Box art - Crusader Kings 3

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Beginner’s Guide

Crusader Kings 3 is more friendly to newcomers than its predecessor. However, it’s still not a game that’s easy to grasp for those just starting. Here are some tips that form a beginner’s guide to CK3.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Play the Tutorial

CK3 Petty King Murchad

The tutorial walks you through the early part of the Petty King Murchad mac Donnchad of Munster’s playthrough in 1066. It introduces all the major systems and puts you in an excellent position to continue playing.

Even if you decide to skip the tutorial, I recommend playing as Munster in 1066 for your time through. Ireland is in a pretty good position in 1066, relatively speaking, and Murchad has enough claims that you can quickly form a Kingdom; this will make succession less of a worry since even if you lose land, it’ll remain united under your primary title of king.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Slow Down

There are five game speeds available in Crusader Kings 3, and it can be tempting to kick it into high gear when nothing much is going on. However, when you’re starting out, this can be a major mistake.

When you begin playing CK3 for the first time, you’re going to be a bit overwhelmed. There are many facets of the game to keep an eye on, and things can happen really fast. You’re best off restricting yourself to speeds 1-3 while you’re getting the hang of things. That way, you don’t accidentally find yourself dealing with multiple catastrophes at one time.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Read Highlighted Text

There are many terms in CK3 that you may not be familiar with. Even if you know the dictionary meaning of concepts like “levies,” “feudal,” “vassal,” and so on, the game has a precise definition for all these.

Make sure to mouseover terms that are highlighted and underlined. This allows you to know exactly what status effects like, “Had Interesting Conversation,” actually do for your character.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | There is No “Winning”

You can’t win Crusader Kings 3, at least not in the traditional way. The game ends when your primary dynasty dies out, becomes unlanded, or you hit the year 1453. Other than those two conditions, the world is your oyster.

Instead of focusing on conquering the world (which is practically impossible), set goals for yourself. If you play as the Byzantine Empire, you may want to reunite the Roman Empire. Alternatively, suppose you’re playing as a Scottish, Irish, or English ruler. In that case, you might feel like it’s your destiny to rule Britannia.

However, if you lose land or even your kingdom, the game isn’t over. As long as your dynasty doesn’t lose its land completely, you can bounce back. If things go particularly bad, you may find yourself pushed from being a mighty king to a lowly count. However, you can dust yourself off and begin your family’s rise to power again. Part of this game’s allure is the emergent storytelling, and what tale is more engaging than a fall from grace?

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | You are your dynasty, not your country

Even though it can sometimes feel like it, you don’t play as a particular country in Crusader Kings 3. Instead, your destiny is determined by your dynastic ties. As the game progresses and your progeny marry throughout Eurasia, you’ll find your attention shifting.

For example, you may start as Petty King Murchad mac Donnchad of Munster, but if you play your cards right, you’ll likely become High King of Ireland before his death. After that, who knows? You may conquer the Kingdom of Alba through diplomacy and marriage, or lead an invasion of England. As you come to possess more powerful titles, you’ll find that your dynasty will no longer be localized. So, if Donnchad’s great-great-great-grandson becomes Emperor of Britannia, Ireland will be but a meager part of your greater holdings.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Try to form a duchy or kingdom before your first ruler dies

If you begin by playing as a count or a duke-level character, you’re going to have issues if your first ruler dies without forming a Kingdom. Most nations in Crusader Kings 3 use Confederate Succession when you first start playing. This means your titles are split evenly amongst your children when you die, and new titles might be created if there aren’t enough to go around.

Confederate Succession can cause massive problems and set you back. For example, if you played as Petty King Donnchad (a duke-level character), you would start with the title of Petty King of Munster (a duke-level title). If Donnchad conquered his neighbors in Connacht, he could then take the title of Petty King of Connacht (also a duke-level title).

However, let’s say Donnchad dies before he can establish the High Kingdom of Ireland. In that case, one duke-level title will go to his heir, and the other will go to another child. This would essentially make the heir and the other child equal in stature. They would both end up having independent control of their duchy. So, you’d have to retake the second duchy to get back to the same amount of land controlled as you did before Petty King Donnchad died.

Sometimes this sort of situation is unavoidable. However, suppose you can establish a kingdom-level title. In that case, it will pass to your heir, and they will remain in control of all your lands, even if duchy-level titles are split amongst successors.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Build your military (but not too much)

So, you have a big old army, but it keeps getting defeated by smaller ones? The majority of your armed forces will be composed of levies, but they’re not good troops. These are the ill-equipped peasants that you conscript for cannon fodder, and you can’t expect them to do well against a trained army.

While levies will make up a good chunk of your army, you should also be conscripting men-at-arms. These are trained soldiers that can deal massive damage compared to levies. Archers, cavalry, and armored skirmishers can be trained, and you can purchase siege equipment as well. If you find yourself losing battles that you’re sure you should have won, make sure you’ve conscripted a good mixture of men-at-arms.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Prevent your heir from being a knight

Most of the time, your heir will end up being a knight in your army if they’re a male, regardless of any actual martial ability. Many a CK3 player has wailed in grief as the perfect son they groomed to succeed their current character was maimed or killed by enemy forces.

Courtiers are set to become knights by default automatically. Make sure that you turn this off for your heir, or tragedy may strike.

Crusader Kings 3 Tips | Try and try again

You’ll likely do pretty poorly during your first playthrough of Crusader Kings 3. It’s not a forgiving game, and mistakes made during one reign can echo for decades or centuries afterward. It can be discouraging to put a lot of work into your dynasty, only to be ousted from hard-earned titles and lands.

However, as you play and learn the systems, you’ll find yourself getting better and better at holding your conquests. You’ll also likely start finding that it’s not as important to you to do “well” as it was when you began playing. This game is a great strategy title, but the real fun comes from the stories you craft while controlling your ruler. It’s always interesting to suddenly come into a title you had no idea about because of a random marriage that occurred decades before your character was born. It plays out differently every time.