We had a quiet session, at least for those whose ears were not sensitive enough to pick out the murmur of plotting and the muted whispers of ‘Jihad’. I thought, therefore, I’d have a detailed look at the strengths of the nations. What we’ve learned recently about ‘logistics’ in CK – that is, the importance of the morale bug and the Death Ray bug, making it very difficult to move armies any distance and still have them effective when they arrive – convinces me that listing the total manpower of nations is deceptive, and that to understand their ability to project power, you must look at its distribution.
I have, therefore, divided the nations into rough military districts, as shown on this map:
and shall now consider what it means for their strength as against each of their neighbours. The borders of the districts are a bit approximate, so consider each individual district’s strength to be plus or minus 10 percent.
I begin with France, which is an interesting case. Its total strength is 225, of which 100 in its demesne; a medium power, you would say. But apart from insignificant Ireland and Cornwall, 20 and 13 respectively, that strength is concentrated in an area so small I couldn’t see how to split it up. France, therefore, is very strong relative to its manpower: If it got into a war, it would in effect be fighting either the Rhineland district of Bavaria, or the Pyrenees district of Germany, either of which it outweighs. Of course one should not overestimate the difficulty of logistics; after all the distance from the French border to the North Italian heartland of Germany is only three or four provinces. But that’s a few months of marching; it takes only a crash every six months to make those troops useless for invading France, or indeed for defending the Atlantic coast. On the other hand, I should not care to be the Frenchman charged with defending Cornwall or Ireland against Danish invasion; getting the French army across the Channel is not only expensive, every crash would force it to be done all over again. In effect these outliers will remain French only so long as Michael values good relations more than the unity of the Isles; they can’t be defended.
Denmark has, however, got its own problems. Its total strength of 320, 100 in the demesne, puts it well into the middle ranks; but that strength is split up very badly. Certainly nobody is going to invade England, and of course it’s no joke to fight in Scandinavia any time of year; but conversely, that’s 230 thousand men that can’t easily be projected anywhere. The Pommeranian coastline and Denmark proper would be lucky to defend themselves, if Bavaria – or perhaps even Croatia! – decided to be aggressive about it. Michael has got the classic problem of England, namely that he’s essentially un-invadeable but cannot project much power onto the Continent; he might well believe that having a firm Continental ally (or at least, not offending a potential one) is more valuable than Cornwall and Ireland, which after all he can snap up at his leisure – probably even more so in EU3, when the Channel can be closed off by a navy.
I mentioned Bavaria as a potential enemy of both France and Denmark; with 380k men (170 in the demesne) it is in principle more powerful than either. Certainly it should have an easy time of snapping up the Pommeranian coast. Apart from that, though, it’s in the unfortunate position of having most of its strength in the western Rhineland district, facing the even more concentrated French manpower. To fight Croatia would be awkward, involving a lot of long, morale-draining marches; as for Germany, with its heartland right south of the Alps, it would not be a good idea for Bavaria to get into such a war. I note in passing that defending the Prussian provinces against anyone able to get at them is a hopeless project; they exist not only at Russian sufferance, but also at Croatian and even Danish – although Denmark, as already noted, would be well advised not to start any quarrel over far-flung possessions; to gain Prussia and lose Pommerania would be no bargain.
Germany, then; in the middle of Europe, bordering no less than four nations (six counting the short sea-hops separating it from Byzantium and the Caliphate), one might think that its total strength of 490, with 240 in the demesne, was none too high for its tasks. But the concentration of that strength in the tiny area of Northern Italy makes it very strong indeed; neither Bavaria nor Croatia would be well advised to tackle it alone, and even together they would have a job of it. Southern Italy is not quite so strong, but protected by the sea; and facing, as it does, a relatively weak part of the Caliphate, it could be considered more a springboard for attack than a vulnerability to be defended. Although the two Balkan districts of Byzantium are together equal to the strength of southern Italy, it would be much more difficult to reinforce them from Anatolia than to bring down some regiments from the Po. In short, Germany (perhaps it should rather be called ‘Italy’!) is not very vulnerable to any of her neighbours, or even to any combination of two of them. The one point of difficulty is the long thin Pyrenees district, exposed to either French or Andalusian attack. On the other hand, this area could be lost entirely without much touching the real sources of German strength; and France, at least, is open to counterattack across Switzerland, not to mention being a firm ally.
Al-Andalus, then, might profitably attack southern France, or at least finish the project of uniting Iberia. Even with only 150 total strength, 65 in the demesne – less than Croatia, and thus the smallest of the player nations – it is not very vulnerable to attack, facing only the weak Pyrenees district overland and, across the Med, thinly-garrisoned stretches of the Caliphate – not that an Andalus-Caliphate war looks very likely, longtime allies as they are. A joint Jihad against Germany is much more probable, and al-Andalus is well placed to profit from one; better, perhaps, than the Caliphate, which will have difficulty bringing its strength to bear against Italy. On the other hand, France would likely aid its ally in such a war, and it is better placed to defend the Pyrenees than Germany is. It does happen sometimes that we go two years without a crash; if that occurs during a war with France, al-Andalus could be in trouble.
That brings me to the Caliphate, which with 380 total strength (160 in the demesne) is not such a superpower as one might think – even before considering that its strength is very spread out. The Morocco and Algiers districts are effectively useless against Byzantium or Persia; conversely the powerful Syria district – able to defend itself against the Anatolian districts, or against Persian attack from the Baghdad and Caucasus districts, but not both – is too far away to be of much use against Germany. Indeed, the Caliphate is much better suited to fighting Eastern wars than Western ones. If the rumours of jihad have any basis, the Caliph had better have some allies lined up. Note that in the recent war, it was quite unable to deal with Persia and Byzantium, who were attacking its richest and best-defended districts while simultaneously fending off Russia and Croatia. To speak truth, this map has given me a bit more sympathy for Frosty’s demands; the threat to Syria was perhaps a valid security concern for him.
To finish up the Moslem nations, Persia is currently a bit under the weather with a bad King; it will recover from its current strength of 180. Even when it does, however, it’ll be in the unfortunate position of having most of its strength in the Iranian highlands, far from any border. It Caucasus district would need Byzantine help to defend against the corresponding Russian one; for the Trans-Caspian district, no help could be sent. (Although on the other hand, I drew that border very arbitrarily, and the Iranian highlands are nearby and have nothing better to do.) As for fighting the Caliphate over the Levant, better not, at least without an ally – presumably Byzantium. Indeed, the map has likewise given me more sympathy for Foels’s and my demands; although together we are a match for Frosty’s Syria and Jordan districts, either of us alone is not. No alliance, however firm, can be quite as strong as a single sovereign; we may find, once the current truce ends, that perfectly legitimate security interests, on all sides, will cause another Mid-East conflict. Not that this should surprise anyone; when is there peace in these lands?
There’s a reason it is called All the Russias; 600 total strength, and of that, 200 (!) in the demesne. I had a look at the makeup of those troops; 80 of them are only peasants, which makes the total a bit less impressive. But still, it is clear that one does not simply walk into Russia. Worse, that strength is actually concentrated on the borders; just consider the Dniepr district, facing Croatia. Croatia’s main strength is on the other side, nearer the Adriatic; it is hard to see how OY would resist a drive into Poland. Likewise Foels would have some trouble with the Caucasus or TransCaspian levies. Russia looks quite safe from anything but a concerted alliance of all its immediate neighbours, and even then, because of its sheer size, they would each be fighting something roughly in their own weight class – or rather, those districts that border on Russia would be doing so. The need to split his attention might be more of a problem for vR than lack of manpower, in such a war.
I mentioned that Croatia (total 180, demesne 55) has its main manpower in Croatia proper, on the Adriatic coast; it is well suited to fighting Byzantium, which can just about match it with the Balkan districts. War with Russia, Bavaria, or Germany would be a real problem, however; against the first two Poland is vulnerable, being thinly garrisoned and difficult to reinforce from the south, and as for Germany, just the Venice regiment is equal to the whole of Croatia’s demesne, and very close to the border at that. On the other hand, even against Byzantium the Danube district might fare badly. On the whole, Croatia is in the opposite position to France: It is rather weaker than its manpower would suggest – and then you have to consider that the manpower number isn’t so impressive anyway.
I have, of course, left the best for last; but Byzantium’s position is not very enviable. Total strength 210, of which 90 in the demesne; not that much more than my perennial rival Croatia. I already noted that the Balkan districts can just about match Croatia’s southern manpower reserves, which they border; with neither side having the advantage in numbers, it comes down to skill and some tech. I have a small advantage in the latter, but don’t expect it to be decisive. Unless one of us gets into a civil war, or arranges a gangbang, the Balkan border is unlikely to shift much. And on the other side, the situation is no better: Without Foels to help, I am very vulnerable to the powerful Syrian army of the Caliphate; and as for invading Russia, it’s a stretch logistically and I’m outnumbered even before that. Even Persia, with its main strength in the Iranian heartland, is not very vulnerable to my Anatolian forces. Whatever is an empire to do?
Oh, of course. Bribe one set of barbarians to attack the other. Same procedure as every year!
It’s odd… looking at the map, and comparing to the total CK manpower, I’m reasonably confident I’ve misplaced 60k soldiers somewhere. But I can’t for the life of me figure out where they went. I’ve covered every sovereign nation – well, except the Pope, and how many divisions has the Pope, eh? Oh well – such a small number isn’t very important in the scheme of things, after all.