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Broadly, Crusader Kings resembles the other games in the EU series
. It's a real time empire management game, set on a parceled out boardgame map showing political and geographical detail. The first major difference is that this game is limited entirely to Europe
, Northern Africa
, and the near Middle East
. The second difference is the game's focus on dynasty type gameplay.
Unlike other games in the series, where you control a nation, in Crusader Kings you control the patriarch of a family, and the basest level of management is managing your family. You have to arrange strategic marriages for your children, appoint capable and loyal members of your family to key positions in your empire, and manage the education of the children to expand your family's control and influence over Europe.
A unique aspect of this game's empire management is that you can only directly control a handful of provinces, the number of which is tied to the skills of your patriarch. The rest of your territory has to be administered by vassals. You can also play as a vassal to another empire. Your current rank dictates what kind of vassals you can appoint. The chain of command is as follows:
As you might guess from the title, much of the conflict in Crusader Kings revolves around the push and pull of Muslim and Christian empires in the Middle Ages. In this game, the pope has far reaching powers, including the power to call crusades which you must answer at the risk of your prestige, and the ability to excommunicate rulers. In un-modded Crusader Kings, you can only play as a Christian family, although the AI islamic factions operate in much the same way.