The Sons of Raghnall: Battle Statistics

I’m not feeling narratively inspired this week, so I ripped some statistics from the save instead. In particular, casualty statistics for land battles. Let us begin with the most obvious, the kill/loss record:

Kills, losses, ratio:
TAI : 129717, 29093, 4.45855
SND : 199598, 60225, 3.31415
AZT : 345576, 161399, 2.14112
QIN : 385371, 209114, 1.84287
SPA : 617279, 367227, 1.68091
KHA : 178625, 123839, 1.44239
BEN : 381783, 266622, 1.43192
RMN : 290812, 206700, 1.40692
KOR : 74709, 60711, 1.23055
GBR : 326372, 267566, 1.21978
INC : 142072, 118677, 1.19712
TIB : 258263, 234322, 1.10217
HIN : 203659, 192224, 1.05948
RUS : 304597, 300069, 1.01509
SCA : 264561, 287676, 0.919646
BAV : 115908, 136852, 0.846953
ITA : 283759, 335143, 0.846678
MSA : 2552, 3078, 0.828841
FRA : 201174, 261344, 0.769764
GRE : 42195, 55448, 0.76097
HUN : 182273, 255209, 0.714208
NAJ : 55076, 115466, 0.476985

Note Taira as the surprise winner of the most-deadly contest, presumably due to not getting involved in land wars in Asia against human powers – as far as I can recall, the only time Taira has fought any land wars is against other AI countries, to unify Japan. Their involvement in human wars has been naval. Notice likewise the fantastically low battle casualties of Malaya, for similar reasons. The Aztecs, however, have earned their 2-to-1 kill rate honourably, fighting off Britain and Spain.

Next up, the who-whom statistics: In human/human engagements, who inflicted losses on whom? This has killers down the columns and victims across; so to find out, eg, how many Hungarian soldiers have been killed by Scandinavia (32 thousand, as it happens, versus 9600 the other way; not that anyone should think less of the Hungarians for this, they can’t help being, um, the way they are), go down the first column until you reach SCA, then across until you reach HUN. The numbers are in thousands.

TAI 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 24.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
SND 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 0.0 32.9 23.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 21.8 27.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 60.8
AZT 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 65.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 172.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 100.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
QIN 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 28.1 0.0 0.0 17.1 0.0 0.0 145.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
SPA 0.0 2.8 32.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 77.7 8.9 0.0 0.0 77.7 0.0 2.6 45.9 28.6 0.0 155.1 0.0 56.0 0.0 10.0 0.0
KHA 0.0 3.0 0.0 21.9 0.0 0.0 12.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.5 1.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
BEN 0.0 13.1 0.0 0.0 15.9 11.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 87.1 0.0 5.6 0.0 7.1 1.6 0.0 1.6 0.0 14.8
RMN 0.0 2.1 0.0 0.0 12.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 31.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 62.9 28.0 17.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 32.2 6.6 0.0
KOR 2.2 0.0 0.0 11.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
GBR 0.0 0.0 78.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 64.6 0.0 0.0 37.7 0.0 0.0 6.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 33.7 8.2 15.8 0.0
INC 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 116.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 7.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.6 0.0 14.7 0.0 0.0 0.0
TIB 0.0 5.9 0.0 116.1 0.0 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 45.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 9.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
HIN 0.0 5.5 0.0 0.0 0.7 4.7 35.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 21.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.3 0.0 23.4
RUS 0.0 0.0 48.5 0.0 54.0 0.0 0.0 51.1 0.0 1.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 61.9 1.4 0.0 20.8 2.3 22.5 0.0
SCA 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 12.5 0.0 4.4 18.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 15.4 0.0 0.0 54.0 0.0 32.0 0.0
BAV 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 7.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 18.5 4.7 0.0 43.2 0.0 0.8 0.0 4.1 0.0
ITA 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 49.9 0.0 23.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.2 2.0 5.1 0.0 24.3 0.0 1.5 14.5 1.6 103.3 0.0
MSA 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
FRA 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 16.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 14.8 2.5 0.0 0.0 35.7 32.6 1.0 9.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 43.6 0.0
GRE 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 9.9 9.8 0.0 5.8 0.0 0.0 1.3 4.2 0.0 0.0 3.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.4
HUN 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.0 6.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 13.7 9.6 14.8 67.3 0.0 38.8 0.0 0.0 0.0
NAJ 0.0 14.9 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 20.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 3.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.1 0.0 0.0

Again with those Aztecs: Britain has the dubious honour of having lost the most soldiers against a single opponent, at 172k, and that opponent is the Aztecs; while conversely the Aztecs have only lost 79k to Britain. Notice also the horrible beating Italy has taken at the hands of Spain, with almost half its total casualties from that conflict; and what’s more, Italy is second-highest in total losses, which is impressive (is that the right word?) considering they’re nowhere near second-highest in manpower or size.

A curiosity: Taira has only lost 2200 men against other humans, Korea to be specific; but has somehow killed 24k Koreans. That’s amazingly lopsided, but does seem to be accurate – looking through the save manually, I see a lot of Taira-versus-Korea stackwipes. Not clear what happened there; the Asians are notoriously closemouthed about the history of their part of the world.

Sometimes this sort of thing is easier to see visually, so here is the same matrix converted into a histogram:

Same organisation, but red means “lots of dead guys” and white means “never fought those guys”. Linear, then logarithmic.

Loss matrix

Logarithmic loss matrix

Finally, the number of pixels killed each game year of the campaign so far:

Losses by year

See if you can spot your favourite war. :)

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Azure Three Bezants: Special Thanksgiving Edition

This week: A geopolitical survey of what the player slots of Europe are thankful for.

World Map, 1392

World map, 1392, including player vassals.

The Aiello of Venice are thankful for ducats, shekels, benjamins, florins, shillings, guineas, guilders, thalers, and bezants. If it weren’t for the invention of coinage, what would we burrow through like porpoises? What would we dig through like moles? What would we throw up in the air and allow to rain down on our heads? And what, not to put too fine a point on it, would we bathe in? Seriously, you don’t want to live in a world where the Aiello can’t bathe in money; not after they’ve taken up the habit of garlic sausages from their neighbours.

The Lazuli of Greece are, of course, grateful for garlic; not only does it make their sausages taste great, it also makes their enemies keep their distance. But they don’t bother saying that sort of thing at Thanksgiving, it would be like saying you were grateful for breathing. Which, ok, yes, the Lazuli actually are grateful for breathing, lots of times it looked like they weren’t going to, but it makes you sound like a smartass who is not taking this stuff seriously. Anyway! Back on point, the Lazuli are grateful for the existence of logic; obviously it was pure logic that convinced the English to give them their current empire. Because, if you just think about it logically, there wasn’t anything better that could have been done with those provinces, was there? The Lazuli are not grateful to the English, mind you. The English were just doing what logically ought to have been done by anyone who could think about it for a few minutes.

The Kruel dynasty of Poland are grateful for the sweet, sweet peace of the grave. Nobody bothering them, nobody demanding that they inherit Hungary or not inherit Hungary, no Intrigue Focuses to avoid or overlords to keep satisfied… peace at last! That Thucydides, he knew what he was talking about. Most people just don’t realise he was actually a pacifist.

The Dantons of Germany are grateful for the German language, especially its consonants. Kaiserrreichhhh, they say to themselves, rolling the r and hitting the ‘ch’ sound with relish. Rrrr! Chhhh! Just the language to make yourself feel better about having to punish a rebellious vassal. Really, it’s sad when you have to put them down, but he had one job, and what can you do? Just repeat “Kaiserrreichhh” and try to think about something else.

The Rushids of Syria are grateful for the mercy of Christ, and for not being infidel swine like some people they could mention. People who are currently, you’ll notice, getting hit by multiple Holy Wars, and quite deservedly too. That’s the sort of thing that doesn’t happen to good Christian dynasties; not even if they converted only a generation ago. Christ is very merciful that way, and the Rushids are very thankful for that.

The Anubids of Egypt do not experience the human emotion of ‘gratitude’, per se. Or, indeed, any human emotions at all – at least, not in the Inner Circle, the individuals who have interacted directly with the Entity and who are, as a result, not precisely human anymore. And the head of the dynasty, of course, is not human in any sense whatever, except the purely biological one of possessing – the word is carefully chosen – a human body. Still, like any conscious beings, they have internal states that they experience when external events are in their favour, and other internal states that correspond to unfavourable externals. At the moment, then, they may be said to be pleased that things are going according to the Plan.

The Davion dynasty of Persia is not participating in this stupid custom. They are not grateful and they’re not going to pretend they are for the sake of some anachronistic infidel tradition. Just pass them some Turkey and shut up, ok? They’re just going to take some food back to their room and not bother anyone, and they would be gratef – that is, they would appreci – it would be nice if nobody bothered them either.

The Gyldenstierne of Denmark are grateful that there will always be an England. Especially since, apparently, they’re also going to have to put up with a pretty eternal-looking Germany. Excuse them, Kaiserrreichhh.

The Nestor of the Chagatai Khanate are grateful for crushing their enemies, for seeing them fall at their feet; for taking their horses and goods and hearing the lamentations of their women – wait, isn’t that what we were doing? Well then they don’t know. That’s what they had prepared. They’re not going to think up something new extemporaneously, what are they, some kind of thinking-up-things-on-the-spot machine? Crushing enemies, grateful, take it or leave it.

The D’Mertagne of the African Republic were going to do the money one, but the Aiello got there first which is so typical, why couldn’t we get to talk first for a change? Anyway now they don’t know. Oh wait, they’re grateful they have their trade zones all in a row, not scattered all across the Med like some people they know.

The Følsgaard of Russia are grateful they are not the designated black-magic guys this time around. In fact they are very happy they don’t know nothing about any kind of necromancy, no sir! Only white magic for Russia. Er, no magic, just mundane, um, non-magic things. Like, um, swords. Yes, swords; Russia is very grateful for swords. Oh dear, that came out kind of wrong, didn’t it? Er, well, the Følsgaard will sit down now. Um. Can they be grateful for chairs? And not swords or magic or any kind of unfriendly-sounding things at all.

The Shrewsburys of England are glad they are number one, because it’s good to be number one! Ha-ha, just kidding guys, of course we’re all equally valuable and some of you have armies almost as big and good as ours. No, seriously, they’re grateful we can all get together like this and have a peaceful and cheerful dinner together, with nobody sulking – well, almost nobody – and nobody bringing up any recent unpleasantness, and just being one big happy family without any squabbles or holy wars. Right? Cheers! Let’s eat!

Azure Three Bezants

I noticed the Great Powers fighting some Holy Wars this session, but did not stick around long enough to see who won; I kept my head down and crushed the last Italian holdouts. Also I built universities.

Central Med, 1392

Central Med, 1392. Last Italian holdouts unified. Now what shall I do?

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The Sons of Raghnall: The Baltic Shore

The Empire of the North Sea, as the Scandinavian state rather grandiosely called itself in formal writing, was a seaborne empire, whose wealth was based in control of the ocean trade. This fact defined its strength – that the Scandinavian peninsula was in effect immune to attack by an enemy without a strong navy; its weakness – that an enemy who did defeat the Kongelige Leidangsflåte could strangle its lifeblood; and its ambition – to fully control the far shore of the Baltic. The adventures of a few thousand, even a few tens of thousands, of colonial riffraff in distant America, although it was eventually to be the source of enormous wealth, did not interest the court in Edinburgh or the merchant nobles of Sjælland. Lacking the benefit of hindsight, they were far more focused on the immediate gains to be had from making the Baltic a completely Scandinavian lake; for the sake of this goal they had fought France over Holstein, Bohemia over Mecklenburg, Bavaria over Stettin, and Hungary over Danzig. Only Russia, of Scandinavia’s neighbours, had not felt the weight of its black-clad, psalm-chanting armies; and even so, the mosaic map of the Baltic that filled the floor of the Grand Hall in Edinburgh Castle – the coloured tiles scrupulously taken up and filled in again to reflect the results of every treaty – had no doubt felt many covetuous glances directed at its jade-green representation of Novgorod. But ambitious though they were, the MacRaghnalls were not known for mere foolhardiness; the enmity of the nations of Central and Western Europe sufficed them.

From an economic point of view, the Baltic is a broad highway, connecting Scandinavia’s timber, iron, copper, and furs to Europe’s grain, wine, and wool; militarily, it is a grand moat, sheltering the MacRaghnalls’ heartland from invasion. Both for war and for peace, therefore, control of the great waterway was of vital importance to the Scandinavian state. The control of the mainland ports, however, was only important in peacetime, when tolls and port fees formed a welcome addendum to the state’s revenue. In time of war, the Baltic shore – and even mainland Denmark – was, as a matter of deliberate strategy, given over to enemy armies; the defense of Scandinavia began in the Lillebælt, out of range of shore-based cannon. Unless the MacRaghnalls were themselves the aggressors, in which case their armies would be concentrated in Denmark or Estland beforehand, the first year or two of a Baltic war was always spent mobilising the regular armies from their far-flung garrisons, gathering stores and provisions, and drilling any peacetime slackness out of the troops. The mainland out-ports would have to look after themselves; although valuable as a source of revenue, their occupation did not of itself force the MacRaghnalls to a treaty table. As long as the Scandinavian peninsula – and, increasingly, the colonies – was under MacRaghnall control, they could fight; out-ports could be recovered in the eventual peace.

This strategy served the Norse well in the Dacian War, and again in the Three Years’ War, which also added an effective blockade of the French coast to the MacRaghnall arsenal. The Turocs of France – in a historical irony, a cadet branch of the Hungarian dynasty had inherited the throne of their ancient enemies, while a MacRaghnall laird had gained the crown of Hungary, thus completing a Stately Quadrille in which Hungary, formerly allied with France against Scandinavia and Italy, changed sides to ally with Scandinavia against Italy and France – were, however, no fools. In the Second Baltic War, they declined to again overrun the Baltic foreshore while allowing the MacRaghnalls time to gather their imperial resources for a deliberate counterstroke. Lacking the resources of timber, shipyards, and above all a large seagoing population tolerant of forcible recruitment, they instead hit upon the expedient of hiring a Mercenary Fleet, comprising hundreds of armed merchantmen and privateers from as far afield as India and Japan. Although individually not a match for the dedicated warships of the Leidangsflåte, the mercenaries were nonetheless able to exploit their vast numbers in the three-day Battle of Læsø to force the KL to take refuge in its fortified harbours, and thus gain sufficient control of the Bælts to allow a powerful French army to disrupt the Scandinavian regiments concentrating in Sjælland.

In itself this was still no disaster; the MacRaghnalls retained a large army in the field, and forested Skåne was eminently defensible against an enemy whose supply lines would stretch over waters vulnerable to disruptive convoy raids out of the Swedish ports. But the occupation of Sjælland hit many wealthy MacRaghnall courtiers where, literally, they lived. Worse, with control of the ocean lost, there was no obvious way of retrieving the situation; so many ships had been lost at Læsø that D’Herrer Admiraler – the “Lords of the Admiralty” – spoke of building programmes of four and six years to recover even the Sound. Such a long period on the defensive brought with it obvious risks; “the enemy, that dirty dog, he has a plan too”, as the saying goes. This was the more so because the war threatened to spread and become a global conflict. The entry of Spain on the French side had been fairly well balanced by Russia’s entry under the Treaty of Ingria; but Russia had its own enemies, as far afield as Central Asia and the Caucasus, who were always looking for a moment when its armies might be distracted on the Elbe or the Rhine.

In the end, although the MacRaghnalls believed that a sufficient mobilisation of their resources could still deliver victory, the risk of continued war and the projected costs of such a mobilisation simply outweighed the loss of two cities of what were, after all, imperial out-marches. Holstein and Lubeck were valuable sources of revenue, but they were not vital interests of the Norse state; their loss was tolerable, where the risk of turning a limited conflict into a global war that might end in the actual overthrow of states was not. Faced with the choice of folding a strong hand or going all in, the MacRaghnalls unemotionally chose the former.

Which is not to say, of course, that they forgot who had taken the small pot. The shipyards of the Baltic resounded to the clatter of hammers for the next decade.

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Azure Three Bezants: Dreaming of the Desert

Last night I dreamed again of Egypt. The same dream, of a silent desert lit by stars. There was no moon, yet I could see everything, dune upon dune, with my footprints leading back to the horizon in a perfectly straight line. A line pointing to the temple, not yet visible, where the Hound sleeps its thousand-year sleep and howls in its dreams… in its dreams, and mine.

I dreamed and knew myself dreaming, yet in spite of a sourceless horror I could not wake myself nor stop myself walking towards the – temple, did I say? Yes, it was built as ancient Egypt built houses for its gods, and their prayers were written on every surface; though I could not yet see the cyclopean walls, I knew this, in my dream, in the same way I knew that the eerie light I saw by did not come from the unblinking stars. But for all that it was no temple. The Egyptians had built as well as they knew, and covered stone and mortar with incantations, not to honour the Presence within the walls, but to contain it. Not temple nor church nor fane, but prison.

I woke, as I have woken before, slick with cold sweat, with my pulse pounding in my forehead near to making it burst. But my usual desperate relief – this night, again, I had not seen the Hound’s prison – was threaded through with despair. A week without the dream, and I had thought myself free of it. A week of vicious hangovers; a week of Elisabetta’s increasingly unsubtle hints. Tiny, tiny prices, for nights of dreamless sleep. But now even the wine has failed me.

Tonight, I will walk the desert again, silent except for the soft hiss of the sand. I will walk, unwilling, towards the place where the Hound lies imprisoned. And some night – not tonight; God of my fathers, let it not be tonight – but some night I will crest the final dune, and the silver light that does not come from the stars will show me the walls of the Hound’s resting place. And I will walk forward, and enter it, and… and I know not what; but I would much rather die, than find out. It’s said – though I do not know how it is known – that the pain is only momentary, if you lie in a hot bath and cut lengthwise, not crosswise.

That is sin, and will doom me to Hell; and yet it is still true, that I would rather be tormented by all Satan’s legions for all eternity, than enter the place where the Hound lies sleeping. For I might find that it sleeps but lightly.

Yet I am an Aiello, and one of God’s chosen people; I will make one more throw of the dice, before I give up the game, and my soul, for lost. I will go to Egypt, and not alone; I will bring men, learned men and hard men both. They will think me mad, but what of that? The ducats of madmen spend as well as any. I will find the desert, where the high singing silence hisses in the eternal moonless night… and I will see it in daylight, under the hot scorching sun of Egypt that drives away dreams. I will walk into the desert, not alone and screaming in unvoiced horror, but with a hundred loyal men at my back. And when I find the Hound’s prison – after all, the men of Egypt drove it into the walls, and bound it there with chants and sacrifice. And they had no gunpowder.

From the journal of Gabriele Aiello, one of the last entries before his death. The calling of the sensitives was the first near-open blow struck by the Hound in the Long War, and one of the shrewdest. For two centuries it bled us of the talent we needed to fight it; by the time we realised we were at war, only the thinnest scraps remained, and on the spiritual front we were outmatched from the beginning. Gabriele should not have put his faith in gunpowder, however impressive the new invention seemed to him. A man sensitive enough to hear the Hound’s call across three hundred miles of ocean could have driven it back to sleep in a day, if only he’d known the chants and sacrifices the Egyptians used. What we could not have done with such a Talent as that, when it finally came to open war! But Gabriele was a man of the fourteenth century, and trusted in rational things and in technology. He was neither the first nor the last to make that mistake.

Gabriele Aiello, 1383

Gabriele Aiello, some time after the Hound began working on him, but before the bolts of his mind came fully loose.

Azure Three Bezants

The minor powers are being shaken out of eastern Europe; last week it was Hungary, and now it is Poland. King Cruel had been happy with his title of Quietest Player Ever up to the point where he briefly inherited Hungary; the inheritance was against the rules and was rolled back, but it gave him a taste of power, and he wanted… more. More of everything. And so he reached for the Forbidden Arts, the one thing our good and generous liege had forbidden to his vassals: He took the Intrigue Focus.

Was he, perhaps, under the influence of the Hound, at the time? It is hard to say; one would think that even that powerful Entity would have difficulty reaching so far, across the Med and hundreds of miles of hostile land, so early in the game. Of course, it is known to desire the crumbling and internal strife of the civilisations it regards as its enemies; but then, it should rather strengthen Poland, the better to use it as a dog’s-paw in a future conflict. No, most likely we deal here with simple human greed and ambition; if the truth were told, the Hound’s work is not that difficult, for humans do not really need the hostile influence of Other entities to store up trouble for themselves.

The Intrigue Focus in the hands of a human vassal is vastly dangerous for a liege; it is not forbidden in Germany by an arbitrary whim of the Kaisers. Jacob immediately revoked the Kingdom of Poland, provoking a civil war, which of course Poland could not possibly win. There is no longer a kingdom on the Vistula, nor a player slot.

Central Med, 1383

Eastern and central Med, 1383. Don’t be fooled by the western colonisation of bits of Egypt, that just allows the Hound to do its work on the administrators and garrison officers sent there to rule the province; they will return home as plague vectors, empty-shelled parodies of humans that will undermine and demoralise their metropolitan societies. By the time open warfare breaks out, the Western world will be half-lost in dreams of decadence, unable to muster its strength even for a deadly threat.

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The Sons of Raghnall: De Gente Fera

And who are they, then, this army of the North that has swept the Continent from the Vistula to the Rhine?

The New Armies have reinvigorated, in churches from Paris to Budapest, the old prayer, to be delivered from the fury of the Norsemen; but they are no Vikings, these black-clad, Bible-quoting legions. True, the bows of the ships that carry them to battle bear, in memory of their ancestors, dragon-heads of fearsome aspect; and some of their regimental banners take the shape of birds of prey. But that is deliberate honour done to customs long dead. In all that partakes of function rather than form, the New Armies differ from their raiding forebears. They do not form loosely-connected bands of peers for a season’s campaign, free warriors attracted by a leader’s reputation for easy loot and bearing the costs of their own equipment as an investment. Rather they are written out, each surveyed farm of so many acres to supply one man for ten years, the State giving him his arms and his black uniform. They do not celebrate their religion in blot on feast-days, but soberly, going to Mass weekly to confess their sins and be saved by the body and blood of the White Christ. And they do not strike weak points and seek to be away with their loot before the defenders can gather. Instead they search out the armies of their enemies, and charge in among them to lay about with halberd and Lochaber axe; nor do they cease fighting until their foes are fled, or they can fight no more.

What gives them their famous discipline? Their fathers were not noted for martial exploits, nor for discipline even unto death. Like feudal levies before and since, they followed their lords in a rabble and died, often as not, in a rout. But the New Armies move like the fingers of a man’s hand, march in columns like centipedes, and even in retreat stand back to back, halberds out to ward their foes off their comrades. Whence this revolution in the military affairs of Norway?

It is, of course, religion that makes the difference. The northern periphery of Europe has long been out of communion with the Orthodox Christians surrounding the Mediterranean. They prefer to uphold the claim of the Popes in exile to be the true successors of St Peter, to have the power to bind and to loose; they pay no attention to the Patriarchs appointed in Constantinople, who speak the Creed without the filioque and who, rather worse, acknowledge the Emperor as spiritual overlord. The northern nations have shed blood to uphold that theological independence, and they are proud of it. But, if the truth were told, a Pope who does not hold Rome is, in the end, only another bishop; and over the centuries the “Catholic” church – the name means “Universal”, which is a matter for jest everywhere outside the two poor northern realms that still make that grand claim – has come to be rather a backwater even in the lands of its strength. The best and the brightest do not seek Church careers; even poor-but-bright boys seek other avenues for advancement, preferring to wrest new fields from colonial wilderness over mumbling half-understood Latin in dusty churches. So the God is served by second-raters, and naturally grows corrupt as well as lazy.

But fences don’t stand forever, nor churches, and the wind off the North Sea has power to cleanse. There have always been lay preachers, a scattered band of brothers with their own interpretations of Scripture and a burning faith; their congregations have been small, their real effect on the Church, none. A preacher with a printing press is something else again. Thirty years ago there were perhaps ten thousand books in all of Norway – not ten thousand different books, but ten thousand books total; and most of those were beautifully-illustrated Bibles written in Latin that only the tiniest minority can read. Now the land swims in pamphlets, broadsheets, circulars, open letters, appeals, posters, and – above all – vernacular Bibles. And the religious fervour of a poor mountain people, long dormant under a sleepy backwater Church, has woken in fury, and been channeled by an imperial State.

It cannot last; it will not last. Such a Great Awakening must, like a forest fire, burn itself out and leave behind cynicism and ashes. But while the flame burns, the psalm-chanting, black-clad New Regiments are invincible to lesser men; and they have blazed their indomitable will, the rock-steady belief on which victory can be built, from Stettin to Trieste. And the gates of Vienna have not prevailed against them.


Battles in some sense lost, but check out the casualty ratios and odds:



And with that sort of “victory”, it’s only a matter of time before the enemy coalition begins to lose:



Scottish Victoglory!

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Azure Three Bezants: Heralds Errant

Inspiration does not strike this week, so I’m back to the noble science of heraldry. This time, however, I’m looking at the equivalent of the Journal of Irreproducible Results: If these coats of arms were scientific papers, they would have dodgy p-values, doubtful statistical techniques, and great difficulty reproducing. And if they were people you would pray for them to have difficulty reproducing.

We’ll start with my eastern neighbors, the Lazuli, currently ruling Byzantium:

Faenir Lazuli, 1372

Gules a wyvern segreant sinister so-far-so-good azure. Azure! I ask you! Can you put azure on gules? You cannot. What can you put azure on? Azure is a colour, so it goes on metals; either white or gold, in other words. Probably gold would look best. Presumably the red represents the ocean of heralds’ blood that was shed before the Lazuli found one cowardly or incompetent enough to sign off on this, and the blue represents whatever-it-is that gives the family its name.

Next up, the Czar of half the Russias:

Voislav Foelsgaard, 1372

What is this, I don’t even…? Ok, you can divide the field per pale, sure; and you can even do so with two colours, because neither is considered to lie atop the other. Fine. But who the devil divides a charge? A few books do consider it possible, but I’m damned if I can find one that gives an example. And even if I did, what’s with the colour on colour? So the blazon would be something like “per pale sable and azure a tree eradicated divided per pale azure and sable”, which I guess is ok up to the point where it puts black on blue and vice-versa. I mean, never mind heraldry, this is bad graphic design; nothing pops. Presumably the bruised colours represent the initiation ritual of the Zombie Cossacks, or something. My esteemed overlord doesn’t have any such excuse:

Martin Danton, 1372

“Sable a tree eradicated azure”. Yeah, yeah, colour on colour, it’s an old story by now. What initially causes shock and horror becomes an accustomed sight, and then you learn to like the stuff; and one day you find yourself looking at an achievement that puts purple on orange, or polka dots on a field vair, and not flinching. And then you go home and make sure to cut lengthwise, not crosswise, because seriously, what have I become?

Azure Three Bezants

Little that was exciting happened in Venice this week; but there was great drama over in Hungary, where Khan (subbing for my esteemed overlord) went on an assassination spree to cause Poland to inherit the country. (Poland is played by the Quietest Player Ever, “king cruel”, and is currently a vassal of Germany. Also, not yet dead.) There were accusations of collusion in this plan on the part of Yami, playing Hungary; it’s not that easy to lose your main title by inheritance. Our GM found these accusations credible, and intends to roll back Poland’s gains in accordance with the rule against throwing your nation to another player. Hungary is now looking for a player. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here unifying Italy.

Central Med, 1372

The central Med, 1372. With the kingdom of Italy to give me de-jure claims, unification of the north proceeds rapidly. Otherwise my gains have been diplomatic.

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The Sons of Raghnall: Making Peace

February 16th, 1509
Lodge of the Great Council, Federation Island (Georgina Island, Lake Simcoe)
Late evening

The public business of the Great Council, of course, took place in the day, when the mats covering the openings in the walls were drawn aside to let in air and sunlight; that was when speeches were given and shows of hands made. It was in daylight that the Federation resolved on war and peace, treaty and alliance; it was in daylight that the war-arrow could be sent to all the Lakes, peace pipes to Sankt Anton, and treaty belts as far afield as fabled Edinburgh over the Eastern Ocean. It was, therefore, fitting that the actual decisions, as well as the public ones, should be made in the Lodge; and being both central to all the delegations and insulated against the wet February wind, it made a convenient meeting place. The Unceasing Flame burned low, giving enough light to make out each others’ faces, and filling the Lodge with sweet-scented smoke; it was a suitable setting for deciding the fate of nations.

“So,” Vegard said at length – more than forty years after his adoption, he still thought of himself by his birth name, although he had not been addressed by it for decades. “It seems Deganawidah will not come.”

“He still thinks we can fight and win,” Genessee said.

“Well. The view is not utterly without merit,” Vegard said judiciously. The others looked at him in surprise.

You say this?” Otetiani asked. “Have you not been the chief of the peace faction these twenty years?”

“Yes,” Vegard agreed. “I did not say I agreed with Deganawidah. He thinks he is his namesake come again, and overestimates our fighting weight accordingly. I said that his view is not without merit. I believe we can force this war to a standstill, and make the conquest too expensive for the lords governor at St Anton. But the effort would bleed us white. In ten years, in twenty, they would come back with more men, more guns, more horses. And then, when we made treaty, it would be a victor’s peace. If we make concessions now, when we can still fight, we will preserve more of our freedom in the long run.”

Genessee cocked her head. “And isn’t it true,” she asked softly, “that in ten years, or twenty, you will no longer be among the chiefs who decide? Is Deganawidah the only one who wishes to make his mark in time?”

“Perhaps not,” Vegard returned, equally quiet. If Megedagik had lived, he might safely have entrusted his strategy to his son… but the fever had gotten him, the strong fighter who had survived a dozen campaigns and untold skirmishes. His daughters had not chosen to pursue power in the Council; his grandsons were too young. If he was to save his posterity from being ground to powder by the Great Powers of Europe, he would have to do it himself – and Genessee was right. He was an old man. He could not afford to wait for the next war.

“I could be mistaken,” he went on. “But do you really believe that we can come out of this war stronger than we are, or even with the same strength? We’ve already lost a thousand men. Yes, we’ve killed twice and three times that. But the Norse, and even worse, the Romans – they have the men to lose. We don’t. I was born across the Ocean, remember. I’ve seen. You haven’t. You cannot imagine it, the number of men in Europe. It is only the Ocean that keeps them all from coming here, that keeps their number to a trickle that we can, barely, fight on equal terms. And every year they build more ships. Every year more arrive at the docks than the year before.”

Genessee looked down; she had lost two sons in the failed ambush at Niagara. “No,” she said, low. “Even now we are weaker than we were. It is not right that parents should sing the rites for their children; but there are many who have done so. But… they will take our land!”

“She’s right,” Otetiani said. “The Norse turn forests into farms, wherever they go; that’s why they come here. If our children are just going to grub in fields all day, well, what’s the point of preserving their lives, for that? It’s like, like…” the simile eluded him; but Vegard understood.

“It’s as if a Norseman were to be offered citizenship in the League,” he said, with an ironic smile. “He need only abandon all that was important to him, everything he had envisioned for his life. As though a farmer, who had spent all his life tending his fields – his father’s and grandfather’s fields – and increasing their yield, were told that he could live, but he must become a hunter; and here is your bow and arrows, now go and put food on the table. I understand.”

The other two looked at him; they were much younger than he, of an age with his son Megedagik, and like many of their generation tended to forget that he had not been born to the League.

“Easy for you to speak of peace, then,” Genessee said, bitterly. “You were born that way.”

He shrugged. “I was; but I was adopted at twenty-two. All my adult life has been spent in the League. In any case, it’s precisely to preserve some semblance of our rule of these lands that I propose to make peace now, while we still have the strength to make it worthwhile for the Norse.”

Otetiani cocked his head. “What terms would you make, then, if not land for their settlers? What else do we have, that they want?”

“For the settlers, nothing. They want land, and only land. But theirs is not the final word. The nobles in Norway, the King in Edinburgh – they care nothing for land that has to be laboriously cleared before it becomes productive.”

“What do they want, then?” Otetiani leaned forward, interested; he understood factions and parties and conflicting interests among enemies. His parents had named him well; it wasn’t for his bloodline that he had become the youngest sachem in the League.

“Nothing tangible,” Vegard said. “There is nothing here that can justify the expense they’re going to. They want glory, prestige, the sheer status of having subjects in distant lands. If we offer them a yearly tithe of our fighting men, and formal submission – I believe they will be satisfied. Especially if we hint that we might offer the same to Rome.”

“Ahhh.” Otetiani sat back. His teeth glinted white in the dim firelight. “And thus we avoid dealing with the settlers entirely, and keep the thing both we and they want. But has he the power to enforce his bargains, this king?”

“A problem,” Vegard admitted. “Still, if the king’s troops stopped defending the settler forts, we could massacre enough of them to make the next batch think twice about encroaching on our lands. The Algonquin, well, they’d have to look out for themselves. But we’d keep our lands, without this constant draining war. Just some raids; we can live with that.”

“Yes.” Genessee looked doubtful. “But if we keep our lands, and the settlers surround them – won’t their sons or grandsons begin to look again at these forests? And then they’ll be so numerous that they can do without the king’s men. What will we do then?”

“I don’t know,” Vegard sighed. “Perhaps we can play Roman against Norse, Norse against Englander. Perhaps we can increase our numbers. Perhaps we can adopt or suborn some of the settlers.” And perhaps the horse will learn to sing, he added silently to himself. “But if we fight, we will be broken in this generation. If we buy time so that our grandchildren are the ones faced with the problem, well, that is worth doing and all we can do.”

“It will be as it must,” Genessee said; clearly she found the ritual phrase distasteful, but just as clearly she had no better option to propose. “We will make peace, then, and offer our fighting men to the Norse King, but no land to the settlers.”

Vegard relaxed; he had convinced them. His grandsons would not have to fight hopelessly – at least, not the king’s men; the settlers they could deal with, well enough. His posterity would be safe. And there would be time to ensure some of his family married into the Norse settlements, which were always short on women. In a hundred years he might have four dozen descendants, and some of them would be landowners.

“And who knows?” he said, mostly to himself. “Perhaps there will be justice in Norway, and subject peoples treated fairly.” He shook his head, negating the thought. Justice, yet! He was indeed getting old.

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