A few days back Paradox Interactive released the latest DLC for Crusader Kings 2, entitled The Old Gods. The primary focus of this expansion is the Pagans, most especially the Norse, hence the name. After eagerly snapping it up I’ve spent the last few days playing it pretty intensively and I can safely say now that it’s my favorite of all CK2 DLC and I don’t want to ever play without it again.
The big change you’ll see right away is the new start date – 867 AD, when Ragnar’s sons are leading the Great Heathen Army out of Jorvik and seeking revenge upon Ælla of Northumbria, the Pagan faiths remain mighty across much of Northern and Eastern Europe, the Umayyads control most of Iberia, Charlemagne’s descendants control the Frankish Realm, the Magyars are migrating westwards, and a few small territories cling to the ancient faith of the fire, still following the words of the Prophet Zoroaster. Given that the game used to run from 1066 to 1453, adding another 200 years extends the game time by 50%. The new starting date gives a completely different set of possibilities and the world can go in radically different directions as a consequence.
There are many new features to play with as a Pagan, especially the Norse, who got the most love in this expansion. Perhaps the most fun is the raiding mechanic. You grab your lads, toggle them into being Raiders, load them onto the longships, and then you sail off to find some rich, fat provinces to loot. You can claim a percentage of the province’s loot just by standing in it, or you can stick around to win the siege and you’ll get whatever wealth was behind the castle walls as well. It’s exceedingly powerful in the early game, especially as the Vikings can navigate major rivers. You can sail up the Elbe, or the Danube, the Vistula, the Rhine, and so on, and pillage inland provinces as well as coastal ones. However, as forts grow mightier, rivers start becoming impassable, cutting your options – and as provinces develop, they grow richer, but can summon larger armies in their defense as well.
You can also do such things as taking captured maidens as concubines, raising runestones to yourself or your parents (and if you have the lustful trait you can insist the runestone makes reference to your massive cock), hold Blots at which you sacrifice people to the Allfather, find magical +2 axes that boost your martial score, and try to reform and standardize your faith in order to help it stand against the very convincing missionaries regularly sent by Christian rulers to try to convert you.
In short, with The Old Gods installed, Crusader Kings 2 becomes the greatest Viking Asshole Simulator ever put to code and if you like CK2, or grand strat games, or Vikings, or just generally being a massive troll to the Christian rulers of medieval Europe, this is the DLC for you. It also bears mentioning that Paradox are one of the few who get DLC right – you actually get regular, significant content additions for very fair prices, and the other stuff like portrait and music packs are entirely optional and in no way required for you to enjoy the game.