This is the back half of the second part of a four part series (I, IIa, IIb, III, IV) examining the historical assumptions behind the popular medieval grand strategy game Crusader Kings III, made by Paradox Interactive. Last time we looked at how the game tried to mechanically simulate the internal structure of the highly fragmented polities of Christian Europe from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. While that model has some necessary simplifications (both in flattening noble ‘ranks’ to a single system and in avoiding vassals with multiple lieges), on the whole it is a very capable simulation of vassalage-based decentralized polities, given the constraints of game design.
This week we’re going to take the same question and turn both East and South to the medieval Islamic world. I sometimes find that students often assume that while medieval Europe was fragmented and decentralized that the Islamic world must have been unified with stronger central governments.1 But as we’ll see from a political standpoint both halves of the broader Mediterranean world faced similar problems with fragmentation and decentralization, with similar results produced by somewhat different causes.
Consequently, while it is clear that the basic structure of vassalage that CKIII employs was designed first for the fragmented polities of Christendom, it isn’t necessarily a terrible fit for the Islamic world of the period either. That said, clearly some adjustments would need to be made, so this week we’re going to assess what adjustments CKIII makes to this system to reflect Muslim polities in this period and the degree to which they are successful.
It is worth a brief note on the way that the Crusader Kings series has developed, because while the systems for ‘feudal’ vassalage were largely an iteration on the existing model established by Crusader Kings II, CKIII‘s system for modeling Islamic polities differently – the ‘clan’ government type’ – essentially jettisons most of CKII‘s systems and starts over. Crucially, Islamic polities were simply not playable in CKII on release, with the option to play them only being added with the Sword of Islam expansion, which also introduced their mechanics. In particular, CKII gave most Muslim rulers a unique government form (‘Iqta’) which enabled rulers to hold both castle and temple holdings directly (this is kept) and also had a higher default tax rate (this is modified heavily). Fragmentation was then encouraged through the decadence system, which offered large modifiers to levy morale and demesne income based on the ‘decadence’ of a ruling family, which was largely determined by the number of unlanded members of the dynasty. The idea of this system, one supposes, was that a polity would expand with very low decadence (because dynasty members would be easy to put on newly conquered holdings), but with a polygamous marriage system this would produce explosively large later generations as expansion slowed, causing decadence to rise to weaken and then fracture the kingdom. The system frankly never quite worked and doesn’t seem to me to have been well-regarded, so it isn’t surprising that CKIII largely starts over from scratch. Of course the other major design difference we must note here is that Islamic characters were playable in CKIII at launch, which is already a huge improvement at embracing the diversity of medieval Afro-Eurasia.
But first, as always, if you want to contribute to my decadence, you can do so via Patreon. And if you want updates whenever a new post appears, you can click below for email updates or follow me on twitter (@BretDevereaux) where I issue royal pronouncements.
A Different Path to Fragmentation
I would argue that political fragmentation is one of the defining features of the Middle Ages in the broader Mediterranean (which is to say ‘of the Middle Ages,’ since I don’t think this chronological signifier has a lot of usefulness beyond that region), but not all political fragmentation is the same. The medieval Islamic world fragmented politically in this period just like post-Carolingian Europe, to the degree that by the time of the Crusades (1095-1291) the political structures on both sides of those conflicts were broadly recognizable to each other, but that process which produced that fragmentation was quite different and it produced different government structures.2
Now the game itself begins in 867, by which point the Abbasid Caliphate – itself a product of this fragmentation, having been the largest splinter of the Umayyad Caliphate’s breakdown – was already beginning to fragment itself, but to understand the process that produced this fragmentation, we ought to back up a bit further and start with the initial large Islamic polity, the Rashidun Caliphate (632-661). Now as you will recall from last week, one of the major problems that led to political fragmentation in Europe was that the highly centralized Roman bureaucracy simply did not survive into the Middle Ages and the educated bureaucrats did not exist to reconstruct it, forcing the polities that followed to ‘make do’ without a strong central bureaucracy.
This is not the case in the East. In a sense, the early Caliphs were facing a similar problem to the one the Carolingians had: having effected a grand conquest how to both militarily hold on to those lands and then also administer them. However, there was a key difference: whereas the Carolingians had overrun other small fragmented polities with limited administrative apparatuses, the initial expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate instead involved overrunning the eastern chunk of the still-extant and functional Eastern Roman Empire and absorbing entirely its great rival, the Sassanid Empire. Both states – and here I get to use that word! – were centrally administered by a capable and developed bureaucracy, a necessary product of their long conflicts against each other. Thus Abu-Bakr and later Rashidun Caliphs found themselves with a ready-made administrative system, complete with bureaucrats, that they could just repurpose to collect revenues, which is precisely what they did.
In order to hold the territory, they established a series of ‘garrison cities’ – permanently settled military forces; essentially armed communities of Muslims acting as the nails which provided the force to secure Caliphal political authority. However, Islamic armies are mostly not coming from an agrarian context so the normal expedient of military-settlers (giving each soldier a plot of land to farm in peace time) isn’t available because these fellows aren’t farmers. Islam already had a religiously encoded system for revenue collection in a series of religious rules for collecting taxes, a land tax (the kharaj) and head tax (the jizya) for non-Muslims and the provision of alms (zakat) for Muslims, with the latter being formalized as a state tax by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. Because the Sassanid and Byzantine administrative bureaucracies for tax collection already existed, they could simply be put to work collecting taxes on this new regime (not actually so different from the old one), providing a steady and indeed comparatively massive stream of revenues to the state. Which then leaves the problem of our non-farmer military settlers.
The solution was the diwan-system. The word diwan comes from an Old Persian word meaning a formal state list or ledger, though it eventually came to mean ‘government department’ or the official who ran such a department. The very first diwan so established was the diwan al-jund created by the Caliph Umar in 641, as a list of Muslim warriors whose participation in the conquests entitled them (and eventually their heirs) to the payment of a salary (ata) and a food ration (rizq). It also functioned as a muster roll, so you both knew who you had to pay in peacetime and who could be called up in war. However, as Patricia Crone puts it, “it was not so much an institution for the maintenance of armies as one for the maintenance of Muslims.”3 The payments are thus untethered to any actual military service. They also seem to eat basically all of the revenues that the tax system is generating, leaving only a relatively small amount to float up to the Caliph.4
The problem is how this dovetails with the consensus-based model of political decision-making. These garrison communities naturally had their own leaders, whose support the Caliph could not effectively compel (because they subsist off of local revenues, not state revenues), with an intermediate layer of provincial governors generally chosen from among the Caliph’s close relatives, especially as we move from the Rashidun Caliphs to the Umayyads. However these governors both lacked the hard-edged tools to coerce these Muslim communities (who again, are still largely ruling over a yet larger non-Muslim population) because they lacked military force separate from them, but they also lacked a cultural script (like a tradition of conscription into a citizen militia, for instance) which would enable them to compel these fellows to fight if they didn’t want to.
Consequently we see a series of power struggles where a given dynasty has firm control only over the garrison communities close to its capital and tries – often in vain – to use that military base to maintain control over the rest of the empire. The far-flung garrison communities then in turn react negatively to any move away from what they see as the ancestral and appropriate consensus mode of government, though of course for such a massive empire consensus-systems were hardly going to work either. The Umayyads, with their base in Syria try it first, holding together for less than a hundred years (661-750), before losing to the Abbasids, whose base was in Mesopotamia, which proved equally unable to hold all of the other Muslim garrison-communities by force of arms. The Abbasids fairly quickly lose control over Spain (756), Morocco (788), North Africa and Sicily (800) and then the greater Iranian region (c. 870) and Egypt (969), as the Muslim communities (and their leaders) in each region exerted their independence. The fundamental problem was that no region had enough of a concentration of military force to hold the rest by pure force, but the system and cultural script available did not have another mode of legitimacy which was functional at this scale.
The Abbasid response to this problem was to look for military force outside the traditional diwan-system. The ‘solution’ arrived at were the Mamluks, slave soldiers drawn predominately from Turkic-language speakers from the western Eurasian Steppe which conveniently bordered the Abbasid Caliphate on its northern side. Warfare on the Steppe tended to ‘throw off‘ significant numbers of captured slaves who, as steppe nomads, were already capable fighters and Abbasids could also already draw on Arab cultural traditions whereby clan elites might maintain a personal retinue of enslaved soldier-bodyguards. It was thus a fairly direct matter to use the vast wealth of their empire to expand that bodyguard into a serious military force to support central authority. And these fellows were very good at fighting; steppe nomads made the most effective horse archers anywhere in the world, a system of fighting that the Arabs also used (and so were familiar with) and which was extremely effective. And, being cultural outsiders who were never working within the Arab model of consensus government, Mamluks could be used to ‘police’ the garrison communities.
The problem, of course, is that establishing an ethnically distinct enslaved soldier class is politically unstable, leading to further fragmentation and military weakness. The first effort at creating a significant Mamluk slave-soldier corps was under the Caliph al-Mu’tasim (833-842); the first Mamluk revolt (a coup, really) occurred in 861, just 19 years after his death. That said, the resources for this system and the cultural script for its implementation were available in many places in the Islamic world and so the system was repeatedly implemented and then repeatedly exploded in the same predictable way. Successful Mamluk revolts ensued in Afghanistan (the Ghaznavids, 977-1186), and central Asia more broadly (the Khwarazmian Shah, 1077-1231) and in India (the Delhi Mamluks, 1206-1290) and in Egypt (the Mamluk Sultinate, 1250-1517). On top of which was the incursion in much of the Middle East of the Turks themselves (initially the Seljuks), which was in turn partly enabled by the fact that – perhaps unsurprisingly – Turkish Mamluks didn’t necessarily see the arrival of a Turkish invading force as something to be fought. The Turks then had the same fragmentation problem as the later Mongols would and one that should be immediately familiar to Crusader Kings players: partitive inheritance on the steppe model, leading directly to rapid political fragmentation through inheritance.
Patricia Crone sums up this process ably, I think:
In a sense the Abbasids were in the same boat as the Carolingians. Both were confronted with the task of creating polities for which their tribal past offered no models, but which could not simply be revised versions of the empires their ancestors had overrun, in the west because the fiscal and administrative machinery had collapsed…in the east because the desire was absent even though the machinery had survived. Both fell back on private ties, and in both cases the outcome was political fragmentation. But because the fiscal and administrative machinery survived in the east, the Abbasids could simply buy the retainers they needed, and so they lost their power not to lords and vassals but to freedmen.5
On the one hand the result here is fragmented and personalistic, much like situation in Western Europe and so the basic applicability of CKIII‘s systems seems good. On the other hand, these are systems that emerged out of different circumstances and while they both trended towards similar fragmentation, did so for somewhat different reasons and with different results.
To represent this system, CKIII makes a few modifications to the systems we discussed last week. Islamic polities nearly always have the ‘clan’ government form. Clan vassals differ in two major respects from feudal vassals: first, their levy and revenue contribution is not fixed but varies based on opinion. This means that clan vassals with very low opinion might offer effectively nothing, but at very high opinion clan vassals can contribute substantially more than even the most extreme feudal contracts (which are very rare). The second major difference is that clan vassals suffer a relations penalty if they do not have an alliance with their liege (in addition to just being vassals). With just a few exceptions, alliances in CKIII generally require a close family tie by either blood or marriage, so this is essentially a way of saying that clan vassals which are unrelated to or distant relations from their liege suffer an opinion penalty and as a result supply fewer taxes or levies. Clan governments also get access to conquest casus belli, making it easier to wage aggressive war for territory both within their religious group and outside, though there is a piety/prestige cost.
There is another significant difference I do want to note briefly. We’ll get into how religion functions in the game next time, but I do want to note that most branches of Islam as represented in the game have the ‘Jizya’ tenet, which increases tax revenues for countries of a different faith than the holder, while increasing levy reinforcement rate for counties of the same faith as the holder. It also makes available a special vassal contract by the same name which does the same for a vassal (increases tax contribution, decreased levies). This can be a significant change in realm structure, particular in the 867 start where most major Islamic polities begin controlling sizeable regions which don’t share their religion (religion is modeled by the game on a county-by-county basis, so the game cannot generally simulate religious minorities within counties, although a number of events pointedly note their existence). In addition, nearly all of the branches of Islam as represented in the game have the ‘polygamous’ marriage type, which encourages (via penalties to piety) rulers to have multiple wives based on their rank.
Now there’s an important mechanical interaction here worth noting. As I’ve already noted (especially in the running commentary for my al-Yiliq game), partitive inheritance is a substantial factor in the player’s experience for much of the game. Apart from the Byzantines who start with it, pure primogeniture (eldest child gets everything, everyone else gets nothing) as a succession law cannot be acquired before 1200; ‘high partition’ which at least gives the eldest heir half of the holdings before splitting the rest between the rest cannot be acquired before 1050 (and in most cases not for a generation or two after that). Consequently rulers, especially highly ranked rulers who tend to have lots of sons are going to spend much of the game splitting their domain between all of those sons in each generation.
So Muslim clan rulers are likely to have many heirs, partitive inheritance and access to a fairly readily usable casus belli to seize territory. What that combines to produce is a situation where powerful or aggressive rulers expand aggressively, looking to accumulate enough territory to pass on to their multiple heirs to avoid fractionalizing their core demesne (and thus weakening the main heir). In the first generation, that produces a whole bunch of brothers who as close blood relatives can immediately conclude alliances with them, which is very handy if either one of them is the liege of the rest (because it removes that ‘clan vassal with no alliance penalty’) or if the family collectively are all vassals of the same non-related liege and are looking to form a powerful political bloc to potentially seize power.
But in successive generations things begin to unravel unless one has planned carefully. In the next generation down, what were brothers are now just cousins, which is not close enough to form an alliance without a marriage connection. Moreover, strategically, everyone is now looking for yet more conquests to find land for yet more heirs, so what was once a coherent power-bloc within he realm is now divided against itself. A diligent liege can hold it together with strategic marriages (having many sons also means having many daughters), but as the generations roll on and the kingdom expands those ties are going to get more and more distant, with successful ‘cadet’ branches increasingly becoming a threat to the main branch of the house holding the top-tier title. And because clan vassal opinion impacts levies and taxes, the swing in power is even more dramatic, from close relatives with opinion bonuses from close relations and interlocking alliances (who thus give more levies and money) to distant relatives without those bonuses and angry that there aren’t enough alliance-forming marriage to go around (who thus give less). Consequently realms tend to be coherent and powerful when expanding in their first few generations, but then even more than monogamous feudal realms, divide against themselves, fragment and weaken as expansion slows and clan-cohesion for the ruling house breaks down.
And this is one of those wonderful cases (as with Marc Bloch above) where I am almost certain I know what the developers were reading when they planned these mechanics, because this seems like a fairly direct effort to implement Abu Zayd ‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami’s – or just Ibn Khaldun as we generally refer to him – his theory of ‘asabiyyah‘ or clan cohesion, which we’ve touched on before. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was a Muslim medieval historian who wrote a world history up to his own time, with the focus on the Islamic world. Ibn Khaldun, in assessing while different polities repeatedly rose, fragmented and fell offered ‘asabiyyah as an explanatory concept. Initially, a tightly knit social group like a nomadic clan or tribe has very strong ‘asabiyyah as the tight bonds make the members more willing to fight for each other and more willing to cooperate and reach consensus. For such a group, force is less necessary to structure relations because of those tight clan ties.
That strong ‘asabiyyah in turn makes for strong military power, as the clan will be able to mobilize a high proportion of its members to fight hard and stick together. Other, less cohesive, groups will find their members absorbed into the strong ‘asabiyyah, allowing an ascendant clan or tribe to absorb its less cohesive neighbors and ‘snowball’ as it were. However as the group itself grows in both territory and wealth, the very clan ties that founded its strength weaken. Members meet each other less, have fewer interests in common and the polity is also incorporating conquered or absorbed peoples. As the ‘asabiyyah thus weakens, it becomes necessary for the polity – by this point we’re trending towards a state – to replace consensus decision-making with force to compel cooperation. But that’s much less effective than ‘asabiyyah-cohesion, leading to weakness and fragmentation. As that state fragments, it is in turn overtaken by groups – either within or without – with stronger ‘asabiyyah and the cycle repeats.
Now when I last discussed Ibn Khaldun, I noted that I thought his theory has useful explanatory power but only for a subset of states: weakly consolidated empires built by nomadic or semi-nomadic (or at least tribal) peoples on top of the agrarian foundations of more complex societies. Which makes sense, since for the six centuries prior to his life, that’s what had kept happening in Ibn Khaldun’s neck of the woods. Where Ibn Khaldun’s explanatory power struggles, I think, is his inability to imagine a nomadic people successfully managing the transition from ‘asabiyyah-based cohesion to a stable, long-lasting state based on royal or institutional legitimacy – a transition not from one form of power (clan cohesion) to a form of force (state coercion) but from one form of power to another form of power (state legitimacy). What he could not have known is that within a century after his death the Ottomans would successfully manage that transition; of course given how rare (but not unique) and remarkable an achievement that was, Ibn Khaldun can hardly be faulted for not foreseeing it.
Nevertheless, Ibn Khaldun’s model of ‘asabiyyah is obviously relevant for this period, since CKIII ends in January, 1453 with much of the Ottoman state-building project yet incomplete (a story, quite reasonably, for the state-focused EUIV). And it isn’t hard to see how the various mechanics of the clan system come together to try to produce something like Ibn Khaldun’s cycles of ‘asabiyyah: a house expands, forms a polity, remains very coherent and powerful for a few generations before fragmenting as the ever-more-distant ties undermine the strengths that elevated it. And at the same time, the mechanics – particularly the opinion-penalties to levies – mirror in a limited way the increasing difficulty of raising force in this system without strong consensus (represented by high opinion).
If anything I would say that the core interactions of this system stumble primarily by being too weak. The system set up by the Rashidun Caliphate effectively required active enthusiastic participation by its members, but in game an Islamic clan-type ruler can typically get away with begrudging acquiescence for surprisingly long, leading to a recurring problem where the major states of the Islamic world – especially the Abbasids – tend to be rather more durable and cohesive than they were historically (though in some ways this is typically matched by a Byzantine Empire which is often a lot more effective and powerful than it perhaps should be). If anything, the decline in support for unhappy vassals should be substantially stronger, with contributions running down to zero quite quickly at negative opinion (though I assume this was probably tried and abandoned because it had knock-on gameplay effects that were undesirable). As it stands now, there are enough positive opinion modifiers available to generally keep clan vassal opinion high enough to avoid the sort of internal decay that Ibn Khaldun was describing.
The other element that seems to me to be clearly missing here is the Abbasid resort to military slaves. Mamluks would be difficult to model in game because they are a power-center that cannot really be represented as a landed constituency. But in practice rulers like the Abbasids should be able to resort to stocking the equivalent of greater and greater numbers of men-at-arms units (that is, professional full-time troops paid directly by the ruler), at the cost of creating a political constituency in them which could revolt and seize power if given the opportunity. Something like a landless vassal mercenary company which could be progressively expanded to replace plummeting levies as ‘asabiyyah fails, but which then becomes a dangerous vassal (or vassals) if it joins a faction might work. As it stands now, it seems odd this piece of the puzzle is missing and one hopes that perhaps a future DLC will try to reflect this pattern in the mechanics as well. Perhaps with a developed system for representing Mamluks, it might be possible to intensify the impacts of declining ‘asabiyyah without breaking the delicate balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean.6
On the one hand, I hope that the major Muslim polities outside of Spain (which got treated in the Struggle for Iberia DLC) are going to get a fairly substantial mechanics-and-flavor passes in subsequent DLC to build on these mechanics. I’ve already mentioned Mamluks, but some mechanism to recognize the distinction between the appointed governors in the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates (generally relatives of the Caliph) and the actual local leaders of the garrison communities would be good as well, though it would require a system for handling count-and-baron tier indirect vassals revolting against the king or emperor because they hate their duke-tier appointed governor, which the game currently cannot do.7 But on the other hand, I think the basic structure here is actually quite good at capturing at least some of the historical dynamics that made and then fragmented these historical polities. At the very least the solutions reached here are far, far, far better than CKII‘s (that is, this game’s predecessor, for those who dislike counting numerals) ‘decadence‘ system, which was far less satisfactory.
CKIII‘s approach, particularly the need to fashion the game around a standard set of mechanics that work similarly for everyone, has its limitations. One limitation we haven’t mentioned yet (but which looms quite large) is that while the game does not feature any states, these actual regions historically did and CKIII‘s systems struggle to model them, a point we’ll return to later. Nevertheless CKIII largely succeeds in providing a historically rooted simulation – albeit with major simplifications – of the pressures of fragmentation and even efforts at later centralization in the period.
Readers who are not deep into the historical gaming space may not realize just how rare this effort at reflecting political fragmentation is. Nearly all of the most popular games in this space feature absurdly unitary states. The Civilization games (and their -alikes, like Old World and Humankind) present not merely states but nation-states forming in pre-history (with a common culture, language and political structure) and proceeding without fragmentation to the present, a system where states are unitary before the invention of the state. Both Medieval: Total War and Medieval II: Total War feature fully unitary states where the player is in complete command of all of the levers of policy, as does Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia. The same goes for Age of Empires and similar real-time strategy games (e.g. Rise of Nations). The Mount & Blade series does feature non-unitary states, with kingdoms divided into a ruling clan and vassal clans, but those clans never in-fight amongst each other and the system has only a single tier of vassals (so no vassals of vassals), meaning that the kingdom largely still goes to war together.
Instead, political fragmentation within a polity is a theme largely left to narrative-driven roleplaying games (e.g. Tyranny, which not nearly enough of you have played), where it is narrated, not simulated. Crusader Kings III‘s effort to actually try to simulate fragmented polities is thus already pretty unusual. And the task was clearly very hard! Fragmented political systems are all about ‘fuzzy’ distinctions, situations where ‘the rules’ may or may not apply, actors whose loyalties and relative position in the system are often in flux and devilishly hard to define. In short, these are systems that resist simulation in general and particularly resist being reduced to game systems that in the end – because of how computers work – must be reduced to clear numbers rather than fuzzy distinctions.
And despite the limitations of this effort, I think it is fair to say that as a simulation of internal political fragmentation (packed as a game that has to be fun at some point), Crusader Kings III succeeds and indeed succeeds remarkably so. Some of this is due to a careful selection of time period: by beginning in 867 and ending in 1453, CKIII avoids having to deal with periods defined by substantially greater degrees of centralized power in most areas of the map, which allows its systems to be very focused on fragmented polities (though it also means that the game’s systems fudge the history a bit more at the edges of these time periods, as the developers have admitted). But I think a lot of it is due to a commitment to try to simulate these political systems at a fairly high degree of granularity. Sure, not every minor castellan or member of a town council is simulated, but nearly every polity has at least a dozen, if not dozens, if not hundreds of competing power-centers represented by different kinds of vassals pursuing competing aims. Relatedly, I don’t think it is an accident that the CKIII modding scene is so active. For modders that want to simulate fragmented political systems, CKIII really is practically the only game in town.
At the same time, the simulation that is fairly clearly rooted not just in historical facts of who-ruled-what-when, but also historical understandings of the broader institutions and historical forces that shaped these fragmented polities, from Marc Bloch’s conception of feudalism as a social system to Ibn Khaldun’s theory of ‘asabiyyah. Honestly, what struck me most writing this is the surprise that the system works, although it has come to work through a fairly clear process of iteration: Sengoku (2011) seems to have been something of a test-bed for Crusader Kings II (2012) which was actively developed on for at least six years (it’s last expansion in 2018) before those lessons were then deployed for Crusader Kings III (2020). The iteration clearly worked because each game built on the model of the previous entry in useful ways.8
All of that said, I think we are still missing a crucial component of CKIII‘s core theory of political history. We have polities and we have rulers now, but we also have to discuss how CKIII views rulership, which is where we will turn next.
- As best I can tell this is a product of teachers attempting to compensate for older, orientalizing views which presented Islamic polities as uniformly ‘decadent,’ weak and backwards as compared to European polities and perhaps somewhat overcorrecting.
- I should note here that for many of the Arabic or Persian words I’m going to use here there are a range of transliterations into English, including a lot of variation in terms of diacritical marks. I don’t know either of those languages, but I have tried to at least observe common transliterations (albeit generally with minimal diacritical marks as these are difficult to do in the WordPress editor and often not used in transliteration in any event). My apologies in advance for any errors I have doubtlessly made due to my unfamiliarity with the languages.
- P. Crone, “The Early Islamic World” in K. Raaflaub and N. Rosenstein, War and Society in the Ancient and Mediterranean Worlds (1999), 313. Much of what follows here is adapted from Crone’s summary there.
- This was an element of CKII‘s design I actually thought was curious. We see pretty clear evidence of persistent revenue problems for the Umayyads and Abbasids over time and part of the problem is clearly that revenues get eaten up by local garrison communities before reaching the imperial ‘center’ in Damascus or Baghdad. That in turn leads to taxes which were initially only imposed on non-Muslims (a slowly shrinking tax base, as slowly, bit by bit over time more and more of those tax-payers convert), particular the kharaj land tax, being imposed on Muslims as well, with substantial resistance to this as well. Yet in CKII it is just a general feature of Islamic ‘Iqta’ government that the central government gets a higher proportion of tax revenues; this is a point on which, we will see, CKIII‘s clan-government system is an improvement.
- Crone, op. cit. 326.
- And that balance of power needs to work because players in a game called Crusader Kings expect something approaching the historical crusades to be possible, which means that there both needs to be a functioning Byzantine Empire through the High Middle Ages and that it also needs to be opposed by powerful Muslim polities to its East.
- Perhaps some kind of use of the popular revolt faction mechanics, whereby when discontent with indirect vassals becomes high enough it triggers a major revolt in those far-flung regions?
- Because yes, I actually played Sengoku (2011).