We Must Feed Our Sea: The Power of Balance

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

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

    Diplomatic situation at the beginning of the Crusade.

    Not kidding about the fifty thousand.

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

    Some victorious but unfortunately not decisive battles of the reconquest.

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

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

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We Must Feed Our Sea: I Do Not Sow

Events of the ninth session:

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

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

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

    Gudfrid. Obviously chastity and celibacy only applies to women.

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

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

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

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Poison Pill

Events of the eighth session:

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

Europe at the height of the recession.

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

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

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Corporate Raiding

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

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

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

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

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Corporate Merger

Events of the sixth session:

The Wolfpack Gathers: After the disastrous Saxon Crusade, Denmark was drastically reduced in power, and every one-province count from the Weser to the Vistula gathered around to feed on, as they thought, the corpse. In the main I was able to fend them off, sending raiders as far afield as Kiev in search of income not protected by large empires. But the steady drain of constant war against two to four counts at once, depending on who I’d recently been able to siege down, meant that I could not improve my position either by building or by expanding.
The Great Heathen Army: Clonefusion, meanwhile, was having somewhat better luck. After a lengthy buildup of his strength, he launched a Great Holy War for England with about 24000 men, to which I joined my 4000 – partly for the greater glory of Odin, and partly because England is a rich target for raiding and if their army was going to be busy, I might as well spend some time in the area checking out the monasteries and other tourist attractions. Unfortunately, Gollevainen was eventually able to gather together over thirty thousand men, mostly by the use of Holy Orders – there are, of course, no HOs in a Norse army; our camp followers are all women of virtue. It seemed to me that some swift maneuvering by Clone’s doomstack might have brought victory even so, as the English army was not fully concentrated when it came into visibility; but for whatever reason Clone left his Great Heathen Army besieging London, and was thrown back into the sea.
Throwing the Fattest One Out of the Sled: At length, frustrated by my inability to either end the wars against my liege, or get any advantage from being under Denmark, I declared war for independence. This is still ongoing at the end of the session, but only a matter of time.
Shareholder Revolt: However, the Holstein Independence War – which is, let’s observe, a war of a three-province merchant republic against a five-province oligarchic republic – is about to become entirely irrelevant. Clone, frustrated with his immense bad luck with ruler lifetimes, has decided to “spend more time with his family” and “improve his golf handicap”, leaving the Norse Empire without a CEO at a time of great difficulty. The recent antitrust blocking of the acquisition of a competing concern – intended to restore the company’s flagging fortunes by unleashing a cross-North-Sea synergy – has left the empire without a strategy for restoring competitiveness, and both the board’s trust in the CEO and the shareholders’ trust in the board have been weakened; there are even rumours that a cut in the dividend has been considered as a way to conserve a “war chest” for future operational expenditures.
Corporate Merger: Fortunately, the Board has found a candidate willing to step in and undertake a turnaround, even in these difficult circumstances; a man of great experience in guiding Norse Republics who have fallen upon hard times. The new CEO has stated that he will return the empire to its foundational competencies of aggressive cross-border marketing, corporate raiding, and involuntary labour management. There may be an implicit critique here of the previous chief’s commitment to grand acquisition schemes, a suggestion that these glorious visions led him to take the eyes off the ball of [i]actually making money[/i] from the company’s fundamental strengths. Whether or not this is so, any reciprocal mutterings about “rats leaving a sinking ship” will be grounds for discipline up to and including immediate termination [1].

[1] Please note, when an Yngling uses the word ‘termination’, he is not talking about your employment. And yes, the Scandinavian Empire is an at-will state.

Players 935, excepting Vaniver who was absent this session, and Sauron and Ziro who both left before I could take the screenshot. So, to be more accurate, two-thirds of the players in 935.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: A Broken, Scattered Band

Events of the fifth session:

    The Death of Princes: Having accumulated 1000 prestige, I converted Ulfr to Norse, and demanded the conversion of my heir, Bersi, who immediately agreed. This done, I was ready to get rid of Ulfr, whose Depression clearly arose from contemplating his stats. Unfortunately, I forgot to pump up my election fund before hitting the suicide button, and lost the Grand Princedom for a few years. Even aside from this, it was not a good session for the Ynglings; I lost two other Grand Princes, and in only one of these three deaths did I manage to win the election.



    Deaths of Ulfr, Bersi, and Asbjørn. Note the lost titles for Ulfr and Asbjørn.

    Ut! Ut! Ut!: Around 890, the British Isles were in their usual state of meltdown: Both England and Scotland were aflame with rebellion, which was interfering with trade. Despairing of restoring order only through raiding the rebel strongholds, I reluctantly decided that a firm hand was needed; if the kings of Britain could not keep sufficient order in their own houses that an honest merchant could make an honest profit without worrying about bandits, why then the honest merchant would have to keep it for them. I therefore fired up the Kingdom Subjugation CB that our mod adds, against Scotland. (This CB, we later learned, does not work as we thought – when used against the Scandinavian Empire, targeting the Kingdom of Denmark, it handed over the Empire title! Currently it looks like we’ll just remove it from the mod. But Scotland is only one king title anyway, so it wouldn’t have mattered. ) With mercenaries, my army came to four thousand; the Scots could muster three thousand and some random AI stacks of a few hundred, and the Scots rebels were also about three thousand. I had occupied the crown lands surrounding the Firth of Forth and was well on my way to victory when 8000 English troops jumped into the war, Golle having settled his own rebels and being for some reason unwilling to have Ynglings as neighbours. At the same time Bohemia declared war for a border county and crossed the Elbe with five thousand men. Shortly thereafter the English captured my capital and some of my relatives with it, and were able to force peace; the reparations put me in the red and my mercenaries deserted, and I signed over the disputed county to Bohemia and went off in a sulk to raid Livonia.

    The Saxon Crusade: As soon as Crusades were enabled, before any human (including Dragoon, nominally Papal Controller) could react, the AI Pope sprang into action. Demonstrating all its usual fine understanding of geopolitics (in particular, it understood that a Norse ruler held the holy grove at Braunschweig), it immediately found the target that would do most do demonstrate the might of the White Christ and the God of Hosts: Saxony, land of the knife-men. I had lost the Dogeship for the second time in the session, but it could hardly have mattered; the Pope himself had fifteen thousand men, and Bretonnia and Leon both joined. Dragoon, perhaps annoyed at this opportunism, offered to excommunicate Vaniver and thus remove Bretonnia from the war; in hindsight this would not have mattered, but at the time I did not know of the army the Pope had raised. I paid him 400 gold, and the Breton emperor was duly excommunicated; but, forewarned, he had raised his own Pope from some random French bishop, and was able to remain in the field. There is currently a war to settle just who is Pope in this here religion anyway, but that does me little good: With the core Saxon lands gone, Denmark was broken and scattered to the four winds.

    Call me a pessimist, but that doesn’t look very winnable.

    A Broken, Scattered Band: Denmark is now a Republic – not a Merchant Republic, but the unplayable kind. I was relegated to my old title of Holstein, which did manage to survive as a Merchant Republic, but currently this power comprises Sjælland and Norfolk – and Norfolk is under siege by some random count who declared a Holy War for East Anglia against what’s left of Denmark.

What’s left of Denmark. Still, not all is lost: The Ynglings have been defeated and driven into exile before, and survived by their wits and readiness with a knife. Western Europe is divided among many rulers; and in the East is still land for the taking.

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We Must Feed Our Sea: Freie und Hanse Stadt Holstein

Events of the fourth session.

  • Rebirth of the Old Gods: Clone reformed the Germanic religion.
  • Asturian War: I fought off an attack by AI Asturias trying to push my border back to the Elbe.
  • Among the Savage Balts: Looking to fill his council with supporters, and take advantage of that 20 Martial, Clone made me Marshal, promising not to use me to lead troops. Then he died… and in the ensuing chaos, raised an army, forgetting that I was no longer assigned to training troops. Naturally, I was immediately captured by a one-province Baltic count, and had to ransom myself at vast expense.
  • More Schrödinger’s Courage: Arni managed to gain and lose Craven one more time before his death, making three cycles in his life.
  • Freie…: Reaching the size limit, Clonefusion released me to my own devices.
  • …und Hanse Stadt Holstein: Free at last, I almost immediately formed a Merchant Republic, which somewhat drastically weakened me. I can no longer call up a tribal army, my levies dropped dramatically since I’m now getting city-castle-temple levies with almost no upgrades instead of tribal levies with lots of upgrades and the empty-holding bonus, and I have yet to build up a large trade zone or a powerful House. Still, it had to be done sooner or later, as the tribal strengths decrease relative to feudals with every passing decade; as well to do it as soon as possible, to give myself time to grow.
  • Danish Karma: The ruler of Jylland somehow became a Hindu, and managed to convert his county as well! I wasn’t able to assassinate him, but did take him on a raiding expedition as commander of the right flank; he promptly got captured, and is no longer first in line to inherit the Dogeship of Holstein. Unfortunately his heir is also Hindu.
  • Trade Law: As respectable, reputable merchants, the Ynglinga Hanse of course recognises the importance of property, and does not go raiding wherever the wind might take them. Indeed, so important is property to them, that when order breaks down in other countries, they devote considerable resources to helping the rightful rulers protect the possessions of their subjects. For example, when northern England was in revolt, dragon-headed Hanse ships immediately appeared in the Humber, whence they sent out surveying parties (perforce, these surveyors were heavily armed, to protect themselves from the banditry that is rife in unsettled times) to write down who owned what in the area, and then take all the moveable goods back to Germany. This was of course done purely so that the law-abiding majority of the English subjects in the revolting area would not have their possessions stolen by the rebels and used against their rightful sovereign; we feel certain that we materially shortened the campaign to bring down the rebels, by denying them supplies and support. The English can recover their goods, or an equivalent value in gold, by coming to Holstein and filling out forms F-97a, G20, and A2320 (in triplicate and German). This is to ensure that each cow, ducat, and slave is returned to the rightful owner; F-97a certifies the petitioner’s identity, G20 allows us to match them against our own bookkeeping system, and finally A2320 is to actually return the goods. Be aware that G20 requires the petitioner to provide their assigned case number, which our surveying parties would have informed them of. Regrettably some of our surveyors may have been a little unclear in their instructions, in part due to the surprising amount of arrows they encountered; we apologise for this lapse in customer service.

The death of Suni. In addition to being Infirm and Diligent, he had lost an eye, a hand, and his wits; though he only got around to appointing Glitterhoof chancellor twice. If I’d known Vaniver was going to enter a contest for most horses appointed, I would have unseated the horse a couple more times.

Player map, 879. Note the revolt against Golle in England, apparent power vacuum in Germany due to Yami Fenrir being away, and new player in Aquitaine.

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