Top 5 Tips for Getting Started in Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II is a game that, at the time of writing, is nearly six years old. Yet we are still seeing expansion after expansion for the game. And thanks to many Steam and Humble Bundle sales the player base is still growing. The number one question I get asked is, how do you actually play it? Well, here are my Top 5 Tips for getting started in Crusader Kings II. TL;DR video version of these tips.
1. Start as an Irish count
Any veteran player will give you this advice. With the base game the earliest you can start is 1066. So go ahead and pick the Stamford Bridge start date then pick a Count in Ireland to play as. It’s not important which one, any of them that aren’t too old. Here you will be able to learn the mechanics of the game without worrying about any of the bigger nations coming to impose their rule on you. Especially on the West coast. In 1066 each county in Ireland is its own ruler. Thus you can work your way up from Count to Duke and finally on to declaring yourself as King or Queen.
Once you are loaded into the game, leave it paused and familiarise yourself with the UI. In particular the top left panels, as those are where the majority of your gameplay options are.
2. Get married and reproduce
I added Queen to the end there not just as a nod to the opposite sex. In 1066 all the counties in Ireland are ruled by males, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. In Crusader Kings II you are not playing as a nation, nor even as a single character, but as an entire dynasty. Family and lineage are the most important things in Crusader Kings II. When the character you are playing as dies, through the various ways that it will inevitably happen, you take over as their heir. Rule for long enough and you can make a variety of changes to succession laws. These affect the type of heir you will have, but most likely you will be handing the reins to the first-born son. The only way to “lose” a game of Crusader Kings II is to have your character die with no heir of your dynasty to inherit. This is why the absolute first thing you must do when starting a new game is to marry and secure yourself an heir.
3. Fabricate some claims
Now that your dynasty is safe it’s time to improve your realm so that it may grow for future generations. You can’t go to war wherever you please though. You need a valid claim, a “Casus belli” before you can think about raising your troops. There are various ways to gain a claim, but at the early stage you’re going to have to fabricate one. This is what your Chancellor is for. The first button to the right of your portrait in the UI is your council. You should make sure you always have a full council, and will get a notification at any time that you don’t. Each councillor has three tasks that you can assign them. And for the chancellor, one of those is to fabricate claims.
Before you jump in though, this is a good time to take a look at the different map modes available in the game. You want to take a look at the De Jure Duchies view. Then take a look at which duchy your current county is part of. In Ireland, odds are you will be part of a two county duchy, so you want to fabricate the claim on the other county. Issue the order to your diplomat and unpause the game. Then sit back and wait until that claim comes through.
4. Now you are ready to War!
Got that claim now? Good, time for war! This is where some regular strategy gamers might get a bit disoriented. You don’t train troops like you would in a RTS. Every county in your realm provides levies that you need to raise (and dismiss) to make use of. Your own holdings are always going to provide you the most troops they can. Once you get later into the game and have vassals below you, then they will also provide you with troops. How many will depend on how much they like you and the laws you set. For your own holdings you can build and improve buildings, such as barracks and stables. These increase the number of troops available. And for your vassals you will want to keep a good relationship to maximise your troop count. Hovering the mouse over your vassals troops counts in the military panel shows you the exact break down of the troops they are willing to provide.
Once you have declared war using your claim you can raise your troops. Beat down the opponent army and then sit on his holdings to siege them. Hopefully you win the war and can claim your neighbour as part of your realm. This is where playing in Ireland becomes a good place to start. Without too much land grab, you can claim as Duke and raise your prestige. So long as you can raise the funds to claim the title.
Now repeat stages 3 and 4 around the rest of Ireland until you can bring the entire country under your rule. You may not do it all with your original character, but you can get there with relative ease. Once you do, you can safely say you know what you are doing and can move on to the final tip.
5. Get some Crusader Kings II DLC.
No, seriously. I’m not someone who buys a lot of DLC, but in Crusader Kings II there are a couple that make a big difference to the game. Just check out some of our reviews. I would definitely recommend that once you are a bit familiar with the game you go ahead and pick up The Old Gods, Rajas of India and Charlemagne. These add a huge amount of content to your game. Both the Old Gods and Charlemagne put back the earliest start date of the game to add about an extra 300 years. Raiding as the Vikings in the Old Gods is great fun. The Rajas of India almost doubles the size of the playable map too. The image here shows a good overview of what each DLC has added to Crusader Kings II over its six years of existence.
Aside from these tips, if you are still struggling to get to grips with the game I would highly recommend you go and watch some YouTube gameplay videos. I have a few up, but check out Arumba and shenryyr and look for their Crusader Kings II playlists.