Crusader Kings 3 – Beginner’s Guide: Tips and Strategy

If you like the idea of taking over a dynasty in the middle of the Dark Ages and conquering the world, then Crusader Kings 3 is the right game for you.

Though it might look simple enough when you just see the map and the five buttons you have on the side, CK3 is actually very complex.

Recommended Read: How to Call Allies to War in CK3

There are a lot of moving parts in the background and a lot of mechanics that veteran players know and use every time they start a new playthrough.

So, here is an extensive beginner’s guide for Crusader Kings 3, where we will explain how the game works, give some essential tips, and showcase a general strategy to actually have success conquering the world.

Table of contents

Introduction to Crusader Kings 3 – How It Works

CK3 is a dynasty-based real-time strategy game. This means that you will have to play as a ruler and then continue the game as this person’s heirs until the end of the game or your dynasty.

This all happens in real time, as you can control how fast or slow time passes. As days pass, your character gets older, and you have to prepare for the inevitable.

As opposed to other strategy games, in CK3, you won’t have a real goal set by the game. You can do whatever you want to do.

Some of the things you can do in CK3 range from conquering neighboring lands to putting your dynasty on the thrones of all the kingdoms in Europe through marriage.

Players will have control over many aspects of their character’s life, such as who they marry, who they start a romance with, who they hate, and what religion and culture they have.

Luckily, your ruler won’t have to handle their kingdom alone, as there are many characters in your court that can’t wait to get their hands on some power.

The most important people in your court will be your council and your vassals. Your council contains your brightest and most capable courtiers, and your vassals will be characters who own lands that are subservient to you.

The council will help you handle most state affairs, while vassals will give you taxes and help you with troops when war comes if they don’t hate you.

When you are not dealing with your inner problems, you will mostly deal with other rulers around the world. Most of them will want your lands. So, you will have to prepare for war whether you like it or not.

Main Goals in Crusader Kings 3 Early Game

Though there aren’t any real missions that CK3 gives you, players should still have some general goals in mind when starting their campaign.

Depending on your starting circumstances, these might be very different. However, here are a few goals in the CK3 early game that you should have in mind, no matter where you start your world conquest from:

  • Assign a Council that has at least level 20 in their primary skills
  • Set up an Alliance
  • Become the Cultural Head
  • Become the House Head
  • Reach the next Title Rank

Capable Council

Your council in CK3 will impact your abilities the most during your lifetime. The skills of your council will directly influence your own skills.

And, since your own skills will influence things such as the number of troops you will have, the amount of money you get from territories, and how many people like you, the council must be good.

However, there are a few limitations when it comes to the council in CK3. Powerful vassals in your realm will want council positions, even if they have horrible skill levels.

Sometimes you will have to make compromises. Unfortunately, council members can do a lot of tasks that are more likely to be successful and useful if they have good skills.

So, one of your main goals at the start of CK3 will be to get council members that have at least level 20 in their primary skill. You can get many capable characters that are not part of your realm by inviting them to your court.

Get an Alliance

Alliances in CK3 can mostly be formed through marriage. If you have an eligible relative at the beginning of your playthrough, make sure to set them up with someone for an alliance.

At the start of the game, it might be better to look for someone that is relatively close to your territories.

If you are allied with someone really powerful that is very far away, they might never get the opportunity to help you out with your wars.

They will usually arrive too late, so a weaker ally that is closer will be much more useful. If you have alliances, the other rulers will also be more afraid to attack you.

By getting an alliance as fast as possible, you also make sure that no one will attack you unless they are extremely powerful and angry with you.

Cultural Head

This might sound complicated right now, but it is extremely important. Technology in CK3 is decided by your culture.

Each culture in the game has a different technological level from one another. The person that decides what your culture will research next is called the Cultural Head.

To become the Cultural Head, you will need to own the most provinces with your culture out of the other contenders for the title.

This means that you will either have to conquer new lands and change their culture to yours or conquer more lands from people that follow your culture.

You can always see who the head of your culture is by opening the culture menu (the button with a candle sign).

Most players will want to be able to control what innovations (technology) they learn next, so being a Cultural Head will always be a priority in the early game of CK3.

House Head

If you started the game as a part of a powerful dynasty, you will most likely have someone else controlling your dynasty.

The Dynasty Head will have the ability to choose which special abilities your bloodline will get. Things such as extra skill points and traits are all available through the Dynasty Legacies.

However, only the Dynasty Head can make these choices. If you are not the Dynasty Head at the start of the game, your only way to become one is by becoming a House Head.

Players can do this by starting a cadet branch of the dynasty.

Title Rank

At the start of the game, you might be a count, duke, king, or emperor. Emperor is the highest title rank anyone can gain in CK3.

If you start the game as any one of the other title ranks, one of your goals should be to get to the next level.

This can be done by conquering the de jure lands of your upper title rank. A way to understand this easier is if you use the map modes in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Select the Kingdom Titles map mode to see the de jure kingdom on the map. The kingdoms you are now seeing on the map are the “righteous” borders of those kingdoms.

If you are a duke in one of those kingdoms, you can create that kingdom by owning 50% of the territory it has on the de jure map mode.

So, if you start your game as any other title rank other than emperor, check the relevant map mode and see what territories you will need to conquer to get to the next rank.

Once you get to the emperor rank, you won’t have to deal with most of the normal problems that players have, such as losing most titles when dying.

Essential Tips for Beginners in Crusader Kings 3

Now that we know exactly what your goals should be in CK3, we should also go over some essential tips that will make your life easier:

Tip #1: Always Make Sure You Have An Heir

If you don’t have an heir and you die, then the game is done. Players will see a nice-looking game-over screen, where they will get a little description of the life of their dynasty.

So, to avoid quick endings, always make sure you have an heir.

Tip #2: Dread is Good

Though the game might sometimes make it sound like a bad thing, dread is a stat that can help you a lot in CK3.

The dread stat shows how afraid people are of you. Afraid vassals will never plot against you (to your face), and afraid people will usually accept your demands.

Tip #3: Never Underestimate Factions

Factions are inner groupings of vassals that want to change something in your kingdom. Most often than not, they will want annoying things from you.

They will want to take your player character down from power, they will want to become independent, and they will want to take over the realm.

Never underestimate them. Even if there are only a few and they have 50% of your power, make sure to solve the problem before it becomes too big.

Tip #4: Do Decisions As Often As You Can

Decisions are usually really useful. Going on pilgrimages, hosting feasts, and going on hunts are all decent decisions that will increase your Prestige and Piety when you need it most.

These actions will also often relax your character, which will lower their stress and avoid the horrible stress debuffs.

Basic Strategy to Divide and Conquer in Crusader Kings 3

Now that you understand how CK3 works and know some little tips and tricks, you need to know how to conquer the world.

The most important strategy when conquering in CK3 is to never attack someone with more troops than you.

Though this might sound intuitive, you will often find yourself attacking someone with 3k troops while you have 2.7k, thinking you can outmaneuver them.

However, most often than not, you will lose because you didn’t pay attention to terrain types, men-at-arms counters, and knight skills.

In the future, you might be able to beat kingdoms that have twice your troops, but right now, don’t take on someone stronger than you.

Also, don’t try to conquer too much too fast. Try to take it slow. Conquering too much land too fast can cause unexpected problems.

You will probably annoy most of your neighbors, the people that have been conquered will likely rebel, and, if you took territories using a normal casus belli, then you will also get new vassals that will hate your guts.

That’s everything you need to know about as a beginner in Crusader Kings 3, regarding tips and general strategies!

Have any input or suggestions for this guide? Let us know in the comment section below.

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