Azure Three Bezants: Plots that Span Years

It is not the case, as is sometimes claimed, that Egypt has no army, or that its rulers – human and otherwise – expect to make their way in the world without armed force. Although it is true that unarmed governments are despised, not all despicable governments are unarmed; in the case of Egypt, it is the nature of their arms, not the lack of them, that makes them universally hated.

Still, although the charge is exaggerated, it is true that Egypt’s human soldiers are not impressive, being neither well armed, nor well trained, nor vastly numerous. In this (as in so many other things) the modern state takes after the pharaonic Kingdoms: The soldiers of Egypt had never seen a horse when the Hyksos invaded with chariots, and still went to war in loincloths when the Medes and Persians wore corselets and helmets of bronze. A country with only one narrow entry point and immense strategic depth can afford to invest its energy and capital elsewhere than in its military; but that is not the calculation at work. Rather, the rulers of Egypt neglect material weaponry because they have better ones: The defense (and expansion) of Egypt is done by spiritual means.

It was not by force of arms that Egypt conquered Persia and ruled it as the satrapy of Trans-Jordanian Egypt for three generations. It was not by the number of its soldiers that Egypt convinced the elites of the African coast to surrender their sovereignty. And it was not by the threat of vast navies and a hundred regiments that Egypt pulled all its enemies into the Tapestry of Wars.

To cause the Templar Republic to look for allies in its doomed struggle against England, of course, cannot have been difficult. Likewise, for Germany, perpetually worried about its French border, and Venice, annoyed at the omnipresence of subsidised English merchants, to promise support for a counteroffensive in Spain, is by no means out of the ordinary course of European power-politics. But in the actions of the Byzantine empire the dark power of the Hound found room for expression; for the Byzantine navy would be crucial to any attempt at overthrowing English hegemony. And the Byzantines proved willing enough to discuss the rescue of the Templars; willing enough to suggest that this or that concession would prove the Germans were committed to the project; and willing enough to report all that was said to the English, and reap the rewards of successful spies.

Would they have done so, without the influence of the Jackal? Perhaps; the dictionary does not define the adjective ‘Byzantine’ as ‘straightforward’, ‘honest’, or ‘trustworthy’. But then again, ‘Machiavellian’ and ‘Bismarckian’ are also adjectives, of Italian and German origin respectively, and if the truth were told most nations could furnish some similar word. But there is a difference between the ordinary secrecies and subtleties of diplomacy, and a bald-faced backstab, a simple lie told to one ostensible ally while the troops are mustered for an entirely different front. Such deception is rare, and rare for good reason: For who will trust the perpetrator again? When humans ignore their own long-term interest, and trample their given word in the mud for fleeting tactical advantage – that is the time to look for outside influence; that is the spoor of the Hound.

The consequences are well known: Instead of a single anti-hegemonic crusade, fought after years of preparation and mobilisation, the would-be crusaders got a series of separate wars, a tapestry of ill-coordinated threads. England, forewarned, struck first, pouring troops across the Italian border while most of the Venetian army was still in the Middle East. The Templar Republic joined on Venice’s side, and was promptly invaded in turn; Germany vacillated, at first refusing to aid its ally, then declaring a separate war – and finding that it had two fronts, as Russia unleashed the Zombie Cossacks on its eastern border. Byzantium briefly entered the war, on England’s side, then made peace before blood had been shed; minds warped by the Hound’s influence are prone to such indecisiveness. But it hardly mattered; the disarray of the anti-English coalition was complete, and the peace treaty gave England entire control of the Iberian coast.

It was here, perhaps, that the Hound made its only mistake: The rapidity of the coalition collapse meant that it had no opportunity to enter the war itself, and feast unopposed on the remaining Venetian possessions in the Middle East. Beings whose plots span centuries may sometimes find it difficult to react on timespans of months. So when Japan attacked Venice to prevent the latter annexing the island of Java, and Egypt declared a separate war for the Venetian possessions in East Africa, it may be that the Hound had miscalculated, and thought the Venetian armies would be fighting to save Italy from English occupation. Instead, they were free to throw back the Egyptian army that marched on Al Karak; the material branch, intended only to occupy what the spiritual attack had already won, was the weakest link in the chain of the Hound’s strategy, and promptly snapped. Thus, in the end, does the sword cut through the most finely-woven web of intrigue.

Defeated in open battle, the Egyptians fell back on attrition and logistics; the fortified Nile valley was no place for swift counterattack or decisive marches. In a grinding, attritional campaign, all the well-known tricks could have their full effect: The outsized rats that eat only one army’s grain, the unseasonal storms that sink supply convoys, the poisoned wells and miasmic diseases that, at one point, had the Venetian army’s muster at less than a third of its ration strength. Here, perhaps, the Tapestry of Wars worked against the Egyptians; for the Venetians, defeated in four successive conflicts, gritted their teeth and refused to give in. This one, we may read between the lines of their letters, we are by God not going to lose! Even when Japan invaded the undefended Italian mainland in a miracle of power-projection, the Venetians merely emptied their treasury to hire mercenaries, and decisively sank the expeditionary fleet in the Laguna di Venezia itself. The disaster of the Italian invasion crippled the Japanese army for a generation; and meanwhile the siege lines crept, mile by mile and fortress by fortress, up the valley of the Nile.

From Early Skirmishes in the Long War,
Dr William Wilcox,
Miskatonic University Press, (C) 1989.

Azure Three Bezants

So I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t the Hound that influenced me into plotting against England. He’s the strongest power in the game, he’s hogging all the good trade provinces, all the cool kids were doing it, why wouldn’t you plot against him? It has to be admitted that the war did not develop entirely to my advantage, however. Having a mole in your plot room will do that. And no, I’m by no means sure Kuipy wasn’t behind Blayne’s betrayal; as I’ve noted in the past, if Kuipy were, in fact, an alien entity bent on world conquest through subtle domination of the weak-minded, how would you tell?

I soothed my feelings by annexing most of Java from the weak sultanate that held it. Japan, apparently, had been patiently waiting for me to finish those sieges so they could take the land I just got – they had a truce with Majapahit, for which “let Venice take it, then DOW Venice” was a workaround. At the time I had 14 heavy ships against Japan’s 29, and both army and navy were trapped on Java. I did actually get most of the navy out; when they finally had to leave the port into teeth of the blockading Japanese navy, they managed to fight their way through and escape with the loss of only three ships, inflicting the same loss on Japan. Apparently the Japanese navy hadn’t been upgraded to Carracks, while mine were all modern. Still, the loss of thirty regiments was a bit of a disaster; the Japanese war would be a naval affair mainly, but Egypt also declared war and that was clearly going to be decided on land.

Since the Egyptian army was three tech levels behind, however, there was no great difficulty in throwing it back with just what I had left plus some Persian help. Then it turned out that Kuipy had built a humongous number of fortresses, and we were forced to siege our way up the valley of the Nile one province at a time. Against a power with full Defensive and a custom idea called “Mortal Flesh is Weak”. 48-day siege cycles and 4.5% attrition. I’m kind of impressed with how Kuipy is making gameplay match story, here; when I invented those grain-eating rats back in CK, I had no idea they could actually be implemented in EU4. Also impressed with the way the fortress model in EU4 is able to force an attritional style of warfare, very different from the maneuver campaigns in Germany and Iberia. In EU3, if Kuipy’s army couldn’t beat mine in battle, I would have just occupied his whole country in a year or so; here, he was able to retreat behind his fortresses, maintain a doomstack-in-being that forced me to concentrate my forces likewise, and generally trade space for time. Admittedly the Japanese invasion he was presumably counting on proved a weak reed (I don’t know what Khan was thinking to send only half his fleet to the Med – a more delightful setup for defeat in detail it’s hard to imagine), but Kuipy’s strategy (given the three tech levels and no combat-ability or discipline ideas) cannot be faulted.

Gulf of Venice, 1562

Battles of the Gulf of Venice. I really don’t understand why Khan sent only half his heavy ships to the Med.

Nile Front, 1562

The Nile Front. Fortresses everywhere. Three sieges to complete just to get to the Berber Line; against +25% defensiveness and +4.5% attrition.

Egypt, 1562

The Heart of Darkness. I don’t know how Kuipy is affording all these damn fortresses. Clearly, we face a long campaign.

Europe, 1563

Europe, 1563. Notice the English occupation of the Iberian coast.

World, 1563

World map, 1563. Kilwa has made a rebellion stick – obviously I will retrieve this as soon as Egypt and Japan are defeated. Notice that the German-Uzbek Demilitarised Zone, also known as Russia, has finally annexed its vassal Novgorod and is looking a bit more formidable.


1 Comment

Filed under Azure Three Bezants, Dominion over Palm and Pine, Recessional

One response to “Azure Three Bezants: Plots that Span Years

  1. Pingback: Azure Three Bezants: Sins of Omission | Ynglinga Saga

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