You gain access to the Stronghold on the first winter Season after you conquer one of London (Logres), Viroconium (Powys), Norgales or Norfolk. Note that for London and Viroconium, the other Location will become a Settlement once you have established Camelot; you will not get a second Stronghold until you either conquer the Welsh (Norgales) or the Saxons (Norfolk).
Three game mechanics are activated with the Stronghold: Boroughs, the Chancellery and Upgrades.
Available via the icon at the top of the screen, these are the components of your actual stronghold.
You get to construct a maximum of 6 boroughs, from a choice of 11 possibilities. Each borough initially takes a certain amount of time and gold to build and then allows you to develop up to 4 districts related to that borough's nature.
You can queue building up to 4 boroughs (or their districts) at once, but they will be built one after the other, taking the full amount of turns, even if that runs into a total duration of a few years.
The 11 boroughs are listed below with their districts; the benefits of each borough and district are listed after its cost. Each borough or district takes a certain number of turns and gold to finish and these are listed immediately after the name.
- Merchant's Court (1, 2000): Better gold/food exchange in the Chancellery
- Guildhall (3, 8000): +10% tax from "Stronghold and neighbouring provinces" (SANP)
- Inns (1, 1500): Trade quests are more frequent
- Storehouse (2, 4000): +10% food SANP
- Craftsmen's Street (1, 1500): +20% trade SANP
- Anvil Lane (3, 3000): -15% recruitment cost SANP
- Blacksmith (1, 4000): -20% costs of unit and military upgrades
- Mint (1, 3000): +500 gold per season
- Foundry (1, 4000): -20% research on unit and military upgrades
- Artisan Workshop (1, 4000): chance to create an artifact every year
- Manor (3, 6000): +20% food SANP
- Shambles (1, 3000): +500 food per season
- Granary (2, 4000): +10% food SANP
- Quarry (1, 5000): -20% building costs and time for Stronghold
- Supply House (1, 3000): -25% upkeep for armies in Stronghold
- Tourney Grounds (1, 1500): +100 xp for new units
- Commune (1, 1000): +20% military SANP
- Veteran Camp (1, 3500): +200 xp for new units
- Gatekeepers (1, 2000): +10% loyalty SANP
- Outpost (1, 3000): -25% upkeep for armies in the Stronghold
- Town Council (1, 5000): +0.5% population SANP
- Tax Collectors (3, 8000): +10% food and gold SANP
- City Watch (1, 1000): +20% public safety SANP
- Sewer (1, 2000): +20% health SANP
- Magistrate (1. 3000): -20% costs for Law and Decree upgrades
- Cathedral (4, 8000): +1 Christian morality, +20% Christianity SANP
- Monastery (2, 3000): +2 Christianity to all heroes
- Scriptorium (1, 4000): +5 research points
- Holy Order (1, 2000): +2 crusader units defending Stronghold
- Hospice (4, 8000): +10 mana all heroes
- Keep (4, 8000): +2 Tyrant morality
- Gaol (1, 2000): less chance of prisoners escaping and larger ransoms
- Garrison (1, 2000): +2 brigand units defending Stronghold
- Arena (3, 6000): +1 fight for all heroes
- Torture Chambers (2, 3000): +2 Tyrant all heroes
- Virtuous Ward (4, 8000): +2 Rightful morality
- Orphanage (2, 3000): +2 Rightful all heroes
- Infirmary (4, 6000): +500 hp all heroes
- Halls of Commanders (3, 6000): +1 leadership all heroes
- Halls of Royalty (3, 6000): +1 reign all heroes
- Sacred Meadow (4, 8000): +1 Old faith morality, +20% Old Faith SANP
- Sidhe Legation (2, 3000): +2 Old Faith all heroes
- Sidhe Footpath (4, 8000): armies can teleport between strongholds
- Sidhe Pathways (4, 8000): armies can teleport to any stone circle
- Well of Essence (4, 8000): +10 mana all heroes
- Towers of Knightly Deeds (6, 10000): +1 skill point for all heroes
- Vaults of the Chroniclers (1, 2000): +10% xp from adventures
- Jousting Courts (4, 7000): +1 ability point all heroes
- Garden of the Damsels (1, 3000): 30% chance of a lady joining court every year
- Chambers of Victory (4, 8000): +5% xp from battles
- Academy (1, 4000): +5 Research Points
- Tribunal (1, 3000): Stronghold, Province, Hero and Spell upgrades cost -20% gold and food
- Royal Workshop (1, 4000): +15% total research
- Halls of Wisdom (6, 10000): +1 skill point for all heroes
- The Great Archives (1, 4000): Stronghold, Province, Hero and Spell upgrades cost -20% research
The Chancellery is where you control the overriding aspects of your kingdom. Most importantly, you get to see your bottom line in gold and food usage; and adjust your tax levels to suit your needs. Be warned that tax rates at 35% and above will reduce provincial loyalty. You may also trade Gold for Food and vice-versa, at a penalty; the penalty can be reduced by constructing Merchant's Courts in Strongholds and researching "Merchants' Guild".
Besides income and expenditure, here you can also institute or revoke Laws (long term management strategies that you can turn on or off every winter) or issue decrees (pro-tem policies that have a fixed duration and impact).
The Chancellery is only accessible during Winter.
Upgrades are where you really get to make a major difference to the turn-to-turn mechanics of the game in keeping with your personal playstyle. Upgrades cost Research Points (RPs), Gold and Food. Like the Chancellery, Upgrades are only accessible during Winter. You can queue up to 4 research items at once, but the research will be carried out one after the other.
RPs are primarily generated by Strongholds and Abbeys with heroes stationed in them. However, note that Rightful rulers can gain +10 RPs for their starting Stronghold.
Upgrades are split into three main sections, selectable at the top.
- You can research advances for different types of units in this section, as well as a few other military related improvements that affect your armies and kingdom in general, including decreased upkeep and increased movement for your armies.
- Researching unit upgrades which affect many units you currently have should only be considered if you can afford the increased upkeep cost.
- Here, you can research developments that tend to affect the individual statistics of the provinces across the whole kingdom. Remember that your armies have a seasonal upkeep; a stronger economy means bigger armies.
- The improvements you can research here generally affect miscellaneous aspects of the kingdom as a whole, from attributes of the knights through those of the provinces, to how random quests work. Research-wise, the "Centralized Kingdom" upgrade allows Camelot to generate more RPs.
- Like spells obtained via alignments, your Knights have to spend skill points in order to use the spells/skills obtained via research.
In The Saxons and The Druids DLCs, there are more Strongholds as compared to the Original Campaign. In addition to the original 4 Strongholds, Arthur starts with a Stronghold at Exeter (Dumnonia).
With the introduction of neutral factions, all Strongholds can potentially come under attack by one or more factions.