Crusader Kings III has sold 3 million copies over the last three years.
It’s kind of hard to conceive. Despite the cult hit status of its predecessor in the series, Crusader Kings III has proven to be a larger success than anyone at Paradox anticipated. And, because of its nature, CKIII has a unique place in the family of Paradox grand strategy games.
Where so many strategy/role-playing games emphasize party-based combat or role-playing as you would find in a tabletop game, Crusader Kings asks you to role-play a leader; in fact many leaders. You never have full control over the situation, because the world moves in real-time around you, and you only have direct influence over the actions of your characters and your armies. And, because the role-playing continues as the heir of your initial character, and so on down the line, the way that you interact with the game changes. And, as the role-playing changes, the strategy changes.
This personal connection to a series of characters in a single family through the generations makes CKIII one of the most approachable grand strategy games in the Paradox catalog, so it’s no surprise that it is the entry point for many thousands of people into the genre. It is important that, as development continues, we expand the game without losing touch with the magic that makes the medieval world of Crusader Kings so appealing and welcoming.
We have been planning updates to Crusader Kings III as “Chapters”, and we are now in the final stages of Chapter II. Each Chapter has a major expansion, a role-playing add-on and a flavor pack that focuses on a specific region or culture. This anniversary is as good a time as any to look at how Chapter II enhances the strengths of Crusader Kings III and fulfills the player promise.
In May, we released Tours & Tournaments, which is, in many ways, the typical CKIII expansion and a good example of what we try to do on the development side. The core of the expansion is adding Grand Activities, which are special occasions that require the player character to plan goals, choose companions and, if they are lucky, improve their situation. In many ways, Tours & Tournaments leans heavily into the popular imagination of the Middle Ages as much as history. Tournaments are scenes of feats of arms and recruiting unknown talents to serve in the army. Grand Weddings are celebrations of the union of great houses, and offer opportunities for the scheming that has become synonymous with the game. Great Hunts challenge characters to track down common game or notable beasts, enhancing courtly camaraderie with just a hint of real danger.
But these role-playing elements are always tied to the greater strategic game. Improving the skills of soldiers in the safe confines of a friendly joust. Throwing a huge wedding party to strengthen alliances. The addition of a true travel system, new regency options for when the ruler is away from home, and attitudes for vassals feeds back into all of these events as well, with the Grand Tour introduced as a key strategic tool for rulers.
In August, the Event Pack Wards & Wardens was released, notable as the first Paradox Grand Strategy expansion whose theme was chosen by the community itself. Event packs are relatively minor, but, if done correctly, a few dozen events can foster even tighter connections between players and games. Wards & Wardens is, at its core, events about childhood, but usually from the perspective of a parent or guardian.
As a game about generations, Crusader Kings III has always asked players to think about what will happen when their active character dies. So, events about raising the heir (or heirs) have been central. Wards & Wardens not only adds more events, but also adds new ways to influence the childhood development of the young people at court. Fairy tale stories of wicked regents usurping the power of underage kings, or loyal wetnurses rearing strong and kind children can be experienced in a realistic setting. Again, a central player experience is improved and heightened.
Later this year, Chapter II comes to a close with Legacy of Persia, which is, like last year’s Fate of Iberia, a flavor pack that centers on a historic struggle or conflict. Legacy of Persia is based on the historic decline and collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate in what is now Iran, Iraq and Central Asia. Struggle centered packs really push the strategic side of the game by presenting historical crises that have different phases – usually cycles of stability and instability as the participant realms achieve certain goals.
But each phase has different rules – in times of great instability, players will have options that are either impossible or less attractive when things are going well. Sometimes this will force players to engage the game in very creative ways, especially when the most viable strategies are ones that run counter to a character’s personality or preferences. (In Crusader Kings, continually defying a character’s inclination risk accruing Stress penaltis, and potentially damaging that character).
I hope this gives you some insight into how we plan each year of Crusader Kings III content. Not everything always goes according to plan, of course, because our ambitions and the game itself are constantly evolving as we learn more about what our players want and expect. With a lot coming up in 2024, we hope we can continue to surprise our audience with new adventures in the distant past.
Crusader Kings III: Royal Edition
Knights, peasant revolts, pilgrimages, Viking raiders… experience the drama and pageantry of the Middle Ages.
Be a faithful adherent of your religion, embrace heresy, or start your own faith on the wreckage of failed belief systems. DEVELOP CHARACTER
Adopt one of five different lifestyles, perfecting your skills in military strategy or kingdom management.
Character traits guide your actions and affect outcomes. Characters that act against their nature develop stress that could bring a new host of troubles.
Raise your heirs to be worthy successors, training them yourself, or giving them as ward to a trusted friend or ally. Unworthy heirs are risky, unless you can find a way to get rid of them – legally or otherwise.
Choose to use fear as a weapon, using your dreadful reputation to intimidate vassals and family. WAGE WAR
Supplement your royal levies with professional infantry, cavalry, and siege weapons, as well as exotic regional units.
Research new technologies to increase the wealth and military might of your realm.
Hire mercenaries and Holy Orders for your major wars. PLAN INTRIGUES
Spy on your court to discover plots against your dynasty and your rule.
Find allies in the courts of rivals you are targeting for schemes.
Seduce other characters for love or political power.
Do favors for your subjects so they will owe you loyalty – or support for your plots against your enemies.