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.

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.