The Sons of Raghnall: The Dacian War (out of character)

Inspiration is not striking this week, so I will merely recount the game events of the Dacian War as I saw them.

The diplomacy leading up to the war was moderately complicated, with a lot of people annoyed at other people for one reason or another, and several tangled alliances. The underlying issue was (and perhaps remains), “who is top dog in Eastern Europe?” With several minor powers – Hungary, Bavaria, Greece, Italy – the middle bits of Europe are a natural playground and area of dispute for the flanking powers, both Great and lesser. In no particular order, and noting that these are my interpretations and may not be accurate:

  • Byzantium wanted to gain the two European provinces he needed for the Bosphorus Sound Toll to trigger. In the longer term, he presumably would not object to expanding further into the Balkans, with the large number of wealthy right-culture, right-religion provinces there. (Note that these are not the vanilla Balkans – being rich in CK, they converted quite well.) In view of the latter, Greece found even just two provinces quite alarming; without them, he could plant his large fleet in the Strait and keep the Legions at arms’ length.
  • Russia wanted to restore Hungary to its position as “Russia’s western buffer”, either by reducing it to a minor power that would be dependent on Russia’s protection, or by forcibly realigning its foreign policy. In either case the recovery of the provinces lost to Hungary early in the fifteenth century was implied.
  • Spain would, ideally, like to restore its position as undisputed leader of an alliance of all the mainland European countries; but, failing that, it wanted to strengthen Hungary and Greece so they could be its cat’s-paws in the Med and enable Spain to concentrate on the New World.
  • England, offshore from all this, wanted an effective balance of power on the continent, with no power dominating.

Of the minor powers, the most interesting is Italy; as the most powerful of the lesser allies in Spain’s former coterie, it started all this by, apparently, getting a bit restless. In particular, it was subbed; the sub attacked Hungary; Hungary thought that the perm would roll it back, and didn’t fight very effectively… and the perm said, in effect, “screw our alliance, I’ma go for being hegemon in Central Europe”. There was then a Punishment War in which Spain delivered the beat-down to its former vassal-ally; Italy ended up quite a bit smaller, with much protesting about enormous harsh peaces and destroying player slots. Naturally, Italy then went looking for some new friends to help it recover, and found them. The Dacian War thus began when Italy DOWed for the recovery of what it had lost to Hungary. Byzantium and Russia joined on Italy’s side, Scandinavia and Greece on Hungary’s – not exactly a fair match. Spain separately declared war on Italy in order to maintain the settlement from the Punishment War; this brought in Spain’s ally England. France then separately declared war on Spain in, apparently, a desperate attempt at enforcing a white peace? This was never really clear to me. Finally, Benin attacked Greece over some old border dispute in Ethiopia, and Persia also invaded Greece in support of its ally Byzantium.

The Hungarian army was destroyed more or less immediately by the Russian steamroller, which in addition to its sheer size was also the first to reach land tech 13. Consequently Hungary effectively surrendered, minimising its loss of territory but, if I’m any judge, nurturing a secret hope that its allies would bail it out and it would recover at the peace table. The main clash therefore occurred in the Alps, where Russian and Roman troops met Spaniards and Englishmen fresh from victory over the Italian army. (Incidentally, it was about this time I finally accomplished my “larger army than Italy” mission.) At the same time the Greeks had been pushed down into their mountainous peninsula, but were still maintaining an army there. In Africa, Benin had exited upon achieving its territorial aims, in exchange for a promise to attack Persia; oddly enough, Persian troops were able to occupy most of Egypt in spite of this promise. Finally, France had by this point been completely subjugated by the combined weight of Spain, England, and Scandinavia, and forced out of the war with the loss of Holstein and some of its Atlantic provinces.

France, Greece, and Africa were, however, secondary theaters; the decision was reached in the Alps, where Russia and Rome bled Spain’s manpower dry. It is not clear to me precisely how Spain was defeated, nor perhaps does it matter; complaints about attrition and “winning all the battles” have reached my ears, but there’s also the land tech to consider and the plain size of All The Bloody Russias. At any rate the peace treaty reversed Spain’s gains in France (although not Holstein, presumably because the Norse army was undefeated – clearly, the Russians didn’t feel like tangling with us over a Baltic city), restored much of Italy’s former territory, and gave Byzantium the Sound Toll. Further, Hungary has signed a Long Peace with Russia and is, presumably, back in its position as Western Buffer State. England retains its naval base in Sicily, and thus its ability to project power in the Med; we shall see whether this becomes important.

The net outcome, then, is roughly the status quo from before the Punishment War: Italy did not become a Great Power capable of dominating the Med, Hungary did not gain an Adriatic coastline or a dominating position, and Eastern Europe remains a battleground for the flanking Great Powers. Byzantium achieved its aim of getting the Sound Toll, and is perhaps the biggest winner. The old CK alliance blocs are now fairly decisively broken up; the sixteenth will be anyone’s century.

I am pleased with Norway’s performance in this war; for a nice change, I didn’t lose my whole army, which for a player of my skill counts as a victory. (Yes, I’ve been known to succeed at diplomacy and persistence, but in actual game mechanics I’m pretty terrible.) I initially had all but a rebel-hunting stack over the Atlantic getting ready for another whack at the Huron (who, incidentally, should not have been given Muslim cavalry, sheesh), so it took me a while to get fully into the war. By then Hungary had surrendered, so I decided to attack France, which went very well, since his armies were over by the Bay of Biscay getting hammered by Spain. I also had to fend off some of Russia’s vassals getting frisky in Finland; Russia apparently did not particularly feel like invading the Land Of A Thousand Attritional Losses, and I decided not to make him reconsider by, for example, crossing the border in the other direction. (I did see some guard stacks just sitting about looking very land-tech-13-y; it’s not as though I could have marched unopposed to Moscow.) Getting Holstein in the separate treaty with France, I looked for other ankles to bite. I wasn’t very keen on tangling with Russia’s land tech, so I started shipping my army to Africa to help Greece retake Egypt. However, the war ended before I got more than two stacks there, so nothing came of that.

Feeling that I had fulfilled my obligations, I notified the other signatories that the Treaty of Riga from 1427, in which I was forced to sign (as in, it was this or lose provinces) an alliance with Hungary, Spain, and Byzantium against Russia, was now obsolete. With the Long Peace between Russia and Hungary, and Spain on one side of a war against Russia plus Byzantium, the diplomatic situation has clearly changed beyond all recognition. Thus, Norway is now a free agent, liberated from the shackles of 1427 and ready to become a major factor in the balance of power.

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