as a tribal, pagan ruler, so I’ll be learning on the job more than usual! I’ve also never played with the Monks & Mystics expansion, so there’s probably some new stuff there as well. Lastly, it’s a historical game, so real-world stuff pops up — please don’t assume I’m actually in favor of burning Christians in the name of Thor!
Last game, my goals were to establish the Empire of Israel and rebuild the Temple, and thereafter to generally grab as much territory as possible. This time, the objectives are similar but not identical — I want to reform Germanic paganism into an “organized” religion and fight off the Christians, establish the Empire of Scandinavia, and ultimately reform the tribal Norse into a feudal society. Assuming I get that far, which is by no means guaranteed, then we’ll see what’s next — becoming King of England sounds attractive, and there are Germanic holy sites in Germany that need taking. Let’s get started!
Here, once again, is the world of 769 AD. This time I’ll be starting in the far north instead of the far south!
Also, I’ve decided to make this work an ahistorical one, where women have equal respect and legal status to men from the start. This actually turns out to be kind of awful, for reasons to be described later, but I like having awesome Viking women warriors too much.
Here’s the religious distribution. As you can see, Germanic makes up a large chunk on the edge of Christian Europe, bordered on the other side by Suomenusko and Slavic.
Closer up, you can see the Germanic holy sites in white. (The fifth one is the islands at the mouth of the Rhine.)
Culture-wise, we are Norse, and our biggest rivals are going to be the Samis and Finns to the east.
So, welcome to Hålogaland (this whole series is going to be a course in producing various obscure diacritic marks) and our first ruler, Ormr av Nordland. As rulers go, he’s not terrible, reasonable crafty but not terribly diplomatic. He’s zealous, craven, and paranoid, which isn’t great. Territory-wise, we’ve got two counties on the north-west coast, surrounded by quite a few single-county nations.
Ormr is the only member of his dynasty, so we need to get on having children ASAP. He surveys the available noblewomen and finds them wanting, so he acquires a lowborn but high-stewardship wife, Gloð. (I am informed by my in-house Old English expert that ð is pronounced as a hard th, so “Gloð” might rhyme with “clothe”? Who says games aren’t educational.) I set the Family focus and the Groom an Heir ambition to initiate maximum sexytimes.
One of our near-term goals is to reform the Germanic faith into an organized religion with a book, a pope, etc. This requires control of three holy sites, so taking over the peninsula to get my hands on those is a first step.
Monks & Mystics has added secret societies, and mine is apparently called the Fellowship of Hel, which I’m sure are pretty benevolent. There’s also various artifacts and treasures you can collect now!
Viking 101: Take your troops, set them to “raid”, and head to enemy territory.
If you’re doing it right, everyone around you should soon be on fire! Unfortunately Finnmark is poor as dirt so I managed to steal, like, three copper pieces and a chicken. However, the surprise attack wipes out their fighting strength, making them an easy target.
As long as you’re going after non-Germanic peoples, the Norse don’t need to fiddle around with “reasons” and “claims”. You have land, we want it, that’s good enough.
Hurrah! Finnmark is mine! Unfortunately, this brings us to the biggest problem with being Norse — succession. As an unreformed pagan tribal society, the only succession method available is Elective Gavelkind, which is just the worst. What it means is that, on the ruler’s death, their titles are divided up amongst the available heirs, with the primary title going to a heir chosen by a vote among the candidates. So if I control six counties and have six children, they each get one, and my realm fractures into a bunch of tiny little realms again. Not good.
This is also where my gender-equal world bites me a little bit — while it means I don’t have to obsess about having a son, it also means that each ruler is going to have roughly twice as many inheritors on average, compared to a world where the daughters have no claims and get married off.
One way to mitigate the problem is to have only one title at the highest level you’ve achieved. That way, when your children inherit, they usually remain vassals of the primary heir. (Though they have some option of becoming independent if they’re not part of the de jure realm.) Essentially, if I hold six count titles, they’ll all get split up, but if I hold one duke title as well, all the new counts will still be outranked by whoever becomes duke.
Long story short, I need to create a duchy for Ormr to rule ASAP. Holding Finnmark gives me the chance to do that, but it’s expensive, so we’re going to have to save up.
Ormr is a little nuts when he lets his paranoia get the better of him.
Weirdly, this makes Beata like me more. Does she have a paranoid-lunatic fetish?
Ormr acquires a pet cat almost immediately.
Hurrah! Maybe we can avoid a first-generation game over.
Ormr celebrates by setting fire to Naumadal and taking all their possessions.
Though it costs almost half the treasury, it’s worth it to increase my wife’s lustiness. While having a lot of children is problematic for succession, with a dynasty of one it’s more important to get some branches going as insurance against disaster.
My heir is Gurli Ormrsdottir! Norse have awesome names.
When it comes to other worshipers of Odin, I can’t just take their land like I can from infidels. However, each rulers gets one use of the “Subjugation” war, which forces a target to become your vassal. I hold off on this for now, hoping for a better target.
Instead, I head over to Ostrobothnia, which is held by Finnish heretics, and get to work burning it down.
My best choice for Chancellor is Tyyne, the former chieftess of Finnmark who I took as my concubine after I burned it. I see no way in which this can go poorly.
Not long after, though, my wife Gloð dies during another pregnancy. So I secure a fresh-faced young wife, Sofia, and make her chancellor. She may be bad at it, but at least she doesn’t hate me.
I go to war for the northern half of Ostrobothnia, which briefly thwarts my brave warrior by the cunning tactic of changing its name and thus confusing them. I picture them frantically repainting all the road signs.
Soon enough, though, their land is mine, although it makes my font on the map look stupid.
I have no idea what this is but I am definitely super angry about it!
All the hate-sex with Tyyne is paying off!
And I’m also in love with my new wife! She gets pregnant soon after, too. It’s good to be chief!
In celebration, I send some men to raid Naumadal again but forget to notice that it’s January, so they all freeze to death before they can burn it down. Oops.
In revenge for their cunning plot of living in a frozen hellscape I decide to subjugate Naumadal after all!
This time we cleverly attack during March.
By the time October rolls around, everything is blazing nicely.
Another conquest! But now getting that duchy is really becoming pressing.
Having achieved three children, Ormr switches his focus from “constant boning” to “business” in an effort to building up the treasury enough to become a Duke.
This quickly pays off with the opportunity to scam my subjects with debased coinage. Milton Friedman would be ashamed of me.
Prestige is more important for tribal peoples. While some upgrades still require gold, others are paid for with prestige. In addition, you can pay 500 prestige to summon a 2,500 man army! This means that assessing who is weak enough to attack can be tricky, and a weak, prestigious ruler can create a lot of troops in a hurry.
My steward helps out with a foreign trade expedition!
Apparently we’re going to the exotic land of “Kent”.
This is always a risk, but the joke’s on them, since I get to keep the money.
This is very nice. I should visit exotic lands more often!
Success! This will go a long way towards becoming a duke.
Now that I own Naumadal I can even create the duchy that includes my capital. All hail Duke Ormr!
*sniff* Stupid game makes me sad about imaginary cats.
Now that I have some children, I give up my concubines. Tyyne is now a) angry at me because I abducted her and made her a concubine, and b) angry at me because I told her she couldn’t be a concubine anymore. I let her take out her rage as one of my generals.
Lappland, another heathen county, is next on my hit list.
Though I now have plenty of children, there is no “stop sleeping with your wife” button.
For some reason Tyyne wants me dead! She escapes when I try to arrest her and continues to plot my demise from afar.
My realm is now named “Nidaros” after the duchy I created, and my font is looking much better. I subjugate Westrobothnia next.
With that accomplished, I turn my eye toward creating a kingdom, which will allow me to have duke-level vassals. That would help a lot, but in order to do it I need to first create a second duchy, then pay 258 gold for the kingdom itself. That’s a pretty tall order.
The reason I’m conquering in such a hurry is that the likely targets get picked off pretty quickly as small single-county realms are absorbed into larger kingdoms. The Finns are still mostly divided, but Denmark has unified much of southern Scandinavia. Sooner or later we’re going to have to fight them.
Also, aren’t we supposed to go Viking at some point? I’m sure there was something about that in the orientation.
Current Year: 783 AD. Current Status: Still Not Viking.