This is the tenth 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
The Reaper’s Due: Crusader Kings: Pandemic

The immediate goal of CK II development at the end of 2016 was a further round of optimization and some UI improvements. The next expansion, Monks and Mystics, was announced on December 2, and released, alongside patch 2.7, on March 7, 2017.

Mystic Improvements

Several additions were made to the UI with the patch. First, the idea of marking that a battle will happen in a province, based on current troop movements, was taken from EU IV. Most of the rest centered around the Intrigue screen, which got a redesign to show more decisions at once, and a new panel was separated out added to show all the plots you personally are involved with.

Those who have Conclave saw improvements as well, as icons showing a character’s most likely voting stance if they were on the council were added to the selection menu with an extensive hoverover to show the reasons why. When wanting to change a realm law, you can now go to a council screen where it will show you the likely votes, and you can interact with the characters to try and change them. Also, the children’s education selection got some tips to show what they’d excel in at a glance.

The rules screen got an update as well, with save slots where you can have multiple pre-sets for use in different games. And, Monks and Mystics added one new rule for the devil worshipers.

And finally, a number of updates were done to the map, making the Ural mountains impassable (other than a pass through the middle), fixing the geometry on some lakes, and redrawing rivers to look better, as well as seriously adjusting the path of the Danube.

Secret Societies

Some of the societies introduced here operate in secret, and interestingly, they were available with the patch, instead of needing the expansion.

The societies in question are more properly cults. You can now publicly profess one religion, while secretly following another. That doesn’t have to be tied to the society; you may just privately hold a belief without being in contact with others.

This isn’t as hard as it initially looks, since you can ‘secretly convert’ to the religion of your spouse, or land that’s in your demesne. More importantly, you can tell your lord you’ll convert to his religion when he demands it, but secretly keep your old faith, or if your councilor turns to heresy, you can join him, but both keep it secret.

Each religion has a society of people who secretly follow that religion, so you can set up a network of people, and try to covertly convert others into your sect, and possibly get strong enough to go public.

In many cases, it’s not a big deal, but it does add a nice dimension of religious plotting to go along with all the political plots. It’s also makes religion a bit more personal in feel.

Monastic Orders

The more common type of society is the monastic order. There are nine of these (two for Catholics, with three more for the other major branches of Christianity, one for each of the Indian religions, and then one for the Hellenist religion). They use all the “default” society mechanics, you generally gain a bit of devotion each month for your positive (to them) traits, occasionally get missions from the head of the order (which will grant devotion), and you can trade in devotion for a higher rank in the society, possibly becoming its headmaster someday. Most of them grant a Learning bonus just for being in them (the Benedictine Order instead grants Stewardship), and as rank goes up you get some decision-like abilities, including managing yours and others traits away from negative ones.

The Hermetic Society is like the monastic orders, but has a wider range of activities. Joining causes negative relations with clergy, but can grant a number of bonuses. As opposed to just having event-chain missions, “apprentice” becomes a new minor title to grant, and there are decisions that can be taken to further your investigation of the mysteries of nature and the universe.

The Assassins became a Shiite society focused around Intrigue. Being an Assassin by itself generates more plot power when you want to murder someone, and you can get other Assassin to join in, raising the plot power even more.

And then the demon worshipers are a large expansion-only secret society. They only exist if allowed in the game rules, but always get supernatural abilities if they do (which, if not historical, is largely in line with what a lot of people in the Middle Ages thought was going on). The abilities from this society are generally more powerful than the others, but will cause a character to accumulate negative traits, including physical ones like hunchback or clubfooted.

Inventory Management

For some time, there had been some items in CK II; you could have a saint’s relic, which would get handed down through the generations, for instance. The expansion greatly expanded on this, and systematized it with an inventory screen, and a single modifier trait shows the total of all bonuses you may be getting from them.

It is a fairly basic system as such things go, but does allow for gifting them to another character, looting them from a holding that’s been besieged and such. Occasional event chains can let you search for a rumored artifact, and there are ones that you can have made.

The list of potential items is quite large; many are of course different qualities of the same thing, but even after allowing for that, there’s a lot of potential items here. These range from the mentioned relics to special arms and armor, to items for Hermetic Society missions.

Overall, I find the promise better than the delivery. CK II isn’t an RPG at heart, and the item system shows that. That said, it beats trying to manage a few item-like things without having an item system, so I’m certainly glad it exists.

More Work

Councilors are mostly useful in pushing up the score of the realm in their field, but they can also do three different jobs on the map. With this expansion, each position gains a fourth job, which becomes their default activity when not assigned one of the regular three.

Chancellors can perform statecraft, which reduces threat, and can improve relations with random neighbors or vassals. Marshals can organize the army, which reduces maintenance of retinues and can cause events that improves the skills of your commanders. Stewards administer the realm to speed cultural conversion and add some positive modifiers to provinces in your demesne. Chaplains hunt heretics to find the members of secret societies which you can then deal with.

Spymasters can now sabotage a province, which will cause unrest and various other types of damage. Unlike the others, this is an ‘on map’ job. Instead, the existing scheme job becomes ‘off map’, which had always just slightly enhanced the primary role of discovering plots anyway.

This was a clever addition to the game. Giving the councilors something to do when you aren’t supervising what’s going on manually is great, and would be especially valuable for a new player, which makes it a shame that it’s part of the expansion, but it certainly adds value.


There are complaints that the societies aren’t that good in the long run as they keep throwing the same events at you over and over. This is valid, but there’s more than enough societies to give interest for some time.

My primary complaint is mechanical. This isn’t the first time it has come up, but it’s not hard for these events to have you or someone else in the order traveling some distance to meet for the event. Since being in a society puts you in fairly decent contact with the other members, who may be some distance away, this problem gets accentuated here. Pilgrimages/Hajj have your regent take over while on them, so it is possible to account for this. Just making the character unavailable for commanding for a set time would be enough to get rid of the worst of the problem however.

I’d rate this as a lesser expansion among the more “personal” ones. If those are what you’re interested in, don’t skip this, but certainly get Way of Life and Conclave first.