I lost the war, and my position in northern Iberia became untenable; I did as I’ve done before, and moved elsewhere on the CK map.
Category Archives: Recessional
Session recap: Asturias, and separately my County of Leon, were both at war with the Umayyad Sultanate; the former war was the Sultan aggressing on m’liege for Galicia, the latter was me retaliating by declaring Holy War for the Duchy of Leon. With much-appreciated financial aid from outside Spain, and a Jewish loan, I hired two bands of mercenaries, which turned out to be not quite enough to crush the Sultan’s doomstack. However, the Sultan then turned east to fight the invading Franks for Barcelona, and together we were able to destroy his army. The AI then white-peaced Asturias. Unfortunately I dismissed my mercenaries a little too early, thinking that between the loss of his army and the vast Catholic uprising the Sultan would be helpless to prevent me occupying Leon and force-peacing for the Duchy. And so he was; but Fimconte, sneakily holding back for just that moment, raised a new stack, defeated my levies, and forced a white peace between me and the Sultan.
Catholic Revolt, coinciding with the Frankish invasion; unfortunately the rebels were somehow defeated, I think through losing enough battles to reach 100% warscore.
Fimconte’s intervention in my holy war for Leon.
Later, having married my son Ogier to King Guttier’s sister, I pressed her claim to the throne, intending my grandsons to inherit. Unfortunately, I had no truce with the Sultan, and he immediately declared war on me. I was faced with the unpleasant necessity of making peace with the King, and losing my chance of putting a relative on the throne – but keeping my lands, since the King’s truce with the Sultan would then protect me; or “making peace” with the Sultan and being knocked out of the game. I chose the former.
Finally, adding injury to injury, Fimconte declared a separate holy war for Galicia, and I was unable to stop him taking it; the kingship of Asturias, these days, does not look like such a prize as all that.
May 27th, 792
Asturias de Santiago, north coast of Iberia
“The man Oliver de Errolan comes to make leal submission to Guttier, Dux of the Visigoths, Princeps of Asturias!”
Oliver ground his teeth; “the man”, indeed. He might be a rebel and a dead man walking, but by God he was still a Count, and if it weren’t for the damned Saracens he’d make Guttier remember it… but then, if it weren’t for the damned Saracens, Guttier would no longer be King. It would have to be endured; there was, no doubt, worse to come than the mere eliding of his titles. He kept himself under tight control as he approached the high seat. To either side the long benches were full of Guttier’s men, soldiers who might have faced his own following across a stricken field had matters been other than they were – and died for their salt. Between them, the marcher lords who had followed Oliver’s banner could field twice the army that Guttier could raise from his protected coastal valleys.
Much good it does us, Oliver thought darkly; the Moors had twice the fighting men of the whole northern kingdom, king and rebels together. He ignored the hostile glares, focusing on the man who had actual power to decide his fate – the boy, rather; Guttier had yet to see his fifteenth birthday. The boy-king sat in a high chair, carved with winged lions and filigreed eagles; a man grown might have made its grandeur imposing, but the slight fourteen-year-old boy who reigned over the northern coast of Iberia disappeared into the ornaments. With him stood his advisors, the men who actually ruled; greybeards all, inherited along with the kingship from Guttier’s father. The bald dome of Roderico, the Regent, rose prominently among them; a nothing of a man, raised from the lesser ranks of the nobility to his high position precisely because he had no following of his own, and could not hope to make his power permanent.
Roderico, the Regent.
Reaching the dais that raised the high table above the common ruck, Oliver stopped; he had to look slightly up to see his victorious enemies. The room was silent, except for the sound of a hundred men trying to breathe quietly, and the slight rustling of their clothes; the moment drew out and out, until Oliver almost wished for someone to shout “Off with his head!” if only to have it over with. At last his nerve broke, and he bowed his head, acknowledging overlordship. Freeborn Visigoth males did not kneel to any man.
Guttier, slightly later in life.
“Princeps,” he said in greeting – the old form; perhaps, if his revolt had succeeded, he would have been able to make “rex” the style of the kingship, as the leaders of Asturias had tried to do since Pelagius, but he was damned if he was going to grovel. It wasn’t as though Guttier was likely to be appeased by a word.
“Count Oliver,” the boy returned, then flushed; Oliver concealed an unexpected smile. Carefully coached, no doubt, to address him as “freeman”; and he’d blown it in his very first word. Vindication, in a way; one of the causes of the revolt had been that it was no time to have a child commanding the front line of Christendie. Guttier’s slip had just proven the rebels right; best leave the business of government to adults.
“You will give me your sword,” Guttier rallied, and Oliver’s fleeting amusement died. Slaves went unarmed; so did the subject Romani, the gutless Latins who had lived in the peninsula when Oliver’s people arrived as conquerors. To take a freeman’s sword was the same as declaring him no longer a freeman, to strip him of the privileges of the Gothi rulers. His hand tightened on the hilt of the sword. It wasn’t the sharpest blade in all the world, that he had borne since before he needed to shave; that was safely in Ogier’s keeping. It was just an ordinary sword, well-made enough in its way, but nothing special. But it was the badge of his freedom. And, what was more, an adult male with a sword could, if he didn’t care about his own survival, kill a boy of fourteen quite easily – the work of seconds – and go on to carve a swathe through the old men who advised the king, before the warriors behind him could react to bring him down. An unarmed boy, and several greybeards who might have been formidable once but were old and frail now, against a man in the fullness of his strength, a warrior who had personally wielded Durendal against the infidel on stricken fields… yes, it could be done. Oliver would die, but Ogier would declare himself king, and the marcher lords would follow him; the coastal valleys would splinter into factions, easily crushed one by one… and then the Moslem armies, unbound by truce, would flood across the border, and the splintered kingdom would fall. No; the choices were the same as they had been a week ago, when he had first received word that the Sultan had taken the field. Fight, and die, and see all that he had worked for ground to dust by the victorious infidel – or make leal submission, return to the shelter that the sworn truce between Sultan and boy-king gave to a loyal vassal, and accept his personal fate. Ogier, at least, would live, and retain the family estates and titles; that much could be saved.
“Yes,” he said at last. Moving slowly, deliberately, he brought the sword out of the scabbard and gave it, hilt first, to the King.
“You will stay here,” Guttier continued, and Oliver nodded.
“Of course,” he agreed. In Asturias de Santiago he was hostage against Ogier’s good behaviour, as well as assurance that Oliver himself could get up to no further rebellion; next year the Sultan might be campaigning in Africa. He felt an emptiness in his stomach, nonetheless; it was quite likely he would never see his own estates again, or sleep in his own bed.
There was an odd look in Guttier’s eyes, not the flaring triumph of a man who has overcome a threat to his life, something almost – hurt? When he spoke again, his tone was much quieter.
“Why did you do it, Oliver? You served my father loyally; and the Moors are at the gates! You killed a hundred men once, to preserve the castle-peace of this besieged kingdom. And you were right, too. The moment we were disunited, the Sultan jumped right in. If we don’t have unity, we’ll have nothing. Why did you, of all people, rebel?”
Oliver blinked, lips parting slightly in surprise; Guttier didn’t sound angry, as you would expect from a boy coming into manhood when an adult disparaged his competence. Rather, he sounded bitterly disappointed. Between one breath and the next he understood, and almost laughed out loud. The boy had admired him! Oliver was surely the foremost warrior in his besieged kingdom – the wielder of Durendal, no less, who had led Christian armies on many bloody fields. Just the sort of man that a young king might admire, seek to emulate, even hero-worship – right up until he turned around and raised his banners in rebellion, and broke that fragile peace that he had spent his life upholding and defending. Oliver laughed, bitterly. What harm in speaking truth, now, when all was lost?
One of the stricken fields on which Oliver has led Christian soldiers – in this case, defeating the Sultan in conjunction with our esteemed Frankish allies.
“Why did I rebel? After Tuy, which the royal army sat out in safety at Coruna, thirty miles from the fighting? After the retreat to Burgos, with the Sultan’s zenatas swarming around us like bees, and the king’s promised aid to his vassals always a day late and ten miles short? After the Galician Campaign? I needed those troops, dammit! We were so close; just a hundred men on the right flank…” Oliver realised that his voice had grown loud, and blew out his breath gustily, trying to let the old anger go with it. “Unity in war is a fine thing,” he said in a calmer tone. “But it needs the substance as much as the form. If the royal forces had been under my command at Tuy, the Sultan would be fortifying Evora.”
The disastrous battle of Tuy; note the royal Asturian army sitting in Coruna, not lifting a finger to defend the King’s lands, while Leon pours out blood and treasure like water.
Guttier swallowed. “I was too young then,” he whispered. “If I’d been older – or better advised…” he trailed off, glancing aside at the row of advisers, standing quite literally behind his throne. The old King’s marshal was among them, Oliver saw; his old antagonist, Johan, greyer now than when they’d last met outside Coruna, but just as dim. His cheeks were red, whether with drink or with anger Oliver couldn’t tell.
“It is done,” Oliver said tiredly. “All things are accomplished in accordance with the will of God.” He sat down on the low dais, at Guttier’s feet, and rested his head in his hands.
December 15th, 1936
Headquarters of the Kwantung Army, Manchuria
“Maggiore David Ziani, reporting as ordered.” The guards knew him, and gave him only a cursory look-over before gesturing him into the farm building that served as temporary headquarters; as liaison officer of Japan’s primary ally in this war, David was a familiar figure to the staff. Entering, he quickly found the shrine to the God-Emperor, and saluted it; then turned to locate his actual flesh-and-blood superior officer, and saluted him too.
“Sir,” he said, which was military courtesy in both the Venetian and Japanese armies, indicating that he was at his superior’s disposal; it was a minor irony that the curt monosyllable he used was the English one, that being the main common language of two militaries which had not fought each other in centuries, but often fought the world-spanning British Empire.
“Major Ziani.” The Marshal-General returned his salute, and gestured to the farmer’s dining table, which had been drafted. It was clear of clutter; only three large-scale maps of the Manchurian front covered the wood tabletop. “Two days ago I asked three officers to prepare situation maps, starting with the known deployments at the start of the war, and using the daily movement reports of the corps and divisions.”
“Yes, sir?” David had sweated over the useless task for two days, handing in his finished map close to midnight the day before; he hadn’t known he wasn’t the only one so victimised. Was there some use to it after all?
“One of my own staff; the German liaison; and you. I find that the maps prepared by Oberst von Wetter and by Rikugun-Chusa Sato match very closely, as I would expect of well-trained staff officers; while yours, on the other hand, is immensely different. Do you understand why this should be the case?”
David found his mouth slightly open, and snapped it closed. The words “what a mistake-a to make-a” trembled on his lips; but he did not think the man in charge of a million men and two thousand tanks would much appreciate humour from an officer being roasted. “Ah – no explanation, sir.”
“No? That is unfortunate. Let me show you the main discrepancy.” The Marshal-General’s swagger stick tapped the two maps David had not made. “Here, the Yulin Valley. Well behind our lines. While on your map” – the swagger stick tapped the same location on David’s painstakingly-prepared map – “the Tenth Corps front is, unaccountably, halfway up the valley, far back from their furthest line of advance; indicating that they have either found a nice picnic spot and decided that the war can wait, or they have been driven back by an enemy counter-attack which has somehow left no trace in the other two maps.”
“Yes, sir,” David said, feeling himself come quite unwillingly to attention. How the Devil had he made such an error? Presumably he was about to be sent hom in disgrace; and yet he could not see how he had gone wrong. The Tenth Corps reports had, by the absent gods, shown that retreat up the valley; working only from the movement reports, with no access to orders or casualties, he had assumed there was some good reason of logistics or front-shortening, and merely marked the new position. Had some enemy fed him falsified reports? Who would gain from such an intrigue against a foreign officer with no power or friends in the Kwantung Army?
“At ease, Major.” The Marshal-General smiled tightly. “I did not have these maps prepared at a whim. This morning I went out in my personal airplane, and had a look at the Yulin Valley myself. In the dark it’s hard to see much; but the flash of artillery is quite distinctive. There is heavy firing, a corps-scale engagement, here.” The stick slammed down in the middle of the valley, on David’s map, just where he had drawn the Tenth Corps front. “Meaning that your map is correct. Meaning, also, that two experienced and loyal officers, working from the same reports you did and entirely separately, have somehow managed to come up with the same damned lie about Tenth Corps’s location; and there are other discrepancies too. Meaning, further, that an Indian counterattack has driven in my front, pushed one of my corps fifty miles back, is threatening to take Yulin itself and cut off supplies to Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Corps, and all this without me hearing a word about it. Except from you. So I ask again, Major; do you understand why this should be the case?”
Ice went up David’s spine, and his eyes went quite involuntarily to the insignia on his shoulders. To the new eagles, expensively hand-wrought in cold iron by order of il Doge; the Iron Eagles that had replaced the old cloth stars. The eagles that were dipped in oil-of-moly in the ceremony that promoted a man from captain to major; just as was done with all officer’s insignia, in this year of Grace 1936, “to symbolise the clear sight and unclouded mind required of an officer”. So went the reasoning in the Order Regarding Uniforms; but the whisper ran, in the barracks and the officer’s clubs, that Eliezer Aiello had not designed a cute little ritual to make men proud of their rank, that he genuinely believed in the supernatural power of cold iron and moly to make men see through deception. And now here was deception on a scale of continents, and a man wearing the eagles had seen through it. And if that was so… then anything might be true; the Indian Army might be getting intelligence from Georgian monks who had colonised the Moon, or the God-Emperor of Japan might be under the influence of mind-control rays and about to sign a peace leaving Venice in the lurch. If an entire army could be deceived by hypnotising its officers, to the point of not knowing about a corps-level attack; and if that deception could be foiled by moly and cold iron – then David’s entire worldview was in error, and would have to be rebuilt from scratch.
“What a mistake-a, to make-a,” he whispered; and then he dissolved, slowly, painlessly, as the simulation-dream ended.
The entity sometimes called the Jackal could not express its frustration physically; every so-called brain cell of its subhuman vessel, and many of those in what passed for its nervous system, was needed for even this crude, coarse-grained dream-simulation – an extrapolation which would once have been an idle moment’s thought. That was, perhaps, just as well; the degradation was approaching dangerous levels. This vessel must be its last, or nearly the last; it could not afford to waste its health on mere frustration by kicking brick walls to dust. Instead it vented its feelings by intervening in the simulation at a level far beyond what it could manage in the outer world, manifesting to each of the few conscious entities in the dream – only a dozen, now; even a hundred years ago it had been able to dream the consciousness of fifty subhumans – and showing them that their world was about to end, sadistically savouring their panic. But that tiny amusement soon palled; dream-simulated subhumans were even more worthless than the real ones. Instead the Jackal turned to considering what it had learned.
Easy enough to get India and Japan to fight; not too difficult, even with limited ability to directly manipulate minds, to enmesh Venice and Germany in the same web, and thus bring the American powers to the defense of India. Possible, even, to ensure that Japan was catastrophically defeated; and that would inevitably bring England into the war, and its ally Egypt; and would bring them in last, when they could pick and choose their terms, when all the powers of the world were committed to other fronts and Europe, with its vast industries, lay open for the taking. A master stroke; a plot worthy of the centuries it had spanned, carefully setting up the balance of power just so, nurturing just the right enmities and alliances, encouraging a territorial ambition here, an ideological difference there… all useless. The problem had not been visible at a century’s distance, or even a few decades; but now, only years from the crucial events, three dozen different dream-simulations all showed the same crucial difficulty. The war was too finely balanced; a meatgrinder in Asia, a drawn-out war of attrition, would not bring in the Great Powers in the right order. The defeat of Japan had to be a disaster, a catastrophe to devour a nation and shatter an empire – and that, in turn, required a blatant manipulation, a use of mind-fogging that could not be denied. The process would be slow, but inevitable; from a single Venetian officer attached to the Kwantung Army, through the Japanese government in exile, and from there to the great capitals, the knowledge would spread. The truth would be out, not in deniable whispers or wink-and-nod jokes but in openly acknowledged words, that the subhumans were at war with something other than themselves; and though in its prime the Jackal could have laughed at a planet full of such creatures, the millennia had taken their toll. United, even under what passed for leadership in subhuman England, this self-described civilisation of two-legged apes was its match.
The great plot, the climax towards which it had worked for four centuries, was flawed at its core. Somehow the variables had gotten away, the simulations had failed to show the outcome that was now most likely. The Jackal would have snarled in near despair, if the nerves controlling its vocal cords had been free to carry signals not part of the simulation. And yet, after all, it wasn’t a subhuman, to have only one plan. The dream-simulations it had done ten years ago had failed to show this danger; but entropy, in the end, was the final truth to which every planner must submit – and therefore, every wise planner made allowance for randomness. There was a second plan, more dangerous; a longer shot, though with a higher payoff if it succeeded – not that that mattered, any more. A plan that was the only one left had to be tried, no matter how risky.
It would still be better than a land war in Asia.
As Kuipy noted, there was a bit of an issue with the conversion; mea culpa. I attempted to buff the smaller players a bit relative to the Great Powers, by using the industry shaping factor in Idhrendur’s converter; however, in my focus on players I didn’t think about what that would do to the real minors, the likes of France and Venetian Australia – the ones that exist because EU4 has that colonial nation mechanic and Victoria makes it a real pain to annex them. In particular, the shaping factor of 0.5 that I settled on as making Venice somewhat more reasonably matched with England (in terms of our Victoria industrial scores) had the unfortunate side effect of giving the minors three to five dozen factories each, thus:
|No scaling||Scaling = 0.5|
So France, for example, starts with 65 (!) factories, and also at war with England. As a project of buffing the minor players, this completely backfired – I instead buffed whoever could conquer the AI minors first. This did not particularly benefit the minor players. After some discussion, the Vermilion Decree was issued, swaying the four corners of the world, majestic in its simplicity yet far-reaching in its implications: “Rollback to 35”.
This was, in my opinion, the least bad of the available options; but not everyone saw it thus. In particular, Ragatokk, playing India, was sufficiently annoyed to quit. This is a pity, because Ragatokk is apparently an inspired player of HoI4. Probably it was the loss of his immense tactical successes in this last session, now revealed as a mere dream-simulation done by the Jackal for its own purposes, that enraged him enough to quit. In particular, he (presumably greatly aided by the Jackal’s blatant mind-fogging!) managed to encircle, and subsequently destroy, the remainder of the Japanese army on the Asian mainland:
This was done while whatever emergency dribs and drabs he could spare managed to build a front against the Venetian and German attacks in the west; Delhi fell, but we bogged down in the watershed of the Narmada river, unable to concentrate enough forces on our long front to punch through. For my part, I got too intensely involved in the southern part of this lengthy battle, where I attempted to cross the Narmada in such a way as to create a pocket around Bombay:
This did eventually work:
But far too late, and kept me from noticing what Ragatokk was doing further north:
Meanwhile, American reinforcements had arrived and Ragatokk had accomplished his Second Great Encirclement and freed up troops for a counteroffensive. Although I did destroy some Indian divisions in Bombay, what I mainly accomplished was to trap the army that had done so in a pocket with no ports, when his northern counterattack broke the front entirely and pushed to the Gulf of Khambat – the bit of water that separates the Gujarat peninsula from the Indian mainland, and in this case, separated my main striking force from its sources of supply. To be honest, the American alliance seems a bit redundant, here; Ragatokk is apparently able to fight three other powers and come out on top – note that the American troops didn’t arrive until after the two encirclements had been accomplished.
On a more comic-relief note, I’m told that the routing AI sent the South American troops (unescorted!) through the Med, where my 72 level-1 subs sank four transports. This does uphold the proud tradition of the Venetian Navy, which has never yet failed to lose with honour and dignity where a victory was crucial; at least I didn’t lose my whole fleet this time. So I suppose that was a victory, of sorts.
On the whole it is not so bad to have had a practice run; the Jackal is one with us subhumans in this. I think I’ve learned a couple of things, and will do better for purely tactical matters on the second go-around; you play with good players, you git gud, or at least gudder. To be sure, others may have learned too. I’ll be very interested to see what happens when we start again.
January 7th, 774
A hill near Coruna, in the Kingdom of Asturias
It was, of course, raining; a hard drizzle blown in from the Western Sea by a chill wind, unobstructed from here to the world’s edge. Even in his heavy woolens, lined with down, Oliver felt the chill. The prisoners had been stripped of their clothes – damaged goods and cheap, most of it, but why waste anything on condemned men? – and were shivering, which gave their efforts to stand defiant and look death in the eye a slightly pathetic air. Just leaving them out for the night would perhaps suffice, saving the need for executions – but no; best have it over with. Oliver looked at them without favour; after he’d shattered their ragtag army at Santiago there had been no purpose in their keeping together, and every sheep they’d lifted in their fighting retreat had been pure waste. If they’d had the good sense to scatter, as most of their comrades had done, or even to take the Crescent and go across the border to serve out their lives as soldiers of the infidel, he could have celebrated Christmas at home, rather than spend the winter months chasing across these western hills.
“They’ll be useless if they freeze to death,” Johan complained, and Oliver glanced at him in surprise.
The King’s marshal, and representative in the field. Not a bright man, but very well suited to charging straight through a shield wall.
“Do you think so? I suppose it’s more merciful than impaling them, but I hardly think the `mercy’ of freezing to death will inspire anyone else to rebellion.”
Now it was Johan who looked confused, not that it was very difficult to confuse the King’s marshal; give him a charge to lead and he was a splendid fellow to have at your side, but for anything more complex than getting swords into enemy guts, you might be better off with his horse. Fleetingly Oliver wished that the King himself had come; but men of over sixty did not fare well in winter campaigns. That was why marshals, and vassals-in-chief, existed.
“Slaves, man! They can’t work our fields if they’re all dead, can they?”
“Rebels, man!” Oliver returned the marshal’s tone exactly. “You can’t enslave rebels; the Code calls for death. And they’ve already risen in revolt once; are you going to keep an eye on them every hour of the day?”
“They won’t run with their hamstrings cut. Are your lands so well peopled that you can afford to turn down a hundred strong men?”
Oliver winced; the man had a point. He was one of the wealthiest men in Asturias, but a hundred healthy young slaves would be a significant addition to his capital; with such a labour force he could clear half the out-march for the plow, repair the aqueduct, add a stylish tower to the church and make God remember his name favourably on Judgement Day… but the law was clear. And besides:
“If men can revolt and not die for it, what’ll prevent others from doing the same? It takes a fearsome threat to keep freeborn Visigoth men to their station.” He paused, seeing the point enter Johan’s thick skull and rattle around in search of the brain; to drive it home he gestured to the nearest rebel, a tall man with a mop of blonde hair that Oliver rather envied. If he had hair like that he would wear it to his shoulders, as the men who’d conquered Iberia were said to have done to proclaim their freeborn status. “You man! Why did you revolt?”
Some random peasant.
“Why should I tell you?” the rebel returned. Something in his eyes made Oliver’s hand go to his sword; it was a famous blade, “the sharpest in all the world” if you believed the bards – but some men were dangerous naked and with their bare hands for weapon.
“If you don’t,” he began, but paused; the rebel was already condemned, and didn’t seem like the sort of man to be intimidated by losing a few hours of life. “If you do,” he started over, “I’ll take you over to our campfires and give you a last meal.”
The rebel shrugged. “Eh, why not? I may as well die with a full belly. I rebelled because there’s no justice in the courts. A neighbour brought suit against me, saying my sheep were his because they’d broken a fence and grazed on his lands; it wasn’t true, but he bought six witnesses and the judge. Count Luitfredo wouldn’t hear my appeal. What should I have done, sold myself into slavery?”
Oliver winced, wishing he hadn’t asked; but at least it was clear ammunition for his argument with Johan.
“There, you see? Men enrich themselves against the law, and what do you get but revolts? I won’t say I’ve no use for a hundred slaves; but I value peace in my lands even more. The infidel isn’t so far from here, you know, and would like nothing better than for Christians to quarrel ourselves into weakness. If we don’t have castle-peace among ourselves, the Saracens will make peace; the peace of submission. It’s injustice begets rebellion, nothing else; and what’s injustice, but men becoming rich by breaking the law?”
“We should all be fools to pray for justice,” Johan quoted sullenly; Oliver rolled his eyes.
“Yes, yes, God may certainly grant these men mercy, by all means let it be so! But I don’t intend to pray for justice, I intend to deal justice; and justice is death, for these men.”
Johan looked as though he’s still like to protest, but the rebel, quicker witted, got there first: “Well said! And do you also propose to do justice in Santiago, and enforce the law on the corrupt magistrates there?”
Oliver gritted his teeth, wishing again that he hadn’t asked for the man’s reasons; he’d been much happier not knowing. “Santiago’s not my fief,” he muttered, knowing it for a feeble excuse even before the rebel’s eyes flashed contempt. “And I’ve only your word for the matter, anyway!”
“My word,” the rebel agreed, “and the word of a thousand men who were willing to risk death for my cause. Do you think men take arms against the king because they’ve had too much beer?”
Oliver looked down. “No,” he said, conscious that a baseborn rebel had somehow gotten the moral high ground on him, a Visigoth lord and the son of a paladin. He raised his gaze, meeting the man’s eyes with an effort. “It might take me a while.”
The rebel sneered. “Longer than my life, anyway. Promises to dead men are cheap, eh?”
Oliver shrugged. “Not if the right man gives them.” Something in his tone must have gotten through, for the rebel nodded, no longer sneering.
Oliver at eighteen. Young men are sometimes impetuous; he may not entirely have thought this through.
“That’s true,” he said. “I’ll hold you to it, then. And if you should chance to come across Hespanisco’s widow, you’ll give her the twenty sheep I’m owed?”
Oliver’s mouth twisted. “I think you’ve had that back, twice over, with your banditry; on men no richer than yourself. Be satisfied if a corrupt magistrate hangs.”
“It was worth a try.” Hespanisco shrugged. “What about that last meal, then?”
Oliver gestured towards the campfires, and the rebel stepped across the invisible line that separated free men from condemned. Oliver looked at Johan, still struggling to come up with some new argument, and realised he would never convince the man; but then, why was he even trying? He had, after all, the power of high and low justice… and also two-thirds of the fighting men who had broken and harried the rebel host. What was Johan going to do about it? He turned instead to Piarres, his chief liutenant.
“Kill them all,” he said. “And may God have mercy on their souls.”
The Sons of Raghnall is ended; here begins The Matter of Spain, in which I played a Spanish dynasty descended from Charlemagne’s chief paladin, Roland. The campaign did not make it out of Crusader Kings, because one of the players won convincingly; but I wrung some good narratives from it. Here is the introduction, written before the first session of gameplay.
Oh, you mean a story,
full of blood and guts,
showing the wars
as a man might see them.
They’re full of lies, you know;
only the dead
have seen the truth of war.
And to kill a protagonist
while sometimes done
is a shabby trick;
the living reader
does not truly feel
the weight of death
that is written
in ink on paper.
In any case
a narrative demands
an inspired writer
whose head is full
of stories of war
and not of cotton.
Sick men write
no great narratives
a few lines of free verse
may sneak through;
they’re slippery, those
pieces. You should trust them
as much as you trust
a fine well-written story
of war; which is to say
not at all.
In this session we reached 1936, and Venice fought three interlinked wars: Against Egypt, against India, and against England.
The first war was the result of Kuipy’s desire to get revenge for the Nile Delta War, recover my African enclaves, and push the Venetian border back across the Suez. To accomplish this he built up an army in his Arabian possessions, and attacked in April with a wargoal of five states. Fortunately, the small circle of moly I keep around my gaming chair kept my mind unclouded, and I was able to see the subtle warning signs:
Fortunately, even so subtle and elusive a Power as the Jackal, with its PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES, cannot move in the world entirely without leaving tracks that the sufficiently wise may note.
There was nothing I could do about his control of the desert weather, but I did manage to move rather a large number of submarines to the Red Sea, where they could in principle interfere with his supply lines. The Jackal’s powers are much reduced by salt water; however, by PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES it has managed to darken the minds of a particular set of Swedes, so that level-1 submarines are in fact entirely useless in HoI4 (more on this later). If the subs had any effect on the Arabian War I have yet to learn of it. Fortunately I wasn’t relying on them; I should have been so wise in other wars.
One of the Jackal’s special sandstorms, affecting only one side of a front line.
Instead I relied on my small but excellent army. As shown in the sandstorm screenshot above, the numbers of divisions were about equal; eleven on my side, eleven stacks on Kuipy’s – if we assume that those are all one-division stacks and there are no reserves, exactly equal numbers. (This leaves out whatever Kuipy had in Africa; since he failed miserably to break the Suez Line in spite of multiple attacks, those units might as well not have existed.) However, where our lines touched, his crumbled like paper, and I was able to punch two holes in his line and rush my tanks through:
First encirclement of the Arabian War.
Note the different widths and attacks of our divisions. Idhrendur’s converter creates three kinds of division: ‘Advance’, ‘Support’, and ‘Basic’. The Advance has line artillery plus supporting engineers and recon battalions; the support has either line artillery or support battalions, but not both; the basic has neither. How many of each you get depends on your army composition in Vicky. My army converted entirely as Advance divisions; I think I’m facing a Support here, or perhaps even a Basic with some tweaking to make it width twenty. In any case they were quite unable to put up any serious resistance against the glorious advance of the Venetian army; in pretty short order I had another encirclement:
Second encirclement, and ready to push for Yemen.
and once that pocket collapsed it was all over except for another heroic last stand in the southern Arabian mountains.
At this point the obvious next step is to use my complete naval superiority to cross the Red Sea, or alternatively the Med, and invade Egypt proper. I fact my esteemed German allies had done precisely that, but got chucked out again, indicating presumably that Kuipy Had Reserves hidden somewhere on the Dark Continent. However, while I was winning a crushing victory in the Arabian War, I had also got embroiled in the Indochina War, declared by India against my ally Japan. In truth I was rather expecting my participation in that conflict to be symbolic, pro-forma, and quickly over, which is of course exactly how people get involved in land wars in Asia.
Heavy fighting expected on the Persian border.
It turns out, however, that Ragatokk, playing India, is as tactically formidable as ever, whatever the industrial strengths. Taking advantage of some weakness in Gollevainen’s prewar deployment, he was able to encircle a large Japanese force in Indochina, then rapidly advance to the Pacific coast, driving the Japanese pell-mell before him and into their ships. (Gollevainen states that he was able to evacuate a large part of his army, but not all of it.) That still left a Manchurian front, which is still fairly well stalemated; Japan has not been driven off the mainland, but has lost the southern part of its Pacific rim. Nonetheless India was able to redeploy a reasonable army to my entirely undefended Persian front, and start advancing. So instead of invading across the Red Sea, I force-marched my divisions north as fast as they became available, eventually stopping the Indian advance in the Iranian highlands. Conveniently, due to the aforementioned heroic last stand in the Yemen mountains, half a dozen divisions were freed up just as my new Persian front began to advance here and there; rather than fight a grinding attritional struggle through those mountains, I shipped them across the Persian Gulf:
The Persian landing.
Shortly thereafter, the glory of Venetian arms (I’ll allow Germany an assist) was enhanced by another encirclement:
At this time, however, the third war started, and went rather more unfortunately for me. England, worried about the fate of Egypt after its disastrous loss in Arabia – neither moly nor cold iron are in fashion, this decade, in Whitehall – accepted the Accursed Republic into its faction, and immediately launched an attack across the Tyrrhenian Sea. This, unfortunately, is where I was relying on those useless subs, my army being already stretched to its limits – who defends everything, defends nothing, as the man said. You would think that fifty of the things, operating in so constrained a body of water as the Tyrrhenian, would at least inconvenience an invasion; the more so when supported by land-based aircraft. Not a bit of it. Baron was able to land at his leisure, and if he had any supply problems they weren’t worth noticing. Instead I scrambled to put together a fighting line at the edge of the Po plain:
Clenching the muscles of the soft underbelly.
Note the futile English attacks on the fortified Po Line in the west; seven divisions holding off twenty. For a while it looked like I would even be able to hold the edge of the mountains, and thus maintain at least my Venetian factories in the fight. In that case, I might have waited for the New World, in its power and its might, to come forth to the rescue, and the liberation, of the Old. (Not to mention completing the conquest of India, and the freeing up of the Imperial Japanese Army to fight in Europe.) Alas, it was not to be:
The Po Line still holds, but both flanks are ruptured and it is in danger of double envelopment.
We are currently negotiating a limited peace in Europe and Africa.
World map, September 1936.
This game began over a year ago, with almost twice the number of player slots it has now; it has a bunch of backstory and long-dead dynasties, and may need some introduction for people who habitually read about games set in recent history. So herewith a look at the world of Recessional in the year 1935, with extensive backstory links.
World situation, January 1935.
Beginning with the near hegemon, England – also known as the Wicked Wardenate of the West; there was once an equally alliterative Evil Empire of the East, but it is now a memory – is no longer quite so dominant in industry and army as it was throughout EU4 and Victoria; this is partly due to the industrial flattening of the converter, and partly to a disastrous rebellion in the final Victoria session. It got to the point where army units were going over to the rebels every few months; to end the pain, the sub (Blayne, currently playing the United Colonies) decided to let the dang liberals take over. The London Spring did end the civil war, but at the price of bringing laissez-faire liberals into power, which resulted in a drastic collapse of the state-controlled industries as they were sold off to the best-connected bidder at pennies on the pound, and then dismantled for quick profit. England is still the foremost industrial nation, but not by as much as was the case even so late as 1930. Its air force (as of the conversion) is only at parity with Venice’s, and its army has fallen behind Germany’s due to the massive purges. Still, it retains powerful strategic advantages: With 10 battleships and 8 battlecruisers, its navy meets the two-power standard. (I discuss naval strength more fully below.) Its historic alliance with the People’s Rebublic of Denmark remains strong. And its many colonies allow it to project power everywhere in the world, and to draw an immense amount of resources and manpower from expendable peoples. England’s history is one of continuous expansion; it single-handedly destroyed the French and Spanish player slots and absorbed most of their lands, and more recently it has occupied Venice’s ancient dominions in Algeria. England is played by baronbowden, also known as Bruce, our GM.
Foremost among the expendable peoples is Denmark, a state whose survival, when far worthier countries like Persia and Byzantium have fallen, demonstrates that there is no justice in the world. Given the rich gift of Scandinavia’s Viking heritage and a highly defensible, sea-girt peninsula as a home base, what have the Danes done with it? Sucked up to England and failed to defend their North American colonies. They don’t even have the courage of their Communist convictions – Denmark’s first diplomatic move in HoI4 was to join the “Commonwealth of Nations”, the faction of bourgeois-democratic England. World revolution, what’s that? In future games I will insist that the Scandinavian player slot must start in Norway; Denmark is just too conducive to hygge, it can’t form a proper warrior nation that will backstab allies and swear vicious vengeance on enemies! Other than the CK consolidation and EU colonies, Denmark’s territory comes mostly from the recent partition of Russia; it used to have a large Canadian dominion, now lost to Fox. Denmark is played by Fivoin. It has a navy, an army, and no personality.
Moving clockwise (and ignoring the scattered light blue that denotes the remnants of recently-partitioned Russia), we come to the big blue blob that is Japan, sometimes called ‘Chzo’; where the converter got “Tosan Empire” is a mystery to me. It is played by Gollevainen, a veteran of multiplayer megacampaigns although not of CK2. Japan has recently absorbed Korea and half of Russia, and is considered fourth among the Great Powers – some distance down from the top three, but defended by isolation and the Pacific. It has, nonetheless, lost some islands recently to English aggression, and will no doubt seek revenge if England should be distracted by European conflicts. Japan has the distinction of having the world’s largest battleship fleet, with no less than 15; however these behemoths are not protected by any escorts – Gollevainen having perhaps reasoned that he can pump out destroyers in the first year (by house rule, our start date is 1935 and there are no player wars until 1936) and have an effective fighting fleet ready. Japan has absorbed most of the former player slot Korea, considerable of Russia, and bits and bobs of Fandango, the Indian state that once extended far into Indochina. Japan is part of a tripartite alliance between the three main fascist powers, the other two being Germany and Venice; for obvious historical reasons this faction is called the Entente.
The “Delhiite Empire” is better known as War, short for Peshawar, from its ancient capital. It is played by Ragatokk; its resemblance, on the map, to a half-formed dinosaur taking a chomp out of Japanese Korea is, no doubt, coincidental. Although fascist, War is unaligned. In EU4 it was a formidable land power, at one point managing to fight England to a standstill; intermittent and indifferent play in Victoria saw it much reduced in power, although still tactically formidable. Nonetheless, in industry and resources it is now probably the least of the powers. War’s strategy in a conflict with any of its neighbours must be defensive – hunker down behind the mountainous borders and appeal to one of the Great Powers to save it, and hope the rescue gets there in time. Still, it does have quite a bit of difficult terrain to trade for time. War has expanded by absorbing most of its one-time ally Fandango and some small parts of Russia; it also got some bits of Korea, and spent much of EU4 struggling to conquer the Persian highland plateau on its western border.
Egypt, the nemesis, the ancient enemy. Don’t listen to Kuipy, its player, the man (if man he be; on the Internet, who can tell if you are a soulless, inhuman entity from the furthest reaches of spacetime?) who of us all is most vulnerable to its influence; his science-fiction backstory is a thin rationalisation around the true horror. Though nominally democratic, it is in reality under the firm control of the Jackal. It is currently unaligned, which reflects the fact that the Jackal is quite incapable of making treaty with “subhumans”; at most it may put marks on paper for temporary tactical advantage. Egypt is famous for its PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES, which is just as well, since it has to be said that it is not famous for any great victories. Egypt has never absorbed a player nation; it has struggled even to maintain domination of the Nile Delta, which has been variously owned by Byzantium, Venice, and the former Spanish player slot. It has fought epic wars with Venice for control of Africa, and emerged mostly victorious; Venetian Libya is no more, Venetian East Africa is two enclaves on the coast, and even those only recently restored in the Nile Delta War. Still, Egypt retains its immense strategic advantage of being able to cloud men’s minds; when speaking of it, make sure you have cold iron and moly near to hand.
West across the Ocean Sea, we come to the United Colonies, a player slot created early in Victoria from England’s and Fox’s South American colonies as part of those two nations’ short-lived detente. It is played by Blayne, formerly of Byzantium and, when that country collapsed, Korea. As a side note, Blayne, Gollevainen, and myself are all veterans of the very first multiplayer megacampaign, the Great Game. Blayne is the only player other than myself to have played in all of the Great Game, There Will Be War, God Will Know His Own, Children of the Fatherland, and both Recessionals. Being a new nation, the United Colonies have much less backstory than any of the other player slots, though perhaps Blayne will let it borrow Byzantium’s. If so, it’s worth noting that Byzantium was the linchpin of multiple coalition wars in EU4, being (in the main) allied to England against Germany and Venice. It finally collapsed when Bruce refused to support his ally any further, and all its neighbours gleefully tore it apart – this event is the source of about a third of Venezia-oltre-il-Mare, the Venetian empire in the Middle East, which also contains the ex-slots of Syria and Persia, and some provinces that used to be Egyptian. The United Colonies are the junior partner in the American faction.
The senior partner is Fox, the green power dominating all of North America – a recent development; it spent EU colonising what in OTL is the United States and Mexico, then in Vicky kicked Denmark out of Canada in a series of wars. Fox is played by Tazzzo. I am somewhat unhappy with the way the American setup played out in this campaign; in future iterations I might suggest that we not have any human slots in America, to encourage colonial competition. (Although arguably the problem is the way EU4 makes it difficult to get any long-term gain from colonies.) Alternatively I might insist that we have several, to avoid the issue of all of America becoming One Humongous Blob. (The problem with that approach is, you can set up N slots but you can’t guarantee that they’ll all be played through all of EU4, much less well played.) Fox leads its faction, and has the second-largest navy (after England) and the second-largest army (after Germany) upon conversion; it’s quite unclear what it will do with them, however. Nobody knows what the fox says.
The big grey blob in the middle is Germany, England’s main enemy and Venice’s main ally; it has the largest conversion army but very little flavour – the small bits of personality it once possessed were sold off to fund another couple of regiments. Germany is played by JacobGood, and leads the Entente, the fascist alliance. It has absorbed Poland, Hungary, the Balkan third of Byzantium, and most recently, large parts of Russia. It has an Adriatic port in just the right place to separate the Italian mainland from Dalmatia and Venice’s Greek possessions. Its trains run on time.
Finally, Venice! I started the game as its only merchant republic, and retained that form of government until 1893; since then, Venice has experimented with communism, laissez-faire democracy, and now (freely and fairly elected) fascism. In each of these systems of government, nonetheless, the cream has risen to the top and the Aiello (as Eliezer observes in that first link) have, if anything, become even more dominant than they were under the old system of patrician oligarchy, where they had to contend with a Senate containing Contarini and Dandolo members, not to mention the Thousand Committees that the Venetian government has acquired over the centuries. In truth, the Venetians have yet to acquire a government structure they didn’t like. Even the Syndicates of the twenty-year Communist interlude are still around, as is the People’s Senate; they just aren’t formally sovereign any more. Neither is the restored old-style Senate, nor the Zoning Board (if you don’t think the Zoning Board of Venice has held sovereign powers, you haven’t seen a Venetian politician smile as he plans a canal through an opponent’s warehouse), nor the Council of Ten, the Great Council, or the East of Suez Club. Instead, all power is vested in il Doge, Eliezer Aiello – a different Eliezer from the one who led the Communist revolution. (There are several thousand Aiello and only about a dozen names to go around. It’s a problem.) Anyway, that’s what the Emergency Powers Decree says; and maybe Eliezer even believes it.
Venice has held Italy fairly peacefully since the unification (excepting the English enclaves) in the fourteenth century; it has ruled Libya and Algeria on and off, most recently off. In EU4 I acquired a trade-and-islands empire in the Indian Ocean and as far as Australia, most of which is now gone. In compensation, Venezia-oltre-il-Mare – the Middle Eastern dominion – has absorbed all of what used to be Syria, most of Persia, and such bits of Byzantium as didn’t go to Germany or Denmark. I also acquired some parts of Russia in that nation’s spectacular collapse and partition. Venice’s army is small but good; my air force is the same size as England’s at 360 fighting planes (as of conversion). My navy has, unfortunately, not really been the same since the disaster in the Straits of Hormuz. Still, I have a battleship, and that’s the mark of a Great Power; and I believe I can defend the Tyrrhenian Sea. Most of all, Venice is the only Power that is aware of the true evil that moves in Egypt, and has the means – not so much material resources, but a ruling elite that believes, and is willing to look ridiculous in acting on the belief – to oppose it effectively. It wasn’t tanks that won the Nile Delta War, although Venice had them and Egypt didn’t; it was the ability to make the tanks run through sandstorms that affected only one side of the line. Against this, I am caught up in the cold war between England and Germany, and the need to defend my industrial heartland against what is still a very large army dislocates my whole strategic posture; there is little to spare for defending Venezia-oltre-il-Mare, if that war should go hot and India or Egypt should decide to take advantage. And, as we are dealing with PLOTS SPANNING CENTURIES, you may be sure that events will take their most inconvenient possible course.
We converted to January 1935, and imposed a one-year moratorium on player wars, to give people some time to prepare; so there is little gameplay action to report. I completed the Po Line, level-7 forts (the maximum is modded down) in the mountains facing English Savoy, and sent some of my new divisions to man it, freeing up the conversion ones for a striking force whose location is currently classified.
Navies were converted from a combination of Victoria ships and naval bases, which gave us points that we could spend on ships:
England - 468620
Fox - 261980
Chzo - 168919
Denmark - 131404
Germany - 88501
Venice - 70055
Peru - 60106
War - 7047
Egypt - 0
Battleship = 9600
Battle Cruiser = 7500
Heavy Cruiser = 4200
Light Cruiser = 3100
Destroyer = 900
Submarine = 450
Leftover points were converted into convoys at 10 points per convoy (in addition to converter ones). The conversion navies reveal a variety of naval philosophies:
Egypt had no navy at conversion, and India did not post a navy publicly – this may indicate that Ragatokk sent his navy in a PM to Tazzzo, or that he doesn’t have one. It would be small anyway. If you do some math you will notice that several nations have bought metric shit-tons of convoys, in some cases enough to form a bridge of ships across the Atlantic; presumably they are the ones who expect to lose all their naval battles and are still determined to get their supplies through the enemy battleships by dint of We Have Reserves.