Our Doom and Our Pride: The Road to Mandalay

I continue my tour East of Suez, where the placeholder states await the coming of European administrations to drag them into the seventeenth century, replace slavery and burning widows with internships and hanging people of all marital statuses from oak trees, and generally speaking give the place a good tidying-up. This week, the powers surrounding the Bay of Bengal (and its reach), where the dawn comes up like thunder:

  • Ma, Alla Us!: Hadogei, defeated in Japan by a mighty fate beyond the power of man or god to withstand, to wit, being subbed in the first session, has cravenly quit the Sunrise Islands and sought refuge in the Ganges Delta, in the renamed country Mahavalos. He brings with him his Viking ideas and Manchu Banners bonus, and (presumably) a devouring, soul-eating determination to run still further into India if Korea looks at him funny. Fighting to the bitter end, evidently, is not in it.
  • Ayuh, They, Yah: New player Stiefellecker has taken Ayutthaya and given it the defensive Switzerland idea set and the Oligarchic Republic government; he has unified the Malay peninsula and much of Indochina, and with fort defense, enemy attrition, cheap WE reduction, and (if all else should fail) hostile core creation cost in his ideas he is ready to make anyone fighting in Vietnam have an extremely thematic experience. The Asian powers seem united in their determination not to give Europeans a foothold on their continent, however, which raises the question of where this defenively-oriented power can expand. It does however have the right colour, as well as ideas, for a turtle.
  • Brown, Ey?: Brunei is played by new player LaxSpartan, who demonstrated his Spartan-ness in the first couple of sessions by trying to support Mahavalos (then named Bihar and played by a transient whose name I forget) against a powerful AI; he then demonstrated his laxness by losing the war and plunging Brunei into immense economic trouble, which it has only recently climbed out of. It is now renamed Malaya, and is in the process of uniting Indonesia; it is not a very military power, having Friendly Colonist ideas (not to be confused with Golle’s Peaceful Colonist, they are not the same) and Swedish Recruitment as its only bonus, and Feudal Theocracy government.
  • Literary Device: Yue are clearly relying on linguistic confusion for yuer survival. Already there have been several classic comedy moments when somebody would say “Yue did (something bad)”, and the other fourteen players respond “Who, me?” “No, Yue!” “I didn’t, what are you even on about?” “Not you, Yue!” Meanwhile Yue are quietly cleaning the blood off yuer knife and looking for another kidney. Probably the solution will be to impose a roleplaying requirement and make everyone call each other “thou”; incidentally, authors who write novels in the second person will be up against the wall right after we’re done with the lawyers. Yue are a Chinese tributary and had probably better remain so; Yue have the early-peaking Racehorse ideas, and already we are past the peak effectiveness of cavalry.
  • Fine Print: I was finally able to embrace the printing press and restore my Great Power position, and thereby gained the ability to print some very fine letters, indeed. The Yngling position is that the Treaty of Tangiers rectified the colonial borders in South America as a matter of convenience for the Contracting Powers, making contiguous regions that are easy to administer and defend, with everyone getting lands or other considerations of equivalent value to what they gave up. No agreement was reached, or even suggested, as to the future inviolability of the new borders any more than the old ones; no treaty organisation was created to arbitrate colonial matters. To the extent that the colonial powers wish to dispute the borders of their settlements, they are free to do so without any violation of treaty or compact; pacta sunt servanda, by all means, but first pacta facta esse – agreements must be made.
  • No Peace Beyond the Atlantic: Golle and I attempted to dispute the colonial border of Elysium, the Atlassic colonial nation, in two ways: Golle wished to restore British Columbia, and I wanted to add three provinces to what will become Yngling Venezuela when I fully core it, so as to make a ten-province colonial nation that would give me all the bonuses. Our navies were able to close the Atlantic, leaving Elysium isolated from its motherland and, in principle, helpless even against just 25% of our respective force limits, since one-fourth of a European Great Power is about equivalent to one uppity colonial nation being generously subsidised by its overlord. Unfortunately, we had neglected to consider that Ranger could recruit directly in his colony, and so there was an Atlassic army as well as the Elysian one to contend with; the numbers were therefore about equal – and Ranger had a general of semi-divine ancestry, as shown in the screenshot. The result was a long-drawn-out war of attrition, in which we were able to win battles and inflict casualties but not to finish the deal; when Dragoon threatened to intervene just to have the war end, we gave up and offered the white peace.

    War of Columbian Restoration. Note the half-divine general on the Elysian side – the one thing that prevented us from enforcing our will. Even so we inflicted more casualties than we took; but we could not break an army commanded by a godling.

  • Vår Ære og Vår Makt: Having completed Maritime ideas, I was able to get Thalassocracy. As the Baltic is an Yngling lake it was no trick to be the strongest trade power in Novgorod, Lubeck, and the Baltic Sea; but to get the North Sea and the English Channel at the same time required some careful juggling of my light ships, a couple of Protect Trade edicts, and – as a last resort – asking Khan nicely to drop his retaliatory embargo on me for a few months.
  • Initial Colonial Offering: In 1594 another tier of trade zones opened for colonisation, namely the Caribbean, La Plata, and Australia, and there was a bit of a land rush. Golle and I have split the Caribbean islands between us, while Khan has got Florida. James, in Elysium, declared independence from Atlassia specifically so he could colonise without being adjacent to the target, and has managed to get the bits of the Caribbean trade zone that are on the South American mainland. Leon, AI this session, has done some colonising in La Plata, without making a great go of it.
  • Released from Reformatory: The end of the Reformation will arrive a few months into the next session. My accomplishments here were not so great as those of the First Age; the Wheel spins as the Wheel wills, but there are Ages yet to come in which my Splendor will surely grow.

Splendor bonuses in the Age of Reformation.

Europe and colonies, 1607.

Asia, 1607, with the other half of the Khazarian Military Highway.


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Our Doom and Our Pride: The Yellow Sea

From the cool blue waters of the west I turn my attention eastwards, where the Yellow Peril lurks around its eponymous sea:

  • Lazuli Dragon: Blayne’s choice of Venice in CK was notoriously a placeholder; now that the map allows it he has returned to his beloved China and set about unifying All Under Heaven. He is playing the aptly-named Large idea set, optimised for wide play with bonuses to state number, force limit, and coring. He also has Mughal Artillery, Guns of Urban, Polish Crown, and Danish Subject Loyalty Splendor bonuses. With that build he almost has no choice but to expand, and already every other player in the region is his tributary – although I note that Korea does not, in fact, pay any actual tribute, and it may be worth asking the extent to which that particular tail may not only wag, but actually comprise, the dragon. Whatever the case there, Blayne clearly has no intention of suffering any Unequal Treaties or Great Occupations in this timeline.
  • Permit Kingdom: Vaniver, playing the Ivering dynasty and the Bretonnian kingdom, scored by far the highest in CK achievement points, but chose to move to Korea rather than build Bretonnia into the Big Blue Blob it by right should have been. He has taken the Scholar idea set, focused on cost reductions; he also has the Prussian Monarchy government, and no less than three late-game Splendor bonuses: French Musketeers, Prussian Discipline, and Dutch Officials. Vaniver’s Korea scares the hell out of skilled players in European Great Powers; this country is the reason Khazaria has snaked its way across Asia, to get in touch and be able to intervene before it becomes unstoppable. Such panic is, however, uncalled for; the scholar-bureaucrats of Korea are already choking on the mountains of paper they generate, and have not even been able to muster the aggression to take their victory card from Jinshi. It appears that they require their generals to get permission before invading people who have good land; presumably also to fill out form P-33 in triplicate before digging a slit trench. Such a country will never be dangerous to a commercially-minded people exposed to the bracing wind of competition, who must innovate just to survive.
  • Fallen Cherry Blossoms: At conversion, Hadogei intended to play Japan, or more particularly Oda; he got the Viking idea set for it, giving it the ability to raid and a strong naval theme; he then added Manchu Banners for extra armies. To allow Japan time to unify, we apply the Divine Wind to it until 1500, by which mainland players may not send armies to the islands unless first attacked. Unfortunately, Hadogei wasn’t able to attend the first session, and Oda was subbed by a player of slightly lesser skill, who found it necessary to raid Korea – breaking the protection of the Divine Wind, and letting the Koreans into the islands before they unified. Hadogei’s move to Hosokawa for the second session came too late; Japan is now a Korean protectorate, and unplayed.

The Yellow Sea in 1576.

It was another quiet session with much colonising, some sort of internal theological dispute in the religion of slaves, and many complaints about the spawn location of the printing press:

  • Small Colonial Wars: James Craig has taken over Atlassia’s colony of Elysium and equipped it with the Imperialist idea set and the Dutch Republic government; he soon demonstrated the aptness of the idea set by attacking Golle’s colonial nation British Columbia and managing to annex it fully before Golle could master the game interface sufficiently to interfere. Ranger’s other colonial nation, Mu, was apparently inspired by this success into attacking both my CN Vinland and Golle’s other colony, Canada; however, in these cases no player intervention was necessary, since both these two colonies had three times the army of the Greek colony. Mu’s core in Newfoundland has been annexed to Canada, with the island Anticosti going to Vinland.
  • Probe Majorem: The followers of the White Christ appear to have gotten themselves into a dispute about how many angels can pass through the eye of a needle, or possibly it was how many rich men can dance on a camel? To be honest it was a bit abstruse to me, but anyway, the upshot seems to be that Occitania, Britain, Khazaria, and Medina are in the faction holding that camels are valuable for their works alone; the Latin Empire has formed its own splinter faction which asserts that people become rich by the grace of God, and Leon and Bohemia remain firm in their old-school belief that churches should be built out of rocks.

    Religious map of Europe, 1576. Note the pagan north and south, and Druze Persia!

  • Trademark Litigation: In this iteration of the Great Games, the multiplayer megacampaigns that have been my principal hobby for lo these fifteen years – I wrote the first fan-made savegame converter, from Crusader Kings 1 to Europa Universalis 2, in 2004 (in Java, and because I didn’t understand parsing it sucked to maintain) – I am counted a Great Power, mainly due to inheriting the Scandinavian empire that Clone created. That hasn’t always been the case; I’ve usually played much more minor powers, and when I’ve come out on top it’s been due to persistence and luck more than skill. (Really, it’s amazing how much you can achieve by just showing up every session). So it has often happened that someone has declared war on me and taken half my land, or even all my land. These things will happen, and usually do not ruffle my good cheer or my steely determination to burn the offender’s capital to the ground. Likewise it is inevitable, over a long enough sequence of games, that one will occasionally be on the receiving end of the big battalions; such is the nature of wargames. And of course, in a wargame that includes nuclear weapons, I have sometimes commanded armies that quickly became radioactive dust; as a general rule I do not allow this to affect me, since splitting the atom is a game that two can play. But then, every so often, I will be playing a trading nation, and someone will interfere with my profits. And then, gentle readers; then I remember that I am, in fact, descended from men who gnawed the edges of their shields and made Europe tremble with the fear of their fury. So you will understand that, when for the second time I caught Bohemians selling cheap, shoddy knockoffs of my trademarked “Model Yngling Longship”, hand-carved by passionate interns from seasoned oak, with striped sail, separate mast, and detachable dragon figurehead, only three ducats, immensely popular with kids of all ages, order now to get yours in time for the midwinter gift-exchange of your choice… Ahem. Shoddy knockoffs, I say, of my trademarks, known ingame as “Slandering Merchants”; I have a memory of looking at the -10% trade power modifier, and then the next thing I recall is ordering the guns to bombard Bohemia’s capital. Looking at the map I see that I must have besieged at least two fortresses to get there, but I have no memory of doing so, and to the extent that any Bohemian armies were indiscriminately slaughtered to the last man, their officers hung from oaken trees in Odin’s honour, and the population of five provinces offered internships, I can only apologise, while noting that I was somewhat provoked. Once I came out of my rage I offered fairly lenient terms, taking only the three provinces that were missing to complete my Baltic shore; Bohemia is now landlocked, and the Baltic is an Yngling lake.
  • Am I Not A Man and A Brother: Between sessions, there has been some discussion of whether James will abolish slavery, and of what impact that might have on the global economy. I have no strong opinion on that, but wish to note that Yngl, Inc, is far too progressive and advanced to have any truck with these relics of the first millennium; there have been no slaves in the Ynglinga Rike since 983, when we invented the internship. And even before that, the long ships have been rowed by free men since as early as 925, when we first began granting athletic scholarship contracts.
  • Fire and the Sword: Further in offline discussion, there was a suggestion that the Dutch Republic would have been a more thematic government for the Ynglings than the English Monarchy I actually ended up with, which is true, but by the time it was up for auction James was able to bid more mana than I had left. However, in the ensuing discussion Vaniver noted, and I quote, that “Parliaments are basically a Norse thing”. Vaniver claims that this pun, or play on words, was in fact unintentional on his part. I say that, if so, it was reckless negligence and no less culpable than if he had planned it for a month, and that flattening Hanyeong in retaliation, with nukes if necessary, is nothing more than simple self-defense.

European players, 1576, showing also the current Great Power ranking. I would be fourth if I could just get the pesky printing press into my Finnish and northern backwaters, but even allowing for that I have fallen somewhat behind the top three.

Atlantic borders; blobbification is now sufficiently complete that the political map at least in Europe approximates pretty well to the player map, but they’re not yet identical. Also my final two national ideas, the powerful artillery kickers and the land fire damage ambition that complements it.

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Our Doom and Our Pride: The Sea-Steed’s Road

In the previous two installments I considered the powers surrounding the Old Grey Widow-Maker, the North Sea; and those circling Homer’s Wine-Dark Water, the Med. This week I will look at countries which Yngling raiders internship recruiting teams can reach by the Sea-Steed’s Road, the rivers and inland seas of Europe; ‘sea-steed’ is a traditional kenning for ‘ship’, and the dragon-headed long ships can go wherever there is water, whether salt or fresh.

  • The Alpine Jackal: In the political map of 1444, Bavaria looks rather like a gigantic wolf covering much of central Europe, with powerful German hind legs in the act of extending to send the shaggy Carpathian head surging for the Black Sea. Sadly, Hoonter has been MIA for two weeks, and the aggressive Bayerische Bayernrepublik he created has proved to be more of a jackal, losing territory to the Empires on its southern and northern borders that it was intended to topple; the country is no longer a player spot, and will no doubt disappear shortly, unless Yami keeps a rump state around to support him as Emperor. There just seems to be something about the Alps that attracts jackals. Bavaria has a peasant republic government and the Emperor idea set, which go very oddly together – the ideas are intended to synergise with being Holy Roman Emperor, which is not possible for a republic. But that enduring scourge of countries, a player losing interest, proved more devastating than an odd choice of auction strategy.
  • The Brave Free Men: In past campaigns I have variously fought Cossacks and recruited them, but there has not usually been a player slot centered on the Ukraine and commanded by a player of known skill. Clonefusion actually created the Scandinavian slot I am currently playing, before quitting CK in frustration at what the RNG did to his dynasty; he is not to be discounted whatever nation he plays, and all the more so in one that is clearly going to dominate All The Russias. Khazaria, or Tataria if you prefer, did convert dirt poor, and remains so on a per-province basis, but quantity has a quality all its own; it is counted a Great Power, and rightly so. However, Clone seems unwilling to meddle in Europe; instead he is driving east as fast as he can beat the AI, apparently in an effort to reach the border of Korea before the Hermit Kingdom becomes unstoppably powerful. This development pleases me greatly; although I have fortified my Finnish border I don’t care to defend it any more than I have to, and peace in the poverty-stricken east leaves me free to concentrate on the lucrative business of managing the Atlantic trade. Tataria has the Captain idea set, possibly the best naval-oriented ideas in the game; the irony is not lost on anyone, but that was what Clone could get, as he wasn’t present at the auction. The formidable Tatar navy will no doubt be dominating the Black Sea any century now.
  • The Medina Traders: Tazzzo joined this game in EU4, and has quickly shown his strength by extending Medina from its start on the coast of Arabia all the way up to Turkey, where his borders meet Dragoon’s and Clone’s, and into Egypt to the Fourth Cataract. Some may remember Tazzzo as the player who took Fox from a one-province native minor to a continent-spanning power that could fight Baron’s England on equal terms, which is one major reason why there are no American powers this time around; they tend to either die or become monstrosities. Medina wields the Byzantine idea set, an all-rounder intended for long-term resilience in war. His Persian neighbours will open up this session, and I have no doubt he intends to absorb a large amount of the Middle East unless stopped; if anyone would like to play Persia, we now have a First Punch rule to ensure that new players aren’t attacked until they’re ready. Meanwhile he will no doubt keep an eye on the Indian Ocean, ready to extend a gripping hand into it when the subcontinent opens in 1700.

As for events, it was largely a peaceable session with much building and little action:

  • Vinlander Saga: My first colonial nation formed, and quickly grew to ten provinces in spite of the surprisingly effective resistance of the Mohicans, of whom we have now, however, seen the last.
  • Amazon Crime: The Amazonas trade zone opened, and was quickly split between no less than six colonisers – Leon, Atlassia, England, myself, Occitania, the Latin Empire – producing an amazing amount of border gore:

    The South Atlantic in 1536, showing the immense coastal bordergore of the Amazonas. From north to south Occitania, England, Ynglings, Afer, Ynglings, more Afer, more Ynglings, Occitania, Latins, and then we get into Brazil which is split between Afer and Leon but still pretty mixed.

  • Treaty of Tangiers: Not strictly an event of the session, but of between-session diplomacy; however I include it to soothe eyes scalded by the previous item. The three powers worst affected by the bordergore were able to reach an agreement and consolidate our settlements into reasonably contiguous colonies:

    Treaty for the Relief of Bordergore between the Ynglings, Leon, and Afer Ultima. Unfortunately it was not possible to get the Latin Empire or Occitania to sign, a crime against humanity for which they will surely face drastic international sanctions.

  • Founding Fathers: Two colonial nations will henceforth be played, namely Golle’s Canada by Ziro (formerly Scotland, which will no doubt be annexed) and Ranger’s Elysium, which will be taken over by James Craig. They’re just ten-province minors, what can possibly go wrong?

North America, showing the immensity of my colonial nation Vinland as well as the pathetically tiny British and Atlassian colonies, and the interloping Occitanians in Greenland. Also my court, as a marginal improvement on unexplored bits of frozen wasteland. You’ll note that unlike some people I haven’t been able to run all level-3 advisors and five colonies at the same time.

Player map, 1536; missing Khan because he dropped a moment early.

Political map, showing the Yngling ideas I unlocked this session. Notice that ‘internal’ is a pun between “domestic” and “using interns”. Regarding the Triangle Trade, Yngl, Inc is much too progressive to participate in any such barbarous remnant, but we’ll note that our intern contracts are transferrable for compensation.

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Our Doom and Our Pride: The Wine-Dark Waters

Last time I spoke of the nations surrounding the old grey widow-maker, the North Sea; this time I turn to the wine-dark waters of the Mediterranean Sea. There are four: The Latin Empire under Dragoon; Occitania under Khan; Leon under Sauron; and Atlassia, my fellow pagans (although they follow the effete Greek versions of the true gods rather than worshipping them in their proper manly incarnations) under Ranger. There is also Medina under Tazzzo, but I’m counting it as a Red Sea power to keep this to a manageable size. Everyone has expanded considerably since 1470:

I am myself getting fairly close to turning the Baltic into an Yngling lake; I also absorbed some of the important trading provinces from Bretonnia in the spectacular collapse of that power. But back to the Med players:

  • Latinx Empire: Dragoon is the most powerful player at the moment, although he claims that he will shortly plateau while the colonisers bypass him; to mitigate this he clearly intends to absorb most of Anatolia, if Clone and Tazzzo let him. Two coalitions have already formed against him in CK, neither of which was successful. He controls the Venice end node and has a strong share in Genoa. Draw your own conclusions on his alleged weakness. That said, it does seem a bit unclear where he’s going to expand, though he has flung some colonies into Brazil to participate in the race for South America. This does make quite a few colonisers in a relatively small continent; I wonder if that might lead to Drama? If so, Dragoon is likely to be the winner; with the second-highest auction score, he acquired the all-rounder Knight ideas, Spanish Tercios, and the Ottoman government that more or less guarantees him superb rulers.
  • Bright Blue Blob: The toothpaste colour of Occitania has spread itself north and east by means of backstabbing the Bretonnian player, whose diplomacy was apparently not entirely silent after all, but still highly unsuccessful. As a result, Khan’s empire is now the second power of Europe, possibly even the first considering its excellent combination of the Cincinnatus idea set with the Ambrosian Republic government. However, it has now run into what Khan considers his natural border, namely the Weser, which in my opinion is an extremely un-natural border for a French empire; the Rhine and the Seine are really much better eastern limits on these constructions. More to the point, any further expansion will clearly arouse widespread and desperate player opposition; there’s nowhere for Khan to go (leaving aside the remnant of Bretonnia) that doesn’t have a player power defending it.
  • Definitely not Spain: The most important thing about the Iberian power is its berserk button, which consists of referring to it as ‘Spain’. Apart from that, Sauron picked up the trade-focused Mercantilist set, and nothing else, in the auction, and is currently living up to the name by directing all the world’s trade through Sevilla and sucking the blood out of it. Sauron looks set to play a peaceable, colonising/trading game; his only known European ambition is to acquire the little bit of Occitania that sticks into Iberia, the better to have two forts block his entire land border. As it currently stands he needs three. He is, however, in sharp colonial competition for Brazil – indeed he mentioned pointer-hovering over the COT there for the two years before the zone opened up, and this appears to have paid off, in that he has the COT.
  • Subject of Greek plays: The worshippers of the effeminate Greek versions of the Indo-European pantheon (still, to be sure, an improvement over the religion of slaves) rule most of western Africa, and have spread their gaily-painted statues even to the Ivory Coast; they are also in the competition for Brazil. The Ivory Coast is a possible flashpoint for conflict with the northern powers, since it is the decision point for where the circum-African trade goes – to the English Channel or to the Med. There are English colonies in the zone, no doubt trying their best to direct the trade north; but so far the Hellenics have had the best of it, seizing the estuaries before the English could get there. Atlassia has the Sea Trader idea set – another of these dang peaceable trade/colonising players! – and the Mamluk government; we’ve also buffed the Hellenic religion to have the Norse personal deities, suitably re-flavoured. I expect Ranger will try to throw colonies in trade-heavy provinces around Africa, probably all the way to the Gulf of Aden, to ensure that the trade flows around the continent and not through the Levant; he’ll wet his beak somewhere near the end before sending the rest to the Med so as not to annoy his powerful neighbours. At the same time he’s competing for South America; possibly he’ll be spread somewhat thin. However, his territory is eminently defensible by a strong navy, almost as much so as Scandinavia.

Some events of the session:

  • Silence of the Lions: I was immensely annoyed by Khan’s treacherous attack on Bretonnia, coming as it did about three months before I would have declared war myself; I had been contemplating a war for the English Channel trade for the whole week, and then suddenly this French upstart makes me look like a copycat. The Breton player, djoes, had permitted himself to fall behind in military tech, being at level 4 when all his neighbours were at 6. Between that, and the diplomatic error of trusting a player whose name is a clear invitation to outraged shouts of “Khaaaaaaan!”, the fall of the much-feared Knights was as swift as inevitable. Bretonnia is still technically a player slot for this session, perhaps even recoverable by a player of sufficiently legendary skill; but the expected outcome is that the stump will be partitioned as soon as the AI protection expires.
  • Revolting Peasants: Hoonter (playing Bavaria) didn’t show, which was a great pity since everyone had been anticipating his inevitable bid for the hegemony of Central Europe by crushing Bohemia. Alas, we did not get any such dramatic war (I would have joined Bohemia; an aggressive peasant republic on my southern flank is the last thing I need); instead we got the Bavarian AI attacking Bohemia to free Poland and promptly getting smacked down by every surrounding player, because, after all, AI peasants. This probably ends the ambition of the Bauernrepublik to be an important European power, since Bohemia has expanded considerably and can now credibly fight one-on-one.
  • Spain is not the Emperor: Italy, however, is; Dragoon managed to get himself elected in spite of not being a member.
  • Scramble for America: The Brazil and St Lawrence trade nodes opened, and colonists were instantly dispatched – as in, the day of. Sauron had apparently been doing nothing except holding his mouse on that “Send Colonist” button for two game years, and the howls of outrage were loud in Discord when the other Med powers discovered they had been cheated of their COT. Meanwhile in the north, Golle managed to colonise four provinces while I was working on my first one; however, mine was Stadacone COT at the base of the Gulf of St Lawrence. It’s not clear whether this matters, however, since presumably Golle and I share an interest in sending the trade of the Americas to the English Channel.
  • Freezeland: Colonialism popped in my new province of Friesland, which is a bit ironic since I have the fewest colonies of anyone, and it’s in the freezing Gulf of St Lawrence at that.

Maps 1502:

Europe, with my newest Yngling idea and Splendor situation. With the Splendor pouring in from other sources and the age nearing its end, I’ve started absorbing my vassals.

North American colonies, such as they are. England with four colonists is expanding very rapidly here, but failed to nab Stadacona.

South Atlantic. Note the English colonies in not quite the right places to steer the trade. Also note the doomed Latin colonies outside Brazil, where the off-limits modifier was taken off by migrating natives and has been re-added in the edited save; centuries from now an explorer is going to come across a tribe who speak Latin, wear transverse feather crests on their helmets, and ritually shout “Deus Vult!” before eating outsiders.

Trade zone opening times.

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Our Doom and Our Pride: Old Gray Widow-Maker

In accordance with custom older than the Crown Princess of Men, in fact older even than the founding of the of-Men dynasty by my marriage to the Queen of Men, I will mark the transition from CK2 to EU4 with an overview of the geopolitical situation; for this first session I’ll concentrate on the players in northern Europe. Here is the situation in 1444:

with four players surrounding the North Sea, namely my Scandinavia (also known as Yngl, Inc); Scotland (or “The North”) played by Zirotron; England played by Gollevainen; and Bretonnia, the French-blue strip along the Channel, which in CK was played by Vaniver but has been taken over by djones for EU4. Also relevant to northern politics are the aggressive Bavarian Peasant Republic, played by Hoonter; the vast yellow blob of Khazaria, played by Clonefusion; and tiny Bohemia, played by Yami-Yagari. Bohemia is about half the size it needed to be, because Yami, in a surfeit of perhaps-misguided altruism, decided to split off his Lithuanian duchies so as to encourage anyone considering taking an Eastern-European slot. It’s true that eastern Europe might have needed the help – I think Bohemia still converted with more development than Khazaria, which was overrun by nomads in CK2 and is essentially a wasteland – but in light of the largish Bavaria right next to him, splitting Bohemia, which wasn’t even near the realm-size limit, in half seems a bit surplus to requirements.

Before going into the alliance politics and expansion goals, I have to explain our customisation system for the conversion. To play with historical national ideas would be a bit silly in this completely alternate history; the ones from the converter mod are OK but uninspired; and if everyone builds custom idea sets with X points, then everyone has to spend as many of those points as they possibly can on discipline and combat power, and we end up with ten identical builds. Our solution is to create a number of reasonably balanced national idea sets which are not Space Marines, and then auction them off; since the idea creators don’t know what set they’ll end up with, they have some incentive to make them all fairly good without just going for twenty bonus discipline every time. The points for the auction are acquired by spreading your dynasty in CK2, points being given for every day a dynasty member holds a title, and more points for higher tiers; then there are bonus points for achievements such as winning a Crusade or reforming your faith, and for dynasty members having interesting (not necessarily good) traits like Sea King and Kinslayer. Any points not used in the auction are converted to mana; the median player gets 1000 points, while the highest-scoring player (Vaniver) had 2800 or so. In addition to our custom idea sets, we auctioned off tag-specific Splendor bonuses, unusual governments, and the Holy Roman Empire; the three highest-bidding players had their entire dynasties entered into the HRE, and we ended up with the Empire spreading from Portugal to the Baltic, thus:

Clearly this is an important factor in the northern balance of power, at least if the player emperors play correctly. For most of the first session Bohemia was emperor, but so far has proved quite unable to defend the imperial borders.

With these notes in mind, here are the players surrounding the Old Gray Widow-Maker, the waters of the North Sea and the Baltic:

  • Yngl, Inc: It is perhaps not entirely obvious from the map, but the former “Ynglinga Rike” – recently rebranded in a more modern style to mark our readiness to meet the challenges of the fifteenth century – is the most powerful of the northern nations. As a merchant republic in CK, with a vast additional income from raiding, I was able to develop my Swedish heartland quite heavily as well as converting with about 2000 ducats; the auction gave me the fairly powerful artillery-focused Bombard ideas, English monarchy, and (for this first age) Venetian Trade. What I didn’t get was an obvious expansion path: Russia is worthless, taking Bohemia would run me right into the Bavarian Republic (which would no doubt be backed by the Med powers on the principle that if I took all of Central Europe, they would be next), colonisation is blocked by the Scottish dominion of the Atlantic, and Bretonnia is the one northern power that can probably defend itself against me one-on-one. Before worrying about this I need to reunify my immediate surroundings; but with that done I’ll have to pick a direction and fight for it.
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee: You would think there could be only one, but the two British powers seem to have worked out a modus vivendi for splitting their islands and working together; they threw back several Norse invasions in the crusader era, including a Great Holy War for England. Their alliance is of necessity close – clearly, it is either that, or fight like cats in a bag until there is, indeed, only one. It seems clear that they intend to stand away from continental conflicts, which they might have some difficulty fighting effectively in, and focus on trade and colonies; Gollevainen is packing the Friendly Coloniser set which is, let’s say, not very military-focused, and Zirotron has the Merchant, which is just what it says on the tin. However, the white Scottish stuff spread stickily over Finland is a bit of an obstacle to friendly, or even standoffish, relations with Scandinavia; the Ynglings are not very forgiving of those who hold what they consider rightful Yngling clay.
  • Silent Knight: Bretonnia’s heavy-cavalry retinue won several important wars in CK, most notably my first attempt to reverse the Second Baltic Crusade which briefly won Sweden for the cross. (My second attempt involved diplomacy instead of battle and was much more successful. ) However, the era of heavy cavalry as the arm of decision is perhaps drawing to an end – and more importantly, Vaniver has taken his impressive skills and decamped for Korea, leaving Bretonnia in the hands of new player djones, of whom nothing is known. I give him the epithet ‘Silent’ because he has, to my knowledge, attempted no diplomacy with anyone; no offer to help me partition the Isles, no arranging of a trade league to bring Asian money to the Channel, nothing. In a multiplayer game this is usually a bad idea. However, he does have some strengths: Before leaving, Vaniver got Bretonnia the Polish Monarchy government, the thematic Hussar idea set (being cavalry-focused, it is probably strongest in the early game), and the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The Bohemoth: I have already mentioned Yami’s possibly-suicidal splitting-off of Lithuania; however, this certainly does clarify his choices. Sun Tzu notes that men fight their best when “in death ground”, that is, when they have no possibility of retreat; Bohemia is, at any rate, in a very clear-cut position of “expand or die”. For this purpose he has the inspiringly-named idea set Divine Right, with early bonuses to unjustified demands and province warscore cost; as of 1470 he is also Emperor and has a personal union with Poland, which must certainly help a bit. The immediate priority for Bohemia is to survive the imminent aggression of the Bayerische Bauernrepublik right on his border; that aggressively-egalitarian polity Does Not Approve of emperors, divine rights, or countries that are not part of the People’s Republic. Fortunately for Bohemia, both Scandinavia and Khazaria have an interest in a balance of power in Central Europe; I have no desire to defend my Baltic dominions against a unified German-Polish-Hungarian empire.

In the first session, people were naturally focused on consolidating a power base, absorbing the nearby AIs that had been protected in CK by the realm-size rule. The main events in Scandinavia:

  • The Hammer of the Gods: My Marshal, Starkadr Sleggja (a well-named man – ‘Sleggja’ means ‘Sledgehammer’) converted as a near-divine general; the converter, noticing that he was a Brilliant Strategist, Narrow Flank Leader, Flanker, Zealous, Wroth, and Brave, gave him no less than seven Shock pips. (Two for Brilliant Strategist, one for each of the others). I will perhaps tweak this a bit in the next iteration, it seems balanced for an older version of CK that didn’t have so many traits, but for this one I just gave him a cavalry army and watched him rack up the kill count.
  • One Eye, One People, One King: In a series of short wars I hammered Scandinavia into one unified empire under the watchful eye of Odin, getting my first Splendor objective by vassalising Kurland, Nordriki, Austergautland, Estonia, and Sjaelland, annexing their more important provinces on the way.
  • Landnåm: I really could not be having with the Scots presence in Finland, the more so as they annexed the brave Jomsvikings (the black blot in the middle of Finland in 1444). With a shock-7 general I quickly destroyed the Scots army in Finland, then landed in the Highlands to complete the war. Negotiations were opened; I stated that my aims were Finland and Iceland, but offered to share Iceland so we could both colonise. Gollevainen, however, did not consider this satisfactory, believing that three North-American colonisers were at least one too many, and decided to fight to keep Iceland. We therefore had a few minor skirmishes, but nothing to signify:

    When the fortress at York fell, both British powers surrendered.

  • Landnom: For my first idea group I took Exploration, and quickly reached the Americas from my new base in Iceland. However, we have modded our game, giving each trade region an “Off-Limits” modifier until specified dates; in the case of North America, until 1492, so I wasn’t able to actually land. The Off-Limits modifier gives an immense malus to colony growth, and is thus supposed to be self-enforcing; unfortunately we recently learned that when someone gains control of an uncolonised province, its modifiers are cleared! However, humans are presumably able to self-police this; the off-limits modifier can still serve as an ingame guide to what is allowed and not. It also applies to India, Persia, and Africa; indeed the interior of Africa will be off-limits for the whole of EU4, so that we can have an actual Scramble for Africa in Victoria.
  • Swallowing the Whale: Not a Scandinavian event, but the Bohemoth managed to live up to its name by acquiring a Personal Union with Poland, twice its size. That should help a bit with resisting Bavarian aggression.

Players, 1470. Note Spain fully in control of its peninsula, Clone spreading across Russia, Tazzzo uniting the Arabs into a world-conquering force.

Europe, 1470, with some added Norwegian stats. Top left, my starting and current monarch; bottom left, my Splendor objectives (note Venetian Trade activated); top right, my first custom idea, with Yngling flavour.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: The Last Post

  • Corporate Rebranding: In order to demonstrate our commitment to a forward-looking, up-to-date policy for meeting the challenges of the eleventh century, the “Ynglinga Rike” will henceforth be known as “Yngl, Inc” – a lean, modern look for a lean, modern corporation!
  • Diversity Initiative: Yngl, Inc is passionate about strengthening diversity and inclusion in our workforce. In token of that commitment, we have sent a strong recruiting taskforce to the Iberian peninsula, an area which (due to a deplorable bias for which we accept full responsibility) had never yet paid the sea-scot. We’re pleased to report that our ships came home full-laden with hard-working, committed, and above all diverse interns, ready for lengthy careers in our farms and workshops.
  • No-Score Winner: This session saw some major wars against Italy, or the “Latin Empire” if you prefer, as people decided that Dragoon was way too powerful and should be cut down a notch or two. The Norwegian army covered itself in glory in both these wars by managing not to get killed, which sounds like sarcasm but was actually a fairly uncommon achievement on the coalition side.
  • Class Interest: There was some sort of rebellion in Venice, which wouldn’t have been a problem for Blayne except that Dragoon decided he could be doing with some of the rebel lands, apparently not so much for the land as to give Blayne an added incentive to move out of Venice upon conversion. I did not get the full story, but there seems to have been a ‘negotiation’ which took the form of Dragoon gently suggesting that Venice is not viable in the long run and that the Chinese climate is much more conducive to health, Blayne objecting, and Dragoon deciding to demonstrate the truth of his thesis – by attacking the rebels. Now, clearly the inevitable workings of the dialectic will eventually lead to these feudal lords, who can currently throw their weight around against the capitalists, being relegated to the ash-heap of history; but the dialectic works by individuals asserting their class interests, and so I decided to intervene on the side of my fellow merchants. This worked splendidly, between my 14k troops and Blayne’s largish army we actually had more soldiers in the field than Dragoon did. (Which is not to say that anyone was necessarily 100% mobilised. ) Indeed, we quickly reached 100% warscore, and found that we could not finish the rebellion because Dragoon was occupying the area he had attacked for. So we decided we’d have to destroy the Italian army, and joined forces to do so, and meanwhile Dragoon finished his war against the rebels.
  • Coalition Warfare: The acquisition of a whole duchy evidently put Dragoon well over his human badboy limit, for a coalition immediately formed to fight him. It was led by Khan, playing the Abbasid (formerly Ivering, and presumably a tale hangs thereby, but I don’t know what it is) state in southern France, the soi-disant “Gaulbasids”. I, being allied to Blayne and not to Khan, could not directly join this war, but there was nothing stopping me from raiding southern Italy to become hostile to Dragoon, and then joining the coalition armies – with which I would not be hostile as long as I stayed out of their territory – for the inevitable climactic battle. Unfortunately, the coalition was entirely unable to coordinate its armies; Dragoon, working on interior lines and with sealift capacity to move quickly around the shores of the Gulf of Lyon, was able to first meet Vaniver’s Bretonnian knights innocently marching down an Alpine pass and crush them in detail, then turn to counter-invade Gaul. I could not help with that, as if I had landed in Gaul I would have been hostile to them! Additionally, I was somewhat paranoid about Dragoon suddenly landing his 20k on my 14k stack and crushing it, so that my army spent most of its time in its boats, trying to figure out where the Italians were, not to mention where the dang coalition army was. Answer, it wasn’t. Vaniver, seeing that his heir was drastically superior to his emperor, committed suicide with the intent of increasing his realm levies by several thousand men; that worked so far as it went, but also threw him out of the war. A rebellion erupted in Atlassia (the other Mediterranean republic) and Dragoon was able to defeat the damaged pike retinue by the skin of his teeth. I’m not sure what happened to the Gaulish army but presumably it wasn’t good; we finally compromised on a white peace. The one bright spot was that the Ynglinga Hird once again covered itself in glory, being the only one of the four coalition armies not defeated by the Italians.
  • Ill Met in Italia: Two separate Fylkirs, leading their troops on Italian soil, were badly wounded, one of them so badly that he died. There is no luck in attacking Italy, apparently.
  • Conversion! We reached fifty years since the last conversion vote, and this time nobody had any projects they wanted to complete in CK2, nor was anyone in the middle of a civil war. The conversion passed, seven votes to two, and we will now enter the second part of the campaign, Our Doom and Our Pride.

Europe before the conversion, with realm-size enforcement in a few places – for example Kurland was released to reduce Yngl, Inc to the accepted size.

Player slots at conversion.

Europe after conversion. There will be some new slots, as well as five players in Asia; Vaniver (Bretonnia) and Blayne (Venice) are both moving, to Korea and China respectively. The humongous Khazaria will be played by Clonefusion – however, being overrun by nomads in CK2, it’s much less formidable than it looks, roughly half its provinces convert without holdings! Medina will be played by Tazzzo, Hooonter will return to play the Peasant Republic of Bavaria, and we have a promise of a player for Bretonnia. The AAR will continue here, where I’ll likely have a lot to say about the conversion, the auction, and custom national ideas.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Paying the Dane-Geld

Events of the eleventh session:

  • Paying the Dane-Geld: Although Dragoon prevented me from conquering Poland last session, the need for his intervention apparently scared Yami; it is true that the Bohemian and Polish kingdoms together would have some difficulty fighting me, if those were all the players in the war. We therefore reached an accommodation: Bohemia is my tributary, which saves me the trouble and expense of actually sending tax collectors across the Baltic, and in exchange the various Borghest kings sit their thrones securely. (At least from the Ynglings.) There was another timeline once, where Poland was a fief of the Ynglings; it didn’t work out so well, in the end, but it was none of the Poles’ fault. There weren’t many of them left, when the Chinese nuked Nuremberg. “Poland is suffering from a fantastic amount of overstretch; it has been bled totally dry. It has no manpower left, no supplies, no oil, and is trying to support an army of 400 divisions of which 60 (!) are armoured. Its dissent is 30%. These days I think very carefully before ordering Polish troops to attack, because the casualties cannot quickly be made good”. These are the occupational hazards of spending a decade in a global total war as the expendable front-line vassals of the Ynglinga Rike. Perhaps this time will be better.
  • Great Holy War: I finally managed to unleash the Great Holy War for Saxony that I’ve been planning for several ingame decades. Saxony is rightful Yngling clay, and currently held by an Ivering; additionally it contains the Norse holy site at Braunschweig, meaning that a successful war would give me two achievement points rather than one. Vaniver chose not to dispute this one; even so, the AI put together quite an impressive army, equal to what I invaded with at 14k. However, that took time and allies, and by the time it was ready to fight I had assaulted enough castles to give me the victory.

    Alfgeir leads his men in a very satisfying victory against the Christian defenders of Saxony.

  • The Swedish Inquisition: Speaking of Iverings, there are still some quite powerful dukes and counts of that ilk left over from the Crusade. Being followers of the White Christ, they are quite vulnerable in the majority-Norse Ynglinga Rike; in effect the only ones annoyed when I revoke a title from an Ivering are the other Iverings. I did however have to spend some time managing my council, as every time someone became malcontent he would block my revocations just to be difficult, and apparently buy enough favours to take half the council with him. I ended up making Nordriki independent again just to get rid of king Bersi – I was also well over the realm-size limit, and in fact still am, so it was somewhat convenient as well as satisfying to be able to fire him not just from the council but the realm. The Inquisition is not yet ended, but the power of the Iverings has been vastly reduced with just one civil war to enforce my edict, and the spread of the religion of slaves has been contained and partly rolled back.
  • Ut! Ut! I now found time to turn to the Scots infesting the northern part of Scandinavia, and begin the process of chucking them out with a holy war for Norrland.
  • Vox Popoli, Vox Diaboli: I handed out the Saxon provinces to various Ynglings, carefully following the Duchy boundaries to make nice holdings that could in principle become viable Holy-Roman-Empire minors (or even an elector in the case of Braunschweig); unfortunately I forgot to make the castles into province capitals first, and so they were all handed out as “Grand City of Foo”. Thus they became Republics, and inland ones at that; and my grand design of Yngling Saxony was gone, thanks to this damn “democracy”, within a generation. Apparently if you give the peasants a vote, they don’t feel obliged to use it as you intended, and will elect completely random nobodies!

Player and political maps, 1082. Note the Ynglinga Rike stretching well down into Germany – sadly, most of this will have to be made independent again so as to comply with the realm size limit. Also note Khan in Gaul and Egypt. Hadogei missing again from Anatolia; sadly, we may be about to lose him, his presence has been very sporadic recently.

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