War is changing in Crusader Kings 2

Forget everything Fallout has ever taught you because war is changing. We already knew about upcoming geographical expansions in Crusader Kings II [official site], making areas that were previously impassable playable, but fresh news arrived in today’s dev diary and it involves changes to fundamental systems. The major shift will be in the causes of war, which will no longer require justification in every instance. That could be a dramatic change, given that one of the most important aspects of CK II is the need for a Casus Belli to not only declare war but to inform the goals of a war. The other alterations will come in battle itself, specifically sieges. More below.

If you’ve never played CK II you might not understand why an unjustified war would be such a big deal. After all, what kind of medieval king doesn’t assume the same powers as Oliver Stone’s Nixon who reckoned he could “bomb whoever he liked?” Well, you might not get impeached for stabbing your neighbours in the back but you are going to need a good reason to carve up their territory and take a slice for yourself. Traditionally, the best way to seize land that you had no authentic claim on, through familial connections, de jure rights or other means, was to fabricate a fresh claim. This takes time and CK II maestro Henrik Fåhraeus says he met a lot of players at the Paradox Convention a couple of weeks ago who find the process “annoying”.

And so, change is coming:

“First off, we’re going to deemphasize the ‘Fabricate Claim’ job by giving all playable entities (including Christians) a form of ‘Unjustified War’ Casus Belli that will allow you to seize a single County for an upfront cost of Piety, Prestige or Gold (depending on your Religion and Government Form.) Ideally, I’d also like to replace the ‘Fabricate Claim’ job with something else (maybe something to do with foreign embassies and arranging marriages, or something to do with Laws. Suggestions are welcome!) However, we might decide leave it there as it is (it does still have some uses.)”

As long as the balance is right, in terms of the cost of this kind of action as well as the targets it can be used against (Christian against Christian should carry a much harsher penalty, for example) and the reputation hit that it causes, this seems like a way to cut out a repetitive process and that would be a good thing. But if the balance isn’t right, war might become a thing of little note or consequence, and that would be irritating. I have faith that Henrik and his team will settle on a good solution eventually and hope whatever expansion or patch this update arrives in doesn’t land in my game before that solution is in place.

The changes to sieges are intended to prevent assaults that can blitz through defenses too quickly.

“Next, we’re adding a Game Rule for Siege Assaults. The options are ‘Unlimited’, which works like before, ‘On’, which disables Assaults against Holdings at Fort Level 6 or above, and ‘Off’, which disables Assaults entirely. We’re currently playing around with these changes, so the exact rules for the ‘On’ setting might change. On a related note, the time it takes to siege down Holdings is also being tweaked, to make it quicker overall but also making the Fort Level matter more.”

Essentially, this shouldn’t make any holding flat-out invulnerable but it should make whittling down the defenses of a well-fortified location a far more drawn-out affair.

I’m guessing these changes will come with the next expansion, which will also open up Tibet and its environs.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    CK2 is altogether too complex and too poorly tutorial’d for me to figure out. I bounce off hard, every time I try.

    • Vandelay says:

      I’ve bounced off it a couple of times too. My last attempt was better, but came to a crashing end when I attempted lead my fellow Normans into conquering the English. I couldn’t be bothered to re-build everything, but did intend to start a new game, which I never did. I would probably have to try learning it all over again now.

      One of the elements that was confusing was sieges. Took far too long. I’m glad to see they are making… WHAT! THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE LONGER!?

      • kalzekdor says:

        Historically, sieges did take a very long time, though. They took months, sometimes years, except in extenuating circumstances (overwhelming force, traitors within the walls, siege after famine/pestilence). Sieges were battles of attrition, the besiegers using engines to damage walls, the besieged repairing the damage. Both parties have supply concerns, though the besiegers usually have the advantage there, though a friendly harrying force outside the walls can level that out. There’s a reason why castles were a major part of warfare for over a thousand years, they’re damned hard to capture.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          Sure, but historically you didn’t have to besiege every settlement in a kingdom and defeat their army half a dozen times to get a peace deal that wasn’t derisory.

      • jerubius says:

        I pretty sure they said normal sieges are actually going to go a little faster. The tradeoff is that assaulting is going to be harder to do. You could win major wars in mere months once you got a large enough army, because you went to each county and just instawiped it with an assault. The AI would be halfway through occupying one holding in your territory by the time you occupied half their realm.

    • Scelous says:

      Yeah, me too. Plus, despite the flavorful patch notes, CK2 has always felt as dry as hell, like I’m working on an accounting spreadsheet.

      • rochrist says:

        Dry? Really? That’s kind of the very last descriptor I would think of when describing CK2. It’s kind of known as an awesome story generator.

    • SnallTrippin says:

      It is so hard for me to understand this – just read all the information that popsup when you hover over crap, etc, spend some time figuring things out. It’s a great game and it’s really not that complicated…though I say that having been playing Paradox games since EU1.

      Seriously though; invest the time it’s worth it.

    • JiminyJickers says:

      It’s one of those game where you just need to play it. Forget about knowing everything, just play and you can get good fun out of it. Once you have played it a bit you start to figure out some of the more complex things and can search for clarifications.

      I felt the same as you initially but after just jumping in I’m enjoying it and learning more and more.

      • DThor says:

        I agree. I still have issues with it, but once I started doing exactly that – just play it – it was more enjoyable. One thing is guaranteed: you might have numerous grand plans like uniting a region under your benign/not-so-benign leadership, but inevitably your plans go south, your brilliant character has an unfortunate case of cancer and is replaced by a high functioning idiot hated by everyone. Your long term goals are suddenly replaced by managing to squirt out a kid and not have your throat cut in the middle of the night by your incestuous sister/wife. Just keep playing. It sort of breaks all the rules of historical gaming, but let the narrative wash over you and relax.

    • iucounu says:

      I kept bouncing off until I did this walkthrough: link to ckiiwiki.com

      I find it amusing that CK players apparently call Ireland ‘Tutorial Island’.

    • Auldman says:

      I bounced off it a few times too but I gave it another go recently and am glad I did. I think they changed the tutorial so that they’ve got one where you start in Spain and they hold your hand pretty well through that.

      I did that learning scenario and then jumped into my own game as a Hungarian Duke and that’s going well enough that I plan to stick with it.

      I think people freak out with all the information and there is a desire to understand everything right away. I think the key to getting it is to relax and learn a little as you go along and some information the game throws at you doesn’t require an immediate decision on your part or even a decision at all. I am rather enjoying it now and I never thought I would.

    • naetharu says:

      I did the same for a few tries before getting into it properly. If you have interest in giving it another go I’d highly recommend starting a game in Ireland, which is a nice microcosm of the main game, safe thanks to being on the edge of the map and surrounded by seas.

      Set up some reasonable ambitions to start with, such as creating some of the duchies that start in fragmented states. Don’t worry too much about other aspects of the game. Then build up one thing at a time. It’s a game where things are going to go wrong and you will fail. But much like Dwarf Fortress or other sandbox games failing is fun provided you’re learning and creating fun stories.

      If you’re really struggling and need help PM me on the forums here and I’ll play a game with you sometime.

  2. Faldrath says:

    Those changes look very far-reaching, I’m really curious to see how they will end up. I suppose they should also take into account the size of whoever wants to declare an unjustified war – Charlemagne shouldn’t be too much bothered if he wants to add yet another county to his domains, but an unknown count from some backwards place would probably find it much more difficult to just say “I like that land over there, I hope people won’t mind if I take it”.

    • Styxie says:

      I liked the rule for reformed Norse Pagans, where once in your character’s life you could declare war on any non-Norse ruler. Maybe any subsequent conquests after the first would incur penalties, like negative character traits.

      The idea of creating border incidents also appeals to me. Like you’d have to go through some expensive and carefully orchestrated series of events to make it look like war is justified.

  3. Sin Vega says:

    Have they, are are they going to make it so that you can actually play it with the geography visible? It’s such a waste of a potentially lovely world map, because 98% of my play time was spent in the ‘who owns this territory’ map mode.

    Not that I’ll be buying any more of it anyway, mind. I bought a couple of the early DLCs and never even got round to playing them, since I already had a jillion hours going on my first game. I always feel weirdly anxious when I play any one game that much. It is odd.

    • meloncrab says:

      There’s a set of map filters at the bottom right of your screen next to your minimap. The one portrayed at the top of the article is ‘political’. There’s also one you can set to ‘Terrain’ which shows you the details of the geography.

  4. matthewcooley says:

    There should be a piety cost for attacking coreligionists, but no prestige or financial cost to start such a war, which doesn’t make much sense. You already pay money to field your armies, what is this other money supposed to be for.

    Maybe fielding your armies is more expensive or your max levies take a hit as your subjects are less willing to fight?

    And to keep players from using this without consequence, you just need a rapidly escalating threat penalty for non-causus belli invasions, whether you win or not. Also, if you attack without a causus belli, both defeat and white peace should result in a huge prestige penalty.

    Siege assaults should remain, but should just be more difficult and have more random variety in outcome. Like, a slightly larger army can sometimes sneak in and win in a route, but an army outnumbering defenders 10-to-1 could find themselves losing half their men. They should be wildcards.

    • Neutrino says:

      “You already pay money to field your armies, what is this other money supposed to be for.”

      Bribing the Pope to turn a blind eye.

  5. Foridin says:

    This seems like a promising change to me. I’ve never really been able to get into CK2, despite loving EU4 and Stellaris, largely because it seems like I spend so much of my time waiting for my counselor to fabricate a claim, or for the slow process of having a child, finding someone with a claim to marry them off to, waiting for them to have a kid, and then using his claim as a CB. It’s totally possible I’m just misunderstanding how the systems work, but it seems so much less active and engaging than EU4 is, where I’m always making quantifiable progress towards one goal or another.

    • Kurtismayfield says:

      A lot of CKII takes time.. playing the marriage game, fabrication of claims, waiting for the right time in the Crusade to strike. That is part of the strategy if the game, and RNGesus will screw you once in awhile as well. The fun parts are usually when it screws you over, or something bad happens.

  6. darkath says:

    I might be alone with this opinion but i don’t think those changes are newsworthy. It doesn’t fundamentally changes how war is played out in the game. At best it will means more wars between counts/dukes in the early game, but it doesn’t sound like a “huge” change. It’s only quite an issue in early game, but after the first 100 years if you play the wedding game correctly, you should have lots of small claims to pursue in your family.

    As for rules for level 6 forts well, you’ll spend most of the game without those usually (esp if you start in one of the earliest dates)

    • Landiss says:

      I agree with you. It’s not going to make much difference, especially as it is only giving you CB for a single county.

    • badmothergamer says:

      I think it’s a welcome change but I agree as well it won’t make a huge difference as I’m sure there will be some sort of cool down to go along with the piety/prestige/gold requirements. However, it could definitely come in handy in those situations where you only need a single county to create a duchy and don’t want to sit around waiting for a positive Fabricate Claim roll.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      For an expert player, CBs aren’t hard to come by. “Now that I’m an emperor, I can finally take vassal kings. Let’s see what claimants there are for Poland… Yes, you should work. I’ll invite you to court, give you one of the counties I got in that last Holy War to make you my vassal, then…”

      But for new players, the fact that you can’t just start wars without going through multiple steps is confusing and off-putting.

  7. DefeatedByTheCat says:

    I have almost 300 hours in CK2 and I’d love to play more. But I enjoyed the old mechanics and too much is changing.

    Whilst I respect that they’re still supporting an old game rather than make everyone pay for CK3.. I do wish there was an option to jump back to an earlier version. Some of the new changes aren’t that enjoyable for me so I just don’t bother playing anymore.

    • Fede says:

      If you’re playing via Steam, you should be able to choose which version you want. Right click on CK2, Properties, Betas. You should be able to choose older versions of the game.

    • Styxie says:

      The older versions are available in the Steam client. Just right click and select ‘properties’, then look in the ‘Betas’ tab.

    • wonderingmonster says:

      Did you have a look at the game rule customization options when starting a new game? They’ve added quite a lot of options to that.

  8. Gothnak says:

    I know it isn’t this game, but i still want CK2 intrigue on top of a solid strategy game, so if i do mess up the diplomacy, i might have some knowledge of how the hell combat works.

    I’d also like to come up with plans with other nations and then put them in to action, rather than hoping they’ll join me when i declare war. Almost no game has done that…

    Do you think anyone really declares war before finding out what their potential allies will say first? (Of course, they can lie if there is a specific reason to benefit them, but that would be part of the fun)

    • desolation0 says:

      “Ideally, I’d also like to replace the ‘Fabricate Claim’ job with something else (maybe something to do with foreign embassies and arranging marriages, or something to do with Laws. Suggestions are welcome!)” Planning war with your allies would seem like a good way to waste a diplomat’s time. Maybe worth suggesting on the Paradox forum.

  9. chuckman006 says:

    I read also they are looking into adding ducal conquest casus beli and maybe a few others. This would be great, im tired of fighting huge empire-crippling wars just to conquer one county at a time every 10 years!

  10. Edgewise says:

    The fuck? War NEVER changes!

  11. Waznei says:

    I am lucky enough to have started playing CK2 from the very beginning. If I had to do it now, it would be impossible.

    CK3, please.

  12. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I’m a little disappointed that unjustified wars only allow you to take a single county. One of my biggest pet peeves about CK2 (and to be fair, I don’t have many) is that most religions restrict you to nibbling away at your opponents, particularly in the late game.

    I really can’t see an in-universe justification for limiting the scope of unjustified wars like this. If you’re already breaking with tradition and social convention by declaring a war, you might as well take refuge in audacity and grab as much land as you can.

  13. dkfgo says:

    They should revamp combat, somehow. I have no idea what they should do, just make the player have more influence over it, instead of just throwing double the numbers of soldiers at your enemies, or stacking overpowered commanders and hoping for the best.

    If they ever get to launch a CK3, I hope they introduce a new combat mode, like some sort of RTS “mini game”, something more visual, more personal.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Honestly, I think they’d lose me if they did that.

      I don’t know how common this is, but I’m a gamer that loves grand strategy and (to a slightly lesser degree) 4X games, but has zero patience for RTS. Even with a series like Total War, the only thing that keeps me from automating every battle is the fact that you’ve got a better shot at winning if you play manually. I don’t give a flying frell about the minutiae of which direction my troops are facing or who is flanking whom… I want to dictate strategy, not tactics.

      • EvilMonkeyPL says:

        THIS. A thousand times this.
        Look at what Endless Space 2 did. They let you pick a general tactic your fleets (and their flanks) will execute and than they just show you how it would play out, beutifully rendered, with all the info you might want.

      • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

        The thing that frustrates me most about the Total War games is that I hate the RTS combat, but I love to be able to see my armies and cities. Is that weird?

  14. teije says:

    For anyone looking to expand, this will change very little, except when first starting out. Declaring a way to get just a single county is very slow… Getting those ducal and higher level claimants and pursuing their claims will remain a much better way to expand (assuming within your own religion, if outside, then holy war of course allows for even faster expansion).

  15. MacTheGeek says:

    War. War never… wait, what? Shit.

  16. ThePuzzler says:

    I hate slow sieges in Paradox games. I mod EU4 just to reduce Fort strength. I can’t imagine using a ‘no assaults’ option in CK2.

    I’d prefer it if they made the ‘Threat’ aggressive expansion system more subtle. Being unable to go to war isn’t fun, and the things I have to do to fool the system are pretty annoying.

    • TobleroneRoloCombo says:

      I’m hoping that this leads to cannons being implemented. We need a late-game DLC at this point.

  17. Trogdr says:


    Nothing changes except the one thing that makes war not take decades?

    And adding a way to declare war without casus beli except its really expensive?

    This seems like war changing into a worse thing, but alas poor Horace that is all we shall get..

  18. Cropduster says:

    The fabricate claim system was always a fustrating RNG fest, but, it incentivised you to do more creative stuff with the marraige and claims systems, which feel much more in tune with what the game is about.

    I think making that stuff less opaque and easier for people who don’t fully understand it to tinker with would be a better move, that plays more to CKIIs strengths. It’s kind of dull as a ‘paint the map red’ game, especially when compared to EU4.

    But they’ve mostly done a good job with CKII so far, so I’m not crying end-times yet.

    • ThePuzzler says:

      The inconvenience of fabrication would work better as an incentive to get creative if there weren’t also Holy Wars that get you far more territory and complete control over that territory and piety bonuses with no special preparation needed.

  19. Dniz91 says:

    CKIII pls, this game should’ve been finished at reaper’s due.