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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We Must Feed Our Sea: The Power of Balance

I am occasionally reminded that, although I am perhaps the most visible player of these megacampaigns, and so may be said to have something of a reputation, this does not come about because I’m actually any good; it’s all persistence, showing up every week, and writing AARs. This was one of those sessions:

  • Not Yet Dead: With the excellent Sea King Thorsteinn on the wrong side of sixty and, alas, unlikely to reign much longer, I wanted to use some of his 15000 accumulated prestige on a few kingdom subjugations (a custom take-a-kingdom CB in our mod, 3000 prestige a pop). I therefore decided, as one does, to invade Poland; a subsidiary of Bohemia, spun out by Yami with a king of his dynasty (“von Borghest”) to satisfy the realm-size limit. Beating an AI kingdom is not difficult; I was confident in my ability to take on Yami as well, when he inevitably joined to protect his kinsman; unfortunately I had not reckoned with Dragoon deciding that he is the World Police, and sending 20000 men to protect the Catholic Succession in Poland. Consequently Poland is not yet dead.
  • The Svithjod Crusade: It had to come: The thirty-year cooldown ran out, and the Pope declared a Crusade for Sweden. With fifty thousand men on the march, and technology sufficiently advanced that attrition wasn’t much of a factor, I had only one chance: Send my men south to Rome and convince the Pope himself that he was actually losing. Unfortunately Dragoon, though not part of the crusade, took exception to this and I had to retreat; after that there was nothing I could do to prevent the loss of my wealthy heartland.

    Diplomatic situation at the beginning of the Crusade.

    Not kidding about the fifty thousand.

  • Gjenerobringen: Obviously I wasn’t going to let that stand. As soon as Vaniver had set up Sweden to his satisfaction, with Ivering Dukes and an Ivering King, I attacked. Vaniver, naturally, joined the war to defend his kinsman; my army was roughly equal to what he sent to Sweden, plus what the Ivering king could muster. However, his ability to maintain that level of mobilisation was superior. We fought back and forth for several years, during which I won three major battles but was unable to force Vaniver’s army to quit the field; and even with several gifts from various player helpers my reserve of money and men attrited. I was at one point up to 70 warscore, but couldn’t quite close the deal to make it 100; then Vaniver finally put all his knights on one flank and managed to actually win a battle, and I sued for a WP while I still had enough warscore that the AI would agree.

    Some victorious but unfortunately not decisive battles of the reconquest.

  • The Power of Balance: To his credit, Dragoon did apply the World-Police concept even-handedly; he invaded Sweden, beat the AI like a drum – in this case Vaniver didn’t bother to contest the outcome – and then invited me to retake it from him, which I did. Thanks Dragoon.
  • Patches and Rags: While I was busy with all this, Scotland (subbed by Khan) snuck in an attack on my wholly-owned subsidiary, Nordriki, and had 80% warscore before I noticed. I joined the war, but not fast enough to prevent them getting to 100 – they were only two sieges away – and peacing out for Lappland. Now Lappland is actually an insult; the indigenous people who call themselves Sami were called ‘Lapps’, ‘patches’, from the alleged state of their clothing. And indeed those ten provinces are possibly the most worthless in the game. Nevertheless they make an unsightly hole in my tidy Scandinavian Empire and I fully intend that they shall be returned, and Scotland burned to the ground to pay the interest on the loan.

Player map, 1054. Not shown: Scotland and Spain, Castille, Iberia, whatever-the-devil that peninsula is called; both subbed by people who had to leave early.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: I Do Not Sow

Events of the ninth session:

  • Monarch of the Ocean Sea: Having gotten the election as Doge in his twenties, Thorsteinn has had thirty years to spread the terror of his name; the black dragon-headed ships have drawn up on beaches from the Faeroes to the Crimea. In 1029 he was proclaimed Sea King by the acclamation of the leidang, giving him – in Yngling legal theory at least – the right to tax all ships that move upon the ocean sea, and all who live within three leagues of the coast. I celebrated by painstakingly raiding every coastal province in Scotland.

    Thorsteinn. Note the scars, the hook hand, the hard-learned caution with which he now approaches raiding.

  • Strategic Debt-Equity Swap: A new Crusade being in the offing, I was naturally worried that it might come to the Baltic; although the Ynglinga Rike is now, probably, a match for either France, England, or Bohemia individually, I would have great difficulty fighting all three, the more so if Scotland and perhaps Castille joined. Fortunately the Pope is currently under the muscular thumb of the Lotharing state that dominates Italy; and I was able to reach an agreement with Dragoon whereby I would give him a gift, and he would direct the Crusade elsewhere. At least, that was my understanding at the time. Dragoon seems to think that he was asking for a loan, as he was at that particular moment being attacked by a coalition of four other players worried about his power to, among other things, direct Crusades, and in dire need of money. With my princely gift, he was indeed able to maintain the field against them, and drive them off; apparently they had difficulty coordinating their armies, and were defeated individually. In any case Dragoon both sent the Crusade to Mali, and later repaid the gift with a handsome interest. It must be admitted, however, that this brilliant stroke of diplomacy may have somewhat annoyed the players of France, Castille, Venice, and England.
  • Jomsvikinga Saga: My very own Holy Order finally appeared, modded to be of a useful strength. (Let would-be Crusaders be warned.) I sent my third son Gudfrid to join them, hoping to bind this strong force to my family by making him its head. Alas, he slept with the wrong person, or possibly in the wrong position (the code of the Jomsvikings isn’t against homosexuality, per se, but you’d better not be the bottom) and they burned him at the stake.

    Gudfrid. Obviously chastity and celibacy only applies to women.

  • Vertical Integration: Using my de-jure claim, I recovered Jutland from the Saxon kingdom.
  • Subcontractor Failure: One of my vassals attempted a Holy War for Holstein against the same Saxons; thinking that the war would be easy but I might as well help, I sent my raiders down to get some gold and take any opportunity they found to smash the Saxon armies. Unfortunately, as it was a Holy War, the Saxons had this time provided themselves with three Holy Orders, and any smashing went the other way. Holstein remains German and Christian.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Thorsteinn has accumulated 15000 prestige, and is quite unlikely to be able to use all of it in Kingdom Subjugations before he dies. Alas, his sons are nowhere near as good.
  • One Special Lion: Once again over the realm-size limit, I spun off Finland to a promising Yngling.
  • Yule Break: We’ve had a two-week break for the midwinter blot; in between hanging thralls and laving the æsir-images with horse’s blood, I found some time to update my CK2 converter, which now works for the Japan patch and Cradle of Civilization – to include the new provinces, for which Paradox has not yet found time to update theirs.

Player map, 1031. Missing Gollevainen in England, Ziro in Scotland, and Hadogei in Jerusalem.

Political map, 1031. Note Finland released; I’ll edit them the remaining worthless Finnish provinces and make the Ynglinga Rike lean and hungry once more.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Poison Pill

Events of the eighth session:

  • Poison Pill: As the seventh session ended I was in the middle of a hostile takeover of Saxony, which at that time was going well. Unfortunately the Saxon board of directors rallied, and passed a poison-pill addendum to their charter, such that if any shareholder with more than ten percent of the shares attempted to acquire a controlling interest, the other shareholders would be issued new stock, drastically diluting the would-be acquirer. And additionally, Vaniver and Gollevainen both joined the war on Saxony’s side, and I could not siege quite fast enough to reach 100%; so I white-peaced.
  • By-the-Numbers Sequel: I admit that you’ve probably seen this movie before, but that’s ok, you’re still going to pay for your ticket. I invaded England on a Kingdom Subjugation CB; Vaniver joined on the English side; I wasn’t able to destroy the gathered armies of Christianity, including their very annoying camp followers, the famous HOs.
  • Late Fees: I’m told that Blayne had an arrangement with Clone whereby he would give one gift per session, and then Venice would not be raided. This insurance premium has not been paid since 935, in spite of several dunning letters, so I got some repo men together and set sail for the Med to collect the late fees. Unfortunately, it seems that the Adriatic neighborhood has really gone downhill lately; they’ve got a new landlord – Dragoon made Venice tributary – and he’s jacked up the rent and cut down maintenance. A really rough crowd has moved in; and Blayne has apparently spent money upgrading the siege hail, the immense catapults throwing a mix of rocks and incendiaries that protect Venice from intruders by sea. Long story short, my repo men ran into some Venetian backstreet gangs (back-canal?) and came home without the money they’d been sent for.
  • Subsidiary: In order to concentrate on my principal areas of focus, and also because I was over the realm-size limit, I have spun off the Kingdom of Nordriki, giving the shareholders a one-for-one share dividend. The initial stock market response has been very positive – the two companies have a combined market capitalisation about 10% over what they did as a single company – indicating that the investors agree with me that this will enable both companies to concentrate on their strengths.
  • Empire Building: My middle managers, to their credit, keep trying to expand my market share; this session saw, among others, the Fourth Vestfoldian and Fifth Alfheimr Conquests of Insee Orc. Admittedly Insee Orc remains under Scottish sovereignty, but you have to give some points for identifying the most-synergistic strategy and then committing whole-heartedly to it.
  • Aggregate Demand Shortfall: The Black Death washed over Europe, drastically reducing the number of consumers for my products and hence my revenues.
  • The Gathering Storm: While nothing definite has been decided, no infallible edict has been handed down from the throne of St Peter, still there is a strong sense in the air that the next Crusade must be in the Baltic.

Europe at the height of the recession.

Players, 996. Notice Finland released, Pruthenia conquered, and new player ‘Gamechanger’ on my eastern flank. Golle suffered a rebellion and was reduced to a kingdom within the British Empire, but the rebel was a kinsman and he’ll switch to playing him when the new session starts, so no permanent damage. Hadogei absent this session, and Jerusalem collapsed as a result.

Political map of Europe, with two interesting characters. Top is my current Doge, whom I managed (at last!) to get elected in his twenties, and who is also Quick. With, I hope, a thirty-year career ahead of him, I hope to make him a Sea King; so far I’ve never gotten higher than Ravager with something like sixty raids. This current one has five raids so far (after the dozen-or-so it took to get Viking, which is MTTH rather than deterministic), but they do accumulate. The second character is an old Yngling battleaxe: A scarred, one-handed Shieldmaiden who has survived two husbands. This by way of warning for anyone considering a crusade in the Baltic: This is the sort of opposition you’ll be facing.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Corporate Raiding

For the seventh session, I abandoned the sinking ship of Holstein and took over Scandinavia from Clonefusion, who had left in frustration at his unending bad luck with rulers. The sensation was somewhat like getting out of an ancient Honda from the second millennium, and pushing down the accelerator on a Tesla; the feeling of immense power under your command is intoxicating. Scandinavia has 3000 men just in retinues, and can call up another 6000 from the demesne; that’s before considering vassals. I don’t think Holstein ever had 9000 men in the field at any time in its 180-year history, to include the invasion of Scotland and the Great Holy War for England.

  • Corporate Raiding: Naturally, with all this leverage, I immediately went looking for distressed assets to liquidate. Fortunately, in the current business environment, it wasn’t at all difficult to find some; in fact, it appears that when you park 9000 men in a province, any local assets become distressed remarkably quickly. Across the session, as I acquired new equity, I held fire sales, wrote down goodwill, and took money out of pension plans – in this primitive age, with index funds yet to be invented, most people’s pension plan is their children, and they are surprisingly reluctant to consider that they can just acquire some more. In this manner I acquired several thousand ducats, which I immediately reinvested in the business, ie my demesne. Shareholder value increased considerably.
  • Loot Boxes: While looking through the assets of my newly-acquired companies, deciding what to liquidate first, I came across no less than three keys to the Strange Chest you occasionally acquire. Two with gold, one with ancient, useless parchments. (I mean, for all I know they contained the vital information that the DNA of the herb moly is twisted into configurations that channel the fundamental force, and blunt the mental powers of the Jackal… but as Kuipy isn’t playing in this campaign, that would still be useless.) Anyway, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that Paradox allows gambling in these games.
  • Agent-Principal Problems: I made independent several counts who held land directly of me, in an effort to keep below 150 realm size; they were promptly reconquered by my vassals empire-building middle managers.
  • Activist Investing: Noticing that Scotland was having a revolt, I headed over there to help out Zirotron by raiding the rebels voting my shares for the incumbent Board. Unfortunately I hadn’t paid close enough attention; it turned out that Ziro was the rebels. My bad! I apologised and started raiding voting against the usurper king instead, but to be honest I don’t think I’m going to be very popular in Scotland for a while. However that may be, I do have to salute Ziro’s ability to play tall; in Scotland the baronies would consistently yield 60, 70, even 80 ducats – immensely satisfying after spending years sieging buying distressed real estate in Eastern Europe for shillings on the ducat, and getting a measly 8-12 ducats apiece.
  • Hostile Takeover: The kingdom of Saxony is currently held by a branch of the Iverings, Vaniver’s dynasty; it is obviously the rightful clay of the Ynglings. With the prestige of my raiding, I was able to declare a Kingdom Subjugation war, which is currently going quite well – although who knows what will happen next session, when Vaniver returns and, perhaps, decides to defend his kinsman. Fighting a player is quite a different affair. But whatever the outcome I will have burned large parts of Saxony to the ground and extracted all movable goods and some that their owners thought were nailed down, and thus marked my displeasure with the annexation of Jutland, which I had given to an Yngling to keep below the realm size.

I don’t know, maybe people see this all the time? It was new to me, anyway.

Player map, 967. Vaniver missing this session, which is why France looks so empty; James (in Byzantium) dropped due to work changes. Notice Ranger expanding into Mali, and Ziro again in charge of Scotland. If anyone would like to join and pick up a slot, drop me a PM.

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Filed under Song of the Dead, We Must Feed Our Sea