The Great Game

The first AAR I’ll be uploading here is that of the Great Game. It was a full run-through of all the Paradox games, from Crusader Kings starting in 1066 to Hearts of Iron 2 ending in 1950. I played my native Norway, whose royal family in 1066 are the Ynglings; hence the name of the blog. For those who are not familiar with Paradox games, Crusader Kings, although it is a war game, is also heavily oriented towards managing your dynasty and making favourable marriages; your king’s traits are very important. For this reason I wrote the Crusader Kings sections in a saga style – brief, person-oriented, laconic. (Well, perhaps not very laconic. I do tend to run on. Then again, who knows how much the saga skalds might have had to say, if they’d had access to keyboards and no need to memorise everything?)
At any rate, the first installment of the Ynglinga Saga follows. The year is 1066; Harald Hardråde’s invasion of England has failed bloodily at Stamford Bridge; Norway faces the question of what to do next.

YNGLINGA SAGA

1. OLAF HARALDSON YNGLING (1066)

Olaf was king of Norway after the death of Harald Hardråde, together with his brother Magnus. Olaf was a stout man, well grown in limbs; and everyone said a handsomer man could not be seen, nor of a nobler appearance. His hair was yellow as silk, and became him well; his skin was white and fine over all his body; his eyes beautiful, and his limbs well proportioned. He was rather silent in general, and did not speak much even at Tings; but he was merry in drinking parties. He loved drinking much, and was talkative enough then; but quite peaceful. He was cheerful in conversation, peacefully inclined during all his reign, and loving gentleness and moderation in all things. Stein Herdison speaks thus of him:

“Our Trondhjem king is brave and wise,
His love of peace our bønder prize;
By friendly word and ready hand
He holds good peace through every land.
He is for all a lucky star;
England he frightens from a war;
The stiff-necked Danes he drives to peace;
Troubles by his good influence cease.”

2. ON JÆMTLAND (1067)

Austmod hight a man, and he was chief of those people who call themselves Jæmtings, and live in the valleys to the northeast of Hedmark. Now this Austmod was a very fine archer, and it happened once that as he was guesting in Ångermanland, he came upon a huge bear, which charged his party. Then Austmod took out his bow, and shot the bear through the eye, so it fell dead. For this deed he gathered much praise among his following, and also among the bønder of the district, from whom the bear had taken much livestock.

Now, when Thormod, who was chief in those parts, came to hear of this, he said : “Shall we let this Austmod do as he pleases in our lands? Today he shoots our bears. Tomorrow will he take our boars or deer? We must teach him a lesson.” Thus Thormod sent the war-arrow around his district, and the warriors came to the aid of their chief; though there were some who said that this was not an honourable deed. So his fylking was somewhat less than it had been in previous years; but still it was twice the size of what the Jæmtings could muster.

Thus Austmod was forced to come to a peace, and pay a scot for hunting in Thormod’s lands; but he was not pleased at this. So when he heard that Norway had a new king, he said, “Let us ask this Olaf for aid, for all men know that he is a just and wise king.” And the Jæmtings agreed to seek Olaf’s protection.

Now when Olav received word of this, he agreed immediately that Jæmtland should be part of Norway henceforth; and he set out to punish the men who had dishonourably forced war upon his vassal. The men of Viken and Akershus mustered under the King’s banner, and his brother Magnus brought many men from Nidaros. Together with the Jæmtings, they quickly brought Thormod to acknowledge Olaf’s overlordship; and for his presumptousness, all his lands were given to Austmod, so that Jæmtland and Ångermanland came under one man’s rule, and all lay under the King of Norway.

Now when this was done, and a great feast was being held in Thormod’s hall to celebrate the victory, it happened that Olaf asked about the lands north of Ångermanland; and Austmod told him that they were rich in furs and lumber, but inhabited by savage pagans, who killed all who entered their lands. Olaf asked : “Are they so deadly that the armies of Norway cannot overcome them?” Austmod replied : “Nay, sire King; they are brave and skilled fighters, but not numerous. Had we of Jæmtland as many warriors as you do, we would long since have brought them to Christ.” So Olaf decided that he would march north, to overawe the pagans and force them to acknowledge his overlordship; and this he did, and gave Lappland to his brother, keeping Västmanland for himself and laying a heavy scot on those who worshiped in the old way; but the baptised he spared.

3. THE MARRIAGE OF OLAF AND BOTAID (1070)

Botaid hight a woman, and she was the daughter of Munkair av Stenkyrka, chief of Gotland. Her beauty was widely spoken of : She had ell-long golden hair, a full mouth, and eyes the colour of the sea. Now, when Olaf heard of this, he decided to see for himself; and thus he travelled to Gotland and guested for a while with Munkair. There he saw that men had spoken true, for Botaid was indeed a great beauty; and so he asked for her hand in marriage. Munkair, desiring an alliance with the powerful King of Norway, readily agreed.

Botaid bore Olaf many daughters, and their names were Astrid, Maer, Gudrun, Ingjerd, and Gyrid. But with no sons to carry on his name and win fame in battle, Olaf became angry and disappointed, and said Munkair had cheated him, and that Botaid was a useless frill; and it is said there was little joy in their marriage.

4. ALLIANCE WITH THE KING OF THE GERMANS (1077)

Heinrich hight a man, and he was king of the Germans and had many other titles beside. Now it chanced that Olaf was travelling to Gotland to guest with his father-in-law as Heinrich was campaigning around Mecklemburg; and as there was little welcome in those days to be expected on Gotland, Olaf decided he would instead go and see what sort of man Heinrich was.

Now Heinrich, being a skilled and powerful warrior, had brought Mecklemburg to submission; and thus he was in a merry mood when Olaf asked to see him. “Indeed,” said he, “let us by all means welcome the King of Norway! We will show him how Germans feast their guests.” And he laid out a mighty feast, stinting nothing; and as the drink flowed and men became merry, Heinrich and Olaf found each other most congenial. So the next day they swore oaths of friendship, and they campaigned together against Rostock, and after it was taken Heinrich granted Olaf the city for his own. But from then on it was said in Denmark that the King of Norway could not stand on his own, but hid behind the skirts of the mighty German Emperor; and this slander Olaf had much trouble to extinguish.

[i](A slander event, giving me the trait Coward. Grr!)[/i]

6. WAR WITH DENMARK (1082)

Now when Heinrich had a dispute with King Estrid of Denmark over who should be lord of Holstein, he sent men to Olaf to ask for his aid. And this aid Olaf gave freely, saying “Ill would it be to fail our friend now, and men would say we had done a nithing deed. And also these Danes have called us coward, and that we can in no wise abide.” So he sent the war-arrow to Akershus, Oppland, and Viken, and marched down the coast through Västergotland towards Halland. At this the Swedes were much alarmed, and although King Estrid had sent to them for aid, they stayed instead in their homes, preferring not to fight the King of Norway.

Now when King Olaf reached Halland, he found that there were few men there to meet him, for King Estrid had called them to the Danework to stand against Heinrich’s host. So he burned the land widely around, and forced them to acknowledge him as their Jarl; and marched south to Skåne. This land, too, he ravaged; and when emissaries came from King Estrid to ask for mercy, he said “Grid I’ll grant, if Estrid will give me his lands.” And to this Estrid was forced to agree, lest his people rise in revolt against him. So says Bjørn Krephende in his song on Olaf:

Through Halland wide around
The clang and shriek resound;
The houses burn,
The people mourn,
Through Halland wide around.
The Norse king strides in flame,
Through Viskardal he came;
The fire sweeps,
The widow weeps,
The Norse king strides in flame.

But the Danes liked this little, and what before had been whispered, now was shouted, that Olaf was a coward who could not fight without German swords. And when this came to Olaf’s ears, his mood became grim, and he would take little joy in anything. For of all things he could least abide that his good name should be besmirched.

5. OLAV OLAFSSON YNGLING (1083)

Now as Botaid had born Olaf no sons, he took to his bed frill-wives, according to the older custom of his fathers. And by these he had several sons; one was named Ragnar, another Stein. But as they were forbidden by the Church to inherit, Olaf gave their mothers farms to keep them, and so pass they out of the saga.

Now, one of these frill-wives hight Ragnhild, and she was the daughter of a poor bonde named Håkon Ladir. And when she bore a son, who was baptised Olav, she refused the reward of a farm. Instead, she asked that Olav be given a place in the King’s hird when he came of age. And as the child was a shapely and healthy lad, King Olaf agreed to this.

As Olav grew, he came to resemble his father more and more. King Olaf did not fail to take note of this, and began to treat him more and more as his heir; for as he had no sons by Botaid, he needed a child of his body to carry on his line. But to this the Church could not agree. And so matters stood for a long while.

Comments for non-players: The first part is a direct quote from the real Ynglinga Saga that tells of the historical Kings of Norway. This is where the Great Game’s history diverges from ours, in other words. Jæmtland is in our history a part of Sweden, taken from Norway in one of our wars; in Crusader Kings, however, it is ‘naturally’ part of Norway. This works as follows. Rulers may be Counts, Dukes, or Kings, and have a personal demesne of one or more provinces. Dukes can be vassals to Kings, and Counts can be vassals to either Dukes or Kings. A higher-tier lord may ask a lower-tier one to become his vassal, if the lower-tier one is either independent, or very disloyal to his current lord. Each province, or county, has a Duchy and a Kingdom to which it historically belonged, and its natural overlord has a considerable bonus on the probability of the province voluntarily becoming a vassal. (Or, of course, you can declare war and take the province away, and insert your own man, or rule it yourself.) At any rate, Jæmtland begins the game independent, but agreed to become part of Norway almost instantly. Later on I wouldn’t use so many paragraphs on a single province, but since it was the first thing that happened in the game, I told this story about it.

Next I married a woman who proved fertile, but unlucky in her children; fought some brief wars on the continent, subduing the pagans who control Germany’s Baltic coast in 1066 and getting some land there; and then fought a war with Denmark. Since I was allied to the Holy Roman Empire, which in the early years of the game is a superpower, I won easily and added parts of what is now southern Sweden to my domains.

5 Comments

Filed under Great Game

5 responses to “The Great Game

  1. Pingback: There Will Be War: Truth, and some Consequences Thereof « Ynglinga Saga and other stories

  2. Pingback: The Great Game: Trade and Dominion « Ynglinga Saga

  3. Pingback: The Great Game: Hearts of Iron Begins | Ynglinga Saga

  4. Pingback: Children of the Fatherland: Introduction | Ynglinga Saga

  5. Pingback: We Have Paid in Full: Apportion the Shame | Ynglinga Saga

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