As the recently crowned King of Bohemia I was presented with a golden opportunity; the sort that you don’t turn down. Not only did I have the means and manpower to conquer the neighbouring Kingdom of Hungary but the powerful allies I could call upon would ensure an overwhelming victory. And ensure it they did. What I didn’t count on was that winning the war would cost me far more than I would gain.
I started my Crusader Kings 3 game as the Duke of Bohemia in the year 1066. The early days of my reign were spent taking care of the typical busywork necessary to see my reign onto a positive heading in the years to follow. I was shuffling my court around so that people with the relevant skills were in roles that suited them. I spent some time sweet-talking vassals who weren’t that keen on me or my rule. My sons and daughters were married off or betrothed to suitable partners to strengthen my position through alliances. I also spent some time getting an idea of who controlled what within my territory and the surrounding area. With my position secured and my standing in the Holy Roman Empire boosted by an appointment to the Emperor’s Council, I set my sights on becoming a King.
I controlled all of the counties that were required under the game’s De Jure system to create the title ‘King of Bohemia’. The De Jure system is basically the hierarchy of seniority that governs the political shape of the map. Each county serves a duke, each duke a kingdom and each kingdom an empire; a system based on broadly geographical and historical lines, although they can change over time in the game. Not all of them are active from the start; individuals can hold multiple titles at a time and succession laws can create nasty webs of uncertainty that can see a single death fracture an otherwise unstoppable empire into pieces.
To move up the ranks and grow more powerful you either need to take titles, either by force or political manoeuvres, or create them yourself by meeting certain conditions. Assuming they aren’t already held by someone. To become King of Bohemia, I first had to create another ducal title so that I had the two that fell under it in the De Jure system. Only then could I create the Kingdom title I so desperately craved. Creating titles costs gold and the easiest way to get gold quickly is to take it from your neighbours. To declare war you need a Casus Belli, an excuse essentially, to do so. Claims held by yourself, or a member of your family or court, to titles held by other factions are one such cause for war. I had a claim for a county on my southern border: the perfect target.
My unfortunate southerly neighbour quickly discovered that although the war was to claim a single county for myself on paper, the reality was quite different. The first battle proved decisive. My army’s superior troop quality and commander’s leadership ability turned a small number’s advantage of a few hundred into one of a few thousand in a single battle. Soundly defeated, their forces could no longer muster enough strength to fight me off anymore and so I had free reign to do as I pleased. I besieged and looted all of their holdings in a 3-year campaign that could have been over in 6 months. Each fresh conquest enriching me at their expense. Their crippled forces were unable to mount an attack significant enough to force me to end the war let alone to actually beat me.
In a Total War game, a war like this would have resulted in the destruction of the losing faction and me sauntering off with my booty and significantly expanding the territory under my control. In Crusader Kings 3 the Casus Belli system, in combination with the De Jure system prevents such runaway successes. Unless you have a cause for war that allows you to completely take over your enemies holdings, you can’t snowball your way to success through military might alone. Arranging something like that would take far more manoeuvring ahead of time than I had done. Thus, I left that war victorious with my territory only one county larger, as per the Casus Belli I had used to declare war. However my coin purse was, as I had intended all along, significantly heavier.
With my new kingly crown freshly shining and adorning my head, my ally, the King of Denmark, called me to honour our alliance. He was waging a war for the crown of Norway and requested my help. Several years passed as my well-drilled forces backed up my Danish allies in battles and sieges, which we won with relative ease thanks to our combined strength. The Norwegian forces were too scattered and some smart manoeuvres by my Danish allies ensured that they couldn’t coalesce into a genuine threat; leaving easy pickings for my troops to run through with spears and riddle with arrows. These years of military success clearly led to some bedroom celebrations as my wife and I had several more children during this time, all of whom were betrothed off once again to suitable partners to create alliances for me. One in particular would prove exceedingly important.
With the war for Norway won and a hefty reward of Prestige in my pocket, I found myself in a position to take a golden opportunity. As it happened, not only was I now allied with the King of Denmark and the King of Norway thanks to my help, I was also allied with the King of England; my youngest son was betrothed to his granddaughter while they were still toddlers. Our combined military strength was impressive to say the least. The envy of all the nobles in the world, I’m sure. Wars between kings are expensive affairs, costing a lot of Prestige points to declare. I had more than enough and, with the backing of my allies, was confident that I could win any war I chose. After giving my troops a year to recover and replenish after their Norwegian campaigns, I set my sights on my next target.
My eldest son had claims for the Kingdom of Hungary: my eastern neighbour. I pressed that claim. With force. Hard. As I awaited the arrival of my allies before committing my own forces to battle, their initial offensive didn’t move quickly enough. They stopped their pursuit of me to besiege one of my settlements: a fatal mistake. Instead of using their early numbers advantage to crush me before my allies could interfere, they allowed themselves to get bogged down and missed their chance. When the armies of Denmark/Norway and England arrived, plus a few lesser nobles who answered my call to arms, the war was essentially won. The Hungarian army was soundly defeated while in my territory, unable to escape before being ensnared by our overwhelming numbers. The border towns fell quickly, the sheer number of besiegers making relatively quick work of any resisting garrisons. A positive start to the war.
Hungary crumbled as the war rumbled on. As counties fell to me and my allies, the Hungarian King was deposed, reinstated, then deposed again as the internal strife and factions on that side of the war buckled under our armoured boots and hails of arrows. An attempt to sneak a Hungarian army around the mountains to the north, through Poland and then into my territory snagged when Danish reinforcements accidentally intercepted them on their march south to join the conquest. Hungary was very quickly in the palm of my hand. The conditions to end the war and enforce my demands, my Casus Belli, were met quickly. Now… what were my demands again?
‘Oh yeah, my son…’
My son, the newly crowned King of Hungary, the fruit of my labour. He took the two counties he held as my vassal with him as he sat his ungrateful behind on the throne that I had forcibly vacated for him. He was now ruler of all of Hungary… plus two counties in Bohemia. Now that his title was equal to mine, he ceased to be my vassal. Instead, like me, he serves the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire directly. As King of Bohemia I have won three wars, never lost a battle and conquered two Kingdoms. For all of that hard work I find myself one county smaller and have created a whole new set of problems for myself. Not least of which being that a neighbouring King controls two of the counties in the heart of my territory.
Now, my ungrateful son sees me merely as a rival claimant to the Imperial Throne. To get an alliance with him I had to play the “I am your father, you’ll do as I say” card by using the intrigue hook I held over him to make him agree to one. We all know that people forced into being your friend make for the most reliable allies, of course they do. My son who hates my guts, who isn’t my heir (my brother is due to the succession laws in place), who now controls a territory much bigger than my own, who sees me as a rival on his path towards greatness. I’m sure that won’t cause me any problems whatsoever.
I can almost hear him sharpening his assassin’s blades from here…
Have you played Crusader Kings 3 from Paradox Interactive? Does your son hate you too? Let me know @APTSnack in all the usual places.