Grand strategy games like Crusader Kings enable RTS fans to have an incredibly accurate depiction of medieval conquest. Moreover, the recent Crusader Kings 3 amps up the grand strategy hype with its improved features and immersive gameplay mechanics. Interestingly, fans of the previous title Crusader Kings 2 will feel right at home with the sequel. However, fans of games like Civilization might want to level up their Crusader Kings 3 experience to get the most out of their session.
Crusader Kings 3 provides quite a robust number of features to boost its ability to create a realistic political simulation. However, this factor doesn't mean it's impossible to take a Crusader Kings 3 playthrough to the next level. In fact, some pro tips exist for grand strategy fans to have the most fun with their Crusader Kings 3 experience.
Updated on May 20, 2022, by Rhenn Taguiam: With the Crusader Kings 3 Console Edition having been released last March 30, 2022, for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, it’s high time for players to enjoy amassing territories and dominating their enemies in one of the most acclaimed grand strategy games of all time. However, those who want to experience the full glory of Crusader Kings 3 might want to check out its original PC iteration, as well as some more advanced tips to ensure domination throughout their rule. These include more tactical marriage options, warring styles, and rulership methods.
Get Free Skilled Labor From Courtier Marriages
Players who are in dire need of a skilled employee might actually want to acquire them through courtier marriages instead. How this works has to do exactly with what courtier marriages imply - spouses will bring their court with them. With the right tinkering, players can marry off members of their court and “Find Spouse” their must-have skills.
This strategy can work in various contexts as well. For instance, players can find mentors for their heirs with the right teachers, and even those of different cultures can “convert” heirs into theirs - especially for players who want their heirs to be accepted by the said cultures. In terms of knights, players can simply marry off the women in the court to members with the highest “Prowess” stat.
Take Advantage Of General Swapping At War
Similar to courtier marriages, players can take advantage of swapping their generals during wartime. Considering how different territories and areas have different land make-ups, it’s important for players to prepare their generals and martial officers for almost any contingency. Coming from the courtier marriages angle, there’s always the possibility to get multiple skilled generals with high “Martial” stats for various purposes.
For instance, players who need to attack another location from the seas might want a “Forder” commander that can remove the disembark penalty from ships. Likewise, land-based wars can benefit from generals that can reduce casualties with “Unyielding Defender,” reduce enemy defenses with “Flexible Leader,” and get advantages in various terrains with “Open Terrain Expert.” In terms of sieging, a commander with “Military Engineer” can make sieges happen 30-percent faster.
Siege Army Should Split From Main Armies Most Of The Time
In speaking of sieges, it may also help players with enough resources to split both their main army and siege army to maximize their benefits. Before doing this, players should maximize their siege stack as soon as possible to ensure the sieging can happen much faster without costing too much.
When it comes to splitting forces, it could help to have a main army dedicated to both defending the backline and chasing the enemy away, while the siege army focuses on capturing the objective. This ensures that enemies won’t be able to strike back as the players have a main defensive line doing a lot of the defending.
Multiple Schemes Do Work
While it’s already implied throughout the game that schemes do make the world go round, it helps players to understand that players can have multiple schemes working at the same time. At least, in this context, players can have one hostile scheme and one personal scheme running at the same time, allowing them to maximize the ways they can backstab foes into doing their bidding.
Simply put, this means players can actively plot one assassination while at the same time trying to seduce or sway their way into another person’s favor. This is extremely advantageous for players with strong spymasters, as their contributions can greatly help players with a penchant for social moves.
Difficult Assassinations Are Not Impossible
Players who always wanted to try assassinating an emperor or someone well-guarded might not push through after seeing a “low” assassination chance metric when planning out their scheme. However, like with any statistical probability, “low” doesn’t mean impossible - it just means the steps of getting the assassination to work are still perfectly possible.
As such, players might want to try out a lot of other strategies when trying to assassinate a rather powerful individual. For instance, recruiting that person’s spymaster through a hook can allow players to find potential weaknesses, boosting the assassination chance. One way to do this is to get to the Vassals tab and check those with the highest “Intrigue” stat, as well as try to find the vassal whose defense against hook fabrication is the highest.
Capitalize On The Spouse's Support Mode
Similar to royal courts in real life, rulers in the game have their spouses as part of their inner council. Mechanically speaking, the presence of a spouse can grant stat boosts to the ruler. This Support Mode buff can aid them in specific situations that require said stat, such as a Martial bonus that can benefit in combat.
However, players should always remember that they can actually switch the stat that receives their spouse’s buff. Thanks to this factor, a player can strategically switch their spouse’s Support Mode to boost the stat needed to accomplish a specific task. More precise applications of Support Mode include Intrigue to do more complex Schemes. Likewise, a handy Diplomacy boost can always help the ruler accomplish something that involves their fame and recognition (e.g., Vassal management, alliances).
Fabricate Claims On Counties First
In a game where rumors can get “officialized,” a ruler can use Claims to gather territory without ever going to war. Thanks to the Bishop, a ruler can create Claims that can theoretically cement (true or otherwise) their rule in a particular area. Of course, with the freedom in CK3, players can try claiming a small county or go for the duchy itself.
For the sake of practicality, players may want to consistently create Claims for counties within a duchy. At some point, the bishop will offer the player a Claim on the duchy in itself. From a financial standpoint, this saves the player Gold that they would’ve used to fabricate Claims for the rest of the duchy. Moreover, players can simply just wage war for control of that single duchy instead of allowing a conflict to control each county, which forces a punishing 5-year truce in between conflicts.
Manage Vassal Titles Effectively
When a player garners enough power in their reign, it’s expected for some discontent Vassals with enough power to form factions against the player. To avoid this, players should try to avoid giving Vassals as much power in the first place.
A great way to do this is to avoid giving Vassals their de jure (by law) titles, which is usually done by giving them titles to lands outside their realm of jurisdiction. As a kicker, players may want to give the de jure titles to a relative (or a relative with a child) who is a Duke and make them the direct liege of the said Vassal. That way, the Vassal will have fewer risks of being hostile to the player.
If a player is noticing that their Duke or Count is forming a strong faction, they can transfer their Vassalage to another official of a higher rank. That way, they can’t form hostile factions against the player due to the lack of direct lineage. Having Dukes managing multiple Vassals and their de jure titles can become a great way to minimize direct hostilities towards the player.
Tap The Liege's Court For Secrets
Players who start out as a Vassal might want to keep an eye out on their liege’s court to spot secrets. Remember, courts will almost always have the liege alongside a couple of Vassals as Councilors. To maximize the hunt for secrets, people might want to wait a couple of years in order for these court officials to create secrets.
In that regard, players may want to develop their Spymaster throughout a decade or so in order to maximize their secret acquisition. It’s also advised that players start working their way to earn a place alongside these higher-ranking officials to help acquire those secrets much faster.
Use Sway Or Dread To Maintain Loyalty
Instead of leaving loyalty to chance, players can actually cement an area’s loyalty through the game’s Sway or Dread mechanics. When done correctly, improving either metric can avoid unnecessary hostilities towards the player throughout their playthrough.
At its core, players can generate Dread the fastest through proper execution. It’s advisable that players keep a handful of religious prisoners at the jail and execute some of them whenever Dread gets low. This is especially useful for successions, as high-enough Dread can help avoid faction-forming during the new reign.
In contrast, Sway is a recommended personal scheme to give boosts regarding opinion. As such, it’s recommended for players to use Sway on their liege (if they’re a Vassal) and their own Vassals, their personal Bishop, and their Religious Head.
Remember Secrets, Intrigue, Schemes
Contrary to popular belief, wars don’t always rely on swords. Rather, most wars actually happen before soldiers get drafted into the army. In Crusader Kings 3, players have the option to skip getting into war and instead eliminate enemies through Intrigue. Thanks to a ruler and their Spymaster, various agendas can be pushed through Schemes, Secrets, and being Hooks. With these tools, players can do things such as outright murder, abduction, and claiming their throne. Likewise, “lighter” Schemes exist such as swaying and seduction, romance and friendship, and even eloping.
Players also need to take note of Secrets other rulers and subjects possess. Knowing whether a character has attempted a crime, has an unconventional or taboo belief, or even a questionable origin can become a tool for success. Hooks can outright “control” people through favors via blackmail and fabrication, threats and manipulation, or even being indebted.
Careful With Trust After War
Trust is a luxury in politics, especially when almost any subject and ruler can be turned against one another. In times of war, trust is tested not just in terms of reinforcements but also prisoners. Remember, a prisoner of war returned to their original land can be sent as a spy. In turn, players need to be wary of prisoners that return to them as they may be trying to get information that the enemy can use against them.
Players can also take advantage of acquiring prisoners from various means. Abducting someone or getting prisoners of war after winning a minor skirmish can give players ample time to “convert” them into their cause. That way, when they return to their original realms, players have a Hook over these prisoners they can use to their advantage.
Keep Incompetent Vassals In Line
Given Crusader Kings 3 and its setting, players as rulers have Vassal that, theoretically, follow their lead in managing the realm. Theoretically, Vassals and even Council members should be competent enough to manage their territories and perform their duties to assist the player in their leadership. Sadly, rules of succession and other chance encounters do end up giving rulers incompetent Vassals to deal with. However, while it’s true that players should ideally eliminate incompetent Vassals, they need to acknowledge their dangers and potential uses.
For instance, an incompetent Vassal still has some measure of power over their territory. That means an unsatisfied Vassal can still amass support to threaten the player’s rule over the realm. In turn, players can start to keep incompetent Vassals in line through Schemes, in particular Hooks to ensure they won’t turn. Likewise, they can always pit Vassals in unsavory situations, such as aiding an enemy secretly against them.
Cripple Supply Lines
According to Sun Tzu, any combatant who capitalizes on an enemy’s weak points can secure victory without casualties. Players can slowly harass an overconfident enemy, disturb a quiet enemy, or starve a well-supplied army. Theoretically, in Crusader Kings 3, players can secure territories by finding these weak points and forcing enemies to fall by the very things they’re afraid of.
For instance, players planning to wage war against an enemy should first acquire the trust of the enemy’s reinforcements. They can do this through outright conquest, clandestinely through Hooks, and even sowing dissent. That way, players already crippled the enemy’s line of support even before they go to war.
Spread The Bloodline
In Crusader Kings 3, even marriage and succession can become tools of power for a family to succeed in the end. Remember, marriage remains controversial in ancient times as even an illegitimate child can upset the status quo among the elite. In turn, players should capitalize on their heirs to secure the future of their families. For the most part, players should marry (themselves or their children) into royal families that accept matrilineal marriages. That way, even the player’s daughter (or themselves, if they are female) can secure power within the next generation.
Players surrounded by families in patrilineal marriages should ensure themselves that their children could produce male heirs. That way, a player’s family always has a means to “spread the bloodline” and slowly dominate the rest of the other realms.
Play As The Character
Crusader Kings 3 lets players control "characters" with different personalities and even Lifestyles that determine their skillsets. Understanding each Lifestyle also enables players to have a comprehension of how other rulers may function and use this to their advantage:
- Diplomacy focuses on building relationships between people and between realms.
- Martial focuses on warfare and combat.
- Stewardship focuses on earning money, while Learning focuses on knowledge and religion.
- Intrigue focuses on schemes and manipulation.
In addition, players need to take note of Stress, which increases when they do things against their principles. They should also take note of coping mechanisms they and their fellow rulers chose in order to use them later on.
Decisions Should Affect Tomorrow, Not Today
Unlike other strategy titles, the Crusader Kings series puts players in charge of entire dynasties. As such, the game doesn't end when the current ruler dies; for as long as an heir exists, the game continues. In Crusader Kings 3, this core mechanic stays the same. As such, despite the game's rather complex mechanics, players should always remember that their decisions should affect their future heirs, not just their current standing.
For instance, changes in religion and political systems should always make it easier for future heirs to rule. Moreover, players should try setting up policy changes to better accommodate the personality and potential playstyle of the heirs-to-be.
Secure The Capital First
In speaking of heirs and dynasties, Crusader Kings 3 players should remember that only the lands their rulers directly manage the matter in inheritance. After all, most realms begin the game with the Partition succession law, which divides lands to all eligible heirs post-mortem. In essence, the primary heir will be getting one of each County, Duchy, Kingdom, and Empire Titles.
This factor means that rulers should consider investing their resources in building new temples, cities, and other relevant infrastructure that can improve the status of their capital. It's only when this is done that they can focus on other areas, provided they can secure ownership of these areas.
Make Life Easier For The Heir
Aside from the capital, rulers should make life as easy as possible for the heir while they exist. For instance, the general rule of thumb is to adopt a succession law that prioritizes your primary heir. In the case of multiple children, rulers should consider attaining a higher title with multiple lower titles to "share" the titles evenly among the children. If possible, rulers should then expand their realm to accommodate these needs.
Likewise, rulers should consider taking care of the problem with heirs before they start. In the case of too many heirs, players can choose to disinherit or even kill rivals. Likewise, too few heirs could be soled by legitimizing bastards, improving fertility, or players should consider swapping wives or even turn to concubination.
Satisfy Threats To Use Them In The Short-Term
Players should take note of how they treat active and potential threats. In essence, pleasing potential threats make them easier to get rid of in the long run – "keep your friends close, your enemies closer."
For instance, players can support a threat's claim on a title lower than the player's rank. This strategy can please their Vassal without giving them power over the player. However, this also creates a "stronger" ally that you can call for aid – at least until you dispose of them. Likewise, players who want to "remove" certain Vassals who can fight can send them on an "unwinnable" battle. If they win, then all the better. However, if they lose, that's one less threat.
Keep Allies Happy To Benefit In The Long-Term
Aside from threats, players should keep an eye on allies and potential allies they're interested in. In essence, players can use their faction screen to determine any grievances their Vassals have over them and their causes. It's better to keep tabs on current allies early on to avoid "sudden" rebellions late in the game.
Moreover, players should ensure that their future heirs get almost the same beneficial relationship with their predecessor's allies. Remember, things like relationships and Hooks reset when current rulers die. Solutions to such situations include strategically betrothing children to powerful houses, or heirs freeing jailed Vassals to gain Hooks on them.
Let Vassals Do The Work
In Crusader Kings 3, counties in a ruler's realm may have a positive or negative reception of their leadership depending on their religion and culture. Thankfully, the Steward and Realm Priest can enforce the ruler's culture and religion to counties that don't share these beliefs – at the risk of negative reception.
However, Vassals can actually help uphold these much easier. For instance, players can assign Vassals to rule particular counties – preferably those that share the Vassal's faith. In turn, players can force that Vassal to convert to their religion, which can instantly convert all counties under that said Vassal. This strategy works wonders if the ruler has a great relationship or a hook with that Vassal. Not only would this almost instantly guarantee a conversion but also avoid upsetting the populace.
Let Rivals Do The Work
Who says war is the only way to defeat a rival? Sometimes, the best way to defeat a rival is to nudge them towards their ultimate downfall. For instance, players eyeing to obtain a territory for themselves might find it difficult to fabricate a claim against an experienced ruler. Instead of facing them head-on, players can orchestrate the assassination of that ruler, only to be replaced by an incompetent ruler.
In turn, players can start forming relationships with that new ruler's Vassals to sow discord among the court. Eventually, the Vassals themselves may orchestrate a coup against that incompetent ruler. Additionally, players may nudge a Vassal to fight for that land. Afterward, they can fabricate a claim to "snatch" that territory and still avoid looking tyrannical.
War Is Expensive And Meticulous
In Crusader Kings 3, rulers can't just "declare" war willy-nilly. In fact, a ruler needs to have a claim (inherited or fabricated) in order to declare war to fight for a particular territory. Moreover, players need to consider certain factors.
For instance, Vassals may or may not choose to assist in wars depending on their relationship with the player. Furthermore, the war can have a lasting impression on the ruler's reputation. Lastly, despite what happens in a war, the territory in the claim will only be the claim that can be retrieved when the war is won. As such, players should carefully determine the land they want to lay a claim on, especially if they plan on attacking other territories in the conflict.
Enemies Can Do Schemes, Too
Players of Crusader Kings 3 should always stay on top of simple strategies or complex schemes they plan on pulling off. Remember, if players can fabricate claims or get Hooks from prisoners, so can potential rivals. In essence, the more leverage players have on rival characters, the easier they may enact schemes or counter against them.
For instance, players should invest in the "Truth Is Relative" perk to handle fake claims easily with a spymaster. If possible, players should avoid wars and instead abduct rivals prior to the conflict to get them released with a hook. Likewise, players should release prisoners back to their territories to get Hooks on them as well.
Crusader Kings 3 is available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S.
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