This is the second time we have started a megacampaign named “Song of the Dead”, and although I do not say we have become exceedingly efficient at it, still it went quite fast this time around. We did make some changes: We are starting in 769, and because of the realm-size limit we reached the conclusion that evening out the number of holdings per province, and forbidding tribal starts, was not really necessary. Additionally we have added a number of new achievements, from the bread-and-butter Little Mermaid – hold Sjaelland at designated checkpoints – to the crazily ambitious Zionist Occupation Government, requiring a Jewish dynasty from outside the Levant to form Israel.
I am playing as Holstein, part of Saxony; not quite my usual Norway, but close enough, and holding to the true faith. It may be worth pointing out that the tribe of Saxons is named for their characteristic weapon, the ‘seax’, a single-edged knife or short sword worn at the hip. The word survives into modern Norwegian as ‘saks’, meaning scissors; but in Charlemagne’s age of axe and wolf it retains its original meaning. The Indo-European root means “to cut”; so the demonym “Saxons”, meaningless to our ears, might be translated into modern English either as “Knifemen” or “Cutters”. Of course, I myself am a highly-civilised product of the twentieth century, and would never dream of anything so inefficient as killing my enemies one by one with quiet thrusts to the kidney; I mention the etymology merely as a point of interest.
Last time several people ended up playing in near-isolation due to the realm limit and some dropouts; this time we packed Western Europe with player slots, to ensure interaction. My immediate neighbours are Clonefusion in Sweden, Vaniver in Holland, Yami Phoenix in Bohemia, and Yami Fenrir (I have no idea how we ended up with two ‘Yami’ nicks; what are the odds?) in Bavaria. All expanded more rapidly than I did; I chose my ambition to become king of Saxony at an unfortunate time, just before Charlemagne declared war for the kingdom. However, as there is general agreement that the AI Karlings must go, there will likely be some opportunities.
Some events of the session:
- The Burning Axe: We turned off diplomatic range so the players could all interact; this had the side effect of making every possible pagan form a defensive pact against the Franks, and mustering 18000 men when Karl tried to invade Saxony. He backed off.
- Put Not Your Trust In Princes: Holstein starts with two count vassals, both of which, for inscrutable reasons, have the Duke as their heir. One of them was foolish enough (or perhaps foresighted enough) to plot to get a claim on my title; I didn’t bother with the oubliette but just executed, since my only other vassal of note was about to get the chop from my assassination plot. Thus I was able to rapidly get three counties under control, which with tribal levies is a fairly nice army this early in the game.
- Dannebrog, Storm-Utslagen: Unfortunately, I used that largish army to seize, among other things, Slesvig from Denmark. Shortly thereafter, there was a new king of Denmark, he had a lot of prestige, and between tribal levies and the Tribal Army decision there were six thousand men coming to retake Slesvig. Not expecting this, I had put my levies in their way; thus I lost not only the war – easy come, easy go – but also most of my power base. It does recover, but this meant I was unable to help my liege in what followed.
- The King Who Knelt: My AI liege decided to attack some minor one-province counts to expand Saxony, and was promptly faced with the same tribal armies that had just killed most of his main vassal’s levies. Saxony lost the war for Brandenburg to the one-province count of Lubusz, got beaten up by some other county with two hundred levies and 2500 tribals out of nowhere – and then Karl declared war for the kingdom, with his threat cooled sufficiently that we didn’t get half of Europe springing to our defense.
- Baptism by Fire and Sword: The Karlings seem curiously eager to make us undergo that ritual where they pour water on your head; to the point of threatening war if we don’t. It may become necessary, as a tactical concession, to take the cross temporarily. I hear they at least give you a new set of clothes for it, so it won’t be a total loss.Players in 788 – most of them, anyway. Ignore the big white blob, we had Khan play as Karl since he didn’t want a permanent slot and he could keep the AI from doing anything egregiously stupid. A couple of players dropped out before I took the screenshot, but it shows at any rate the difficulty of my position, squeezed into northern Germany between several players who have expanded rapidly.