This seems to belong before what I posted last week, going into more detail about the restoration of the Republic which was a given in the previous post.
Category Archives: Dominion of the Dreki
I noted last week that, in the resistance against the Christian faith, I have tried several different strategies: Successively, Holy War has failed, alliance has failed, treaty has failed, and dictatorship has failed. Consequently I restored the old Republic – but not purely for roleplaying reasons. Crucially, the Grand Republic of Ireland is a kingdom, not an empire; it can, therefore, swear fealty to the Emperor of Frisia. After two generations of failure at war, I am turning to a new strategy: To bow the stiff necks of the North, and make peace. This does have the disadvantage (or is it?) of aligning me with the current proto-hegemon, which is not good for anyone’s popularity; but as the counter-hegemonic alliance has signally failed to protect the independence of small powers, my remaining option was to make the best terms I could.
Knut Dreki, the Doge Who Did Not So Much Kneel As Bend Over.
The counter-hegemons did have a damn good try this session, with a Jihad for Aragon that, surely, made the average colour of pants in Iberia move somewhat in the direction of brown. Although I did not follow the fighting closely, it seemed to me that it was going somewhat against my new Iberian friends (that is, they are the allies of my overlord). However, Fimconte, with his usual nose for sharp gameplay, was able to defuse the situation by converting to the Ibadi heresy of his attackers, invalidating the jihad CB and ending the war without any land changing hands. I opine that this act will surely rebound against him in the end; apart from the human badboy it cannot have done his credit with Allah any good.
Jihad for Aragon!
The result of these varied shenanigans and accommodations is some scary-looking blobs:
Immense empires of the West.
The eventual and inevitable betrayal – Fimconte can clearly be trusted roughly as far as you can see him, and on the Internet you can’t see him – will be epic in scope, and lead to a shattering war. Unless, of course, it is resolved by invalidating the CB.
Internally, a quiet session for me; I’m effectively rebuilding my republic from scratch, including (sigh) House Dreki. In fact, it wasn’t until I got the Dogeship again and could use my accumulated tech points to bump up Bergen’s trade tech that any of the Irish patrician families could actually build any trade posts! I got a nice sequence of four creating a trade zone in the Kattegat and the Sound, and now just need some upgraded cities for them to improve. Lacking CBs, I wasn’t able to do much to reabsorb Old Denmark, though I’m currently pressing my brother’s claim on the Fylkirate, which will return the important tactical option of Great Holy War to my control as soon as that brother inherits.
The oak breaks, the willow bends. “Cities and Thrones and Powers / stand in Time’s eye / almost as long as flowers / which daily die”; but profit is eternal, and so is the good name of peacemakers. Let us make peace, then, and profit.
Life has been uneventful in the far north, these two sessions; that’s why I wrote no AAR last week – it seemed a bit boring to report “to my surprise, I survived the session”. In fact, I not only survived but did so without territorial cessions. I conjecture that oddman doesn’t think it worth bothering with Ireland for a while; I am protected in my possession of Scandinavia by his treaty with Khan, and while I still have a couple of provinces on the British mainland, they’re perhaps not worth burning a Holy War CB on. Thus, little of interest happened to me in the 934-946 session; I strategically moved vassals around in accordance with a Cunning Plan that shall be revealed later, but that’s all.
In the 946-960 session, however, all hell broke loose – though I wasn’t its target. Oddman (ably subbed by Vaniver) and Fimconte declared, respectively, Crusade and Jihad for the northern and southern parts of Italy. In spite of various interventions they rapidly overran the peninsula and annexed it. That results in this map of Europe:
In other words, two allied powers now rule (ok, yes, modulo the revolt in Italy, but it’ll soon be crushed) from Gibraltar to the Elbe, from the Highlands to Malta. This is a bit of a problem. As balances of power go, it doesn’t. (Balance, that is. It certainly powers.) Naturally, the great nations of Europe and the Middle East have immediately formed an alliance to contain this common enemy, exchanging dynastically connected girls like party favours to create an overpowering coalition that can roll back the ill-gotten gains – hah. I jest, and the jest is bitter. The great nations of Europe are cowering in fear of the aggressors. The phrase “new Christian overlords” has not, admittedly, made an appearance yet, but it can be only a question of time.
I did my best to help the Italians: I sent my raiders south in their dragon-headed ships, to loot and burn in Pomerania, and distract the Moslem armies. I meant to do good, and I did quite well. But this business of raiding people who have actual armies is nerve-wracking – my mouse hand twitched for the embarkation order at every random movement of Fimconte’s vassals. The powers of Africa and the Levant need to get their act together; the people of the North can bite ankles (and such bites have been known to fester), but we’re going to need someone who can meet the Christian armies in the open field, and break their faith and make them run. Where are the brave Moslem armies of old? Where are the conquerors of Ethiopia and Rome?
Earlier in the game I had a lot of characters die young, mostly at very inconvenient times; although my current one is not that great, he is at least sticking around for a while. I’ll be sad to see him go; after my geniuses all died before reaching two score, having an average man reach his three-and-ten got me rather attached to him.
The situation has developed not necessarily entirely to my advantage. Because the PvP is depressing, I will first relate the only amusing thing that happened during the session, namely the way I took over the kingdom of Svithjod. It turned out that I had enough bits and pieces of Sweden to do a Usurp of the kingdom title; however, you can’t usurp while the target is at war. The war in question was a revolt, which the Swedish AI had effectively won; the rebels were reduced to a 20-man stack hiding out across the border in Lappland. Now, if I were leading a revolt that was down to its last twenty men, against a kingdom that could get together a thousand easily, I think I might have traveled east and south and seen whether the Sultan of somewhere warm was hiring blond mercenaries; but the AI was just sitting there slowly attriting away. It’s true that banditry “in aid of the cause”, and calling it guerrilla resistance, is an old and honoured occupation, but it’s not as though they could even have been finding much to steal in Lappland. However, the Swedish AI, displaying a nearly human level of metagaming – don’t let anyone tell you the Singularity is not near – refused to send its stack north to finish the deal. After all, what did it care if twenty former rebels slowly starved to death? That war was the only thing keeping it independent. So I offered it help – a classic offer you cannot refuse; in fact, while the player gets a choice in these things, I’d be unsurprised to learn that the AI has been coded to always accept offers of help in war. In any case, I sent my retinue north into Lappland, it duly crushed the rebels, the war ended, and I usurped Svithjod. You’re welcome, Swedish AI! Oh, and would you like to be my vassal? It turns out he would. (If he hadn’t, of course, I would have DOWed for the de jure CB.) So Scandinavia, at least, is now united under my rule.
England, unfortunately, is rather closer to being united under the rule of Voldemort – excuse me, Oddman. (“Unity is strength! Division is weakness!”) Following his obvious best strategy, as soon as the truce ran out he (and separately Fimconte) attacked me, holy wars for duchies. Pavski sent an army; but his navy was too small to transport the amount of troops we needed to challenge Oddman’s 45k. (Logistical constraints, in Crusader Kings! Who would have thought it?) We lost the decisive battle, and the war ended with my capital being ignominiously moved inland; in this exigency, I have assumed emergency powers and Denmark is no longer a republic. I am sad about this, because republics are fun to play, but it must be admitted that the “emergency powers” thing is not entirely a euphemism; I’ve spent quite a bit of time in this game waiting to become Doge. (Not to mention those two elections that didn’t stay bought.) A reasonable certainty that I’ll still be in charge if – to take a completely unlikely scenario – some two-bit AI with a coded grudge should manage to give me poisoned wine is worth quite a bit of money. I will attempt to restore the republic as and when convenient, but right now we need a single strong hand at the helm, and every man to his oar!
I still retain a few English provinces and most of Ireland, but at this point it’s clear that my most important assets are Scandinavia, the Muslim alliance, and the unquenchable optimism of the man who knows the gods are on his side. Oh, and my Yngling vassals. It’s true that unleashing these weapons of historical destruction is a move of desperation, and in truth I’m not yet quite desperate enough to go there. But it’s good to have something in reserve; and I have not yet begun to fight.
After last week’s session, when it was clear that Oddman had decided to abrogate (a much nicer word than ‘betray’) our initial arrangement and directly absorb England himself, my situation was somewhat dire. Oddman was kind enough to point it out himself, in a PM offering to negotiate terms of surrender:
Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m essentially in a position to dictate terms. Barring a diplomatic miracle or metagame weirdness, there is no way you can defeat me.
The terms we arrived at were that I should give up England, keep Ireland and Scandinavia, take Scotland until EU4, and become Oddman’s vassal. In return he promised to help me expand eastwards, presumably in the Russian steppe – which, it’s true, would have given me a chance to revisit the Rolandoviches. This negotiation was, however, entirely a sham on my part, since as the man himself had pointed out, the solution was obvious: Just arrange a diplomatic miracle.
Perhaps Oddman was indulging in a bit of hyperbole in order to convince (again, a much nicer word than ‘browbeat’) me to accept his terms. Really now, how miraculous is it to find an ally willing to prevent a major power from eating a smaller one and becoming even more of a threat? In a sense this is the fundamental game mechanic of all multiplayer strategy games! As miraculous as an unreliable ally; as rare as turning on a weak friend to strengthen yourself directly; as unusual as an aggressive Yngling!
I therefore approached Pavski, saying in effect “Help, help, I’m being oppressed, and also you’ll be next”. We arranged that I, after getting rid of my wife, should marry one of his innumerable daughters and declare a Great Holy War for England. And it worked! Perfectly! Oddman was campaigning in Scotland when 30000 Saracens landed on his two 10k separate stacks; my mercenaries crushed the vassal stacks forming in England, and dragoon invaded oddman’s mainland demesne, destroying still more armies there. It was glorious! It was inspiring! Specifically, it inspired me to make a vast mistake: I said, in public chat, where Murphy and all the imps of the perverse could see, “Odin protects his faithful!”
Well, really now, I don’t know what I was thinking. Odin doesn’t give a damn about his faithful, per se. (Actually, wrong metaphor. Odin doesn’t have any damns to give; Hel’s afterlife is unpleasant but it’s not damnation in the Christian sense of separation from gods and grace.) What Odin cares about is warriors for Ragnarok – and armies must be led. So, obviously, as soon as Fylkir Valdemar (Second of that Name) had demonstrated his ability to form alliances, to win hearts, minds, and battles, to decisively crush his enemies by cunning and leadership and not merely raw strength – that was when Odin gathered him up to lead a company, a battalion, or a regiment on Vigrid field. And, to be fair to the Father of Battles, the defense of the whole of creation against the ice giants could reasonably be said to be of higher priority than the issue of who should rule one small island for the next hundred years or so.
The specific instrument by which the Asagrim chose Valdemar to be slain was an assassination plot; not originating, as one might expect, in oddman’s court, but from that of the Rolandoviches – who still survive, far off in the Urals. The killer was Harald Storr, spymaster of Bolghar, too distant to diplomatically interact with, and my rival along with his sisters Holmfrid and Gyla. Three siblings, all hating me; could there be a common cause? It turns out I killed their father, Hysing of Somerset, who at the time was ahead of me in the election. So in some sense I had it coming; but to cut me down at the very moment of my triumph, when I was reuniting England under Dreki rule – ah, the irony! Truly, a very Crusader Kings moment. As a side note, it also turns out that Harald is the rival of each of his two sisters; you have to wonder a bit about the dynamics of that family, but by CK standards it’s perhaps not that unusual. At least they’re not Zoroastrians.
The killer. Note how, apart from me, he’s rival to both his sisters; note also the Kinslayer trait and the dead brother. Hmm.
And speaking of interesting family dynamics, his father – whom I offed so I could save some money on my campaign fund; heck, it’s not as though he didn’t get a long and full life, that’s why I wanted to be rid of him in the first place – is also a Kinslayer. Honestly I think I did Denmark a favour ensuring that these guys didn’t get into power, not that anyone is like to thank me for it.
The Great Holy War ended with a “successful Jihad for England” (presumably because Pavski had the most warscore at that moment) and no land changing hands. We are still arguing about whether this counts against our fifty-year cooldown. I lost the Dogeship; my mercenaries departed; my new character was another of the Dreki geniuses, but this was small consolation since he was pretty shortly killed, leading the AI’s regiments, in a hopeless and useless battle against the Scots, who of course took advantage of Denmark’s disarray to invade. Oddman, likewise, grabbed York; nothing to be done about it since I was no longer allied to Pavski. My retinue was ground to bits before I could maneuver it away; the AI, of course, mismanaged the Scottish war, and although I lead the election, my current run of luck inclines me to believe that Grand Prince Hysing (not the one I killed) will live to see his three score and ten.
Oddman has made it clear that he is no longer inclined to grant any particular terms of surrender – to be fair, no doubt his laundry bill is unusually high this month; it all worked out for him but I bet the sight of 30000 scimitar-wielding Muslims landing in his demesne inspired some throaty Dutch cursing. So at the moment my best bet seems to be to fight to the bitter end; unfortunately the landing grounds are long gone, and this being 921 I don’t think there can be many streets even in London, but I retain some fields and hills. It will take a while to conquer Denmark at its current extent one Duchy at a time; who knows what may happen? Fimconte might decide to complete the conquest of France; Oddman might have a run of Inbred Lunatic heirs; I might inherit Italy. I rarely play all-powerful empires – my skills consign me to being eternally the underdog; and everyone knows in what circumstances a rat fights best.
I’m beginning to think I should have suggested “England’s on the Anvil” for the naming theme of this game, rather than “Recessional”. Kipling’s telling phrase, “little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against their foes”, keeps recurring to me as I write these AARs; a splendid description of the blobbing phase of a megacampaign, in which those players not lucky or skilled enough to grow big are ground out of existence. Unfortunately it applies just as much to republics.
England’s being hammered, hammered, hammered into one; but not by me. Rather, I’m the iron clanging from the Severn to the Tyne. However, before getting into that, a recap of relevant geopolitical events on the Continent. Oddman, playing Frisia, had more-or-less united Charlemagne’s empire, from the Oder to the Bay of Biscay, with bits missing in the south where Fimconte as Iberia had taken a bite. He had two fairly powerful player vassals in Synario and Alexei, Bavaria and Aquitaine respectively. He had several times fought against Fimconte, attempting to contain Muslim Spain south of the Pyrenees. Now, however, he turned this longstanding foreign policy on a dime. (Well, perhaps not on a dime – no doubt there were lengthy negotiations of spheres of influence.) When Fimconte DOWed for some land that belonged to Alexei, Oddman promptly surrendered; he then vassalised Fimconte, revoked Alexei’s capital, imprisoned Synario, and handily won the resulting revolt. Where there had been two polities with four players, there was now a single united empire stretching from Gibraltar to the aforementioned Oder, with two players in it. Fimconte then went independent again, taking the south of France with him. Then both of them (and separately an AI vassal of oddman’s) declared holy wars on me.
There wasn’t any question of fighting two humans that individually outnumbered me two to one; I surrendered promptly so as to retain my army for the fight against that vassal. But it’s clear that this is a stopgap measure at best; truce timers end, and oddman’s character could keel over any moment. (Indeed, I feel confident that the RNG will cause him to die at the worst possible time for the English Resistance; why should the lifespans suddenly become convenient now?) Unless, then, a diplomatic revolution occurs, it appears that I will be taking the Dreki back to Scandinavia whence they came. Admittedly, going into exile and plotting revenge for the next millennium is kind of my thing in these games, but I was hoping to avoid a second iteration. Besides, Scandinavia is full of snow and Ynglings, and dignobbit, I’ve played that position already. Three times. But needs must when the Dutchman drives; with our house rules, it would be very difficult for anyone else to come to my aid. Without a good claim, the best that could be done by any of oddman’s neighbours – who in any case have their own problems – would be to declare holy war for a duchy; and quite apart from his possible ability to just fight on two fronts, oddman could simply surrender, beat me senseless, and return to the Continent later on.
It seems that Kipling will have all sorts of applications in this game; but then, history is long, and empires rise and fall. This week it is “The Dutch in the Medway”. Next month, who knows? Perhaps “Cities and Thrones and Powers” will be the poem of the day.
If wars were won by feasting,
Or victory by song,
Or safety found in sleeping sound,
How England would be strong!
But honour and dominion
Are not maintained so.
They’re only got by sword and shot.
And this the Dutchmen know.
England, 910. The green blight is in Wales; incidentally, Fimconte has converted his family to Welsh culture, presumably for the archery tactic. The whole of England-south-of-Thames is in Dutch hands.
Western Europe. Note Iberian gains in southern France, where Aquitaine used to be; presumably the quid pro quo for oddman’s adding England to his domains. Note also that the Roman Empire no longer rules Italy.
The path of the righteous continues to be strewn with thorns. In particular, the RNG seems to have it in for me with respect to lifespans: My good Genius character died in prison, while m’liege – an idiot in all respects except for his damnable Intrigue score, which incidentally is completely unrelated to why I was in prison – goes on and on like the damn Duracell rabbit. (Perhaps I date myself; do CK players still catch that reference? If you don’t, just substitute “like a thing that goes on for a very long time”, and then get off my lawn.) He outlasted my next head of household as well, not that this was a great loss, and looks like he’s settling in to reach his eightieth birthday. Or perhaps he’ll keel over just the day after my current head dies, leaving me bereft of the Respect I need to get elected and without time to pump up the election fund.
My three Fylkirs this session: Kjartan, Starkard, and the current incumbent Kol; and their common liege. Why, oh why, can the RNG not see that this deadwood needs to go, and let the fresh new shoots reach the lifegiving sun?
That is as the RNG wills; I have, actually, larger problems. As I prophecied last session, the powers of Europe have begun to take an interest in this strategically located island with the many good harbours. Little bits of kingdoms – in this case, the petty-kingdoms of England-south-of-Thames, namely Essex, East Anglia, and Hwicce – cannot stand against their foes; unfortunately I wasn’t the foe in question. The Mussulman is at the gates! No doubt Fimconte plans to dominate the entire western seaboard of Europe, taking the entire colonisation game for himself. True, he’ll have to subdue a powerful Frisia to take the French coast, but he’s got four hundred years of CK to do so; why not pick up England while it’s cheap?
The evolution was rapid. Here is England in 889; all is quiet except for the usual state of quasi-civil war. (That is to say, I’m very polite about picking up Lincoln; everyone else behaves like football hooligans. Not a civil war in the sense of being internal to a polity.)
891, and the green blight is far inland: Fimconte’s doomstack of 5000 (a vast host, by island standards) has hammered East Anglia and Hwicce into submission, though Hwicce survives by dint of having more than one Duchy available. The invasion continues into the Welsh mountains; my stack of a little more than 4k is about to intervene.
894. My intervention did not go well. Fimconte pulled another 3k warriors out of nowhere (he’d moved his capital to England in the interim; perhaps they were mercenaries), his liege the Caliph sent another doomstack of 8k, and I suspect that with even numbers I’d still have lost, just not as badly – Spain being more technologically advanced than England. There was nothing for it but to end the war and watch Fimconte absorb his gains.
On Wenlock edge the Norse are troubled;
his bearded flank the Serk-king heaves…
My bearded enemy, the Serk-king!
896. Oddman has decided to absorb those bits of England that Fimconte didn’t get to, to keep them out of Muslim hands. Yay for the balance of power. It’s more amusing when someone else is the apple of contention. Note also the colour change; Fimconte, getting wind of a Christian coalition forming to invade Iberia, strategically switched his allegiance to another player, over in Egypt. Taking on the AI Umayyads is one thing, even if they have a powerful human vassal (in fact, Fimconte was about 80% of Spain by this point); taking on a human Egypt is something else entirely. The coalition dissolved. “To defeat your enemy without combat is the acme of skill.”
898, and England is neatly divided into three parts: Norse pagan, Frisian Christian, and Iberian Moslem.
I did manage to expand a bit, using take-county CBs on my neighbouring Christians. This does lead to quickly hitting my demesne limits; I was handing out baronies like candy, and getting so desperate for adult courtiers that at one point I gave one to an Yngling. As Fivoin pointed out, not giving land to that dynasty is Scandinavian Governance 101; but needs must when the devil drives. In any case I got a fair return, for he taught wisdom to the Fylkir Kjartan, and now all the Dreki know an ancient rune-song, handed down from Frey, the ancestor of the Yngling line. It does not translate well into the vernacular, losing all its magic power for calling vengeance-spirits down onto the heads of those who have wronged you; this is just as well, since why should I give away secrets of power? But the sense of it, without magic, is clear enough: It is intolerable. It shall not stand.