[TECHNICAL NOTE: There are about 1300 pictures in this AAR on 7 pages, so sorry for the loading times. I recommend that you give the page some time to finish loading and avoid resizing. Please do not be discouraged! The positive is that every page from 1 to 7 is 1/7th of the AAR's storyline; once you've loaded it, it will keep you occupied for long. Perhaps saving pages 1-6 offline can make it easier. Click on any of the pictures in this AAR to see the full-sized version of it, you will then be able to see all the details and read all of the text easily (full-sized screenshots are 1920x1080, this makes for some large maps). Enjoy and thank you for coming!
Dominus Regni Poloniae (COMPLETED)
(Duke Wladyslaw the 'Elbow-High' of Greater Poland, starting 8 Feb 1296, House of Piast)
This will be a different type of AAR. I won't really be writing an in-character narrative or any other flowing piece (unless I do so anyway). I am definitely not going for poetry here. If anything, expect weary, cormudgeonly comments and grim, hard reality. Incidentally, this is part of my imagination of Wladyslaw's personality. And yes, he was really that tall. No more than 1.60 cm or not much more. I suppose people picked on him. I suppose he showed them.
This said, our starting character is Prince and later King Wladyslaw Piast of Poland, surnamed the Elbow-High, who united the country after long decades of fracturing. Under the testament of Prince Boleslaw the Wrymouth, on the latter's decease in 1138, the Kingdom of Poland, of which the now-deceased holder never managed to become crowned king despite how jealously it guarded its status as a kingdom, was to be ruled in chief by the eldest living member of the dynasty (not dynastically senior), while the junior ones (due to age, not dynastic senority) were to rule in their own right but under the senior ruler's paramount rule in their fiefs. The senior's title was "princeps regni poloniae", the Prince of the Kingdom of Poland (and Duke of Cracow in his capacity as the senior ruler). This system quickly crumbled. Almost immediately after the father's demise, the sons began to quarrel with no small participation of the dowager Princess. Long story short, the eldest son (Wladyslaw II the Exile) was exiled, which he seemed to have amply deserved, and once broken the principle of seniority never fully recovered. The senioral demesne went back and forth among various brothers and cousins, by force or by treaty or by last will or by election by their subordinates. The situation wasn't altogether hopeless, regardless of what fans of centralised authority would perhaps like to claim. However, it wasn't a bed of roses, either. (History of the broader period.) Ultimately, briefly in 1295 one of the princes, Przemysl II, managed to have the royal crown put on his temples (as you would say in Polish) but died shortly thereafter. His daughter was wed by Waclav (II) (Wenzel) of Bohemia, who had already been encroaching on his kingdom. Prince and Duke Wladyslaw, initially not a particularly important person but eventually a strong contender, was on the run. According to a legend, he survived a search by Waclav's men because of a spider that cast its web on the entrance to the cave wherein Wladyslaw was hiding. The men decided this was evidence enough that nobody could have entered recently and so they left.
Eventually, Wladyslaw, after roaming Europe, including Rome and Hungary, made a come back and finally regained the Kingdom, albeit as a Prince, in 1306, after a war surprisingly ended by the heirless death of the new Waclav (III), son of Wladyslaw's enemy, back in Bohemia, before he could come in with reinforcements to aid his supporters. Wladyslaw finally received the royal crown in 1321.
The situation bears some similarity to the Hundred Years War and indeed the repercussions, historically, lasted for quite a long time, forcing the Polish kings to pay off contenders of the House of Luxembourg (eventually holders of the HRE crown, to complicate things), who had married into and inherited the Bohemian Premyslid dynasty. If Poland had anything like binding dynastic succession laws could be up to debate and the application of them even more convoluted, contentious, possibly hopeless. Wladyslaw definitely did not have dynastic seniority in the House of Piast. Direct male line descendants through Wladyslaw the Exile, the eldest son of Boleslaw Wrymouth, had populated the plentiful thrones of Silesia abundantly, resulting in many tiny duchies (represented in the game as counties, baronies perhaps, and perhaps some not even that). These eventually became vassals of Bohemia. While Waclav initially had no real claim on anything, his position by marrying the daughter of king Premysl and being crowned by the very authoritative Archbishop Jakub Swinka of Gniezno was not bad at all. The problem was that Poland was used to the rule of Piasts and only Piasts, its collective "natural lords". Waclav was not one of them. He was a germanised Bohemian, ambitious neighbour from the South, who had already played foul by what the game would represent as forging claims, essentially, albeit only really on some of the territory of the demesne, by far not the kingdom itself... which he eventually got, anyway.
This was perhaps a national struggle, although this view shouldn't be simplified. Different nations, in the ethnical or even simply biological sense, fought on different sides (including Piast princes), even though it can't really be disputed that Wladyslaus was a Polish hardliner. As was Archbishop Swinka actually.
In my game, I am trying to replay what Wladyslaw did, given the means provided by the game. Historically, during much of the period from 1296 to 1306. Since I am not really that interested in his struggle at the stage when he was competing with other local Piast rulers, I decided to start on the day of death of Premysl II, which is 8 February 1296.
For same reason, Wladyslaw doesn't have a claim on the Kingdom Poland (historically, basically any adult male Piast could have it, it would basically be the matter of relative strength compared to the other ones). However, he has alliances with other dukes as fellow members of House Piast, and he has a ducal claim on some land within the Teutonic Order, Poland's historical enemy at the time, and already a bitter one. He can also immediately start a plot to acquire the kingdom of Poland, which I'm going to do. Vaclaw is likely to find out but I'm not going to care because this much was plenty obvious to everybody.
The game mechanics are likely to delay me because I will need to take into account the doomstack factor: basically, Waclav can easily join his levies into a huge doomstack, while I can't do that with my allies, even should they choose me over him. Which is not a given because they might actually like him more than me. Basing on a preliminary attempt, I am not likely to accomplish much within 10 years. Tough luck. So let us start:
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In the next post I will discuss the strategy I decide to take before unpausing.
Initially, I can tell you that I will generally not be doing the following:
- assassination (unless perhaps a reciprocal attempt);
- forging claims (unless with a clear proviso that using the game's "Forge Claim" function represents tasking the chancellor with expounding the legal grounds to justify Wladyslaw's claim on this or that, which he should really have – not a random total fake by inventing an ancestor that never existed etc.);
– thinly disguised wars for territorial gain, offensive holy wars (unless I really need to neutralise a threatening pagan or Muslim power, which is not impossible) — this wasn't really in Poland's style;
– betraying, or turning against co-dynasts for selfish reasons (at this point in time Wladyslaw is really thinking about uniting the Kingdom, not about petty feuds);
– talking much to Waclav – I have no use, really, and I mean business (you will see).
Before we jump in, there is one more thing I would have you know: while Poland had knights and lords and some form of feudalism, it was different from what you had in the West. It was possible to speak of a nation. In a way, it was a nation concentrated around its princes, the Piasts. The knights were the descendants, genetically or just in tradition, of the first princes' druzhyna, the bodyguard host (not like it wasn't enough to inspire some new bona fide appreciation in the German Emperor, as evidenced by the gallant treatment of Boleslaus the Brave by Otto III, may both of them be long remembered), essentially three thousand scary dudes on horses with heavy armour and probably quite a lot of gold on them too. The divide between a peasant and a knight was there but it wasn't unsurmountable and both of them were Poles and subjects of the prince. The lords (like that guy Swenzo of Slupsk in the screenshot, who definitely wasn't anything like a French count or English earl) were a different story, essentially knights but with ambitions and not rarely a proud genealogy (interestingly, their descendants eventually dropped to normal nobility and didn't create the modern pretend-aristocracy with Western-style titles obtained from foreign monarchs). Some things looked like in the Carolingian kingdom. Some looked like in a tribal country. Some looked like in the West. Some, maybe, like in the East (definitely had more in common with the Rurikovich family than, say, the Plantagenets did). But, all together, things were different there. You can expect this to show in my game. We won't be doing it French-style.
 This is a reference to the French model of feudalism and social order. A good example is what William the Conqueror carried over to England with more luck than the French kings had in France.
[Please don't mind the ImageShacks credit lines. I know they interfere with the text but kudos to ImageShacks for hosting some 1300 pictures for this AAR without fuss about bandwidth or hotlinking or anything like that for what's like $2 a month. And yes, I keep up the subscription so that the files will stay.]