In this guide we'll talk through the basics of armies and the various troop choices available in. There's a lot to learn so let's get to it.
To raise armies in CK3 you need to first make a Rally Point. At the bottom of the Military tab, you can click to add and then select a Holding anywhere inside your Realm. Each new Rally Point creates a different coloured flag on the map and if you click on this you see the option to either Raise Local Army or Raise All Here.
If you choose local only, you will generate a stack of nearby Levies (the number can be seen to the side of the button) along with your Men-at-Arms. This means that no matter where you raise your first army of war, it will include your elite troops. It's worth noting here that you cannot declare war with armies already raised.
You are able to reorganise stacks, moving troops and Knights into new armies and so it is often a good idea to simply raise all in one place to make sure you don't have straggler stacks getting picked off across the map, before organising them manually. Your Men-at-Arms will arrive immediately, but the rest of your army could take several days to appear so be patient and wait before starting to manage them.
Men-at-Arms are your elite troops. If you were familiar with Retinues from CK2, they are more or less the same idea, with noticeable refinements. You begin with a Regiment Limit which is how many different units you can hire. This is not the same as the number of men in the units though. When you hire them they begin with only 5 men and slowly reinforce to full strength.
Each unit, once hired, can be upgraded through multiple tiers, each adding an extra hundred soldiers. As Innovations progress, more tiers becomes available allowing for larger units to be maintained. You will also unlock the ability to have more Regiments in total and gain access to new unit types.
One thing to consider when building up your Men-at-Arms aside from the initial cost of each tier is the upkeep. While this is fairly low while they remain unraised, once you bring them onto the field, they can quickly add up to a much higher price. That said, considering the ratio of the number between these elite troops and your Levies, your Levies will almost always be the most expensive forces to maintain during war, being up to an order of magnitude more expensive.
The next thing to consider is the rock-paper-scissors of how they fight against opposing Men-at-Arms. Each type of Regiment has a strength and a weakness to another. This can reduce combat capability by as much as 90% with enough of a counter so it's important to study your enemies and make sure you aren't wasting your resources.
As you could predict, archers are good against Skirmishers, but weak against Cavalry units. The below list shows what each is strong against, with it looping back to the top at the end:
- Heavy Infantry
Note: Crossbowmen, despite being considered Archers by the game mechanics, are not the replacement for Bowmen. Instead, they actively counter Heavy Infantry and Heavy Cavalry, meaning that you would need Light Cavalry to counter these and still require regular Bowmen to counter Skirmishers.
As we talked about above, as Innovations progress, Men-at-Arms see improvements to their logistics, but you are also able to improve their combat performance in other ways. Various building in your Domain grant Realm-wide bonuses to a particular type of unit. These bonuses stack to become incredibly powerful.
Take, for example, the Military Camps building. By level 3, it grants +4 damage and +1 toughness to Archers (along with Skirmisher bonuses). If you had two of these in different Baronies, it would equate to +8, and so on. Combining multiple bonuses quickly adds up and considering the base damage of an Archer is 25, you can see how much of an improvement we're talking about.
There are many such buildings and several for each type. You can read more about them in ourbut suffice to say, they are well worth the investment. You should also check out the Martial Lifestyle which gives your current ruler some nice bonuses to Men-at-Arms.
One thing you can't improve on though, is their terrain modifiers, with each type seeing favourable and harmful terrain. This is probably less important to worry about than most aspects of battle, but could tip the scales when a fight is otherwise even.
CK3 Stack Splitting
To split your stacks you select the raised army and click on Split off new Army in the window. From here you can select which units you wish to transfer to a new command. Once that is done you can either x out or click Select to jump straight to that stack. New stacks won't have a commander yet, and this is when you would want to assign one. High Martial skill gives a roll Advantage in battle, so choose a good one here.
Some characters have additional Commander Traits and these should also be factored in. Many of these traits offer huge bonuses to the entire army they lead. For example, Unyielding Defender reduces friendly fatalities by 25% and in a prolonged war, this will massively decrease your losses as even in victory, troops die. Other traits are no less effective such as its polar opposite Aggressive Attacker that instead increases enemy fatalities by 25%.
There are also more abstract traits here such as a Forder, which removes the penalty from river crossings or an Organizer which increases army movement speed by 25%. In short, take your time to choose the Commander that will be most useful to you and plan ahead for what that particular army will be used for.
Moving troops is as simple as left click, right-click but one thing to keep an eye on is the exact location of the stack. In order to prevent overflowed text, CK3 will often push the icon away from the actual stack it represents. This can lead to you missing intercepts or being in the wrong location in a hectic war.
This is more apparent when you consider that movement is not locked to a County but instead allows for armies to be positioned on individual provinces within them. Why aren't you besieging that Castle? oh yes, you're stood in the empty field next door. Just be aware of this and use the zoom to make sure your forces are where you want them to be.
There are Commander Traits and Lifestyle Perks that affect movement but we'll let you discover those on your own. None are particular must-haves and none are focused on just that.
The last and possibly most annoying aspect of movement is the ocean. To move onto transports simply tell your stack to enter a water province. This costs gold to build a fleet but is otherwise extremely quick. We'd consider this annoying as you will see the AI constantly building fleets to move a handful of provinces and to avoid incoming armies. This doesn't sound too bad, but you will end up playing whack-a-mole with enemy stacks.
CK3 Supply Limit
Supply Limit determines how many men can live off the land in a single province and while you won't notice it in the early game, it can hurt you if you raise larger armies later on. You will see how much supply you have when you hover over your destination with your army selected.
Supply is slightly different to this and it can be confusing. Each army gains Supplies up to a certain point by remaining in friendly territory. This Supply represents the food the army is carrying with it and will only be used if the stack enters a province where it would otherwise take attrition. Only once Supply runs out, will you begin taking casualties.
CK3 Pursuit and Screen
Skirmishers and all Cavalry give you Pursuit numbers and it is a fairly straightforward mechanic. When you are victorious in a battle, the more pursuit you have, the more enemy units are killed instead of being routed.
Screen is the opposite of Pursuit in that when defeated, the screening number gives you protection against the victors' Pursuit. It is made from Skirmishers and Light Cavalry.
When you are through with your troops, you can hit Disband Army and they will return to the pool. This can take several months if you disband them far from their home.
The main troop type in CK3 is the Levy. Each Levied man has 10 damage and 10 toughness and this remains unchangeable throughout the game. Levies come from all types of Holding and their totals can be increased through buildings. You will always receive the maximum available Levies from your personal Holdings, but only a small amount from each, depending on their Feudal Contract and opinion of you.
The exception to this is the Clergy. The military support (and Taxes) you get from your temples is directly related to the opinion of your Realm Priest, of whom you have no control over selection of. There is a less troublesome Court Chaplain option, but only for certain faiths. Either way, maintaining the good opinion of your spiritual Councillor is a must.
It is also a good idea to maximise the number of Levies you directly control to ensure you have enough men to fight off any rebellious elements since numbers do matter. This can be further increased through the Councillor action Organize Levies. However, as these are the peasant masses - the fodder you will use to soak up the damage - they are no professional army. For that, you will have to look to the Men-at-Arms.
CK3 Siege Weapons
The final type of Men-at-Arms Regiments are Siege Weapons. These take no part in regular combat but instead add weight to the Siege Progress. There are 4 types available, with each being effective only up to a certain Fort Level. They also have only 10 men per tier but that doesn't mean much.
- Onagers - Effective up to Fort Level 9, +0.3/day
- Mangonels - Effective up to Fort Level 15, +0.6/day
- Trebuchets - Effective up to Fort Level 21, +1.0/day
- Bombards - Effective up to Fort Level 29, +1.5/day
To efficiently siege higher Fort Levels, you need to include at least some Siege Weapons, otherwise, it takes substantially longer for the defenders to break.
Mercenaries are an expensive and desperate act but offer excellent combat potential. Each Mercenary band is made up of a selection of Men-at-Arms grade units with their own Knights. Some also include Levy troops though, and that is a point against them.
The cost of Mercenaries is simple to understand. You pay upfront and gain their loyalty for 3 years. If you dismiss the units before then they remain available to you alone in the listings until the contract expires and can also be called back to service for no further cost.
If you are desperate enough to call on Mercenaries, you are probably short of money but don't worry, as you can go into up to 24 months debt to hire them.
It is doubtful the smallish bands will turn a losing war in your favour, but there is a couple of ways we've found that they can be effective. First off is the suicide run deep into enemy lands, either besieging down their Holdings or drawing forces away from your own armies.
The second is using them as a Men-at-Arms counter. By this we mean that if the enemy for instance has a lot of Archers, you could hire Mercenaries that have a lot of Cavalry at the beginning of the war, helping to counter that advantage.
CK3 Holy Orders
Holy Orders are the Mercenaries of the religious world. You can hire them with Piety if you are in a faith-based war. You can occasionally get an event to rent out ato an Order. This comes with a nice chunk of gold for your trouble, but you do lose all Tax and Levies from the Holding while they are occupying it.
If your Devotion is high enough you gain the ability to found a new Order and give it one of your direct Holdings. Why would you do this you ask? Well for one if you are their patron, you can call them up for free, which depending on where you are on the map, might be worth losing a Holding for. You also have the option to evict them if you want to.
If you're looking for more Crusader Kings 3 guides, you might want to check out our, as well as how to effectively use .
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