In 1690, Spain credibly threatened to become the European hegemon and rule the world, and the diplomacy of the world revolved around forming a balancing coalition and gently-but-firmly extracting its vassal-allies from Granada’s muscular thumb. The disastrous overreach of the European Jihad changed all that, however, and now new geopolitical patterns are forming. Here I take a look at the Powers, Great and minor, of the world, in this year 1742, in rough order of their rank.
The Throne of Jade: Completely dominating its continent, the Inca Empire is clearly the most powerful state in the world, limited only by its lack of a navy to allow it to project power across the Atlantic. The elite Jaguar Knights are acknowledged as the finest infantry in the world; but even the rank and file of its regular regiments are quite capable of fighting Spanish or Russian troops and coming off best – and that’s before considering the sheer numbers available to a militarised continent. Once the remnants of the Aztecs are absorbed, the Inca are likely to go for complete domination of the Western hemisphere, and it is not clear who might stop them.
Confederation of All the Russias: Having formed the front rank in blunting and then defeating the European Jihad, the greatest land power in Europe has not been slow to reap the diplomatic benefits. Its conquest of Anatolia, and now parts of the Balkans, have been largely ignored in the face of the more obvious threat of Spain. With the loss of Hungary, for centuries their buffer in the west, the cities of the Rus appear ready and willing to bring the blessings of republican rule to Eastern Europe, as they have already done to Anatolia. And, as with the Inca, it is not clear who might stop them doing so. Of its neighbours, Norway is a naval power whose strategy, in a conflict with Russia, would be to subsidise allies from the Americas. Najd is a firm ally, as is the Khanate. Italy, the immediate target of expansion, has always been more noted for viciousness than valour, especially in the European Jihad, when Russian generals winced at having to face Italian troops – not because of their skill in battle, but because cleaning the battlefield afterwards was a dreaded chore. And, finally, Sind has come off the worse in each of its recent attempts at restraining Russia. That leaves Spain, which perhaps can do better on the defensive than it did in trying to conquer the steppes; but Spain is not best pleased with its erstwhile vassal-allies.
The Sultanate of Granada: Until the Peace of the Bear probably the most powerful nation in the world, Spain still commands great wealth and enormous armies. Still, the loss of a third of France and the whole of the Caribbean is a blow to any Power; and its recent performance in the war with France, when vast Incan reinforcements were necessary against a nation one-fourth its size, leaves no doubt that the days when Spanish infantry were the terror of Europe are at an end. Moreover, with the loss of the Italian alliance and the Hungarian buffer, Spain’s traditional cat’s-paw in Bavaria is turning into something of a liability: Russia can always invade Bavaria at will and hold it hostage against the Sultan’s good behaviour. On the positive side, Spain no longer has a pirate problem, since its coasts are now extensively patrolled by the Norwegian navy.
These are the Big Three, the major Powers who might credibly be considered threats to the independence of every other nation in the world – indeed, the coalition against Spain came together on precisely such terms, although Spain’s wings are now somewhat clipped. There follow several second-rank powers, not as advanced in land tech or army size:
The Peacock Throne: Najd shared the loot of the Roman Empire with its ally Russia; I leave it out of the first rank only because its borders are not as friendly or as open to expansion. Russia, true, is a firm ally. But Greece and Sind are, if not particularly powerful, at least difficult and unrewarding targets; and unlike Russia, Najd has a long coastline that makes it vulnerable to invasion. Still, if any of the second-rank powers are going to climb to equality with the Big Three, Najd is the one to watch.
Malaya: With the largest navy in the world, and a better island-to-mainland ratio than England, Malaya was always formidable; it has now been taken over by a player of repute, the dreaded von Rundstedt. Its weakness is on land, where its neighbours tend to overrun the peninsula that gives the nation its name every time there is a conflict; but as its main strength is derived from control of the Indonesian archipelago, this is not a major hamper to its ambitions. On the other hand it is hard to see where Malaya can expand, unless it is Japan; navies conquer no continents. And, like any naval nation, it is vulnerable to the single decisive battle that sinks most of its ships and leaves all those island garrisons open to blockade and defeat in detail.
Greater Britain: Another naval power, which has recently taken a bite out of the Aztecs – perhaps indicating a deal with the Inca? If so, it is effectively invulnerable, since its longstanding alliance with Norway gives the two joint control of the Atlantic – even against Malaya. Again, though, it is hard to see where Britain can expand, and if the Inca are not appeased, the British colonies are first in line for conquest.
North Sea Empire: Like Britain, a naval power with large American colonies; unlike Britain, Scandinavia also has considerable continental entanglements – including the recently-assumed obligation of keeping Spain’s extensive coastline free of pirates. As long as Russia is friendly or neutral, Scandinavia enjoys roughly the same immunity to attack that Britain does: In other words, it needs only to maintain control of the seas, and it can take as much or as little of a war as it pleases. Attack, though, is more difficult; the only logical-seeming places for Norway to expand are France, a traditional ally and buffer against Spain, and Bavaria, which is protected by the third-largest army in the world. In any case, the American colonies are by no means fully developed; Norway doesn’t really need more territory.
Japan: Fourth of the traditional naval powers, and currently without a player. AI powers, of course, are uniquely vulnerable whatever their actual size; I rank it here on the assumption it will find a player shortly. Otherwise it would share the dead-last position with Tibet. However, even a human will have to contend with a changed diplomatic scene: Japan has traditionally been friendly with Malaya, but who knows if vR will see that as an advantage? He might prefer to absorb the islands and rule the Pacific alone. Still, as a naval power on an island, Japan has obvious defensive advantages, hence its high ranking if played by a human.
Serene Republic: Italy has suffered in the recent wars, having lost its alliance with Spain by making a separate peace with Russia, then lost some land to Russia; and its armies are the laughingstock of Europe. (Admittedly, Italy doesn’t have the luxury that the two naval Europeans enjoy, of engaging where and when they choose; its is notable that Britain, when at war with the Italians, confines itself to raids.) Still, Italy absorbed most of Hungary, and also controls the Balkans; in terms of size it is well up there with the Great Powers, and size makes up for a multitude of sins. Let it absorb these conquests and catch up in land tech, and it will be a formidable power, perhaps capable of going toe-to-toe even with Russia or Spain. That said, Italy seems very lacking in friends, having antagonised even humble Greece by taking over the Med islands. If anyone likes the Italians, it is news to me; and allies are almost as important as armies in this game, if not more so. I would be quite unsurprised to see Italy fight a four-front war sometime in the next century.
Sinds of the Fathers: A middle-rank power without many distinguishing features. Sind has tried unsuccessfully to bite Russia’s ankles in the European Jihad; has taken parts of Africa from Greece; has feuded inconclusively with Najd. If there is a great future for this nation, it lies perhaps in Africa.
Hindi Raj: Similar comments apply to the united subcontinent. Really, these Asian powers are practically indistinguishable. It is not clear that their existence has any real purpose except filling up spots on the map that would otherwise be an unattractive blank; the Europeans should get together at some point and make some nice colourful patterns.
Horsemanship, and archery: The Mongol Khanate stands out from the crowd of Asian land powers by having a traditional enmity with Qin, which keeps things lively and gives the worthy oriental gentlemen something to do while they wait for their superiors to get around to conquering them. Some of the disputed cores over there have changed hands at least three times. The Khanate also enjoys the distinction of being the only nation in the world to have lost a war with Qin.
Best Peninsula: Korea is another newly-AI’d power, ranked as though played by a human. (Perhaps Fasq might come back now that Spain’s near-hegemony has been somewhat reduced?) If we don’t find players, the balance of power in Asia will be somewhat drastically changed as soon as AI protection runs out; Korea is quite large. As a played power, it doesn’t really distinguish itself from the other Asians: Moderately wealthy, moderately large army, fights the other Asians for inscrutable Asian reasons on a fairly regular schedule, without anyone seeming to get a permanent upper hand.
Confucius he say: The nation of Qin appears to exist for three reasons: First, as a staging area for Spanish troops; second, to annoy the Mongol Khanate; third, as a convenient casus belli for the interminable Asian wars. It has an army of sorts. It does not have any trade to speak of, being certified merchant-free.
Sacre Bleu: I somewhat doubtfully put France ahead of Bavaria, on the grounds that its allies recently beat up Bavaria’s allies. However, being surrounded by
a) Spain and
b) Spain’s vassals,
France is not in an enviable position for expansion; indeed only the European Jihad saved it from full annexation. As a buffer against Spain, it survives mainly through being useful to the European naval powers and to Russia. Also, it suffers from a really remarkable degree of under-development.
Sausage Factory: Bavaria has been a Spanish running dog since Crusader Kings, on the good and simple grounds that if it attempted to have an independent foreign policy all four of its neighbours would happily partition it. It will survive as long as Spain can mount a credible defense, plus the three days it would take Norwegian troops to cross the Baltic. So much for defense; offensively, Bavaria would like nothing more than to expand into France, Italy, or Norway’s Baltic possessions; it is prevented from doing so by the fact that any such move would be seen as a renewed Jihad and lead to Russian intervention. Also offensively, Bavaria tends to put too much garlic in the sausages that are its main export. Still you have to give it credit for marketing: It has managed to shape itself like a sausage, so that you can hardly look at a map of Europe without thinking “Hmm, I could go for some Wurst”. Thus does it keep its economy afloat by using its very geography as a billboard. As a long-term strategy, though, this may not be very bright in a world full of Great Powers who are hungry for expansion as well as garlic sausage.
Snow Tiger: Once the terror of Asia, Tibet has fallen a long way since the days when it took a coalition of all its neighbours to bring it down. In fact it has fallen all the way to AI-ness. If there was ever a more likely candidate for partition, I don’t know what it is.