Empirical Approach

“Sir, I have finished the sample analysis you asked for.” Abroo raised the sheaf of prints into the Captain’s visual field; quite unnecessary, the Captain would of course read the report on a screen like any other data, but Abroo had found it useful to have a visual shorthand for having done a lot of work. The thickness of the printout was visceral evidence in a way that a file-size number couldn’t be.

“Good; thank you, Commander. Ah – if you could just remind me which particular sample that was? There have been rather a lot, these past few months.”

“Yes, sir. The silvery-greyish statuette apparently depicting an unknown tool-using species, which we found in the structure on the airless satellite in – I’ll skip the catalogue number. The G-class star we visited about two weeks ago.”

“Oh, the ruined temple.” The Captain sat up a little in his command chair; the structure, standing alone in the utter silence and darkness of vacuum, had bothered him considerably. Many of the humans had felt that way, apparently because they had been unable to find a purpose for the structure; calling it a “temple” seemed to be their way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance. The columns, with their semi-relief carvings of a biped species in enigmatic postures, had probably reinforced the idea; some ancient culture of the human homeworld had liked to build its temples with fluted marble columns, and the association had stuck. It was, of course, a mistake to extrapolate your own cultural quirks to a completely different species, and a separate mistake to apply the the label “religion” to anything you didn’t immediately grasp the purpose of. Abroo had spent entire semesters learning to avoid both mistakes. Starfleet, on the other hand, liked its officers to be educated in hard sciences.

The Captain eyed the thick printout consideringly. A commander was above all a manager of resources, including his own time. “Can you summarise the most salient points, please?”

“Of course, sir. The statuette is not very radioactive any more. Perhaps the most interesting feature, chemically, is that it consists of about fifteen-sixteenths lead, the rest being mainly uranium. With some trace decay products.”

The Captain’s brow furrowed in thought. “One-sixteenth uranium?”

“Yes, sir. Not exactly, of course. One over fifteen point seven three, to be more precise.”

“Understood.” The Captain waved the more precise figure away. “The half life of uranium is several billion years,” he mused.

“Yes, sir. Four and a half billion.”

“So, one-sixteenth would put us at” – he tapped the four fingers of his right hand in rapid succession on his chair – “eighteen billion years.”

“Yes, sir,” Abroo said neutrally. “About forty percent more than the age of the universe.” The Captain’s mental arithmetic was, of course, entirely correct; anyone able to pass Starfleet Academy’s rigorous courses in physics and chemistry must certainly be able to multiply by two.

“Fascinating.” The Captain looked momentarily awed, but he was a military officer; his hands moved with sudden decision on his chair’s inputs, bringing up a blank report template on the screen before him. “Thank you, Commander. I will report these findings to Starfleet Command. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir.” Abroo saluted and left, carefully keeping his feelings off his signalling tentacles, which wanted to curl into tight left-oriented spirals to show his utter delight to all the world. Most of the crew weren’t very good at reading his species’ body language, but why take chances?

Back in the lab, Nizam looked up from her screen with her signalling tentacles firmly aligned in a neutral don’t-much-care expression; but Abroo was good at reading his species’ body language, and could see the subtle cues of wild curiosity under her careful poker tentacles. “So, what happened?” she asked. “Did he ask you to explain the chemical composition?”

“Not at all,” Abroo said, finally releasing his tentacles to show his intense amusement. “He took the raw data and drew his own conclusions, in the best independent-thinking tradition of Starfleet commanders.”

“And you did not make a suggestion,” Nizam said, tentacles quivering; she was suppressing a laughter at least as wild as Abroo’s.

“Of course not,” Abroo agreed. “It would be impertinent for a junior officer to do so, unless the Captain had specifically asked for one. And all the more so, when it was a matter of physics, or chemistry if you prefer; after all, I specialise in quite a different subject. The Captain got a distinction in natural sciences at the Academy.”

Nizam’s tentacles flipped wide apart in amazement. “And it really didn’t occur to him to look for a different explanation?”

“Not a bit. He did the physics and got an interesting result; done. To consider that the most obvious way of getting one-sixteenth uranium and the rest lead – say, for a prank on future archeologists; or because that produces a lustre pleasing to your species’ eyes; or for the famous “ritual purposes” – without having to wait around for eighteen billion years, is to just mix fifteen parts lead to one part uranium; well. That would require going into xenopsychology or perhaps even sociology. You know. Squishy subjects.”

“Well, he can’t say you’re not taking an empirical approach to your subjects. He would likely praise you for it, if he knew – at least, once he got over being the experimental subject,” Nizam observed. “But I don’t suppose you’ll be writing this one up.”

“Sadly, no,” Abroo said. “In any case, I won’t be able to observe the most crucial data, except in my imagination. I would love to see how Starfleet Command reacts when their hotshot young Captain reports that he has found a statue older than the observable universe.”

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Find Me Unafraid: The People’s War

People's War Wiki article

The O’Neill government did not, of course, give a damn about Dang, as such; indeed even the Norwegians were not particularly rapacious for the conquest of Ghana and Togo, the dirt-poor and malarial provinces inland of the Norwegian Gold Coast, which they had sensibly ignored for the three centuries of their African colonial venture. But in 1829 the Powers of Europe were suddenly clamouring for places in the Sun, the Teutons and the Russians (!) had both sent expeditionary forces to claim their slices of the doomed country, and the combination of “all the cool kids are doing it”, “do they know something we don’t?”, and “anyway there’s no Dang army anymore, we just have to march in and take over” enticed the Troll Republic to declare a protectorate and send an army to enforce it. The Irish, meanwhile, had been slow off the mark and had no convenient coastal claims in Africa from which to expand; but they did observe that their ancient enemy’s navy was drastically weakened by the Global Hemp Shortage, and that the Ynglinga Hird – in any case a relatively tiny force mainly intended for boarding actions and longshore raids – was busy occupying villages in Africa and could reasonably be counted out. The opportunity for a quick knockout blow – a simple landing at Bergen to occupy the seat of government and demonstrate the vulnerability of the Norwegian coastline – would surely have been tempting to any government with colonial disputes to settle; for the Irish, eight centuries of raids across the North Sea made the temptation utterly irresistible.

The first stage of the plan, indeed, went without a hitch; the North
Sea Expeditionary Corps landed at Eivindvik, thirty miles north of
Bergen – the forts at Kvarven and Herdla, old though their guns were, made impractical the tempting armchair strategy of simply sailing into Bergen Harbour – and marched south almost unopposed, crossing Fensfjorden and Osterfjorden in requisitioned fishing vessels. There was no question of the city’s buekorps, armed for the most part literally with crossbows, resisting a regular army with artillery; but the impossible terrain and dreadful infrastructure gave the national government several days’ warning. The forts gave the Norwegians control of the inshore waters even in the face of the superior Irish fleet, and not only the Council of Captains (Kapteinsrådet) but also the Sailor and Seaman Union (Sjømannsforbundet) and the silver reserves of the major banks were evacuated across the Hardangerfjord. From there they made their arduous way on the terrible roads to Trondhjem, where – to the baffled fury of the Irish – they refused to capitulate, calling instead for a levee en masse and swearing to remain “united and faithful until Dovre shall fall”.

The Norwegian people, like the two opposed governments, cared nothing for the actual territory ostensibly in dispute; the jesting name “den Forbaskede Krigen” is a direct translation of the second sense, in English, of “the Dang War”, referring not to the African polity but to a condemnation not quite strong enough to use an unminced swearword. But when the Irish tried to settle the conflict with an invasion, that was something else again. With a foreign army on Norwegian soil – not a colony, a border march, or an imperial possession, but the thin strip of poor land that runs between mountain and fiord – the peasants and the sailors no longer felt that wars were none of their business and could reasonably be settled by the merchants and captains. The mountain tops of Norway’s craggy coast no longer bore literal beacons, in this modern age; but metaphorically the call to arms blazed from Herdla to Vardøhus, and the leidang – the ancient militia of the Norse people, which had once gathered at Ting to resist the encroachment of kings on the rights of freemen – responded. It was these grey-clad militias – mobs, in the early days; armed with boarding pikes and axes, crossbows and shotguns and an occasional hunting rifle; electing their officers by show of hands; uniformed only in the sense that they all wore the same undyed wool – that gave the war its unjoking name in Norwegian memory, “Folkekrigen” – the People’s War.

Overused puns aside, both Irish and Norwegians found it no joke to fight among Norway’s mountains – in any season. Jotunheimen was, at this time, impassable for formed units; to extend their occupation and increase the pressure on the Council of Captains, the Irish had to advance north and south along the coast, crossing a fiord, inlet, bay, or sound every ten miles or so – in many places without the benefit of their ocean-going navy, which was still held outside the offshore islands by the coastal fortresses. The Irish fleet, while definitely superior to the Troll Navy, had also suffered from the Global Hemp Shortage, and though strong enough to cut off much of Norway’s oceanic trade it was not able to fully interdict the movement of supplies and fighting men in small craft in the inshore waters. Consequently the fortress garrisons could not be left to wither on the vine; to starve them out required full formal siege works – and time and manpower which the Irish did not have. Kvarven Fort, to take just one instance, flew the Wolf’s Head until as late as October 1829, when autumn fog finally blinded its heavy guns and permitted the Irish to launch an effective assault across Gravdalsbukten. Without the sealift capacity that naval superiority ought to have given them, the Irish were forced to move at a snail’s pace – sometimes as little as five miles in a day – on the fiord-side roads, whose military quality ranged from ‘dreadful’ to ‘nonexistent’. The place-names “Irskeveien”, “Irskestigen” and “Dublinerbroen” in the west of Norway – respectively, “Irish Road”, “the Irish Ladder”, and “Dubliner’s Bridge” still bear witness to the Irish advance, where their army was forced to either build its own infrastructure or do without artillery. In these circumstances the armed opposition of the Norwegians, such as it was in these early days, did not actually add that much to the Irish troubles; it was the land itself, not its angry inhabitants, that slowed the advance on Trondhjem to a crawl.

By the time the Arm Eachtrach approached the Trondhjemsfjord, nonetheless, the ill-armed mobs of peasants had coalesced into something approaching an organised army. There was no artillery except some ancient brass three-pounders from a private collection, donated by the great-grandson of the successful privateer who had used them; but the silver evacuated from Bergen had been spent to at least give every man a gun and enough ammunition for some live-fire drill, albeit the guns were an eclectic mix even within individual companies. With hand-loaded paper cartridges that mattered less than it would have in the twentieth century; and combat experience showed that mixing in a few rifles, even muzzle-loaders, with the muskets was an advantage for this slow fighting retreat. There was even some light cavalry, hastily-mobilised Finnish and Sami nomads mounted largely on reindeer. In an open-field encounter battle with room to maneuvre, the Irish regulars would, no doubt, have swept aside these barely-trained recruits. Fighting along the narrow coastal approach in increasingly bad weather, with another excellent defensive position every half-kilometre, they were stopped in the city’s hinterland in a freezing December blizzard; the gilded tower of Nidarosdomen would have been in sight of their foremost outposts if there hadn’t been a mountain in the way and snow reducing the visibility to half a kilometer.

The failure to take Trondhjem was the end of the Irish attempt at coercing the Norwegian government, though it took two years of bitter fighting and a hundred thousand casualties for the reality to sink in. The O’Neill ministry fundamentally refused to believe that a government which had lost its capital, ocean-borne trade, colonial access, and Atlantic islands could still retain both its will to resist and the confidence of its people; it spent a hundred million shekels, thirty thousand Irish lives, and every bit of political capital it possessed on futile campaigns up and down the Gudbrandsdal, minor landings in Skåne and Sweden, and hopeless counter-invasions of Dang in search of the elusive breaking point of the resistance. Meanwhile the war-raised Norwegian army became increasingly professional, imported Russian guns replaced the brass three-pounders, and the Troll Navy recovered sufficiently from its peacetime doldrums to dispute command of the North Sea and even to recover Iceland. In the end, the main achievement of the Irish invasion was to demonstrate that even a minor Power, if backed by genuine popular support, could not be coerced by the eighteenth-century tools of limited war. The price of that discovery, for Norway and for other states which turned to mass mobilisation, was that putting “a rifle in every hand” in defense of limited foreign-policy objectives necessarily meant giving the riflemen a voice in determining the policy to be defended. Such voter-chosen policies could not readily be modified to fit geopolitical facts; and when states clashed, with large popular mobilisations giving each side vast means of resistance and reducing their power to compromise, the result was disaster.

The People’s Century: War in the Age of Mass Mobilization, Richard Branikin, Cork University Press, (C) 1979.

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Bloody yet Unbowed: The Great Wall of Vinland

The Wall was, of course, a ridiculous scheme; one that could only have appealed to politicians in a European capital, used to drawing lines and colouring provinces on paper and thinking that their prettily coloured maps in some manner reflected, even altered, the reality. Anyone who had actually seen the Mississippi, anyone who had tried to ride through the immense territories the Ynglings believed they were “walling off” from German settlers, anyone who had set foot outside of Europe and experienced the vastness of the Americas for themselves, would immediately have seen the futility of the project. A few thousand settlers, a handful of regiments, not half a dozen forts garrisoned by less than ten thousand men and a hundred guns; to hold back the westward flood of half a million land-hungry Teutons? Laughable; risible; ludicrous. As well draw a line on paper, and expect it to hold back the tides. And yet, nevertheless: The scheme did not, after all, have to convince the actual settlers, the men wearing the boots on the ground; there was no need for it to appeal to the Teuton soldiers who drove the allies from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande, the colonial militias that skirmished and ambushed across twenty degrees of longitude, or the Indian confederates of either side, all of whom knew perfectly well how silly it was. Many of them, indeed, personally marched from the garrison towns near the Great Lakes, fought several murthering great battles between Mississippi and Missouri and covered the distance between the two great rivers twice or three times as the fortunes of war shifted, and then marched again to the Rio Grande in pursuit of the retreating allies as the balance went decisively to the Teuton side; if anyone knew the vastness of the American continent and the futility of binding it with a thin blue line on a paper map, it was the veterans of the War of the Wall.

And what of that? In the drama of European diplomacy, the colonial soldiers were bit players, literally musket-carriers; a faceless mass without lines, lucky if they got a mention in the stage directions. It was the leading men who would have to be convinced, the principals with monologues who got their names in lights, whose character arcs would be studied by scholars for a hundred years. And those men, the actual audience for the great scheme… they were, like its authors, European politicians, who had never set foot outside their countries, or outside the capitals of those countries if they could help it. To them, a line on a map was reality, just as much as to the schemers in Bergen who had drawn it in the first place; the immensities of the Americas, the wilderness stretching across thirty degrees of both latitude and longitude, the forests and plains that could swallow a hundred regiments and a thousand settlements without noticing, were words and numbers, not really real. Reality was forts – dots on a map, perhaps, but then what else is a fortress? – that the Teuton armies, for all their victories, had not taken; reality was the lobbying of their sugar colonists, men whose wealth and imminent bankruptcy from having their tiny-but-rich islands occupied could make a great noise in a capital far removed from the decisive battles on the Missouri; reality was the balance of power in the tight confines of Europe and the fact that a hundred regiments sent to the Americas to fight a colonial campaign could not be readily recalled, if they were suddenly needed on the Danube or the Oder.

Reality, in the end, was that the statesmen of Germany fundamentally did not care where the lines on the map went, or about the desire for land of their colonists. They cared that their armies should be seen to win, which they had done; they cared that their colonies should not be carved up to the point where they could no longer recruit a sizable number of soldiers from them, which after the victorious Mississippi campaign was no longer a serious possibility; and if, with these two aims accomplished, those colonists were prevented from getting the land they sought, and younger sons would have to go into the army or else take up a trade… well, the purpose of colonies, after all, is to raise bigger armies. At seventh and last, the most ridiculous thing about the Wall was that it worked.

Even if the Ynglings did have to pay for it themselves.

As the seventeenth century closed, Dragoon and I were in a race to colonise the interior of North America: A race in which Dragoon, to my eyes, was constantly ahead, and only by the skin of my teeth and considerable good luck was I able to catch up. For example, our first goal was to reach the Great Lakes; whoever first colonised Niagara province would shut the other off from OTL Michigan, or at least from the southern part of it which gives access to the real interior. And, indeed, Dragoon colonised Niagara first. But, to my great good fortune, Sauron and Khan attacked him for colonies in California; and although they lost that war in the end, Khan’s troops managed to seize and burn the Niagara province, letting me in.

Colonial situation in 1686, with the race well underway and Niagara recently burned by LarReignese troops.

Detail of the Great Lakes, showing the colonial plans.

Situation 1703, with me about to end Dragoon’s whole colonial career.

Again, with Niagara lost, Dragoon built colonies south of Lake Erie, with the obvious goal of getting Wyandot while I was completing Niagara, and then Mascouten and cutting me off from the south while I was building in Potawatomi. I appear to have gotten ahead of that one by the simple and risky expedient of having better colony modifiers: In the 1686 save, his Erie colony has 408 settlers versus my Niagara’s 246, but my colonist is better and so is my non-colonist growth rate – I have 185 per year average, he has 150. That 35 per year advantage could add up, with some lucky rolls, to complete Niagara just before he is done in Erie; even if it didn’t, we would start Wyandot and Potawatomi at roughly the same time, and then I’d finish first on that pair. Which would give me a start on Mascouten just before he finished Wyandot, forcing him into Miami instead; and then I could start Wea. That would make the race south instead of east, and I could meet up with my similar colony-snake out of Louisiana and prevent both Dragoon and Mike from getting access to the interior – as indeed happened:

1731, with the Wall complete in all its glory.

I placed my colonist in Kilatka with some satisfaction: All the Midwest now lay open to me without competition short of war. However, I also had some ambitions to retake my Lost Colony surrounding Chesapeake Bay, which is important for directing the trade there north to St Lawrence whence it can reach the North Sea, instead of east to Biscay where it is lost to me. I therefore gathered an alliance: Myself, Khan in Lar Reign, Sauron in Arrakis – the famous Navy with a Country – and Ranger playing Israel, and after some preparatory fort-building to make my colonial wall have military relevance as well, we attacked with a long list of objectives.

Our hoped-for annexations, which alas did not come to pass.

The actual war goal was the island of Martinique, belonging to Mike, which meant that securing the ticking warscore was trivial – we just had to park Sauron’s navy in the general vicinity. However, Dragoon’s force limit had grown beyond our calculations, and a series of battles in OTL Alabama saw us driven back towards the Rio Grande. Although decisively defeated in the only theatre that might have allowed us to impose our quite ambitious terms, the colonial-war house rules allowed us to claim a technical victory and demand what we occupied when the ticking warscore reached its maximum; we thus ended up with some random bits of Mexico and California, where my colonial militias had been more successful than Dragoon’s.

Collage of the War of the Wall. Note the battle for the Sea Islands in which the Troll Navy, with some Arrakene auxiliaries, utterly smashed the Teutons.

Although I thus failed to make Dragoon pay for my Wall, the wall still exists and, as long as nobody brings enough guns to knock it over, keeps the Midwest reserved for Yngling settlers and free of undesirable immigrant riffraff. While colonies are not necessarily a huge source of strength in EU4, I nevertheless consider this a major success, perhaps my first in this campaign.

Three reported player wars this session:

Caucasus War
  Mark           : 1570.3 -> 1681.98
  Ranger         : 1472.3 -> 1330.27
  Khan           : 1610.34 -> 1454.99
  Sauron         : 1387.48 -> 1253.63
Windward Isles War
  Colonial war, reduced win number
  Tazzzo         : 1595.13 -> 1649.09
  Dragoon        : 1648.98 -> 1621.97 (50%)   "Damn all islands, anyway"
  Mike           : 1627.06 -> 1600.41 (50%)
War of the Wall
  Colonial war and technical victory, double-reduced win number
  King of Men    : 1148.19 -> 1180.34  "Ok wall is built, now to make Dragoon pay for it."
  Sauron         : 1253.63 -> 1288.72
  Ranger         : 1330.27 -> 1367.51
  Khan           : 1454.99 -> 1495.73
  Dragoon        : 1621.97 -> 1586.75  "You know I can commit 200 regiments to this, right?"
  Mike           : 1600.41 -> 1565.66  "Damn island wargoals, anyway"

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Bloody yet Unbowed: Fleet in Being

April 15th, 1673
Kvarven Fort, Bergen

“Herr Kommisjonær.” Harald gritted his teeth, very slightly, at the title he had to give the representative of the Commonwealth; it was a longstanding grievance, that the Poles did not accredit ambassadors to their ancient ally, but contented themselves with appointing a mere commissioner. Ambassadors were sent to Great Powers, to enemies potential or actual whom the Poles feared; not to allies whose armies did not muster a full quarter million, no matter how respected.

“Good morning, General.” The commissioner returned a sunny smile; perhaps he was unaware of Harald’s annoyance, perhaps he was just ignoring what he could do nothing about. Or, then again, perhaps he was being deliberately provoking; the disadvantage to being nicknamed the “Troll Republic” was that even trusted allies felt quite free to troll you right back, at least in minor matters of prestige. “What can I help you with?”

Harald shoved his irritation aside; there was serious war business to deal with, much more annoying than a small dispute over titles. “The first elements of your fleet are sailing up Byfjorden; so it is a good time to discuss our naval strategy for this war.”

“Oh, they made it! Splendid!” The commissioner broke out into a smile of immense relief.

“Well – yes? See for yourself.” Harald gestured at the fiord, which was full of sails, five dozen ships spreading shining white canvas in the spring sunlight, making a brave show against the dark-green slopes of Askøy. The gold-and-blue war ensigns flying from their mast tops blended with the reflections of sunlight off water as though a painter had designed the sight to make a metaphor of war power at sea.

“Tengri be thanked!” the commissioner exclaimed, fingers moving rapidly as he counted. “It was a risk, moving the whole navy out of the Baltic, but it seems to have paid off. From this excellent fortified harbour we can maintain our joint fleet in being and threaten all the North Sea trade. No peace out of sight of land, eh?” He grinned at Harald, who blinked back, nonplussed.

“Well, yes, but that won’t force the Irish to make peace.” Since the Irish, and indeed every other power who had a port on the North Sea, were well used to the Troll Navy living by the motto the commissioner had just quoted, in nominal wartime and otherwise. “We’ll need to invade the Isles, or at least the Hebrides.” Harald took another look at the comforting sight of 66 allied warships making their way up the fiord, but now with a sneaking sense of misgiving settling into his gut. These were the vanguard, obviously; they all had two masts and a single gundeck. They’d be based on the Ynglings’ mass-produced corsair design, mostly of 24 guns, with a smattering of 30- and 36-gun ships for flotilla leaders; fast, elegant ships throwing, in the aggregate, an enormous weight of metal, a vast show of the wealth and power of their ally… but not really suited to stand in a line of battle.

“Your ships of the line will be following on in the next day or so, of course?” Harald asked, trying to sound casual. “You’ll send a few of these cruisers, with experienced sailing masters, back up the fiord to show them where the deepest water lies, perhaps?” The fiord was in fact plenty deep enough even for great warships once you got a few meters off the shore, that was what gave the craggy coast of Norway such a wealth of splendid harbours, but the Poles didn’t necessarily know that.

“Ah, yes.” The commissioner cleared his throat, as if embarrassed. “Right. Yes. You were present at the Bornholm Conference, of course. As was I. When we were much younger men.”

“Quite so,” Harald said. “I had just made the List, I believe; and you were the naval attache.” He looked away from the commissioner, who had broken out into a somewhat disconcerting sweat, which the gentle April sun, at these latitudes, could by no means justify. “I think the agreement was that the Commonwealth would build ninety war galleons, to back the Troll Navy in an emergency.” Of course the Poles wouldn’t have done anything of the sort, “ninety” was a number on paper, the sort of thing that sounded good to diplomats and rulers who didn’t, at that particular moment, have to find the lumber, iron, and hemp to build them or the men to fight them. “Ninety” wasn’t to be taken literally; it meant “a goodish number, about as many as we can afford given our other commitments”. Twenty, perhaps, or thirty; Harald would be thrilled if the next week saw two score heavy ships of the Commonwealth docked in Sandviken. Just as he’d been thrilled to see five dozen frigates; such a vast collection of scouts, escorts, and raiders implied a large number of men’o’war to serve as the fighting core of the navy.

Which was why he was very disconcerted to see the commissioner sweating so. The man was an experienced diplomat; he wouldn’t have taken that famous “ninety” literally any more than Harald did. So what had him so nervous?

“Ah, yes, indeed. I believe that is the number that was agreed on, at Bornholm,” he said.

“Of course,” Harald noted, as-if-absently, “such commitments are sometimes difficult to meet, especially in time for an unexpected war.”

“That is very true,” the commissioner agreed gratefully. “In fact, ah, it may be the case that my country has had some unusual difficulty, in this particular case. Ah, beyond the ordinary and expected problems; as you know, sometimes you get lucky and do better than expected, and sometimes you, ah. Um. Do not.”

The unease had become a cold dread creeping up Harald’s spine. Forty was clearly out of the question; he mentally waved thirty goodbye; but at a real pinch he could work with twenty. Even fifteen; something could be done with twelve if the weather cooperated and the Irish showed roughly their usual level of competence; not a full-blown invasion perhaps but at least a raid, a demonstration of strength…

“Just how many heavy ships does the Commonwealth have, Commissioner?” he asked, keeping his voice level and polite with an immense effort.

The commissioner’s wide-eyed speechlessness was answer enough.

A view from Kvarven Fort, our timeline. In 1673, with the bridge not yet built, Askøy across the water is mostly wilderness, so you are to imagine its slopes as an unbroken dark green, without the dense white buildings; and as it is a working fortress, the trees in the cannon’s firing line will be cut down, and the concrete not cracked and overgrown with moss. The Krupp 155-mm gun, of course – installed by the Germans of OTL, kept as war booty by the Norwegians – should be replaced with a battery of black-powder six-inchers, squat heavy beasts in black iron, poking heavy snouts menacingly out beyond the embrasures; and a huge fleet of single-decked, two-masted warships, flying the blue-and-gold of the Commonwealth, sailing up under their unblinking gaze. You may add soldiers, if you like, in the snappy black-and-red uniforms of the Ynglinga Rike, standing about idly among the piled ammunition, holding rammers and gunpowder scoops and perhaps fingering small arms and considering the wealth of loot they might gain with such a raiding fleet on their side; Yngling soldiers are often assigned to units of the Troll Navy to give them fighting experience. But the sky and the sea are the same.

I strongly opine that, with Mike’s betrayal of Dragoon in the War for the Rhine (two sessions ago), the treaty that created the North Sea Confederation was abrogated and my obligation to deliver the Isles to Ireland at an end. Dragoon clearly agrees, since he has been colonising in my agreed sphere of interest and even took my Chesapeake colony. I nevertheless did hand over the East March, because it made the borders ugly and Mike had, after all, spent considerable time not colonising my area, and besides, it couldn’t be defended. Mike then declared war on me for the remaining three provinces, the Isles. I naturally called in my ally Mark, with the ninety heavy ships he had promised to build to back me up in situations like this. His 66 frigates made rendesvouz in my capital to Mark’s great relief, as he had considered their journey outside the Baltic to be rather hazardous in the face of Mike’s vast fleet. I asked him “Yes, I see your raiders, but where are your heavy ships?” and, quoth he, “Ah, er. My heavies, right. Um, about that…” Consequently the Troll Navy perforce kept to a fleet-in-being strategy for this war, protected behind the heavy guns of Kvarven Fort, and no Yngling troops landed in the Isles to defend the Hebrides.

To his credit, Mark did in fact manage to slip a stack of troops across the North Sea, despite Mike’s superior fleet, and land in Cornwall. That would have been a bit more helpful if he’d told me about it, maybe, since then I could have supported him. Or then again it might not have been, because the plan “1. Take Cornwall, 3. Impose terms on Ireland” is missing a step; presumably Mark was not planning to slip across the Irish Sea from his base his Cornwall even after he’d built up mercs there, so what exactly was he thinking? In any case it became a moot point when some random vassal of one side or the other asked Dragoon for military access, Dragoon – who had been trying to stay neutral – absent-mindedly granted it, and Mike’s entire army retook Cornwall.

I was, unfortunately, a little too fast in giving up; Khan had offered to join, but I did not see his thirty-ship navy as a decisive increment of strength, and EU4 is still very much doomstack-takes-all in naval warfare. Had Khan managed to let me know that he would bring Sauron along, with the largest navy in the game, that would have been another matter entirely. Of course, that might have brought in Dragoon on the other side, for all I know. As it was, I gave up my three remaining Scots provinces. Sauron then declared colonial war for Mike’s Californian colony, which did indeed bring in Dragoon; as I understand it, the Irish navy is currently adopting a fleet-in-being strategy, but as Dragoon had prepositioned troops in North America, the land war is going more their way.

In the middle of this James, in Bohemia, declared colonial war on Khan, Sauron’s ally, for North America. Thinking that against a middling power like Bohemia the Troll Navy was big enough to be actually useful, I joined Khan’s side; I need not have done so. It appears that James declared that war without having a fleet; Khan sank thirty Bohemian transports, my Colonial Swarm took over the three provinces of Bohemian Lousiana, and there the war rests except for the siege of Black Fort Isle.

The siege of Black Fort Isle. Note that those are colonial troops, not Yngling regulars. I’ve got artillery on the way, and a general with three siege pips; I still expect to take some fairly heavy attrition before the (checks notes) indomitable island of brave Bohemian colonists surrenders.

Bohemia has, it appears, some fairly humongous defensive modifiers. However, flinging tens of thousands of expendable troops at a worthless target in the pursuit of ankle-biting objectives is precisely the sort of thing the Troll Republic excels at! Black Fort Isle shall be mine!

Wars this session:

Chilly Kyrgyz Carnage
  Mark           : 1515.91 -> 1598.9
  LaxSpartan     : 1730.94 -> 1574.93
War of the Isles
  Mike           : 1561.08 -> 1627.06
  King of Men    : 1208.19 -> 1148.19  "Yes, I see your trade fleet, but where are the heavies?"
  Mark           : 1598.9 -> 1519.49  "We can totally get troops across an uncommanded sea!"
Caladan Colonial War
  Colonial war, reduced win number
  Mark           : 1519.49 -> 1570.3
  Sauron         : 1456.71 -> 1387.48
  Ranger         : 1490.01 -> 1472.3 (25%)
  Khan           : 1629.71 -> 1610.34 (25%)

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Bloody yet Unbowed: The Occupation of Skåne

The war was, indeed, planned to restore Blayne to something like regional power, to recreate a modicum of balance-of-power in Western Europe; technically it did accomplish the second of these aims, in that France is now going to be partitioned (Blayne is moving to Asia) and the ones who will do the occupation – Germany, Spain, Bohemia – are all Great Powers and more or less balance each other out. But the independent counterweight coalition of secondary powers is no longer a factor. In addition to the above-mentioned war, Dragoon also saw fit to help himself to my Chesapeake colony, as “the price of betrayal”. I notice he has yet to slap Mike on the wrist in this fashion.

North America, 1650. Note the Chesapeake colony entirely occupied by Teutons – well, not entirely. One small fortress city of indomitable Ynglings still holds out against the invaders. I hope the fame of the Fortress City of Roanoke may prove as enduring as that of the earlier one in Narragansett, which I reference in the chatbox. Sadly, nobody took me up on it to create an enduring thorn in Dragoon’s side; to be fair, EU4 doesn’t seem to have the graphics glitch that created the famous Zombie Soldiers defending Narragansett. Also pictured in the useless margins of the map that haven’t yet been settled by Ynglings, two battles of the Rhone Valley War, in which I’m definitely contributing.

Europe, 1650. Note Teuton occupation of southern Sweden, promised to be returned in the session. Note also that the coalition is technically winning against Bohemia! But the Great Powers have reached an agreement, France will be partitioned, and the vast battles and immense victories of nine years of war no longer matter. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Player wars this session seem to have been mainly in Europe:

Baluchistani Reconquest of Mandsaur
  BCM            : 1275.65 -> 1225.29
  Levi           : 1641.94 -> 1577.12
  Khan           : 1684.87 -> 1668.24 (25%)
  Clonefusion    : 1854.74 -> 1918.61
  Ranger         : 1440.4 -> 1490.01
  Mark           : 1538.51 -> 1551.75 (25%)
Pyrenees War
  Tazzzo         : 1551.98 -> 1595.13
  Blayne         : 1434.53 -> 1387.96
Occupation of Skåne
  Dragoon        : 1627.24 -> 1648.98
  King of Men    : 1286.75 -> 1266.7
Fall of France
  James          : 1496.59 -> 1566.39
  Hagbard        : 2019.37 -> 2113.55
  Blayne         : 1387.96 -> 1323.84  "This is bullshit, I'mma take my government and go to China"
  Nekronion      : 1454.63 -> 1387.43
  King of Men    : 1266.7 -> 1208.19
  Mark           : 1551.75 -> 1515.91 (50%)
  Mike           : 1636.69 -> 1561.08
  Khan           : 1668.24 -> 1629.71 (50%)

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Bloody yet Unbowed: Lovely is the Knife

Slender is the knife
Brotherhood sworn in red drops
Blood in salt water

Sweet is corsair life
No peace beyond sight of land
Golden treasure won

Tempting is the knife
Trust worth its weight in silver
Bare is back betrayed

Lovely is the knife
Sunlit steel flashes silver
Crimson rivers run

Bloodied is the knife
Shining beauty hides redly
Turn your face to me

Hungry was the knife
Put not your trust in pirates
Bare was your kidney

Brother, mine the knife
Yours, the back trustfully turned
Why did you not guard?

— Verses attributed to Ravnvidd “the Skald” Yngling, the “Poet Pirate”. First collected in “Lovely is the Knife”, published in 1783 by his four-times-great grandson of the same name. The younger Ravnvidd claimed to have taken the poems from letters and other papers found in the attic of the family’s estate in Trøndelag, originally created with the plunder of the elder Ravnvidd’s illustrious career; however, these letters have never been produced and may be mythical. There is also a rich oral tradition of “Ravnvidd Rhymes”, short poems attributed, with varying degrees of seriousness, to the great pirate, even when obviously made up on the spot. Some of the poems in the collection can definitely be dated earlier than 1783 by their appearance in sea-stories referred to in letters, diaries, and pamphlets, and whose content is known from later scholarship; the fixed-syllable scansion conserves the poems more than the surrounding narrative, so that we can be reasonably sure that a given title contains the same poem in 1650 and in 1850 even if the other content has changed. It is thus quite possible that some of the poems were genuinely composed by the Poet Pirate; but the apparent narrative they make is an artifact of his descendant’s curation of the order they appear in, and there can be no certainty that he did not interpolate some additional lines from the oral tradition – that is to say, make something up – to cover inconvenient gaps.

This session the North Sea Confederation broke apart in blood and betrayal; Mike and I colluded to backstab our erstwhile Great Power ally, Dragoon. Allied to Blayne and Tazzzo (France and Spain, respectively), we attempted to break German power in Europe and restore a fluid diplomacy – fluid, that is, in the sense of dynamic, rather than in the sense of being bloody. Although the two will perhaps prove strongly correlated.

Looking at our tactical, as opposed to strategic, war aims, it is clear enough why Mike would respond to Blayne’s suggestion: By uniting the British Isles under his rule, he could become a Great Power in his own right, with an enviable corner position, armed and guarded by an immense navy, with no further need of a powerful ally. As for me, I had many reasons for joining the attack:

1. The Danish isles (which I was promised) are rich and defensible.
2. If the North Sea Confederation was going to break up anyway, it was clearly better to be on the outside pissing in.
3. I’m playing the Ynglings. If I don’t get in a couple of good backstabs per game I don’t feel I’m doing my job.
4. Dragoon had very rudely fortified the Danish isles heavily, putting a fort on each province except Lolland, and one on the mainland; I was immensely insulted by this lack of trust.
5. All the cool kids were doing it.
6. No, really, the European diplomacy genuinely has become rather static. Time to stir up some chaos.
7. I had gotten basically all my colonies from the North American agreement, and no longer needed the threat of NSC enforcement of my sphere of interest.
8. And if the NSC broke up… why then Dragoon would, presumably, no longer defend Mike from my attack; might even join me in attacking him, for vengeance and to make it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate betrayal. And then, perhaps, I could be the one to unite the Isles and become a Great Power with a corner position, armed and guarded by a great navy, and not in need of a powerful ally. A plot spanning, at any rate, decades; but a possibility for expansion in a Europe that looked increasingly locked into the CK borders.

The prewar plan was for me to rush armies into the Danish isles to quickly siege the mothballed forts there, thus either gaining my war aims, or distracting Dragoon from the decisive Flanders front. Sadly, this underestimated the power of internal lines in EU4; Dragoon was able to put his entire army in Denmark and drive mine out, build up his fort garrisons, and march right back to Flanders before Blayne’s invasion could accomplish anything there. Consequently the Flanders fields became their usual muddy attritional hell, while my battered army was reduced to sniping colonies and besieging random English forts. For a while Dragoon was even able, by dint of hiring every mercenary in England and some that must assuredly have teleported in from China, to drive Mike’s gallowglasses back across the Border, into Scotland; but in one of my few successes of the war I had comprehensively smashed his navy in the first month of the fighting, and even intact it would have been outnumbered four to one. With complete command of the sea we could ship reinforcements across at will; between the armies of Ireland, Iberia, and Scandinavia, we were just about able to subdue Teuton England. At the same time our colonial campaign prospered, and in Flanders we were at any rate able to hold the line to a stalemate.

Some battles of the War for the Rhine.

The European stalemate was momentarily broken when James, in Bohemia, declared a separate war on Blayne, backed by Hagbard, the greatest land power on Earth in this year 1620; however, by the deft diplomatic maneuver of instantly raising the white flag, Blayne – playing the French in classic style, to be sure – was able to knock the props out from under Germany with no more losses than the cession of the Rhone valley, and continue the struggle for justice in Europe. I opine, knowing that this is hindsight, that this war should have been fought to the last Frenchman; Hagbard is big but his armies can’t push into strongly-fortified, mountainous terrain any more rapidly than the French ones. By yielding slowly on the Rhone front, holding the Rhine front, and taking England with its rich provinces and ticking warscore, we could have force-peaced Dragoon, then turned our full attention south. However, Blayne states that he panicked in the heat of the moment; in any case it would have been a somewhat risky strategy, fighting the whole of Central Europe in the hope of defeating them in detail.

Central America, my war gains outlined in red. The additional Yngling province in the middle, Mitla, was taken from some natives after the war – Dragoon had no doubt intended to take it once the truce timer was up, but then the peace treaty broke his isolation and let me in, instead.

Dragoon had perhaps hoped that the entry of two major powers on his side, even if in a separate war, would enable him to turn the tide in Flanders and march on Paris; however, he didn’t increase the salt content of the ingame oceans by more than a couple of percent before asking for terms. He stated that he was willing to make concessions in England but would fight to the last for anything on the mainland, including Denmark; as I did not want to be the one who exhausted our manpower and gold reserves, I stated that I could be bought off with colonies. I thus gained enough Mexican land to make another 10-province colonial nation, a fine outcome of a war in which I did not fight on any decisive front.

North America, 1629. Note the vast, frozen Yngling domains in the north, Irish colonies spreading out from Florida, and Jewish (light blue) settlements in Quebec.

In addition to this great European war, I was attacked by Sauron in a sordid little colonial scuffle, in which he retook the Cape colony; as he had built up his navy to three times my size – in his own words, “I’m a navy with a state, what do you want from me?” – and my alliance with Tazzzo had expired, there wasn’t anything to be done about that. In any case the Americas are currently looking quite promising, and as a small nation I must perforce concentrate on one direction at a time; the Far East would be a distraction. Some Middle-Eastern and Indian fighting rounds out the list of the session’s player wars:

Turning the Cape
  Colonial war, reduced win number
  Sauron         : 1258.55 -> 1330.79  "King of Men, would you kindly get off my lawn?"
  King of Men    : 1354.11 -> 1273.06  "Well, there doesn't seem to be anything that can be done"
War for the Rhone
  James          : 1467.57 -> 1496.59
  Hagbard        : 1980.22 -> 2019.37
  Blayne         : 1440.28 -> 1412.39
  King of Men    : 1273.06 -> 1266.9 (25%)   "Fight to the last Frenchman!"
  Tazzzo         : 1535.47 -> 1528.03 (25%)
  Mike           : 1619.27 -> 1611.43 (25%)
War for the Rhine
  Blayne         : 1412.39 -> 1434.53  "Death to Dragoon!"
  King of Men    : 1266.9 -> 1286.75  "No, of course the planned war isn't against you, Dragoon"
  Tazzzo         : 1528.03 -> 1551.98
  Nekronion      : 1432.18 -> 1454.63  "I have an army too!"
  Mike           : 1611.43 -> 1636.69  "Certainly we can extend our DA, Dragoon"
  Dragoon        : 1648.78 -> 1627.24  "This is what I get for not killing people when I should."
War for the Port
  LaxSpartan     : 1684.96 -> 1730.94
  Mark           : 1497.64 -> 1538.51
  BCM            : 1399.5 -> 1356.87
  Yami           : 1260.03 -> 1221.65
War for India
  BCM            : 1356.87 -> 1275.65
  Yami           : 1221.65 -> 1148.53
  Khan           : 1792.14 -> 1684.87
  Ranger         : 1315.89 -> 1440.4
  Sauron         : 1330.79 -> 1456.71
  Levi           : 1500 -> 1641.94

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Bloody yet Unbowed: Captain Sabretooth

This one is for all my Norwegian readers born in the twenty-first century. For those who are not so fortunate, here is the original.

We sailed from the Caribbean and anchored close to shore
we’ve heard an ancient rumour of an immense hoard
Captain Sabretooth, is a cruel man
when he smells gold, the longboats row a-land.

Heave-a-hoy, the loot we’ll soon have got
then we can take our leisure until our bodies rot!

We’ve sailed in every sea spreading terror by the ton
when you see the sable wolf’s-head gules it’s far too late to run
For gold through fire every man will row, in truth
but the first to arrive is Captain Sabretooth!

Heave-a-hoy, the loot we’ll soon have got
then we can take our leisure until our bodies rot!

We won’t be moving on ’till our treasure is on board
when we are out for plunder the rule is by the sword
Captain Sabretooth, is a cruel man
now he can smell red gold so we row towards the land!

Heave-a-hoy, the loot we’ll soon have got
then we can take our leisure until our bodies rot!
Heave-a-hoy, the loot we’ll soon have got
then we can take our leisure until our bodies rot!

— Children’s song of the Troll Republic, ca 1610.

1600 saw the opening of Mexico and a predictable land rush; Captain Sabretooth was not the only one to smell gold this session. Every Great Power with a naval base anywhere near the Gulf declared war within a few years of 1600, leading to some rapid negotiations of spheres of interest and reasonably nice borders; and presumably there was some fighting, but I didn’t see any, the natives having pretty thoroughly wasted their fighting men charging walls of musket and pike well before I got there. I was able to carve out a nice little empire for myself with essentially no effort or casualties; to win without fighting is, of course, the acme of skill.

Mexico, 1606; planned Yngling annexations outlined in red, from sea to shining sea, and more to the point, including several provinces with the shining gold! Note Carantanian white all over the northern parts, and Irish green spreading towards the Gulf coast.

In addition to kicking the hapless Mexicans, I took on a somewhat more dangerous enemy, the Arrakenes. I say ‘somewhat’ because, while Arrakis is roughly my size, I had arranged to have the Iberian navy join mine; a single naval battle off the Comoros settled the issue, and the Cape was mine.

South Africa, now a naval base for the North Sea Confederation’s eastwards expansion.

Sauron was not pleased, and declared me a rival; I expect we’ll clash again over the African coast. But for now, at least, the path to the Far East is clear. The Ynglings of this timeline have never recognised any peace on the high seas, and now that principle will extend east of Suez.

Four player wars this session:

Conquest of Washim
  Clonefusion    : 1801.77 -> 1854.74  "The empire, long divided, must unite"
  Hagbard        : 1951.54 -> 1980.22 (50%)
  Ranger         : 1278.31 -> 1315.89
  BCM            : 1444.4 -> 1399.5
  Khan           : 1806.18 -> 1792.14 (25%)
  Yami           : 1304.7 -> 1284.42 (50%)
  Yami           : 1284.42 -> 1260.03  "Veeeengeaaaance!"
  LaxSpartan     : 1654.62 -> 1684.96  "Mark, please help me with this telegraphed attack by a smaller power"
  Mark           : 1430.75 -> 1456.99  "Dragoon and KoM, please help me with this 2v1 against a second-rank power"
Conquest of the Cape
  Colonial war, reduced win number
  King of Men    : 1331.35 -> 1354.11  "Why should Sauron have nice things?"
  Tazzzo         : 1509.65 -> 1535.47
  Sauron         : 1318.63 -> 1292.19  "Well, there doesn't seem to be anything that can be done"
Conquest of Uruguay
  Colonial war, reduced win number
  Mark           : 1456.99 -> 1497.64  "Ur gay"
  Sauron         : 1292.19 -> 1258.55

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Bloody yet Unbowed: The Hispaniola War

The partition of the New World continues apace, with new players joining as they come into range; in particular, Hagbard, of “Carantania” – roughly speaking the Habsburg Empire – managed to colonise the western end of Hispaniola, an island on which I had designs. A Central-European power with a medium-size navy is, of course, vulnerable to a very simple strategy: Park the North Sea Confederation’s fleet at the Straits of Gibraltar where it corks up the Med like a bottle, land armies in Hispaniola to seize the colonies, and break Hagbard’s navy if he tried to force the Straits. And indeed, that part of the strategy worked perfectly:

Unfortunately, it turns out Hagbard can also look at the map for chokepoints. He had prepared for the war by moving 62 regiments – one-fourth of his force limit, our house-rule maximum for overseas deployments – into Hispaniola before the war, like some kind of strategic genius who actually gets ready to fight in peacetime. I don’t know, you’d think he’d played these games before or something. He was still somewhat outnumbered by the total troops the North Sea Confederation could send, and we were roughly evenly matched for generals, but Hagbard had only one person moving his armies. In world wars with multiple fronts this is a problem; fighting in a single tiny theatre, it was an advantage, and our failure to coordinate meant that we were never fighting Hagbard’s colonial army as a single unified force that outnumbered it. Instead we were defeated in detail and had our armies run all around the island until they surrendered, both when we were able to start from my colony in Les Cayes, and when we attempted a landing in Tortuga. In a game with an actual logistics model, of course, the solution would be to blockade the island (which I did do) and wait for the humongous garrison to starve to death along with the expendable colonists – by the EU4 numbers, there were at least ten times as many soldiers on the island as settlers, and perhaps twice as many soldiers as natives. As we are playing EU4, we instead signed a “white” peace, in effect conceding the island to Hagbard since he had seized my colonies on it.

Having tried to settle the issue by force and failed, I was later able to reach an accommodation with Hagbard which gave each of us a colonial nation in the Caribbean, and everyone settled down to expand. I finished exploring the two American continents, finding the Fountain of Youth in the process, unfortunately not in a place where it’s likely I’ll be the one to colonise it.

The situation after the war and much colonising:

As we are in 1582, it seems likely that Mexico, Panama, and the tip of South America will open this session, perhaps causing more conflict as people scrabble for what are increasingly the few remaining spots in the New World. For this week, it appears that my attempt at Hispaniola was the only player conflict:

Hispaniola War
Colonial war, reduced win number
Dragoon : 1765.26 -> 1648.78
King of Men : 1425.4 -> 1331.35 "Why should Hagbard have colonies?"
Mike : 1733.67 -> 1619.27
Hagbard : 1808 -> 1951.54

Of course a three-to-one loss is somewhat disastrous for the ratings of the three.

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Bloody yet Unbowed: Cape Orange

Another view of the Scrabble for Africa:

With the modded trade routes, it is quite difficult to get any money to flow as far north as the North Sea where I can dip my beak in it; one crucial node in the flow, however, is the Ivory Coast, where it can either go straight to Europe and never be seen in Scandinavia, or be diverted east to the Caribbean from whence there is at least a chance of getting it up to Norway. Casting my eyes down to Africa before the session, I noticed that all the good provinces were coloured a bilious green, and moreover, the rest of the North Sea Confederation was also locked out of the naval bases they’d need to get around Africa. It was no feat, then, to convince them of the need for war. With our colonial-war rule, it would be a naval war, for which we had a clear superiority. We did briefly discuss the possibility of a regular war, fought in Europe as well as the colonies, in order to seize Malta or another Mediterranean naval base; but such a war would no doubt have brought in Blayne, and been decided on the Rhine – which would have been a tossup instead of a walkover. Tazzzo fought one pro-forma naval battle, a hopeless struggle against the modern ships of the Troll Navy in its Atlantic home waters, then asked for terms. We settled on five provinces, four to me (including two crucial trade provinces) and the Cape Verdes islands to Mike:

Africa in 1551; Yngling trade power in the Ivory Coast is well established. Note the Arrakene presence in South Africa and the Iberian outpost in Madagascar. The spheres of influence on the west coast are now settled by treaty, at least so far as the major naval powers are concerned.

While this excitement was happening, there were some other player wars:

Scrabble for Africa
Colonial, reduced win number.
King of Men : 1408.13 -> 1425.4 "Why should Tazzzo have all the good colonies?"
Mike : 1709.29 -> 1730.26
Dragoon : 1730.25 -> 1751.48
Tazzzo : 1517.84 -> 1495.8 "Next time you want land maybe ask first."
Scuffle for Brazil
Tiny colonial conflict, reduced win number.
Tazzzo : 1495.8 -> 1509.65
Sauron : 1334.09 -> 1318.63
Accidental Conquest of Merta
BCM : 1360.62 -> 1444.4 "Wait, so actually the Threaten War button might lead to war?"
Khan : 1701.41 -> 1806.18
Ragatokk : 1500 -> 1592.37
Clonefusion : 1908.51 -> 1801.77
Iron Eagle : 1241.9 -> 1172.44
Gallic Vengeance
Limited war for return of cores.
Blayne : 1293.78 -> 1453.32
James : 1622.9 -> 1467.57
War on the Rhine
Dragoon : 1751.48 -> 1765.26
Mike : 1730.26 -> 1733.67 (25%)
Blayne : 1453.32 -> 1440.28

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Bloody yet Unbowed: What Shall We Do?

What shall we do wi’ a fat, slow trader? (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Chain to the sails and then we catch her! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Grape for the crew and then we board her! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Plunder the hold o’ gowd an’ siller! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Gie her a prize crew to sail her homeward! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Ransom for them as can afford it! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Kisses sweet for the captain’s daughter! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

Run for the ocean before her friends come! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

There’s no peace on the wide free ocean! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

It’s a man’s life in this here Navy! (3x)
Earlie in the mornin’!

— Walk-away shanty of the Troll Navy, ca 1530. Many other verses exist, especially ones that replace “gowd and siller” with other loot, or get much more explicit on what is to be done with the captain’s daughter. In fact it would be quite unusual for an Atlantic merchant captain to bring a female of any description whatever along on his voyages, at least in part because of the chance of encountering an Yngling corsair; sailors who had been at sea for several months might, of course, replace “the captain’s daughter” with “the cabin boy-o” or “the handsome first-mate”.

Somebody or other challenged me to sing shanties in the ingame voice chat; I have not yet seen a reason to do so, but I am giving myself the option with these in-narrative compositions. Anyone contemplating a war with the Ynglinga Rike, you have been warned.

This session saw a large number of player wars, many of them circling around Ranger’s coalition to recover the ground he lost to Khan in the Twenty Years’ War. Because of our rule against the top Great Powers allying with each other, and against minor powers allying multiple Great Powers, the war in the Middle East have been moderately complex, with condottieri, subsidies, and variously-deniable shenanigans taking the place of actual Great-Power intervention. But to get back to the game: Hagbard, Dragoon and James declared successive wars against Blayne, a known supporter of Ranger, presumably with the intent of keeping him from sending troops to the Levant as he had to India. Ranger, nevertheless, had acquired so many allies that he decided to attack anyway; with the loot of the Twenty Years’ War (and a change in the definition of “top Great Power”), Lar Reign had increased in size to the point where its alliance with Carantania had to be broken. Thus, Khan’s diplomatic situation after the declaration was even more hopeless-looking than it had been in the Twenty Years’ War:

My entry into the war was, oddly enough, not a case of seizing the opportunity to rush to the aid of the victors; on the contrary, I had been bribed in the pre-session diplomacy, extracting a promise of Rhodes, which I intended to use as a corsair base, saving me the trouble of bribing someone for basing rights when I want to pirate the Med. My entry was the evidently last straw for Khan, who immediately cut his losses and asked for terms before the conflict could develop into another twenty-year attritional nightmare. I was most disappointed, as I had looked forward to two lucrative decades of blockading the lengthy Laren coastline. And when the terms were listed, I was even more disappointed, for my promised Med island was not among them. Later I learned that I don’t actually have coring range to the eastern Med, and couldn’t in fact have received my island even if Khan had been forced to part with it; but that is beside the point. My allies blamed intra-alliance communication issues; my enemies told me “that’s what you get for trusting HellBent”. Ranger offered, in partial mitigation, a subsidy that makes his ports free to use; BlueCheeseMoon, playing Kush, offered me bases on the Indian Ocean, so I might pirate Assyria in retaliation for the broken promise. A fine idea, which I had to turn down as I can’t get ships there yet.

In spite of the quick end of the war, it did see one large naval battle, executed with the fine piratical flair of the Troll Navy as Khan desperately sortied his galley fleet:

Presumably, he was working on the idea that a naval loss could do him no harm and a miraculous win might improve his situation; at any rate I was able, after the peace, to slightly improve my profits from it by selling war-surplus galleys, “only slightly water-damaged”. I did have to let them go quite cheap, but then again, stolen goods are never sold at a loss.

Aside from the MidEast, the other center of conflict was India, where Clone continued his bid for regional hegemony by again beating up on Stiefellecker and Iron Eagle, and winning. A few wars against Kush round out the picture; Kush, midway between the MidEast and India, forms a bridge between two of the three player groups, and is evidently well placed to either extract great advantage from its position, or be ground to dust between the two millstones. This session was more in ground-to-dust mode; perhaps BlueCheeseMoon can turn it around on Sunday, with help from the Yngling corsairs that are sure to reach the Indian Ocean sometime in the 1530s.

Player wars as reported to my rating calculator:

War of the Fate of India
Clonefusion : 1824.42 -> 1908.51
Stiefellecker : 1175.58 -> 1094.2
Tazzzo : 1500 -> 1448.08 (50%)
Sauron : 1358.18 -> 1264.17
The Breaking of the Don
Mark : 1370.23 -> 1430.75
LaxSpartan : 1500 -> 1566.25
Yami : 1358.18 -> 1304.7
The Smoking of the Great Kush
Iron Eagle : 1175.58 -> 1241.9
LaxSpartan : 1566.25 -> 1654.62
BCM : 1500 -> 1391.08
Pikes in Flanders
Dragoon : 1663.29 -> 1730.25
Blayne : 1455.96 -> 1377.42
Bohemian Burgundy
James : 1597.07 -> 1661.27
Blayne : 1377.42 -> 1316.71
Alexandrine Attack
Hagbard : 1779.34 -> 1808
Blayne : 1316.71 -> 1293.78
Provincal Posturing
Tazzzo : 1448.08 -> 1517.84
James : 1661.27 -> 1622.9
Return of Aleppo
Ranger : 1211.3 -> 1278.31
HellBent : 1211.3 -> 1278.31
King of Men : 1370.23 -> 1408.13 (50%) "I was promised Rhodes, dangit!"
Sauron : 1264.17 -> 1334.09
Mike : 1663.29 -> 1709.29 (50%) "Naval only"
Nekronion : 1393.63 -> 1432.18 (50%)
Khan : 1779.34 -> 1701.41
BCM : 1391.08 -> 1360.62 (50%)

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