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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The ByzanPict Empire Part 7: Sweded

Before I can do anything about the Franks, there’s a Swede, Åke, with a claim on one of my titles who’s amassed a 30K army. Now we see one of the pitfalls of having a gigantic empire – by the time I’ve managed to get all of my troops together and shipped off to their rallying point in Saxony, the warscore is already -50%. Luckily one battle is enough to get into the positive figures, and the remnants of their forces actually decamp to their ships and flee into the Mediterranean. I leave half of the army to liberate the counties they took, and with the other half, give chase! In a rather surreal and completely unrealistic sequence my fleet tails theirs all the way to Constantinople, where they jump out and smash themselves against the Theodosian Walls like a bunch of morons. It doesn’t matter, because there’s only 6,000 or so of them left, and my armies have already erased their gains in Sweden. Åke surrenders and Amalrich banishes him from the realm, keeping his 700 gold for himself.
All the time I’m doing this I am keeping extremely close watch on my factions. Rodislav, the King of Italy fancies himself worthy of the Empire, but his faction includes only himself, so I don’t think I have to worry too much about him. I still have a hefty independence faction, although most of my vassal kings must be in jail at this point so it only includes Iestan, the King of Scotland (Enudaig died in the oubliette) and the King of Bavaria. It’ll take a damn miracle to stop it from growing, though.
Another problem I’m having to deal with is the Catholic revolts that keep cropping up from time to time. It pretty much only takes my demesne levies and retinues to destroy them, but they’re occurring with quite disturbing frequency now. Despite this, I’ve had the first few counties fully convert to Kharijite Islam. Hopefully we’ll have some more soon.
Now I can finally get to the conquest of Damascus and Jerusalem. However, the Franks are having their own version of the conflict that my own empire is having. The Frankish Emperor, Arnaud, stunned the world by announcing his conversion to Mazdaki Zoroastrianism. Yes. Not even proper Zoroastrianism. So the two largest Christian empires are now both run by adherents of eastern heresies. Did I mention that secret societies are completely broken? And still, I love it.
The next step, I think, will be to use the Muslim Invasion CB to invade Jerusalem. Once I have that, I can declare a bog-standard holy war for Damascus. Both of these wars will be incredibly difficult but if I can exploit the religious turmoil within the Frankish Empire (while managing my own) I should be able to do it. If Amalrich survives long enough to get these holy sites he’ll proclaim himself Caliph. If he dies and his Christian son Aldrich takes over, then he’ll proclaim himself Augustus. And then I’ll convert him back to Islam because at this point I think trying to go backwards towards Catholicism will be harder. And also more boring.
Kharijite Islam is really the best religion for trying to expand your realm. It enables you to declare holy wars on both infidel Christians and Muslims of any denomination. The Muslim Invasion CB is really overpowered, and county conquest will probably be useful. Caliphal subjugation, not so much since I can only use it on rulers of the same denomination and as far as I can tell there are none. Once I’ve got these two wars out of the way I can either try and take Persia from the Abbasids or hoover up as much of Francia as I can.
Couple of fun miscellaneous events:

  • The Queen of Sweden seduced her jailer and escaped, only to die in battle against Muslim rebels. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
  • A courtier comes to ask to join the Knights Templar. Since the Knights Templar are a heathen Christian order and I don’t get any piety gain from letting him go, I was about to refuse, but then I noticed the courtier had the “eunuch” trait. It was none other than Innekentios, the former rebel that Amalrich’s dad had castrated. Since current Amalrich is a reasonable and Godly man, and probably a little ashamed by his dad’s excesses, he let him go. Sure, Innekentios, go join the Knights Templar. I’m sure I will see you on the battlefield.
  •  I also stole a bunch of Norway when they had a revolt. Norway is now 1 county in Scandinavia, Iceland and Mallorca.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The ByzanPict Empire Part 6: Gigantic Civil War Edition

In 1364, Amalrich III had reasons to celebrate. In the year since he’d succeeded his father as Byzantine Emperor, he’d announced his conversion to Islam and murdered his brother Werner all without serious consequences to his reign. Now, he welcomed the news his wife, Marie of Carthage, was pregnant, and for good measure decided to take a second spouse. He found one in Adila, the 16-year-old strong genius daughter of the Sultan of the Kilabids, who held the land bordering the Kingdom of Mesopotamia, all the way down to the Red Sea. To top that off, he’d just arranged an alliance with the French that ought to shore up his western borders. Everything was coming up Amalrich.

Genius wife!

Some changes needed to be made to accommodate the Empire’s new religion. First, the Christian court chaplain was fired, and a good Kharijite Muslim appointed in his place. Then that chaplain was sent to preach in England, and hopefully convert the child king. Mordeleg, the old king, who had been Muslim, had died in suspicious circumstances some years before (although many suspected Amalrich’s father, Amalrich “The Cruel”), proving the biggest stumbling block to the acceptance of Allah in the British Isles. With the Queen of Wales having converted to Islam in Amalrich’s dungeon, where she had languished since the last big revolt, and the ailing Enudaig of Pictland’s son and heir Iestan a convert also, England with luck England would follow suit.

In fact, the makeup of the Empire seems to be a roughly half and half split between Catholics and Kharijites. See below for a list of my major vassals:

Emperor, King of Cyprus, King of Great Moravia, King of Portugal, King of Castille
Queen of Sicily, Wallachia
Queen of Wales
King of Galicia
King of Mesopotamia
King of Alania
King of Georgia
Republic of Venice

King of Poland
King of Bavaria
King of Scotland, Mauretania, Ireland and Andalusia
Queen of Sweden
King of Greece
King of Anatolia
King of Trebizond
King of England
King of Antioch
Queen of Afric
King of Italy

As you can see, it’s roughly 50/50. I will say, however, the Christian rulers have definitely got the strongest parts of the empire. England, Scotland, Italy, Poland and Bavaria, for instance, are incredibly strong, while on the Muslim side the recently-conquered Georgia is still nursing enmity with the Empire, while the others are all small kingdoms with very little in the way to offer for levies. Luckily I’ve got the alliance with the French and the Kilabids as well as cash for mercs if I need them.

So although everything is good now, it couldn’t really be expected to stay that way forever, could it? The Greeks of the Eastern Roman Empire had never quite gotten used to being ruled by Germans, but Muslim Germans? That was a step too far.

Since taking the Byzantine Empire, I’ve faced so many revolts I couldn’t count them. Some of them big, some of them against single kingdoms that I’ve deliberately provoked in order to remove them from factions. I’ve even, on occasion, switched off and reloaded because the revolt was too stupidly big for me to counter. That made me feel like a cheat. I understand why the game does this – it doesn’t want you to become too powerful so will knock you down on occasion. But I just don’t want to have come this close to achieving my goals and get kicked back to one county because I didn’t understand the rules when I started playing. Next time my empire will be more stable because I will have made the necessary changes to laws etc to manage a larger empire. I’m stuck playing catch up right now, but I simply cannot get any law change past the council. Even the ones who like me vote against everything. I have two loyalists, but there’s always one malcontent that I’ve had to give a council position to stop them from factioning, and they’re nearly always bribing at least two other council members to also be dicks.

It's probably fine.
Anyway, inevitably, there was a huge revolt. And predictably it cleaved the kingdom in two roughly along religious lines. Led by the King of Antioch, the faction included the big dogs of Scotland, Poland, Bavaria and Italy, with England not rebelling but sending me a mere pittance of troops. Anatolia and Greece also stayed loyal, something I’m eternally grateful for. Amalrich called in his allies in France and Mesopotamia and despite a number of reverses (mostly due to me forgetting about isolated armies and leaving them to be trounced by much larger forces) we managed to prevail, sieging down Krakow, Antioch and Barcelona.

This means my jail is now full of rebel monarchs, and I will have to decide what to do with them. I am definitely going to revoke a title or two from Enudaig, probably Andalusia and Mauretania if I can, and give it to a family member. Four kingdoms is too much for one person, even if young Iestan is a good Muslim. Then it will be into the oubliette for Enudaig for the rest of his short life. I’m also going to revoke Italy and give it to a family member. Possibly someone of the Gausian dynasty that I’m married into, because they have a historic claim to it from the days that Italy and Africa were one country. Maybe I’ll just land some sons to stave off decadence.

The next stage is a holy war to take Damascus from the French Revolt. The Emperor was mighty peeved to be pulled into my wars so he broke off the alliance. That means I only have a non-aggression pact to break, which isn’t too much of a problem. Here’s a question, though – will my Christian subjects send levies to fight in a war to take Christian lands away from Christian rulers? Only one way to find out.

I also have another adventurer due in a year or so I’ll wipe the floor with him, take his gold and banish him. I’m not Greek anymore so all my torturey options are out, also I can’t spare the piety.

I’ve seen a lot of hate online for the new Monks and Mystics secret cult mechanics. I’m going to voice an incredibly unpopular opinion here: I actually quite like them. I’m not playing with the Monks and Mystics DLC itself yet, but the update to the base game adds an incredible new dimension, provided you like to play the game the way I do. One of the things I find fascinating about CK2 is the way you can essentially end up playing against yourself. A classic example from my game would be Amalrich II “The Cruel” murdering Mordeleg of England. This turned out to be completely not in Amalrich III’s interest, since he was a strong Muslim vassal and the guy who replaced him is a Catholic and a pain in my behind. CK2 has always been about defining your own aims, and secret cults sort of force choices upon you that you didn’t know you wanted to take. Reforming Rome sounded like a good idea, but becoming Caliph of a Muslim Byzantine Empire – something I had never even considered – is in this case only possible because of the influence of secret cults. To me the sudden conversion of the Emperor at a crucial time just adds more depth to the story. It prevents it from getting boring as well. I’ve never played a Muslim before, never dealt with their succession system, never had multiple wives or decadence etc. It’s really been quite an enjoyable late game twist.

EDIT: OK, so we’re clearly going to have to forget about holy warring the revolting Franks for now. I played through it last night but had to savescum because it just wasn’t working. There aren’t enough revolting provinces in the east, so in order to increase war score I have to actually go to France and fight, with both the French crown and rebel armies hostile to me. To top it off, I have an adventurer threat imminent, and this guy has 30K troops. That’s not something I can defeat with my retinues and demesne troops alone. At the same time, I have ANOTHER independence revolt (uuughhh) which is England, Wales and part of Africa. I honestly cannot be bothered fighting another revolt army. It is becoming most tedious. At this rate I’ll have no vassals left out of prison. I know this wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d understood the importance of changing laws to limit council power at the beginning of the game. I’m going to level with you. I’m going to keep cheating in order to actually keep the game interesting. It’s 1368 and I still have 85 years left. All I want to do is convert the Empire to Islam and become Caliph. Maybe take a couple of duchies and Jerusalem from the Franks. That’s it. I’m not asking much. Just that those rabbling bastards stop rabbling and let me get on with things.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The ByzanPict Empire Part 5: Amalrich III, the Kharijite Emperor

Amalrich III is the first character I’ve played to be born in the purple. With Amalrich I “The Just” already being old when he inherited, Amalrich II “The Cruel” was born in some ghastly hovel in Hamburg rather than the Imperial Palace in Constantinople.

I hope that this status as an heir born to a sitting Emperor gives Amalrich III some of the legitimacy that his father and grandfather lacked, because dear god he is not doing anything to help himself right now. It’s bad enough he’s a German emperor of a primarily Greek and Pictish empire. Now he has to go and convert to Islam as well? And not even to a sensible form of Islam like Sunni or even Shia. But Kharijitism? So he’s both a Muslim AND a heretic. Great!

There is an upside to this potentially troubling succession, though. Amalrich is without a doubt the most competent ruler stats-wise I’ve had in a long time, even going back to before the union of the empires in 1317 (Yes, that’s what I’m calling it). He’s got reasonable learning and diplomacy, tolerable intrigue and although his martial is a bit naff he’s got an incredible 22 stewardship. This means I should be making money and hopefully fixing up the administrative mess that the Empire has become.

There’s another upside here, because even though Amalrich is a Muslim heretic, my Catholic vassals STILL like him better than they did his dad. I put a lot of points into tolerance during this game, having only a -13 modifier for ‘infidel’ is manageable. In fact, a lot of the negative opinion I have has to do with how much people hated Amalrich “The Cruel”. He didn’t really do that much bad stuff did he? *consults list of murders, mutilations, usurpations* Oh, all right then. He was a dick. It just means I’ll have to work a bit harder to make them all like me. Currently I have quite a lot of Kharijite vassals, but most of them are pretty cool with me, except the Dux of Venice who seems intent on pissing me off.

The big threat, of course, was Werner, Amalrich’s brother who pappy was never able to bundle off to a monastery and couldn’t bring himself to kill. Werner inherited virtually all of his father’s sweet demesne in Mesopotamia and Sicily, and – crucially – is a Christian. As such, he hated his brother Amalrich and it would only be a matter of time until the Catholics rallied around him. In the face of this inevitability, Amalrich had him pre-emptively poisoned, although his involvement was discovered. I don’t remember the last time I played a character without the ‘Known Murderer’ opinion modifier. Anyway, that means I’ve got the demesne back for now, although Amalrich has three sons so getting back on the next succession will be an even bigger problem. There is one other claimant, who will need to be dealt with before long.

So who can guess the downside to being a Muslim? That’s right – Muslim rulers can’t form the Roman Empire. Even though the Ottomans considered themselves the continuation of the ERE, apparently you can’t do it in CK2. That means no Imperial Reconquest CBs and no sexy red colour change. My attempts to form the Roman Empire so far have been frustrated by factional discord and the fact the Franks are sitting pretty in the Holy Land.

So what’s a radical Muslim emperor to do? Well, I suppose I can always become Caliph. You see, being a heresy, there’s no Kharijite religious head like with Sunni and Shia Islam. So that means if I get 100 piety and take a couple of holy sites, then I can declare myself Caliph. Freaking God-Emperor. I like the sound of that. The holy sites I need are either Mecca and Medina (right out, they’re too far away from me) or Baghdad, Damascus and YOU GUESSED IT Jerusalem. I already hold Baghdad, but Damascus and Jerusalem put me in the same position I was before, though – having to war with the Franks. So I guess as soon as my faction problems are solved I might need to break my pact with Francia and attack Damascus then Jerusalem in a holy war. If I can form the Caliphate, then I will have the Great Holy War CB at my disposal and as religious head I’ll be able to call them on whoever I want. Like, for instance, Francia. Or Egypt. Or India. Whoever I want.

 Once I’ve done that, I suppose I always have the option of turning back to Catholicism and reforming the Roman Empire. But I’m not sure. An Eastern Roman Caliphate is a pretty interesting scenario. We’ll have to see. Running low on time though.

Also, this happened.