4 Nobles are vital from the first turn.
Spread your initial regulars and mercenaries so you’ve got at least 3 nobles on 100. They can then siege cities from turn one.
In general you want 3 nobles for besieging/attacking/defending cities and 1 ‘super noble’ tooled up to take on enemy nobles/cities. In fact, taking an undefended city under enemy control is better than taking a neutral city. It puts you up one and him down one…
Placing nobles is vital. Spread them out along the roads so they can come to each others aid, but also strike at opponents. Bunching up in a corner is just blocking yourself in and reducing your options. Cities will come and go, but you need to be in a position to both defend against and strike at multiple opponents.
Stay on the roads if you can. Never put more than one noble at a time into the wilderness, and then only to take a city. It’s better to vie for control of cities on roads than mess about in the forests. Port cities are important too, giving you a lot of coastal mobility. And of course they open up overseas cities. If you can, take Jerusalem – you’ll not want for cash thereafter. Don’t put too much effort into these cities though as they tie up your nobles away from the main show. I’d dedicate one noble at most to ‘overseas service’.
In taking cities, defend each you take with a noble, until you get to 4 cities. This will consolidate your base gains. Once you have them though you’ll need to leave them unattended as you strike out for more cities – preferably your opponents!
You’ll need mercenaries so get your place on the muster roll early; but ensure you have enough coins to get the best mercenaries on offer. And don’t forget, if you’re on the muster more than once you can recruit mercs of the same nationality all in one go…every extra you buy, denies troops to your enemies.
Money’s a problem early on but once you get a few taxation rounds and a merchant ship or two in, you should have more than enough to hire and pay your armies as well as cope with calamites like city revolts. Always fund a merchant venture, even with 1 coin if you can, and preferably with 5. Nothing boosts your treasury like a couple of ships coming in at x3! It’s as risk though but usually worth it, especially if the church blesses the ship..
Control of the Assembly is vital, I think more so than the church. Ensure you’ve always got a few votes knocking about and if an assembly is due this round, get your planning in to try and take control before it arrives. Its surprising how many votes come down to the chairman to break the tie and it’s an easy way to pick up some useful scraps as well as some devastating Offices, Charges, Laws, etc.
Control of the Church is important when there are events. However, you’ll be expending faith making holding onto the Church more difficult. Consider negotiating favours etc. when handing out good/bad events to try and avoid spending faith.
Action timing is vital. Influence scoring is during ach upkeep so is it better to get your attacks out of the way early and hope to hold your gains, or do you put your attacks into Stack 3 and grab those ‘cities of opportunity’ just before the scoring occurs?
Special actions are vital, so keep an eye on where they’re at, and what state your opponents are in.
During the planning phase you’re looking to take down an opponent for this round by capturing a city and killing a couple of his nobles.
He’s got better armies than you, but you see he’s low on coins and a wages special action is nearly done.
So put your action cards in Stack 1 that will force a wages special action. He’ll lose a lot of mercenaries as he won’t be able to pay them! Then in Stack 2 you can put your attack actions in on his weakened nobles. And if you can get an assembly you control in first and hit him with an overseas Charge (reducing his strength) or marshal the church / events to ensure his nobles have no heir, you can really mess up an opponent’s plans!
Short of cash? Get those yellow flag actions in early to force a taxation round and boost your finances.
The special actions can really be used to your advantage and your opponents disadvantage if you get your timing right.
Negotiate. You need to smile to their face as you stab them in the back. Consider limiting you own war-making and concentrate on building while encouraging others to fight. If you can weaken an opponent who other players are attacking, it will be of little loss to you, but you’ll gain from them fighting each other to a standstill.