Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crusader Kings II Tutorial Part 2: Titles, Realms and Map Views

Titles, Realms and the Feudal System

Crusader Kings II simulates the feudal system, where members of the nobility are divided into five distinct tiers. Regardless of culture, religion or nationality, everyone in the same tier is considered to be roughly equal in status. Anyone in a tier can have people of a lower tier underneath them as vassals, and people of a higher tier as lieges above them.

  1. Baron (copper border): These characters do not own any land on the map, just buildings inside a county. They generally have no power to do anything but complain and pay taxes. You, the player, can't be a baron, although you can own extra baronies if you have a higher-tier title.
  2. Count (silver border): These characters own counties, which are the individual areas of land on the map. They can hire advisers to help them rule the realm, and vote in elections held by a duke. Anyone of importance must be the count of somewhere, so if you lose your last county but you still have a higher-tier title, you'll automatically kick out one of your other counts.
  3. Duke (blue border): These characters own duchies, which are small collections of provinces. They can research technologies, vote in all elections, pass laws, and generally be productive rulers.
  4. King (gold border): These characters own kingdoms, which are collections of duchies. Kings can generally muster a formidable army and a sizable income, but constantly have to worry about the opinions of the dukes under them in order to keep the realm together.
  5. Emperor (purple border): This is the summit of power. An empire is a collection of kingdoms, and becoming emperor will require a multi-generational campaign of conquest, intrigue, and matchmaking. Diplomacy is the most important skill for any emperor, who must rely almost completely on dukes and kings to fight his battles and pay the soldiers' wages.

The Realm View

You can click on any shield in the game to see the title associated with it. Press F1 or click on the shield in the top left corner to bring up your primary title. It should look like this:
Realm View: Duchy of York
This window is a great way to investigate people outside your own realm, and to organize your kingdom or empire (should you acquire one of those). Let's look at it in detail:
  • The name of the title and its coat of arms are at the top, with a series of self-explanatory buttons.
  • At the top right is the Kingdom of England's coat of arms, indicating that the Duchy of York is currently part of the Kingdom of England.
  • The table lists the two counties in the Duchy of York, along with the larger realm they're part of (again, England).
  • The bottom of this view is a summary view of the owner of the duchy - that's us, Duke Morcar of Hwicce - with our titles plus our income and expenses. You can see we're making most of our money from our personal demesne (the counties we own directly), and from taxes on the cities in our realm.
  • On the map, the Duchy of York is highlighted in a golden border.
  • I've left the best for last. Above the table, there is a De Jure checkbox. Check the "De Jure" box to show the de jure Duchy of York: the territory that legally belongs to the Duke of York, regardless of what he actually owns.
De Jure Realm View: Duchy of York
This looks pretty different: the County of Westmoreland is not actually supposed to be part of York, and instead it's supposed to include the Counties of Lincoln and Leicester, which have their own coats of arms indicating that they belong to someone else. Not only that, but you'll notice that the Kingdom of England at the top right has the Empire of Britannia next to it, indicating that England could be part of a larger empire. But since no one has enough land to declare themselves the true emperor of all Britannia, the Kingdom of England is the highest authority right now.

One other really handy feature of the Realm View is that opening it will automatically scroll the map to that title. Since the game likes to offer you tooltips that assume you know where all these places are, this is an easy way to get there.

Map Views

As a final tool to get your hands on how titles work in Crusader Kings II, let's toggle some map views away from the default one. Use the keyboard shortcuts or the buttons on the bottom right map view to see different views of England and its environs:
  • Press W to see Independent Realms. This is the main political view, similar to how modern maps are drawn. You can see the Kingdom of England, with a coat of arms icon in London to indicate where the capital of the kingdom is, the Kingdom of Scotland to the north, and a bunch of assorted counts and dukes in Ireland and Wales.
  • Press F to see Direct Vassals. This shows you who actually owns land underneath the Kingdom of England. As Duke Morcar of York, you own everything labeled "York" there in the north of England, but it looks like William owns a sizable swath of English land himself (the parts labeled just "England"). Next to your lands in York, you can see you share a pretty long border with the Duke of Lothian in Scotland. I wonder if he could be provoked to rebel against his king so we could attack him without getting involved in politics?
  • Press P to see De Jure Empires. The entire place changes to Britannia, but there are still dashed lines to indicate the borders between the people who actually own the land that could become part of Britannia.
  • Press O to see De Jure Kingdoms. One step down, you can see the four kingdoms of the British Isles emerge. At the bottom left, note that the duchy of Cornwall is actually de jure part of Wales, although it's currently owned by the King of England.
  • Press I to see De Jure Duchies. Here, you can see the ancient borders that tie the land together. You can see that part of your rightful land in Northumberland is actually on the other side of the Scottish border. This gives you the right to declare war on Scotland to get that land back, although King William is not obligated to help you out.
Spend some time just scrolling around the map, learning about history through these map modes. In particular, note that a title remains yours even if you lose control of most of its rightful lands. The Byzantine Emperor pretty much controls just Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria these days, but his borders rightfully should extend to half a dozen other kingdoms from Venice to Syria.

Thanks for learning with me! Next time, let's check out the rest of the Character Browser, with stats and traits and all that good stuff. Maybe we'll get married!

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