Do you expand fast and risk your kingdom imploding with rebellions and vassal infighting? Or do you play it safe, only to stagnate in a political backwater?
Guide to Campaign Warfare Strategy
CK3, like any good strategy game, makes you juggle conflicting agendas:
- Realm expansion vs realm stability.
- War expenses vs. spoils of war.
- Conflicting councillor duties: Preparing for War, vs. Waging the War, vs. Winning the Peace.
Preamble: The Early game
This usually means scrapping your way up to around kingdom size – targeting neighbours engaged in succession struggles with few or no allies. Sure, that’s just dirty street fighting, but you’ll eating just turnips and far too poor do much else. But this period also gives you the time to research the tech needed for the mid-game.
Get yourself these traditions ASAP – setting them as your cultural ‘Fascinations’:
- ‘Royal Prerogative’ is an Early Medieval tradition. It allows you to pass High and Absolute Crown authorities. Both will give you a lot of control over your vassals. They also net you the higher rates of vassal tax and levy contribution: You’re gonna need that.
- ‘Divine Right’ is a High Medieval tradition. This one is key – since it lets you press any number of claims in a single war, allowing you to launch lengthy campaigns.
- ‘Land Grants’ (High Medieval trad). is a nice follow-up. Not essential, but very nice since it speeds up your Bishop’s ‘Fabricate Claim’ task by +50%
Mid-Game Campaign Strategy
While the early game made for an erratic stop-start play-style, the mid-game allows you to embark upon a lengthy campaign for great swathes of land (thanks to that Divine Right tradition). That’s something each ruler might do only a couple of times during their lifetime, so it may as well be planned out for a solid long term advantage.
- Preparing for War
- Waging a War
- Winning the Peace
Preparing for War
- Have a good idea of your long-term goal (e.g. a particular regional empire achievement).
- Decide on a sequence of duchies you’ll have knock over to get there
- Set your Bishop to Fabricate Claim on this territory, targeting one county after the other.
- Set your Marshal Train Commanders (this gradually buffs all your knights and men-at-arms, with a good chance to increase knight prowess and score some nice commander traits)
- Set your Steward to Collect Taxes, to help build up a substantial war chest.
- Build up your men-at-arms, ideally in unit types suitable to terrain they’ll likely be fighting in
- Get all the allies you can to help out with the biffo (remember taking on more allies while you’re at war is a lot harder)
Waging the War
- As usual, be certain you can win / afford the war before declaring it. Then press ALL your claims like the megalomaniac you really are.
- Set your Bishop back to his work-a-day task of Religious Relations (or else, keep him on ‘Fabricate Claim’ in preparation for a subsequent campaign).
- Set your Marshal to Organise Army (This reduces army maintenance costs, increases reinforcement rates, and buffs all your garrisons).
- Keep your Steward on Collect Taxes (you’ll certainly need em)
- Sound the trumpet! Then as usual, balance your forces in the field between attack and defence. And timing your attacks with the arrival your allies, etc.
Winning the Peace
- Grant titles immediately – to get your county Domain size back down below your Domain Limit and avoid aggravating your insanely jealous vassals. Parcel out counties so as to correspond to their natural Duchy. Grant each duchy granted to a different infant from your own dynasty
- One vassal per natural duchy seems to make for much less infighting later
- Your related infants are born with a hook. Use this to extort favourable terms immediately.
- As dynasty members, you can call on them for free during your next campaign.
- As kids, they can’t join any factions against you until years after the dust has settled.
Set your Marshal to Increase Control in County. Starting first, with any county you own personally which needs it (and mote that counties with high control return the most income).
Set your Bishop to Convert Faith and target the counties contained with each Duchy one at a time (conversion helps with control in the long term).
Set your Steward to Promote Culture (ditto).
With fingers crossed the Realm shouldn’t descend into a bloodbath. And gradually your income will rise again to an even more comfortable level. Then you can think about going back and bundling all those counties into duchies – for some sweet renown increases for having a flock of dynastic dukes.
The bigger your campaign the more time it will take to fully consolidate your lands before the next one. But using a structured campaign strategy means your realm is seldom in chaos, and your overworked councillors have the chance to tackle just one problem-type at a time.
However, note that there’s also some good variations to this formula For example, starting out by pressing claims held by a courtier, or using an abduction scheme to conclude a war before even the first arrow is loosed. But this here is the core of a workable long term strategy, I think.
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