This is the third in a series of reviews looking at the evolution of Crusader Kings II. See the previous reviews here:
Crusader Kings II:
The Second Crusade
The Old Gods: That Old-Time Religion

The next expansion for Crusader Kings II was relatively small after the large update of The Old Gods. The overall goal was to work with all three “Peoples of the Book”, including introducing Jews to the game for the first time.

Sons of Abraham was released on November 18th, 2013 along with patch 2.0. The patch itself saw Paradox continue to shift over to pure Steam support, with their multi-player service (which had always had problems) shut down, and achievements and ironman mode (taken from EU IV) were added. A bit after release, Paradox announced that everyone would be given Steam keys so that all players could move over to that version, and use Steam’s multi-player and patching service.

Patch Mortality

The patch had in-game features as well, of course. Pregnancy had been somewhat handwaved, with a female character having a roughly 9-month trait before the birth of a new child. 2.0 introduced the possibility of dying in childbirth, as well as the child being stillborn, or having the ‘sickly’ trait, reducing health, but with the possibility of recovering from it, like the ‘ill’ trait.

A more complicated change was a rebalance of levies. Direct (demense) levy size is affected by your Martial skill, so more competent leaders will have more men to command. More importantly though, vassal levies were reduced. Vassals are judged by where they are in relation to your current capital, and the further away they are (by de jure titles, not physical distance), the less they owe you in service. So a vassal of the King of England in Normandy (outside the de jure County of Middlesex, the Duchy of Essex, the Kingdom of England, and the Empire of Britannia) may owe no troops to his lord, while the Mayor of London (in the same county as the capital in Westminster) owes the full regular amount.

This cuts down the power of larger countries a decent amount, while still making them much more powerful than their smaller neighbors, as anything outside the home duchy takes a hit, and lands outside the home kingdom aren’t providing a lot, unless you can get them to provide help directly by raising their troops themselves and fighting for you.


Jews had not been present in Crusader Kings at all; after all, there were no great Jewish states in the Middle Ages. Now, they gained a presence. Much of it was fairly abstract, as you still don’t see the Jewish quarter of your cities any more than you see the rest of the general population. That said, just about anyone can now get a loan from the Jews. It will need to be paid off with interest of course, but it’s still an extra source of ready cash.

Or, you can refuse to pay. Like was done many times in the Middle Ages you can expel the Jews, which will erase any loans, and generally net you more cash from seized properties. You do gain the trait ‘arbitrary’, and take a hit to prestige, but no one will get seriously up in arms over it.

As long as you haven’t expelled the Jews, there is a chance that one will show up as a courtier, and a possible councilor. They will generally have at least one truly good stat, meaning they can be good councilors. There’s different religion opinion penalties and the like, so often they won’t be loyal enough to trust as a spymaster (though they won’t like anyone else much more…), and everyone else will be unhappy that you’ve hired him, but if he’s the right man for the job…?

Of course the expansion makes the Jews playable as well, but like the Zoroastrians, there’s not a lot of good options. In 1066, there is one Jewish Duke in Cumania who is playable, and he has no children. With The Old Gods, it’s better, as his ancestor is an independent Khan of the Khazars. In either case, there’s still only one province who’s population is Jewish, and the religion’s moral authority is low, so conversions are difficult.

But certainly not impossible, and like with the Zoroastrians, there’s a full set of events, and the possibility of re-creating Israel and building the Third Temple.

A Red Hat

The most wide-spread addition of the expansion is actually for Catholic rulers: a College of Cardinals was added to the Papacy. There are nine cardinals, and when the Pope dies, they elect the new one from their number depending on what they think of the candidates (akin to the electors system for the HRE introduced in EU III: Heir to the Empire).

This is still completely out of the hands of the player, but you can influence who gets into the College. Every bishop is a potential candidate, and the main College interface will tell you who the best candidate in your realm is, as well as the current most likely candidate. These are selected on a number of things (including Italian culture being a big bonus), and you can donate to a campaign fund to promote your candidate (similar to the doge elections in The Republic).

If a cardinal from your realm votes for the new Pope, you gain a sizable relations boost. And if a cardinal from your realm becomes the new Pope… you can start asking for favors. They cost piety and cause a relations hit, but you should have credit to burn from the relations bonuses as you ask for money (time to make back what you spent on cardinal elections), or a crusade, or sanctioning an invasion (what William of Normandy got for his conquest of England), or a number of other actions.

The two-step process is an interesting way to keep true control out of the player’s hands, while still granting tools for a potentially big bonus. Sadly, the election mechanic is a little too deterministic (there is variation) and simple for some episodes of the Middle Ages. Notably, there’s no way for the College to get hung up, and refuse to chose any one candidate for months on end.


There’s also a new feature for Islam, but it is very limited. Every Shia character with a minimum 50 piety can adhere to one of the two main schools of Islamic thought: Mut’azilite and Ash’ari.

Doing so does not cost anything, and does grant a bonus. Mut’azilites are rational, and gain a bonus to their learning, and to technology spread, while the more clerical Ash’arites get a monthly bonus to piety. Both are worthwhile bonuses, but all characters from the competing school have a relations penalty.

Knights of Religion

There’s a number of other bits that were thrown into the expansion. The most prominent is that holy orders were made more available. All religions now have at least one (only after reforming for the pagans), and the expansion adds two more for Catholics: the Knights of Calatrava and Santiago (which were more local to Spain than the more famous orders).

Furthermore, new mechanics were added to all the orders (with use of the expansion). You can get loans from them (like with the Jews), with the condition that the order currently has the 300 gold standard amount (not likely when it’s new, but easy if it has been successful), and you will owe them a favor which will come due later, such as sending one of your relatives to take the vows with them.

You can also donate money to an order, gaining piety and a relations boost with the order, the head of the religion, and your clerical vassals. Finally, the order will occasionally ask to build its own castle within your domain. It won’t be one of your vassals, but it will again strengthen ties with the order, and if you’re on the religious frontier, they will be readily available to help defend in holy wars.


Discounting Sunset Invasion, this expansion is the most optional one yet. The others tend to be either something you’re interested in, or something you skip. This one is more of a grab-bag of content.

That said, there’s a lot of interesting content here, and this review only covers the more prominent features; there’s a lot of events included that are not part of any of these, including some really off-the-wall ones. If you’re really into CK II, it adds some nice touches, and if you’re more into general content than the particular features of other expansions, this might be a place to start.