This is the ninth 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
Sons of Abraham: A Little of Everything
Rajas of India: My Elephant for a Kingdom
Charlemagne: Back in Time
Way of Life: The Short Way
Horse Lords: For the Horde
Conclave: Lords of the Realm

After looking at internal politics in Conclave, Paradox handed CK II development over to a new team, who did a new event-driven expansion. The Reaper’s Due was announced in July 2016, and released on August 25, 2016 alongside patch 2.6, with new features centered around illness, wounds, and disease.

New Rules

One change for the new patch was visible any time you start a new game. After selecting a start date and character to play as, a new screen of rules comes up. There had always been a panel where you could set a few options as you started the game, but now it graduated into its own dialog screen with a lot of options.

Even better, the new screen didn’t have a fixed layout (just a long scrolling list of options), so it was possible to add more later. Or to have ones show up depending on what expansions you had. As I mentioned in the original CK II review, even if you really like Sunset Invasion, you don’t necessarily want to use it every game. Now, there’s an in-game control with four settings for the Aztec invasion: Random, Delayed Random, 13th Century, and Off. There are also similar options for the Mongol invasion, though turning it off completely disables achievements, which is also something the new screen informs you about.

The Reaper’s Due made use of this with three rules that show up if you have the expansion: Major and Minor Epidemics, and Non-Epidemic Diseases. You can’t turn any of these completely off (and can only set when, or if it’s worse than normal for the Black Death), but fewer non-epidemic diseases will disable achievements.

Overall, it was a nice consolidation of options that was really needed. Past the ones already mentioned, Horse Lords, Charlemagne, and Way of Life all have options in the rules screen (looking purely at past expansions). Other notable options include Supernatural Events (which would control some of the notorious events in Sons of Abraham as well as others), and Gender Equality. You can set that last to “Equal” but it disables achievements, you can also set it to “Historical” which keeps you from mucking with the status of women in a culture through the use of laws introduced in Conclave.

More Death

The central part of the expansion is taking a few generic mechanisms and detailing them.

Whereas a character normally gets the trait “ill”, with the expansion they instead get any of twelve symptom traits. They can just pass on their own like “ill”, but can also progress into a disease, which may be something as common as “food poisoning”, or “scurvy”, but may be something picked up from an epidemic, like “slow fever”, or of course, “the plague”.

Similarly, the “maimed” trait is replaced. Generally, a character will gain a “severely injured” trait, which will turn into one of five maimed traits, such as “one-legged”. (CKII also seemingly continues the AD&D tradition of housecats being very dangerous: there is an event where you can kick a cat, gaining the “cruel” trait, and “one-eyed”.)

The diseases themselves mostly act the same as before. They may randomly break out from time to time in various places and then spread from province to province; anyone in those provinces has a chance of catching the disease.

With the expansion, a character can go into seclusion when an epidemic threatens. This takes them away from their duties (a councilor in seclusion cannot perform any of the tasks that can normally be assigned him), and a long time in seclusion will cause bad events to start firing. Worse, they are with their main courtiers, and if one of them caught the disease before going into seclusion, there may be an impromptu reading of “The Masque of the Red Death”.

The Black Death always exists as an in-game epidemic, but with the expansion, it is a bit more scheduled, more deadly, and has a number of events that help it along. Notably, there will generally be a major outbreak which will affect much of the map, followed by endemic minor outbreaks that act more like other disease outbreaks (though the contagiousness and health effects of it are worse that other diseases).

To help keep track of all this, there is a special banner alert (akin to the one for an ongoing crusade) that shows whenever there is an ongoing epidemic in your country, and a new map mode that shows their spread.


The most pervasive new system in the expansion, ironically enough, is prosperity. Each province has a new hidden variable which tracks this, and generally it goes up during times of peace, and can get bonuses from high stewardship. When it gets high enough, it causes a new provincial status that increases taxes and levies, and reduces revolt risks. On the other hand, it reduces disease resistance.

There is a new ambition “to see the realm prosper”, which is basically a promise to stay out of wars for five years, in return for extra prosperity in all the realm’s provinces, and +1 stewardship for the ruler. An independent ruler can also set a crown focus (similar to a mechanism in EU IV), which will increase prosperity in that province.

High prosperity also makes new beneficial events possible, giving minor province modifiers. It can even allow new holding slots to become available (for a very steep cost).

The opposite is depopulation. This can happen from warfare, but is much more likely to happen because of an epidemic disease. A truly large disease outbreak can cause this, and will lower taxes, supply limit, garrison sizes… and raise disease resistance. Minor depopulation (the first step) will pass fairly quickly, but prosperity will need to be built up from scratch.

As long as wars don’t touch a region often (especially to the point of actually taking a holding, which will lower prosperity), provinces will generally be in some condition of prosperity for most of the game. But it does a lot to show a dramatic fall in fortunes when disaster happens.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

To help combat these diseases, there is a new minor title of court physician which can be granted. This should generally go to a well-disposed high-learning character, such as your court chaplain, but there is also a decision to find one if no one seems suitable.

When symptoms appear, the court physician will attempt to diagnose the illness and prepare a treatment. These can range from cautious to experimental, with various degrees of success—and failure. In general, the treatment will further modify the character’s health and basic attributes, hopefully counteracting the effects of the symptoms or disease.

You can also build hospitals. These are special holdings like forts and trade posts, and show up in the same dialog. It’s fairly cheap to build, but they come with a long list of potential improvements, for a very high cost to completely build out.

The basic hospital only has the effect of giving some protection from depopulation. That’s it. The higher levels of the main improvements will give a large bonus to disease resistance (much higher than the penalty for a booming province), but just isn’t practical for every province. Other improvements will also give some technology points, vassal opinion, prestige, basically any of the main fields of the game can get some help from an expansive hospital.

You can also invite a holy order to build a hospital in your capital, but they’ll also get a castle there. Overall, the symbol for showing there’s no hospital is a little too prominent for how many you’ll likely build (the ‘no hospital’ icon will glare at you in every province panel), but it’s a good idea, implemented fairly well, and will consume far more money than prosperous provinces will get you.


It seems odd to be happy for an expansion that mostly tries to kill you, but this is a very polished and worthwhile expansion. There are even more bits away from the features talked about. You can torture prisoners (most likely giving them a maimed trait). New methods of executing prisoners (you don’t get to choose the method, it is picked randomly from a list of appropriate methods). Or you can recruit prisoners into your court.

Unlike the “scope” expansions, this will never be necessary for any play of the game, but it does nicely round out some existing mechanics, it is my favorite among the “event” expansions, and recommended.