Bloody yet Unbowed: The North Sea Confederation

North Sea Confederacy

The project of the North Sea Empire – a century in the making; a decade in the planning; a year in the execution – has failed. The savage Irish gallowglasses charged up the mound at Largs, and the shield-wall broke; the Teuton fleet escaped its confinement in the Elbe and seized the Sound. The French, too confident in the power of elan to carry all before them, retreat in disorder from the Rhine; the Russians, cautiously unwilling to push their pikes home, have yet to cross the Vistula. Everywhere the Central Powers triumph.

Even now, the Yngling Realm is not without resource; only men and treasure, not territory, has been lost. Three dozen ships, twenty thousand men, might yet control the North Sea; might raid and harry Ireland, as so many times before; might trouble the Teutons in the Danish isles, or shore up the shattered French army in its retreat towards Paris. But without victory on the ground in Scotland, there can be no seizure of its west coast, for which the Ynglings went to war. And Ireland has been well and truly warned of the Ynglings’ intent; Scotland swarms with swaggering gallowglasses, every town turned into a fortress, every village a barracks. While the Irish hold Scotland, the object of the dispute, there can be no victory; and with the defeat of the Army of the Isles, the conquest of Scotland has passed beyond practicality.

And the Ynglings, as ever, are nothing if not practical. They threw the dice, and the dice came up snake-eyes. Very well; a corsair is necessarily prepared for rapid reversals of fortune, and to turn them to account. The Ynglings have cut their losses; have negotiated a peace without cessions, and abandoned the ambition to rule Scotland’s coasts and, therewith, the North Sea unchallenged. It was a perilous project, reliant on victory in the field and fragile alliances; it has failed; there is no more to be said. Let the North Sea Empire fade into the ashes of history, to be replaced with the North Sea Confederation – not an empire built by conquest, but an alliance of countries that have tested each others’ mettle, and found they do not want to fight.

That is not to say, of course, that the Ynglings have given up on their urge to conquest and loot. They may be persuaded that particular wars are too dangerous, that specific strongholds are too well supplied and garrisoned. They will never admit the futility of force in general; sooner will they choke on radioactive German mud, sooner will they send their own children across the Jotunheim on skis, than abandon their war with all the world, to bring it under Yngling dominion or down in flames. They have made a peace with the Irish and their Teuton allies; but they have not agreed to stop using their ports as corsair bases, or for their trading ships to cease turning pirate when occasion offers. They are still the ‘Troll Republic’, a polity whose policy at sea has always been one of cheerful amorality; “the goods to the strong” is their motto, and “there is no peace out of sight of land”. If they no longer put dragon heads on the prows of their ships, it is not for lack of Viking spirit; it is because sailing ships’ prows are not as convenient for that use as longboats’, and they have never been ones to put obstacles of work or ritual in the way of making war.

It is, in any case, much more convenient to raise a banner, than to struggle with heavy carved wood; but in respect for tradition, the Ynglings have chosen for their emblem an image of those old dragon-heads, a snarling beast in red, suitable for striking terror in the hearts of fishing villages and wealthy monasteries. And if, in heraldic custom, it is also described as a “wolf’s head”, an old phrase for men beyond the protection or the reach of the law… well, Ynglings are not above appreciating irony. Scotland is safe, for now; but let the world’s oceans shiver at the sight of the banner of the Troll Republic.

Sable, a wolf’s head erased gules.

In Crusader Kings I at one point ruled all of Scotland; for the last century or so I kept losing bits and bobs of the place, until at least only the Isles and the East March remained at conversion. Hoping to gain full trade control of the North Sea COT, I attacked Ireland with my ally the Commonwealth, while Gaul started a separate war against Ireland’s ally the Teutonic Empire. Alas, it did not go well; although I was initially victorious at sea, my army that crossed into Scotland was hammered to flinders by an excellent Irish general, in spite of defending hills and having superior numbers. My French ally was overwhelmed in the Rhine fighting, the Commonwealth is not yet in a position to mobilise its full war potential, and then I made mistakes with my navy at a time when precision was called for, and the Teutons were able to defeat a part of it in detail.

The Scottish front, such as it is, with the overall war situation. There is no chance of me forcing a landing against that opposition, and if I move my navy the 15 Irish heavies hiding in Donegal will spring into action.

German front. My Commonwealth allies pushing very slowly into fortified Poland. Half my navy about to sink, exposing my siege of the Danish islands to Teuton vengeance.

In view of these developments, I have negotiated a white peace with Mike and Dragoon (Ireland and the Teutons), and we have reached an accommodation regarding America, in which I cede Scotland in exchange for concessions in colonial territory. We have given this detente the name of the “North Sea Confederacy”, replacing my ambition to rule the whole North Sea trade node and thus become the North Sea Empire. It remains to be seen whether our arrangement will be enforceable against the opposition of other players, but at any rate the Troll Republic is turning its eyes outwards.

I absolutely intend to keep privateering the Irish Sea and the Sound, however. There’s no peace out of sight of land.

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The Sons of Roland: Blow the Trumpet

Fought they out on Ronces Field,
days both two and three,
when sun could not shine
for reek of the man’s-blood.
Rode they out of Frankish land
with precious loot in saddles;
blow your trumpet, Olifant,
on Ronces Field.

Ye know, oh nobly-born, that I write no chronicle; many deeds worth recounting have passed before me, leaving no trace on parchment or paper. And yet the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes; should I do less? Know, therefore, that in the years before England fell, when the kingdoms of the elector-princes lay spread under the Foul Emperor like silken cloths sparkling with jewels, and the sons of Roland ruled with justice and splendor in the lands that men win from the cruel sea, certain plots that had spanned dark centuries came to fruition; and for half a decade the Empire tore at its own breast and spilled its best blood from the Elbe to the Rhine. Hear, then, the last tale of the Sons of Roland.

  • The Dwarves of Zurich: For his own reasons, which do not necessarily include being suborned by eldritch horrors from beyond the walls of Creation, Ranger has consistently supported Mike, my southern neighbour, in our struggle over who was to be master of the Rhine. In the previous session we fought each other to a standstill, and during the week agreed to truce between us. Now, on the first day of the new session, Ranger struck, treacherously, declaring war for the Duchy of Brabant. Switzerland I might have fought; its pikemen are not so formidable away from their mountains, when the arrows sing in massed thousands and ton weights of chivalry charge into the gaps in their ranks. But behind the Swiss came the Aquitainians, thousands of men serving the gold leeched from the Mediterranean trade, and among them a few who serve neither gold nor blood nor god, but only the thing that rules in Provence and takes the shape, but not the thoughts, of a man. Against such a number I could not fight. But I thought me of a desperate expedient, and gathered my troops in retreat, keeping my army in being, as the core around which future reinforcements might coalesce, if I could be rid of:
  • The Foul Emperor: Khan, though he had avoided playing an inbred dwarf, was not at this time well served by his characters; his Emperor Eugene was a child, his heir Naveen likewise a child and a remarkably useless one, whom Khan was at some pains to be rid of. And, although Ranger had treacherously broken his word, my diplomacy during the week had not been entirely useless: Of the seven prince-electors, three supported me for Emperor, and the others’ votes were split, giving me the plurality. Thus, if Eugene were to die, I would be Emperor; and an Emperor commands resources which a prince-elector does not, and might bring even an over-mighty republic to heel. So I ordered the death of an Emperor, and did not ride at the head of my men to meet the Aquitainians in a final death-ride; not yet. Not while the hosts of the Empire might yet ride to my relief.
  • Faithless Electors: The plot on Eugene’s life went smoothly; but in the intervening few months, the politics of the Empire had shifted under my feet. Khan found himself playing his useless brother Naveen – against whom he had plotted, so as to remove him from the line of succession – but still Emperor; he was, somewhat understandably, annoyed. He revoked the kingdom of Austrasia from me. Not seeing a way to recover from that, I resisted – seeking, mainly, to at least die gloriously. Much to my surprise, roughly half the Empire rose with me in revolt, and I found myself with an army that could, credibly, win me the throne instead.
  • Saxon Shadows: In this matter Hagbard’s actions are of some interest. When I looked at the succession and saw myself with three votes, six votes had been cast. There are seven prince-electors. Who then was the missing one? Unclear. But when I protested that the election had been bugged, and Dragoon held a new election in chat to check, there were three votes for me and four votes against; one of them Hagbard’s. And yet Hagbard supported my rebellion. Was he, perhaps, voting not for Khan, but for the civil war to tear the Empire apart? I do not know; only the Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
  • Blow the Trumpet, Draw the Sword: Khan had to leave, and was subbed by Mark; Khan, it turned out, was trying to save up for the builder bloodline, and had six thousand ducats available. Khan instructed Mark not to buy mercenaries for the poxy little revolt, he needed the money for his project. Mark considered the sixteen thousand men I was suddenly able to raise, and decided to exercise initiative in interpreting his instructions in light of conditions on the ground. Shortly thereafter roughly half the mercenaries of Europe clashed with roughly half the feudal levies. Alas, as it turns out, levies are about half light infantry, and the mercenaries included the Emperor’s retinue, a solid core of pikemen. Still I retreated from Auxerre in good order, since the actual army survived, only the useless swarm of light infantry perishing. The second time I met Mark’s army, I won; and for one long spring, the hearts of Europe sang with the hope of freedom, of justice, of the restoration of the old customs. But the Foul Emperor retreated, and spent gold as it were water, or the blood of levied peasants; and a third time the mercenaries marched on the rebel strongholds. I went to meet them; and the gold that is spent on Earth prevailed, temporarily, as so often happens, over the gold that is stored in Heaven. Blow your trumpet, Olifant…

    A desperate fighting retreat through the snow at Auxerre.

    The two battles I lost. For some reason I have no screenshot of my glorious victory, which however will be remembered in song – at least where the Emperor’s men cannot hear – for centuries to come.

  • The Norns Spin: Having lost my kingdom title, and half the territory I had started the session with (since Ranger’s war had continued uninterrupted through the struggle for justice in Europe!) I felt that the possibilities in Holland were somewhat played out – and anyway I had certainly ended gloriously; it would be hard to follow up on that one. I looked about for a new slot; the options were Ireland, Venice, and Denmark. The British Isles already have three players, two of whom are each twice the size of the whole of Ireland; I passed. I have already fought one Long War with an eldritch horror whose plots span centuries, as a merchant of Venice; and there, too, there are several powerful players nearby. I am, evidently, fated to play in the North, no matter where I start; well then, no man escapes his wyrd, and the Norns weave as they wish, not as we might wish. I took Denmark, and plot my return to the Rhine at the head of an armada of dragon-headed ships.

Ends here the saga of the Sons of Roland.

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The Sons of Roland: Swing the Iron Cold

I’m not writing an AAR, I swear; but this session was really kind of cool, with exactly the sort of intrigue, back-and-forth wars, and rapid reversal of fortunes that make CK2 the best Paradox game. It began when Ranger declared war on me for the return of Lower Lorraine to his player vassal, Mike. With his ally Limah (playing Aquitaine), he had ten thousand men; but, subsidised by my own allies, I raised ten thousand of my own, and ambushed Ranger’s army when it attacked Holland across a river. My excellent King, Childeric, took the field himself, and led the charge; inspired by his example, my men cut down Swiss by the thousands. We drove them back into the Rhine, and cut them down as they tried to cross, throwing themselves into the red-running water! They cried for mercy, for ransom, for their mothers; but we gave them none, and slaughtered until our arms grew tired and our horses were splashed with gore to the withers. No such defeat for Swiss arms has ever been recorded, as we gave them that day at the Rhine Crossing; they ran back to their mountain cantons, and we pursued and made them recognise our claim on Lorraine!

And then declared war for Trier, obviously. Because why wouldn’t I, when I had 6k mercenaries ready, and had just smashed the Swiss army?

Unfortunately Ranger apparently had some rich friends too; he found more mercs, and by the skin of his teeth managed to drive off my stack, in spite of Childeric personally killing two of his commanders during the decisive battle. So we had both tried it on, and both found the other’s defenses too tough; I surrendered as he had, with no hard feelings.

As Childeric (“the Troubadour”, obviously the only possible nickname for a victorious war leader with several dead noblemen to his personal credit) was getting old, I arranged my succession. Unfortunately none of Childeric’s children had inherited his Genius; his hunchbacked grandson Guitard was the best of a bad lot, so I found him a Genius-Shrewd wife and sent him off to breed. Alas, Childeric’s wastrel grandson Hugbert did not approve of the inheritance arrangements, and managed to kill Guitard. I arrested and banished the horrible little murderer, and made do with their brother Guitard for my heir. Alas, these are the risks you take when all your children get Intrigue educations. Hugbert currently languishes in exile in Dauphine, where he plots to kill his wife Katherine. And while he is indeed a horrible little murderer, I can’t really blame him for that one, since Katherine is the mother of Guitard’s bastard daughter Brunhilde, and remains Guitard’s lover. That was actually nothing to do with me, the AI arranged it before Childeric died – but I have to say I approve. Hugbert tried to kill his brother so he could inherit the throne, and what did it get him? Exile and disgrace, and then to add insult to that injury, his other brother, the one who remained faithful to the family and actually inherited, seduced his wife. Truly justice is sometimes poetry.

The characters of this little drama – all pictured in life, so not reflecting their current circumstances; for example, the syphilis that Guitard got from his revenge-seduction of Katherina is not shown. He has at any rate found an excellent revenge on his worthless brother.

Alas, my diplomacy was going less well than my, so to speak, family affairs. Fimconte (also known as our game’s resident eldritch abomination, Hastur), ruling the Republic of Aquitaine (not to be confused with Limah’s Duchy of Aquitaine), attacked me for Burgundy. And, seeing his opportunity in Fimconte’s ten thousand mercenary pike, Ranger also declared war for a claimant on Champagne. With subsidies from my allies – you know who you are, and will not be forgotten – I was able to raise ten thousand men, emptying my treasury; but the mercenaries’ loyalty lasted just long enough to slam them into Fimconte’s men. Who, reinforced by Ranger’s decisive three thousand, defeated the worthless scum of the earth, and sent them running; there being plainly nothing more I could do, I surrendered Burgundy, making a mental note to start some Plots Spanning Decades in vengeance. (I leave the ones spanning Centuries to the eldritch abominations). Then I went in pursuit of Ranger’s much smaller stack; but by adroit manipulation he once again managed to get numerical parity, and after a series of back-and-forth battles he was the victor, as I ran out of money. I once again surrendered; but the day before Ranger accepted, his claimant died! The duchy went to a random Pepin – I have no idea where he came from – who remained my vassal. Thus Ranger was left with no gains for his pains; we have agreed to make peace between our houses for the time being, since there is plainly no luck to be had from war.

My Plots Spanning Decades have not yet borne true fruit, but I have at any rate proved that the eldritch abomination transmits itself by sex out of wedlock. Truly, a horror beyond the imaginations of men! Alas, nobody seems to care, presumably because the abomination has chosen to possess the bodies of filthy merchants, and who cares what they get up to?

Does nobody care about the legitimacy of the eldritch abomination’s bloodline?

I didn’t even mention the inbred, hunchbacked child who was for several years first in line for the Holy Roman Empire, because all the player electors thought it would be immensely funny to make Khan play that character he was the oldest son and rightful heir, and either you have primogeniture and the rule of law or you have anarchy, but alas, the child died before reaching his majority. The current Emperor, another Dez Neigh, while only nine years old, is neither deformed nor inbred. Although mutilation obviously remains an option.

France in 844, showing the prince-electors, with the lost duchy of Burgundy outlined in red.

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The Sons of Roland: Precious Loot in Saddles

Ok, ok. I said I wasn’t going to write an AAR this time around. And I’m not, I swear. But this week I particularly need money. So…

The Sons of Roland

  • I Know Nothing, I Am From Barcelona: There has been some confusion on where I’m playing, so I’ll set it straight. I am definitely playing Barcelona. Now it’s true that in the gross world of mere matter, my actual physical location is, yes, Holland. Obviously this doesn’t, you should excuse the pun, matter. In spirit, in the true reality, in my heart, and above all in the sight of God I am playing Barcelona. If necessary I will conquer my way across France, but it’s probably easier to turn Holland into an industrial powerhouse and burn so much coal that global warming gives me the nice Mediterranean climate, while turning the impostor location south of the Pyrenees into a baked desert.
  • The Sons of Roland: I’ve changed my dynasty name from “de Errolan” to “van Roland”; there is no particular need for Roland to be from Spain. All that’s actually known about him is that he was lord of the Breton March and died in the retreat across the Pyrenees. So, rapid retcon: Roland first became known in border skirmish and raid against the Moors Saxons; he courted and married a wife in Asturias Holland; and his legacy to his children was Durendal, “the sharpest sword in all the world”, and a tradition of leading the battle against the heathen from the front.
  • Precious Loot: The refrain of Rolandskvadet, the Song of Roland, literally runs “Ride they out of the Frankish lands / with precious loot in saddles”. This is my bid to extract some precious, precious loot from our AAR rewards, which I’ll use for mercenaries. Machiavelli wrote, but everyone already knew, that who has good soldiers can always get gold, but who has gold, cannot always get soldiers.
  • Free and Unlimited Elections at 4 to 3: Some time after Dragoon, acting as the Hand of History, formed the Holy Roman Empire, I found myself in a position to inherit the Empire; that is to say, I had the most votes. However, by the Grace of God, the emperor was a hale and hearty man of 40, and obviously not likely to die in the near future, so I resigned myself to fighting my immediate neighbours over crumbs, like a loyal Elector, and in no way recruiting all the human players to conspire against the AI. The proof of this is that when the Emperor died a few months later, the electors hadn’t stayed bought did not elect me, but rather Jems, a new player, my neighbour to the west. So, obviously, I had nothing to do with the death, and any complaints I may have made about bribed electors, hanging chads, and recounts, were jokes intended to josh the winner, in a comradely spirit that recognises the Emperor as first among equals.
  • Lorraine Campaign: My southern neighbour, Mike, made the mistake of being a young girl for a while, which made the Pope willing to grant a claim on Lower Lorraine to an adult male who is a proven warrior against the infidel; we can’t be having with border marches being held by women, much less women not of age. With levies and mercenaries, I could raise 2700 men; Mike, 2400. However I had deeper reserves of money; and since the war was fought in his lands, I would occasionally get some loot, letting me extend my campaign for another month or two. We fought two battles, both of which I won, by the skin of my teeth. Every so often I would check Mike’s treasury, and see that he could pay his mercs for another ten months, then six, then five… then Dragoon joined on Mike’s side, with an additional 1000 men. I didn’t retreat fast enough, and was brought to battle. I gritted my teeth and planned to come back when Mike’s mercenaries were gone; and by some miracle I won! Outnumbered three to two, my heavy infantry held their ranks and threw back wave upon wave, and in the end it was the Franks who broke and ran. And just then, Mike’s treasury suddenly increased massively; did he find some secret Jews? A clandestine supporter? Marry some lowborn merchant’s get, trading his noble blood for a pot of filthy gold? Who knows; but it didn’t help. I was able to siege the barony that put me over the top just before he could hire new mercenaries, and gain Lower Lorraine as the Pope intended.
  • Felix Nube: Mike inherited back two of the three counties I had taken from him with the Duke title.
  • Burgundian Campaign: With my new title I had claims on Loon and Liege, held of the Duke of Burgundy; I attacked, and this time my armies got hammered in two successive battles I should have won. The RNG giveth, the RNG taketh away; praised be the name of the RNG!
  • Second Lorraine War: With my levies reduced to half size, and my treasury drained, Mike very naturally attacked to get his own back. He was again allied to Dragoon, and had enough money for a mercenary company, giving a total enemy army of 3500 while I could raise 600 men. This war is still ongoing at session’s end, and is the source of my strong need for gold. (So to the extent you’ve enjoyed this AAR, thank Mike). While my military options are currently somewhat limited, I am exploring the diplomatic ones; and, all else failing, it’s only one county and the restoration of the situation before the Lorraine Campaign.

Situation 793. Note the large, hostile army sitting on the disputed territory in Lorraine.

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We Have Paid in Full: Apportion the Shame

Now we can only wait till the day, wait and apportion our shame.
These are the dykes our fathers left, but we would not look to the same.
Time and again were we warned of the dykes, time and again we delayed.
Now, it may fall, we have slain our sons, as our fathers we have betrayed.

The final session of Hearts of Iron began with my troops standing between the lakes in Finland, planning to hold off the Leonese tanks with rifles, warm bodies, and the fabled Yngling mind-control rays. Due to the various shenanigans of the prior session, several people had declared that the game was no longer amusing, and there wasn’t any diplomacy to be done any more, meaning that the Pact of Hercules was in effect the winner. Consequently my goal was no longer victory, but merely to maintain the Yngling Republic as a sovereign state still keeping the field, for the four hours of the final session. As the session began in August, I would have the formidable assistance of winter in Finland in doing so; further, although AI, Khazaria still kept a large number of divisions in the east which would tie up a considerable fraction of the Herculean forces, and Japan remained an ally who could in principle send troops to my aid.

Yngling artillerymen trying to fight off Leonese tanks who have broken through their protecting infantry.

Unfortunately, the impenetrable Leonese tanks cared for none of these things; they rolled right through the Finnish forests as though my infantry weren’t there, which might have been better strategy. My thought, therefore, was that formidable as the tanks were, still they could not be absolutely everywhere, and that if they could be sucked deep into Finland it might be possible to sneak around their rear and cut them off from supply. My first attempt at doing so was on the Ladoga-Onega line, where I held the fortifications in the north, but Leon had taken the southern ones from Khazaria, making a natural bastion:

Counterattack direction Ladoga.

Alas, my connecting troops were not fortified, and Sauron was able to cut off my bastion instead of them cutting him off:

End of the Ladoga-Onega line.

Realising that I just didn’t have the mass of maneuver, in the face of tanks I couldn’t touch, to do encirclements on a small scale, I instead bethought myself of a desperate expedient, but on a grand scale: An Arkhangelsk Landing to get my one remaining reserve army unopposed into Russia through the Arctic Sea, which I still controlled, and sweep to the Baltic to create a giant Finnish Pocket.

The Arkhangelsk Landing.

A thin blue line, tipped with heavy tanks.

For a short while this project did not look utterly impossible; I got a good amount of troops ashore into “Japanese Europe” (a leftover from Victoria) and faced only a thin screen of vassals and a few Atlassians. But the muddy distances of Russia defeated me; I could not move fast enough, and the “thin screen” thickened until I could no longer push it, then started pushing right back. Alas, this time I had no convenient war crime in my pocket to give my enemies pause and force negotiations.

“That’s it then; the Arkhangelsk Landing is washed up.”

In the end I decided to evacuate, and was able to extract the army mostly intact. This was just as well, for meanwhile Sauron had been crashing through the Finnish forest, shouting his new battle cry, “Encirclements will continue until morale improves!” Alas, fighting in Finnish winter is no joke for either side; in the snow and bad terrain, my troops were not able to maneuver fast enough to maintain a continuous line in front of the tanks, and a large number were pushed towards the coast and encircled:

The Kola Pocket.

And yes, at this point, Viipuri had indeed fallen to the tanks. Slik forg√•r verdens herlighet. ūüė¶

Leonese tanks and infantry advancing cautiously through the shattered streets of Viipuri. The picture is taken some months after the other events described here, hence the green leaves on the trees, but a hard core of stay-behinds and die-hards still maintain a guerrilla resistance using the many caches of weapons and explosives hidden all around Viipuri for just such an event.

I managed, nevertheless, to keep a fighting retreat through the terrible terrain of northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway; for a while I held Grense-Jakobselv, the OTL border between Norway and Russia, and by the time I was forced off even this line I had built some fortresses across the Scandinavian peninsula, at about the latitude of Narvik; moreover, true winter had descended on the North, and every advance was deathly slow.

Eurasia, December 1940.

By this time I had managed to get anti-tank guns, heavy tank destroyers, and new Mj√łlnir-pattern tanks (also known as Medium II) into my few remaining formations; supplying your army gets that much easier when it shrinks by about 80% in six months, and for all its strategic value Finland didn’t contain much industry. Consequently my formations could now actually face a Leonese armoured division in something other than the fetal position:

Fighting on somewhat more even terms, but too late.

Further, the supply lines through Finland were obviously terrible, and a large proportion of Leonese troops had been withdrawn to force the Urals. Thus in February I had something like an actual stable front running through northern Norway and Sweden, protecting my industrial core:

The Umeå Line Рif this had fallen, there would be only three or four more river-in-mountain lines that could plausibly be fortified before the Leonese were in artillery range of the factories supplying the resistance.

From here I could, conceivably, have gotten back into the fight, given a diplomatic revolution fueled by my mind-control rays plus vast injections of Japanese auxiliary troops. Unfortunately, I had meanwhile lost Jutland again, this time to an AI mishap; I had ordered an attack out of Kiel on the off chance that it would go through and allow me to run wild through Germany, and the stupid, stupid AI creature interpreted this as an order to move all seventeen divisions holding Dannevirke into one province. Thus the Kiel canal lay open to my enemies; and by dint of vast patience, they were able to move an invasion through the Baltic, repeatedly encountering and retreating from my battleships, but never sinking! (Really now. This should have been a slaughter. But in all fairness, they should also have moved their own battleships into the Baltic, so it evens out.) At last they got ashore in Stockholm; I had stripped all my coastal defenses to feed the lines in Finland and Denmark, and there was nothing to oppose them. In this manner, by a sneaky stab in the back rather than straight-up combat, Leon finally got me over the capitulation threshold, with about 15 minutes to spare in the session.

Eurasia, February 1941.

Americas, February 1941; note the renewed British invasion of Vinland – to everyone’s surprise Golle managed to get back into the fight at the very end, a development which I have completely ignored because it was a bit of a side show relative to my desperate struggle to keep a formed army and a fighting line in Finland.

For Stellaris, Leon gets the Sol start, and everyone else is dispersed out into the galaxy. I created this faction to reflect the history of the Ynglings in this timeline:

and have had fair success with them so far. However, I won’t write an AAR for Stellaris; I’m too new at the game to make it interesting, and to be honest I am somewhat burned out on AARs, which I have been writing weekly for longer than most people reading this have been playing Paradox games. The Great Game, I’ll note, was played in 2005. We will return to Crusader Kings in a few weeks (recruiting thread) but I think it is unlikely that I will write an AAR for that; enough is enough.

Ends here the saga of the Ynglinga Republikk.

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We Have Paid in Full: Baying Along the Wall

Far off, the full tide clambers and slips, mouthing and resting all,
Nipping the flanks of the water-gates, baying along the wall;
Turning the shingle, returning the shingle, changing the set of the sand…
We are too far from the beach, men say, to know how the outwarks stand.

Last week I left the Legion of Doom locked in deadly conflict with the Pact of Hercules over the fate of the American continent, and the Ynglings in retreat to their fortress of ice in Scandinavia, muttering about winter in Finland. As often happens in a megacampaign, the diplomacy that took place over the week proved more important than the battlefield; by the time we returned to our command bunkers, the Pact of Hercules had triaged America, had gotten safe passage across the Atlantic for their armies in return, and were allied with the Legion and with the Latin Empire against Khazaria. Mark drove a hard bargain on my behalf, and I recovered the Jutland peninsula without a shot fired, as well as an epic rescue mission across several hundred miles of Occupied Germany to retrieve my army exiled in the Latin Empire – by now at half their paper strength due to Italian wine and women, but still a welcome accretion of combat power after the disastrous losses of the Elbe Campaign.

With the liquidation of the American front, and downprioritisation of the Danish one, I was able to consider how to counterattack in Finland; meanwhile Clonefusion had decided that fighting in Finland in winter is no joke, and that he preferred to send his tanks to Siberia to invade Japanese Korea and to counter the Chinese attack out of Tibet. Consequently, while the Herculean armies were evacuating America and being shipped across the Atlantic, and while screams for help rose from EastAsia, I amused myself by attacking the Onega Fortified Region with my own tanks:

Alas, amusing myself is all I was doing, as Clone had built my level-3 forts, meant to delay an invasion long enough for reinforcements to arrive, into level-7s, intended to enable the defending troops to maintain their resistance after an exchange of tactical nuclear weapons. Since I did not in fact have any nuclear weapons, four months of heavy winter fighting, in some of the worst terrain in the world, failed to make any dent in the line. However, Clone had unaccountably failed to fortify the line where his advance had stopped between Onega and Ladoga; thus, foiled in my attempt at breaking through in the north, I instead turned to the area between the lakes. Even in the absence of fortifications, Clone did have enough infantry to keep divisions cycling into this rather narrow front, maintaining a small amount of organisation in the fighting line to keep my tanks at bay. Nevertheless, his infantry (like the Yngling, Atlassian, Leonese, Japanese, and Chinese infantry) had no antitank weaponry:

Consequently, I was eventually able to grind my way through the red snow and break into the Onega-Ladoga region, finally restoring something like mobile warfare after four months of attrition. Meanwhile, the Herculeans and the Latin Empire had unleashed their attack, and for the third time in two years the armies advanced across poor Poland, although this time at least without much resistance:

Clone had (depending on how you read his mind) either not expected the Herculean DOW, or had deliberately triaged Poland in order to fight further east, and the Leonese tanks advanced very rapidly through the North European plain. By the time I fought myself through some of the worst terrain in the world merely to reclaim a few hundred miles of useless Finnish forest:

it was, in effect, too late. The Leonese tanks, almost entirely unopposed, had reached Leningrad – in this history, Odingrad, a minor outpost of the great Viipuri Fortified Region – and were able to encircle all three of the lines of resistance that Clone was still maintaining against me:

(Notice the Ladoga-Onega Line north of the river). This tactic occasioned rather a lot of controversy; the accusation was raised that Clone had deliberately allowed his Finnish troops to be encircled and destroyed, in order to give his fortress lines to the Herculeans, so as to improve their situation relative to mine – and this, after not raising any particularly noticeable resistance to their invasion of Poland, while Dragoon’s similar attack into the Ukraine had been more or less stopped. I must say I wasn’t particularly happy.

Other events of note in the session included a Medinan naval invasion of Chinese-held Thailand, which was eventually stopped and rolled back after the Japanese navy interdicted their supply line across the Bay of Bengal; and English anger at the perceived betrayal of Japan “temporarily occupying” their remaining Asian colonies, in order to better fight the Medinans, which in turn led to the British invasion of South America. Further, the Legion of Doom attacked Mexico, which with the quit of its off-again, on-again player Zirotron was again a Latin colony, leading to much hard jungle fighting, since Dragoon did not choose to abandon his colony as the Herculeans had done. Thus we have the following wars:

  • Khazaria against Legion of Doom, Pact of Hercules, Latin Empire, and China.
  • Medina against China and Latin Empire.
  • Legion of Doom against Latin Empire and Pact of Hercules.

However, due to general salt over the various betrayals, general exhaustion with the scenario, and possibly a feeling that the war is more or less settled in favour of the Legion of Doom, who boast that they will shortly take Finland and be masters of all Europe, tomorrow’s will be our last Hearts of Iron session. We have decided to continue the conflict into Stellaris, each player presumably sending out one colony ship to recreate their culture before the final victory of $VICTOR, much as Iceland was settled by petty-kings who didn’t want to be minor nobles in a unified Norwegian kingdom. It remains to be seen whether Finland actually falls to the admittedly impressive Latin tanks. But if, by mischance or miracle, Viipuri should fall at last, I will get my vengeance IN SPACE.

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We Have Paid In Full: The Gale and the Tide Behind

O’er the marsh where the homesteads cower apart the harried sunlight flies,
Shifts and considers, wanes and recovers, scatters and sickens and dies ‚Äď
An evil ember bedded in ash ‚Äď a spark blown west by wind…
We are surrendered to night and the sea ‚Äď the gale and the tide behind!

I did not write an AAR last session for two reasons: I wasn’t feeling well, and the session only covered eight months (October 1938 to Jun 1939) of mostly peacetime. This session, however, all hell broke loose.

Europe Ablaze

After the Triple Fall of Bohemia, Korea, and Occitania in the summer of 1938, it became clear that the Legion of Doom was going to clash with the Pact of Hercules over the Americas. Not intending to sit about and be attacked, the Pact began fabricating on the Ynglinga Republikk in January of 1939. I had prepared for this; as we shall see, my preparations were insufficient, but at any rate the war was not unexpected, and I had a largish army sitting on the short German border. With fortifications on the Weser and the Elbe, also fortified, to retreat to, I was planning to fight a slow attritional war while my allies blitzed the Americas, then bring their army across to either punch through Germany, or invade Africa.

Prewar lines in Germany; note the planned tank attack.

In March, Khazaria started fabricating on me. For that war I was not prepared. I had my Finske Leidangsarme sitting on the fortified Karelia Line, but as a dyke for holding back the tide of All The Russias they seemed, honestly, a little inadequate. And in newly-conquered Poland there was sweet and nothing. The session ended on June 14th; Clone’s war preparations would be complete on June 27th; in the intervening week of real time, my allies looked at my army and uniformly screamed in horror. I had, roughly speaking, 120k rifles in storage (and 8000 artillery); I had about 1 million men unmobilised; it was strongly suggested that these resources should have been put together starting in January and the resulting hundred divisions should be defending the Vistula.


Prewar position in Finland and Poland.

Emergency Mobilisation

When the game began again, therefore, I took Emergency Wartime Measures. I defined a new “Landvern” division, with no artillery, and a slightly better equipped “Landstorm”:


It is no Ynglinga Hird, the Landvern militia; not even the second-timeline version of that proud and deadly organisation. In truth the original timeline would be quite unlikely to recognise them as fellow Ynglings, the men of that surname who form the elite of the Scandinavian republic in this year 1939. But, if they are not warrior-mystics who rule a continent by willpower and endless training, still they are of the blood of Frey; and even now they hold to the old religion, and every nine years horse, hound, and intern are hung for Odin at Uppsala. They are no Ynglinga Hird… but when the call came, and the beacons blazed all along the craggy coast of Norway, they answered. They came by the hundreds of thousands, picking up rifles, shrugging into grey winter uniforms, feeling their ancestors whisper coldly at their backs, Viipuri kest√§√§.

Their respective unit insignia represent their weaponry, ie basically bare hands and Yngling spirit, but they had the great advantage that I could immediately create 100 of them with full equipment and train them to 20% in a matter of weeks. In particular, the Landvern militia, started on June 14th, were ready to fight – that is to say, they could be deployed – on July 3rd, only a week after Clone’s DOW. The Landstorm were ready on July 9th. I also built the emergency Vistula Line, 16 level-1 fortresses; between the river line, the fortifications, and the help of the Forty Samurai that Mark had very kindly sent me, we thought it might be possible to hold the Vistula and the Elbe, and thus maintain contact with the Latin Empire and a presence on the mainland. Eventually, the Latin Empire would declare war on Clone, its tanks would rush up behind the Khazarian army to reach my marines coming across the Baltic, and then it would be a simple matter to destroy the Khazarians and march to Moscow.

Blitzkrieg

As it turned out, these preparations against Khazaria were quite irrelevant, except for keeping my morale up by giving me some micromanagement to do during the two weeks before the declaration of war.

I last played Hearts of Iron before Waking the Tiger, and I did not realise quite how necessary it now is to give infantry antitank capability; so I didn’t. Consequently, when the war came, Leon’s eight armoured divisions drove right through the Weser Line as though they hadn’t quite noticed it was there. My own armoured counterpunch – I had decided, prewar, that I would try one good attack, and if that didn’t work I’d stand on the defensive – was fatally weakened by my pulling out several armoured divisions to contain any breakthroughs on the Vistula. I have, alas, no screenshots of this somewhat hectic period; even on speed one I felt a bit as Gamelin and Weygand must have done, trying to contain Guderian’s rush for the coast. Not only were my anti-tank-less infantry helpless as sheep in the face of the Leonese mediums – never mind the Atlassian heavies; they were too slow to get into range! – I couldn’t even disengage them, because Khan (subbing Sauron) very intelligently kept a constant barrage of infantry attack on my line wherever the tanks weren’t rampaging. Nevertheless I with great coolness and skill and absolutely no panic whatsoever did in fact manage to reach the Elbe without losing more than a dozen divisions or so; and there the retreat stopped for a while as the Leonese tanks recovered their org and the Atlassian heavies caught up.

Initial fighting on the Weser – my only screenshot of the scrambling retreat to the Elbe.

Pause on the Elbe.

Elbe breakthrough! At this point I’ve given up on holding Germany and am scrambling to retreat to Danzig, or Denmark, or anywhere that doesn’t have Leonese tanks.

Then they attacked the Elbe, and I was again scrambling to retreat; at this point it was clear that I wasn’t going to hold any Germany, and the question was how many divisions I could evacuate to Sweden and Denmark. There is a rather serious belt of fortifications at what in OTL is the Danish/German border, along the ancient Dannevirke; my right flank, resting on the North Sea coast, managed to hold – the tanks were further east – while my left scrambled to get north to the Baltic shore. About thirty divisions, the southernmost ones, entered the Latin Empire and were interned; in hindsight this was a mistake, since they’re now out of supply and slowly attriting away, and I can’t get them back through the Gibraltar straits. It would have been better to march for Danzig and escape, even though some would have been caught. However, most of my troops did in fact manage to disengage and reach the coast; I rolled up the Vistula Line – which hadn’t been engaged, since Clone was still cautiously advancing through Poland! – and evacuated perhaps fifty divisions through Danzig.

It was at this point that the true disasters began to occur. My line along the Elbe formed a salient poking into Leonese-held Germany:

Reconstructed position before the attack on Dannevirke.

Breakthrough into Dannevirke itself – the two coastal, flanking provinces have level-5 forts, but the center only has a level 2.

Khan naturally attacked its base, cutting off the tip and destroying a dozen good divisions. Then he motored up the center of Dannevirke, where through lack of attention I had managed to have a weak spot in my fortifications, and cut my Danish defenders in two, three dozen divisions in Hamburg and another dozen in Kiel, with perhaps ten divisions actually in front of the offensive. Shortly thereafter there was a Kiel Pocket, a Hamburg Pocket, and some scattered remnants of broken regiments (including the Last Samurai, the only one of the Forty to survive the campaign) retreating to Fyn, which in effect is defended by my battleships in Lillebælt. The Hamburg Pocket, including twenty-three of the Forty Samurai, then fought an epic last stand in the Siege of Hamburg, of which I would totally write a separate narrative AAR if I had time.

Hamburg and Kiel pockets. Note the attempted breakout from Hamburg – at one point I was very close to getting out to the west, actually advancing into an empty province which would have linked up with Kiel and cut off the Leonese spearheads from supply. Unfortunately they got some motorised divisions into the gap in time.

Fall of Hamburg.

Winter War

Attack on Finland; the Fortified Onega Region has fallen and Clone is pushing for the Kola peninsula.

Meanwhile, in Finland, Clone had pushed slightly into the Viipuri Fortified Region, he had pushed back the Ladoga-Onega Line, and he had actually broken through the two successive lines of forts of the Onega Fortified Region and gotten troops as far north as Kandalaksha. However, it is no joke to fight in Finland in winter, and he had great difficulty keeping the breakthrough supplied. As my southern front was now in effect a naval one, I was able to send my few remaining tanks to Finland, where they were immensely effective at containing the Khazarian infantry – which also didn’t have antitank weapons, apparently. (It is worth noting that while all this tank shock was going on in Europe, Japan’s tanks were likewise breaking one defensive line after another in the Midwest; the Herculeans, for all their success in armoured warfare, hadn’t given their infantry antitank weapons either. The mistake appears widespread among our players.) I was able to form a line to contain the breakthrough, then even counterattack, and cut off the northmost divisions at Kandalaksha; this apparently convinced Clone that the salient was untenable, and he abandoned it, pulling back to my fortresses in the Onega Fortified Region, where he currently sits.

Finnish breakthrough close to its height; my counterattack has just succeeded in creating a pocket, and the badly-supplied Khazarian troops are about to pull back into my fortified lines.

As it is December and there are 2400 enemy aircraft in the Northern Front airzone (as against my 1000), I am perhaps unlikely to be able to counterattack in Finland for some time; as for Denmark, it seems the tanks have gone to rescue the Herculene vassals in the Americas – the Japanese tanks have reached the Atlantic, and New England is on the verge of surrender – but their infantry is as good as mine and now more numerous, so I am not likely to be able to retake that, either. In effect I am contained, reduced to Ice Fortress Scandinavia where I await my allies’ rescue expedition.

Restored Finnish situation.

Viipuri kestää!

Banzai!

I was not able to give much attention to the fighting in the Americas; as noted, Mark’s tanks broke through multiple defensive lines in the Midwest, creating and destroying large pockets as they went. My Herculean opponents describe that campaign as being much like the one in Germany, except that they were on the receiving end: A constant scramble to disengage so as not to be pocketed, occasional failures, and much panic. There were several naval clashes, in which the Ynglinga Leidangsfl√•te participated with its traditional success; I have screenshots of two sunk Leonese battleships, and there may well be more. However, the control of the Atlantic remains very much disputed, with both sides still struggling to get convoys across. I am pleased to see something like an actual naval campaign here, with neither side being overwhelmingly powerful, and both navies remaining credible threats even after several sorties and engagements – it seems not to be the case that the largest doomstack wins the first battle and then cannot be opposed.

Stages of the Battle of Newfoundland; some representative ships of the Leidangsfl√•te after the fighting. It seems possible that Jodokus, repeating his role of “Doomed to death by Japanese tanks” in New England, had some time on his hands before the war started.

Leonese battleship ‘Valencia’, seen through a grey North-Atlantic haze, heavily down by the bow and sinking fast.

The World at War

Medina has attacked China, extending the fighting from the old Khazaria/Korea border (now Japanese) and down all the way to the Bay of Bengal; it does not seem to be going well for China, who – to nobody’s surprise – hasn’t given their infantry antitank guns. However, as I well know, it’s no joke to fight in Tibet, winter or summer; and so large a nation as China is not overcome in a single campaign, or even a year.

Every Great Power is now engaged: The Legion of Doom is at war with the Herculean Pact and with Khazaria; China is at war with Khazaria and Medina; and Medina is at war with the Latin Empire, although the fighting in Anatolia remains desultory. All hangs in the balance, and the end is not yet.

Eurasia, December 1939.

Americas, December 1939. Note the Japanese breakthrough to the Atlantic.

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