GWJ Strategy Club Game 9: Crusader Kings 3

The ninth strategy club title is Crusader Kings 3, which we will be playing until June 30, 2022.

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Your legacy awaits. Choose your noble house and lead your dynasty to greatness in a Middle Ages epic that spans generations. War is but one of many tools to establish your reign, as real strategy requires expert diplomatic skill, mastery of your realm, and true cunning.

If you're new to the club, please check out the main thread.

(A) it's also on Game Pass

(B) I'm out this round - I'm virulently allergic to Paradox's design sensibilities. Stellaris aside, I've actively hated every one of their grand strategy games that I've tried.

I'm in. Not my first run with a Paradox game, but I never played CK2, so it's the first CK game for me. I'll probably start off on Ireland to get my sea legs under me.

This will be my first CK game as well.

Diplomacy isn't really my thing. Neither is deep diving into characters to find their best role. So CK3 is quite a stretch for me. But that's why I do these things.


Excellent - welcome all! I have about a micro-Sands into the game so far and wanted to say it’s easy to learn, hard to master. You can play it in many different ways from a war game to diplomacy RPG to murder/cult simulator. For those who don’t love Paradox games, I would still invite you to check out the tutorial because IMHO it’s the most streamlined grand strategy gamers date. And you’ll get credit with the club.

Hmm, I might have to jump in on this one if I can tear myself away from Old World. I played a little bit of CK1 (honestly, I miss how the maps looked in that era of paradox), a bunch of CK2, and then kinda bounced off CK3 when it first came out. My guess is I was just burnt out on the CK formula based on the time I spent in the second game, so maybe now is the time to give it another shot.

Remember, this is not a 4x or a wargame (that would be EUIV). This is a storytelling engine. A rich and complex one that lets you paint on history. View it that way and it's much more of a toy than a game.

I started a new campaign when Royal Court came out, so I'll be picking that up again for now. Maybe I'll try another start later on, but I want to see this story play out. To review...

I'd never actually played a Holy Roman Empire campaign, so I figured I would change that by starting as Duke Vratislav of Bohemia. It wasn't too hard to grab more territory and declare myself King of Bohemia, but the Emperor used a hook to change my succession law to partition, and that changed the course of the game. Vratislav's son Bretislav won election to be the next Holy Roman Emperor. Emperor Bretislav the First had a diplomacy skill over 20, so he could pretty much Jedi Mind Trick his way out of any trouble, except old age. He also persuaded the electors to crown his son Emperor Bretislav the Second. This may have been a mistake.

The trouble with partition successions is that, if your eldest son is elected Emperor, that means your Kingdom title is going to his brother. And if the electors change their minds and rebel after the death of your diplomacy-20+ father, that means you don't exactly have a golden parachute. Silver, maybe. So Bretislav the Second was busted down to Duke of Nordmark, setting up his capital in Prenzlau, which was only recently taken in a holy war and was neither religiously Christian nor culturally Czech. They sure loved being governed by this weirdo from the south. What a mess.

Bretislav had only two children, both daughters, and they were unstoppable. Ludmila, the eldest, took over as Duchess, and her sister, Countess Johanka, rode shotgun as spymaster. Johanka had an intrigue skill of 25, so they could get away with a lot. And they both lived into their 70s, so they had a lot of time to do it. By the time she died, Ludmila had grabbed more land in the pagan Baltic and gobbled up the Kingdom of Poland for dessert.

Now I'm playing as King Bretislav (yes, another Bretislav) who, like his mother, has high learning skill and considers learning a language to be an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Which is good, considering this polyglot realm. But he's growing old, so soon I'll be his son Svetlik. Now I'm wondering how hard it would be to raise cultural acceptance so I could create a Czech-Prussian hybrid culture out of this mix of territories.

Just found this thread, I'm in.

I have a general advice ask. As someone who just completed the tutorial. And as someone who gets that CK3 is not meant to be a linear global domination sim and is instead kind of a story generator.

I completed the tutorial (Munster, Ireland) and I beat up my southern neighbour, whomever of Desmond. So now Munster is bigger and I have a southern vassal that I don't like. Okay cool... so now what. My neighbours to the north all seem like decent folks, we get along well enough. I married some nice lady, and my son and half-brothers all married women of various repute.

I find myself just sitting watching the time tick by. In theory it sounds nice to unite Ireland, but I guess I don't see the opportunity. My neighbours are generally nice, and I don't seem to have any claims on their lands like I did with the Desmond wanker. The wanker who I only have an 8% chance to successfully have murdered by the way, ugh. Do I just wait for someone to make the first move? Do I have to use intrigue to shake things up?

It feels like I'm not seeing a layer of the game. I open all the other Irish petty kings portraits and they like me and I like them and they have ugly children. I can't just call their kids ugly because their armies are bigger than mine.

Thoughts? I apologize for the obtuse whiney question, but maybe this will also help some other noob?
Thank you!

One maneuver is to pick a weak neighbor and use one of your counsellors to gin up a fake claim on their lands, then mobilize. You’ll have your vassal at your back. If you can make allies in the meantime, they might help too. Likewise, check your target’s alliances; you don’t want to kick off a regional war without realizing it.

There are good beginner’s guides on Steam and elsewhere. You could also try to marry into the counties around you, to get claims or maybe have a child inherit (check out the Matrilineal agreement option when marrying off daughters). You could try to ally with other counties to gain the force needed and protect yourself from others. You can build buildings that will give you more troops, or change your government or laws to do the same. If you decide to just sit back then try to get allies and build your counties up.

All sorts of things to do besides just wait!

Thank you, this helps! I think there's just a first-timer translation that I have to make happen. Like, "try to ally with other counties" makes sense in conversation, but in the game I don't connect that idea with actual things in the game menus. Your ideas give me some good direction though. I think I'll dig around online for ways to make an ally and create a fake land claim. That way I can start working on a couple neighbours.

I also think I might be too nice for a game like this. It feels very rude to be doing most of this stuff. I wonder if there is a plausible strategy of mostly making allies and only attacking the assholes. I'm going to think about that

Thank you, Robear!

So you can click on another ruler or character to bring up interaction options, which includes diplomacy and orders (if they are your subordinate). There, you can try to do all sorts of things.

You definitely need to get into the right headspace, or you’ll find out what happens to nice guys in the middle ages. That said, attacking assholes can be a strategy as long as you don’t run out of them.

And so it begins - the Kent dynasty! Pretty proud of recreating Roy and a very British coat of arms.

Starting as an Anglo-Saxon lord in 867 is a wild wide though. Had some great early success helping East Anglia survive only to get caught by viking raiders and wounded. Here's hoping I can recover. If not, I'm starting as a petty king next round.


Roy was definitely my favourite character.

Count Roy Kent and his penchant for colourful language reminds me of the old joke about why England has the titles as Earl, when they are actually a Count. The problem being that a lot of English accents drop the 'o' from words.

Not actually the reason for the title, but it made me laugh anyway

25? He's old lol.

Robear wrote:

25? He's old lol.

That's the baseline for a playable custom character. Though TBH Roy just can't compete in the Viking start. I gave him Alfred the Great's starting territory but he lacks all the cool stuff that Alfred gets. I might recreate him in 1066 see if it's any better.

Huh. Thought you could make younger ones. I stand corrected.

Robear wrote:

Huh. Thought you could make younger ones. I stand corrected.

Oh you can make a kid or pensioner if you want but 25 seemed to be the sweet spot for getting the most out of your point spread. If you care about achievements of course. I might just make an insane Demi god for the fun of it.

This game is sure introducing me to a lot of ethical quandaries that I've never had to handle before. Will I marry a 12 year old sadist just because her father has a huge army? Turns out I will certainly consider it!

Ethical quandaries???
Will I convert a neighboring King to witchcraft and then expose his secret in order to destabilize a rival nation?
Turns out I will several times over.
Will I jail excess sons and turn them into eunuchs in order to prevent titles from being split up?
Too often.
Will I jail excess sons and force them to take vows?
Also too often.
Will I murder the leader of the Mongol Horde(4 times in a row)?
Yes, and surprisingly effective.
Will I kill off the betrothed spouse of a King's heir, fabricate a hook, and then use that hook to force a marriage with newly available said heir?
Is my Aunt also my sister?

WizKid wrote:

Will I convert a neighboring King to witchcraft and then expose his secret in order to destabilize a rival nation?

I've got to learn this one! Brilliant stuff

One other trick Shawn is to play different types of characters based on their traits. If your heir is charming and brave have him be that paragon you originally wanted to play. If he’s sneaky and fickle go the evil route for a generation. It makes for a more interesting run through.

Oh I almost forgot - if you don’t care about achievements you can hop characters in the same campaign. So if you hate your current villain just pop over a few realms. Also handy if you want to create a climatic showdown with a rival nation - take control of them for a few decades and build them up.

Shawnosaurus wrote:
WizKid wrote:

Will I convert a neighboring King to witchcraft and then expose his secret in order to destabilize a rival nation?

I've got to learn this one! Brilliant stuff :)

The ruler prior to my current one formed a new religion where witchcraft is okay, and I just fished forming a family coven so pretty much most of my court are witches. My current ruler has a high learning score which gives a pretty powerful bonus when trying to covert someone to witchcraft. My neighbors are getting a bit too big for my liking and murdering the leaders only had a 5% chance while converting them was 95%. So I figured why not try it. He converted just fine and when I was looking at options I could expose him, which I did. When I checked back later there was a new king.

I fired it up long enough to get through the tutorial today (so less than an hour). After kicking over the Earl of Desmond, and consolidating it into Munster, I noticed that the good Early was unhappy that he wasn't on the council, and was at -56. Well, I couldn't succeed at killing him or imprisoning him, so I made him my spymaster instead, since he had better intrigue than my current one did, and that -56 quickly became a -1. What's the worst that could happen, anyway?

I'll probably mess around in the post-tutorial for a bit, then go back and start a real game so I can get some achievements, maybe.

EDIT: And then I was almost immediately pulled into a war on the side of Gwynedd against another piece of England, since I married into an alliance with them. All I had to do was go siege a city. while their larger army stomped around Easy enough. And that helps fill in time while I wait for a claim to come due on a nearby county. I keep wanting to speedrun taking over Ireland, but I get the feeling that it is supposed to be a multigenerational thing (unless I am already a veteran of the series).

Probably. Remember... Not a wargame. It's a scheming, fighting, loving, hating, bizarre events story engine.

I had to go back through my dynasty tree and the title history to figure out why the Kingdom of Lotharingia dropped into my lap. When I was Ludmila, I had her youngest son, Mikulas, marry Princess Isentrude of Lotharingia, probably for the sake of an alliance. Then there seems to have been some turmoil: a faction installed Isentrude on the throne. Her son, also a Mikulas, inherited. Then he abdicated for some reason. But he was of my dynasty, and the title is inherited by House Seniority. So it went to me, King Bretislav of Poland. That gives me big swathes of both the eastern and western Holy Roman Empire. And it gives me a chance to try out culture hybridization, as I mix their Franconian culture with my Czech. Enter Francoczech.

Recalling past mistakes, I destroyed the Lotharingia title so my primary heir, Svetlik, would be his brother's liege. Sorry son, but you two need to work together.

Then I had a rough spot because those sons were raised Breton (oops) and my vassals said, "we just became awesome Francoczechs and now we're supposed to kneel to a Breton?" King Svetlik ensured his heirs were raised Francoczech (good) and he died before they reached adulthood (bad).

King Deroch took the throne at 9 years of age and I held on for dear life. Playing as a child is a little more forgiving than I recall it being in CK2: you can still make your own decisions instead of being forced to leave it to a regent. But I still had a bunch of rowdy vassals and no skills to keep them in their place, so they knocked my Crown Authority down to Autonomous Vassals.

But now Deroch is an adult, leading a vast and powerful realm. The only trouble is I'm getting nickel-and-dimed by a series of wars. Either my allies get the crazy notion to conquer some county in England or North Africa, or I have to defend my own realm. The Holy Roman Emperor is quite weak by now (again, I control a big chunk of the empire), so foreign kingdoms are laying claim to his vassals' counties -- usually my counties.

This morning there was a new development. One of those troublesome kingdoms, Hungary, is in crisis. King Tibor inherited it from King Antal. But a faction has just declared war to install his sister, Katalin, on the throne. Katalin is an interesting choice, given that she traveled to Prenzlau 15 years ago to honor the betrothal that secured Svetlik's alliance with King Antal. She is my wife and soulmate. If she takes the throne, then our eldest son should inherit both kingdoms.

How in the world do you even wrap your head around all that is going on there? That's amazing!

That's how the game is played, ultimately. The characters are more important than the counties. It's like the inverse of Europa Universalis.

Shawnosaurus wrote:

How in the world do you even wrap your head around all that is going on there?

I mostly don't? Most of the time I'm checking to see if my family is okay (Getting educated? Learning languages? Any promising marriage prospects?), then checking to make sure my vassals are happy and not plotting against me (I usually have a Sway or Befriend scheme going on one of them), then waiting until there's a fire to put out or until I have enough money to start my own fires.

I certainly didn't see the Lotharingian Succession coming. It took me a good bit of clicking around to figure it out after the fact. But it's fun to pause every now and then and click through family trees and title trees and see how things ended up the way they did.

So I completed the tutorial. I then started a new game as the Jarl of Yorvik. Successfully subjugated the north.

Married a daughter off to a Jarl in Iceland, hoping to get be able to use him as an ally when I continue my march north into Scotland. Instead I keep getting pulled into his bs grudge matches with the other side of Iceland and now I'm in debt.

I'm so confused by all the names and titles that I find it hard to decide what to do next. I've got 4 strapping sons who are available to be married, so thinking of marrying into the various Baronies in the north of Wessex (just south of me) to see if I can expand south that way.