Start date

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The starting era selection screen

Your game begins by selecting a start date, the point at which the simulation begins to diverge from history.

You may choose one of the bookmark start dates below, or select any custom start date between 1066 and 1337.

Choosing a start date[edit]

As technology advances, large realms become more stable and merchant republics become economic powerhouses. Expect larger wars at later start dates, as crusades and jihads are called, and as hordes invade from off-map.

You may choose a character immediately, or use "observer mode" to mix things up before playing.


Each start date has its own major powers and regional dynamics. Learn how these historical realms tend to behave, and use this knowledge to form strategies and personal goals.

Early Middle Ages (769)[edit]

Requires Charlemagne DLC
Catholic.png Charles and Carloman Karling rule over a divided Francia. If Charles reunites Francia, as he did historically, he will be known as "Charles the Great" or "Charlemagne". He may aim to found the Holy Roman Empire.
Orthodox Heresy.png In the Byzantine Empire, controversy rages regarding the use of religious images. The emperor and ecumenical patriarch are Iconoclast, but may revert to Orthodox Christianity by decision.
Sunni.png The Abbasid Caliphate is at the zenith of its power. However, powerful vassals are already biding their time to break free.

Viking Age (867)[edit]

Requires The Old Gods DLC
Norse.png In Scandinavia, small tribes are attempting to subjugate each other in the hope of forming Norway, Sweden and the Fylkirate.
The sons of Ragnarr Loðbrok are attempting to carve out pieces of England in revenge for the murder of their father. Farther East, Rurik is beginning his attempt to form Rus.
While the Norse are powerful now, they are vulnerable to gavelkind and conversion by missionaries.
Tengri.png King Arpad of the Magyars is beginning a series of invasions with the hope of settling in Hungary. Despite having massive event armies and access to the Tribal Invasion CB, the Hungarians often stay put after conquering de jure Hungary.
Catholic.png Six Karling kingdoms dominate Western Europe. Will enough Karling realms unite, through claim wars or inheritance, to create a new empire?
Catholic.png Sunni.png The Umayyad Sultanate of Al-Andalus controls 66% of Hispania, but Asturias has upgraded holdings and is therefore stronger than it looks. The Umayyads may inspire early Crusades if they successfully invade Aquitaine at Toulouse.
Sunni.png The Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mu'tazz, rules over a weakened Arabian empire. Former vassals have become de facto independent. The Caliph's half-brothers consider claimant bids, while the Turkish dukes in Jerusalem clamor for independence. Meanwhile, the Saffarids ruling Persia have less than 90 years to prepare for a Seljuk invasion.

High Middle Ages (1066)[edit]

Orthodox.png The descendants of Rurik have converted to Orthodox Christianity. The continued practice of gavelkind has left Ruthenia and Rus a mess of independent duchies, but anyone who dares to attack one is likely to draw the ire of all Rurikid rulers.
Catholic.png The Holy Roman Empire and France are major powers. The Karling dynasty rules neither: they have been reduced to a single county, Vermandois in France. Hungary, Poland, and much of Scandinavia have converted to Catholicism. Although Catholic and feudal, the Hungarians have not forgotten the raiding ways of their forefathers.
Catholic.png King Harold of England is being invaded by two claimants: Duke William "the Bastard" of Normandy, and King Harald "the hard-ruler" of Norway. (This describes 15 September 1066, before the battle of Stamford Bridge. If you wish to start with William the Conqueror, select 26 December 1066 instead.)
Catholic.png Sunni.png The Sunni Andalusians rule small duchies in the wake of the disintegration of Al-Andalus. The Catholic Castilians in northwest Hispania have also split into multiple kingdoms, ruled by three brothers. How long will Hispania remain a fierce battleground of holy wars and Castilian infighting?
Sunni.png The Seljuk horde has swept through Persia and Mesopotamia, reducing the Abbasid Caliphate to a mere vassal duchy. But can they survive their rebellious vassals and the impending First Crusade?

The Alexiad (1081)[edit]

This minor bookmark can still be selected using a custom game.
Sunni.png After failing to usurp Persia, Suleyman Seljuk conquered Anatolia and created an independent Sultanate of Rum.
Orthodox.png Constantinople is in danger, but Basileus Alexios has the potential to be a strong Byzantine Emperor.

Age of the Mongols (1241)[edit]

Tengri.png The Golden Horde controls Tartaria. The Ilkhanate controls Persia. The steppe nomads' attentions are likely to be focused towards Eastern Europe.
Catholic.png Dlc icon the republic.png A new merchant republic called The Hanseatic League has formed on the northern coast of the Holy Roman Empire. Venice and Genoa control large trade zones in the Mediterranean.

Late Middle Ages (1337)[edit]

Only start here if you like short games, or plan to export to Europa Universalis. Games of Crusader Kings end in 1453!
Catholic.png The Hundred Years War between England and France is about to start.
Sunni.png The small Ottoman state in northwest Anatolia begins its rise to greatness as Byzantium declines.

Other key years[edit]

There are some features that become enabled, disabled or change functionality at certain years in the game. As most of those are not directly visible in the user interface, this section will attempt to list those that are either a possible cause for player confusion or important in general.

Year Short description Explanation or details
769 Charlemagne start date Requires Charlemagne DLC.
793 Start of the Viking Age Norse rulers get free shipyards and Shipbuilding technology. Coastal county conquest and Prepared Invasion CBs unlocked for Germanic pagans. Found Varangian Guard decision unlocked for Byzantium.
867 Old Gods start date Requires The Old Gods DLC.
900 Earliest great holy wars Crusades and Jihads can be unlocked if Christianity or Islam loses control of key provinces.
920 Jomsvikings can be founded Requires that one of the possible provinces be held by a Norse ruler
950 Start of Norse culture breakup
Middle graphics era Switch from early era clothing and unit graphics to middle era
1000 Start of investiture controversy Realms with Free Investiture can now switch back to Papal Investiture. The Pope starts disliking free investiture.
1066 Classic start date Stamford Bridge or William the Conqueror bookmarks.
Chance for some adventurer hosts decreased Hungarian characters stop using the "duchy adventure" CB, and North Germanic characters use it less. Claimant adventures are unaffected.
Naval mercenary bands enabled This makes ships much more easily available to Christian rulers.
1081 The Alexiad
1089 Assassins can be founded If Dailam has an empty holding slot for the mosque of Alamut to be built (and at least one Shia ruler exists?)
1090 Time based unlock point for Crusades Unless Jerusalem is already in Christian hands. Crusades can also be triggered by other conditions.
1100 English Melting Pot begins Anglo-Saxon provinces with Norman rulers can flip to English culture.
Easier Holy Wars From now on, you can Holy War into Kingdoms 2 sea zones away instead of just ones you have land in or directly bordering you. (Holy Wars launched at or by Muslims or by reformed Pagans already could do this before)
1150 End of Norse culture breakup Provinces can flip back to Norse now, if Norse rulers still exist
Runestones disabled
Berserkers disabled
1170 Hansa can form If the HRE exists, a non-player province along Germany's northern coast can become a new kingdom-level republic
1187 The Third Crusade
Time based unlock point for Jihads Unless no Caliph exists anymore. Jihads can also be triggered by other conditions.
1200 Late graphics era Switch from middle era clothing and unit graphics to late era
1201 Assassins can be destroyed If the Hashshashin have no holdings, they can be scattered after 1200 (harmless unless they resurface) or completely destroyed after 1201.
1204 The Latin Empire
1220 The Mongols
1241 The Rise of Hansa
1300 The bubonic plague may appear The deadliest of diseases.
1337 The Hundred Years War Last possible start date.
1350 Non-pagans can send missionaries to Aztecs
Factions fully enabled for Hordes Vassals of Mongol/Aztec hordes do not join most factions until this year. Exceptions include vassals of a different religion or culture than their liege. Factions can also be enabled by the horde ruler merging their special "tribal title" into another empire title.
1453 End date

Horde arrival[edit]

Main article: Hordes
Years Name of Horde
969-989 Seljuks
974-1019 Ghaznavids
1216-1224 Il-Khanate
1224-1250 Golden Horde
1250-1350 Aztecs (only with Sunset Invasion)
1360-1405 Timurids