Playing in Europe
This page is a start guide to understand the many dynamics that will shape the gameplay in Europe at the 4 main start dates. Although each game is different, this guide aims to present the general evolution of the European continent at most eras.
Spain is in the hands of the remainder of the Umayyad Caliphate, with the sole opposition to their ambitions on the Empire of Hispania being the Kingdom of Asturias, to the North. Without a Karling intervention, they are likely to maintain their position for the rest of the game and even conduct campaigns across the Pyrenees into southern France.
Great Britain is in shambles, as rival Norse and Saxon rulers fight hopelessly for supremacy. In this layout, it is likely that each of the petty kingdoms will get absorbed progressively by the larger southern realms, except if one desperate bid to unite Britain succeeds. Ireland is divided, and likely to stay so without foreign intervention. To the north, ambitious Pictish kings may capitalize upon the power vacuum in Great Britain to expand at the expense of its weakened neighbors.
France and Germany will see the rise of Karl the Great, and then know a long, never-ending fight for succession. The HRE will be founded either by him or by the largest of his successors, stabilizing the game a little. It is a time full of opportunities, but under Salic law, the continent seems deemed to shatter into pieces. Northern Germany is still held by pagan Saxons, an attractive target for Karling expansion, while southern Germany is held by relatives of the Karlings under their Bavarian kingdom. The Christianized Carintanians, tributaries to the Bavarians, may expand their own influence into Central Europe and spread the Christian religion.
The Lombards, heirs of Theoderic the Great, still control Italy, but poor decisions made by their kings may invite Karling subjugation from the North and Byzantine reconquest from the South. Several important cities and islands remain under Byzantine rule, especially Sardinia and Sicily, and Byzantine emperors will seek to reestablish their authority over the peninsula using these footholds. The Bishop of Rome retains the seat of his authority, and is unlikely to undertake real expansions of his temporal power, but he will continue to influence Western European politics throughout this era. The great city of Venice plays host to the Serene Republic, a nascent power which will quickly dominate all Mediterranean trade if no Genoese rival is established.
To the East, there are pagans everywhere! Slavic tribes occupy most of the territory, from Pomerania to Lithuania, roughly all with the same realm size. The Slavs seem set to banish the Tengri Avars from the fertile Carpathian Basin and claim it for Perun. Romuva peoples occupy most of the territory centered around the Baltic Sea. Some Suomenusko believers live in the northeastern fringes of the map. In each region, however, ambitious pagan chiefs will quickly expand, claiming the title of King to form somewhat organized realms which could pose a powerful threat to the still-nascent Christian religion.
In the North, Norse chieftains will fight to found their kingdoms, usually with little success. The most likely kingdom to form is Sviþod, which will seek to cross the Gulf of Bothnia and expand its power into neighboring Finland and to spread its power throughout Scandinavia. Denmark is also likely to formThe foundation of these realms will change the face of warfare in Scandinavia, as, instead of petty wars, large-scale conquests will be able to take place.
The Tengri Magyars, Khazars, Volga Bulgars, and Avars occupy most of the Pontic Steppe, all the way to the Ural Mountains. As usual with nomads, cycles of extreme power and pitiful decadence are expected.
In the Balkans, the Byzantine Empire is still the major power of this world. Although its heretic Iconoclast Basileios and Patriarch weaken the country, sooner or later it will recover its stability. From then, heathens on both sides of Constantinople will have to fear for their lives, as few powers are able to fight the high level, 20k-large Roman Army. The Western Balkans, including some parts of modern-day Greece, is held by pagan Slavs finishing their migrations they started a few hundred years ago into this region, while the Tengri Bulgars have established a lasting state in the Balkans that may prove a worthy opponent to the Byzantine Empire.
The Reconquista has started in Spain, and the Umayyad now face the kingdom of Navarra along with the one of Asturias. Although weaker now, they are still a major power in the region. Frankish conquests are about the only thing that could overthrow their rule.
The situation in Britain is pretty much the same as before. Hopelessly divided, ready to be annexed by the other major powers. Mighty Norse pretenders however, sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, are ready to establish the Danelaw if no one stops them.
In France and Germany, the Karling ballet closes to its end. Noble unrest grows, and their ever-dividing demesne will result in a progressive loss of their power to their dukes. For a player, this situation may favor an accession to the throne, except if his Karling liege founds Francia or the HRE.
Italy is now prey to ever-dividing conflicts. The Lombard remnants took refuge in the South, and the Byzantine are ready to annex them progressively. The Aghlabid realm of Ifriqiya took foot in Sicily, but is too weak to influence the politics of the peninsula. The North is now divided, and is likely to stay so.
The Eastern front has progressed a bit, and Slavic are far less than before. Suomenusko now occupy Perm and Russia, and the Romuva is closing to its end. Apart from these, however, nothing really changed.
The Norse are at the peak of their power, but Scandinavia is just as divided as ever before, this time between the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok. Among them, Björn af Munsö will most certainly found the kingdom of Sweden, bringing stability to the core of the region, and maybe the power to fend off some isolated christian attacks.
The Nomadic people have lost much of what they had before in Ruthenia and Perm, with as a major change the implantation in Kiev of Riurik, ready to form Ruthenia or Russia. Apart from the Magyar Horde and its 15k event troops, none of them poses a serious threat to the civilised world.
The Balkans and Carpathian will see the rise of Hungary, as the Magyar settle. Rarely, they will bypass Hungary and invade Bulgaria and very rarely Greece. Apart from these, the Byzantines under the Makedon dynasty are in a new period of expansion, and may reconquer their de jure Empire.
In Hispany, the Umayyad Caliphate has finally broken up in a series of emirates. Under the attacks of Alfonso de Léon and then de Castilla, most of the territory will be lost. French interference is also likely to occur, and if so, even Yusuf Almoravid won't be able to save most Muslim al-Andalus.
Britain was finally united, but it is now torn between Harald of Norway, Harold Godwinson and William of Normandy. Whoever will come out as the victor will have a sizable, but weakened realm for himself. Over the time though, the winner of this fight is likely to impose his rule over the rest of Great Britain.
In France and Germany, the classical HRE - France duality has been introduced. With borders matching de jure territory, conflicts between the two are unlikely, especially as France will probably lose 4 de jure counties to Britain after the conquest of William. The Crusades may also help some nobles to break free by becoming kings of the Holy Land.
Italy has been cut in two halves, the first in the hands of the HRE with the mighty Matilda reigning over the northern areas. The other half is at the hands of Robert "the Fox" of Apulia, a Norman that may be the most serious pretender to the throne of Jerusalem. With vassal claimants and tensions with the Byzantine Empire, however, his position is still weak, especially if he founds the Kingdom of Sicily, a Byzantine vassal, de jure.
To the East, the Rus' rules over Ruthenia, whereas some tribes still scatter in the fringes of the Baltic. Christianity now reaches the Volga, and few pagans remain, short of the Nomads.
To the North, the Norse are almost completely eradicated. Great christian realms now rule over Scandinavia, and an era of stability results of this change. Apart for holy wars, territorial conflicts are unlikely to ignite.
In the Balkans finally, the Byzantine is still as threatening as before for Croatia and Serbia, but has limited options now that their rulers converted to catholicism. Bulgaria has fallen, and Byzantine territory now reaches again the Danube, however the Sejluk Arp Aslan threatens to divest the Byzantines of their Anatolian holdings.
In Spain, the Muslim have totally collapsed following the defeat of the Almohad Caliphate against a Christian league at Las Navas dr Tolosa 15 years before. Only Granada remains, with little chance of survival over time.
In Britain, the Plantagenêt dowinate the Isles. Whereas little change has been made on a strict territorial basis compared to the other eras, the state is now stable and ready to expand in France for the 100 years war.
In France and Germany, the status quo between the two major powers remains the same. Although the kingdom of France suffered a de jure shift of Flanders, it is still able to impose some of its views to the ever-excommunicated HRE, thanks to papal support.
Italy now has the Realm of the Two Sicilies at the South, ready to fend the remaining heathens off Sicily. With the Byzantine in shambles, this presents mich less of a threat. With the North still under Germanic rule, the norman realm has no real enemy to fear, for now.
To the East, very few pagans remain, outside the Baltic. In Russia, Orthodoxy has made its way, and the nomads have been almost eradicated. Only the fringes of Khazaria remain under their rule. With an united Poland following Catholic ways, the HRE must now halt its eastern expansion.
On the Scandinavian side, Norse religion has been almost totally eradicated. Few counties, and no potent ruler remain in the northern tip of the map. Well defined, potent Catholic realms now rule the peninsula, and with de jure territory matching the borders, few wars are expected.
In the Balkan, the Byzantine imploded following the 4th Crusade. Whereas several duchy-level petty kingdoms subsist, the Empire of Nikaia in Anatolia is the main threat to the Latin Empire. Its existence will be short, but the Byzantine may never recover their former glory due to the rise of Othmân.
Here, you will find an overview over some kingdoms of interest playable independent rulers in Europe, as to find a good pick for your campaign. Some goals are suggested, as to ease your way through the game. As vassals change very often, and are dependant to the will and the success of the liege most of the times, these are not counted in this list.
The Kingdom of France
The kingdom of France is, at all start dates, the most powerful European kingdom-level title of the game. The regions are well developed, have appreciable technology levels, and most importantly can contain a large holdings within a single de jure county. Most kings are competent, and their culturally and religiously loyal vassals pose little problems at the beginning of the game. France is a very decentralised state, so don't expect this loyalty to stay firm with tyrants or great military defeats. The most important threat is the one of Gavelkind Succession, as on early start dates the heirs of Charlemagne tend to divide the kingdom in two, with Aquitaine and Eastern Francia. But once this major obstacle passed, keeping the integrity of the territory is second on the list of preoccupations. With an ever-imperious Holy Roman Empire, and Normandy at the hands of the English, plenty of wars are to be expected. France is at the core of the European intrigues, and is expected to react to depose an antipope, or to defend Christianity against Spanish Muslim invasions. After uniting the realm, expansion venues comprise the French Empire, the largest European Empire in realm size, but also the restoration of the Carolingian Empire with Germania, Italy and Barcelone. In late game, conquering all Christian lands, founding the Latin Empire or becoming King of Jerusalem are other objectives to achieve as a French ruler.
The Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire, HRE for the intimates, is the most powerful Catholic state on all start dates starting from 1066. It comprises very large realms such as Germania, Bavaria and Italy, making it the main player on the European stage. Culturally, the core of the empires German, but other cultures emerge at the borders. This is especially in true Italy and Bohemia, making Independence Factions among the most common and destructive ones in this realm. However, its most terrible weakness is its Feudal Elective succession, as no strong dynasty can durably strengthen the state by centralising it and many high ranked and popular claimants are created upon succession. Passing the succession law to Primogeniture is the first step for securing the throne for your dynasty. Once this sheer decision enacted, all that's left to you is to conquer. The Kingdom of France and the Papacy are your main enemies on the game. Invading or even claiming the first, and subduing the second by pressing the claim of an antipope will make of the Holy Emperor the one and true defender of the Roman Catholic Church. Once Europe lies in your hands, banishing the Muslims from European soil by Crusades or holy wars in Andalousia, becoming the only Roman Empire by destroying the Byzantine Empire, subduing your Pagan neighbours, imposing Catholicism up to Orthodox Russia and reclaiming the Holy Land are final objectives for the Holy Roman Empire.