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    I started playing CKII again as pagan Bulgaria. Braise Tengri.
    This is significant, because I used to shy away from Bulgaria, because the Byzantines would inevitably kick my arse withing the first 10 years and make me cry and rage, as they (mistakenly) consider everthing south of the Danube rightful Byzantine clay.
    I decided I needed a more radical approach this time.
    Consider this as something of a walkthrough.
    Your first ruler is Khan Telerig, who’s pretty bad in every way except espionage.
    Your demesne is Moesia with capital Trnovo (not histrically accurate, but hey).
    Your heir is, surprize, Krum.
    Who has mad skills and is in posession of the duchy of Karvuna.
    So, if your dude were to die, you’ll get a great heir, and both the duchies of Moesia and Karvuna.
    How do you make your khan die though? Well, you’re a filthy pagan, they have these periodic human sacrfices and stuff, so instead of sacrificing an annoying courtier or a prisoner, you can have him cut his own appendage or pluck and eye or something.
    But first – also as a pagan you get to annex a whole country once in life for free (politically speaking).
    Likewise, the dude has pretty good spying skills, so I did two things before I killed him:
    a) annexed Serbia.
    b) Imprisoned one of the other pretenders to the throne for fun and profit (they’re annoying)
    He died of infection.
    So, even though I have a good leader now, and twice the amount of troops, I’m still very much the underdog. What do?
    Well, you’re a pagan, you can raid the fuck out of Thrace and Macedonia. Just wait until the Basileus is busy curb-stomping the arabs and disband your merry band of looters and pillagers as soon as he brings the doomstacks in your vicinity.
    Turned out to be a great get rich quick scheme. I even built some shipyards, so I can raid the Arabs while I let the Byz recover. Shinies! And the Viking age ain’t even stated yet! Them Vikings got nothing on me.
    Since I have a new king, I can annex someone else. I choose Croatia (what’s left of it, because Byzantium holds the coast and the Avars took Slovenia)
    The Byz get their civil wars and uprizings, which is standard fare, but they rebound really fast, because they have legal advantage on you too, which means it’s hard to split the Empire.
    However, they take serious attrition when fighting steppe nomads. Just as long as you prolong a conflict like that, time is not on their side.
    Eventually the emperor decides he needs Crimea (I know, right?). Starts kicking Khazar butt. But hey, his dudes down south have recovered and gathered my money for me again. So I start raiding. He comes back. I run away. He comes back, etc. Eventually he loses and the horse fuckers get to keep their Crimea. And the empire is 600 ducats in debt. Meaning the army by now is as big as mine and troops are demoralized.
    I declare war. I win. Serdica is mine! (not going for Constantinople, yet, it’s huge and full of Greeks which is bad news unless you have higher tolerance tech).
    At this point I’m getting catholic missionaries plaguing my lands trying to convert me.
    Question is, do I go Catholic for the Deus Vult or Orhodox and try to take over the Empire, restore the Pentarchy and crush unbelievers everywhere?

    P.S: My khan got cancer. At 35. Damn you game, why you killing my good dudes?



    What in Tengrist Hell happened to Kardam?!



    Serdica, or Sofija?  Okay, so bias is here, but Orthodoxy is better.  Control over the local church, and if you have multiple King Tier titles, control over the de jure territories when holding them.  Every ERE game I’ve played, I’ve been sure to kick the arses of the Slavs first, as they are admittedly a pain, and it also provides nice levies to retake the holy land before the Crusades start (from 769 start).  However, this is Bulgarija you’re talking of, so try and Slavicise (the culture is already there, though the culture of Krum and co. is the old Bolghar culture (directly related to the modern Kazani culture (the Kazan Khanate was the successor of Volga Bulgaria through the Golden Horde).  Anyhow, the very fact that you have already been able to take Sofija and stay up is good.  Get the duchy of Dyrachium and make Skopje stay with the Bulgarian Empire too.  Don’t want any cute pretenders to the Macedonian heritage to rise up.  If you can become the Hegoman of the Balkan, then you have succeeded.  Be careful with the Germans/Franks.  Orthodoxy is the main way to escape their influence, as their control over most of Italy (especially if Karl der Groß tries to form the HRE, which he most certainly will, unless he did (like in my games)) will give them preference for Papal candidates (Italian culture gives a bonus due to it being the culture of Rome (unless you somehow make Rome Bulgarian)).  Sorry for the orthographic diarrhea, I have played the game for a long time now (726 hours) and I just want to give some good advice.

    P.S. I have played a game where every ruler I’ve had has had cancer, and they have survived long enough to have children to continue the cursed bloodline.



    > Serdica, or Sofija?
    Sredets. Serdika and Triaditsa for the Byzies, Sofia only since the 14th c.



    It says “Sofia” now, but while it was still a Byzantne province it was Serdica (after the thracian tribe Serdi)
    Should be “Sredetz” when bulgarian, but hey, give Paradox a break. Trnovo is the capital of the 1st kingdom. ;)
    Anyway, Ortho or Cath? I’m leaning towards ortho, because I also have a Lithuania game going and I’m planning to go Catholic there. I’m in the process of forming a non-consensual Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. For the Poles, that is.

    Also, Kardam is chief of Moldova.

    I’m surprized you haven’t played CK2. I figured you might have had.

    @MikhailA  I think this start is prety solid. Being Byzantine neigbor is hard, but at the same time very rewarding, as long as you can loot with impunity. There’s no other way with the Byzantines breathing down your neck. Killing your Khan quickly allows for consolidating Moesia and Karvuna, and you get to use the subjugation CB twice in a row. If you checked the screenshot, my king is already Bulgarian, which is South Slav culture like Serbia and Croatia. Only Vallachia is Avar, but they’ll come around. I could right now annex the Avars, but they’re piss poor and more throuble than they’re worth.

    Yeah, I’ve noticed cancer is the rule rather than the exception somehow. And when you get pissed and get the radical treatment, your healer castrates you, adding insult to injury.

    >Orthodoxy is better

    But … but muh Kingdom of Jerusalem?



    Also, Kardam is chief of Moldova.
    The heck?! Are you serious? Kardam’s in Moldova (as a Bulgarian vassal, I hope), while Krum “from the Pannonian Bulgars” is in Karvuna? That sounds even worse than Rowling’s historical research.

    Otherwise, I’ve played EU2 some years ago, but found it a bit too complicated for my taste. Still, I recently got CK2 and was thinking of giving it a try soon.



    I was in doubt whether to buy CK II or Stellaris, but eventually I bought Stellaris with a couple of DLC as they were on 70% sales for presidents day.



    Swag-looting the Holy Lands, while the emir’s troops watch from the side and cry.
    I have enough troops and ships that I can loot half the Mediterranean with impunity.

    Also, the old emperor’s dead. The new one’s having internal troubles with a bunch of rebellious nobles.
    Checked his army size 5.7k.
    Bulgaria’s army is 8.7k currently.
    I could press my vassal’s claims on Naissos, but he already has Vallachia and Vidin, so I’m in no rush to make him even stronger. Thinking of biting a chunk off of Thrace, so I can move on Constantinople. I feel kinda dirty already.
    I’ve played with the Norse cultures, they have much more trouble looting.
    Tribal troops suck too. Being feudal and pagan might be a little broken, once you figure a way to stay alive long enough.

    >Kardam’s in Moldova (as a Bulgarian vassal, I hope)

    Yeah. Conquered one of the vollynian chiefdoms on his own. Tribal holdings are a liability at this point, as you’re likely to spend much more resources protecting them than they are ever to provide.

    Before this playthrough I actually considered feudal + pagan a terrible combination. How wrong I was.



    So. I attacked the Empire and conquered Thrace. While sieging Constantinople, the great king Krum died of the cancer (historical AF), althought there was a fair bit of medical malpractice involved too. In hindsight I should’ve waited. Anyway, the war was won, but my new king, Omortag suddenly found himself with only 3 provinces to his name and a pathetic army.
    Lost the coast, so half the navy is gone, and thrace has 30 years of “new administration” meaning it’s mostly dead weight. Damn gavelkind succession laws.
    The new emperor is crap, but the Byzantines are like Karl Malone on the rebounds and I’m seeing 9k+ troops in their army. Soon they’ll be in the double digits. 30k something is not unusual around the turn of the 9th century. Dark days are ahead.
    New development. The king’s son’s engaged to a khazar princess (just keep her hands away from the treasury) and now I’m best buddies with the khan of Khazaria. What’s more, there’s a rebellion in the Empire again. Things are starting to look up. Created a retinue of cavalry and skirmishers to complement my lack of troops. I’ll either do a loot run in the south again, or go for Constaninople. I’ve never successfully taken it before as a non-imperial (did it once with Alania), so no idea whether there will be a scripted event, but I’m hoping there will be, otherwise it’s going to be tough.
    The best part is, Constantinople has high cultural tech, so as soon as I move my capital there I’ll be able to pass better succession laws that don’t require splitting the kingdom or assassinating all your siblings to survive.
    That is, assuming I manage to pull it off.



    Alright, here’s an update.
    Constantinople is mine. Formed an empire. So far so good.
    several things of note:
    – If you convert to orthodox Christianity as Bulgaria, the Byzantines will constantly excommunicate you and the ecumenical patriarch is a byzantine vassal even in bulgarian Constantinople. The only way to make him your vassal is to usurp the empire, which is a tall order and will take time. All orthodoxy related missions like restoring the pentarchy etc, are only available as Byzantium.
    – Related: destroy them ASAP. Even without its european posessions the Empire is stronger than you especially during interregnums and such. Also, most of the wars that they’re not waging against you are going to be holy wars against the Arabs, meaning you’ll get a huge prestige and piety hit if you take advantage of them. It’s hard to get a claim on the empire, because all emperors desire your lands and usually hate your guts.
    – I formed my own empire comprizing Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria, and the damn game gave it a bold pink color. Now I’m stuck staring at this pink abomination. If I had chosen catholic I could’ve formed the HRE, damnit.
    – Had a run of several kings who died in absolutely ridiculous manner. I expected that, but it never ceases to annoy me.



    Tall orders are better than none, no?  I recommend go for it, and try and even restore Rome…oh wait you made a pink abomination and now the nice Imperial Reconquest casus belli is lost to you forever.  Unless you take the ERE.  Which would involve a ridiculously purple empire being conquered/usurped by the more ridiculous pink empire.

    P.S. The HRE is bs, dammit!  Only gives de jure claims on Western Europe, and that’s for weak немцы!
    P.P.S. I have no hatred towards Germans, just a strong dislike towards the country and what it stood for and stands for (also France).



    How is the EC able to excommunicate you?  He shouldn’t be able to at all: the jurisdiction of the EC is Greece and Anatolia (de jure kingdoms), and any territories that are not under a kingdom level title.  Have you appointed a court chaplain?  If so, I think you may be encountering a bug of sorts.



    Aye, I was thinking about it being a bug, too. Serbia and Croatia had their patriarch, but Bulgaria didn’t. Probably due to being an empire. No idea why the EC had to be a Byzantine vassal either, while living in Constantinople. Any sufficiently weird mechanic is indistinguishable from a bug. Somebody should’ve explained to Paradox how autochtone churches work. Exactly to avoid stuff like this.
    Btw, the ecumenical patriarchy has no de-jure jurisdiction. I think they just treat him like the pope in that regard, or they treat empires like super-national and thus above the domain of independent patriarchs and within the domain of EC.
    Tengrism ain’t bad, especially that light cav bonus, but once the steppe nomads start adopting Islam, authority drops to single digits. It’s hard to reform it, too because you have to conquer the steppes where your feudal troops will suffer attrition. And you’ll probably have to hold and reconquer them worthless regions. Bulgaria is not in a great position to do that, maybe the Khazars can.
    I’ve already played as a reformed pagan – slavic, baltic and finnic is all basically the same shit, and pretty boring – just defense bonuses.
    Got any tips for Ireland? Don’t think I’ll get infinite subjugation CBs with the Irish being Catholic, but you can still loot the living daylights out of muslim Spain.
    Btw, before I converted to Orthodoxy, I was raiding Egypt and Palestine with 9k stacks and 120 ships. That’s how I got most of the money and prestige to create an empire. It was glorious. It pays well, but if you’re a total munchkin you could do it with your vassal’s troops – they don’t mind as long as you get to business fast enough.



    Yes, don’t do it.  It is a mix of passivity and hoping the English don’t come knocking.  In a 1066 start, Al-Andulas starts to get eaten up by the Spanish.  I assume you’re talking of 769.  That would be better for you, especially if you’re hoping for a weak England and an easier shot at making a Celtic Britannia.  The tanistry is really good though.  One of the few culturally unique governments as well.



    Well, Ireland was one of my first attempts at this game some years ago. From what I remember it’s fairly easy to get best buddies with the French, which should keep the English at bay. I also remember it was pretty slow, with a lot of fighting your neightbors for what little money they have, but conquering them was kinda hard, because you’re catholic. I also remeber somehow getting the kindom of Jerusalem by some miracle and then losing it in a succession because I was still cluless. Fun times. Initially you have to play cat and mouse when looting, but that’s a given even with the Norse. Never could seriously threated the English though.
    What do you think about the early start Spain or Asturias or whatever they’re called? The french almost always attack the Umayyads, which allows you to grab some still christian lands. If you fail it’s no biggie, because you can just restart. I’ve had some good runs but I’ve never played Spain to the end.
    Now, I could just play the English, of course, but if it’s gonna be a major power why not play the French or the Byzantines? I think I’ll totally wreck as the Byz, but where’s the challenge?

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