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An idiot’s guide to Crusader Kings 3

Crusader Kings 3 might be good, but it’s the astonishing stories the game produces that have been the real hit. So, naturally intrigued, we sent an idiot to do a king’s job.

Paradox / Thumbsticks

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Crusader Kings 3 might be good, but it’s the astonishing stories the game produces that have been the real hit. So, naturally intrigued, we sent an idiot to do a king’s job.

About two years ago, I decided it was high time I got myself a shiny new gaming PC. While I’d brushed shoulders with the console riffraff for years, I figured – now I was an esteemed video game journalist – it was time to join the ranks of the PC enthusiasts. (Who would, no doubt, be very welcoming and not at all snobbish.) Along with my newfound way of life, I decided to try some acclaimed PC classics, which led me to Crusader Kings 2.

The only problem? Crusader Kings 2 was essentially like sitting through simultaneous rocket science and brain surgery seminars. Who knew medieval nobility were such avid fans of spreadsheets? And why do I have to micromanage my bid to disinherit my son because he’s ugly? In the end, I managed to last a respectable 20 minutes with the Crusader Kings franchise – a feat I was, understandably, immensely proud of.

That was until two weeks ago, when a third Crusader Kings was unleashed unto the world and strategy fans everywhere started posting impassioned threads about the logistics of their absurdist, nudist dynasties.

“Say no more,” I heartily announced. “I shall return to Crusader Kings with my two years of PC gaming credentials.” I can reveal that I did just that, and the experiences I have brought home will be sung about by tavern bards for centuries to come.

It is with this revelation that I can introduce thee to an Idiot’s Guide to Crusader Kings 3!

“Wales was unfortunately captured by nudist Spaniards within a matter of months”

Embarking on my first conquest, I did what all rational lieges do when challenged by a densely packed, comprehensive strategy experience. I pressed the big “skip tutorial” button the first chance I got and, armed with my enhanced political and tactical knowledge, founded a new dynasty. As many might not know, I was actually born and raised in the beautiful lands of Wales. Who better to lead the proud nation of Cymru than its greatest creation?

One tiny problem did emerge, though. Back in the good ole days of 867 AD, three men ruled Wales: Lord Rhodri, Lord Gwgan, and my eventual in-game surrogate, Lord Hywel Ap Rhys. I quickly learned that I’d have to get busy if I ever wanted to take my true place as the Welsh king, and that meant knocking off some of the competition.

It didn’t take me long to realise that Lord Gwgan was the weakest link of our little trio. He held the smallest land, had the ugliest son and, frankly, his unironic bowl cut offended me. So, I decided to declare war on him and see where it went. I can’t say it was the most tactical affair – I literally just sent 1,000 men to oust him from his castle – but somehow I triumphed over the mighty Gwgan and his bowl cut, gaining myself a tasty morsel of land.

crusader kings 3 screenshot 1

With this victory under my belt, I decided next I’d get myself into bed with Lord Rhodri, marrying my heir to his oldest daughter. For some ungodly reason he accepted, and our houses were unified under one beautiful banner. I also figured I’d seduce his wife, thus forming the mother of all pincer movements as I got closer to wiping poor Rhodri off the map. Bafflingly, this also worked, but that’s not to say it went off without a hitch. My second-born son Owain uncovered my genius political plays after I’d drunkenly blabbed them at a feast, and boy, he was not happy.

One year later and, while fighting a brutal war with one of the Irish lords, he’s blackmailing me into replacing my battle-hardened field marshal with him. I buckled and Owain – a boy with about as much military knowledge as Dora the Explorer and a face that looked like a cherry tomato – was commanding my forces. We lost that war, and things only got worse when an army of Spanish nudists decided to dominate England before turning their attention to the west. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Wales was unfortunately captured by nudist Spaniards within a matter of months.

Not to worry though, I decided my talents were truly wasted on Owain and the now-indecent countryside of Wales. Instead, I’d venture to the wide lands of Africa and stake my claim there.

“Toro eventually became a Ugandan province, but Jim got a nice trip to the beach”

This time, I took up the role of Farbas Bannu of Toro. You see, when Bannu and I met, he was depicted as an honest, wise, and just liege. He openly cared more about family than conflict. Unfortunately, Owain had taught me that nice guys finish last, and I soon turned sweet Bannu into a feared warlord whose name inspired dread.

There was just one catch: Bannu’s kind nature didn’t exactly agree with my cold-blooded need to amass new lands. You see, in Crusader Kings 3, your avatar is overwhelmed by stress when you push the boundaries of their moral code, and I had long since leapt over that boundary and was frolicking in the dark recesses of Bannu’s mind. In turn, he succumbed to drink and then to food; he eventually started lashing out at his family and locking himself away in his tower. By the time he was 55, poor Bannu kicked the bucket due to obesity, splitting the vast lands of Toro between his nine children.

I took over as the heir to the Toro dynasty, Koba, who to my joy, was a much dastardlier protagonist than his deceased father. Not only was he evil at heart, but he also held the “sadistic” trait, meaning our goals were almost perfectly aligned. Problem number one was that Bannu’s decision to share his kingdom between all his kids meant Koba’s bratty younger sister, Hawa, had decided to go independent. She’d created her own kingdom to the east – and at 12 years old too, she’s definitely getting on the Forbes under 30 list – leaving Koba to forcibly remove her from the map.

With that done, Koba set about continuing his father’s mission. He married three women, had 10 children, and soon became the mighty Faama of Toro. The only problem was the colossal nation of Uganda that sat above him, and I soon realised that he’d have to ally with this great foe to succeed. Thus began Koba’s new mission to marry into the Ugandan bloodline, which, with a lot of murder and bribery, he managed to accomplish.

crusader kings 3 screenshot 2

The communion of Koba and the Ugandan princess Malika was a storied one, and soon they conceived two children. But all was secretly not well within this fragile alliance. It didn’t take long to discover that Malika had been cheating on Koba – pipe in the Corrie theme in your heads guys – with his own brother! Scandalous, I know. There was nothing for it. The pair had to be executed for their heinous, soap-opera cliff-hanger of a crime, and Koba was happy to oblige.

All things considered, I probably should’ve thought about how the whole “dead daughter” thing might look to the Ugandan king. With no alliance in place, war broke out. Now, while I’d love to tell you Koba died heroically on the battlefield, bravely defending the honour he lost when Malika lay with his own brother, he actually just died of gout… which, uh, was anti-climactic, I’ll say that much.

He was then succeeded by his son and the next great Faamu of Toro: Jim. I’ll admit, I’d just gotten back from the pub when I granted such a lofty name to the rightful heir to the Toro throne, but after you hear his story, such an uninspiring name feels appropriate. Essentially, Jim was in a bit of a pickle. Uganda’s invading, Koba’s vassals hate him, and he’s deemed a sinner by the church for conceiving a child out of wedlock. So, his solution? Go on a 3-year pilgrimage and let fate do the rest. Needless to say, Toro eventually became a Ugandan province, but Jim got a nice trip to the beach, so it wasn’t all bad…

Through these two epic tales, I hope I have imparted some worthy knowledge. Firstly, that Crusader Kings 3 is an exceptional strategy sim that strips away the soulless conquests of the genre and puts engaging, naturally evolving character interactions at the forefront. It’s involving for all the same reasons Game of Thrones became such a cultural landmark – it shows that politics, people and the subtle underhanded warfare of diplomacy can be so much more engaging than the clashing of steel.

But, more importantly, I hope it revealed that I’m perhaps the most skilled general and politician this side of Toro. When Geoff Keighley and his army of weaponised World Premieres rise up and overthrow our governments, forcing us to rebuild – and trust me, they will – you’ll know where to find me.


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Callum is a freelance games journalist from Wales. He loves telling people that games are an evolving art form (even when they don't ask) and will fight to the death anyone who doesn't agree that Shadow Of The Colossus is the greatest game of all time.