Somebody suggested that I should invade England and take revenge for Stamford Bridge (the game begins in December of 1066, so the two invasions of England always play out in their historical fashion.) It prompted me to explain in detail why that would be a very bad idea.
I agree with Dom [that Norway had nothing to gain from attacking England] on this one. The only possible way I could benefit from attacking England would be by annexing the whole island; any lesser solution like re-creating the Danelaw or even just grabbing York and the Norwegian-culture islands, would lose me an ally for very little gain. (Iceland is another matter, as it is a strategically important harbour.)
Now, it is just barely possible that I have the manpower to actually annex England in a 1-on-1 war, and by this stage of the game I almost certainly have the claims to do so – I haven’t checked, but the way the damn things proliferate, it seems pretty likely. However, if I did this in one gulp I would accumulate so much game badboy that all my vassals would leave, and also so much human badboy that every player in the game would DOW me. I mean, you saw how much grief Sterk had over the annexation of Russia; imagine trying that on the primary title of an actual human! It would – quite rightly – be seen as the first step in a bid to completely dominate the North; Poland, France, Burgundy and probably Hungary would instantly unite against me, with the enthusiastic support of Traveler.
That is for trying to do it in one step; if I divide it into several gulps, the game badboy problem is much lessened. However, humans being smarter than computer vassals, I would still create a powerful coalition against me as soon as I succeeded – if I did. For with fair warning of my intentions, Dom would mend his fences with Burgundy and France, and create a defensive coalition to keep me east of the North Sea and the Elbe. (Which could rapidly be converted into an offensive one to throw me out of Germany!) Not to mention Poland, with its vast army, casting eyes on Brandenburg and Novgorod. I can hold off Poland in a defensive war, especially since he is usually perceived as the aggressor and I can expect people to come to my aid. Trying to do so while embroiled in a war of aggression against England is just not on.
In short, Norway is now first among equals north of the Alps. But that status relies on the current alliance structure rather than Norway’s intrinsic strength. A single nation changing sides could easily topple us from first place. We are not yet in a position to make a bid for even local hegemony, much less European. And were I to try anything of the sort, I would certainly start by destroying my most powerful enemy, Poland, rather than my most loyal ally, England! I did consider pressing my claim to King of Rus in the last war, but came to the conclusion that it would embroil me in an instant badboy war with Italy, Spain, and Burgundy.
It is perhaps easy for my readers to overestimate Norway’s strength; after all, I haven’t lost a war since the disastrous Great Rising. (And besides, this being a saga, the reporting is perhaps not 100% objective. 🙂 ) Please note, though, that this is not due to huge armies, but clever diplomacy. I always attempt to create a coalition, to diplomatically isolate my enemies, and to be seen as the unaggressive party. My actual army is only in second place, with Poland being an extremely close third – the numbers are so close that things like a single dysentery epidemic or plague ending cause us to switch places. My flanking position does help here, of course : I never have to fight on several fronts, unless you count attacking Poland both from Germany and Finland. (My German holdings are so narrow that one army can defend them against both Burgundy and Poland, with the advantage of interior lines.)
It will be interesting to see how things go in EU2, where navies play a much larger role. I will need to dominate the Baltic if I want to reinforce my German lands with troops from my Scandinavian cores; Sterk, on the other hand, will be able to concentrate on his army. On the third hand, a powerful navy, able to close the Sound, makes Scandinavia essentially invulnerable – in principle you could invade through Finland, but those cold mountains and forests are eminently defensible. So if defeated in Germany, I can pack up my armies and wait for the invader to get tired, or for a neighbour to take advantage of his pre-occupation. (And incidentally, this is another place where the friendship of England is essential : Dom will need a powerful navy even more than I do, and will have less need of an army. It is therefore probable that the Royal Navy will on average be more powerful than the KNM, and a hostile England will therefore range from very bad to disastrous, depending on the fortunes of the land war in Germany.)