Our Doom and Our Pride: Old Gray Widow-Maker

In accordance with custom older than the Crown Princess of Men, in fact older even than the founding of the of-Men dynasty by my marriage to the Queen of Men, I will mark the transition from CK2 to EU4 with an overview of the geopolitical situation; for this first session I’ll concentrate on the players in northern Europe. Here is the situation in 1444:

with four players surrounding the North Sea, namely my Scandinavia (also known as Yngl, Inc); Scotland (or “The North”) played by Zirotron; England played by Gollevainen; and Bretonnia, the French-blue strip along the Channel, which in CK was played by Vaniver but has been taken over by djones for EU4. Also relevant to northern politics are the aggressive Bavarian Peasant Republic, played by Hoonter; the vast yellow blob of Khazaria, played by Clonefusion; and tiny Bohemia, played by Yami-Yagari. Bohemia is about half the size it needed to be, because Yami, in a surfeit of perhaps-misguided altruism, decided to split off his Lithuanian duchies so as to encourage anyone considering taking an Eastern-European slot. It’s true that eastern Europe might have needed the help – I think Bohemia still converted with more development than Khazaria, which was overrun by nomads in CK2 and is essentially a wasteland – but in light of the largish Bavaria right next to him, splitting Bohemia, which wasn’t even near the realm-size limit, in half seems a bit surplus to requirements.

Before going into the alliance politics and expansion goals, I have to explain our customisation system for the conversion. To play with historical national ideas would be a bit silly in this completely alternate history; the ones from the converter mod are OK but uninspired; and if everyone builds custom idea sets with X points, then everyone has to spend as many of those points as they possibly can on discipline and combat power, and we end up with ten identical builds. Our solution is to create a number of reasonably balanced national idea sets which are not Space Marines, and then auction them off; since the idea creators don’t know what set they’ll end up with, they have some incentive to make them all fairly good without just going for twenty bonus discipline every time. The points for the auction are acquired by spreading your dynasty in CK2, points being given for every day a dynasty member holds a title, and more points for higher tiers; then there are bonus points for achievements such as winning a Crusade or reforming your faith, and for dynasty members having interesting (not necessarily good) traits like Sea King and Kinslayer. Any points not used in the auction are converted to mana; the median player gets 1000 points, while the highest-scoring player (Vaniver) had 2800 or so. In addition to our custom idea sets, we auctioned off tag-specific Splendor bonuses, unusual governments, and the Holy Roman Empire; the three highest-bidding players had their entire dynasties entered into the HRE, and we ended up with the Empire spreading from Portugal to the Baltic, thus:

Clearly this is an important factor in the northern balance of power, at least if the player emperors play correctly. For most of the first session Bohemia was emperor, but so far has proved quite unable to defend the imperial borders.

With these notes in mind, here are the players surrounding the Old Gray Widow-Maker, the waters of the North Sea and the Baltic:

  • Yngl, Inc: It is perhaps not entirely obvious from the map, but the former “Ynglinga Rike” – recently rebranded in a more modern style to mark our readiness to meet the challenges of the fifteenth century – is the most powerful of the northern nations. As a merchant republic in CK, with a vast additional income from raiding, I was able to develop my Swedish heartland quite heavily as well as converting with about 2000 ducats; the auction gave me the fairly powerful artillery-focused Bombard ideas, English monarchy, and (for this first age) Venetian Trade. What I didn’t get was an obvious expansion path: Russia is worthless, taking Bohemia would run me right into the Bavarian Republic (which would no doubt be backed by the Med powers on the principle that if I took all of Central Europe, they would be next), colonisation is blocked by the Scottish dominion of the Atlantic, and Bretonnia is the one northern power that can probably defend itself against me one-on-one. Before worrying about this I need to reunify my immediate surroundings; but with that done I’ll have to pick a direction and fight for it.
  • Tweedledum and Tweedledee: You would think there could be only one, but the two British powers seem to have worked out a modus vivendi for splitting their islands and working together; they threw back several Norse invasions in the crusader era, including a Great Holy War for England. Their alliance is of necessity close – clearly, it is either that, or fight like cats in a bag until there is, indeed, only one. It seems clear that they intend to stand away from continental conflicts, which they might have some difficulty fighting effectively in, and focus on trade and colonies; Gollevainen is packing the Friendly Coloniser set which is, let’s say, not very military-focused, and Zirotron has the Merchant, which is just what it says on the tin. However, the white Scottish stuff spread stickily over Finland is a bit of an obstacle to friendly, or even standoffish, relations with Scandinavia; the Ynglings are not very forgiving of those who hold what they consider rightful Yngling clay.
  • Silent Knight: Bretonnia’s heavy-cavalry retinue won several important wars in CK, most notably my first attempt to reverse the Second Baltic Crusade which briefly won Sweden for the cross. (My second attempt involved diplomacy instead of battle and was much more successful. ) However, the era of heavy cavalry as the arm of decision is perhaps drawing to an end – and more importantly, Vaniver has taken his impressive skills and decamped for Korea, leaving Bretonnia in the hands of new player djones, of whom nothing is known. I give him the epithet ‘Silent’ because he has, to my knowledge, attempted no diplomacy with anyone; no offer to help me partition the Isles, no arranging of a trade league to bring Asian money to the Channel, nothing. In a multiplayer game this is usually a bad idea. However, he does have some strengths: Before leaving, Vaniver got Bretonnia the Polish Monarchy government, the thematic Hussar idea set (being cavalry-focused, it is probably strongest in the early game), and the Holy Roman Empire.
  • The Bohemoth: I have already mentioned Yami’s possibly-suicidal splitting-off of Lithuania; however, this certainly does clarify his choices. Sun Tzu notes that men fight their best when “in death ground”, that is, when they have no possibility of retreat; Bohemia is, at any rate, in a very clear-cut position of “expand or die”. For this purpose he has the inspiringly-named idea set Divine Right, with early bonuses to unjustified demands and province warscore cost; as of 1470 he is also Emperor and has a personal union with Poland, which must certainly help a bit. The immediate priority for Bohemia is to survive the imminent aggression of the Bayerische Bauernrepublik right on his border; that aggressively-egalitarian polity Does Not Approve of emperors, divine rights, or countries that are not part of the People’s Republic. Fortunately for Bohemia, both Scandinavia and Khazaria have an interest in a balance of power in Central Europe; I have no desire to defend my Baltic dominions against a unified German-Polish-Hungarian empire.

In the first session, people were naturally focused on consolidating a power base, absorbing the nearby AIs that had been protected in CK by the realm-size rule. The main events in Scandinavia:

  • The Hammer of the Gods: My Marshal, Starkadr Sleggja (a well-named man – ‘Sleggja’ means ‘Sledgehammer’) converted as a near-divine general; the converter, noticing that he was a Brilliant Strategist, Narrow Flank Leader, Flanker, Zealous, Wroth, and Brave, gave him no less than seven Shock pips. (Two for Brilliant Strategist, one for each of the others). I will perhaps tweak this a bit in the next iteration, it seems balanced for an older version of CK that didn’t have so many traits, but for this one I just gave him a cavalry army and watched him rack up the kill count.
  • One Eye, One People, One King: In a series of short wars I hammered Scandinavia into one unified empire under the watchful eye of Odin, getting my first Splendor objective by vassalising Kurland, Nordriki, Austergautland, Estonia, and Sjaelland, annexing their more important provinces on the way.
  • Landnåm: I really could not be having with the Scots presence in Finland, the more so as they annexed the brave Jomsvikings (the black blot in the middle of Finland in 1444). With a shock-7 general I quickly destroyed the Scots army in Finland, then landed in the Highlands to complete the war. Negotiations were opened; I stated that my aims were Finland and Iceland, but offered to share Iceland so we could both colonise. Gollevainen, however, did not consider this satisfactory, believing that three North-American colonisers were at least one too many, and decided to fight to keep Iceland. We therefore had a few minor skirmishes, but nothing to signify:

    When the fortress at York fell, both British powers surrendered.

  • Landnom: For my first idea group I took Exploration, and quickly reached the Americas from my new base in Iceland. However, we have modded our game, giving each trade region an “Off-Limits” modifier until specified dates; in the case of North America, until 1492, so I wasn’t able to actually land. The Off-Limits modifier gives an immense malus to colony growth, and is thus supposed to be self-enforcing; unfortunately we recently learned that when someone gains control of an uncolonised province, its modifiers are cleared! However, humans are presumably able to self-police this; the off-limits modifier can still serve as an ingame guide to what is allowed and not. It also applies to India, Persia, and Africa; indeed the interior of Africa will be off-limits for the whole of EU4, so that we can have an actual Scramble for Africa in Victoria.
  • Swallowing the Whale: Not a Scandinavian event, but the Bohemoth managed to live up to its name by acquiring a Personal Union with Poland, twice its size. That should help a bit with resisting Bavarian aggression.

Players, 1470. Note Spain fully in control of its peninsula, Clone spreading across Russia, Tazzzo uniting the Arabs into a world-conquering force.

Europe, 1470, with some added Norwegian stats. Top left, my starting and current monarch; bottom left, my Splendor objectives (note Venetian Trade activated); top right, my first custom idea, with Yngling flavour.

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Filed under Our Doom and Our Pride, Song of the Dead

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