If Blood be the Price of Admiralty: Beyond All Count or Care

So at last it came; The War, the much-discussed, long-postponed, no-longer-hoped-for clash of the Great Powers, the vast bloodletting that would upend nations, destroy empires, grind peoples to dust, and settle, at least for a while, just who was top dog of the age of steel and steam. And, of course, it came – as it had to – as a surprise; for years, decades even, the Great Powers had been saying that modern war was just too big, that it would require too much micro-management, that a war of millions was beyond the attention and skill of any government no matter how talented. And so the real conflicts, the lines of true tension between nations, were, for a while, suppressed, laid to rest, ignored. But humans do not work that way, not for decades on end. To arrange humans so that some of them believe they might have a chance at hegemony, and then prevent them from testing the theory in battle, is an exercise in futility. Better to balance pyramids on their tip, or stack near-critical masses of U-238; the loss of life will be less. And the frustration will also be less; for when the collapse, or the explosion, inevitably comes, at least it will not be too late for decision.


Battle of Uglich, in which the Ynglinga Hird showed the Khazarians which end of the rifle the bullet comes out of. However it must be admitted that in spite of immense tactical successes there was no particular strategic result of this campaign.

The War finally erupted in 1931; not over “some damn stupid thing in the Baltic”, as the Ynglings had been half-jokingly expecting since they lost Pommerania in the First Baltic War, but over some damn stupid thing in Indochina. The details of the conflicting claims to some hundred-mile strip of coastline hardly matter now; the result was that every power in the world, with the single exception of Great Britain, lined up on one side or the other and ran their guns until the barrels were red-hot.

The Northern Front, showing the vast gains which would surely have brought Khazaria to its knees in a few years.

Khazaria does not lift, and was instantly outmatched in the battle of Swole.

Cherry blossoms falling in defense of Japanese Europe.

Had the war been fought to a conclusion, it would likely have been called “The Eurasian War”, since the two core powers of the aggressor alliance, Khazaria and Medina, between them rule all but the peninsular fringes of that vast landmass. Since, in fact, the war ended after about a year of futile slaughter, it may instead be called the “Great Prelude” or the “Anti-Climax”. In the end, the prewar pundits were proven correct: Twentieth-century war, fought by million-men armies armed with rifles and machine guns, are beyond the power of any government, not to wage, but to win. The Ukrainian front, where four million men on each side stuck in mud and blood for a year, without any result other than the replacement of each set of eight million conscripts by another, proved that. It was for this reason, for the sheer difficulty of managing the thing so as to come up with a credible plan for victory, that the belligerent governments agreed to hammer out yet one more compromise, and delay the reckoning by a few more years. Not from common humanity, not from any empathy with the suffering conscripts in the trenches, not even from a cautious view to their own well-being if the war should radicalise the mobilised masses – but simply because not even the most deludedly optimistic could believe, after a year of this war, that there was any skill or talent that could lead to victory. It would come down to attrition, exhaustion, and revolution; and even those who professed that their own society was so superior that it would inevitably come out ahead in that coin-toss, did not willingly put their belief to the test.

A Chinese front, somewhere in the middle of Eurasia. The specific provinces hardly matter; it was like this from the Oxus to the Amur.

One more compromise, a few more years; and all who saw the treaty knew perfectly well that it was only a stay of execution, an armistice not for twenty years but for five. But hope springs ever eternal; the statesmen of 1932 hoped, not for actual peace, nor for teaching a horse to sing, but only that a few years more would see the development of methods for compelling one’s enemies to reason on a manageable scale. The airplane, the tank, the ever-more-deadly war gasses; if the explosion could only be put off for a decade, even half a decade, then these might make war once again a matter for skill, for talent, for exercising statesmanship and not butchery. Anything, they said in the chancelleries and councils of Europe, must be better than the sterile slaughters, the unmoving lines of trenches, the war of attrition. Even defeat was better than that; they signed the treaty – the meaningless shuffling-around of a few provinces, a few millions of ducats of “reparations” – knowing that they might be choosing a horrible end. At least they had avoided the endless horror of trench warfare.

The Ukrainian front, March and September 1932. Notice that it does not move, although it does extend further north. Each of those three and four battles of a million men a side has a few thousand casualties a day. Over six months, that works out to more than 1.5 million. For comparison, roughly four million men died on the Western Front of our timeline, over four years.

The Thai peninsula, showing the three provinces that actually changed hands as a result of the war – going from Japan to, ironically, the one uninvolved power, Britain.

———————————-

We ended Victoria in 1932, by common consent that the then-ongoing war was unwinnable for either side in four game years, in the hope of getting a better combat engine that would allow us to do something other than watch the red casualty figures rise above the same six provinces for four hours. We then spent some time polishing the conversion, and at the same time maneuvering diplomatically to set up the final conflict. Khazaria, Medina, and Japan – three of the four top powers, although Japan is some distance behind the other three – seemed unbreakably allied, and also gathered up Korea. In striving to put together an alliance to resist them and create an enjoyable war for all, Dragoon managed to unite most of Europe with China and Brazil, but got only a grudging consent from Bohemia, and none from Occitania and Britain. This would, we thought, have been just enough to give us a fighting chance; we’d be underdogs, certainly, but it wasn’t impossible, and if we won the victory would be all the more satisfying. Then, at the last minute, Bohemia broke ranks, and we – by “we” in this context I mean everybody in the western alliance except me – decided that it couldn’t be won. We therefore declared (not without some salt) Khazaria and Medina winners of the “Realpolitik”, ie no-alliances-barred player-diplomacy, version of the game, and set about finding a different scenario that would give everyone some satisfying fighting. We ended up with a variant of “Twilight Struggle”, in which the three biggest powers are forbidden from allying with anyone, and the remaining powers are allowed to do their own diplomacy, with the constraint that their alliances may not end up more than 33\% over the biggest single power (Medina) in number of factories. With this we seem to have five major factions, firstly the Big Three which each form a faction of their own, then the Pact of Hercules comprising Leon, Atlassia, and Great Britain (and vassals), and the Legion of Doom, comprising Japan, Elysium, and the Ynglings. China, Korea, Occitania, and Bohemia are wildcards to my knowledge; Kimifornia and Rharia go with their overlords.

Maps after conversion, with some territorial changes:

Eurasia.

South America.

North America.

Africa.

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If Blood Be the Price of Admiralty: Who Shall Next to Sleep?

  • The Long Nineteenth Century: There seems to be a consensus that we will not have a Great War in Victoria; the armies are just too large, the combat model too attritious, the networking code too janky. So we will have, in effect, a hundred-year truce, from 1836 to 1936; and then in 1940 the nukes will fly. We are considering means of making Victoria a little more warlike next time; but then, perhaps next year in Vicky 3? We want to believe!
  • End of Science: There are no more discoveries to be made; science, from now on, will only be a process of filling in ever more decimal places in our measurements of the various physical constants. Technology, likewise, will simply consist of advancing ever more closely to the theoretical maximum efficiencies of engines. There will be no more game-changing breakthroughs, or even major incremental advances that give that crucial five-percent edge in combat; a glorious chapter of exploration in human history is closed, and we can look forward to a long twilight of exploiting what we have learned.
  • At Sixes and Sevens: Atlassia and the Ynglinga Rike are very close in score; so close, in fact, that every time I completed a Dreadnought, I’d flip to sixth-place Great Power, and then back to seventh when Atlassia finished his. (Alternate titles: Naval Arms Race or Risikoteori.) Oddly enough, the origin of the phrase “at sixes and sevens” (for Americans, it means “in confusion or chaos”) was a dispute over the order of precedence between two London merchant guilds. It was resolved by putting them each at six-and-a-half, that is, they took turns being the sixth.
  • Distributed Caching: Mostly for something to do, I conquered Kachin from what’s left of Mahalavos. It does have rubber. The AI defended its tiny core quite ably, forcing me to bring tanks all around Africa; however, when it acquired military access through Russia it decided to counterattack Finland. Sadly, I did not get an opportunity for an extended siege of Viborg and accompanying shouts of “Viipuri kestää”; I marched two stacks through Russia myself, and quite by accident met the Indians slightly north of the Caspian. Since they weren’t defending entrenchments in hills, I smashed them utterly.
  • Revolting Russians: This time it seems to be Russia that has the constant revolt spiral, in spite of the rebel nerf in the mod. Not that it bothers the country with 3000 regiments, he just puts a 30-stack in every province and zaps through the battle popups.
  • Million-man Army: I expanded my industry sufficiently to get the resources to build regiments quickly, without each one standing about for two months for lack of guns; as a result I finally reached 1000 regiments. Putting me tenth among the nations, although fifth overall for military power due to my navy, which is actually the third navy in the world.
  • Efficiency Wages: Yngl, Inc has always hired the best, especially for internships. (For those who didn’t follow us in Crusader Kings, the Ynglings of this timeline haven’t kept slaves since 968, when it was discovered that unpaid interns work twice as hard and don’t spit in your coffee.) In the late nineteenth century, however, we discovered the merits of also firing the worst, thus obtaining a workforce that wasn’t a simple cross-section of the talent pool; the inferior workers emigrated in large numbers to China and Japan, where they got jobs making shoddy rubber toys. The resulting gains in productivity allowed us to increase wages by three percent across the board (except for interns, whose wage we tripled), and thus attract the best workers from all over the world. (Out of character: When I completed the work-hours reforms, my immigration suddenly went through the roof and I started gaining 200k population monthly; Brazil with a similar population gained only 175k, the difference being all immigration.) This result has now been enshrined in Yngling work-theory as the “efficiency wage”, outlining the gains to be had from hiring only those who work twice as hard as average and paying them three percent more than average. Capitalist genius!

Russian communists getting ready to drown the world in red.

Nation ranking, 1928. Note Atlassia breathing down my neck.

Population and other numbers. Note the two populations over a billion.

World map, 1928.

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If Blood Be the Price of Admiralty: What Portent See You There?

  • Fourth Bohemian War: A misclick caused by the immense cultural clash between Yami, a gamer of the newer generation who expects a confirmation popup when he DOWs someone, and the people who were working on Victoria back in 2010, who expected people to use judgement and initiative and not click on buttons just to see what would happen. By the way, for those who joined us in Victoria, the Third Bohemian War is entirely fictional even within the AAR.
  • Order, Progress, Industry: So much industry, order, and progress. I long for a Great War, a twenty-year conflict which will grind nations to dust, shatter empires centuries old, and reduce even the nominal victors to savagery! But, alas, the Great Powers look at their armies of over a thousand regiments, and their ability to mobilise another three or four thousand apiece, and groan at the thought of the micromanagement involved. (In truth, even my own 700 and 1500 give me pause.) Also, the creaky old networking code might not take too kindly to tracking north of ten thousand units.

Great Powers, 1917.

World map, 1917.

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If Blood be the Price of Admiralty: God Rest You, Peaceful Gentlemen

  • The End is Nigh: We have reached the twentieth century, a time once spoken of only in scientific romances; and modernity is upon us! The age of steam is coming to an end, electricity and internal combusion rule the day. It’ll be the loco-boiler next, and thirty mile an hour! Telephones, wireless transmission, even automobile carriages; surely Ragnarok and the Twilight of the Gods cannot be far off, for certainly there cannot be many inventions left to make.
  • The Fimbul War: The first sign of Ragnarok is said to be a three-year winter; and surely there is a winter in the affairs of men. For the powers of Eurasia are divided into two vast armed camps, and glare at each other from their ramparts that they recently rebuilt to support machine guns. But they dare not fire and make the war hot; for who knows what would happen, when armies of three million on a side clashed? So they wait, and build, and boast of their battleships and their bombs; and hope that something may break the stalemate.
  • Some Damn-Fool Thing in the Baltic: While I was away, and Scandinavia was in other hands, Bohemia attacked in alliance with Occitania, and gained Pommern and (for the first time in a hundred years) a Baltic coastline. I believe I have the power to take it back, now, if Bohemia and Occitania were all the powers involved. But Bohemia is allied to Khazaria, and Occitania is allied to Medina, and those two Great Powers are allied to each other. And I am allied to Leon and to the Latin Empire; and in Asia, Korea and China huddle together against the threat of Japan, which allies everyone and smiles like a crocodile; there are Japanese troops on the Rhine, and which way would they jump, if it came to a war? There are six hundred Yngling regiments in the Hird, and if it came to mass-mobilisation warfare the leidang musters another thousand… and Scandinavia’s is counted fifth among the world’s armies. If the Latin Empire went to war, four million men would get the callup – not counting the regulars already in uniform. To be the one who begins such a conflict is a dreadful responsibility. And yet there is Pommern, that was Yngling land for three hundred years… and after all, this cold war cannot last forever; something will be the spark that ignites the flame.
  • Ride of the Valkyries: Meanwhile, we occasionally grind a minor power to dust, mostly for something to do, and to blood our armies and test our new weapons. Ayutthaya has been partitioned, and the red wolf’s-head on black flies over Pegu and the Shan States. And yet in spite of three large European powers, with the current-maximum 20 army techs, attacking an AI minor with 14, there just seems to be something about those jungles that makes for grinding, attritional warfare. The Ayutthayan AI had somehow acquired a general with 5 attack – I didn’t know that was even a thing in Vicky, they must have added some good traits in a recent patch – and their 150 regiments maintained their resistance far beyond what sanity would indicate was possible. Were I inspired, I would write a narrative segment about the tall blonde Norse regiments, sweating in their heavy wool uniforms, treading carefully through the jungle paths, expecting any moment to trip over a wire connected to a black-powder grenade, or for a hail of heavy musket balls to come crashing through the foliage to be answered by the snapping crack of smokeless-powder rifles.
  • We Want to Believe: Alas, with these humongous armies and immense industrial establishments, the creaky old Clausewitz engine is being strained to its limits. We currently have about one crash a year, and the latest crisis hung fire and had to be edited. Next year in V3!
  • From Berserker to Battleship: The Nordsjøflåte currently has 32 battleships, and is therewith one of the smallest navies among the powers that actually have a navy.

Some ledger statistics, presented more or less without comment.

Europe; note the Bohemian occupation of Pommern.

Asia; note the European partition of Ayutthaya.

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If Blood Be the Price of Admiralty: Let Nothing You Dismay

As the first session of Victoria wasn’t very eventful, I shall combine my AAR with some notes on the last EU4 session.

  • The Vistula War: There are three Big Powers in this game: The Latin Empire, Medina, and Khazaria. As is the custom, there have been rumblings that the Great Powers are too powerful, that the balance of power has become an excuse for stasis, and that we may as well declare a winner and start over from Crusader Kings; and as is also the custom, a coalition formed to test these claims, and attempt to end the stasis by force. In particular, Bohemia, also known as the Holy Roman Empire, bravely led the Ynglings, the Chinese, and the Koreans to attack Khazaria, the Yellow Colossus of the East. Khazaria was joined by its ally Medina, making two of the Three Greats on one side of the war; the Latin Empire stayed neutral, although the threat of the tercios marching from Anatolia to the Caucasus was an important part of the diplomacy surrounding the peace treaty. Occitania was also supposed to join the coalition, but like the treacherous surrender monkeys they are, stayed home to maintain their protective alliance with Medina; on the other hand Leon joined at a late point – too late, as it turned out, for the hordes of mercenaries to stay the tide.

    Various diplomatic delays had, unfortunately, given Khazaria fair warning, and by the time we attacked Siberia was completely, continuously fortified from Lake Bajkal to the Urals. The war’s strategy therefore resolved itself into two parts: On the eastern front Khazaria would stand on the defensive against China and Korea, while those two powers blasted a path through the immense fortresses in some of the world’s worst terrain. Meanwhile, in the west, two Great Powers would fling their immense armies at Scandinavia and at the Holy Roman Empire, trying to knock them out of the war before the Asian armies could reach the Urals. For the Ynglings, therefore, the war was very simple: All we had to do was stand off two powers each of which was twice our size, while our allies sieged their way through Siberia.

    Simple is not the same as easy.

    The war opened with Khazaria’s armies swarming across Bohemia’s eastern border:

    The “Battle” of Mazyr – dignified by that name mainly because it was the first engagement of the war; fighting on this scale, if it had occurred in 1806 or 1807, would have been labeled an “action” or a “skirmish”.

    The battle of Mazyr immediately showed the pattern of the war: The Yngling armies could inflict more casualties, but lacked staying power relative to the Khazarian armies with their modifier upon modifier for morale; the Imperial armies, especially the Vassal Swarm, were useless except as cannon fodder. However, the easterners had to attack, as the coalition was on the defensive in Europe; so after the initial hard-fought border battles, in which we turned back the invaders but were unable to pursue them into the depths of Russia, we formed a vast defensive line, and the war became attritional:

    Polish Front, 1806.

    Then, every so often, the easterners would win a siege, and move to attack one of our armies; we would move our surrounding stacks into the defense, the whole Khazarian and Medinan army would be drawn in, which in turn would draw in the entire coalition side, and we would have a battle with half a million men on a side:

    The defense of Warsaw.

    Depending on who won, the front would move one fortress either east or west; but because of their morale advantage, the easterners would win slightly more often than they lost in spite of taking more casualties – which their greater manpower reserves allowed them to absorb. (“That’s why they’re called Great Powers.”) Nevertheless, while the front was yielding it was by no means collapsing; and meanwhile the Asians were taking one fortress after another.

    Spring counteroffensive, 1807, after the Khazarian retreat from the walls of Warsaw.

    Rearguard action at Braslaw.

    After the failure of their spring attack in 1807, the easterners changed tactics slightly: Instead of pushing into Poland they began to probe north, towards the Yngling domains. I naturally shifted my army north to ward them off, and inflicted vast casualties:

    Kovno, 1811; the Medinan army has reached the Baltic coast and is striving to widen the breach by driving the Ynglings north into Finland.

    However, by sheer weight of metal the Medinans forced their way to the Baltic coast, splitting off my army from the Imperial one. Here I made a mistake: Obviously I had full control of the Baltic, and thus in effect could operate on interior lines even with the enemy controlling Konigsberg. However, believing that they would next attack Finland, I moved to defend the Fortress City of Viborg. The eastern alliance, however, kept their eyes on the ball; realising that without a Bohemian front I could be isolated and made irrelevant, they struck hard for the Oder, and drove back the Imperial Guard fortress by fortress. It was at this point that Leon joined and that Occitania’s betrayal became clear. Both Leon’s army, and my belated shift to the Polish front – which was rapidly becoming a German front! – were too late.

    German front, 1812; the eastern alliance marches on Prague.

    Even a series of brilliant Yngling victories, and the advance of the Asian armies halfway to the Urals:

    The Ynglinga Hird, striking at the exposed northern flank of the Prague salient, inflicted immense damage – but too late.

    The Asian armies’ advance. While it does not look too impressive on the map, note that each and every one of these provinces had a level-8 fortress, and many of them are mountains.

    could not stop the Russian steamroller in its drive on Prague. With the Emperor’s capital in enemy hands he had no choice but to sign their diktat. The peace, admittedly, was generous, since the victorious easterners had still taken well over a million casualties each and were perforce looking nervously towards the Alps, wondering whether half a million Latin Dragoons might be riding to the relief of Prague; the very polite presence of Latin “observers” at the conference assured a rapid convergence on a treaty without annexations.

    Final result of the war: We ran through the int32 casualty limit, in fact we likely did so twice, but no provinces changed hands.

  • Weak Piping Times of Peace: With no great dramas to occupy our attention, we whiled away the last few years of EU4 by trying to develop our provinces for Great-Power status; in this contest I was defeated by the barest of margins by those cheese-eating traitors in Occitania:

    Great-Power rankings. So close!

  • Truce of God: For the first ten years of Victoria no player can attack anyone; this is to ensure that everyone gets a chance to have their army in order after the conversion.

Eurasia, 1821.

Americas, 1821 – missing the Vast Green Blob that is Brazil.

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Our Doom and Our Pride: Hear us, when we cry to Thee!

March 19th, 1814
East of Poznan, Bohemia (OTL Poland)
Late afternoon

They were an even dozen, one officer and eleven men remaining of the hundred that had begun the day – or a little less than twelve; one of the soldiers had lost two fingers parrying a slash that would have taken his head off, and half the rest bore the marks of sabres in one place or another. No serious wounds, for those who couldn’t walk were lying where the Russian cavalry had caught them, midway between the lines; or had been carted off to the rear, hopefully to join the rest of the company, wherever they were. It was beyond belief that Ulf’s eleven could be all that was left of it; he’d been out on the left flank, that was all, and the Russians had gotten between him and his brother officers. Bad luck, but the sort of thing that would happen in battles; they were all veterans and knew the chaos well, and would laugh about it tomorrow, when they’d found each other and the terror and adrenaline began to seem like a dream. Companies of a hundred men were not wiped out in three minutes, not even by Cossacks that appeared out of nowhere when they were advancing to the attack… Ulf abandoned the line of thought as unfruitful. Marek, the lowest-ranking officer of the Bohemian company they’d attached themselves to, was approaching; and there was a stirring in the blue-and-white mass, shouts of command and men moving, loading muskets, fixing bayonets; it did not take an experienced soldier’s eye to see something happening.

“Herr Løytnant,” Marek greeted him; his arm twitched reflexively, but he withheld the salute, as was proper when in sight of the enemy. “We are ordered to attack.” He spoke a guttural, accented German, the common language of the officers of northern Europe; Ulf answered in the same tongue.

“Very well,” he said. He wasn’t, technically, obliged to take Bohemian orders; but having lost his own superior officers and attached himself to these allies, it would look ill, after the battle, if he insisted on that piece of protocol. Besides, it was obviously the right thing to do; if they did not break the Russian line soon, the Medinan army would be on their flank and there would be no holding anything east of the Oder. “Our target?”

“Those banners,” Marek said, pointing ahead and to the right. “We will form column for the charge. How will you deploy to support us?”

The battle of Poznan, showing the immense scale and confusion of the fighting.

Ulf considered it briefly. The Bohemians, courteous to a fault, were treating him as an officer of an allied sovereign, not giving orders but asking him to support their attack as he thought best; but just then he would rather have preferred to be told “go there, shoot that way, keep your men in order” and not have to think about the problem. However, it wasn’t that difficult:

“I will form a flank guard for your rightmost company,” he said. Twelve men were about the right number for that, and would free up a dozen Bohemians to lend weight to their column’s charge; and it was work that Norsemen could do better than scrawny conscript Bohemians, even these elite conscripts of the Imperial Guard, calling for weight and size as much as cohesion.

Marek had clearly been expecting it, and nodded sharply. “The drums will beat to signal the advance,” he said, then turned back towards his countrymen without further words, ending the conversation. Ulf looked again at the banners that were their target, and frowned; they would have to march obliquely, exposing them to fire from the walled farmhouse that protected the center of the Russian line for much longer than was strictly necessary. It would have been better to march straight across, as fast as possible. But there was nothing to be done about it. The Imperial Guard wasn’t going to change its line of attack for one Løytnant of an allied power, and anyway there wasn’t time. Out on the right flank, Ulf had, of course, been the last to get the word, and formations of eight thousand men did not change their line of attack in less than half an hour. It would take five minutes just to get to the center… Ulf shook himself; he was getting distracted by things he could not change.

“All right, you men,” he said instead, addressing the tiny part of 3rd Company, Fourth Bergenhus Line Infantry, that he still commanded. “We’re going to form up, and advance when the drums sound. Head for those banners over there” – he pointed – “take the ridge, shoot any Russians that come near, wait for our friends to bring up their guns and pound the enemy line to scrap. We’re the flank guard.”

That was the plan, anyway, he noted to himself; plans, of course, rarely survived Russian drumfire. He scowled at the ridge while his men got ready, putting out their pipes, fixing bayonets. In truth it wasn’t much of an obstacle, a long, low rise, its top no more than five meters above the endless Polish plain. But the Russians had held it all day, had withstood cannonade and cavalry, had hunched over and dug in their heels and held with the endless bitter stubbornness of serf conscripts for whom nothing in their lives had ever gone right, and the massed fire of the Grand Battery of the Ynglinga Hird was just one more misfortune in a life of disasters… and now time was running out. The Medinans were no slugs; they marched to the sound of the guns, and if they reached the allied flank while the Russian army still held the field, the battle was lost and the campaign with it. All the careful work to get in between the two enemy forces, to engage the Russians on their own terms while the Medinans were distracted by the Leonese cavalry’s raid to the south, all wasted… if the Russians held. And so the Imperial Guard got ready for attack, one more charge across the stricken field to take the ridge, to break the Russians’ hearts and make them run. And on their right flank, a tiny unit of Norsemen, separated from their officers and their standard, running low on powder and shot, half of them wounded… but not defeated yet, Ulf thought defiantly, looking around at his men. They were enlisted, most of them half a step ahead of the thief-takers, the headsman, or the poverty that was worse than either, and couldn’t be relied upon to feel patriotism or duty in the same way that Ulf, the son and grandson of officers, did; nor to understand the bigger operational picture, the desperate importance of taking the ridge before the Medinans arrived. But they were veteran soldiers, of an army that had been in the field for a decade; they understood stubbornness, and courage, and putting your head down and advancing into the lead rain until the enemy ran away. Their own attack had failed, when the Cossacks surprised them, and they had lost the rest of their company in the scrambling retreat from the sabres. But they weren’t defeated yet.

The drums sounded at last, the slow dun-dun-dun of the Bohemians’ advance, and Ulf stepped out before his men, leading from the front as his honour required. There ought to be a sergeant to keep them in formation, but for twelve men it hardly mattered. The difference between a ‘square’ and a ‘clump’ wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone but an inspector general – certainly the Cossacks would not care, as long as the bayonets were sharp. The bullets wouldn’t care either, they never did.

Behind and to the right, the Grand Battery thundered, working its way up to the three rounds a minute that conserved ammunition and broke armies. They were mainly targeting the farmhouse, he saw, cannonballs crashing through the stone wall that had never been intended for a military fortification, turning the rocks into deadly projectiles; the sniping, galling fire from there slackened noticeably. So someone else had noticed the problem, and done something about it; Ulf spared a moment’s gratitude that he was on the side with Yngling artillery, the finest in the world. The Russian guns were firing back, but they were shooting at the densely-packed mass of the Imperial Guardsmen, wasting no powder on a tiny target like Ulf’s flank guard; for a long minute, as they advanced across the plain towards the ridge, Ulf walked as though in a charmed bubble, with the immense sound of the guns all around and the screams of men hurt beyond bearing assaulting his ears, but no shots coming near. Then they came within musket range, and green Russian uniforms were rising from the ridge; they had been lying down, Ulf realised with a jolt of near-panic, to make them less of a target for the artillery, and now they rose as though from dragon’s teeth and leveled their muskets, four lines deep. A shout of command, and the shattering sound of hundreds of muskets going off a hundred yards away – and again, and again; the Russians were firing by ranks – there was a clatter and rattle of the immense lead bullets striking musket barrels and bayonets, and the Guards bent and ducked in waves, like a field of corn in the wind, but kept advancing at their steady pace. The Russian infantry hadn’t fired on his little group any more than their artillery, Ulf realised with relief; a quick glance backwards confirmed that none of his men were hit.

The last, desperate charge of the Imperial Guard.

The drumbeat changed, the steady one-per-two-seconds dun-dun-dun of ‘advance’ becoming a quick rattling drrrapp, drrrapp, and eight thousand Guards cheered as they broke into a run. “Storm!”, Ulf shouted, but his men hardly needed the order; he had to hustle to avoid getting a bayonet in the butt and to stay out in front where he belonged. It was only a hundred yards; ten seconds’ run, if you were an athlete on a hard track; forty, for soldiers carrying thirty pounds of gear across a muddy field. A hundred yards, or a hundred years; time enough for the Russians to fire three volleys, time enough for a thousand men to die. Time enough, also, for a wavering to run across the green-clad ranks on the ridge; and then, before the bayonets could sink into flesh, there was no Russian line in front of them, only the backs of fleeing men. There was a panting, hissing scream of disdain, and Ulf realised that he had joined it himself; a spatter of musketry from the front ranks of the Guard cut down a few fleeing Russians. They’d done it, they’d taken the ridge; all that remained was to bring up the Bohemian guns and batter the rest of the Russian line to scraps, and then turn to destroy the Medinan army and drive them back beyond the Vistula – and as he turned to grin in triumph at his men and get them into line, he saw them falling, like ninepins; two heads disappeared in immense splashes of blood, and the canister, liberally mixed with bone fragments, sliced into the Guards behind them. He snapped his head around and froze in horror; three batteries of horse artillery, nine guns, hidden behind the ridge and in the perfect spot for their fire to rip the Guards’ flank to shreds – and behind them, a formation of infantry, battalion strength at least, in fine order and advancing for the counter-attack that would shatter the disordered Guards formation and restore the Russian line. He drew a breath to give an order, unsure what the order would be or even if anyone was alive to obey it; and before he could speak the second battery fired, and he stared in horror at the stump of his wrist, where his blood poured out in a spurting, jetting stream. There was no pain, not yet, or the pain was too immense to register; even then, as he fell, he had time to think that a hand lost to enemy artillery was an honourable wound, and if he lived he could go home, and draw a pension, and fight no more. If he lived; he clamped his right hand down on his left stump, trying to stem the flow while his vision darkened.

Dimly he heard the shouts of “Stráž ustoupí!”, but could not find the attention to translate the Czech. He would have to save himself, if he could.

Slavibor Mikulas at the battle of Poznan; the exact timing of the painting is unclear, but the clouds of smoke and the ragged Hussars departing to the right suggest that it is after the defeat of the Imperial Guard’s charge, the last throw for victory, and that Mikulas is about to orchestrate the brilliant fighting retreat that capped his reputation.

The fearsome casualty statistics of “Bloody Poznan”, each individual death a dreadful tragedy.

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Our Doom And Our Pride: Dare the Eagle’s Flight

  • Memory Hole: There was no Third Bohemian War this session, so I created a purely fictional war for your edification and entertainment instead. I do encourage all the peanuts (and players!) to start writing fanfics of the war; no knowledge of any game events or mechanics required – if you want the Japanese fleet to show up off the coast of Norway, sure, why not? It’s a fanfic, no need for any sensible logistical constraints. Besides, nobody will read it anyway.

    Yngling fan-wank fanfic, entirely fictional.

    Bohemian fan-wank fanfic, which definitely did not happen.

    Accumulated casualty statistics in the “official” version of the fictional war, that is, using Þormondsen’s and Cilek’s accounts of the Baltic and Finnish campaigns, carefully collated by some total nerd. Note that everyone agrees that, defeated or not, the Ynglings inflict drastically heavier casualties than they suffer – in fact, this tendency may be even more pronounced in fiction than in real life, as authors tend to Flanderize and hyperbolize the traits of their characters, or in this case armies. Most of the dead in the Viborg War, it’s worth noting, died from frostbite and exposure, not from Yngling guns.

  • Stupid, Stupid Vassal Creatures: A recent trend in online fiction about the 3BW is to make a running joke of the stupidity of officers in the Imperial Vassal Swarm, for example having them send tiny ten-thousand-man armies (and in some cases even single regiments!) across the Øresund into the teeth of the well-prepared Yngling defenses, where they instantly die to the last man. Obviously this would never happen in a real war, and no serious publisher would allow such an event in their books, but, well, 90% of everything is dreck and this is even more obviously true online, where there are no gatekeepers and any idiot can just write whatever they want.
  • The End Is Not Yet: This will likely be our last session of EU4, after which we’ll have a break to polish the Victoria conversion; because of the importance of the last session we are taking a Mother’s Day break to accommodate several weaklings who prioritise their parents over the balance of power in Europe.

Eurasia, 1797, Ayutthaya absent.

Americas, 1797.

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