Well, I had a rather good session as far as national developments are concerned; but there was none of the conflict that inspires me to tell stories. Apart from a brief brushfire war with the Lenape, ending predictably in their annexation, I was at peace throughout. Novgorod and Sweden were both annexed without so much as a whimper of protest, and the Swedes were even kind enough to build me a trading post with some of the bribe money I gave them – they rebelled at a time when I knew a bit of the American coast, and apparently had nothing better to spend their money on. So now I have two COTs, trade level 3, and Holstein is getting fat off the American trade goods my colonies send home. Monopoly time! And with the European vassals being swallowed, there is less and less competition in the COTs – Europe is coalescing into gigantic trading blocs. Italy even gave me actual money so I could bribe Sweden, on the grounds that Swedish merchants were giving them trouble in their COTs! I am not convinced this was a good long-term strategy for them, but I was happy to take their gold. It cannot have speeded up the annexation by more than a few years, perhaps as little as one, and I very much doubt the Swedes could have reduced Italian earnings by 80 ducats in that time. But that’s hardly my problem.
Meanwhile, my arch-rival Poland was getting into trouble without me lifting a finger. At the end of the last session, Sterk was having serious rebel issues (same as me), with Lithuania and Novgorod breaking away, and more rebels than actual enemy troops still fighting. However, he had managed to defend his access to the Siberian corridor, and given a few years’ recovery time could expect to begin an uncontested colonising program. Earendil was having none of that! As soon as he had gotten his breath back and WE down, he DOWed Poland again, seeking to block Sterk’s access to Siberia. I did not intervene in this war, for two reasons : First, I felt confident Ear could handle it on his own, and second, my entry would inevitably have brought in Burgundy, Spain, and possibly England as well (being subbed, England was a little unpredictable at this time). So I would have been a liability rather than an asset. As it was, the Western allies did no actual fighting, except Spain, which with land tech 6 got soundly trounced in Persia. Poland was forced to accept the loss of Astrakhan and Alga – apparently, it was that or a real, state-wide collapse.
While this was going on, I was happily colonising, establishing spheres of influence with Burgundy (the Charles river to be our border), quarreling with Spain (who didn’t like me colonising Cuba, but didn’t quite want to DOW over it) and racing the English. We both DOWed the Lenape at about the same time; they fought pretty well from their forest fastnesses, destroying one Norwegian and one English army with attrition. I made the mistake of accepting a peace with their Iroquis allies; it turns out that the Iroquis led the alliance, and suddenly it looked as though the English would be able to grab that land. However, I bit the bullet and accepted the stab hit, and managed to get my replacement troops there first. So the Lenape were annexed to Norway.
I built my first manufactory, a refinery in Jæmtland, and spent some money kicking people out of my COTs, since I now had trade 3. In 1517 Sterk once again tried to reverse the issue with Hungary, after spending some time begging me not to intervene. Since Hungary was, indeed, getting rather big, I grudgingly agreed; anyway, I would only have brought in the western allies again. Unfortunately, Sterk crashed a few months in, and did not show when we rehosted. Since he had been talking to Ego about giving up, we assumed he had gone off, and ghosted and WPed Poland. It turns out a fuse had blown in his house, and he showed up half an hour later spitting mad. His plan was apparently to engage Hungary to the point where Ear could not have colonised Siberia, and hope to gain it for himself at a later date. That didn’t work, due to the crash, and he is now apparently giving up, on the grounds that Poland’s situation is hopeless. I don’t think it is, myself, but it’s no fun losing a war because of a mechanical malfunction. At any rate, if anyone would care to play a slightly battered Poland, there is probably a position open. I hope Sterk changes his mind and doesn’t drop, though.
Anyway, I feel inspired to do a bit of strategic overview of the situation. Let’s first take a look at the map of Europe.
Poland’s position doesn’t look so bad to me; sure, Hungary, by Sterk’s report, has begun colonising Siberia, but I should think it possible to recover that in a few years, this time with allies. Now, if the eastern border of Poland was the Volga, as indeed should be the case, then he might have something to complain about. Even then, I think it might be a viable strategy to build manus everywhere, becoming the world’s first industrial power; I don’t think it’s been tried in an MP game, but it might in principle be possible to gain as much strength from industry as from colonies. Then, of course, when you’re strong you can always take other people’s colonies away. Alternatively, it might be possible to expand north; Hungary is pretty strong, now, but Norway is just riding its coattails. You’ll note that Sterk has managed to grab Bohemia’s COT, compensating for the loss of Novgorod.
While not yet dominant, Hungary does have a lot of strategic options. With Poland a rather lessened threat, and Siberia open, there is certainly no single Power that can hold them back. Of course, that’s just the sort of situation that naturally leads to coalitions being formed, as Sterk indeed has found to his cost, earlier. Rumbles of discontent are being heard from the west, and Babur has formed the Mughal Empire. If the Tims had been played this session, Sterk might have been in a rather better position, even with their low land tech. Again, here’s a position for those who’d like to play.
Byzantium, now. The only true Roman Empire has come through its troubles, but finds itself surrounded by aggressive and powerful neighbours; it is no longer a question of the legions beating hordes of unarmoured tribesmen. There does not seem to be any obvious place to expand, and being stuck in the eastern end of the Med, the supply lines for colonising are rather long. Again, a strategy of industrialising early may be indicated; another possibility is trade, using moneys not spent on colonies to fund an aggressive merchant policy; a third option is to join coalitions against Hungary. Byzantium is the obvious candidate to gain from such a thing; there are even some greek provinces that might be brought back to the Orthodox Rite.
Jerusalem, on the other hand, is in a much better position to exploit its access to India. Expansion down the Red Sea coast and the African kingdoms seems certain; on the other hand, its core territories are not rich, particularly with Italy and Spain grabbing up North African coastline that might more naturally go to the crusader kingdom. Jerusalem has a lot of options, then : Peaceful expansion against the AI, joining a gang-rape of Hungary for the Persian lands, or attempting to join on Hungary’s side, to recover lands in the Med. It is not clear whether it has the power to make this last a viable strategy; still, it is certainly a conceivable one.
Italy has recovered from its brush with the Western alliance, and grabbed Alexandria. Their explorers have gone down the African coast rather than across the Atlantic; presumably, they intend to hit Asia and make themselves a Power there. That may bring them into conflict with both Jerusalem and Hungary, not to mention China. Still, it’s probably a better strategy than trying to compete with half of Europe for the Americas. Again, it is not totally clear which way Italy would jump in a conflict with Hungary. Grab some Byzantine territory? Defend Alexandria from the Jerusalemites? Conversely, try to take Egypt away from the Jerusalemites? Or perhaps expand into France, recovering lost ground there? Italy is fantastically wealthy; unlike Jerusalem, it definitely does have the ability to be a significant addition to either side’s strength, the finger pushing down the balance of power. Both sides can gain from courting them – if nothing else, being midway between Spain and Hungary, it would mean the difference between fighting on your own border, and being able to push into the other guy’s lands. Watch out for the Italians.
That brings us to Spain, already an Empire on which the sun never sets. The only power that might stand up to Hungary in a one-on-one fight, it has long blustered about its intention to do so, though the lack of land tech and the distraction of colonies prevented it from saving Poland. The civil war didn’t help either; Spain has made itself seriously unpopular with all those annexations, its badboy is through the roof. Nonetheless, Spain will clearly be the backbone of any anti-Hungarian coalition; it is difficult to see how the other Med powers will be able to do much without its leadership. On the other hand, its interest in the short term is probably better directed towards colonies, and absorbing the gold-rich American lands.
There will always be an England, even when it is subbed for a whole session by random Vnetters. Still, they didn’t do too badly, England has quite a colonial empire in northern America. More than any other Power, England has the option of staying aloof from any given conflict, and might benefit quite strongly by doing so; with peace in France, there is really no reason for them to fight, and there are virgin lands to be colonised, in easy reach. One would expect that an England which owns half of France would be drawn into European conflicts in defense of their holdings, but Dom seems to have avoided that fate, and can now benefit from the wealth of France to finance a grab for the wealth of America. Truly, God looks out for fools, incompetents, and the nation of shopkeepers. Expect them to rule the waves for a good few centuries.
Burgundy seems likewise to be pursuing a peaceful strategy, though they may find it more difficult to avoid being drawn into the Hungarian conflict – they are much closer and could easily send some troops thataway. Whether they would really gain by doing so is another matter, though a dominant Hungary is probably not a good thing for them in the long run.
Which brings us, full circle, to Norway. Like England, I have (assuming neither Poland or Burgundy attacks me) the option of staying out of European wars; the question is, do I gain by having Hungary dragged down, or by grabbing some German provinces from my neighbours? Really, my strategy here depends a lot on how large the coalition against Hungary is; like Italy, I have the power, in the right circumstances, to be the finger on the scale. Only in the right circumstances, though – I won’t sacrifice myself as Hungary’s sole ally against the rest of Europe. Unlike them, I have vulnerable colonies to protect, and while I can fight any single navy, the Western Alliance between them is about twice my naval size. Defending the Baltic would be the best I could hope for. Remaining neutral and colonising while others are distracted may be my best option. So, let me just encourage the kings of Christendie to cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of war!
All the nations, of course, are going to have to deal with the new religion. The Protestant event hit while I was waiting for a rehost, so I didn’t get a chance to convert last session, but I intend to do so right away, for the good and simple reason that more than half my provinces did. Here’s a religious map, where I converted Norway just to see what it would look like :
As you can see, my German lands correspond almost exactly to the religious change; only at the fringes of my empire do Catholics remain. I expect England to likewise convert at the earliest opportunity. Then, of course, we shall have to see whether any good Wars of Religion develop. It might be a good thing for me to grab the Protestant lands along the Baltic, if Poland gives me a chance. And of course, Germany is pretty wealthy, and if it’s the right religion as well, it might not even cost too much to convince others to give it up.
Finally, let’s look at the colonial situation :
Spheres of influence, and Norway’s isn’t looking too bad. Still, I may be in trouble when there’s no more room to expand and people get aggressive. If I expand fast enough, though, I could have a lot of scandinavian, protestant, not readily convertible cities by that time. Or I could ally with England. Whatever, it’s plainly going to be an interesting history.