Crusader Kings 2 Complete Guide for Newbies

First Things First, CK2 is Awesome

CK2 is a real-time strategy game that goes far beyond your normal land grab game. Competing against or cooperating with all the nations of the world, you have the opportunity to build a dynasty and play through generations of characters. It provides hours of great gameplay, but its complexity can be a little daunting at first. In this Crusader Kings 2 Complete Guide for Newbies, we will give you exactly what you need to get started and succeed in your first kingdom building endeavor.

Once you understand a few basic mechanics, gameplay is simple. Strategies, on the other hand, are infinite. Are you going to be a harsh ruler who keeps control by sheer force or a wise ruler who makes just the right alliance to accomplish your goal? CK2 allows for a huge variety of gameplay even within the same gaming session.

Crusader Kings 2 Complete Guide for Newbies

Royalty, Reason, and Religion

Crusader Kings 2 is unique in a couple of different ways. First, it is very character driven. You will assume the role of a specific liege and begin your dynasty. When your character dies, you will continue the game as your heir and continue to do so as long as there is a viable heir of your dynasty. Your character and his stats and abilities will play a huge role in the strategies you choose to use during their reign. There are a huge number of characters in the game. As you interact with landed and non-landed characters, the game can take a variety of different twists and turns.

The second thing that makes CK2 unique is that you must have a valid reason to go to war. The term “Casus Belli” is used and that means “a case for war.” In order to invade and eventually conquer territory, you must have a good reason. Finding a reason is not difficult, however, and we will discuss that in more detail later in this Crusader Kings 2 guide.

The last component that makes this game unique is that religion plays an important part in how characters interact with each other and affect internal politics. Your character will belong to a religious group (or be a pagan) and that group will have a religious head. Keep in good standing with your religious head or you can find yourself the target of hostile zealots.

In CK2, Character Counts

The thing that really sets CK2 apart is the depth and quantity of characters. A character will hold each land type and there will be some additional non-landed characters in your court and in the courts of other lieges. Each character is made unique by several different factors that allow for a fun roleplaying element within the game.

Base Stats

Your character (and all those with which you interact) are initially defined by a set of base stats. These stats are Diplomacy, Martial, Stewardship, Intrigue, and Learning. Each of these provides bonuses or detriments to different items in the game. Diplomacy, for example, influences your courtier’s opinion of you and how many direct vassals you can have.

Children start with very low stats and those stats are influenced by your choice of guardian for them. Children tend to excel in the same areas as their guardians. Once they hit adulthood, their base stats are set. Stats can be increased through different world events that randomly spawn or through ambitions. If your character excels in a specific stat it will unlock unique events for that discipline.

In addition, two stats are hidden. The character’s health and fertility are numeric values that are not visible to you but have effects on lifespan and the ability to have children.

Everyone has Ambitions

At the beginning of your game, you will be prompted to select an ambition. An ambition is a desire that you have right now. By selecting an ambition, you will receive a small boost to the chance (rng) that will get you closer to fulfilling that ambition. If your character were unmarried, selecting this would be a good place to start. It also has a small reward for each one completed.

Opinions – An Important “Currency” in Crusader Kings 2

Each character in the game will have an opinion of you and you will have an opinion of them. Two numbers that range between -100 and +100 measure this. Your actions, certain character traits and world events will change these numbers over time. You can also help move someone’s opinion of you toward the positive side by sending them gifts. Foreign characters will respond even greater than those under your sovereignty will. The opinion score plays a role in how that character responds to requests such as marriage proposals or alliances.

Unique Character Traits

Underneath the Base Stats is a row of icons providing unique character traits to each persona. These unique traits combine to add a lot of flavor to the game and provide fodder for the role-playing element. These also contribute modifiers to the attributes of these characters. Some traits affect several stats and some focus on a particular stat. An example would be the “twins” trait. Twins generally have a higher bonus to their opinion of each other than regular siblings do.

Stong Leaders – Military modifiers / Other Modifiers

Right under the unique character traits, you will find two more sets of modifiers. Through combat or world events, characters have chances to gain or lose military modifiers. These can increase certain aspects of combat such as leading from the flank or attacking in rough terrain.

Other temporary modifiers will appear on the right side of the same line. These are generally caused by world events and can add buffs or nerfs to a wide variety of stats. An example would be the “Hedonist” trait that has the chance to appear after the decisions you make during a world event.

This trait adds a 20% bonus to the hidden fertility stat. These additional modifiers are sometimes temporary and another event will remove it just as quickly as you received it. Some will last the rest of your character’s lives.


The lands of Crusader Kings 2 are filled with nobles and peasants. The two types of character that you will meet in the game are landed and non-landed characters. As the name implies, landed characters control a specific piece of real estate. Each piece of land is represented by a title. These titles have a crest and line of succession. The titles owned by your character will appear directly beneath their portrait in the information window. These will be shown by the largest, most prestigious titles on the left and progressing toward the lower titles on the right. When a holding, county, kingdom, or empire change control, all associated titles will be transferred to the new liege.

By clicking on the title’s crest, you will see information about that specific piece of real estate. This can be incredibly informative as you devise a strategy to acquire the land by means other than combat such as manipulating the lines of succession through marriage and assassination.

Usurping a Title

By controlling more than 50% of the De Jure counties (counties that have historically been a part of that title) of a specific title, you can peacefully usurp the title. You will then have a valid Casus Belli (cause for war) to take over the rest of the land associated with that title by military force.

Creating Titles

There are times when you control enough land to progress and create a new title. These will always be larger than a county. As you control more and more of the required land, you will get a prompt at the top of the screen of the available titles to create. These will require a certain amount of gold and prestige to create.

Demesne size

There is a limit to how much land you can directly control. This will change over time and is related to your stewardship trait. Once you have too many titles for your ability to manage adeptly, you can grant titles to other who will become your vassals.


Your laws will determine how much of the land you control goes to your successor. There are different applications for each one. Crusader Kings 2 has several different play styles so pick the right succession law for yours. You will find descriptions of each type of succession under your laws tab. Changing your realm’s laws can be a long arduous process. Check early to see if your succession laws will hinder your strategy and make adjustments to accomplish your goals.

Crusader Kings 2 Land Types

There are five basic land types within CK2:

City, Church, Castle – County – Duchy – Kingdom – Empire

The County is the basic land unit in the game. Inside of the county is some number of cities, churches, and castles. Each of these smaller units contributes to the overall tax provided by the county and each has a leader (mayor, bishop, etc.) that will be part of your court. The churches will only provide taxes if the opinion of the bishop toward you is greater than their opinion of the head of their religion. The taxes of each county can be enhanced by your stewardship trait and by the improvements that you make to the smaller land units such as improving the walls or the commerce areas.

Duchies will be made up of counties and Kingdoms will be comprised of duchies and counties. Empires can contain any or all of the land types. This is the largest land unit and is created with the corresponding title. Controlling large portions of land will come with more nobles in your court. Keeping these nobles happy becomes increasingly difficult the more land you own. One of the more difficult tasks in Crusader Kings 2 in managing your own court.

Land Advancements

By clicking on the crest of a county, you can see all of the smaller land types contained within. Clicking any one of these will bring up a menu that will enable to construct advancements in that unit. There are several types of advancements. Some will contribute to tax collect, some will contribute to levy recruitment, and some will bolster the unit’s defenses when you are away. These may cost a little on the front end, but they can pay huge dividends down the road. Be sure that your neighbors are advancing and you will need to keep up with the Joneses.


Arranging marriage is one of the most significant aspects of Crusader Kings 2. When dealing with foreign dignitaries, you need common ground for pacts and alliances. Arranging marriages of your children can allow you to intentionally ally with powerful nations around you. To find potential marriage partners, use the character finder in the UI in bottom right corner of the screen.

Two strategies for finding the right marriage partner is to marry either for stats or for status. Marry for stats for the children likely to be your heir. By having good parental stats and assigning them a competent guardian, you are ensuring the next generation of leadership. For alliances, arrange marriages for status. Find stronger nations and create marriage bonds that facilitate diplomacy.

Pacts –Non-Aggression, Alliance, Defensive

In Crusader Kings 2, pacts are vital and will affect many of your decisions. By right clicking on any rulers’ portrait, you can access the option to form a pact. The option will be greyed out unless you have a valid reason to petition for diplomacy. The most powerful tool for this is arranged marriages. If you have marriage tied with the ruler’s family, they are more likely to respond to your request.

Non-Aggression Pact

This is the first type of pact available and it basically says that you will play nice with your neighbor. You will have this type of pact automatically with some of your marriage ties and you will obtain it for a period of time after a military conflict with a character.


If you have a Non-Aggression pact with a character and you have strong enough ties, you will have the option to form an alliance. An alliance will keep the other character from engaging your military and will give you the option to call them to assist in any future conflicts you may have. This is one of the most significant strategies in the game. The power of your alliances can make or break your rule. Whether you are attacked by a powerful outsider or from a rebellion in your own court, you are going to need friends to give you a hand.

Defensive Pacts

If a character becomes threatening, you can form a defensive pact against them specifically. You will find that the NPC’s are likely to do this against you if you gain too much lad too quickly and become threatening. These pacts will dissolve over time as your threat metric decreases.

What If They Still Say No

If the option appears, but they still say no to your request, try improving their opinion of you with a little gift. This works with a lot of options in the game. Crusader Kings 2 has learned the universal rule – Everyone loves gold.


Plots are the tangible form of the intrigue stat. There can be a plan for one NPC to kill another. There can even be plots against you. Pay attention to all of the known plots and intervene when you feel it is necessary.
You can join in as well. You have the option of joining NPC’s plots or creating your own. This is handy when you want to take out a liege if you or a close relative is the heir. You plots are helped by your intrigue stat, the actions of your spymaster, and the power of those supporting your plot. They can take some time to get going.


In time, you are bound to make someone mad at you. Factions rise up against certain decisions that you make. It may be that taxes are too high or that the noble think the crown has too much power in the realm and they should be running things. Once a faction is over 100% of the liege’s strength, they will deliver an ultimatum. Choose wisely. If they do not get what they want, prepare for rebellion.


Your inner circle can provide a lot of value to you during your reign. Each counsel position has three actions they can perform although they can only perform one at a time. Make sure to keep your staff busy. They can help you achieve your long-term goals. One thing to remember is that if they are away on a task, they are not home with their wives to procreate. That is a concern if you need that character to provide heirs.

Using Your Military

At the end of the day, diplomacy will only get you so far. Time to sharpen the swords and take the land by force. Crusader Kings 2 has a medieval value system in place. You will need a valid Casus Belli (good reason) to go to war. If a piece of land has historically been part of your titles, then you have a built-in Casus Belli. If you desire more land, your Chancellor can spend some time in that county create some false documents and fabricate a claim on the land.

The number of troops you can muster is dependent on several factors. Your martial stat will weigh heavily into how many troops you can command. For the most part, he with the most soldiers wins. There are bonuses and debuffs for terrain and character traits as well. Once you are in a conflict, you can call on your allies to help you win (assuming they like you better than your enemy.)

In the bottom right of your screen next to the minimap, you will see how the war is faring. In Crusader Kings2, once you or your opponent hit 100% in your favor, you can enforce your demands. You can end a conflict at any time by proposing a white peace or by surrendering. The tooltip will show what each of these will cost you in terms of prestige and land.


In my opinion, Crusader Kings 2 is a phenomenal game. You can get lost in the story and it has strong role-play and strategy elements. This is the type of game that I can play for hours and it never gets dull. Many DLCs are available to enhance the playing experience. Overall, I give this game an 8/10 for an immersive strategy title.

Similar Posts