How to play Crusader Kings 2 (abridged)
So Crusader Kings 2 is out (or is inside a few hours) and if I had the time I would love to be playing it as I loved the demo. I have tried to enjoy Paradox games in the past and while I found HoI3 approachable I’ve not really jelled with any other game. Except CK2.
There’s something wonderfully personal and intimate about managing a single dynasty and engaging in the petty squabbles of courtly life. I’m not one to take on playing a huge kingdom and blasting my way through wars and relations, I love getting close and intimate with my own family (er… that didn’t come out right) and watching all the courtiers and vassals closely.
But what’s great about CK2 is that there are a variety of ways to play. Friends from BrokenForum.com demonstrate this well: Aeon221 plays an extremely bloodthirsty game, CSL, on the other hand, loves to play a more ‘courtly’ game, like me. Then there are those who play like the guy behind the ParadoxianLP streams, who whizzes at speed through CK in a way I find slightly dizzying!
All of this makes for a great read for you and me but these amusing tales don’t take away from the problem that many Paradox games have: It’s easy enough to know how to click the buttons and even the systems are easy enough to understand, but it’s really hard to understand the way to actually go about playing the game. Playing a Paradox game is for many what looking at a car engine is to me. I know, roughly, what all the bits do, but I have no idea what on earth I could tweak to make the engine stop rattling. And how do I know if the car is running well? And what on earth would I do if it wasn’t? Yes, I could read a description of all the car bits, but how would that help me diagnose the problems? And what minor tweaks would I apply to rectify little concerns?
Damn. I really stretched that metaphor.
So, I thought I would write up a few tips for any starting CK2 player based on some ideas I’ve had playing the demo, playing CK and playing other, similar games. This is by no means a really good guide to CK2 – I hope we’ll see some awesome guides in due course (for example, the Hearts of Iron 3 strategy guide was really great), but perhaps this will help a few people. Hell – I’m not even sure my advice is entirely correct.
These thoughts presume that you’re playing a small holding – I suggest the King of Scotland or the ruler of the larger Welsh (click on Powys county) or Irish lands (click on the Thomond county). They assume you’re starting with some simple goals such as unifying Scotland, Wales or Ireland. If you can play through those goals well, even if you lose the game later on, you should be on your way to ‘getting’ it.
So, without further ado, some random thoughts and ideas in rough chronological order of “things to do and think about”:
- Examine your ruler. What are their strengths and weaknesses? If they have some horrid weaknesses, it’s going to affect the relationships with your vassals and family.
- Examine the ruler’s family. Who is the heir? How many kids? Is the ruler married? How many siblings? Are they weak or strong? Do the family get along or do they hate each other? Who is unmarried?
- Next, the vassals, look at the counties and then the holdings in the counties. Who controls them? Do they like you or not? Are they married? Do they have kids you could offer to educate for some favour?
- Check your council – do they all love you? Can you replace the ones that do not (careful with those who have power)?
- Check vassals and courtiers in provinces or areas you want to capture. Do any of them have claims on territory you want. Can you invite them to come and be your vassal and then press their claim for them?
- Determine your goals: if you’re unifying a small nation examine the other holdings: Who are their heirs? Could you marry your heir to a daughter and then assassinate everyone else until your heir inherits? If you can’t work out a way to get your family in there, plan to use your steward to fabricate claims.
- Do you have quality courtiers? If not, and you have a surfeit of single women, arrange matrilineal marriages for them so their husbands will join your court and be available for useful work (or to be ennobled once you gain lands!).
- Do you have too many sons? Can you give some of them bishoprics to take them out of contention for attempts to take power and messing up your lands?
- Do you have vassals you would prefer to get rid of? Eg, ones who very much hate you and are unlikely to be won over by hunts and feasts (which is worth trying). Perhaps it’s time to save some money and, in due course, work out a way of getting them arrested or causing them to rise (and then crushing them with mercenaries and taking their stuff).
- If you have daughters, can you marry them off to important nearby land-holders who will become allies? For example, a neighbouring King or Duke you could call upon in an emergency?
- Can you use your council members to try and destabilize a neighbour? Especially if that neighbour is part of a De Jure duchy you might control. When the rebels rise, put them down and ask for the neighbour to become your vassal! One just did for me in Ireland!
- You can invite title claims to your court so you can press their claim:
Click on a title on, say, a noble’s list of titles, go to claimants. On the portrait, there’ll be a green thumbs up or a red thumbs down. The ones with green thumbs up can be invited to your court via the diplomacy screen. You’ll get a casus belli on their claims.
- You can right click on a province’s holdings to get three menu items. You can then right click again to get even more options!
Anyway. Some random tips on how to approach the game. I'm sure someone else will produce a lot more and in a lot more detail soon.