As you know, most of CK2’s expansions have “widened” the gameplay by unlocking new regions of the map and making various religions playable. You can now start the game in widely different cultural spheres for a great variety of different experiences; “Fifty Shades of Dark”, if you will. Meanwhile, we have gradually improved the core gameplay in patches (e.g. the technology system), but rarely in any radical way. Whenever we did try to “deepen” the core gameplay in an expansion, it often turned out to be a mistake: The Retinue mechanic of Legacy of Rome should, for example, have been a part of the base game so we could have kept building upon it.
Even so, it is high time that we addressed some of the major shortcomings of the strategy game that underpins the RPG experience. In particular, CK2 suffers from a kind of inverse difficulty progression; it is hard in the beginning and easy in the mid-to-late game. This is a great shame, because one of the main points of the whole feudal hierarchy mechanic - the need to rely on vassals - was to make it hard to maintain stable large Realms. So, my first and foremost intention with Conclave was to increase the challenge of the mid-to-late game. This was the general plan of action:
- Reduce the “positive opinion inflation” of vassals vs their liege. (We ended up cutting many important positive opinion modifiers in half.)
- Highlight the most powerful vassals by making them strongly desire a Council seat.
- Give the Council more power without reducing player agency. (You are free to disregard the Council’s suggestions, but this will have ramifications on Factions. More on this later...)
- Introduce Infamy and Coalitions against aggressively expanding Realms.
- Improve the alliance mechanic to make it a more intentional choice. (A royal marriage is now simply a non-aggression pact. Alliance is the second step, but still requires a marriage.)
- Improve the diplomatic AI in order to contain “blobs” (with the help of the above Alliance and Coalition systems.)
- Bring the military AI to a whole new level.
- Make it harder to quickly win wars through one or two major engagements. (Hence, we reduced the bloodiness of battles overall, introduced “shattered retreats” and made armies reinforce in friendly territory.)
Thus, the features of Conclave and the accompanying patch are a combination of internal and external measures to make blobbing harder. This intention had ripple effects on other mechanics. For example, malcontents now tend to gang up into fewer but more powerful Factions, and we reworked the Law Screen while we were adding the new Council Power laws.
We also took this opportunity to address an unrelated weakness in the game, namely the education of children. If you have the expansion, that whole experience should now be more interesting…
That’s all for now, stay tuned for the details!