At the time of Sword of Islam expansion, there were 2760 holdings in the world at the start of the game, with potential for up to 3865. With the map extensions, the number of holdings in 1066 got even higher.
Holdings have the following characteristics, which are modified by buildings:
|Demesne income||The primary source of wealth for most rulers|
|Fort level||Slows down sieges and resists raiding|
|Garrison||Must be outnumbered in order for an enemy to siege|
|Levies||Can be raised, or left to defend along with the garrison|
There are five types of settlements, which each have a different set of buildings. Each form of government has preferred and allowed settlements, and will get "wrong government type" (-75% levies and income) when holding other types of settlements directly. Hindu characters will suffer opinion penalties if they have holdings which do not match their caste. Also, they cannot be granted such holdings directly.
Castles correspond to feudal rule. They are normally ruled by nobles, and their buildings are mostly focused on military. Castles can have the highest level of fortification. As a feudal lord, castles will be the bread and butter of your demesne, but they won't bring in income comparable to temples and cities. As a Christian feudal lord, you will have severe income and levy penalties for having holdings other than castles. On the other hand, most of your levies will originate from castles: especially heavy infantry and all types of cavalry. Hindu characters who hold castles are expected to be of the Kshatriya caste.
The capital of a county will usually be a castle holding, but there are some exceptions. Whoever owns the capital owns the county itself.
Temples correspond to theocracies. They are normally ruled by members of the clergy (or feudal lords for Muslims), and focus both on military and taxes. They're typically ruled by a bishop or imam, and their buildings are balanced between economy and military, though they start with very little fortification. The pagan religions have their own names for these rulers, e.g. Godi for the Norse. Temples usually provide heavy infantry levies, with light infantry and archers, but no cavalry. Hindu characters who hold temples are expected to be of the Brahmin caste.
Cities correspond to republics. They are normally ruled by burghers, and focus on taxes. Their buildings are focused on economy and offer few heavy troops as levies. Later in game, a significant part of light levies - light infantry, archers and heavy pikemen - will come from cities. Much of a feudal lord's income from vassals is likely to come from vassal cities. Hindu characters who hold cities are expected to be of the Vaishya caste.
Tribes correspond to tribal rulers and are normally ruled by chiefs. They benefit from empty settlement slots, and are usually the only settlement in the province.
Nomadic capitals are a special holding for the capital of Khagans and khans. When a nomad moves his capital, all buildings are transported to the new location, although some may become inactive (such as the fishing village and harbor in a landlocked province).
Special holdings do not count toward a province's settlement limit or a ruler's demesne limit.
Forts are special holdings that, on the contrary of other holdings, do not provide any particular advantages outside of war, as they provide you neither levies nor taxes, nor can you upgrade them via buildings. On the other hand, like Trade Posts, they are built in dedicated slots and thus do not count as a full fledged holding.
Forts are primarily used to "lock" the occupation of an empty province when warring against a nomad faction, as it would otherwise automatically return to the original owner's control as soon as the occupying army tries to move out of the province. Once a fort is constructed, the original owner will be forced to put it under siege or attack it.
Forts are also particularly useful when warring against Unreformed Pagans as they negate the attrition bonus in provinces holding a friendly one. With its building speed, if you react fast enough, it is possible to negate the attrition before you even start taking losses!
You can also build a fort in any of your provinces, and your enemies will be forced to besiege them before sieging other holdings. It thus can be a good idea to build forts in your border provinces to delay your enemies, granting you time to assemble your levies without any particularly high damages done to your holdings.
Family palaces are the essential capital holdings of patricians. In early starts, they are often the only holdings of vassal patricians. No character or dynasty can own more than one family palace. These holdings have no province, but provide troops (which spawn in the republic's capital if the patrician owns no other land) and money to their owner. Family palaces are always inherited by the successor of a patrician family, and cannot be usurped or revoked, leaving the family only if the family ceases to exist (by having no male family members).
Trade posts provide income to patricians and controllers of Silk Road provinces. Every coastal province has room for one trade post, though this slot is distinct from regular holdings. Trade posts focus on providing money, and the more trade posts of the same owner there are in a given sea province, the more money they will each provide individually. Trade posts have their own limit, independent of demesne limit, which is determined by technology and the size of the family. This limit is solely for building new trade posts, with no repercussions to owning more than the limit, should the limit decrease.
Empty holding slots
For most government types, an empty holding slot represents nothing more than the potential to eventually construct a useful holding. For tribes however, empty holding slots directly increase the levies and income of the tribal holding in the province, with each slot giving a +50% bonus. For nomads, empty holding slots are the most important type, as they determine the maximum population of the nomadic clan, which in turn determines the manpower available for armies.
Construction allows to improve an existing holding by:
- Constructing new buildings in a holding
- Upgrading existing buildings to improve their benefits
- Creating new settlements in a province, if any empty slot is available.
Construction is a long-time prospect, as it will take very long for most buildings to pay off, if strictly speaking on their income output alone. Military buildings and upgrades form the backbone of your personal levies and help deter factions.
The construction time itself can be reduced by the steward Oversee Construction job.
You can construct buildings in any holding you control (except the family palaces of vassal patricians). Most rulers, however, will focus on their personal holdings.
Note that the last two levels castle towns do not need further wall upgrades. With wall upgrades taken into account we now get a gradual progression for how long it takes to get a return on your investment, which thus shows us that aiming for level 1 first in all your holdings, then going to the next level and so on, makes the most sense.
As long as you have good stewardship, the break-even point for construction will be considerably sooner, as you get 2% more demesne income for every point of state stewardship beyond 5. Thus, at 30 state stewardship, you'll get 50% higher income, reducing the time to reach break-even by one third.
If you own provinces on the Silk Road, your castles on the route will receive a passive boost to their tax.
You can also build new settlements in a county if there are free slots. Once a province has one each of a castle, city, and temple, you are free to create duplicates.
Creating a new settlement costs 400 gold, plus an additional 100 gold for each settlement which already exists in the province. This cost is reduced by the Construction technology. Tribal rulers can construct tribal settlements in provinces without them, for 25 prestige per empty slot.
- Cities can bring in quite a bit of money, at a base rate of 12 gold per year. This is easily worthwhile for a doge, but even for a feudal ruler, it will take only 50-150 years to repay itself (depending on tax level and stewardship-skill and -decisions of the mayor obviously)
- Temples add piety-to-liege slots. In some religions, they can be granted to disqualify heirs. Catholics can also use a created temple to set up an antipope without needing to revoke a temple or murder a bishop. Be warned that rulers must consider tax and levies from their Catholic clergy to be unreliable at best. Building a new temple will give a +1% to the religion's moral authority for 20 years after it's completed, but except for research and piety there barely is a reason to build temples.
- Cities and temples add technological growth slots, increasing both tech spread rate and your research points.
- Castles will repay themselves in 166 years, and are as such not really worth it for the money alone. Build castles with the intention of using them to strengthen your military. Building (and holding) new castles in your capital county (and maybe duchy) can help you increase demesne levies immensely, since the capital bonus (available as long as you're not a vassal count) and marshal's "train troops" job apply to all personal holdings in the capital county.
- Tribes are extremely cheap and should always be built if possible, especially since they can usually be converted to combinations of castle + city + temple.
You can build new holdings in any province you control, with the exception of tribal provinces held by tribal vassals. The new holding becomes part of your demesne and you are not obliged to grant it to the owner of the county. However, the owner of the county will get a -25 to their opinion of you (Desires barony). As such, build such new holdings in lands held by non-direct vassals, as their opinion of you is largely irrelevant.
The supply limit for friendly armies in a province increases with the number of holdings in the province.
Building new holdings is usually more relevant if you are isolated and your realm is under-developed at the start date you choose.
Give out settlements of the wrong type: It is rarely worthwhile to hold onto settlements for which you get the "wrong government type" penalty. Exceptions include tribal rulers preparing to feudalize, feudal rulers preparing to convert tribal holdings, and nomads in the process of pillaging.
Catholic churches are unreliable for taxes and levies: At +100 opinion towards their secular liege and the Pope, Catholic bishops will still pay taxes to the Pope and withhold levies from their secular liege.
If Hindu, be sure to match the character's caste with the holding type: If a character is of the wrong caste, he cannot be granted the holding.
Seize the advantage if you're on the Silk Road: If your realm has counties on the Silk Road, take advantage of the increased taxes which castles, temples and cities give to the holders of the counties.
Focus construction in the capital, and hold multiple baronies there: your capital will almost always be inherited by your heir, even if you're using gavelkind succession. This is important, as buildings often won't pay back the investment within a single character's reign. Your capital will generally have the highest technology level of your holdings, and many technologies enhance the output of your buildings, thus buildings in your capital will repay your investment faster. Building up a county and then losing it 20 years later due to gavelkind isn't too great an idea. In addition, your capital county receives an extra 50% levies (if you're independent; bonus is +25% if you're at least a vassal duke). By holding multiple baronies, the effectiveness of your Steward collecting taxes and your Marshal training troops is multiplied.
Build additional settlements for maximum troops and income. Build castles in your capital, where they gain the largest levy bonus (up to +50% capital county and perhaps +50% train troops). Build cities outside your capital duchy. Build temples sparingly.
If you are the Doge of a merchant republic, balance your construction between the capital and other baronies/counties which you hold. While the capital gets great troop bonuses, it can be lost in an election. Instead, by holding separate county titles and baronies, your family will retain a large portion of its former military base. You can also develop baronies in the capital, as those do not go to the new Doge. Be careful not to over-invest in outlying titles that are likely targets of de jure wars from other realms. Prefer coastal cities, which have highest income (trade post bonuses and port buildings).
Focus on your own holdings, not your vassals: Your own holdings give you their entire income and levies, while vassals' will only give you a percentage. In addition, the benefit you get from your vassals is also subject to change in the long term due to changes in opinion, while your own holdings are unaffected. (Although you'll get the maximum tax if your vassals have at least 0 opinion of you, Catholic bishops will pay taxes to the Pope if they like him more than you). However, if you construct town markets, harbours and church villages, it will increase the income of cities and bishoprics respectively, allowing them to construct more improvements on their own. While cities give higher revenue per town building than castles, you'll still get less overall due to only getting a percentage of the income. For patricians and Muslim rulers who can personally hold cities and temples respectively, upgrading them is a higher priority.
Build technology buildings: churches and cities do, however, have one building each that can be particularly useful for the development of technology: the monastic school and the university, respectively. With The Reaper's Due, hospitals add several more: the translation house, library, pharmacology lab,
- the monastic school increases your technology spread rate in the province by 10% at level 1, and 20% at level 2, for a total of 30%. It also grants +0.04 cultural tech points and +0.05 piety per month per level.
- the university increases technology spread rate in the province by 30% and grants +0.05 economic tech points per month.
- the translation house grants economic tech points and prestige; the library, cultural tech points and a 25% increase to technology spread rate; the laboratory, another 25% increase to technology spread rate; the medical academy, tech points of every type; and the observatory, military and cultural tech points.
This can make a major difference in the long run, so if you prefer a technology-based approach to the game, investing in these buildings can be a good idea.
Construct economic improvements, then military: Your initial focus should be on improving your economic situation. The higher your income, the faster you can construct or upgrade your buildings, so while at first you'll lag behind on the military front, you will quickly catch up once your economic buildings repay their cost. After you have reached decent economic capital, with at least Castle Villages in all your holdings, you should go onto upgrading your military capabilities. At this point, you should have a pretty high income, so this should be relatively quick to do. As before, concentrate on your capital holding first, then go onto other holdings. For each military building you construct, your personal military capacity increases. This capacity will be there for you even in times of crisis, and as such gives you a base military capacity at all times, thus vastly improving your capabilities during civil wars and also helping you in both defensive and offensive wars. It also helps to stabilize your realm, since vassals are less likely to form factions against a powerful liege. Do remember that your increased military capacity also translates into greater expenses if you raise your own levies. Plan accordingly.
Upgrade your holdings as fast as you can: The quicker you build, the sooner your investment is repaid, the more you can construct in the future, and the lesser you'll fall behind your rivals.
Keep a reserve of wealth: you should imagine the worst possible economic scenario that could happen to your realm, and keep that much money or more in reserve at all times. As a small realm like say, Scotland, having 50 gold in reserve at all times would likely be enough most of the time, but it wouldn't be enough if you suddenly need to hire mercenaries. As such, I would recommend a reserve of 100 gold at the very least for any small realm, as then (and with the 300 gold from Jewish merchants) you'll be able to recruit a band of mercenaries and pay their upkeep for almost four months through your reserve alone. For large empires with big neighbouring realms it may even be necessary to keep a reserve of more than 1000 gold at any time.
Build new holdings in counties not held by your direct vassals: Your direct vassals won't ask for a transfer of control, and you can indirectly weaken them. However, the non-direct vassals may declare de jure wars to bring the holding under their control.
Build new holdings where supply limit decides wars, such as mountains and desert. Each settlement increases the supply limit for your troops and decreases it for enemy troops.