Tag Archives: Song of the Dead

Song of the Dead: Our Doom and Our Pride

Song of the Dead in the South – in the sun by their skeleton horses,
Where the warrigal whimpers and bays through the dust
of the sere river-courses.

We Must Feed Our Sea, the first part of Song of the Dead, is at an end; here begins the second part, Our Doom and Our Pride. At such a time I customarily have a look at the geostrategic situation, with a particularly sharp eye out for who is exposing a kidney and can be usefully stabbed in the back attacked.


Here then is the map of Europe in this year that the Christians call 1444:

Note the splendid wolf’s-head banner of the Ynglings, courtesy of Blayne, “The Professor” on these forums, who played Lazuli in CK but has now moved to China. “Sable a wolf’s head gules”, a blazon to strike fear anywhere within a day’s ride of the high-tide mark; “a wolf’s head” is also an expression meaning an outlaw, an enemy of all mankind, who may be slain without paying any were-gild and who in consequence kills and robs for his living. It is a suitable banner for the Ynglings, and for the only surviving Norse power in Christian Europe; in the high north we have nothing but contempt for the religion of slaves.

Limiting the map to player realms:

In addition we have two players in China, plus Kongo, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan; but they fall outside the saga for the present. There is, incidentally, room for more over in Asia, and if the large AI realms (Mali, Rajputana, Samanids, Telingana, Lazuli) survive, we will open them to players in 1550. I’ve left out Varingia’s personal union with Alania; Great Moravia (about where Austria-Hungary was in OTL) has a personal union with Serbia. Finally, the AI powers in western Europe have been put into the Empire:

This is intended to give them a little more defensive power against the rapacious humans surrounding them. Observe that Europe is not fully divided between the players, and that the largest player realms are roughly equal; that’s because we had a realm-size limit in Crusader Kings, which more or less accomplished its purpose of preventing runaway blobbing and one player or alliance bloc becoming dominant in the first part of the game.

Player countries

I am playing the Ynglinga Rike, a Dutch Republic following the Norse faith and dominating most of Scandinavia. The first map is decorated with my custom ideas, known as the Viking; it is a fierce and aggressive set, suited for sea warfare and landing the long ships on enemy coasts to raid and pillage. My first act was to burn the Christian coasts from the Gulf of Finland to the mouth of the Thames; it’s true that this annoyed some of the other players, but I needed the money for mercenaries to fight off the people I’d annoyed. Immediately to my east is my ally the Peasant Republic of Saarland, with the somewhat similar Pirate ideas. East of them again is Great Novgorod, playing the Banker set and warily watching the Noble Republic of Varingia to their south, while preparing to expand east into the steppe. Novgorod is played by Gollevainen, a veteran of these megacampaigns; Varingia by Dragoon, the vice-GM and perhaps our strongest Crusader Kings player. He has got the immensely strong Artilleryman set, which will make him a land power to be feared once artillery becomes powerful. The idea sets were assigned by an auction, using achievement points acquired in Crusader Kings; Dragoon, with the highest score, had his choice of which to take and used them like a scalpel; hence the personal union with Alania and the French Musketeers splendor bonus, both of which were also auction benefits.

Moving west from Varingia we come to Great Moravia, with the Mongol ideas giving them very powerful cavalry – almost the opposite of Varingia, this makes them a powerful land power in the early years when cavalry dominates, but weaker later on. Moravia is also unfortunate in being squeezed between Varingia and the Holy Roman Empire, with the Samurai set encouraging them to be at war at all times. This ‘Holy Roman Empire’ is neither holy, Roman, imperial, or ingame; it is only the localisation text Mark chose for his nation. Indeed this alleged Empire is in fact an Ambrosian Republic. We also have the actual ingame HRE, which is AI. But whether accurately named or not, the Holy Republican Empire is the largest human power, and it seems likely that it will be necessary to resist its encroaching on High Germany. The Germans are the lawful prey of the Ynglings, and have been so from the first Great-Game timeline.

West again we find Leon, the second-ranked nation in CK, with the Globalist ideas making it a strong coloniser. It was apparently much damaged by the disastrous invasion of Sweden in CK, for Andalusia to its south – an AI nation, no less! – gave it a good and well-deserved kicking in the first session. Tiny Poitou in the southwest of France is played by Zirotron with the Colonizer ideas; although he was not very successful at Crusader Kings, in fact the only player who never became a kingdom, Leon’s troubles may be his opportunity – presumably they will both compete for American colonies. North of that, the British Isles are dominated by Eire, whose Guardsman ideas will give it excellent infantry in a few years. Eire is a Polish Monarchy, and has already taken over much of what is England in this 1444 map. They will be a major rival when the Scandinavian republics try to colonise our rightful clay across the Atlantic.

Finally we have two surviving Muslim powers, Aswad and Mordor, with Crusader (yes, irony!) and Merchant ideas respectively. Mordor of the burning-eye flag rejoices in the Ottoman form of government; isolated in the southeast part of the map, it interacted very little with any other player realm in Crusader Kings, but that will presumably change now.

These are the people who played the two hundred years of Crusader Kings (excepting Blayne of the Lazuli, who as noted moved to China). In addition Khan is playing Candravamsa over in India, with Mercenary ideas and the Prussian government form. We split Ming into its component warlords, and have two players there, Blayne playing Tianlan (renamed from Wu) with the Philosopher King ideas, and Hooonter playing Xi, so far without a custom idea set. Vaniver, eliminated early in CK (he was playing a Muslim nation in Andalusia) is returning is Korea with the Scholar idea set. The immensely skilled Ragatokk is joining us as Uesugi, again without custom ideas so far, and is well on his way to uniting Japan. Kuipy, well known for his plots spanning centuries, has taken Kongo, slightly buffed by edits; and finally we have FailedStrategy in Mongolia.

Session events

I began at war with no less than three player realms, namely Eire, Leon, and Varingia; although allied to Saarland in this Second Baltic Crusade, my situation would be quite bad if those players had intended to press home their attack. Fortunately the gods are with me; in Crusader Kings they sent the Great Plague which, in combination with the snow and the mountains – it is never a joke to fight in Norway in winter, and all the less so for the plague – melted away the Leonese armies that invaded Sweden. Having failed of their purpose in that game, the Crusaders (prompted no doubt by the real gods whispering in their ears, perhaps when they thought themselves closest in prayer to the false White Christ) appear to have simply given up; all three player realms offered me peace without concessions within a year of the game start, leaving me to snap up their minor AI allies as vassals.

I was, unfortunately, somewhat less successful in the First Baltic Crusade back in CK, which is why Norway to my west is currently an independent nation; I was unable to complete the reconquest in CK, but as long as no player protects it, it doesn’t look too difficult here. However, the project will have to wait until my current war is over; the multiple vassalisations seem to have made the AI nervous, for Germany, France, and Alsace formed a coalition against me. Between them they have about three times my army; fortunately they marched three-fourths of it into Fyn, where my superior fleet is keeping it bottled up while I conquer their homelands. Their defense now consists mainly of the rebels infesting their homelands. Unhappily a large rebel stack surprised my army as I was besieging Paris, which is why I’m out of manpower as the second session begins.

Finally, here is the map of Europe at the end of the first session:

Note the smoothing out of Varingia, the HRE, and Novgorod; Eire expanding into England; the drastic reduction of Leon; and Candravamsas absorbing the neighboring minors.


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Not an AAR: Tenth Session

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.

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Not An AAR: Ninth Session

  • 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.

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Not An AAR: Poetic Eddy

You try to parse this text as prose, but then you see how the scansion goes, and now you’re stuck with singing it, so screw ya! It’s definitely no AAR, it doesn’t pass the poetry bar, it’s just some words that scan like Hallelujah! (Hallelujah, hallelujah…)

Becoming king is the easy part, you gotta show some guts and heart, and Wessex with no levies seemed to draw me; they did find plenty of allies though, I sailed back north with naught to show, I looked about to raise another army. (‘Nother army, ‘nother army…)

I did my best, there wasn’t much, my vassals thought I’d lost my touch; they said, “In truth, the Wessex AI fooled ya”. But even though that went all wrong, their army wasn’t all that strong, I raised a mercenary Hallelujah! (Hallelujah, hallelujah…)

Comrades, I’d been there before; but now there was that ticking warscore; I needed something fast to keep things going. The siege was close, but two days slow; the offer came, a king brought low; my salty curses rapidly were flowing! (Curses flowing, curses flowing…)

All-Father Odin sits above, and when the putsch came to the shove, the Council found they didn’t have his favour; but civil wars are of no use, for even when you win, you lose; I gave him no atrocity to savour. (None to savour, none to savour…)

Prepared invasion was in vain; the ally swarm was too insane; I looked for softer targets for expansion.
Against the pagans to my north, I swiftly marched my levies forth, and that concludes my Hallelujah scansion! (Hallelujah…)

Timeline of events in Norway this session:

Unification of Norway: June 10th, 879.
Norwegian Invasion of Wessex: May 881.
Battle of Lindsey: June 881.
Norwegian Retreat from Wessex: July 881.
Second Norwegian Invasion of Wessex, Now Also With Mercenaries: May 882.
Siege of Lindsey: May 882.
Ticking Warscore Peace of Lindsey: July 3rd, 882.
Hypothetical Surrender of Lindsey: July 5th, 882.
First Norwegian Council Revolt for More Power: August, 882.
First Norwegian Crusade Against the Lapps In Search Of Easier Targets: May, 883.

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Not an AAR: First session

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?”

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