There is already an article on playing as William the Conqueror, but it is slightly outdated, with new updated and different AI reactions.
Titles of William and his family.
When starting out as William the Conqueror, you face several challenges in your quest for the throne of England. William starts out with only 3 titles, Duke of Normandy, County of Rouen, and Baron of Beaumont. Beaumont is of little use to you, but keep it to help revenue until you finish your war. Your eldest son, Robert, is already Count of Maine. You have 3 sons and 4 daughters, all of which are not adults yet. Your kinsman also controls the County of Eu, and one of your half-brothers is the count of Mortain as well. You also start out with 1000 gold, a large fortune, but try not to waste it unless mercenaries are desperately needed
There are immediate tasks that need to be done before even before clicking unpause. Immediately resign your position as commander of France. You are one of, if not the, greatest commanders in France. Capet will use you to command his armies, putting your life on the line and your martial skill will not be added for your cause: The Kingdom of England. After resigning, set your ambition to become Marshall of France. William typically has about 22 martial skill, while other courtiers and vassals of France rarely have over 18. When you unpause, Capet will ask you to be on his council as Marshall. When you gain the base martial for having you ambition achieved, resign. You can optionally do this again for other traits, as William is extremely skilled in all stats except for learning. Next, set your eldest son Robert and your second eldest son Richard to be educated yourself. When William comes of age, appoint him to an intelligent guardian, hopefully someone with the brilliant strategist trait. Finally, put your spymaster in England with a build spy network job, this will clear the fog of war around England. try to place them in a relatively central area in Southern England, Oxford (my personal favorite), Warwick, or Bedford are all good choices.
After Unpausing/The war with Harold Godwinson
The war is on! Do not put your soldiers on their boats yet. Keep them in Normandy! Normandy typically starts out with around 11,500 to 12,000 soldiers (England has around 10,000-11,000 and Norge has 12,000-14000) without any dlcs or mods, but it is possible for the number to be larger or smaller. Wait in Normandy for Harold Godwinson to bring his army into Normandy. When his troops land, they will have at best half morale, attack them when they land. A second army consisting of around 100 men will arrive while you fighting the first stack. Regarding using William in battle, try not use him against England. Keep him off the field for now unless England wins the first battle or the chance to attack the low-morale army is wasted. Only use William if the battle seems like it isn't a guaranteed win. After defeating the first army, attack the 100 man stack that landed in Normandy. This may seem pointless, but it is typically led by Harold Godwinson himself or his skilled brother Gyrth of Norfolk, while the other one typically leads the main English army. If you are lucky, you will capture Harold or his brother and increase your war-score. Gyrth is an adept general, a rival to yourself. He also is Harold's brother, so capturing him will increase your warscore. If you manage to capture Harold in that 100 man army, the war is over. If not, keep attacking the main English army, do not give it any chance to recover. It also cannot raise reinforcements due to being in foreign ground, Normandy and sometimes France. Do not be afraid to chase Harold's army into France, but be wary of crossing into the HRE. The HRE often declares war on France, and they are hostile to any vassal of France. Keep punishing Harold for ever coming to France. After taking down his army again and again, until it consists of too little men to do anything significant, transport your army into England. Land in Middlesex or Kent, and lay siege to either Middlesex or Winchester (AKA Wessex), they have the lowest defenders. Avoid Bedford, it is extremely poorly supplied and attrition will kill off your army. After 100 war-score, force Harold to surrender. He is imprisoned, but you turn your attention to a bigger problem: Harald Hardrada.
The War with Hardrada
Picture [Harald Hardradra in his prime, aged 51. His heir is set to his younger son Olav. Note he is already a skilled commander even at his age]
Harald Hardrada is a far more dangerous opponent than Godwinson. Harald has more troops, better generals, and he has a warscore advantage: while you have been fighting Harold, he has been besieging and looting the Northern English coastline. Harald also has a couple flaws: he is old, his army is split in 2-3 pieces, and with his death, his claim to England dies. With Harald's death, instant white peace, and you get to keep your English crown. Raise all your new English soldiers, and merge them with your Norman army. Put William I (your new title) as the head if you like, and if any of your sons have a military education but not brilliant strategist, put them up as well in the hopes they will increase their skill. Then, move your spymaster to create a network in the Northern area, close to York. This will allow you to see Hardradra's armies. If not, choose a commander and march North. Once there, you must be careful. Harald sometimes puts his army into 2 groups, sometimes 3. If he has two groups, he will have one large stack of around 12,000 and a tiny stack of 2,500. If he has 3 groups, he will have the 2,500 stack and two 7,000 man stacks, all three within a close distance so they can help if you attack one. Use the many rivers of England to your advantage, and try to goad him across them. Or, if one of his armies gets isolated, attack it and follow it so you can isolate it from the other stack(s) from helping. Keep his forces away from each other. Should Harald be killed, in combat or through other causes, the war is over. If not, separate his armies and try to retake York and other Northern counties. Eventually, Harald will surrender. You gain more English soldiers by the second, and he has no way to replenish his forces quickly. Harald will usually vassilize Jemtland and the Duchy of Island, but this rarely adds any significant forces. However, if the war drags on for many years, his personal and vassal levies will recharge enough to send one or two thousand reinforcements. Harald also almost always personally leads his army, so wounding, maiming, or killing him on the field is a possibility. He also tends to have one or both of his sons lead armies with him, either in his main army or another stack. You can try to capture his heir, but they only occasionally lead armies and the chance of capturing them in battle is small. Both Magnus and Olav will leave you alone after their father's defeat, unless England is too weak to defend itself.
Picture [The powerful Duke of Northumbria and his brother. Together they control most of Northern England. Wait for one of them to have a child, and make a move on them. Do not try to fight both at the same time]
Although you have beaten off other claimants, your throne is far from secure. You should be around 50 years old, and your sons are adults and possibly fathers as well. The electors of England do not want a Norman king, and they will all vote for Englishmen. The imprisoned Harold, now Duke of Somerset, typically receives most of the votes. Do not execute Harold, the English vassals already hate you, do not make it worse. Harold typically dies in his late 50s or early 60s, and this can be made sooner by throwing him in the oubliette. The Dukes of Lancaster and York are both immensely powerful and wealthy, both have 2 duchies and around 3-4 counties. Worse, they are the only two male members of the Hwicce Dynasty, so they will their immense lands to each other. Wait for one of them to have (a) child(ren), and then make a move on them. Using intrigue, fabricate claims on their lands. When you attempt to revoke, they will fight to keep their lands. Use any surviving standing Norman army, as well as your vassals and your own personal soldiers to force them to surrender. Keep using intrigue to plot against your vassals, take as much of their land as you can. Give counties to Richard and William, and give duchies to Robert and your least favorite son (usually William II). Vote on your favorite (or surviving) son, Richard tends to be the best but any of them will do. When your sons have land, they will vote for one of them. Although you now have 3 votes, the dukes of England combined have 4 or 5. They typically vote for (in order of popularity): Harold himself (if he is still alive), Leofwine, Duke of Kent (Harold's younger brother), Harold's eldest son Godwine, Gyrth of Norfolk, and the Hwicce brothers sometimes vote for themselves or each other. Keep taking land from your vassals whenever possible, arrest them for plotting and hope they escape and rebel. You want them to rebel so you can revoke their land when you beat them. Also, vassals without any family are forced to will their land to you, keep an eye out for fresh land. Keep giving out land to your family and/or Norman courtiers. Appoint your half-brother Odo as heir to a bishopric, as this will disqualify him from becoming an option for king and also he has an education in clerical matters, so he may become your court chaplain if no one else is better. If you look on you family tree many distant relatives are willing to join your court. If too many vassals vote for a claimant, assassination is an option. Keep your options open, keep revoking titles until England in truly Norman, and keep your succession strong.
Domestic Affairs, Part 2
After crushing those initial rebellions, you must begin the slow and gradual process of gaining control of the electors of England and holding onto your realm. By now William should be in his late 50s or even older, he has the brilliant strategist trait so he lives a little longer than most (he typically lives to be around 70), but even he is not immortal. If you are already the next generation, this still applies. By now you should have consolidated power into an heir. If not, anger vassals who voted for an Englishman into rebelling and revoking their land. If you have an family heir but it is not your favored, do not assassinate the elected one. It is better to have an incompetent king of your dynasty than a competent one of another dynasty. After crushing the first rebellions, you have probably killed or imprisoned most of the male dukes in England. The few that remain will all their land to each other, and the more you kill, the more powerful the remaining ones become. Worse, if they have no male heir they will give it a female in their dynasty. Those female duchesses have the dangerous habit of marrying the few remaining male dukes, and when they have children both parents will their duchies into this "superchild". To fix this, try to arrange marriages with the dukes and duchesses, preferably with someone they will either have a lot of children with (if they have gavelkind), or no children (if they have primogeniture or a succession crisis.). If factions with more troops than you start to appear, do not worry. William is still a great warrior, even in his old age, and using areas with rivers like Middlesex and Gloucester will even the playing field without even needing mercenaries, unless rebels have more than 50% troops more than you. Try to target the dukes and duchesses one by one, especially if they are leaders of factions. Revoke titles from any Englishman you can without occurring tyranny. As stated above, distribute this land among your Norman courtiers, family, and sons. Vassals without any family will also will their land to the king, check the tab to see if you are heir to anything unusual: you are heir to the County of Maine unless Robert has a child, the same applies for other sons if they are given land.
Picture [Even William will not last forever. In this picture, he died at age 75 after reigning England for 36 years. This was taken 3 generations later, which is why everyone in the picture is dead and the king in the corner is unfamiliar]
Thanks for reading!!!
Written on 11/11/16
By: Exotic Lemon