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: God of Our Fathers
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.
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.
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.
It turns out that the elections of the Grand Principality of Denmark are not honest ones, in the following sense: They don’t stay bought.
Obviously, I made it a bit of a priority to get elected; the blobs are coalescing all over Europe, and we shall not see them splintered again in this game. All over Europe, that is, except in the Isles and Scandinavia – partly because these areas are poor, and partly (I assume) because of a slight reluctance to enter another player’s clear sphere of interest, and thus create an enemy. But such forbearance is not to be relied upon for any long run. Sooner or later someone will decide that they have a use for these poverty-stricken tribal provinces, even if I don’t. Indeed, zilcho (subbing Finland) tried it on even this session, with a Holy War for Trøndelag; the AI surprised us both by handling him rather roughly. Still, the omen is clear for those with the wisdom to read it.
Grand Prince Refil at the beginning of the session. Time presses…
I therefore delayed my conquest of York. At the beginning of the session I was 12 and Grand Prince Refil was 62. So, if I got lucky for the four years I needed to become electable, Refil would be 66 and could keel over any day; I needed to have a good reserve for a huge campaign fund, to overcome the 2000-point disadvantage of being 16 in a republic full of fifty-year-old patricians. No money, therefore, for the mercenaries I’d need to take York. Instead I amused myself with chasing tiny AI armies, losers in the five minor wars m’liege got himself into, across England-south-of-Thames. I also looked about for participants in my eugenics program; there seems to be a great lack of Genius, Germanic women of a reasonable age. My plan for this generation is just to pump out kids from whatever half-acceptable women I can, so to speak, lay hands on; one of them ought to be a Genius who can be designated heir. The rest will form the basis of a Norse-Germanic population explosion, drastically increasing the pool of candidates for back-breeding in the next two generations; the more women, the more likely that randomness will operate in my favour. Also, when we are sufficiently many and hungry, we will have a moral right to take away others’ lands to feed our children; and we will then be possessed of a very large and hungry army.
Kjartan Bjardsson as a hungry young man.
Eugenics aside, then, I did basically nothing for four years; but once I reached my majority, I sprang into action! To wit, I Ctrl-clicked the “add to campaign fund” button no less than four times! Which wasn’t sufficient; at this point the leading candidate had Respect of over three thousand. So I unclicked it – no prizes for second best, and therefore no point in buying the election until I could actually win – and picked Intrigue as my focus. This did at least give me the opportunity to repeatedly click the “No, I’m sure he’s up to something” option – action at last! This excitement aside, though, it remained the case that my full treasury wouldn’t suffice to win. And while Refil had lived to be 78 (!) in a single-player test game, still, the RNG had to be sharpening its scythe for him.
Insufficient money; does not elect.
Increasingly desperate, I appealed for loans, and Khan, very kindly, sent me a gift, a favour which shall not be forgotten. With this money I could bring up my campaign fund north of 600 ducats, and become expected successor. Just in the nick of time, too; Refil died mere months after I finally had the money. Aaaand the second-highest Respect was elected. Again.
I admit to finding this a bit annoying. Since the electorate had disappointed me, I decided to dissolve it and appoint a new one, by making the Midlands a personal Dreki fief, starting with York. This went well: Little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against enough money to hire mercenaries. This, at least, worked; I now hold York and Derby, and Lincoln will fall shortly. Added bonus: Handing out the baronies to the adult-male Dreki drastically cut my expenses.
The current election status.
I enter the next session, then, embittered but hopeful: I have what seems like a commanding lead in the next election, I have a Genius son by a concubine, and my Genius wife is pregnant. And, between me and the AI, the little kingdoms of England are looking pretty tattered and moth-eaten; if the Grand Prince would just do me the favour of dying at a reasonable age, it’s not entirely unreasonable to hope for English unification before the century is out.
The path of the righteous is strewn with thorns, and their portion is care and toil; but the unrighteous prosper in the fallen world. Consequently, you can easily tell from this session’s events who is righteous among the players – to wit, me – and who isn’t – basically everyone else, with the possible exception of Sebokan (playing Austergotland).
In 862 I was, I admit, somewhat impatient for m’liege, the esteemed Grand Prince Ofeig, to die so I could take over and show the world how to run a pagan trade republic; I had therefore picked the Intrigue focus for the Spy On perma-plot. That didn’t work out; the Grand Prince learned about my spying and flung me in the dungeon, where I promptly picked up a case of the crazies – but no matter, that turned out the least of my troubles. A merchant prince worthy of the title, of course, always keeps an emergency fund on hand for these little contretemps that spice up the life of truck and barter, so I just headed over to the Diplo screen to ransom myself. That’s when I learned that my uncle, Starkad, was
a) my Regent and
b) my Rival.
Uncle Starkad. Not stupid, by any means; but his defection from the Dreki family to anywhere else on the planet would, as the saying goes, improve both averages.
Also that the Regent is given veto power over ransoms, including your own ransom. I opine that this would not pass a twentyfirst-century conflict-of-interests review; in fact it doesn’t even pass tenth-century conflict-of-interests review, in that one of the acknowledged duties of vassals was to contribute to their liege’s ransom. Although in fairness I should note that Starkad is not actually my vassal, merely my kinsman and a partner in the family business. In any case, this difficulty held up my plans for some time, until I realised that Starkad, being an AI, was both smart enough to be bribed and stupid enough to be bribed into freeing someone whose imprisonment he had deliberately lengthened. One gift, one honorary title, and one appointment as Seer later, I was free, and pissed. (Also mad in the literal-ish sense of having the Lunatic trait.) Nonetheless, the thought of that 40-opinion tyranny penalty gave me pause. I decided to get my revenge more obliquely: I cut Starkad out of my will by making my son the Designated Heir. This had the additional desirable consequence of bypassing a pretty average-type human and putting in a Genius instead; eugenics for the win. It was, nonetheless, a somewhat risky play, in that my son was four years old and not eligible for the Dogeship if I died. But pff, I was only 35 myself; what are the odds, right?
My son and heir. Not yet adult, and yet I see there are several players who would like to have these stats for their rulers.
While I’d been in prison, the AI had surprised me by actually doing something useful: It waged Holy Wars for Vestlandet and Småland, winning both. This incidentally brought Denmark into conflict with Sebokan, playing the two-province petty kingdom of Austergotland. Pitched battles were naturally out of the question, although I did briefly entertain the notion of giving Sebokan enough money to hire a large mercenary army that might have managed to kill Ofeig. Turns out the Regent has veto power over gifts, too, and apparently Starkad’s bad traits included some primitive notion of loyalty to the polity over the family. The upshot of which is, Sebokan, if I see you raiding my provinces again I’ll make an absolute point of parking my army on top of your capital. Asymmetric warfare only works if your target has political constraints on his retaliation; I don’t have a bunch of liberals preventing me from reinstating the good old custom of inscribing the Blood Eagle on the offender’s body, family, cattle, pets, relatives out to the fifth degree of consanguinity, and random visitors.
Bjard at something close to the height of his powers, though not yet a Godslayer. The eugenics program is something of a success.
Ofeig did eventually die of natural causes, and I was duly elected Grand Prince. A momentary paralysis delayed what should have been my immediate attack on a preselected enemy: There were just so many possible targets! Hwicce, and retake Bristol? But Hwicce was in the throes of rebellion, and Bristol was occupied by them; who knows what the game mechanics would do. Essex, and a rematch for London? But Essex is allied to half of England. Powys, and wipe out the festering sore of resistance in the Welsh mountains? Then again, who needs a bunch of unruly sheep-shaggers for subjects? I finally settled on Northumbria, with wealthy York as my target; but the AI was faster. (The Singularity, incidentally, is near.) Essex declared war for Kent; crushing them and their allies took me two years. While this was going on I got the Chtulhu event chain and acquired the Godslayer trait, and began to think about ascending into godhood myself.
Situation in England in 872: Somewhat chaotic.
I contented myself, however, with declaring war on Northumbria, and was halfway through the required siege of York when the RNG, jealous of all possible rivals, cut me down in the prime of life. Leaving my 10-year-old son, unelectable to the Grand Princedom, as head of House Dreki… and his great-uncle Starkad as Regent. At least this time we are not rivals, and Starkad seems to have mellowed in his old age; he actually approved my suggestions for educating the Dreki children. But I face another lengthy wait before I command resources beyond those of the Dreki family. The path of the righteous…