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Thread: Iron Cross: The Last Crusade of the Teutonic Knights

  1. #1

    Iron Cross: The Last Crusade of the Teutonic Knights

    My first AAR; hope I don't screw it up too badly. Here goes...

    I thought the Teutonic Order would make for an interesting game, as they are a small, relatively poor country surrounded by much bigger countries who almost unanimously hate their guts. I'm not completely suicidal though; difficulty and AI aggressiveness will be set to NORMAL, dynamic missions are ON, the Order will own Ingermanland and have a CoT at Reval.

    As eminence grise of the Order, my first problem is my boss, Johann Tieffen, the Grand Master. Although a capable and resolute commander in the field he shows no interest in his administrative duties, and his blunt and tactless manner makes diplomacy with foreign princes more difficult than it should be.

    Upon taking office I am appalled at the antiquated and inefficient trade system (level 2 trade tech, not scheduled to hit level 3 until 1540!), as a result of which, despite thriving trade centers at Reval and Dorpat, our coffers are continually in an anemic state. This must be remedied, and the tax system overhauled.

    Fortunately we start out allied with the Prussian elector, and the cities of the Hanse are well disposed towards our cause. I manage to convince Hanseatic representatives that by joining with us we will form a shield across the north of Germany against the possible incursions of the Dane, and a military alliance is signed in January of 1492.

    By the summer of '92 our alliance ties with Prussia and the League have been solidified by a series of key dynastic marriages. I made contact with Johann Cicero, Margrave of Brandenburg, trying to feel him out regarding an alliance- unfortunately a crass remark by the Grand Master about the Margrave's sister, made within hearing of the ambassador from Brandenburg, has scuttled my careful efforts. Nevertheless I am forging ahead with plans to expand the power and territory of the Order. The manner in which this must be done is clear- for we are not bankers, financiers or lawyers, but warriors. The tools of our trade have been the same since the days of Hermann von Salza and the great Hochmeisters of the past.

    The halberd, the firebrand and the sword.

    More to follow...

  2. #2
    In late 1492 I begin casting about for possible territories to add to the Knights' dominion. The most obvious candidate for destruction is the odious republic of Pskov, squatting on lands which rightfully belong to the Brotherhood. However their alliance with Russia gives me serious pause; the thought of the vast hordes that will spring to arms at the command of the Muscovite prince keeps me awake at night. In November of '92 I manage to arrange a dynastic marriage with Russia- we are still on far from friendly terms, but the Grand Master's niece (now married to a Russian grand duke) proves an effective spy, keeping me informed of happenings inside Russia. As the year 1493 dawns, I begin to form a radical plan: a pre-emptive strike against Poland. Poring over a map, I note that our allies are close at hand and able to be of immediate assistance in any such war- the allies of the Polish king (France, Saxony and the Pope) are far removed.
    In furtherance of my plans I begin to recruit and train soldiers, and arrange a royal marriage with Denmark to try and secure our exposed flank.

    1494 is rather uneventful, as I continue to bide my time and await the opportunity to strike. At the beginning of the year the Order borrows 200 florins from one of the great banking houses in order to refill our depleted treasury. During the summer I receive news that sends me into a rage-due to low pay and harsh and incompetent leadership, the army of Estonia has dwindled to nearly half-strength; upwards of 8000 soldiers are reported as deserters! Furious, I order the Estonian Landkomtur thrown into a Riga dungeon and the entire military leadership reorganized.

    The beginning of '95 proves auspicious- Walter von Plettenburg, a tried and valiant soldier, joins the Order as a Brother Servant of Arms. Immediately I place him in command of the troubled army of Estonia. However, I have begun to re-think the planned attack on Poland. I realize that both Prussia and the Hanse have marriage ties to the Polish royal family. Worse yet, my legal advisors inform me that they can find no legitimate casus belli which would justify an armed invasion of Polish lands. So the plan for a Polish war must be scrapped. However, we are now fully mobilized to go to war with someone as soon as spring arrives; therefore I revert to the original plan of an attack on Pskov. The army of Pskov is currently busy fighting alongside their Russian allies against Kazan, and our scouts report that the country is literally undefended, save for the citadel of Pskov itself. Moreover the justice of our cause and the fact that the Pskovians espouse the so-called Orthodox heresy assure that the nobles and the people will fully support the campaign. Hopefully Kazan can keep Russia occupied until our conquest is complete and we can present them with a fait accompli.

  3. #3
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    Looks like a fun one. Keep it up and remember, in any game of chance, the dice respond to role playing, so always have a justification beforehand !

    -Pat

  4. #4
    Non sufficit orbis Lord E's Avatar
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    Great start, keep it comming and as pjcrowe said remenber to have the justification
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  5. #5
    LOL thanks guys I'll keep that in mind.

    BTW, the dice also respond if you load them with a little mercury...

  6. #6
    1495- with the advent of spring, the military commanders of the Order gather for a prodigious feast at the great hall of the Grand Master in Dorpat. Between countless flagons of beer and joints of mutton our plans for the war against Pskov are finalized. A screening force of 5000 infantry and a like number of cavalry will deploy to Ingermanland to watch for the Russians, while von Plettenburg and 17,000 troops cross the Ran River and drive for Pskov. The Hochmeister himself will remain in Kurland with an army of 10,000 infantry, 8000 cavalry and 30 cannon to keep an eye on the Danes, allies of the Russians. On May 29 a herald is sent to the Duma of Pskov with a declaration of war.

    Von Plettenburg's advance is slow but sure, and by July he has invested Pskov. That same month a small Pskovian cavalry force makes a foray into Ingermanland, but is easily driven off. In August our Prussian alliance pays dividends, as 8000 Prussian infantry and 2000 horse arrive outside the walls of Pskov and place themselves under the orders of a grateful Marshal von Plettenburg. The rejoicing is short-lived, however, as grim news arrives the very next day- The Russians have crushed the armies of Kazan and annexed their lands. Now it is certain that the full fury of the Muscovite legions will be directed against our forces.

    Confirmation of this is received two days later when a reconaissance party reports that a Russian army numbering roughly 25,000 men under the famous general Danilo Kholmski is on the march toward the borders of Ingermanland. Grand Master Tieffen responds by moving his forces toward Estonia, but his progress is slowed by the 30 heavy guns in the artillery train. With our attention distracted by the advance of Kholmski the army of Pskov, 12,000 strong, invades Ingermanland and on the 1st of September a savage battle takes place between the Pskovians and our screening force. A charge by our heavy horse finally drives the enemy from the field, but by day's end the earth is drenched with the blood of heroes; only 2000 foot and 4000 horse remain to defend the beleaguered province. In desperation I order recruiting sergeants to scour the alehouses and jails for able-bodied men, and in short order we have raised 7000 reinforcements for the army of Ingermanland.

    But it is too little, too late. On the 19th I receive word that Kholmski's army has brushed aside our forces in Ingermanland, and has ringed the walls of Ivangorod with his siege engines.

    My nightmares have come true; the Russians have arrived.

  7. #7
    BTW, if anybody has any strategy suggestions they would be most welcome, as I'm not too experienced and pretty much just winging it here.

    Just consider yourselves honorary Knights of the Order...

  8. #8
    Non sufficit orbis Lord E's Avatar
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    Originally posted by acesand8s
    BTW, if anybody has any strategy suggestions they would be most welcome, as I'm not too experienced and pretty much just winging it here.

    Just consider yourselves honorary Knights of the Order...
    Thank you
    But you are into some problems with thos Russians, you should probably try to pay them of or something and the use all your forces on Pskov
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  9. #9
    Lord E- Thanks.

    You're right...Pskov has to be finished off but quick so we can turn all our attention to the Russians. The problem with buying them off is...er...ahem...we're broke. (Unless you meant to let them have Ingermanland, which I am loath to do, at least not without a fight)

    Just to go back a bit, my justification for starting the war in the first place was the simple fact that the Order has no money (we collect like 50 ducats every January...can't do much with that). I floated a couple of loans but spent it all putting tax collectors in all my provinces and to build up the army. It seems to me the only way we're going to amount to anything is by expanding our tax base (i.e., by snatching a couple of provinces away from our neighbors).

    Thanks for your wise counsel. I'm off to the walls of Pskov to give the orders.

    Squire, saddle my horse!

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by acesand8s
    BTW, if anybody has any strategy suggestions they would be most welcome, as I'm not too experienced and pretty much just winging it here.

    Just consider yourselves honorary Knights of the Order...
    Can I use that to justify annexing them in my game ?

    My advise is that you should be doing assaults to keep your wars short. Did you assault Pskov the first chance you got? The whole point of launching your war while they (and more importantly Russia) were busy with Kazan was to seize Pskov before Russia could turn its attention to you. So forget about sparing your troops and do what you have to to keep things quick.

    -Pat

  11. #11
    October 1495- Before the walls of Pskov...

    I have arrived on the scene and informed von Plettenburg of the situation; we can no longer dither about with this siege...we must take the city or withdraw. Arranging a parley with the commander of the garrison, I tell him that I propose to move immediately upon his works, and that if the city does not surrender at once, a general massacre will ensue. (Ulysses S. Grant, meet Henry V) In a few hours the answer is received...the city's defenders defy us to do our worst. Immediately I order von Plettenburg to form up for an all-out assault.

    The attack is launched at first light. After several hours of furious fighting, our troops begin to waver and break ranks. Seeing this, the Pskovians make a fatal mistake: they open the south gate to sortie in hopes of a crushing victory. Unfortunately for them, this force is cut off and annihilated, and the gate is breached before it can be shut again. Soon our bloody-minded soldiers are rampaging through the streets of the city, butchering armed enemy and blameless civilian alike. Within hours I receive word that all resistance has ceased, and the Black Cross flutters in triumph over the citadel of Pskov.

    That night a herald from the fleeing rulers of Pskov arrives in my tent, white-faced and trembling. He offers us a peace based on the status quo ante bellum. "Withdraw now", he reads, voice quavering, " and avoid the wrath of the prince of Russia, who even now makes haste to avenge us." The herald is laughed to scorn for his troubles. "The Duma of Pskov is no more", I tell him brusquely. "Henceforward the Grand Master of the Order is sovereign in these lands." The annexation of Pskov sends waves of outrage through the Orthodox world, and their so-called Patriarch declares me an anathema.

    None of which concerns me at the moment, as I make plans for the relief of Ivangorod. I order von Plettenburg's army to march northward with all speed, while Tieffen's army holds itself ready on the shores of Lake Peipus to intervene if necessary. As we prepare for the march some good news arrives- the Hanseatic fleet has inflicted a heavy defeat on the Danish navy out in the Sund.

    As I mount my horse to begin the long ride north, the first flakes of winter snow begin to fall.

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by acesand8s
    October 1495- Before the walls of Pskov...

    butchering armed enemy and blameless civilian alike.
    Don't delude yourself. If they were truly blameless, they'd have risen up against the garrison the was the cities of the Levant did when the Turks marched against the Mameluks.

    -Pat

  13. #13
    Originally posted by pjcrowe
    Don't delude yourself. If they were truly blameless, they'd have risen up against the garrison the was the cities of the Levant did when the Turks marched against the Mameluks.

    -Pat
    LOL you're right Pat...and hey, I DID warn them...

  14. #14
    December 2, 1495- We arrive outside Ivangorod, sighting the onion-shaped dome of the city's Orthodox cathedral one moment and the Russian army drawn up for battle the next. I am confident of victory- our forces number 18,000 infantry and 3000 horse, against 12,000 foot and 5500 cavalry of the enemy. My confidence is well-founded, for von Plettenburg and the army will cover themselves in glory on this day. The Russians are smashed utterly; thousands are slaughtered, and the survivors flee in a mad panic. So intent are they on saving their miserable hides that their wounded, their standards of battle and their honor are left on the field.

    It is a great victory, and I decide to capitalize on it as quickly as possible. A messenger is sent to the Russians offering peace, and threatening to put their lands to the torch if they continue their resistance. In truth our armies are exhausted and our treasury virtually empty but the Russians, stung by the humiliation of Ivangorod, are only too happy to have done with the war and a peace treaty is signed on December 14.

    Having successfully concluded the war, the time has now come to consolidate our gains and plan for the future. Little of note occurs during the years of 1496 and 1497. In February of 1496 the Orthodox priests of Pskov stir the population to revolt, but the poorly-armed peasants prove no match for our battle-hardened troops commanded by the magnificent von Plettenburg and they are mowed down like so much grass. Early in 1497 Johann Tieffen retires from service in the field, thus depriving us of his skills on the battlefield while leaving us saddled with his political shortcomings as Grand Master. In April an attempt to arrange a royal marriage with the Poles dissolves in rancorous accusations, but in November a marriage bargain is successfully struck with the Margrave of Brandenburg.

    In January of 1498 the old Hochmeister, Johann Tiefen, finally breathes his last and Friedrich von Sachsen is elected to take his place. Thankfully the new Grand Master is not only a proven soldier and able administrator, but a courtly and gracious knight who should make negotiations with foreign powers much easier to conduct. No sooner is he settled in his new office than I request an urgent meeting with him. The time is approaching when I feel we must expand our borders once again by force of arms. This time the Order casts its eyes northward...towards Sweden.

  15. #15
    Non sufficit orbis Lord E's Avatar
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    So a war aginst Sweden is comming next. the you should make sure that the Swedish are not in a to big alliance and that you have enough forces to really take them out
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  16. #16
    Lord E-

    The Swedes are allied with Scotland and Turkey. I doubt the Scots will be able to intervene too effectively, and I'll probably never see a Turk...they're too far away. On the other hand my allies (Prussia, Hanseatic League) are right here in the neighborhood.

    Sweden seems to have concentrated more on building its navy than its army, which doesn't seem to be too big. Moreover they're currently involved in a knock-down drag-out war with Denmark. So even though my forces are less than overwhelming, I think they should be enough to accomplish my (quite limited) objectives.

  17. #17
    Quiet month succeeds quiet month as the Order hoards its strength for the coming conflict and I wrestle with the seemingly insoluble problem of putting our government on a sound economic footing. Unfortunately this seems to be the equivalent of trying to float a sieve- we now have two loans outstanding and the monthly interest charges are eating into the already limited budget and pushing inflation past the 10% mark. For these reasons the Swedish province of Nyland, with its thriving city of Viborg, seems a tempting target to be added to our realm. The fact that we have no legitimate claim to this territory, much less a legitimate grievance against Sweden, bothers me not at all- we simply must have more tax-paying citizens. Grievances, after all, can be manufactured. What does trouble me is the fortifications the Swedes have made at Viborg- its thick stone walls bristling with cannon and high towers, it will unquestionably prove a tough nut to crack.

    Early in the year 1500 the Grand Master imposes trade restrictions on all foreign merchants for 3 years in an attempt to bolster the economy (random event, no penalty). I engage in correspondence with Friedrich of Meissen, elector of Prussia, in which we cordially exchange our views on the future course of northeastern Europe. A correspondence of a different sort takes place with Hans, King of Sweden. I personally compose a letter of Christmas greeting to him, in which I refer to him as "a most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise-breaker and the owner of no one good quality" among other things (ripping off Shakespeare again...sorry). The letter receives no response.

    In July of 1501 I write to Hans again, warning him against the continual border violations committed by his forces (violations which, of course, never happened) and the terrible vengeance that will be wreaked upon his miserable head if they continue. However my goading does not seem to have the desired effect; apparently the Swedes are too engrossed in their seemingly endless war with the Danes to willingly take on a new enemy.

    So it seems that I will be compelled to force their hand. I order that victuals be laid in and soldiers recruited for the upcoming campaign. So soon as the spring thaw comes, we march against Sweden.

  18. #18
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    Be careful not to underestimate the reach of the Scots. I once saw them carve an empire in the Med in support of their allies (and that's as an ai minor ). Do you have a fleet of galleys ready to keep the Swedish army as far away as possible?

    And as for building up your domestic economy, don't forget my diplomatic route: RM + alliance >> vassal >> annexation. It takes longer and might be more subject to chance, but it doesn't eat up your stability. And it really does seem to be easier if you donate your maps just before offering each step.

    -Pat

  19. #19
    Pat-
    I've already been thinking along those diplomatic lines you mentioned- hence the correspondence with the Prussian elector. We have a RM with them and pretty good relations (about +140). It promises to be slow going though; as with everything else, the lack of ready money makes diplomacy a challenge. Good tip about the maps though- that's something I hadn't thought of doing. I'm wondering how successful wars affect your vassalization attempts: do they respect you more for kicking some a**es, or do they fear your aggressiveness?

    I have managed to construct a small navy (7 galleys) to patrol our coastal waters, but mainly I'm counting on the substantial combined fleets of Denmark and the Hanse to keep the Swedes bottled up in the Baltic. Playing as a small nation, it seems like it's a lot tougher to nail down all the loose ends, and you end up having to take a lot more calculated risks.

  20. #20
    March, 1502- The news of our declaration of war against Sweden is not well received by the populace of our realm (-3 stability; no CB and same religion). Within weeks of the declaration, itinerant "prophets" begin to agitate the people with false and heretical doctrines and dire predictions of God's wrath to come. Nevertheless the campaign goes forward, as von Plettenburg's army of 16,000 foot, 2000 horse and 10 cannon easily overrun the Swedish border patrols and quickly lay siege to Viborg. An assault at this point seems ill-advised, so the cannon and the sappers set about the job of undermining the city walls. As I had feared, though, the town is well-prepared to withstand a long siege.

    The Swedish fleet sorties into the Aland Sea, but in July they are met by the ships of our Prussian allies. The outcome of the battle is in doubt until a Danish squadron appears over the horizon. The Danes attack the Swedish flank and drive them back to their own ports. Elsewhere, in September an army of the Hanseatic League makes an ambitious attempt to invade Scotland, but a severe shortage of supplies forces them back to their boats by the end of the month.

    December 1502- Winter arrives on the Baltic coast with a fury not seen in decades. The army of the Order in Sweden suffers brutal privations, disease and desertion thinning its ranks at an alarming rate. By March only 10,000 men remain to conduct the siege, and the treacherous Orthodox of Ingermanland choose this moment to launch a long-planned revolt. I am prepered for this, however, and the uprising is quickly crushed and its leaders put to the sword. In July I order 30 more cannon sent northward to batter the walls of Viborg.

    By September it is obvious that Viborg will not fall by the time winter begins...the city must be taken by storm if we are not to endure a repetition of last winter's nightmare. The reserve army under Grand Master von Sachsen marches to Nyland to take part in the planned assault, which is launched in mid-October. Despite heroic efforts by our troops, they are finally driven back to their trenches with the blasphemous taunts of the Swedes ringing in their ears.

    There can be no question of spending another hellish winter in this barren land. With the biting north wind at their backs, the battered and bloodied soldiers of the Black Cross trudge sullenly toward the borders of Ingermanland.

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