Dreams of Silk
It all started well enough. For those familiar with the Crusader Kings II series, that might just be a familiar refrain. Like how, when I heard of the coming of the playable merchant princes in The Republic, I got all kinds of excited. I’ve got a great love for games where I can earn money, build tall, and engage in all manner of political shenanigans. I decided before I even knew the name Jade Dragon, the title of our new DLC, that I would be playing in the Khotan region – I wanted control of some of the critical parts of the Silk Road, and I wanted to grow the Kingdom of Khotan from the humblest of beginnings.
So enter the Vijaya Dynasty, which was not off to a good start. Some minor expansion, enough that the succession laws of Gavelkind had me nervous. I knew that Sata the II, Sata the Chaste, who had few sons (but enough to cause problems) was going to need to act fast in his old age. We needed to shift our succession laws to make sure only the heir got all our titles with none of this “splitting them up” nonsense. Our heir would need to be more than smart; he’d need to be the most intelligent dude alive. I ain’t rightly sure if I accomplished that goal, but I came darn close. Our next character led our small nation to many great victories over his 80 years of life, with intelligence that dwarfed many.
But for all those smarts, he was no match for the might of the Emperor of China. And he damn well knew it.
Thus begins our Jade Dragon story in earnest. Jade Dragon is the latest DLC for Crusader Kings II and is being released on November 16th, 2017 at the price of USD 14.99. It deals primarily with interactions with the (off-map) empire of China. Characters are able to interact in various ways with the empire, and the eastern section of the world map will become much more of a dangerous place with many new events and sudden reversals of fortune. You will need to keep your wits about you as you try to navigate your court and protect your dynasty from the machinations of those from afar.
The Way of the Celestial Being
The most important aspect of Jade Dragon is likely the screen which will detail your interaction with the Emperor of China. The small dragon emblem next to your mini-map shall bring up a display of the current information on China. Here you will learn not only of how the empire is faring, but how the current state of the Dragon Throne impacts the rest of the world. China being open or closed will change diplomatic capabilities, and no doubt influence the wealth of the Silk Road. Beyond that the stability of the empire is important; unrest can spell not just temporary setbacks with your hard-earned Silk Road Dollars, but may also lead to some whippersnappers causing problems, and the results there can vary.
An excellent example of this is from my own game. Desperation was sinking in. So we bowed to the power of the Tibetan Empire. Being a cagey ol’ feller, I was able to secure many deals with the Tibetan Emperor so that our lands were safe from being revoked. I started dipping my wrinkled foot digits into diplomacy with China. I made use of several of the new functions to appease the Emperor and rank up our Grace points. These points could be spent on favours from the court.
Then I heard of some unrest in China. Not the first time it happened, and I figured it would just go away, so I kept on pouring money into currying favours with the Tibetan powers, and then… Well. The Chinese unrest spilled over into our empire.
Proclaiming the falseness of the current Imperial Dragon, a general gathered his troops and declared his intentions to forge a new empire capable of restoring China to glory. China was projecting a pretty “glorious” aura at this point, so I suspected a dirty demagogue. Well, that there general and his troops poured into Tibet and it was pretty much all over before it started. The red imperial map shifted to blue, and the Qi Empire had been formed.
We took advantage of this to convert to Taoism and adopt Han culture. So, lemons and lemonade. But all that money we spent in making Tibetan politicians like us was gone in the wind.
The Chinese Imperial information screen is used for far more than just to sense your impending military losses and fiscal fallout; it will give you some pretty impressive vital facts and interaction abilities. You know the name of the empire, what family current rules, and who that emperor’s designated warlord in your area is. You get to gaze directly into a likeness of the emperor and learn his name, and just below that there’s a running tally of how much Grace you’ve earned – and how much grace we receive per month.
The Chinese Emperor, like many folks in Crusader Kings II, has specific likes and dislikes. For example, my screen shows that Emperor Andahai Chengzu has a fondness for Indian Cultures but dislikes holding Tributaries. When making use of the offering button, bearing these things in mind, I offer the emperor a Norse eunuch, sure the court will be mildly amused. But oh boy, if I provide this fellow in his fancy hat an Indian anything, I’ll earn some extra points.
You can spend those Grace points on things. These range from minor things like getting randomly determined artifacts from the mysterious east to asking China to shatter a realm for you. Oh, did I mention getting an Imperial Marriage? Seriously, as far as I’m concerned getting Princesses and Princes are one of the best uses of your Grace points. You get a high-quality spouse, usually, a peace treaty with China for 50 years, and – yes there is more – the impressive ability to raise a Chinese Honour guard in any wars where you are the primary attacker or defender. The long line of Chinese Princesses that we had in our court tipped the balance in the expansion of Khotan.
One particular thing to note, most of the gifts you can send the emperor require characters or world politics to have specific situations. If there is unrest, you can send a General to assist the Emperor. If you’ve got a pleasing candidate, the Emperor may want one of your court as a concubine. And of course, my favourite, sending a eunuch. You may say, “but I have no eunuchs in my court.” Don’t worry. It’s like a really evil build-a-bear. You just send your lucky honoured vassal to the court of the Emperor, and well, there’s a quick snip job, and you’ll never see them again. Likely for the best.
There’s also the Kowtow chain. You go and send your character to China to personally kowtow before the emperor and earn their favour, while your regent runs things in your stead. Lots of little events that crop up, with chances to gain new traits and even artifacts, and then, of course, you have the choice to bow in the court of the emperor or not. Anyone familiar with the pilgrimage mechanics will get an idea of what to expect.
There are many interactions you can perform with China, including picking a squabble. But here is the most accessible place to also keep track of who China has peace deals with, and who their tributaries are.
That second one is what you really need to pay attention to. You may think you are safe to attack that nobody duke with no allies and low prestige, but it just so happens he’s the favoured tributary of the emperor, and buddy you’re gonna have a pretty rough time.
Bow Before the Jade Dragon
“But Old Man,” you ask, “how can I enjoy the fiscally draining process of being a tributary of China?” Well, that’s simple, provided the conditions are right, it’s just another interaction. You start forking over a significant portion of your money to the Emperor and lo’ you get to hide behind the great wall, in a manner of speaking. Now when you are attacked, you can beg your Imperial overlord for assistance, and if they refuse, then you are free! Free to crash and burn on your own. Because let’s face it, if they refused you were either not worth keeping or China was not powerful enough to hold back whatever monster has attacked you.
Becoming a Tributary has some downsides. It slows down your production because of all the treasure leaving the country. It also limits your ability to upgrade territory, hire mercs, and bribe people to not murder your ugly bastard pagan son. But the protection it grants for little guys is pretty impressive. Basically, when you desire your freedom, you can struggle through force of arms, or wait until the Chinese Empire becomes unstable. When unstable all protection from China is gone, but Tributaries can just wander off. Of course, what was lost can always be reclaimed through force of arms.
Most of my game in the Khotan region became based around trying to subjugate, claim, or force smaller nations into being my tributaries – all before China got them first. All the while we angered our people, mostly our merchants, by capitulating to various demands of the Empire, to keep in its good graces.
The Emperor Sends His Regards
We’ve got a few new, if familiar looking, toys for the Jade Dragon expansion. There are new portraits for both China and Tibet, as well as some new units. I enjoy zooming in so I can see the little troops in their odd little larping slap fights. The original art is some of the best yet; the art just seems to get better and better with these games.
There are new artifacts galore: Paintings, tapestries, and weapons. I managed to score a nifty crossbow early on which offered many of the typical perks of a finely crafted weapon. Increased prestige generation, higher personal combat score, but it also granted me a sizable bonus against plots.
However to most people, one of the best new items in the toy box will be the new Casus Bellis. For a hefty cost of piety and gold, you can start a border dispute. This is generally an expensive and poorly viewed choice, but it gets the job done. In the Khotan, it allowed me the inroads needed for substantial expansion. Another favourite was Force Vassalization, which is used primarily against weaker, low ranking folks who are your vassals (but might not know it yet.) Forcing territories to become permanent tributaries is an excellent way to get extra coin and troops and once you start claiming turf, De Jure Duchy Claims help a great deal. I imagine many long-time CK2 players are going to be tickled to look into the idea of a Great Realm Conflict.
Lots of new goodies, as you can see, and they all add new levels of complexity. Don’t like the new rules? Disable them in the Game Options menu before you start to play.
Balance of Dynastic Power
Where do we fall with this? Honestly, if you’re a fan of the previous DLC packages, are interested in an expanded set of game rules that are easy to understand but difficult to master, and are well aware of the Paradox DLC policy and are fine with this business model, you likely already have this on your wishlist or pre-ordered. Existing fans of Paradox work are not going to be disappointed. This is a fairly-priced set of new content that makes strides to be an original feeling set of mechanics, which can be a struggle when you are DLC number 14 on the list. While I was a bit nervous at first about the send eunuch or commander interaction, once I realized there were built-in limitations to keep you from just shipping off everyone that displeased you, I relaxed a great deal. It was that revelation that ticked my final rating of this fun and exciting new DLC up a point. Paradox again charges a reasonable price for what bigger studios would have charged double.
For the price and the content it is another winner for Paradox – 9/10 would castrate rebellious bastard grandson again.
Review by Joshua Smith – Old Man Mordaith
Edited by Jesse Roberts
This DLC was provided for free, to review and stream.
This article may not be republished without permission from the author.