In Crusader Kings 3, you take on the role of a ruler of the real-life medieval kingdoms and empires across Eurasia and North Africa. The game spans approximately 300–500 years, starting in either 867 or 1066 and going until about 1400. There are a lot of rulers to pick from, and your choice matters! The starting stats and story of your first ruler will shape the general challenges and world you set out to make. To help you out, we’re breaking down the best starts in Crusader Kings 3 for both 867 and 1066.
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Crusader Kings 3 | Best Rulers in 867
Starting in 867 might seem appealing to new players. At first glance, it seems like you’ll have more time to build up your kingdom, and the land available seems smaller and more manageable. This is a mistake. The systems in 867 are much less advanced than those of 1066. The world is closer to what we used to call “The Dark Ages.” Relentless Viking pillagers could cross over your border at any time.
That said, more of the world is tribal in 867. Tribal governments in the game can be easier to manage, since they use the “prestige” resource more often they use gold. In general, 867 is a great setting for learning the rules of warfare, but you might want to consider playing through the entirety of a 1066 game beforehand.
If you’ve already done that and are ready to move on to more difficult pastures, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best starting rulers for 867 in Crusader Kings 3.
Duke Halfdan “Whiteshirt” of Jorvik
Our first pick for the best 867 start in Crusader Kings 3 is Duke Halfdan. This ruler lets you kick-start the true story of the Danelaw. This is the time when Vikings ran rampant across England until striking a deal with an English King to form their own Kingdom.
Whiteshirt begins the game in Jorvik. You’ll have a huge army of levied forces and a war with the neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Your brother, the Duke of Uppland, is also in the war, and will join you in an alliance immediately if you request one. Raiding the nearby Englishmen and the monasteries of Ireland can be a fantastic way to build up cash reserves early on, on top of giving your game some historical accuracy.
Once the initial war is over, you’ll be able to bargain with Wessex to form the Danelaw. This sets you up as the King of much of the middle of the British Isles. From here, you can expand outward within your new lands until the isles are split between Anglo-Saxon and Nordic rule. Alternatively, you can adapt to the culture of the new homeland, giving you a jump-start toward forming the Empire of Brittania.
This will be made easier with alliances you can make with your three powerful brothers. Like many of the Scandinavian rulers, the Northern Lords DLC will expand their content extensively.
Prabhu Ngawang of Quamdo
Tibet is a great alternative to Ireland if you want to play in 867, and Quamdo is the best place to start for it. The areas are fairly fragmented but easy to consolidate, and there aren’t any major powers around that will immediately take you under their fold. This can be a really fun place to learn the game’s various mechanics.
Your immediate concern will be the county of Baqen to your west. You can choose to subjugate Baqen by force, or simply offer the neighboring ruler a religious exemption to become one of your vassals. This will keep you from forcing them to convert, but as many of the Eastern religions in Crusaders Kings 3 are more tolerant of each other than the Western ones, this won’t be a significant problem. Likewise, you won’t need to worry about being the target of holy wars in Tibet.
Forming the Kingdom of Kham is a good early goal once you’ve started to consolidate land. The natural terrain of Tibet will help you defend your lands from outside, but will also make any expansionist conquest more complicated. The Bodpa lands to your north and east are good targets for expansion early on as well, with the eventual goal of becoming the dominant Bodpa cultural figure. This will let you adapt even more to the mountainous terrain of Tibet. Pikemen and lighter infantry will fight best here.
Jarl Rurik “Troublemaker” Rurikid of Novgorod
Jarl Rurikid is the go-to pick if you want to play out the Varangian conquest of the lands that now compose Russia and Ukraine. This is a fun setting to try and expand rapidly from your starting position, raiding your western neighbors as you go. Forming the Russian Empire is your end goal, and you’ll need to conquer many of your neighbors to do so.
Start with your smaller neighbors like Vodi and Polotsk. Let Rurik lead the armies himself, as he’s very talented in Martial matters and will provide a huge bonus to his troops. Gradually make your way to the southwest so you’ll own the right cities when it’s time to move your capital down there.
It’s smart to expand as far as possible before converting your culture to Russian instead of Norse. Nordic cultures make use of the longship technology, allowing you to travel down rivers via boats to make rapid surprise attacks on enemy capitols. Capturing the head of an enemy kingdom automatically ends the war in your favor. Use this tactic to rapidly fold nearby duchies and kingdoms into your own land without major bloodshed, as it’s the quickest way to consolidate your winter empire.
Make sure to become the cultural head when you’re ready to assimilate into the local Russian culture. This will let you branch out on your own, further away from the culture that is almost certain to be dominated by Sweden.
Jarl Bjorn “Ironside” af Munso of Uppland
Speaking of Sweden, this next entry is ideal if you want to create a united Scandinavian empire. Bjorn “Ironside” starts with control of the largest and most powerful duchy in Sweden, and is also helping to aid his brother the Whiteshirt to dominate England. Help Halfdan rapidly dominate the area of the Danelaw to gain a powerful western ally.
You can also turn your attention to your northern neighbors and the small island of Gotland, with the goal of absorbing just one more county into your land. Bjorn starts with a diplomatic background, so instead of attacking your neighbors, you could wait it out for a little while and just ask them to join you as vassals.
Once you’ve managed to do enough raiding to save up some gold, and you’ve acquired the aforementioned single extra county after the start of the game, you can spend some money to purchase a second duchy title and declare yourself the first King of Sweden. This, in turn, will make you the rightful liege of many other Jarls, who you will likely be able to invite to join you without bloodshed.
Once you’ve absorbed all of Sweden, you can start to fan out with more raiding. Secure enough gold to start building new structures all over the lands by your capital. From there, you can choose to invade Norway to start a Scandinavian empire. You can also choose to Christianity to attempt to rush your way into feudalism.
Count Drakontios of Naxos
This small chain of islands in the Aegean sea actually hides the most compelling playable vassal states of the massive Byzantine Empire. Representing the remnants of the old Roman Empire, the Byzantines are the sole world superpower in 867. None can stand against your liege, Basileus, so you can feel safe from attacks coming from outside. Your starting character is a capable warrior and commander, yet you hold land with only around 200 recruitable levies. This is a great place to start if you want to get a grip on how lieges work without worrying too much about playing defensively.
Once you’ve gotten yourself established a bit, you can turn your attention to the island of Crete. At first, the emirate on Crete will far outnumber your forces. You’ll need to play smart and muster enough troops to take them on before your emperor does. Trying to gradually move your family into a position of power in eastern Rome. Constantinople is a worthy goal that could take many tries to really pull off properly.
King Ludwig “The German” of East Francia
Out of all the starts in 867, Ludwig has the most potential to quickly snap up a huge amount of land and create the Holy Roman Empire. Right off the bat, you should pick up a bunch of smaller allies by marrying off all of your children. Use this alliance to bludgeon Lotharingia into submission, absorbing it into your own space. Watch your eastern borders for raids from the barbarians there, but otherwise, avoid spending resources on anything but attacking your own brothers.
Invest in a group of light footmen to counter the heavy footmen of Lotharingia and the surrounding area, then pick up some archers if you can ransom off enough captives to afford it. This war is all about whittling down the enemy — you’ll lose too many men to attrition if you march directly to Aachen.
After taking down your western brother, you’ll likely need to fight at least one civil war to consolidate power. Your own son, living in Bavaria, is ready to try to take your throne. Try to appease him by giving him some more vassals or a gift of gold, if you can. Avoiding the war as much as possible will yield a much better reward.
Once the kingdoms are stabilized, your next goal will be to form the Holy Roman Empire. You’ll need to be in the good graces of the Pope down in the Vatican, or you’ll need some kind of hook over said Pope. You’ll also need some gold and prestige. The Holy Roman Empire is always plagued by difficulties with its internal politics, mirroring its historical reality. Be careful not to let your work dissolve too quickly.
Crusader Kings 3 | Best Rulers in 1066
Starting the game in 1066 makes the map look radically different than it does in 867. Larger kingdoms are more common, and the grip of Islam on the Iberian peninsula started to loosen. Many kingdoms that would have been raiders in 867 will have converted to Christianity by this point.
King Svend II Estridsen of Denmark
Denmark is an interesting start for 1066 in Crusader Kings 3. They’ll be wedged between a number of powerful states, but King Svend II has a few traits about him that might help. First off, he’s got two sons, but also has the “Scandinavian Elective” succession method enabled. This means you can pick your favorite, or simply vote for another family member altogether.
It’s worth noting that Denmark isn’t great at fighting in this time period. You lack enough troops to really take on any of the major powers around you. This forces you to find other ways to expand your territory, whether it’s through diplomatic methods, underhanded schemes, or just careful investment. Denmark is a great country to try and “build tall.” Move your capital to Lund to magnify the bonuses you receive from the Lund Cathedral.
The best part of playing Denmark in this time period comes about if you have the Northern Lords DLC. With this DLC, you have the chance to unlock a hidden empire, the North Sea Empire. This is an incredibly powerful empire that really did exist for a short period of time! One of the most difficult achievements in the game is linked to it. To unlock the North Sea Empire, you need to hold Denmark, Norway, and England for thirty continuous years. Svend II is one of the best starts to have a chance at this achievement, since he starts off with a claim on all of Norway right off the bat. Your challenge is simply figuring out how to capitalize on it.
King Malcolm of Scotland
If you’d like to play a much more relaxed game with minimal warfare or expansion, Scotland in 1066 is a great pick. Malcolm is great with diplomacy. The starting situation for Scotland is fairly favorable, with many of their immediate rivals preoccupied with other problems nearby. For example, England is being invaded by the Bastard of Normandy, and sometimes various Viking groups will gang up on them as well. You can simply wait out Norway until Harald Haralde dies and they start to fracture. This is your opportunity to take back the northern and western parts of your kingdom. Be careful not to overplay your hand too quickly, as your military isn’t exceptionally strong from the beginning. Hiring some archers is a smart way to capitalize on your hilly terrain.
The Isle of Man is another easy target for early expansion. In fact, it’s perhaps the only target with any weakness at all this early on. You can turn to the Sudreyjar if they become distracted fighting in Ireland as well. Scotland is a relaxing way to play the game while still providing opportunities to expand across the British Isles. You also start with the special building Hadrian’s Wall. This doesn’t provide any defensive bonuses, but does make building in the tiles bordering England quite a bit cheaper.
Duke Vratislav of Bohemia
Bohemia is a lot easier to play in 1066, when it’s a vassal of the powerful Holy Roman Empire. This is important, as the Holy Roman Empire votes for its next Kaiser. Democracy opens up opportunities for intrigue that could lead to you taking the whole empire for yourself down the line. If you’re interested in playing as a vassal state of a massive power, this is a great pick. Save up a bit of money early on to pick up a second duchy. Eventually, you’ll be crowned King of Bohemia all without needing to expand at all.
This is just a great all-around start, letting you experience a lot of different parts of the game in whatever measured way you’d like. Staying a vassal for a long time can be a really rewarding experience for players that have gotten bored of expanding until they burst.
Your land will contain everything belonging to the Czech culture, giving you massive influence over its development. By default, Czech culture is great at building mountain castles and defending them with specialized mountaineering troops. Stack a lot of “Development” points around your capital so you can rapidly build up a powerhouse of an economy.
King Alphonso VI “The Brave” of Leon
Our number three pick for the best start in Crusader Kings 3 are the Spanish borthers. We couldn’t make this guide without including at least one entry about a Spanish ruler that has the potential to take back all of Iberia. Your first order of business as Alphonso will be to subjugate your neighboring brothers in a smaller-scale version of the brotherly conflict playing out across Francia in 867.
While any of the three are great picks, Leon is situated in the middle and makes for the most dynamic early gameplay. You’ll likely want to try and absorb your brother to the west before you make a play at taking Castille. Luckily, if things go really wrong and you lose all your claims in a contest with your brothers, you can probably just keep playing as the victor since they’re all in the same dynasty.
If you decide war is the quickest path to getting the land you want, make sure you recruit some pikemen. They fare well in hilly terrain and will counter the cavalry your Spanish opponents are likely using. Once you’ve wrapped things up with your brothers, you can start to make your way south on a holy warpath. Alternatively, you could head to the east to absorb the other Christian kingdoms where you have claims.
The versatility of this start is one of the reasons it ranks so highly among characters you can play in 1066, and at the top of our list for rulers that start in Spain.
Out of any starting ruler you can pick from on the Indian subcontinent, Raja Vijayabahu is one of the best. He’s in one of the best positions to build a powerful kingdom within the opening month of the game. While you do begin the game at war with a seemingly larger kingdom, this war is balanced in your favor by the addition of 4000 special levied soldiers. Reinforce these levies with men-at-arms before you engage with the forces from the Chola kingdom and their potential allies. Ideally, let the Chola forces walk all the way to the southern end of the island before you take them down in friendly territory.
Once you win the Sinhalese Rebellion, you’ll be in possession of the entire island. This lets you form the Kingdom of Lanka. From here, you can continue to expand northward, potentially forming the Deccan Empire later on. Some other smart moves you can make right away are forming the Raj of Maya, raising your crown authority to limited, and revoking the title of your only vassal to consolidate power. With a martial education, a young age, and good land, this is one of the best starting positions in India.
India is an interesting playthrough with a very different flavor from the religious wars of Europe and Africa. Claims will matter a lot more out here. The Indian religions aren’t hostile to each other, so maneuvering your way to victory might take a lot of effort.
Earl Murchad mac Diarmait of Dubhlinn
Finally, we’ve got our pick for the best 1066 start in Crusader Kings 3. We need to loop back to “tutorial island,” Ireland. The tutorial has you start with a different Irish ruler, but we recommend Earl Murchad of Dubhlinn. With him, you can own the de jure capital of Ireland right from the get-go. While you start with very little land at the beginning of the game, your father is seventy-two and you will inherit his land very soon. Focus on building up as much as you can until then. Once you get your inheritance, start to expand outward to the rest of the island.
Beyond starting with your Kingdom capital, you also start the game as Catholic, instead of Insular like the rest of Ireland. You can convert to maintain good relations with your neighbors, or use your religion to bring foreign allies into your belligerence. This option brings a lot of versatility and potential into your game. It also remains very accessible, since most of your early targets will be of your similar culture, size, and disposition. You can focus on building the emerald isle up in the long run instead of squabbling over individual counties.
Join the High Ground
That’s it for our ranking of the best starting rulers in Crusader Kings 3! With these tips behind you, you can establish a dynasty that’ll last. Let us know your favorite starting ruler in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this!