Crusader Kings 3 – Warfare Guide

Last updated on February 12th, 2023 at 11:40 pm

Warfare is an essential part of Crusader Kings 3 and learning how to effectively wage war on other rulers will give you a way easier time elevating your dynasty above its rivals.

In this guide on warfare in Crusader Kings 3, we will shed some light on different mechanics that any player should be aware of and that should ideally influence your decision-making whenever you ask yourself if and where you can take on your pesky neighbor in order to grab that good looking border county.

Interested in more Crusader Kings 3 guides? Visit our Crusader Kings 3 section – or check out the guides for all other games we cover on the website.


  • If the goal of a war is to seize a county, the attacker will gain ticking war score if he takes the county and the defender will gain ticking war score if he does not let the attacker take the county.
  • Imprisoning the leader of your opposition will give you a +100% war score bonus.
    • A sneaky way to win wars is starting an abduction scheme against the leader of the land you covet.
      1. Have a Casus Belli
      2. Start the abduction scheme
      3. When you receive the message that the plot is ready to be executed, declare war and wait for the declaration of war to be received.
      4. Tell the abductors to go ahead (and pray that they are successful).
      5. If you have successfully abducted the leader of the opposite faction in the war you just declared, you can immediately negotiate for peace and enforce your demands.

Army Composition

  • Always inspect the enemy’s forces and see whether your own Men-at-Arms (or potential mercenaries) counter the enemy’s troops or if you will be able to overpower the enemy army with sheer numbers.
    • Check the character screen of your (soon-to-be) enemy to see their entire military strength split up between levies, men at arms, mercenaries, and knights
  • Levies are just armed peasants, weak but come in great numbers.
  • The heart of any army are Men-at-Arms; basically a standing army.
    • Rock paper scissors system for all standard Men-at-Arms (strengths vary for cultural/regional Men-at-Arms) that can be checked by hovering over the unit type
      • Archers counter Skirmishers
      • Skirmishers counter Heavy Infantry
      • Heavy Infantry counters Spearmen
      • Spearmen counter Light Cavalry and Heavy Cavalry
      • Light Cavalry and Heavy Cavalry counters Archers
      • Siege Weapons do not participate in battles but let you siege castles significantly faster
    • Some Men-at-Arms are locked behind cultural innovations or are only available in specific regions or cultures.
    • Certain buildings give bonuses for certain Men-at-Arms
    • The number of Men-at-Arms regiments and the size of these regiments can be increased by cultural innovations and legacies (e.g. Mustering Grounds, Men-at-Arms, Private Army, Household Soldiers, Standing Armies).
    • Stats
      • Damage – Ability to destroy enemy troops
      • Toughness – Ability to take damage from enemy troops
      • Pursuit – Ability to hunt down enemy troops once the battle is over; usually the majority of a battle’s death toll
      • Screen – Ability to stop pursuing forces from hurting the fleeing army


  • Characters that fight in your army
    • Relevant character stat: Prowess
      • Each point of Prowess gives a knight 100 damage and 10 toughness
        • A knight with 20 Prowess deals as much damage as 200 levies and takes as much damage as 20 levies
    • You can force characters into a being a knight or forbid them from being a knight
    • Take the “Invite Knights” decision for at least 3 possible knights with at least 12 Prowess to arrive at your court
  • Increase effectiveness of knights with buildings, legacies, innovations, and temporarily by your characters Martial Lifestyle
    • Military Academies duchy building will increase the number of knights and their effectiveness
  • An easy way to get knights to your court is to marry them matrilineally to your female courtiers. Search for unmarried women in your court, check the matrilineal box, and sort by prowess.


  • Characters that lead your armies
    • Relevant character stats: Martial skill and Commander Traits
      • Some commander traits are only relevant in specific territories

Planning Phase

  • Vassals cannot be called into the wars of their lieges via alliances.
  • Allies who are fighting their own wars upon your declaration of war might join the war but will only actively send troops once their own conflict has ended.
  • Your liege cannot aid an external enemy against you, even if he is allied to that enemy. However, your liege can ask you to stop the war which you can decline.

War Phase

  • Try to stay close to your own border and besiege some of the enemy’s border counties
    • Ensures that your army will not run out of supplies
      • Your army will lose supplies in enemy territory and/or if the army is over the supply limit
      • If you only have a few supplies left, your army will fight worse. If you have no supplies left, the army will lose troops and fight even worse.
  • Choose the place and time of the battle wisely
    • Crossing rivers and disembarkation will put your troops at a disadvantage.
    • Certain Commander Traits are only relevant in certain terrain or in certain seasons.
    • Certain Men-at-Arms gain a bonus or a malus in certain terrain (e.g. Light Horsemen receive a -5 Damage malus when fighting in Hills and a -10 Damage and -20 Pursuit malus when fighting in Mountains) or in certain seasons (e.g. Light Horsemen receive a -5 Damage and a -2 Toughness malus in winter).
    • Terrain: Every barony in the game has a certain terrain (e.g. Forest, Hills, Plains, Drylands, Mountains) with certain effects on the battle
    • If a battle takes place in a barony with a friendly fort, your army will always be the defender.
  • After your victory over an enemy army, hunt them down several times until you are sure that the enemy’s troops no longer pose a threat to your army.
  • If the enemy army is no longer a threat, siege down enemy forts and prevent successful sieges in your own territory.

Battle Phases

  1. Maneuver Phase
    • No fighting, armies are preparing for battle
    • If large armies are facing each other, only some of the soldiers will be fighting at any given time. The number of fighting soldiers is determined by the Combat Width (hover over the Relative Strength bar on the battle screen).
  2. Early Battle Phase
    • Advantage roll every 3 days (random factor in a battle)
      • Every point of advantage increases the damage to the respective army by 2%
    • Neither army can retreat in this phase
    • An army that loses in this phase gets completely destroyed
  3. Late Battle Phase
    • An army that loses in this phase can retreat
  4. Aftermath Phase
    • The winning army pursues the retreating army and cuts down fleeing soldiers. This is where cavalry units shine (high pursuit stat).

Interested in more Crusader Kings 3 guides? Visit our Crusader Kings 3 section – or check out the guides for all other games we cover on the website.

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