Category Archives: Recessional

Dominion of the Dreki: Emergency Powers Activated

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.

England, 934


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Azure Three Bezants: Return to Italy

In which two offensives fail, and the end is not yet.

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Dominion of the Dreki: Great Holy War

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.

Harald Hysingson

The killer. Note how, apart from me, he’s rival to both his sisters; note also the Kinslayer trait and the dead brother. Hmm.

Hysing of Somerset

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.

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Azure Three Bezants: The Balkan Campaign

For various technical and organisational reasons we had a short session on the 19th, but we did manage to get all the nations played and advance to April 1938.

The liberation of Africa left me with a pleasant problem: What was I going to do with all these troops that had just become available? I had two main options: Another invasion across the Black Sea, to get into the rear of the Danish and German armies holding the Caucasus Front, or alternatively, to cross the Med to liberate Greece. The first had the advantage that, if it worked, it might be a war-winning blow; reach the Caspian, cut off something on the order of fifty divisions from supplies, free up our own forces on the Caucasus front to charge into the Ukrainian plans, and likewise cut off, or at least force to retreat, the enemy armies holding the Urals against the Indians. The least that could be expected from such a stroke was to move the fighting line well into Poland – if it worked. I had, however, tried it before, and bogged down in a swarm of suddenly-appearing German divisions. It appears to me that although the Commonwealth players are curiously sloppy about guarding their actual ports, they do keep a strong central reserve, at least in crucial places like the Ukraine, ready to fling against breakthroughs or landings.

The Greek landing was less ambitious, but did offer the possibility of reaching the Black Sea and cutting off the thirty-or-so divisions besieging Constantinople, and freeing up the defenders of that city. Having done so I’d be faced with a slog through the Balkan mountains, but I’d be that much closer to Italy and Germany; additionally, Greece has a reasonable amount of industry which I’d like back, and enough Venetian cores that I’d no longer be one major defeat away from forced surrender. Further, its success would not be an all-or-nothing matter like reaching the Caspian; even just taking the Peloponnese would give me naval and air bases to improve my grip on the Eastern Med and start getting back into the Adriatic. Holding the Crimea, on the other hand, would be useless – just another place to occupy my limited troops; if I went across the Black Sea I would either reach the Caspian or I’d be evacuating and back to square one. (Or, worst case, lose my port and my invasion force.) All things considered, I decided to go with the lower-risk, lower-reward option:

The invasion plan. I used multiple embarkation ports to keep the planning time to a single week.

A third possibility was to form my armies into a reserve in the Caucasus, and ask my allies to retreat a bit in the face of the continued Danish attacks on our right flank there, which had been slowly pushing down the Caspian shore. The idea would be to draw in a large number of enemy troops into what would look like a possible breakthrough into my Mesopotamian and Persian lands – a victory that might knock Venice out of the war. Then, when they had been drawn out, punch through their line in the north using my cleverly-husbanded army, reach the Caspian shore, and kill the breakthrough troops; with a bit of luck, the whole Caucasus front could be thrown north into the Ukraine, threatening the rear of the Ural Line as before. However, this would rely on, firstly, the other side actually doing that attack; and, secondly, that we could in fact force our way through several mountain provinces to reach the Caspian, and fast enough to prevent Fivoin from just pulling his spearhead back. I reached the conclusion that this conceded too much initiative and also didn’t have a high enough chance of working, and went with the Greek plan.

Landings in Greece, creating a well-supplied beachhead. I also landed some troops outside the ports to boost my push for the Black Sea coast, intending the supplies to catch up to them later.

The landings went without a hitch; however, at this point the German navy showed up for the first time in the game. This was rather disconcerting; I had been assuming that the Eastern Med was now our lake – but as the heavily-fortified strip in Morocco was still holding out, the Commonwealth controlled the Gibraltar Strait, and our German player had apparently decided that there was no use in keeping the conversion navy in reserve any more. That would be a sensible choice; the longer the game goes on the more carriers and high-level ships there are, and the level-1 destroyers and capital ships from Victoria are a wasting asset. To lose a number of them, perhaps even all of them, in stopping an invasion – better still, stopping half an invasion, trapping the other half on its landing beaches, and restore some of the balance lost in the African campaign by crushing the beachheads – would surely be a worthwhile exchange. I was, therefore, rather unsettled to see those destroyers – fifty of the things, gah! Nonetheless I decided to take the chance, for two reasons: First I had a battlecruiser and nearby air support and they didn’t, and second, I had allies with carriers. So I launched the followup waves anyway – damn the torpedoes!

Foxy tanks have rushed to the Adriatic, creating a pocket around Ulcinj.

Fortunately my allies were awake, and landed their own troops to support me; some Foxy tanks charged right across the peninsula to cut off the Greek defenders from their friends – although not from supply, as they still held Ulcinj. This is the same port that supplied my Albanian Front after the evacuation of Italy, whose disastrous loss caused the twenty-division Forza Italia, which I had deftly extracted from the collapsing defense of the peninsula, to surrender for lack of supplies; I may have smiled a bit when I saw that. If so, I should not have allowed myself to be distracted; while I was chuckling over the irony, the German player launched a savage counterattack with troops pulled (I assume) from the siege of Constantinople, and chopped off the spearhead I was trying to get up to the Black Sea to break the siege.

Heavy German counterattacks attempt to rescue the Ulcinj pocket; they succeed in cutting off the spearhead going for the Black Sea coast, and even in retaking Thessalonica.

In spite of the loss of the spearhead, the mountains allowed us to stop the counterattack, and the increasingly heavy attacks all along our northern front as the German and English players got their reserves mobilised, and grind away at the pocket around Ulcinj; when the port fell, just as happened with my Albanian Front, it was all over. As with Achab in the previous session, I opine that the subs were perhaps a little too ready to fight doomed last stands; once it was down to a single port and the counterattacks were clearly bogged down, that pocket should have been evacuated forthwith, rather than allowed to collapse. Something between one and two dozen divisions were caught in this manner – not a good exchange rate for the Commonwealth against my seven spearhead divisions, even if they were elite infantry and tanks.

Successive stages of the battle for the Eastern Med, in which my two capital ships held off swarms of light German raiders long enough for the transports to get across, sinking many of them, then retreated in good order before superior numbers.

Dun-dun-dun-dundundun-dundundun… The Imperial battlefleet arrives with an ominous blare of brass instruments.

The Balkan fighting has now settled down to another grinding attritional struggle through mountains, which we already had quite enough of, thanks; but the naval situation has developed somewhat in our favour. While all this pocketing and counterattacking was going on, there was a constant naval battle in the Dodecanese. My battleship, the Vittorio Veneto, apparently developed into something of a sniper with its fourteen-inch guns, hitting and killing no less than twelve (!) destroyers; my battlecruiser got another six, and my lone Trento-class heavy cruiser sank three. My own screens took some losses as well, to be sure, but it appears that sending in destroyers against capital ships was something like the massacre it ought to be. Eventually the German battlefleet showed up, three battlecruisers, and I decided that enough was enough and pulled my ships out… but meanwhile my allies had been maneuvering their own fleets. The Imperial Japanese Navy converted with fifteen battleships, and has added some carriers (and a bunch of screens) since January 1935. The Germans escaped without, so far as I know, losing any capital ships; but perhaps it will be a while before they are seen in the Eastern Med again.

Eurasia, April 1938. The only major change from February is that Greece is once again in Venetian blue.

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Dominion of the Dreki: The Dutch in the Medway

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.

Some maps:

England, 910

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, 910

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.

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Azure Three Bezants: The African Campaign

There have been Further Developments in the issue of the naval-invasion rules. In particular, after the acrimonious debate that ended the February 26th session early, Baron sensibly recused himself and asked Fivoin, as vice GM, to rule on the issue. Fivoin, determining that the rule had been unclear and that, if it had been clarified as intended, Tazzzo and Blayne could easily have complied and launched their invasions anyway, issued a finding of no fault, no rollback. Baron then quit the game, leaving us without a player for England.

We then lost Tazzzo and Jacob temporarily, in both cases to additional shifts at their civilian jobs; the way modern countries prioritise butter over guns is disgraceful and unmanly, and cannot last very long in the view of history. At some point a virile military movement will arise to sweep aside these garbage-heaps of feminised kindergarten-states. However, on the timescale of weeks and days on which we need leaders for our Great Powers, the certainties of such dialectic analysis are not very helpful; the “if” is sure, the “when” is uncertain but probably not before Sunday. However, Blayne was able to fill the slots with subs; Dragoon returned to play Fox, Clonefusion played Germany, and Achab played England. Thus on March 5th we soldiered on; on the 12th, however, we were unable to find subs and skipped the session. We have great hope of being able to find sufficient players for the 19th.

The Suez Front, early in the session. The Sinai Defense Force is retreating in good order towards the fortified Suez Line; there are level-7 fortresses on both sides of the Canal.

So much for metagame developments. In the actual game, the fighting was, at the beginning of the March 5th session, on four fronts, or perhaps as many as six depending on how you count Africa. In the north the front ran along the Urals, with most of this line lightly held and active fighting only in the southern part, near the Caspian. There was another front crossing the Caucasus; in both of these cases the Commonwealth powers (German and Danish troops, for this part of the world) held good defensive positions, for the simple reason that wherever their position had not been so good they had been driven out of them. However, as they had managed to dig into mountains, there was little movement in these areas.

Thracian Front; under heavy attack by superior German numbers, I was driven back, though more slowly as the front narrowed, and in good order – there were no encirclements. The retreat was slow enough to give me time to build three levels of forts in Constantinople itself, which still holds – although the forts are now effectively nonexistent due to English strategic bombing.

In Thrace, Venetian troops had managed to cross the Straits to seize Constantinople, fending off an English landing in Anatolia; however, as my troops here were outnumbered three to one at the start of the session, there was plainly little hope of launching any offensives – and the obvious strategy of crossing the Black Sea to land in the Commonwealth rear had been tried, and foundered on the large enemy reserves that suddenly turned up – reinforcements headed for the Ural front, perhaps? At any rate, there seemed to be little to be done here; I thinned out my line and took the troops thus freed up south for Africa instead.

The siege of Constantinople; as of February 1938 it is still ongoing, in its sixth month. Constantinople has faced siege before; and in this timeline it is supplied, if tenuously, across the Straits, not betrayed by faithless allies and left to fight on its own resources. My main difficulty on this front is in finding a balance between having enough units in the city, and not having them go out of supply.

Africa could be considered as one front, two, or three, depending on taste. There was Tazzzo’s landing in the southeast, Blayne’s in Morocco, and then there was the Suez Front, where I had occupied the line of Egyptian fortresses that originally faced the Suez border – now repurposed to face into the African interior. In the first part of the session, while I was redeploying from Anatolia, Achab pushed me out of this Egyptian line and back into my own fortresses defending the Suez Canal; there, defending two provinces instead of five, I was able to stop the retreat in spite of the very superior numbers of English troops. At the same time Clone was launching attacks in Thrace that were much more effective than Jacob’s similar efforts had been; my toehold in Europe was driven back and back, eventually ending up in Constantinople. Foreseeing this possibility, however, I had fortified that great city, and although attacks on it continued through the session it is still held for Venice.

The Red Sea Landing, right up the English rear. Unfortunately there was no followup for two weeks due to logistical difficulties.

Returning to Africa, the obvious strategy was the same one I had pursued against Kuipy: Cross the Red Sea, sweep north behind the Suez Line to cut it off from supply, and wait for the resulting pocket to starve. If this had worked against Baron, who saw me do it to Kuipy, that would have been immensely satisfying; against a sub, it was less so. Still victory is victory, so I ordered the naval invasion and got troops across. It was then I noticed that the large Lend-Lease shipments I was getting from my allies, which were instrumental in keeping my infantry supplied, were also taking up all my shipping – leaving none for the followup troops of the invasion. The game engine, apparently, will prioritise naval invasions over trade, but will not prioritise mere troop movements; my spearhead divisions were therefore left without support for two crucial weeks while I shouted to stop the Lend-Lease shipments. (This might have been more effective if I had a microphone and could, actually, shout. Chat just doesn’t carry the urgency.)

Eurasia, with a closer look at the Nile Front, in October. My motorised exploitation division there is about to go rocketing off into the desert, effectively unopposed; but the main landing is suffering a heavy counterattack.

One of the Jackal’s patented sandstorms blew up and slowed my free advance across the desert sufficiently that Matruh was garrisoned by the time I got there. Achab was able to shift divisions off the Suez Line – as he was occupying the Egyptian fortress line, I couldn’t advance there any more than he could – and counterattack, forcing my motorised spearhead back south and briefly threatening to drive even my main infantry force back across the Nile.

A swaying back-and-forth combat in the desert, as both sides try to rupture the enemy lines with temporary local superiorities.

I did eventually get the rest of my army across; but by then Achab had, obviously, had fair warning of my intentions. Instead of a swift coup-de-main seizure of his supply ports, I faced a grinding attritional struggle down the Nile Valley. Achab fought a tenacious rearguard action, constantly thinning out his line in places where he had stopped me for the time being, gathering together this Peter-robbing-Paul reserve, and counterattacking somewhere else. On several occasions my spearheads were in danger of being cut off; at other times the front was driven back towards the Nile, and it wasn’t until Foxy reinforcements arrived on a large scale from Ethiopia and Central Africa that I was able to reach the coast. Even then, each individual pocket, formed around a port, held on grimly until crushed by mere superior numbers. It was only at this final stage that Achab’s generalship failed: These doomed positions should not have been held to the bitter end. When it was clear that Africa was lost, the pockets should have been evacuated to Europe. I admire the tactical skill that allowed him to hold against superior numbers (both of divisions and of human players!) for so long, but this is somewhat overshadowed by the immense strategic error of losing fifty or sixty divisions to not-one-step-back orders. It’s true that my subs in the Med would likely have caught a few convoys, but that can hardly be compared to the half-a-million men that were lost when the ports were captured; as for surface fleets, England’s ten battleships still go anywhere they like.

New World Order advancing from the south and west; perhaps this is about the point when the struggle for Africa should have been given up as lost, and the strategic aim changed to evacuation, with as much of a delaying rearguard action as possible. Notice the Venetian gain in Algeria, where I have claims dating to the nineteenth century.

The first column reaches the coast, splitting the English forces into pockets that can no longer reinforce each other. Of these the Suez Front pocket is by far the most powerful, and indeed the front line on the Nile is going to prove unbudgeable until the English are driven from their supply ports.

England still holds a sliver of Africa, in Morocco, where the Atlas mountains are heavily fortified and a formidable barrier; I’m reminded of another conflict. It is, obviously, not from mere stubbornness that England is choosing to hold these barren peaks; the Atlas range is about as far north as it is possible to launch a rocket with the technology of 1938, even augmented by alien knowledge, and have any hope of reaching orbit. The Jackal does not give a damn whether England wins the war, as such; it will gladly spend a million subhuman lives and ten thousand tanks to retain its launch site and its last hope of reaching home. If, after the rocket is complete, the subhuman state it is currently controlling collapses, and its enemies storm through Europe, for lack of those million men that might have stopped them – well, that is not the Jackal’s problem.

Near the end. Matruh has fallen and any hope of evacuation with it. Forty divisions are about to surrender in what was the Suez Front, now the Suez Pocket.

It looks rather grim for the European powers, at this point; the one bright spot is the Caucasus, where an attack spearheaded by Danish troops has been making slow progress along the Caspian coast. If they can fight their way out of the bad terrain and into the open plains of Mesopotamia, it might yet be possible to force Venice to surrender; if that happens there will be many troops freed from the siege of Constantinople, and perhaps a cascade of victories can be achieved. But I would not care to take the Commonwealth side of an even-odds bet.

Overall war situation, February 1938. The loss of Italy remains a heavy burden for Venice, although the recovery of Algeria (lost to British rapaciousness in the nineteenth century) is some compensation. Egypt is liberated, and building divisions; even Mongolia has managed to put some tens of thousands of savage Slavs into the field on the Ural Line; the postwar settlement of these two defeated countries is a matter of some controversy. On the other side, the English people are having some difficulty reconciling the loss of Africa with their government’s propaganda. But it is Europe that is decisive – as long as the Commonwealth prevents any incursion into that ethnic and industrial heartland, they are not defeated.

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Filed under Azure Three Bezants, One With Nineveh and Tyre, Recessional

Dominion of the Dreki: Gameplay 889-898

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.

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Filed under Dominion of the Dreki, God of Our Fathers, Recessional