Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Byzantine Caliphate Parts 10 - 15: Sic Semper Tyrannus

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 10 – Face Off

The timing for a jihad against the Franks seems perfect, as they’re already in the middle of a holy war against the Abbasids. I declare the jihad, and quickly realise my mistake. Two whole armies of Franks are in the Holy Land already, and the troops I can raise there are nowhere near adequate to fend them off. As my British, Spanish, African and Italian troops arrive in Aquitaine and start sieging, the two French armies in the east break off their sieges and make for Constantinople. About 25K troops in total. There are also a few allies, mostly my vassals, but not nearly enough.
So to augment my retinues and demesne troops, I hire the Mamluks. I hope that this is enough to deal with the armies one at a time but I mistime the attacks and allow myself to be crushed between the two armies. The shattered Mamluks flee to Baghdad while the Franks continue west. They don’t siege Constantinople, though, and make for home.

If there was ever a bad time for a monarch to be sick, this is it. But Amalrich appears to have picked up the Great Pox. This is bad news all round – the last thing we need is Amalrich to die in the middle of a Jihad with an underage heir. The blame obviously falls at the feet of problem-wife Melissa, who you may remember Amalrich jailed for a few days for trying to poison Shola, wife number 2. For a long time Amalrich has suspected that Melissa was not exactly faithful, and their children together where not exactly his. Since Amalrich is the faithful kind, this more or less proves that she is responsible. Before Amalrich even has time to bring it up though, Melissa dies under suspicious circumstances. Did Shola get her revenge? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Amalrich throws himself upon the mercy of Baldewin the Eunuch, his court physician (fun fact, Amalrich has three eunuchs, all called Baldewin). I pick the risky treatment option, and Amalrich is cured. However Baldewin seems to have… amputated his face? I will miss the moustache, especially.
Now dressed like a medieval Darth Vader, Amalrich throws himself back into directing the war. In one engagement, the Byzantine troops lose 400 men, but manage to absolutely rout the Franks, killing almost 10,000 of them. Unfortunately that 14K blob from the Middle East is slowly trudging its way back across Europe towards my massed armies. But with the Mamluk mercenaries now rallying in Antioch, I’m able to ship them across the Mediterranean ahead of the French armies. Docking in the county of Toulouse, I set the Mamluks to smashing every small levy in sight. However the French doomstack is approaching, and another similarly-sized one appears on the horizon.

Amalrich III “The Great” the now-faceless first Kharijite Caliph chooses this moment to snuff it from no-face related depression. His heir, Anselm is only 17 years old, a fighty sort and very bold, but more than a little bit dim. Nevertheless the untested Emperor takes control of the mercenary forces and retreats them to Bordeaux. When the now combined French army attacks my sieges, Anselm attacks from one side and my other armies from the other. The Franks are easily bested and the jihad is won. Long live Anselm “The Glorious”!

Now all that remains is to distribute the titles to my now rabbling vassals, marry a Syrian princess, and stop practising Jainism in secret (which apparently he was doing) because I’m committed to Kharijitism now.

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 11 – A Farewell to Arms

Now that the jihad is won, the damage to House Uerturio’s reputation done by the wastrel Gerlach is repaired. Decadence is at 0% and after making the Duke of Barcelona King of Aquitaine and parcelling out the remaining land to vassals, Anselm “The Glorious” can lay his plans for more astonishing conquests. OK, but why am I still only bopping 40K soldiers and 30 gold a month?
That’s because the only way that the Empire was able to keep operating during Amalrich’s reign, being the size it is, was because of his frankly insane stewardship skill that gave me a vassal limit of 25. Sitting on 29 for most of his reign didn’t really affect my levies or tax income too much. Unfortunately, Anselm is kind of a dolt with a vassal limit of only 19 due to his puny stewardship. I feel like he’s this family’s Jaime Lannister – a great knight but utterly abysmal at everything else. I marry him to a high stewardship courtier, but it honestly doesn’t do much good. Something has to give.

I’ve been trying to avoid granting independence to any of the stray duke-level vassals I have that I can’t transfer to any kings, but at this point the administrative drag they’re causing is impossible to deal with. I grant independence to the Duchies of Greater Moravia and Neutra. The last one is particularly hard because it’s a big one, roughly equivalent to the whole De Jure kingdom of Bohemia, rashly destroyed by Aniel *erm* “The Rash” back in the old days. Luckily it’s only independent for five seconds before my slimiest vassal, Tsog “The Betrayer” of Poland starts a holy war for it. So hopefully it will be back within the grasp of the Caliphate soon.

Unfortunately, we’ve got a bit of a consumption epidemic now too, so that necessitates battening down the hatches for a bit while it blows over. This causes the vassal limit to drop further and this in turn causes my vassals to faction against me again. Luckily, Anselm has a trump card in his pocket. His dear old mum Adila, second wife of Amalrich III, has experienced something of a late-life career change from trophy wife to cold-blooded murder machine. Being a genius intricate webweaver, she has quite the intrigue score, and as a loyalist was a natural choice for spymaster. In short order she completely decimates the factions against me by assassinating the Queen of Bavaria, the King of Serbia and the Duchess of Upper Burgundy. So I guess the message is clear – if you have a problem vassal, send in Adila the Killa. She’ll take care of it.

Baldarich the Eunuch has some suggestions about securing the tunnels under the castle. Unfortunately, there seems to be some crazy woman down there called Gerhild “The Fox”. Anselm lets her stay in the castle because she seems harmless and he’s a nice sort of bloke. Obviously, this backfires horribly when it turns out that she’s some kind of evil genius playing a Keyser Soze-level con on me. She lets a bunch of murderous peasants into the castle to enact a diabolical assassination plan on Anselm. Being a skilled knight, he’s able to fight them off, but loses a hand in the process. At this point I can’t help but wonder if that Jaime Lannister parallel was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Tsog “The Betrayer” is an interesting guy. He’s been blinded at some point, though I’m not sure who by. The Greeks, presumably. He earned the “Betrayer” nickname by having his cheating wife executed.
  • Dear Allah, why did none of you tell me the realm laws menu has a scroll down on it? All this time I’ve been looking for Imperial Administration and Status of Women and here they are! Think of all the kickass queens I could have been playing! Also, I could have had this vassal limit problem sorted decades ago if I’d known where it was.
  • My delight at Adila assassinating the annoying Duchess of Upper Burgundy was somewhat spoiled by the fact that her lands were immediately inherited by the Duke of Greater Moravia, who I’d just made independent. Next time I will have to be more careful.
  • Sorry if that Jaime Lannister comment was a spoiler.

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 12 – A Farewell to… Leg?

Anselm “the Glorious” is working hard at getting his house in order. Realising late in the game I would need Imperial Administration in order to manage my absurd number of vassals and the equally absurd number of rebellions they each produce, I managed to get a crown law change roughly every 10 years since the beginning of Amalrich III’s reign. At this point, I have late feudal administration and I only need to enact a religious revocation law and then imperial administration. So I have 20 more years of unreliable taxation and levies, but I guess that’s my own fault. It’s about 1411 right now so I’m not going to get to enjoy imperial administration for long.

Luckily, I go through periods where my levy size is tolerable – not quite as high as it should be, but big enough for me to field some pretty massive armies. Since the truce with Francia has not yet worn off, I’m looking elsewhere for a nice conquest. How about Egypt? The invasion CB is cool but it can be limiting in late game when there are lots of states that don’t properly adhere to their De Jure territory. I had intended to do an Alexander and claim Persia, but now its split between the Abbassids and the Sinda Empire, based in Afghanistan and the Punjab. Egypt, on the other hand, is a big De Jure blob that I can take in a oner.

First, though, there’s another Catholic uprising to deal with. I think this might be the 11th or so. Anselm sighs and saddles his horse, riding off to combat the polytheist scum. However the infidels get lucky, and Anselm is wounded in the fighting, losing a leg. Despite having only one arm and one leg, he still has a 21 martial skill and ironically remains my best general.

When Anselm has recovered, I launch the Egyptian invasion. It goes very well despite my dismembered commander. My tactic in situations like this is to go for what won me the Byzantine Empire in the first place – four to five large army detachments each sieging counties that are adjacent to each other. If one army is attacked, it can then be quickly reinforced. However most of the time it is possible to intimidate away enemy armies that come close to you simply by making a move to intercept them early. I siege down the Nile delta and without too much effort bring what was once the Roman Emperor’s personal demesne back into the Empire. Weirdly, along with it I get a few provinces over near the Tibetan plateau. I have no idea what to do with them. 

There are a couple of deaths in the family as first Amalrich’s third wife Shola (the poisoner) and then his second wife Adila (the Killa, spymaster extraordinaire) pass away. Very sad. Also, Anselm is trying to get to grips with having only one leg. He humiliates himself at a ball trying to dance with a courtier he has a crush on. No wonder he’s depressed. He needs some conquering to cheer him up.

This is a slight abuse of the invasion CB, but I figure why the hell not and invade West Francia? Really, they’re the only threat to me left in western Europe. My first attempt at this is a complete failure as I did not heed my own advice about the coordinated sieges and instead ran my 50K levy through the Alps in January chasing a French army. I savescummed and started again. Once again, though, I’m running into the problem of defensive pacts. This, combined with the enormous size of my realm, is causing trouble for me in wars. For example, as I’m sieging down land in France, their allies the Mongol Empire are sieging my undefended lands in the Crimea, just as the Sinda are sieging FUCKING SAMARKAND and the Pecheneg Company are hiding down in Ethiopia somewhere sieging territory. It’s very hard to deal with threats on multiple fronts at once, especially when you’re counting on superior numbers to get you through some hard sieges. So I split off a force of 14K or so to take out the Pechenegs, which helps a bit. But it’s the sieges in France that actually bring up the warscore. Weirdly I only get it to about 38% before it jumps to 100%. I think I must have passed some arbitrary amount of territory taken to get that high. I come to terms with the Emperor of Francia. 

I make the Duke of Granada the King of West Francia, then divvie out all the new lands to my vassals. I keep Paris for myself. Now we wait and see if we can get another chunk of Francia before the end of the game. Also pretty sure I’m going to have to fight those Northern Indians at some point. I can see them looking greedily at Samarkand.

But before I can make a decision on this latest move, Anselm receives another missive from the Pope.


The Pope. Remember? The guy who calls all the crusades.

Oh yeah, that guy. What does he want? Uh huh. Right. Another crusade for Italy. *sigh*

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 13: Always Be Popin’

I’m not going to bother raising all my troops this time because frankly interest in this crusade is limited. Only the four Christian holy orders are attacking my lands, and Anselm takes particular joy in smashing his half-brother Hartwig’s Knights Hospitaller force, although he escapes unharmed. It really doesn’t take very long for me to get the warscore up high enough to force a white peace. Again, I could win, but it would take absolutely ages and I’d rather spend the next few years up to 1453 doing something constructive.

While this is happening, I begin to have a problem with decadence again. The King of Ireland (distant cousin) has produced a prodigious number of sons and he has apparently allowed them to become shiftless layabouts preoccupied with carnal sins and alcohol. Of course that cannot be allowed. The first three sons agree to straighten up, but the fourth refuses and I imprison him. The King of Ireland starts to actively plot against me, so I have him whacked. Easy enough considering he’s a disfigured monster with a huge tyranny penalty against him. Nobody misses him.

The King of West Francia has now declared himself King of France so amusingly we now have a situation where the King of France and the Emperor of Francia are two different people. Francia is certainly a weak and hobbled state, in a constant state of revolt. I now possess all of the west of the country except Brittany. I have also taken away quite a lot of their lands in Andalusia. I still have a truce with Francia proper so I will wait a little while before declaring for Austrasia or Germany.

Fortunately, I’m able to take advantage of a French revolt to finally take about half of the remaining Frankish provinces in Andalusia. Hispania is looking redder every day. While I’m doing this, the Sunni Caliph surprises me by declaring a jihad for the remaining French provinces of Andalusia, which is really hardly anything at all. I immediately forget about this since it doesn’t involve me at all.

I’m mulling over my next moves – attacking the Kilabids who possess Persia and most of the Arabian peninsula is a logical next step, but they are good kharijites like me so maybe I’ll let them be. This is a less attractive idea to me than it used to be now, because my secret desire is to push across Afghanistan and into Northern India a la Alexander the Great. The Sinda Empire appears to be crumbling now – its western flank has converted to Shia Islam (i.e. the wrong Islam) and broken away from its power centre in the Punjab. So this means I have to plow through an extra Muslim state in order to get an Invasion CB on Sinda. Realistically, time is getting short now.

My ruminations are cut short however by another Catholic revolt, this time in Bohemia. The first round is easily put down by my retinues, but another mob rises up in western France led by a charismatic peasant leader called Pelagios. Anselm saddles his horse and at the head of his knight retinue and a moderately-sized levy from Constantinople and the surrounding area, goes forth to do battle. Unfortunately, an enormous liberation revolt is called at exactly the same time. The two armies are technically allied with one another, so this makes the proposition of attacking them slightly more dangerous. I wait a little to gather more levies (being over the vassal limit is still hampering my ability to levy troops) then send Anselm in to attack.

Anselm crushes the liberation army first. The peasants are no match for my highly trained knights and they are swiftly despatched and their leader executed. The Caliph then hops into the next province to do battle with the remaining Catholics. Brave Anselm leads in person, of course, but in the course of the action he receives a crushing blow to the face which leaves him horrifically disfigured. In addition to his one hand and one leg. Anselm is understandably vexed. Pelagios, the leader of the revolt is in his dungeon, so in a rage he mutilates Pelagios as well, and keeps the Catholic leader at his court as an example to others who might consider rebellion. Now both of them sport matching masks. (In retrospect, I wish I'd thought to make him court jester)

Now Anselm is extra depressed. If the ladies didn’t love him when he was only one-armed and one-legged, then now they definitely aren’t interested. Anselm’s first wife died of natural causes some time ago, leaving his two secondary wives Hypatia and Aikaterine his only spouses. Unfortunately, his appearance utterly revolts them now, so Anselm invests in a golden mask which somehow improves his sex appeal. Unfortunately, at this point Hypatia is rumbled trying to poison his son Berthold, so he has her executed in a blind fury.

Luckily, while all this has been going on, the clock has ticked away sufficiently from my last law change to allow me to finally get Imperial Administration. All of the administrative problems the Caliphate has had for a century disappear instantly. I’m reaping more than 200 gold per month. My levies are 240K. Finally, the Caliphate’s power is actually commensurate to its size. 

To celebrate, I decide to launch an invasion of Burgundy. The ten-year truce with the Emperor Alphonse “The Dragon” (who is both kind and a cannibal) is over, so there’s nothing to stop me. The war is actually kind of uneventful. I am simply able to move as many troops as I can to Burgundy and occupy virtually every province they have. I never actually go into deficit to manage this. In one battle I actually get to 40% warscore. Bear in mind that there is still a defensive pact against me that includes basically every country, empire and tiny independent duchy in the world. None of them can rival the might of the Caliphate! Victory and Salvation!

At this point, France is getting embarrassingly small. Also, looking at the map, my font size is massive. I make a random cousin King of Burgundy and dish out the rest of the provinces to vassals who are unhappy with the new administration system absolutely reaming them for taxes. What will be next? Take on the Kilabids? Subjugate Abyssinia? Conquer the Abbasids? Nothing is impossible anymore.

Miscellaneous observations:

  •  Grandmaster Hartwig escaped punishment for his crimes by dying of cancer. Shame. Wanted to see some brother-on-brother violence. Uerturiobowl denied.
  • Oh, remember that jihad for Andalusia? Well, while I was drubbing France, the Abbasids were quietly stealing those lands from behind both of our backs. My new neighbours are green instead of blue. They’re still the wrong religion, but hey, at least they’re Muslim.

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 14 – A Fish out of Water

Caliph Anselm is no slouch, so immediately after seizing Burgundy from the Franks, he ships his retinues back to the Middle East for an invasion of Persia. Holding Persia currently are the Sunni Kilabid family, from which Anselm’s mum Adila the Killa hailed. This doesn’t stop him bulldozing his relatives' family holdings and annexing his lands into the Empire. The Caliphate now extends as far east as Afghanistan, although I think on reflection I’m unlikely to get any further. The Sinda Empire is breaking apart even more now, with the Maharajah having converted to Shia Islam. On the off chance he gets his shit together, I betroth one of Anselm’s daughters to him. I figure if he wins his revolts, he’ll be a powerful ally, and if he loses he’ll be dead and I won’t have to honour the betrothal.
Just across the Red Sea from my rich Egyptian lands, the Abbasids who hold much of the Arabian Peninsula still are having trouble. They’ve got a big revolt on their hands, mostly centred around those Andalusian lands they took from the Franks and in the Duchy of Medina. Now, I don’t see any reason why the inferior Sunni Caliph should have two of Islam’s holy sites, so off we go to claim them. Since I’m declaring on a revolt, they aren’t part of the defensive pact against me so it’s only a matter of time before I’ve got all of the Andalusian territory sieged down and am assaulting Mecca itself. The only blot on the event is that I accidentally marched an army through the desert where attrition made them easy pickings for the better-prepared Bedouins. 

Unfortunately, the cough that Caliph Anselm has had for a while developed into full-blown consumption, so it’s off to the sawbones he goes. This time, the treatment is so successful that it actually makes him more powerful in his battles against the Abbassids. I then get the notification Anselm has survived consumption, but is now completely riddled with dysentery. I get the doctor on it again, and as Anselm goes through the “drink the water with the fish in it” treatment again, he only goes and CHOKES TO DEATH on one of the fish.

At this point, you have to laugh. Anselm had fought personally in hundreds of battles, lived through  wounds that would kill lesser men, survived assassination attempts, lost a leg, a hand, and even his face, and still he went on ticking. Anselm “The Glorious” - killed by a fish administered by an incompetent quack.

Naturally, Caliph Amalrich II (Amalrich IV if we’re going by the Kaiser title) makes his first move to fire the surgeon. Amalrich has the impressive nickname “The Magnificent” from technically conquering Mecca and Medina, even though Anselm did the lion’s share of the work. Me, I’m not convinced. Amalrich is cripplingly shy, has no diplomacy points, and is a mediocre steward and warrior. To top it off, he seems to have inherited the old Uerturio clubfoot that plagued Uuen “The Black”. Instantly, I have a number of factions on my hands, which I spend almost 10k gold to talk down.

I find that almost always when you get a lot of factions, the only thing that will quiet them is military victory. If that’s also combined with land grants, then that’s a bonus. The death of Anselm has voided my truce with the Franks, so in order to shore up his legitimacy, Amalrich decides to take Germany. Remember, that this branch of Uerturios are culturally German.

Although the Franks put up a spirited defense in their Bavarian provinces, the Byzantine numbers make it largely a waiting game. I quickly siege down Koln and give the Germans a German ruler in the form of my half-brother Berthold. Even if Bertie is a visible minority (mother was a Bedouin) there’s no opinion penalty for that. Hopefully this gift will mend the schism between Bertie and myself. They have not got on very well since Amalrich's mum tried to poison him and dad had her executed. Luckily, this actually works and the brothers are on far better terms now.

Amalrich looks into assassinating Alphonse “The Dragon” but it doesn’t look like this will happen. There's not a spymaster around of the calibre of his granny, Adila the Killa. Nevertheless he’s getting on in years to there’s a chance he might die and void the truce again. If this happens, Austrasia will be mine.

Some extra conquering is actually happening without my input. Ulf, King of Sweden took over Denmark in a holy war, wiping that persistent item off my to-do list. The King of Antioch is making a very good attempt to grab Francia’s Bavarian lands from them, too. I hope he succeeds.

The ByzanPict Caliphate Part 15 – The End of the Uerturios

Brother Bertie is dead. My beloved younger brother Berthold, King of the Germans, has perished in a duel against a courtier named Anthemios. Now I must dedicate the last ten years of game time to enacting my revenge on the douche. I begin to spy on him, hopefully I’ll get the chance to abduct him.

First though, I push a claim on Abyssina which turns out actually to be a DUCHY in Abyssina and not the whole thing. Oops. I have to go back and finish the job when they have a revolt a few months later.

I have another adventurer waiting to make a claim, but I’m able to bribe his wife and a number of his courtiers and soon he’s careening off a cliff in a sabotaged carriage.

Since I have less than 10 years of game time left, I need to figure out my last steps. Alphonse is still alive so it looks like the truce with France will hold for now, I suppose I could break it, but the Abbasid blobs in Andalusia annoy me more right now. I make a move to invade.

I’m happily sieging Abbasid holdings in Cordoba when I get a notification that gives me pause. The decadence meter is rising.

Crusader Kings II is a game of small decisions. Seemingly insignificant choices can have consequences that reach down through the centuries to kick you in the ass. Sometimes everything you’ve built over the years can come crashing down all because of one simple decision. And it can come down fast. Usually, it’s your own fault. Sometimes, though, just sometimes, there’s someone else to blame.

Like this motherfucker right here:

You see, the Irish are really bad at being Muslim. Just astonishingly, earth-shatteringly bad. It’s the drink, I reckon. The Irish can’t resist its siren song. This is why Irish Uerturio princes seem to turn decadent at a ridiculous rate. The Irish Uerturios are also remarkably fecund, producing an average of four sons per crop, most of whom inevitably end up in my dungeon.

My go to method for dealing with decadence is this: ask them to straighten up and ditch the orgies or whatever, and if they refuse jail them for life. This is why if you go into my dungeon, you’ll find three of the sons of Breth, two sons of King Mubashir of France, a son of Fadl “The Great” of Andalusia. Some of them have been there for decades. Amalrich II (but really IV) was even forced to add his own son, Anselm, to their number. Decadence is too big a risk.

So it appears that Breth wishes to join his sons in the clink. Strange, since he’s an old man, and generally they don’t go decadent. I also, I heard that kings never went decadent, but I guess this proves otherwise. I ask him to straighten up, and he refuses. Here’s where the trouble really starts: I try to imprison him, and he raises his flag in rebellion. So now I’m in a race against time to defeat his rebellion and chop his head off before my decadence maxes out and I have real problems. 

Unfortunately, Ireland has gotten massive, given I’ve been handing out land every time I conquer anything to keep the vassals happy. Ireland’s got Mauretania and a huge chunk of Abyssina. Nevertheless I ship my army to Ireland and attempt to storm the capital. But… I’m too late.

Quick break in the story to gripe about the game mechanics. There was literally nothing I could do to stop this arbitrary event from occurring. Maybe if my character had higher intrigue I could have had Breth assassinated or kidnapped before the decadence gain got too high. Decadence just rises so quickly. In under a year, it’s over 80%.

The Decadence Revolt begins. It raises 240,000 troops, IN NORWAY. Why Norway? Are there even 240K people living in Norway? With the strain on levies and fleets from my decadence, I have no idea how I’m going to get my armies up there. The revolt starts sieging down provinces. And they go fast. So fast. The holdings in Scandinavia are puny at the best of times, but with 240K stack sitting on top of them, occupation is nearly instantaneous.

There is a coughing death rattle, as Amalrich II “The Magnificent” dies a natural death, presumably from sheer pique at the game’s audacity. So who’s my heir again? Oh, shit…

Caliph Poppo is five years old and rather more concerned with playing with his toys than with the gigantic army coming to steal his birthright. His regent is Fadl of Andalusia, who hated his father for imprisoning his son. So this is off to a good start.

Poppo doesn’t give a shit about getting revenge on Anthemius so he instead tries to kill the King of Ireland. He fails, but Breth dies of natural causes leaving another five-year-old in charge. I white peace the war and attempt to marshal my remaining troops to take on the rebels. I do not have nearly enough troops.

Worrying signs abound. For the first time ever, someone refuses a royal marriage offer from me. Uerturio princesses used to be a sign that you’d made it. Now, everyone just wants to wait and see how the chips fall. Probably not in my favour. 

Eventually, I have 170K troops, the most I could muster, amassed in Denmark. The warscore is currently -99%. My troops cross into Norway for one last apocalyptic battle…
… and the game ends. Kind of anticlimactic.

I mean, we all know how this one shakes out, but still. If I’d had just a few more months I could have seen my beautiful armies pounded into the Scandinavian permafrost, and poor Poppo smothered by his self-serving courtiers. Or I could choose to believe that Poppo’s generals pulled some kind of Austerlitz-level victory out of their hats. Or I could just choose to leave it at that – the Caliphate stretching from the Atlantic to the Caspian Sea. No need to dwell on what happens to tiny Poppo!

It’s been a wild ride that has taken almost a year in real time. I went from a Pictish tribal chief, to King of the Picts, to the Eastern Roman Emperor, to the German Caliph. I defended Rome from the Mongols, systematically dismantled France and sent a humiliated Pope into exile. I took Jerusalem and conquered Egypt. And now, it is over. 

One day I likely will load this into Europa Universalis IV, although I can’t imagine it’ll be that much fun. Apparently EUIV becomes quite boring when you have an Empire this huge. Although it might be quite fun to try and convert the Americas to Islam, if I can defeat my rebels.

There’s still much I want to do with CK2. I’ve never played as nomads, or in India (I’ll hold off doing those until I’ve bought Jade Dragon) or Norse. I’ll definitely return to the medieval period. For now, though, I’m enjoying a change of pace, starting an EUIV campaign as the Duchy of Savoy.I expect I'll be boring you with news of that before long.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The ByzanPict Empire 9 – The ByzanPict Caliphate

With the Pope’s half-hearted attempts to seize back Italy fought off, it’s time for Amalrich to do some expansion of his own. The target will once again be in the Middle East. The De Jure kingdom of Damascus has been under Frankish control since the early Crusades. Damascus is one of the holy sites I need if I want to be proclaimed Caliph. And you’re damned right I want to be proclaimed Caliph.

I spend 1000 piety for an invasion of Damascus. My retinues and demesne troops are right next to Damascus, so they swoop in quickly and start sieging. I gather my forces in Poland and Bohemia and strike against the Franks in Allemania. Meanwhile my Italian, African, Mauretanian and Spanish troops set up a few sieges in Burgundy. This combined approach works, for the Franks quickly capitulate. Amalrich doles out the territories won to the few discontented Kharijite kings to avoid the penalty for holding too much land. Amalrich is just over 50 years old now, so I think he’s due a big birthday present. I create the Kharijite Caliphate to give him.

 That’s it. I won. When I started Amalrich’s reign I set myself the goal of creating a Kharijite Caliphate, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. It’s much different from what I had expected to be doing at this point, i.e. expanding a Christian Roman Empire deep into the Middle East. But there’s no way I’m stopping now. It’s 1395 and I have just about 60 years left on the clock. Now that I’m Caliph, I’m essentially both Emperor and Pope at the same time. I can call jihads now, and that will come in handy for the next phase of my plan: weaken the Franks.

The Franks have been the one constant in this game – the big blue blob that will never die, constantly in the way of my expansion, competing with me on crusades, forming defensive pacts against me even when I was so big I could have crushed them one-on-one. So If I want to port this campaign over to Europa Universalis IV (and I do) it seems natural that they will be the only real external threat to me. I can see it being a race between Catholic France and the Muslim Romans to colonize the Americas. So while I can, I’m going to do my best to destabilise them and to steal as much territory as I can. And now that I can call jihads…

… hmmm, wait a second… why is my levy stuck at 40K and my income at -30 a month.

Oh no, Gerlach! Gerlach! What is this? Have you been eating grapes?

While I have not been paying attention, apparently my son and heir Gerlach has been shaming the whole dynasty with his decadent ways. As a result my tax income is heavily curtailed, my levies are miniscule (seriously I have no ships. None), and my vassal limit, already overtaxed is actually shrinking. This is my first experience with decadence, one of the most annoying game mechanics in CK2. I find it very difficult to believe that after reclaiming two of Islam’s most holy sites, going on Hajj, celebrating Ramadan each year and single-handedly turning the world’s biggest Christian Empire into a stable Caliphate my vassals would judge me a “bad Muslim” because one of my sons likes luxury a bit too much. But putting aside for now how ridiculous this is, how on earth do I fix it? I try and straighten him up but he doesn’t listen, although he does give me a gift of an excellent eunuch to leave him alone. I try giving him his dead brother’s barony of Carthage to run. It does nothing. How on earth can I get rid of decadence?

The only thing that stops the decadence gain is Gerlach’s own foolish ambition. Mere months after giving him Carthage, I get news that he is plotting to have Amalrich killed. So into the jail with Gerlach, where he perishes from general neglect in short order. Decadence gain stops at 26%. I let the game run for a while to see if it depletes now that Gerlach is dead – it doesn’t.
That means that I have to perform an extremely large act of Muslim zeal to get that decadence down. Something physically demanding. Something that gets the whole family involved. Outdoors preferably. But also something pious and impressive. I’ve got it! JIHAD FOR AQUITAINE!

Friday, October 06, 2017

The ByzanPict Empire Part 8: Revenge of the Pope

So there’s a question that gets asked in CK2 circles that goes a little like this: “what’s the worst you’ve ever fucked up raising a kid?” The possibilities for error are endless – pick the wrong educator or land them too early and you’ve got a low-stat indolent wastrel on your hands. In the case of Aldrich, Amalrich’s first son with Marie of Carthage, I really screwed the pooch. He was originally being tutored by his mother at her court in Africa, but I was concerned about his Christian education and wanted him as my ward to make sure he picked up Islam. However, I must have pressed the wrong button or forgot to set a focus or something, because when he came of age he had apparently been studying theology completely unguided instead of learning from me. In fact, the only good thing I did for him was to encourage him to be ambitious, which led to him hate me. It became obvious from this point that he wasn’t going to be the heir I needed, and I would have to look elsewhere.

What about his brothers, the twins Hartwig and Michael? I never did rescue them from Marie’s court, so they remain Christian. To top it off, Hartwig – fucking Hartwig! – is the heir to the Knights Hospitaller. One of my own sons joining a Christian holy order, without asking my permission? Faugh! I mean, he lives at Krak Des Chevaliers which is undeniably badass, but surely there will be consequences to this decision.

Hartwig's hoose

Luckily, Adila, Amalrich’s Kuwaiti genius secondary wife, produces a son, Gerlach, for me to groom to succeed him.

To celebrate, I use yet another rebellion against the Mazdaki rulers of Francia as a distraction while I send an expedition into the Levant to capture the duchy of Jerusalem for Islam. It goes off without a hitch and I’m able to distribute the lands to faithful Kharijite vassals.

Plotting is minimal, at the moment. I still have a few Catholic vassals, the chief of which is Lubb of Andalusia, who succeeded Iestan. This hideous brute was badly maimed in battle trying to fruitlessly push the claim on the Empire of Francia inherited from Enudaig. Lubb’s son is a Kharijite, so I have him assassinated, and young Yahya takes over.

With my levies drifting into 190,000 territory for the first time ever, Amalrich feels free to begin to ponder the invasion of Persia, which is roughly half of the Abbasids remaining territory. Or perhaps Egypt? The possibilities of the Invasion CB are endless, provided you have the piety. And Amalrich has piety to spare. However, these plans are sidelined when Amalrich receives a letter from the Pope.

 Yeah, the Pope. Remember that guy? He used to be kind of a big deal.

Catholicism was the dominant religion in Europe for much of the game, even converting the Orthodox Byzantines in the 11th century. However the dreadful decline of the religion’s moral authority can be traced back to Rome’s disastrous loss to the Mongol Empire, and its subsequent recovery for Christendom by the Empire of Pictland. If you’ll recall, Uuen “The Black” didn’t really see the upside to handing Rome back to the Pope, especially as he was a vassal of the Franks. Amalrich’s conversion to the Kharijite faith was only the final nail in the coffin.

With Emperor Arnaud’s conversion to Mazdak, the Pope was once again forced to flee from persecution, this time essentially a renegade in a largely non-Christian Europe. He fled back to Rome, where he dwelled in secret, away from the agents of the Byzantines. At least this is what I’m telling myself to explain why I just can’t arrest the fucker.

So Pope Urbanus V (called “the Good” even though he is a Wicked Priest) called a crusade for Italy. Since my experience of having jihads called upon me were of fighting frenetic, highly mobile defensive wars with little time for sieging, I immediately raised all of my troops – and nothing happened. I sat waiting for the Pope’s inevitable doomstack to show up. But it didn’t. The only people to join the crusade were the High Chief of Ugra – two provinces up in Russia somewhere – and the Holy Orders. I stepped down a significant number of my troops, send a few up to siege Ugra, cursing the name of attrition as I did so, and with the rest storm the Holy Orders holdings – including Gerlach’s home in Krak Des Chevaliers. Yes, I am fighting against my own son in this war.
Frankly, this isn’t much of a crusade. I get up to 50% warscore before I realise with horror that Arnaud has been toppled by his revolt, and a Catholic ruler now sits on the throne of Francia. Although the king has not declared yet, many of his vassals have. Could this be the end for Amalrich (Now known as “The Great”)? No, sod it. The Emperor of Francia declares the war and I White Peace out. There’s no way I’m wasting men on the pretentions to significance of a dying religion. It would be nice to get that sweet moral authority bonus, but I can’t justify expenditure in gold and lives of continuing the war.

I don’t know whether this is god’s judgment or not, but the Black Death has recurred in Carthage. First to die is Aldrich, the uninspiring heir. Queen Marie also pops her clogs from ill-health. Yet another reason not to be warring right now. Amalrich takes yet another wife – this time an attractive Greek named Melissa. The wives immediately begin to squabble, with allegations of attempted poisoning flying. Amalrich ignores it, merely putting Melissa in the dungeon for a few days before releasing her – but will soon regret that he did.