Much delayed events of what turned out to be the final Crusader Kings session:
- Reconquest: It was slow work as I had to do it one duchy at a time, but I managed to reconquer about half of Norway.
- The Black Death: It didn’t reach quite everywhere, but as shown in the map, the rats from the east were well on their way to the Bay of Biscay when their advance was interrupted by session’s end.
- Second Baltic Crusade: When Heaven demonstrates Its wrath, men become desperate; the brain-addled Christians, in particular, decided that the Plague was their god’s way of telling them to spread their faith at the sword’s point. (Admittedly this is very consistent with the rest of their dogma. Our scholars of comparative religion have yet to find a stimulus that they do [i]not[/i] interpret in this fashion.) They therefore declared the Crusade for Svea Rike; for complicated theological reasons this came precisely thirty years after the end of the Crusade for Norway.
- The White Death: For reasons best known to themselves (perhaps they were complicated theological ones), the Crusaders launched their invasion of Scandinavia just as winter was beginning, which was also just as the plague was arriving. This is evidence that the disease is a blessing sent by Hel, to cleanse the human race of stupidity; the Norse armies did not need to lift a finger in actual defense, per se. It’s no joke to fight in Norway (or Sweden) in winter in any year, but in combination with the plague it turned out to be ludicrously deadly. I merely parked my levies on my fleet, out of range of the attrition, and occasionally landed for long enough to mop up a stack that had started fifteen or twenty thousand strong. This did have the unfortunate side effect of giving my king scurvy, from being at sea for months on end, but that was basically our only casualty in this war. We were, however, interrupted by the session’s end before I could reach 100% warscore, so the crusade will convert into EU4, with perhaps slightly unfortunate effects on the defensibility of Scandinavia. Nevertheless I remain optimistic; the peninsula is also well suited for defense by a strong fleet, which I have, and decades of investing the income from raiding have given me forts in mountain and forest provinces which suffer from hard winters.
- Vox Popoli, Vox Diaboli: We had decided to start voting on whether to convert to EU4 after 200 years, and this session we passed that threshold. This incident actually demonstrates one of the ways that games allow us to explore unlikely corners of theory space. Game theorists and social scientists have demonstrated mathematically that democracy needn’t always have optimal outcomes, but of course this is just airy theorising with no application in the real world – until you start playing games, that is; then you can tweak the rules to construct the weirdest imaginable coalitions, preferences, and utility functions. Our rules had apparently created one of those corner cases in the parameter space of democracy that you can obviously never get in real politics, and there was a majority for the wrong decision: We are converting to EU4. Hence my silence for the last few weeks, I’ve been frantically upgrading the converter to deal with the latest DLCs. Incidentally, when I get rich I’m going to buy a large amount of Paradox stock, get myself onto its board, and make it my mission in life to fire the idiot who changed all the savegame keywords. Failing that, I hope he at least had to hunt down a bunch of hardcoded string literals in half a dozen different source files.
Advance of the Black Death; also showing the successes of Norse arms in our reconquest of Norway and defense of Sweden.
Final political situation. Note the many remaining strong AI realms, due to our strict realm-size limits; the player realms are Eire, Aquitaine, Leon, Nordriki, Saarland, Africa, Great Moravia (the Hungary-ish brown blob), Rus, Lazuli (the Balkan realm in imperial purple), Varingia (grey Ukrainian power, south of Rus), Hedarabia (south of Egypt), and Mordor (into which one does not simply walk). Some of the dynasties have outlier kingdoms granted to brothers or younger sons, which count for custom score and may in some cases convert as personal unions, but even so there are multiple power vacuums in this map. Presumably they will be rapidly filled in EU4.
The corresponding starting situation in EU4 – the conversion may get some final tweaks but the borders won’t change much, if at all.
- Another Such Victory: At the beginning of the session I was at war with three players in a Crusade for Norway, and the warscore stood at 74% against me. Two crusader armies (Ukrainian and Italian) were besieging southern Norway, and a third (Leonese) was skulking about the east side of the Jotunheim (the mountain range that divides western and eastern Norway; in Crusader Kings it is impassable to military units), apparently not quite sure whether to go for my capital and accept the attrition (it’s no joke to fight in Norway in winter), or to go east into Sweden and return in the summer. However, I had secured support from several people, and sufficient money poured in that I was able to hire more mercenaries. At the same time Hadogei made up his mind and the Leonese army, seven thousand men, came north towards Nidaros, challenging my main stack – five thousand strong – to fight. Since I had three thousand men offshore in boats, where I had been getting ready to sail south to recapture some of the occupied land, and since Nidaros attacked from the south is a strong defensive position – mountains and a river – I decided to accept battle. That was a mistake. Not because I lost; on the contrary I was well on my way to beating the Leonian army. However, that took time, and the crusading players, realising that they were about to lose a large amount of warscore, Took Steps; in particular they ordered their armies to assault the sieges they were in. That cost them heavily, but the occupation of Akershus tipped the warscore to 100%, mainly by losing me the “holds Norway” ticking warscore. The AI, for once, was on the ball, and the Pope forced the peace through before I could finish trouncing the Leonese. For reasons entirely unclear, the Pope also awarded the victory to Leon, which had fought one and a half battles with me, rather than Italy, which had occupied several of my provinces.
- The Forty-Year Night: Norway now languishes under colonial rule, a Christian “King” of the von Britannia family. Of course, such a person has only the form, not the substance, of kingship; submitting, as they necessarily must, to the Pope on Earth and to their god in Heaven, they are not true sovereigns, but subordinates – servants, not masters. A king of the Norse faith is genuinely sovereign, admitting no superior; even Odin, the giver of victory, is only first among equals in the host of brave men who will meet the ice-giants on Vigrid field. However, theology aside, it is a fact that Norway is now a colony; I trust that in this timeline the liberation will require only forty years, and not four hundred as in ours. (Note for those not familiar with Norwegian history: During the national-romantic revival of the 1850s some historians began to refer to the union with Denmark, from 1397 to 1814, as the “four-hundred-year night”; I don’t think you would find anyone doing so unironically these days, but ironic or not it is an expression I think most Norwegians would recognise.)
- The Viking War: I was left with a claim to Norway; since Hadogei didn’t keep the kingdom as part of his played realm, but handed it out to a relative, I was able to press the claim almost immediately with a good chance of success, since I’d be fighting the AI. Indeed this came very close to working. However, the AI, being under attack by a character of the true faith, was able to attract one of the Hel-damned Holy Orders that infest the Christian world like lice; with ten thousand fighting men, and the mountains of Norway for a bastion, they were able to draw out the fight for a considerable time. I did eventually manage to bait them into attacking me across a river into a mountain, with reasonably equal numbers and good commanders on my side. But my shout of “Victoglory” was premature; I won the battle but ran out of money before I could complete the sieges I needed. My mercenaries promptly deserted, and I accepted a white peace.
- The Nidaros War: King Anlaufr, “The Sword of the Allfather”, died of cancer before I could renew the war against the colonial regime. His son Snorre (named “the Sword of Frey” for his successful wars against the breakaway lords in Sweden) had only a weak claim, which I could not press; I perforce fell back on a Holy War for Nidaros, which is not yet over. Nidaros is my traditional capital in this timeline, and also contains the third holy site, which I need to make myself Fylkir. Unfortunately, while I’m superior to the Norwegian kingdom on its own, the entire von Britannia family seems to have joined the wars in High Germany, and to have combined their armies under Norwegian command – which, upon my declaration of war, promptly brought home all eighteen thousand men from whatever they were doing in Germany. Some testing in single player reveals that this is a mistake on the AI’s part; my armies are sea-mobile and don’t have to fight if I don’t want to, and it’s no joke to wander around above the supply limit in Norwegian winter. But attriting them down is going to take a while, and meanwhile the risk of Leonese or Irish intervention looms.
I needed some money for the Nidaros War, and decided to go get it from my erstwhile enemies, the kings of Leon. It turns out that the cockpit of Europe is living up to its nickname at the moment; northern Germany is a chaos of contending armies – in the middle of which my raiding stack is quite calmly helping itself to a couple hundred ducats. My raid only makes me hostile to the Leonese, who apparently have other things to do with their main forces at the moment; so my army is sitting there in the middle of the war, besieging a random castle, with a dozen armies walking by giving friendly waves – “Oh hai, raiding the Leonese? Kk not my problem, thxbai”.
King Snorre, “the Sword of Frey”. A formidable character even with only half his rightful kingdom.
- Fall of the Island Fortress: My vassals, like moths seeking self-immolation in candle flames, kept flinging themselves at the Orkneys; three separate county conquests were declared against it this session! Despairing at the cost to my moral authority, and having gotten a respectable army together, I finally joined one of these wars. The Holy Order that has been faithfully defending the Island Fortress through these wars was thus decoyed out to attack my province of Caithness (the northern tip of Scotland), and I landed my army in the Orkneys to await their counterattack. It came, I won, and the Island Fortress is at last part of the Norwegian kingdom.
The Island Fortress stands firm against the pagan hordes. This is just before I got tired of them tanking my moral authority.
- Set England Ablaze: In search of moral authority (and gold) I systematically raided the entire east coast of England, from the Thames to the Ouse.
- New Dawn of the Old Gods: A number of failed invasions and holy wars passed out of men’s memory in the 1010s, increasing Norse moral authority to the high thirties. By dint of much raiding of temples, intervening in the prepared invasion of one of Gollevainen’s Dukes against Denmark, and generally speaking doing my utmost to turn northern Europe into a smoking wasteland, I managed to raise this to fifty, and (as I already controlled three holy sites) was thus able to reform the Germanic faith. Triumph! Victory! Glory to the Allfather! It is said that the smoke of the Great Blot I ordered in Uppsala was visible from the Saar Tower in Finland, a hundred miles over the water; and men shivered at the sight, not knowing when the dragon-headed ships might pull up on their own beaches to disgorge bearded warriors in search of captives to burn for the glory of Odin.
- The Sword of the Allfather: Anlaufr gained this illustrious title by descending on the jarl of Ostergotland, a heretic who preferred the old ways, and demonstrating that Odin’s favour is with the reformed religion.
Anlaufr, King of Norway, the Sword of the Allfather, pictured at the culmination of his career of fighting in Odin’s name.
- The Cleansing Flame: Unfortunately I was not the only one with a cool nickname. With the pagan defensive attrition removed, a crusade to cleanse the North with fire and sword was declared almost immediately. Crusade for Norway! Obviously, the loss of my main kingdom – something over half my territory – would be a devastating blow to the true faith; for this reason I am confident Odin won’t let it happen. Nevertheless the position looks somewhat dire at the moment; no less than three powerful player kingdoms – Leon, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Ukraine – have large armies in my territory, and my levy is retreating towards Nidaros after a disastrous battle.
- The West’s Awake: Ireland stands poised to send ten thousand screaming gallowglasses to my coast, to settle who is in charge of the British Isles once and for all.
- No Joke to Fight in Norway in Winter: Although the extra-special pagan attrition is gone, I still have the regular winter/mountain attrition; I believe my enemies won’t be able to catch my retreating army without marching through inland, winter, mountain terrain and melting away as a result. So I have some breathing space.
Diplomatic situation: War with three powerful kingdoms.
Eclipse of the Old Gods: In spite of massive raiding against the target kingdoms, I failed to make my vassals’ invasions of Denmark and England succeed; as for the invasion of Dragoon’s vast Ukraine-Poland blob, forget it. Consequently the moral authority of Norse paganism was precisely zero for most of the session. These are dark times for the faith of fighting men.
Island Fortress: No, not Britain, nor England. For the second time, the Orkneys have held off a county conquest; and although they were nominally fighting one of my vassals, which might have been a fair match, I joined the war (since I had an army raised and nothing better to do with it), so the single-province Orkneys were facing the full might of Norway. It turns out that it’s really difficult to shift a Holy Order defending a hilly island. In truth the AI also had some difficulty; early in the war I managed to land in the Orkneys while the Holy Order was off besieging Caithness. That was before I knew what I faced; thinking I was fighting only the Orkneys, I just put a stack of 2000 men in, enough to siege the island down, and went off to look at what my raids in Sweden were doing. The next thing I know, I have a popup saying that my 2000 men just held off 5000. Unfortunately they took such damage in doing so that when the HO had recovered they managed to kick me off; and from then on I couldn’t win a single battle. (No doubt due to that zero moral authority – clearly, Odin was off in a sulk.) From here on, whenever I have occasion to refer to the Orkneys, it will be as “the Island Fortress of the Orkneys”.
Am I My Sweet Brother’s Keeper?: Sweden, under the rule of the Traitor-Kings, is succumbing to the internal rot that will eventually make all Christian kingdoms fail; the process is particularly fast here in the north, where the people have no painfully-acquired immunity to the worst excesses of the religion of slaves. No less than six of my vassals (not counting human-played Finland) declared war for various counties, and they all won, too – possibly with some involvement from the King’s armies, it’s true. There is not much left of Sweden, now.
Triple Telemark: Of the six vassals who declared war on Sweden, three did so for the single county of Telemark. It follows that two of their wars ended inconclusively. Fortunately this does not count as a failure for purposes of moral authority.
The Friend Zone: One of the more pernicious effects of the religion of slaves is that it forbids concubines. This makes it very difficult to get a proper Yngling breeding program going; I’ve been forced to select concubines more because they were available than because they had attractive traits. On the plus side, this does mean that my armies are full of horny teenagers taking out their frustrations on the rest of the world.
Sisu Transformation: The successful conquests put me over the realm limit of 150; at Ranger’s suggestion I cut Finland loose, and the Saars once more face the world without the protection of Odin. On the plus side I suspect that nobody wants to stick their army in crazy.
The death of Kings. The ‘Gout’ thing is silly; Anund died in the middle of leading his troops in battle. The ‘suspicious circumstances’ one is also silly, if slightly less so; Valdemar died in the same battle, leading the right flank. I admit that the arrow did not necessarily come from the Swedish lines.
- Where Kings Go To Die: I fought a war with Småland, which had broken free of Sweden and thus become ripe for incorporation in the Greater Yngling Co-Prosperity Sphere. There was a battle fought, in Öland; in this battle king Anund took his bane-wound. Also his eldest son Valdemar who succeeded him, and was King of Norway for just long enough to lead a charge for the Red Lion banner, under which stood Gudfrid, the Smålander king. And though Valdemar fell in that charge, Gudfrid’s men were beaten and the king was captured, and he gave submission to King Bagge of Norway, the younger brother of Valdemar, the third to hold that title in a day. For this reason the war is called the War of the Four Kings and Two Kingdoms. After these events no king of Norway has set foot on Öland, nor will they while men remember.
- Twilight of the Old Gods: Both Denmark and Sweden have had kings who follow the White Christ; only Norway has remained firmly a bastion of the worship of Odin. Worse, when brave men have sent out the war-arrow to gather sea-kings to their cause, to take the crowns of weaklings, seize broad acres, and become land-kings by right of conquest – they have, so many of them, failed; the corpses of would-be kings litter the beaches from Estonia to England. Men say that Odin does not give victory as in times past; men say that the White Christ came not to bring peace, but the sword, and that he wields it right well. The moral authority of Norse paganism has not been over 30% in a generation.
- The Silent Oaks: The kings of Norway have gathered Uppsala and Mære under their rule; they have torn down the churches that were built there, raised once more the holy howes, and hanged the priests from young oaks recently planted, with shimmering flaxen ropes around their necks and spear-wounds in their sides. Thus hung Odin, once, for nine days and nights, for the knowledge of seid, rune-magic; and indeed it is clear that one may gain wisdom by doing so, for no hanged priest has ever been heard to babble of the White Christ again. The war for Lejre is underway, and goes well; the weak kings of Sweden do not seem to find strength in their new god.
- Holy Smoke: So that men may respect the old gods – and also so that maybe a prepared invasion could succeed once in a while, how about it Odin? – I have taken to raiding extensively in kingdoms that are the targets of my vassals’ wars. This has the dual effect of reducing their armies and burning their churches. Much of England, for example, is smoking ruin. Unfortunately the Orcadians wasted their prepared-invasion army on a battle before I could get there, and now they have about 200 men left, which makes for slow progress even when what you’re besieging is a smoking ruin.
- Yngling Blood Runs True: One of my vassals and kinsmen, Jarl Hrolfr of Østlandet, has managed to show the mettle of our bloodline by launching a prepared invasion of Denmark, currently held by a child of the von Britannia dynasty. I wish him much luck in this endeavour, and suspect he’ll find it; because I was, as it happens, campaigning in that area anyway. It could be that there won’t be very many Danish armies to oppose his righteous claim.
Southern Scandinavia is a cauldron of war. Sweden is at war with me, and also four of my vassals have various one-province CBs that they are pursuing. Denmark is at war with an adventurer, a revolt, and another of my vassals who is doing a prepared invasion.
This week I’m feeling particularly lazy, and am just going to post some bullet points of things that happened in the session – that is, events I found amusing, interesting, or otherwise noteworthy; I’m not going to list every poxy little war against random one-province pagans just to make 500 words. (No, really. It was 600 words even before I wrote this intro.) I did go to the trouble of making up a name for each event, in the style of such famous events as The War of the Tapestry and the Malmø Rising.
Events in Norway:
- The Perkele War, ca 900-910: Although gaining its nominal war aim, the county of Agder, and burning a large part of Sweden to ashes (which is always a worthwhile goal), Norway fails to accomplish Finnish independence.
- Tough As Old Oak: Harald survives, successively: A duel, pneumonia acquired during the duel (I literally got the cough event between the starting and ending duel events; presumably they had gone out in a midwinter storm dressed to settle their differences), camp fever, food poisoning, and dysentery; also three court physicians.
- A Surfeit of Lions: Multiple people mistake the banner of the Duke of Skåne, which is gules a lion rampant or crowned or, for that of Norway, which is gules a lion rampant or crowned or bearing a halberd or bladed argent. The halberd is important, people! (Admittedly it’s not very visible at the scale of CK2 banners.) Much hilarity ensues; the piteous plea of Finland not to march Norway’s army in Halland into the (nominally hostile) Finnish army in Viken is particularly amusing, except to the Finns. The more so when you know that this was Finland’s third or fourth army, which they couldn’t really afford. Norway’s response: “What army?” Fortunately for Finland, the Scanians headed for Scotland (which at that time was having two civil wars, an adventurer invasion, and was at war with Norway) rather than helping out their liege.
The Scottish Ploy: While Norway is at war with Scotland, a band of adventurers shows up, roughly the size of Norway’s and Scotland’s combined royal armies. They swiftly seize control of a county in Moray, upon which the king of Scotland recognises their adverse possession and they become his vassals while still having their troops. Scanians and Norwegians both beat a hasty retreat. Fortunately the ticking warscore catches up with the Scots before they can siege back their counties.
- Lapp It Up: The last few independent domains in northern Scandinavia are conquered.
- Killing the Shrew: The third time I caught my wife, the Witch-Queen of some obscure barony in the Ukraine, plotting to kill my sons by other women, I decided that there were limits to what I’d put up with for a Quick trait that hadn’t even passed on to her children. There is now a new queen in Norway.
Events elsewhere (just the ones I noticed):
- A Kingdom Once Again: Unification of Ireland.
- Little Bits of Kingdoms: England is split between five different independent nations (and Scotland is two, plus the Norwegian possessions); Jorvik, which once looked set fair to conquer the whole island, has been hammered down to a few provinces which retain their independence because they are occupied by different invaders none of whom have 100% warscore.
- March to War on Rome: Mark, our Italian player, became the first to run afoul of the 150-holding max-realm-size rule. In the interest of minimising GM work, we enforce this rule by a triggered modifier (for humans only) which gives a large malus to vassal relations. Mark, unfortunately for him, expanded his realm by means of a large AI Duke winning a war (and who pays attention to the doings of large AI Dukes?), and didn’t notice that all his vassals hated him until two-thirds of Italy was in revolt. We will change the realm-size limit to be implemented by events, so that they are more noticeable and also more gradual.
So I said I wasn’t going to write an AAR, and I’m not. This is not an AAR. It’s just a couple of random thoughts I had, which I admit are at least loosely related to the latest megacampaign – otherwise I’d post it on my other blog – but which do not form any sort of cohesive narrative. So, to start us off, a dank meme:
That’s two campaigns as the Ynglings, one as the MacRaghnalls (whom I intended as a Scots dynasty, but I lost the war with the English player and ended up as King Over the Water), and now this one as the Ynglings again. (That is, a custom dynasty named ‘Yngling’, not the historical ones.) I have not decided whether these Ynglings are an independent timeline, with no relation to the quantum-travelling ones except for the usual Many Worlds one, or if my starting character is from a different timeline. If the latter, he is here as a private individual on a theme holiday, having some fun with axe, shield, and longboat before returning to his regularly scheduled oppression of strils and invasion of other technologically-advanced timelines. Thus, no introduction of high-tech bioweapons this time around, thanks. He may have brought some pheromones and libido increasers for the concubines he no doubt expects to acquire, but that won’t have any game-visible effects.
Harald Yngling, 872. Not outside the range of normal human variation; but also not incompatible with being the product of some centuries of eugenics and formal education in both war and personal combat.
Because the editor of our savegame is an idiot who made a save that crashes on saving if more than a year has passed, the start of the session was long delayed as we scrambled to reintroduce our custom characters and realms. Our actual play time was only five years; all I managed to accomplish in that period was to accumulate some money from raiding my immediate neighbours (who were conveniently busy invading England) and oppressing my peasants. I do have an actual plan, however: The first step in conquering the world is obviously to unite Norway, currently split into eight petty kingdoms including my own. (“Little bits of kingdoms cannot stand against their foes”.) I have therefore taken the King of Norway ambition and attacked the historical Yngling ruler to my north, after seizing his petty-King title to give me a de-jure Duke claim; I have beaten his army and the siege is about half over. The rest of the wars will be subjugations.
Once the nation-building project is complete, I will follow the traditional Yngling strategy of “Omnidirectional Opportunistic Aggression”, attacking whoever makes the mistake of turning their back on me. Sweden cannot be allowed to be a threat; England is a traditional hunting ground for Yngling imperialism; so is Germany; Finland is our rightful possession; so is Denmark; and there is no particular reason that strils in other parts of the world should be allowed to keep their stuff, either. The Yngling version of the old conundrum about trees falling with nobody to hear goes: “If someone cannot defend his possessions against a raiding party, did he really own it, or was he just taking care of it for us until we found it convenient to come get our things?”