CK3: Is it *really* a complete failure, though?

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RynGM

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Full disclaimer: I'm a newcomer to the Crusader Kings franchise. Prior to CK3, I'd heard about CK2, as most mod enthusiasts have. But when I tried to play it and coax out its mythical properties, I baulked at what I saw as a clunky, unpolished UI and utter lack of visuals.

To me, it felt like a game from the '00s. Without the protective sheen of nostalgia, it wasn't a compromise I was willing to make. There was also a lot of mechanics going on, and it felt like a chore to learn them.

I'm no stranger to things with a learning curve (like learning how to make games in Unity 3D) but the game's hidden gems seemed deep beneath the surface, and I didn't want to dig only to find out they were imaginary.

There, my secret is now exposed. You now have an imprisonment reason!

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RynGM gains +20 Stress
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for Exposing CK Newcomer Secret


Fast forward to CK3. There were rumblings on the gaming news sites. Unlike CK2, this seemed visually stunning, accessible, and fun. I spent ages reading the Wiki before I bought, making sure I learned every system I could. I wanted to know the difference between Faiths, Doctrines, and Tenets, or what decisions I could make.

I hit the ground running in Ireland, and loved it. After quitting the tutorial, I started up as Haesteinn, and over 200 years later I painted the world (I had to do it once). Compared to a regular AAA game where you can get anything between 20 to 120 hours, what I was getting out of CK3 was amazing.

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RynGM has gained the Reclusive Trait.

In the lead up to RC, I was watching every Dev Diary, waiting for it to drop. That's when I realised, compared to many other games I've played, there was more of a two-way dialogue going on. Ideas were being taken from users and included.

"Hey, I've got ideas! Why don't I share some of them?"

So I jumped on the forum, and excitedly made some threads. It was going to be a new community to check out of people who liked CK3 as much as I did. Maybe there'd be a few folks who were hardcore about historical details, but that's fine.

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RynGM has the Trusting trait.

Fast forward two weeks.

I'm flicking through thread after thread. There's post after post about how "x has been a failure" or "y is a catastrophe." It's a malicious act by Paradox, who are either fools, or actively conspiring to make the player suffer.

The common solution offered is that the developers need to sit in a corner, think about all the terrible things they've done, then gut the game until it's good again. Sometimes this involves pulling the game from the shelf, or releasing a new DLC to fix it.

My best post - which got over sixty likes - was saying something critical about the game having too many silly events.

"Am I playing the same game? Am I on crazy pills? Does anyone like this game, or is it just me?" I thought.

Let me check Reddit. There's some people who like the game (but, according to Forum folk, they are too positive). Okay, so let's check Steam.

Steam.PNG


Right. So I'm not alone. What the heck is going on, then?

It clicks. I'm probably the new audience. This is the old audience, and there's some friction going on. There's this toxic, suffocating air that hangs around the forum, seemingly spilling from the wounds of the fans that came before.

I'm no stranger to criticising things - I'm the first to point out a movie's flaws when I exit the cinema, much to my wife's chagrin. But the negativity is so omnipresent, it feels like no oxygen actually gets in.

Seems like the smart move is to move on, right? That's what people say: if you don't like it, leave it. On one level, that kind of sucks. This is the space where you can leave suggestions. Plus, if it's like this for me as a new fan, how is it for everyone else?

So I decided to make a post. Very sure it won't do anything, but I wanted to add my voice to it all, as a new player. I like CK3, and it got me here when CK2 didn't! And I'm not alone.

That's not to say anyone else's preferences or gameplay styles are invalid. But I don't think calling CK3 a catastrophic failure that needs to be redone is right, or that it needed two or three more years of development before first release.

I think there are definitely things that need to be improved - making different cultures and religions feel different, for a start - but I think calling it a comprehensive failure is a stretch.

I think you can tell I used my journaling decision.

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RynGM Writes Thoughts Down
 
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This form is a magnet for people who want to express their displeasure with the game. Seems to be the case with most Paradox games.

Some people want the game to be serious, historical and difficult. Crusader Kings 3 is not providing these things sufficiently for them. So they're complaining loudly on here about it.
 
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Surimi

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I mean, kinda agree...

CK2 was my gateway into Paradox games, and it has a special place in my heart for that reason, but I don't think I can go back to it.

I feel there's an issue with the Paradox development model, and it's my biggest issue with their games right now. While it's great that we get these multi-year post release support cycles, one consequence of that is that games gradually lose their original cohesive vision and become a grab bag of ideas and novelty mechanics. EU4 is the worst offender, but CK2 was actually not too far behind, and for a game which required some roleplaying in order to be fun, the fact that being "good" at CK2 by the end mostly came down to memorizing and abusing these layers and layers of unintuitive one-off systems was an absolute killer.

CK3 right now takes me back to how I felt when I first started playing CK2. I feel like I can focus on the weird emergent stories again instead of just trying to abuse everything to win. I find the experience more relaxing and losing is less annoying. There are fewer choices, sure, but the choices that do exist feel more meaningful and less false to me.

Royal court does seem a bit unbalanced right now so I get why people are mad to a degree, but it has brought something I genuinely love in the form of the modular culture system. I think it's a great example of how adding mechanical depth doesn't have to mean adding novelty mechanics.
 
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Absolutely cannot agree with you more. I've played CK2 before CK3, but felt that CK3 is way, wayyyy better for me personally. I feel as though the core map painter gamers are a bit upset with all the focus on RPG stuff but personally bro, I'm in heaven.
 
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When I read the 'negative' comments around here I usually see detailed explanations of what is wrong, what steps can be taken to address it, and either gameplay, historical, or just reintegration of missing CK2 mechanics. Most of the ones that stick around and 'crowed' the forum are very detailed, very popular, and very collaborative.

On the other hand I rarely see explanations in these 'positive' threads that describe why they're so satisfied and what game mechanics are actually working for them. Your own post mostly focuses on what other people say to improve the game rather than actually adding anything of your own.

I think the fact that you didn't play CK2 blinds and biases your views of this game. First of all, you take all the 'good' mechanics at face value with no idea if they were better implemented previously so it's not possible to convince you they're not as good as they could be. Secondly you focus on posts and reviews from people that have yet to even grasp the games full mechanics with less hours than most standard players on the forum means they have likely not even experienced or understand the mechanics well enough to grasp what troubles the more experienced players are pointing out. Almost all games feel exciting and new when you first play it. The real test of a video game is whether or not it maintains that impression once you've mastered it. Other paradox games live up to those mechanics, CK3 often misses at the moment. It takes actual understanding of what's going on, sometimes even the code, to really grasp if you're having the intended and designed experience.

This game is and can be fun. There are many aspects that are straight upgrades from CK2. Visually there is no doubt CK3 is a masterpiece for grand strategy games. Religion and now culture are excellent straight forward upgrades from CK2. The devs are putting in a lot of good work. But that doesn't mean you can just handwave away all the issues and missteps because you personally can manage to have some fun with the game.

As the first commenter rightly points out there are many many outright issues with CK3 and its launch. Does that make it a bad game? No it's not E.T. on the Atari. DOes it mean most people can't have fun with the game? No. But does it mean a large part of the people that have had fun with all the other paradox franchises and have experience of the quality and fun that can be had in CK2 should just roll over and ignore everything that ruins their fun? NO!

This forum is specifically to have a discourse with the developers of the game. That is what we're here to do. We love this game as much as they and you do. That's why the forum is littered with constructive mega threads about improving the game and improving and returning the features that are missing.

Before writing a huge post like this dismissing other players constructive criticism maybe test out what they're saying, try other paradox titles, get some experience under your belt. I assure you they won't sound as 'crazy' and 'bad faith' as you think.

When you say, "Just don't play" you need to recognize a lot of us are playing other paradox game and CK2 instead. A lot of us love those games and have watched them grow. A lot of us have sunk weeks into games like CK2, as in love with it as you are with CK3 but simply can't feel that magic with CK3 because of glaring issues. Is it so wrong to voice our preferences and give our suggestions?

Finally here are some simple things non CK2 players will have missed:
  • In CK2 you can directly guide your allies in wars to actually help you, In CK3 you need to scrutinize the AI behaviours to know what they will ever do.
  • In CK2 for numerous reasons factions were less aggressive and less likely to fire all at once. More like patch 1.0 of CK3. CK2 also had much earlier primogeniture for the AI and the number of troops and their costs stayed consistent on succession. This lead to significantly stronger AI realms that simply are not common in CK3 atm.
  • CK2 had significantly less frightful AI opponents and chasing them across the map was significantly easier due to the sitting in counties rather than baronies. I could write an entire essay on how much more intuitive CK2 warfare was. For example catching your enemies and ending the war by sieging down their capital was not as common and was not programed as the AI's #2 objective.
  • CK2 had savable game rules, there was no excuse for this to have taken so long. Even now I have to reclick achievements on in the game rule menu every time I play. nuff said.
  • CK2 had grand narrative events that would happen very rarely or once per playthrough. Things like Joan of Ark, Fighting pirates as the Basilius, dealing with horse racing riots in constantinople, several charlemagne events, mongol city sacking events (these might be in CK3 but I haven't seen the mongols make it yet), etc. Societies had great event chains too.
  • CK2 characters died at more random intervals and less from battles.
  • CK2 had battle events, they just made them unmoddable in the last patch for CK3.
  • In CK2 wars were less balanced around prestige and piety so you could do more as a young character or a short lived character without spending so much time building up your prestige or piety.
  • Meme and Ahistorical stuff was behind a game rule so you didn't have to play a non realistic game if you didn't want to.
  • No fenagaling with raising troops and wait times. You pressed raise and they showed up in every county and it was just a matter of selecting them all in a box and sending them to one location. Both have flaws but at least the AI could raise troops anywhere in CK2 and not just their capital.
  • Significantly less hit and run boat tactics so coastal capitals weren't as at risk and since the AI had to move its boats too it was less likely for them to just jump away through seat tiles.

Having said that there are a number of good changes too, here's some stuff in CK2 I'm glad never came forward:
  • You had to negotiate alliances after marriages so the AI never had many allies.
  • You could keep the realm really stable if you had fewer vassals than council spots since they couldn't join factions.
  • Most items were overpowered especially when you built them up. Though CK3 is only a bit better.
  • Societies were so good your character felt like a loser with no life if he didn't join one.
  • Seduction was waaay more unhinged though it's still pretty common in CK3 for almost everyone to cheat.
 
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CK2: Just over 2000 Hours played, and still play it from time to time.
CK3: 52 Hours, uninstalled.
 
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CK3 is a massive improvement over CK2. The core mechanics and potential are there. Obviously there are some areas which feel a little light in terms of content, but you can't expect a new game to have all the features of something developed for over half a decade with tons of DLC expansions.

The only failure of CK3 is the glacial development. Even basic bug fixing patches have been few and far between, although I'm optimistic that will improve now that we don't have a global pandemic going on. Fingers crossed we don't have to wait another six months for a flavour pack.
 
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EU4 is the worst offender, but CK2 was actually not too far behind, and for a game which required some roleplaying in order to be fun, the fact that being "good" at CK2 by the end mostly came down to memorizing and abusing these layers and layers of unintuitive one-off systems was an absolute killer.
I don't disagree with you too much but did you ever play CK2 before Conclave? lol. I just remember how easy it was to game the mechanics before then. It was just send gold to every vassal and you'd pretty much be golden for the rest of the game. That DLC really added complexity and it was so good it's still here in CK3.
 
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CK3 isn't perfect, but there's still a lot about it I like. CK2 and 3 are very different games, which way be part of the reason 3 has evoked such a strong negative reaction in some players. I'm having a good time in my current CK3 game, and there are a few games I have planned for the future. I have 2100 hours logged with CK2... will 3 have such longevity? We'll see.
 
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RynGM

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I hate breaking things into piece-by-piece responses, but I couldn't see a way around it.

When I read the 'negative' comments around here I usually see detailed explanations of what is wrong, what steps can be taken to address it, and either gameplay, historical, or just reintegration of missing CK2 mechanics. Most of the ones that stick around and 'crowed' the forum are very detailed, very popular, and very collaborative.

On the other hand I rarely see explanations in these 'positive' threads that describe why they're so satisfied and what game mechanics are actually working for them. Your own post mostly focuses on what other people say to improve the game rather than actually adding anything of your own.

I'm happy to explain why I have personally been enjoying CK3. I'll stick to main reasons, because the full list would be exhaustive.
  • I like the graphics, and being able to see a customised ruler or characters. When I have a child, or a spouse, they look different and follow a genetic profile. That's amazing to me, because a lot of games cut corners in this regard.
  • I like the gameplay of taking over kingdoms, and trying to spread my presence across a region. Usually I set goals like "Remake the Roman Empire" or "Make this pagan religion popular again." I pick hard locations with a lot of big empires around me, and pick them apart.
  • I like when my character dies and I've got to scramble to make sure I keep all my territories, and the new ruler doesn't get axed.
  • TBH, seducing other rulers is a big draw card. Yeah, it's basic. So what?
  • I like when I've got to make a call between a few things, and I've got to pause for that event and really think it out based on my current stats.
  • Learning all the different mechanics, traits, and decisions was fun. Having to consult the wiki for me indicated there's a lot going on.
That's a few starters, but TBH, I think it's a bit of a boring read, though, so in my original post I just said it was "visually stunning, accessible, and fun."

I think the fact that you didn't play CK2 blinds and biases your views of this game. First of all, you take all the 'good' mechanics at face value with no idea if they were better implemented previously so it's not possible to convince you they're not as good as they could be. Secondly you focus on posts and reviews from people that have yet to even grasp the games full mechanics with less hours than most standard players on the forum means they have likely not even experienced or understand the mechanics well enough to grasp what troubles the more experienced players are pointing out. Almost all games feel exciting and new when you first play it. The real test of a video game is whether or not it maintains that impression once you've mastered it. Other paradox games live up to those mechanics, CK3 often misses at the moment. It takes actual understanding of what's going on, sometimes even the code, to really grasp if you're having the intended and designed experience.

I did play CK2. I didn't get very far because I didn't like it.

I'm sorry to say, but this part feels like serious gatekeeping to me. Under this logic, my opinion is "blinded and biased" if I haven't:
  1. Played CK2 beyond the first few hours.
  2. Played CK3 for more than 200 hours, and have "mastered" it.
  3. Potentially even understand the underlying code.
Really?

The person that fits the first criteria is generally going to be a CK2 fan. For the second, most people don't expect a single-player game to have a life span beyond 100 hours. Calling this an incomplete experience disregards these players. I get that you can play it for 2000 hours. That's awesome! But there can be more than one way to digest a game.

For the third, again, seriously? I've got to be a modder to understand if I'm having "the intended and designed experience?"

That's like saying I can't have an opinion on a book without being an author, or critique a movie if I'm not a film-maker.

Before writing a huge post like this dismissing other players constructive criticism maybe test out what they're saying, try other paradox titles, get some experience under your belt. I assure you they won't sound as 'crazy' and 'bad faith' as you think.

When you say, "Just don't play" you need to recognize a lot of us are playing other paradox game and CK2 instead. A lot of us love those games and have watched them grow. A lot of us have sunk weeks into games like CK2, as in love with it as you are with CK3 but simply can't feel that magic with CK3 because of glaring issues. Is it so wrong to voice our preferences and give our suggestions?

No, it's absolutely not wrong to critique the game, or say what you think isn't there. It's certainly not wrong to compare it to CK2, and say what you feel is missing.

The point of my post was to say when people make a lot of sweeping statements that the entirety of CK3 is an absolute failure, it really doesn't take into account the reality that there's a group of CK3 newcomers who are having a ball with it.

That enjoyment isn't delegitimised by the fact they haven't played CK2, and therefore don't know what true happiness looks like. And, as I said in my case, we might have tried out CK2 and not resonated with it.
 
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I expressed how much I dislike CK3 on a Discord server and someone else said they thought it was great. When I asked them whether they had played CK2, they said no, and that made a lot of sense to me as I too would probably enjoy it if I was a new player. I have multiple Paradox forum veterans as friends on Steam, and the highest playtime is 95 hours.

CK3 is just unimpressive if you've come from CK2. I've already done everything I wanted to in the Middle Ages in CK2: CK3 was not revolutionary enough to let me do completely new things, and it lacked the content of CK2 (and beautiful culture-specific interfaces). I do think Royal Court was a step in the right direction, but it's not enough and the game is going to take many years of content updates to be on par with CK2.

Where is the fun in CK3? Some people say it is a storyteller, but simply telling stories is unappealing for non-YouTubers without any difficulty, and CK3 allows me to do stupid things like become a cannibal nudist cult without any real resistance from my realm or the church authorities - I'm all for freedom, but I expect Paradox games to at least try and be historical simulations because otherwise I would just play Civilization.

War is even less fun than in CK2 due to how random it seems, how you can get magical navies (in reality there were navies, or there were only so many merchant ships you could conscript), and how it normally involves rushing each other's capital.

Apparently CK3 was going for character-based gameplay, yet I still don't care about characters and the only thing there was to do in CK3 before Royal Court was to blob. There's still not really enough content to allow you to do much else.

Also the map and UI are so dull and grim that I find the game painful to look at in contrast to CKII's beautiful, colourful map with a vibrant terrain mode - there's a reason that one of the top mods upon release was to make portraits brighter. And they keep using the same annoying CK2 menu music that has been drilled into my head for over a thousand hours to the point of sounding like a nail dragged against a chalkboard.

I regret buying CK3, and I honestly hope I won't be saying the same thing five years from now because I really like some of the changes that have been made like custom heresies, 3d characters with ageing, the 3d court, and culture hybrids. The game just has so much further to go.
 
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Surimi

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I don't disagree with you too much but did you ever play CK2 before Conclave? lol. I just remember how easy it was to game the mechanics before then. It was just send gold to every vassal and you'd pretty much be golden for the rest of the game. That DLC really added complexity and it was so good it's still here in CK3.

Yeah, I got in around The Old Gods time.

That's scratching the surface though. You could pause the game and just mass arrest all your vassals. Some would rebel, but a significant number would get arrested. Then you could instantly banish them because you'd get all their money, raise troops before the demense limit calculation kicked in and just destroy anyone who escaped arrest with your giant army. Banish them too. Get even more money. Bring in a bunch of new courtiers who had no idea what you'd just done and land them.

My point wasn't that CK2 was challenging before DLCs, it wasn't. A lot of the updates made it more challenging. My point was that a lot of the DLC mechanics were driven by novelty. It's that superficial dopamine hit of playing a new start, or having a special minigame tied to your religion, or having special culture or government restricted mechanics that really aren't balanced.

The modular systems in CK3 incorporate the best of that system, allowing for multiple playstyles, but in a way that gives flexibility and choice to everyone rather than locking you into minigames or letting you skip whole aspects of gameplay.

Even the royal court I will give a pass even though it's kind of literally a minigame, because it's at least available to everyone (well, all non-tribal kings and emperor characters) and not locked behind a particular start to create an artificial sense of distinctiveness. Having everyone play by approximately the same rules means you can spend the time developing the core mechanics of the game. If you keep adding novelty mechanics eventually there is no core game any more.
 
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For the second, most people don't expect a single-player game to have a life span beyond 100 hours. Calling this an incomplete experience disregards these players. I get that you can play it for 2000 hours. That's awesome! But there can be more than one way to digest a game.

No offense but for grand strategy games, under 100hrs you're still a beginner, unless the game is very shallow like MotE or I:R. It's just that there is a lot to do, to experience and to discover. It's not something that can be done in only 10hrs. Yes, a lot of single-player games don't have a life-span of even 100hrs. Hell, some have barely 20hrs and are still great games, but it's simply not that kind of games. It wouldn't be fair to judge a Paradox game according to rogue-like criteria just like it wouldn't be fair to judge a Life is Strange game according to grand strategy criteria. They are different kind of games.

By the way, I feel like you really exaggerate what the other side is saying. People are not saying the entirety of CK3 is awful, simply that it has bad parts, especially when compared to CK2.
 
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Ck3 is not a complete failure.

The only game made by nu-Paradox that was a complete failure at launch was Imperator, the devs fixed that game over time but then Paradox stopped further development. So we can say that Imperator failed.

We already have like 5 threads discussing the same things. Yeah CK3 lacks depth, Royal Court added some nice changes but the court is just meh, they diverted resources in a feature that dont serve any purpose other than add more clicks for the click gods.

I would prefered a dlc focused on the eastern conquerors, new governments, economy, the apocaliptic plagues, tributaries and other fun stuff we still dont have from ck2.
 
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By the way, I feel like you really exaggerate what the other side is saying. People are not saying the entirety of CK3 is awful, simply that has bad parts, especially when compared to CK2.
- except people here, on steam and in other parts of the net are saying exactly that - hur dur CK3 is bad hur dur CK2 was better and more hardkore111. And than procede to list bunch of completely dumb complaints like klopkr did.

Also attempt to invalidate OP's opinion by claiming that he lacks true gaymeer experience is rather insulting, so i will invalidate yours and all other CK2 babies claims with my 20+ years of Pdx games playtime. CK3 is a vastly superior game to CK2, more so it is the best designed Pdx game ever.
 
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No offense but for grand strategy games, under 100hrs you're still a beginner, unless the game is very shallow like MotE or I:R.

I'm gonna bait all them little red crosses and give an honest opinion.

I:R 2.0 is a deeper game than CK2.

I still go back and play Imperator Rome. Heck, I go back and play tags I've played several times before in Imperator: Rome because the core puzzle is that compelling. It's a really, really well designed game which doesn't need hundreds of tag specific narrative events and flavour (although modders are doing a great job of adding those) because those core mechanics are sufficiently complex and interconnected that just playing around with them is entertaining. It is deliciously crunchy, and I really hope elements of I:R are incorporated into future games.

A game being deep doesn't just mean it has a lot of stuff, it's about how much you have to think or engage with figuring out the puzzle posed by the mechanics. The Crusader Kings series, I don't think, is even trying to be particularly deep. They're complex, sure, but they're also relaxing and RNG heavy and extremely narrative. That's why they're such a good gateway into the genre. I would have utterly bounced off I:R if it had been my first exposure to GSGs, but CK2 was perfect.

The people who are new to the Crusader Kings series are probably the ones who are best equipped to judge it, because once you've played a few hundred hours, the magic is probably gone. New players are the ones who get to see Crusader Kings for the glorious and often hilarious emergent storytelling machine it is, not the janky, poorly balanced strategy game behind the curtain.
 
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I:R 2.0 is a deeper game than CK2.

Wow! Even as a relative newcomer, I sucked in a breath with that one. :D

I do want to check out I:R, simply because I have a feeling I'm trying to constantly do the Roman Empire thing, but in the Middle Ages.
 
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