This is my first AAR, and what better country to start to do AARs with than good old Byzantium?
Rules: Normal difficulty, low aggressivity (AI is already pretty suicidal at low), infation on.
I've used the missionary cheat a couple of times, but that is mostly because going innovative is extremely unforgiving in MEIOU (and innovative is needed to westernize).
P.S. This is not a display of skill, I'm pretty much an average player and I've tried to be as roleplaying as I could.
Part 1 : Between a rock and a very hard turkish place
In the year 1354, the Roman Empire was nothing but the shadow of its former self.
Holding only a handful of cities in the northern half of Greece, the Empire was the target of the expansionist ambitions of the rising Ottoman Beylik, not counting the Bulgarian kingdoms of the north and the Serbian Empire.
Financial and Military situation was dire, with the treasury almost empty and a Military force that collapsed after countless reforms and that ended up relying mostly on mercenary troops than trained native soldiers.
However, history taught us that the greeks did, in past, recover from a similar situation, that lead to the fall of the Latin Empire and the restauration of the Roman Empire itself.
The point of most interest is the date of 12 January 1356, when the Ottoman beylik formally declared open hostilities with the Roman Empire.
As we all know, the Romans were utterly unprepared for the conflict, being greatly outnumbered by the turk forces. At this point, the only solution the Basileus could think of was to block the turks at Constantinople, avoiding contact with the enemy forces and sezing the former roman city of Gallipoli, that the turks left naively unguarded, while leaving the economy in a sort of "full war" assect (full minting).
With this solution, the Romans could stand the turk "attack" as they were blocked in the outskirts of Constantinople, unable to make any progress or to defend their possetions in Greece. In fact, after a long siege, the 12 january 1357 Gallipoli felt.
In the attempt to break the blockade, the turks called their Crimean ally but with little result. Constantinople stood and the turks were blocked in Anatolia, unable to do anything nor to obtain a decisive victory against the Roman navy, which was reinforced during the war with every boat available in the entire empire, including commercial galleys. Incredibly enough, the sheer number of ships was able to avoid the turks to land in Gallipoli from Smyrne.
With the war on an empasse, the Epirote despot, with the alliance of the Vlach king, decided to exploit the Roman difficulty and declare war.
This was a terrible error on the Epirote side, as with the danger of a complete annihilation something moved in the Roman behaviour, and a well organized army of roughly 12000 regulars was ready to be fielded against the invaders. This time, a blockade wouldn't be good enough to defeat the enemies, and the Basileus himself appointed the general Pavlos Gabras in the defence of the territory, giving him the lead on a 7000 men strong army.
Thessalia and Ioannina were swiftly taken, and a 4000 strong army led by Andreas Miklurakes was sent as a reinforcement to intercept the Epirote army.
With the complete destruction of the Epirote Army, the Romans could ask for a vantageous peace offer, which led to the restitution of Thessalia to the Empire and the promise of the Epirote despot to not intervene in an eventual war between the Romans and the crusader state of Neopatria. Date is 17 july 1361, the turks are still blocked in Anatolia.
The meeting with the Vlach king resulted in the return of the pre war conditions.
The Romans, after this important victory and being able to keep the Turks away, felt confident enough to wage war against the crusader state of Neopatria. Moldova and the bulgarian kindgom of Tarnovo anwered the call at arms. Tarnovo will have a major role in this war, as the Moldovian forces were nowhere to be seen and only gave logistic help to the bulgarians, actually leaving the poor and weak despotate of Neopatria alone.
The decisive battle was fought in Rodopi in the October 1364, and the Romans, who used turkish based cavalry effectively, were victorious and forced the invaders to retreat.
On the south, the Neopatrian despot fled to Sicily after the fall of Patras, leaving his former possessions to the romans, who conquered another piece of Greece.
The Tarnovian defeat in Rodopi lead the Lajos of Hungary to attack the bulgarian kingdom. Finding little resistance, Lajos promptly occupied the bulgarian territory.
Lajos settled for the entirety of the bulgarian treasury as his tribute for the war. This lead the Romans, who were still at war with the Tarnovian, to lead an invasion.
The invasion was wildely succesfull. With little resistance found, Ioannes VI decided that the Turnovian state would from this moment be integral part of the reborn Roman Empire. The Bulgarian king, incapable to defend his holdings, accepts.
With this victory, the Empire was able to buy peace from the Moldovian Kingdom with a token gift, granting their superiority and swearing to not intervene in the Moldovian affairs should they collide with the Romans'.
Meanwhile, the war against the Turks was still continuing but both parts agreed that it was no use to keep fighting. Given their inability to keep Gallipoli, the turks accepted the Roman offer to sell them the province for a good sum of gold. The Turks accepted.
The date is 23 August 1364, and here ends the part 1.