Crusader Kings 3: Tours and Tournaments Review
Crusader Kings sometimes feels like it came together by accident. You can feel this acutely in Crusader Kings 2, which started as a complex grand strategy game but grew to be a strange sort of RPG. Crusader Kings 3 on the other hand, was trying to be an RPG from day one. And now with the arrival of the Tours and Tournaments expansion, another layer of strategy abstraction gives way to something a little more personal.
Monarchs World Tour
Much like the Royal Court expansion, Crusader Kings 3: Tours and Tournaments shifts the physical space where the game takes place. The core features are new mechanics that simulate your ruler traveling across the map and attending events. In the base game, you could go on a hunt or throw a feast with the click of a button, which would lead to a box filled with dialogue options. Now, each event happens in stages. Before you attend your liege’s feast or what have you, you need to plan a route and get your character (and their entourage) to their destination safely.
While planning a route, you need to assess how safe the journey will be, and longer journeys are more expensive. If you need to cross terrain that your character is unfamiliar with, you better bring a guide. And if you’re playing as a bookish curmudgeon, you may want to hire mercenary bodyguards too. Then you’re treated to a little animation of a pawn (representing your character and their crew) crossing the map just like an army would.
This completely changes the feel of the entire game. Before when you wanted to attend an activity, you would choose to do it and then be teleported right there. The character seemed to occupy a similar space to the player, existing as an abstract entity looking down at a map, but not inhabiting that map. Tours and Tournaments separates the player from the character in a substantial way. For the better. Now you think about how personality, politics, and geography all contribute to the story of your dynasty.
Lost At Sea
New mechanics naturally lead to new emergent narratives. I remember a time for example when I was playing the king of Ireland and a neighboring ruler invited me to a feast. Of course I accepted. The benefits far outweigh the costs of attending another lord’s event. But everything is different now, and what I found was disaster. I had to play out my king’s laborious journey. I brought all the wrong guys so when we hit bad weather, not everyone made it. And where does this other lord live again? Iceland!? Uh-oh.
We never made it to the feast. We eventually got to Iceland, but by the time we were arriving, the feast was long over. Would this little anecdote make for a good movie? Probably not. But the chaos of the simulation can lead to all sorts of insane stories. Bridging the gap in your imagination and making sense of the game is where the major storytelling happens. It’s what makes Crusader Kings 3 such a unique game.
The Taxman Cometh
There are also the titular tours. I love these. They remind me of that one episode in the first season of Outlander. You plan your route to go check out every corner of your kingdom. And you get to pick your attitude and the purpose of the trip. Are you here to collect taxes? Maybe you’re on the prowl for lecherous vices. Or maybe you simply want to be seen by your vassals to remind them you’re the boss and they should watch out. Or perhaps you just want to play all your lords in a chess tournament. You really get to feel the full size and diversity of your kingdom.
And then there are the titular tournaments! These take place on the ground, and your character will explore a little discrete instance of tournament space. These events are just as wide-ranging as the tours. You can participate or spectate or officiate. You can choose a melee, an archery contest, a joust, or play an episode of Medieval The Voice. And you can go shopping, spy, murder, and do all the great Crusader Kings verbs, only now you’re in a real place again.
Rolling With Your Crew
On top of the major stuff, Tours and Tournaments brings about a whole slew of minor changes. I keep encountering new events, at the new activities but also just randomly occurring. There also seem to be a lot more avenues to making friends or rivals. Little animations grace all the new mechanics and they do a lot of heavy lifting. I like seeing everyone’s expression on a hunting trip to figure out who is bloodthirsty and who is here out of obligation. The drunken wedding expressions are pretty priceless too.
I don’t know how I feel overall about the release schedule and pricing of Paradox expansion packs. Maybe it’s a lot, or maybe it’s a fair price. What I do know is that these big expansions look to change the feel of the game in significant ways. Measured against that standard, Tours and Tournaments is another huge step forward for Crusader Kings, the best emergent narrative RPG/strategy game around!
***PC code provided by the publisher***
- New spaces to play
- Expands existing gameplay ideas
- New features look great
- These expansions add up in price