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Crusader Kings 3 Tips: Expand your realm and become emperor

Crusader King III
(Image credit: Future)

Crusader Kings 3 is the latest in Paradox Interactive's hit grand strategy series. While this entry is much more approachable than its predecessors, it's still a complex game with many moving parts. The tips below will help you get your start in CK3 and give you the knowledge you need to defend your crown.

Play the tutorial

The tutorial for Crusader Kings 3 puts players in a comfortable position for learning the basics of the game. You start as Petty King Murchad Donnchad of Munster in 1066 AD, and by the end of the tutorial, you'll be within a few steps of re-establishing the High Kingdom of Ireland, which will ensure you keep your lands when Murchad dies (more about that later).

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

Crusader Kings 3 is a complex game, but Murchad's strong position and his possession of claims to multiple counties in Ireland help get a quick start. There are also plenty of logical paths to take once you form the Kingdom of Ireland. Scotland and England both are just a sea away and are ripe for conquest in the aftermath of the Norman invasion.

Be aware of your character's strengths and weaknesses

Each character has five stats that measure their abilities. Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, Intrigue, and Learning all control different aspects of ruling and will heavily influence your choices as you play out a ruler's life. You can influence these stats by route of education and guardianship when your heir is young. Still, sometimes you're thrown a curveball and have to deal with playing a ruler that isn't quite what you wanted.

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

Characters also have traits that can provide negative or positive bonuses. For example, Wrathful will give a bonus to a character's Martial stat and Dread but impose negative modifiers on their Diplomacy and Intrigue. Again, players can have some influence over these by making certain choices during random events, but some of them are hereditary.

As you learn more about the game, you'll be able to nudge fate toward creating heirs in the image you prefer. However, early on, you'll likely find yourself having to make do with what CK3 gives you.

Become a King (or Emperor) with your first ruler

Every time you start a new game of Crusader Kings 3, you'll immediately be thrust into a dilemma. Whether you start in 867 or 1066, almost every culture has Confederate Partition as their succession type. This means that when your ruler dies, their lands and titles are spread equally among their heirs. This is potentially a huge problem, although most rulers can combat it if players work fast enough.

What can happen in succession is that when the titles and lands are split, your new ruler's siblings may become equal in stature to them. For example, a Duke can't be the vassal of another Duke. If this occurs, your sibling will take full control of their Duchy, and you'll lose the land your predecessor worked so hard to gain.

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

The way to prevent loss of land under Confederate Partition is to form a domain that will give you a rank superior to any other titles under your control. So, suppose you're a Count who holds several Counties. In that case, you'll want to form a Duchy. If you're a Duke who controls multiple Duchies, you'll want to form a Kingdom. Lastly, if you're a King who has formed multiple Kingdoms, you'll want to create an Empire. Your highest rank will always be your character's Primary title, and it will always pass to their heir. When the heir inherits, they'll remain in control of any lands that are de jure a part of that title, even if a lower rank title passes to one of their siblings.

Don't give up if you lose land

Despite your best efforts, successions will not always go smoothly; wars will rage across your lands, and your relatives won't always be content to hang out on the sidelines while you control the realm. One mistake 30 years in the past in-game can suddenly end in loss of titles and land, and as a beginner, it can be hard to keep an eye out for these unexpected pitfalls. The key to being a successful CK3 player above all else is to not give up.

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

In Crusader Kings 3, you don't play as a kingdom. You're your ruler, and by extension, your domain is hereditary, not geographic. As long as you have an heir, there's hope for a brighter tomorrow, even if you're stripped of your rank. Part of what makes the game so engaging is the stories generated along the way. You'll never get to experience the King who was busted to Count whose son reunited the land and became Emperor if you quit at your first run of bad luck.

Build your armies quickly

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

Only a few nations can field large armies at either start date. This means that if you're quick, you can quickly strike out and conquer your neighbors with only a few thousand soldiers. This is an essential move for forming Kingdoms early on, and it allows you to gain free lands and titles with little consequence. Even the smallest independent counties will form alliances as the game goes on, making military conquest more and more tenuous. If you get a head start on building your military, you'll have a much easier time conquering and defending throughout the ages.

Keep your vassals happy

Crusader King III

(Image credit: Future)

Ironically, the most insidious threat to most Kingdoms in CK3 (and throughout history) are the people within it. As a ruler, you'll depend on your vassals to support you with taxes and levies. In turn, they expect to be rewarded with land, titles, and positions on the King's council. 

Lower ranked characters like Counts and Dukes won't have many vassals to worry about. However, when your ruler controls multiple Kingdoms or even Empires, you can find tens to hundreds of nobles throughout your domain. Attention must be paid to keeping a good relationship with these nobles as they will form factions against you if they're not happy.