Waging war is one of the primary ways to attain territory.
- 1 Declaring War
- 2 Troops
- 3 Holy orders
- 4 Vassalizing mercenaries and holy orders
- 5 Attrition
- 6 Fog of War
- 7 Warscore
- 8 The Home Front
- 9 Strategies
- 10 Summary
Main article: Casus Belli
In CK2, wars are fought over Casus Belli. The CB you use has a direct impact on how you wage your war, and defines the possible outcomes:
- Enforce Demands
- White Peace
There is also a fourth option: ending inconclusively, which happens when the CB becomes invalid, the defender's liege title changes, the defender becomes unlanded, or (depending on the CB) the attacker dies.
Main article: Levies
You cannot declare war if you have any levies raised.
There are two kinds of levies:
- Levies from your own demesne holdings: when raised altogether they will start with 100% morale.
- Levies from your vassals: they will start with 0% morale.
The number of levies you can raise from vassals depends on:
- Buildings within holdings that train soldiers, and holding type form the base troop levels.
- Ruler martial skill. (+5% per Martial)
- Multiplied by levy laws and vassal opinion, with a minimum stated by crown authority.
- Multiplied by a realm modifier - vassals outside any title belonging to the liege's capital realm give only 25% levies.
Ships are used to transport troops, and by pagans to store loot when raiding coastal counties. Each ship carries 100 troops. There is no naval combat or blockading in the game. Ship levies are very expensive when raised, costing 0.3 ducats per ship per month (although pagans receive a 90% discount). Non-pagans should dismiss ships when they are not immediately needed.
Ships are provided by:
- Buildings unlocked with the Shipbuilding technology. In the 867 start, only Norse pagans, Byzantines and Muslims have this technology.
- The family palaces of patrician families. Feudal kings may create vassal republics as an early source of ships.
- Naval mercenary bands, after the year 1066, at a very steep cost.
- Rulers with overseas holdings can conscript 20 merchant ships for 50g.
Main article: Retinue
Retinues are your private standing army.
Mercenaries are troops that can be hired for a price. They can be hired from the Military screen on the Mercenaries Tab. Note that not all regions have mercenaries available, and those that do can have different quantities available.
In addition to the initial hiring fee, they have upkeep fees which are much higher than any of your own troops'. Be sure that you have plenty of money to pay them. Mercenaries who do not get paid will at best disband themselves, and will at worst defect to the enemy or declare war on you (which can even happen in the middle of a battle).
Also, when hiring mercenaries, the full force of their unit may not be available if their previous employer disbanded them while they were not at full force. They will gradually replenish their manpower over time. It is easy to mistakenly hire a mercenary band and then realize that you have only hired a few hundred troops rather than the few thousand that you expected - pay careful attention to their manpower on the mercenary screen to avoid this mistake.
The cost of hiring a troop does not vary based on how many units they currently possess, but the cost of maintenance does decrease as the mercenaries take casualties. For this reason, and because mercenaries can replenish casualties while on the field (standard levies do not replenish on the field), it is beneficial to put mercenaries wherever casualties are expected to be highest. The monthly upkeep of a company depends on that unit's current size. A thrifty and unscrupulous ruler might deliberately waste half of a company in a futile assault in order to save money.
Each mercenary company has a predefined capital province, and may also have predefined cultural or religious requirements. You may only hire a company if your capital is within a certain distance of the company's capital and if you meet the religious and cultural requirements.
Mercenary troops can only be hired by one character at a time - therefore it is very possible that, at any given time, all the mercenaries which are within your price point may be unavailable because they have been hired out by other realms. If your war strategy depends on the hiring of mercenaries, ensure that you check mercenary availability before declaring war. You could even hire them before the war starts (it's only levies that prevent you from declaring war).
The composition ratio of the company is fixed, but the actual number of troops increases with time, based on size and current year.
Mercenary companies may become landed (it's not uncommon to see Venezia ruled by the Company of the Hat) and can sometimes be vassalized. If a mercenary company is a vassal, only their liege can hire them.
Holy orders are a blend of mercenary companies and landed rulers- they can not only be hired by individual rulers for holy warfare but can also operate as an independent ruler, constructing castles and waging their own wars.
There are some differences in hiring holy orders as compared to hiring mercenaries:
- During great holy wars, as well as when defending against infidels, they have free upkeep.
- During offensive wars, however, they have a substantial gold upkeep cost.
- Forces hired from holy orders will only fight against enemies of the faith - as in, heretics and infidels. For example, the Catholic Knights Hospitaller will not fight against the Orthodox or Iconoclast Byzantine Empire, but will fight against any Cathar ruler or any Muslim ruler.
Holy orders are created by events when certain conditions are met, and always join the mainstream religion (which can be a heresy, if it has become mainstream).
|Knights Templar||Catholic|| Crusades unlocked and either
|Knights Hospitaller||Catholic|| Crusades unlocked and either:
|Teutonic Order||Catholic|| Crusades unlocked and either:
|Knights of Calatrava||Catholic|| Crusades unlocked and either:
|Knights of Santiago||Catholic|| Crusades unlocked and either:
|Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre||Orthodox||
|Order of Saint Anthony||Miaphysite||
|Order of Saint Addai||Nestorian||
|Bektashi Order||Sunni|| Sons of Abraham DLC, Jihads are unlocked and either:
|Haruriyyah||Ibadi||Charlemagne DLC, Jihads are unlocked and one of the following counties owner is not Muslim: Hajar, Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem or Mecca||
|Zealots||Judaism||Sons of Abraham DLC and Jewish high priesthood is restored||
|Immortals||Zoroastrian||Sons of Abraham DLC and Zoroastrian priesthood is restored||
|Jomsvikings||Reformed Germanic|| Germanic reformation
|Lords of the Sky||Reformed Tengri||Sons of Abraham DLC and Tengri reformation||
|Spirit Guardians||Reformed West African||Sons of Abraham DLC and West African reformation||
|Warriors of Perun||Reformed Slavic||Sons of Abraham DLC and Slavic reformation||
|Chosen of Perkunas||Reformed Romuva||Sons of Abraham DLC and Romuva reformation||
|Sons of Kaleva||Reformed Suomenusko||Sons of Abraham DLC and Suomenusko reformation||
|Cult of Huitzilopochtli||Reformed Aztec||Sons of Abraham DLC and Aztec reformation||
|Chosen of Ashoka||Buddhist||Rajas of India DLC||
|Followers of Arjuna||Hindu||Rajas of India DLC||
|Bulls of Rishabha||Jain||Rajas of India DLC||
|Knights of the Sun||Reformed Zunist||Charlemagne DLC and Zunist reformation||
Holy order mechanics
With the Sons of Abraham expansion, holy orders in particular have recieved a major overhaul.
Holy Orders, as previously mentioned, often operate on their own, without the contract of a ruler. They may ask independent rulers of their religion to allow them to build a castle in the ruler's demesne. The Holy Order only requires the local count's approval- the permission of the count's liege, if any, is not required. Once they get permission, construction will begin. Once construction is finished, an event will be broadcasted to the count. They will keep the castle until the Order is expelled from the realm, if the top liege decides to do so.
Any independent ruler can expel any Holy Order from the realm that has castles in their realm. When they do this, all castles in the realm will be seized, and all debts with the Order will be cancelled. The Order will not request to build castles in the ruler's realm.
Occasionally, an unmarried son or brother who does not stand to inherit may ask to join a local Holy Order. If permitted, the character will become a courtier of the Holy Order, and may become their Councillor or general. They would be more likely to do so if the character is zealous, and will be more likely to join a Holy Order with an aligned cause or is more local (for example, a German would be more likely to join the Teutonic Order than the Knights Templar if both are formed).
Loans and Donations
Aside from castle and hiring income, Holy Orders can also gain money from donations. Donating 300 Gold to a Holy Order will grant you 300 piety and put you in good standing with both the Grandmaster of that Order and your religious head, if any.
You can also borrow money from a Holy Order. At any time you can borrow 300 gold from any Holy Order of your religion, so long as they have 300 gold to give. However, while in debt the Grandmaster can make various demands, either demanding a son or brother to join the Order or building a castle in your demesne. If this happens, you may either accept (canceling your debt), refuse (losing 1000 Piety and damaging your relations with your religious head), or pay back the 300 debt.
Vassalizing mercenaries and holy orders
Some mercenaries and holy orders are vassals of feudal lords in historical starts, or can become vassals by special decision. Others can become vassals, but only under certain circumstances if they become landed:
- A landed mercenary company or holy order will, like any independent duke-tier ruler, accept diplomatic vassalization if the requester is an emperor-level, same-culture, same-religion neighbor whom the company's head likes.
- A landed mercenary or holy order will produce claimants upon succession (since they use Open Elective succession, in which each vassal can vote; with multiple vassals there will be multiple votes cast and the second- and third-place candidates get claims). Inviting a claimant, landing him, and pressing his claim will make the company your vassal.
A vassal company can only be raised by its liege, and at 1/5 the regular cost.
If the vassal company/holy order somehow changes its Succession law to a non Elective law (Such as gaining a Kingdom), the Kingdom's Succession law will supersede the "default" succession, forcing the Company/Holy Order to be passed along Dynastic routes. If there is no Dynastic heir, you will be the Heir by default (as standard), enabling you to gain command of the company/Holy Order.
If you command the company/Holy Order you can raise them for free (No initial cost nor maintenance. The Military screen will show an "upkeep" but it does not actually deduct anything). You may be disallowed from arranging marriages while you hold the title.
Attrition happens when the number of troops in a province is higher than the supply limit of that province.
The supply limit of a province is based on terrain and modifiers:
Supply Limit = (Base Supply + Terrain Supply - Disease penalty) x Supply Modifiers
- Base Supply is 5K.
- Terrain Supply is 5K for plains, 3K for forests and hills, 2K for mountains, 1K for deserts and arctic.
- Disease penalty is -4K for epidemic diseases.
- Supply Modifiers are:
- Coastal Province: +50%
- Controlled Neighbouring holding: +75%
- Occupied holdings also count as controlling a neighboring holding, allowing large armies to secure a supply route through hostile kingdoms.
- Technology boost from military organization in capital: +12.5% per level, up to +100%.
- Own realm: +50% per holding
- Neutral holding +25% per holding
- Occupied holding +25% per holding
- Hostile Holding -10% per holding
- Pagan homeland: -95%, if the religion of the province is an unreformed pagan and the realm ruler is the same form of paganism.
- If Military Organization IV has been researched in your capital county, this modifier is nullified.
- Unreformed pagans are immune to the Pagan Homeland Modifier, allowing unreformed pagans of different faiths to fight each other with impunity.
- Reformed pagans are immune to the unreformed version of their own branch of paganism, but not other unreformed pagan faiths.
- Tengri and Aztec pagans don't get this modifier, and are subject to increased attrition from other pagans.
The supply limit has a floor of 100 soldiers (possible in provinces with multiple epidemic diseases present).
Monthly attrition (over supply limit)
If an army exceeds the supply limit of a province, a percentage of troops will die every month due to attrition:
- Base land attrition: 5%
- Terrain modifier: +2.5% for forests and hills. +10% for mountains, arctic, and deserts
- Epidemic disease: +5%
- Army leader: -0.1% x martial skill of army's centre commander.
The value above represents a maximum attrition that can occur. However, if the percentage of troops over the supply limit is low, only a portion of the maximum attrition will occur.
Monthly attrition (out of supplies)
Armies begin suffering minor attrition when they are no longer in or adjacent to their realm. The monthly percentage becomes more severe the longer they have been out of supply. This makes it dangerous to attack a distant enemy if you must march over neutral or hostile land.
Armies aboard ships do not suffer attrition, but time aboard ships is considered time out of supply. This reduces the effectiveness of unloading ships onto neutral lands to prevent the need to have an amphibious assault battle.
You are always in supply within your own realm, even when attacking a fellow vassal. Occupying a holding extends supply to neighboring provinces.
Fog of War
Fog of war hides troop movements in locations where you do not have immediate vision. The following provide vision in a province and adjacent provinces:
- Troops and ships of your realm (including those of your liege and vassals)
- Holdings in your realm (except those occupied by enemies)
- Occupied enemy holdings
- Allied holdings and troops (if you and your ally are both independent, or share the same liege?)
- Your spymaster (e.g. when sent to Study Technology)
In addition, your Chancellor or Lord Spiritual can provide vision in a single province.
Even with Fog of War, you can see your enemy's total army size in their realm tree. You can sometimes learn the locations of their armies as well, by scanning their vassal and courtier lists for "leading troops in <province>".
Your goal is to raise the warscore to 100%, which will force your opponent to accept your demands. You opponent may offer to surrender before that, but at 100% they MUST surrender you do not have to wait for a response.
If you're on the defensive, or need to bail out of the war, you can also seek White Peace when the war has gone on for a bit and the warscore is still near even.
Warscore can be gained in four ways:
- Winning battles against enemy armies.
- Sieging down and occupying enemy holdings.
- In some CBs, the warscore will tick up or down if the targeted province is fully in the attacker's or defender's hands.
- Holding prisoners. If the leader of a war is captured, warscore becomes 100% in his enemy's favour. Captured close relatives of the war leader also affect the war score.
Warscore gains from victories in battle or from occupying holdings are larger if they're against the war leader as opposed to his allies. Battles have half their usual warscore value in crusades.
Main article: Combat
It is possible to set game difficulty before start. It ranges from very easy to very hard and morale of both your levies and the AI is affected.
|Army Morale||AI Army Morale||AI Reinforcement Rate|
All holdings have a basic garrison, which increases in size if certain improvements are constructed. Holdings also have a levy which can be raised. When sieging, you will need to have more troops in the county than the defenders have in their garrison plus levy. If the attackers do not have enough men, no progress will ever be made on the siege. Note that a liege can raise his vassals' troops and the vassals' garrisons will show their levy strength as being at full manpower. However, a character who raises the troops from his (or her) own demesne will have those raised levies taken out of the garrison. This means that it is much easier to siege the holdings of a liege who has raised his demesne troops than it is to siege his vassals.
If the attackers do have enough troops, every 12 days a tick will count and progress will be made on the siege. The amount of progress that is made per tick depends on the fortification level of the holding, how severely the attackers outnumber the defenders, the relative siege technology, and whether the attacking army's commander has the "siege leader" trait.
Whether slowly or quickly, once a siege reaches 100% progress, it will be occupied by the attacker and warscore will be awarded.
Eventually, the attackers will be able to assault the defending garrison. The amount of time it takes for this option to become available depends on the holding's fortification level and how much the attackers outnumber the defenders. If an assault is ordered, the attackers will start losing large quantities of troops while accelerating the siege progress substantially.
When assaulting, it is recommended to have 10x the number of troops involved in the attack as the defenders have in their garrison. This will minimize the attacker's casualties, as the defenders are overrun and unable to maintain any level of adequate defense. Assaulting is based on the skirmish value of the unit, making archers rather good at assaults.
The Home Front
If you are in an offensive war (except Crusades) and raise your vassals' levies, you will gradually incur a stacking opinion penalty, -1 for every 61 days (approximately two months). This penalty will increase as long as your vassals' levies are raised, and will slowly decrease at the same rate it increases. So if you're at war for 4 years, your vassals will end up with a -20 opinion of you which takes 4 years to wear off. If you're a long-reigning ruler with high diplomacy and good vassal relations, this is merely annoying. If you're barely keeping a lid on the dissent as it is, this can be extremely problematic. You can avoid this by calling as few of your vassals' troops as possible or by ending the war as quickly as possible.
Additionally, if your personal levies and retinue get depleted, you could have issues with factions, as they measure the strength of their members against the number of troops you can raise. If half your personal troops are killed off, the power of those factions will increase dramatically, making them more likely to make demands or rebel. This is potentially compounded by more members joining the factions as their opinions of you drop due to the raised levies. Losing many troops is, however, one way to trick a faction - which would normally be too weak - into revolting, thereby allowing you to crush a relatively weak faction and revoke their lands at a mildly convenient time, rather than risking them continuing to gain power and strength and revolting at a truly inconvenient junction. This assumes that you have the wealth to buy mercenaries or that the faction is weak enough to not steamroll assaults through your holdings - you will probably need a bit of time to replenish all those troops you lost, after all.
There are certain strategies you can employ to improve how well you do in war. Many of these strategies are common sense, but I'll mention them anyway.
Attack a weakened enemy. If your enemy is deeply unpopular with his vassals, has just lost an offensive war, is dealing with a rebellion, or is fighting a war over a different CB, you can beat him more easily. See also Weakening rival realms.
Keep your enemy's allies out. Attack while their allies are busy. Get their allies to like you more, so they choose not to join the war. In some cases you can end an alliance by murdering either one of the rulers, or one of the married couple tying the realms together. Or, if you're powerful enough, declare separate simultaneous wars against the two allied realms.
Raise only the vassal levies you need to avoid unnecessarily angering your vassals. If you only need the troops of a single vassal to fight a war, only raise those troops. This vassal will now be the only one getting annoyed at you, while the rest will continue to be happy. The other vassals' levies can then be raised later if ever needed. If you're rich enough to support it, you can also consider using only your own levies and retinue, as then no one will be getting annoyed with you.
Raise vassal levies in the best location. You can raise your vassal's "liege levies" in any county belonging to his sub-realm. This is especially powerful if you plan ahead by giving each major vassal a well-placed county (coastal or near your enemies). You can even disband a levy in one place and immediately re-raise it in another.
Consider hiring mercenaries. They can pay for themselves if they allow you to win a defensive war, or allow you to storm castles rather than slowly siege them. Hire a mercenary group whose army composition matches your needs: archers for storming castles; heavy cavalry and infantry for winning close battles.
Bankrupt your enemy. His armies will lose a quarter of their morale, and his mercenaries may turn on him or even join you. You can drain your enemy's cash reserves and deny him income by capturing his demesne holdings. (His yearly income and expenses are shown if you hover over his cash balance, and his budget details are visible in his demesne screen.)
Target part of an enemy's army while it is split up. While you might not be able to defeat the entire enemy army at once, you're likely to be able to defeat half their army, and the rest is then easy to mop up.
Bait enemies into taking attrition. Using an army smaller than theirs you can continuously pull back, leaving them in a province where their units will slowly die. Only works against large armies or when playing as pagans. Does not work against the attrition-free doomstacks of the Hordes.
Bait enemies into attacking smaller armies, then send in reinforcements. Immediately once combat has started, send in your larger army. If the enemy can't see your reinforcements due to fog of war, even better: you can have your reinforcements already be on the way by the time the battle begins. This means you won't have to spend half an eternity chasing the army down, instead being able to quickly destroy it in a single or a series of decisive battles.
Avoid splitting your army up into pieces smaller than the total size of the enemy army. If you do, you risk losing a large part of your army, and being reduced to a position where you can no longer fight back. If you have a really good reason to do so, go ahead, but make sure you keep the rest of your army close. (You can see your enemy's army size in the ledger, or the realm tree accessible from his portrait.)
Use Organizers to move armies faster. Useful for gathering your levies, chasing down scattered enemies, and beating enemies to defensive positions.
Assassinate enemy flank leaders. In larger battles, 50 gold may be worth it to remove a skilled flank leader and send your enemy's army into disarray.
Utilize the mobility ships give you. You can transport units much faster by ship than on land, which can enable you to quickly strike at isolated enemy armies, then retreat back to sea. However, bear in mind that amphibious attacks are penalized, and armies aboard ships have their morale capped at 50%.
When being chased, consider sacrificing a small number of men to let the rest escape. Let a few men remain while the rest go to another province where they can hopefully recover or merge with a larger army. Make sure you leave more than 1/25 of the enemy army, as anything less than this will be destroyed instantly, and as such will not slow the enemy's advance down.
Disband any levies that are doomed. You'll lose half your men if not in friendly territory, but you won't lose warscore. And you can re-raise the levies immediately in another location.
Order early retreat when losing severely. When morale is depleted, your army is forced to retreat to a destination not under your control. Before this happens, you can order early retreat by right-clicking a province to escape to. You can even retreat onto ships in this manner, preventing the enemy from chasing you down. If your army is much stronger at skirmish than melee, you can use this trick to skip the melee portion of battle.
Consider what will give you the most warscore. You may be able to get to 100% and enforce demands without certain battles or sieges, or even without really appearing to have the upper hand.
- Winning battles gives warscore based on the number of enemy soldiers killed. Defeating the entire enemy army will net 75% warscore.
- Occupying enemy territory can give up to 120% warscore, with significant bonuses for the enemy's demesne (which tends to be easier to capture due to depleted levies), capital, and the territory contested by the CB.
- Continuously occupying territory contested by the CB will slowly add warscore (but you only get this "ticking warscore" if you occupy all of the wargoal).
- Occupying all enemy holdings gives automatic 100% warscore.
- Capturing the enemy's close relatives in battle or siege gives you 5% warscore per head, except the heir, who gives 50%. Consider this before sending your own family members into battle.
- Capturing the enemy in battle or siege give automatic 100% warscore. His portrait will tell you which army he is leading, if any.
By outmaneuvering or overpowering the enemy you'll be able to win most battles, and eventually the war itself. Some overall tips:
- Construct buildings to increase the size of your army. More detail in the guide on construction
- Research relevant tech, it can give you the edge you need. More detail the guide on technology
- Appoint good commanders. Gain good commanders through marriage and invites
- When hiring mercenaries, go for heavy infantry and cavalry
- Keep your vassals happy
- Strike the right balance between levy law and opinion. More detail in the guide on levies
- Don't raise more troops than you need
- Ambush the enemy if possible
- Slow down the enemy's advance by sacrificing units if needed
- Go for the wargoals first
- Go for 100% warscore ASAP
- Divide and conquer
- Utilize the mobility ships give you
- Avoid attacking across rivers and into hills