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Thread: Under the Raven Banner

  1. #1
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    Under the Raven Banner

    Overview

    In the Stamford Bridge start (15 September 1066), Denmark is one of three larger countries in Scandinavia. It has a number of advantages, notably two choice provinces in the royal domain (Sjælland and Skåne) and easy expansion opportunities into pagan lands to the north and especially the east. Norway begins the game with considerably more troops (roughly 9000 to 2000) because of the set-up for the Norwegian invasion of England, but Sweden is noticeably weaker both in troops and because it suffers from a severe religious split between Catholic and Old Norse with the king and his largest vassal on opposite sides of the divide.



    England itself is stronger than all three Scandinavian countries once you get past the boost Norway gets at the start of the game, and of course William the Bastard is stronger still so it's essentially out of the reach of the Danish king at first. However Svend also has a precious claim on England, which can be nursed for the best part of a century if he has a son or two late in life.

    Denmark is also has an elective kingship and King Svend has six living adult sons and four younger sons (not counting one bastard not of the dynasty). This is a major strategic advantage for a rapidly expanding kingdom, as each can be made a duke in newly conquered areas. Several branches of the family can be founded, making it possible to choose the best candidate in each generation and avoid poor kings. Even if one can't get the nobility to vote for one's preferred candidate, they'll end up selecting someone from your dynasty and the game can go on.

    Denmark's main Achilles heels are a shared border with the Holy Roman Empire, and the potential power of the Poles to the southeast. Both rivals need to be kept in check.

    The goal of this game is, simply, to play Denmark and see where it takes me. However my two main subsidiary goals are to control all of the Baltic Coast and to reunite the lands controlled by Cnut the Great (the so-called North Sea Empire, which is Denmark, England, Norway, and the county of Uppland in Sweden). Having played this general area before, however, I know that these goals can be accomplished within a century if lucky, and probably no more than two unless very unlucky. To slow me down I'm going to never assign a duchy to anyone but a member of my dynasty, and never give a second duchy to anyone other than my current self (though of course the AI characters may manage to pull it off on their own via plots and internal wars).

    This game has been played under 1.05c, and I won't upgrade until its finished -- either 1453 or I get bored. As of this writing I have made it to July 1131 and the start of the Second Crusade.
    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

  2. #2
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    The Raven Banner of the empire flapped in the wind as Harthacnut stood in Lambehitha Hall and raised his horn to toast the bride. "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is success. May we all keep together." Then he drank down his cup, and so did the rest of the party after he did.

    It was a good sentiment for a wedding, and a good one for his Empire. Harthacnut had worked hard to rebuild the fractured pieces of his father's kingdom, and he'd had some luck as well. Harald had been prepared to resist him as he came to England, the regent having made himself king in the three years it took Harthacnut to settle Denmark after old Cnut's death. God had seen fit to strike him down just as the invasion fleet was gathering. Now his headless body was unmarked in a fen somewhere down by the banks of the Themsen, as was best deserved by a traitor. More luck for the Northern Empire, as some had begun to call it toward the end of his father's reign. That was what was wanted.

    The king's toast was the signal for the real party to begin, and the roar and chatter of the assembled crowd kept anyone from noticing the king for long seconds after he finished speaking. Modern medicine would describe what happened to him at that moment as a massive cerebrovascular accident or, to use the older term, a stroke. Harthacnut's face sagged, his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed bonelessly onto his left side, striking his head hard on the stone flags beneath his feet. He then died at the feet of the first retainers to reach him.

    The Saxons supported one of their own in England, and Norway fell to Hardrada soon after. The North Sea Empire was dead. But could it rise again?

    The Reign of Svend II, Part One: The First Day



    Svend II is unmarried, which is helpful as it lets him pick a wife with strong stats to help rule the country. He's also Midas-Touched and Lusty, which means I can probably squeeze a few more sons out of him. There are several worthwhile brides, but the Hungarian Adelaide a Scrabble looks like the best combination of total stats and base stats:



    A marriage proposal is sent out, and the Get Married ambition selected.

    The best heir appears to be Prince Knud:



    ...so I change my nomination for the next king to him. However, I intend to breed a better one if possible before Svend II dies as unless something goes horribly wrong Knud will be too old for my taste when he accedes to the throne. He's an insurance policy, no more.

    I also change the kingdom's succession law to Agnatic, as having women of my dynasty inherit and then marry non-matrilineally is much too common and goes against my desire to have only Ylvings as dukes and electors.

    The chancellor is sent to Småland to forge claims, while I hold back the chaplain as I intend to conquer Lübeck quickly on my de jure claim and it needs converting. The rest of the council do their usual thing in the county of Sjælland.

    As the kingdom is largely under control I first ask for city taxation to be set to large, with an eye to having that agreed to quickly and then increasing crown authority right thereafter.

    Game on.
    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

  3. #3
    I like the plans you have set up, looks like it should be a fun read. Looking forward to the conquests.

  4. #4
    First Lieutenant Concrete's Avatar
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    Fun character, lofty goal, enjoyable style.
    Good luck, will be following.

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    Knud Knýtling, my cunning foe, we meet again.

    Subbed. There's been a sad shortage of Danish AARs on here!
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    Impressive begining, I think I will enjoy this AAR!
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    Committed Anti-P'doxian Sleight of Hand's Avatar
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    Following this -- Denmark's a good choice in 1066 and I enjoyed your background information.
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  8. #8
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    The Reign of King Svend II, Part Two

    (Extract from The Oxford History of the First Empire, pp.132-134)

    King Svend was nominally a Christian all his life, but for all intents and purposes he lived as a pagan according to Danish cultural mores until 1066. All of his children up until that point were to women he had not formally married, but on 29 September 1066 he showed the first sign of his new attitude by taking Adelaida a Sepsiszentgyörgy as his Christian wife.

    From a practical standpoint, even more important was the fact that Svend used the gathering of his nobles and worthies for the wedding as an informal Folkthing, a harbinger of the greater authority it would gain over the next century as it developed into a more formal body.

    Svend spoke to the Thing collectively, and to its most important members individually of his desire to reunite the kingdoms of his uncle Cnut and how he planned to do it. On 3 October 1066 an increase in city taxes was approved. Papal investiture was introduced as a sign of support for the Church, in return for their supporting Svend, and then finally a charter of laws that increased crown authority over the nobility was introduced. And then on the final day of the Folkthing, 22 October 1066, war was declared on Lübeck.

    The Polabian War
    The proximate cause was the reversal over the last fifty years or so of the traditional and much better-known pattern of Scandinavians viking to their east and west in search of treasure and slaves. Beginning around the turn of the eleventh century the southern coast of the Baltic had grown in population and economy such that now Wendians raided the coasts of Denmark. Even the Estonians much further to the east were getting involved. The coasts of Jutland had had to be abandoned to a large extent simply because it wasn't safe for peasants to live there any more.

    That growing strength made it difficult for the Danes to fight back, not least because they were still recovering from the civil wars that followed Harthacnut's death. To the 1066 Folkmoot, Svend outlined a plan to build up to full reprisals. One branch of the Wends had Christianised -- the two tribes of the Wagrians and Polabians -- and so was less likely to see their many neighbours come to their aid.

    Furthermore after a civil war in Lübeck where the pagan remnants of the Wagrians successfully overthrew the Christian count Gottschalk, the dead count's younger son Henry (nephew of Svend and younger brother of the current count Budivoj) had taken refuge with Svend in the spring of 1066. A dubious oath of fealty was extracted and then ignored when Henry returned home, but Svend could plausibly claim that Lübeck was de jure part of the kingdom and subject to invasion despite the brothers' Christian faith. And finally they were Wends. Fighting them would expose the Danish warriors to their style of fighting and would, to use modern terms, serve as a "dry run" against the rest of the eastern Baltic coast.

    Svend's arguments were convincing, as the prospect of loot brought the Danish nobility around to agreeing with him and his desire for better control over the country to feed the necessary army and fleet.

    After the declaration of war, and while the Danes gathered from across the country, Count Budivoj marched north into Holstein with a band of some 300 warriors. They reached a crossing of the river Schwale on 12 November 1066 and then fell into disaster. There they were met by the massed Danish army under Svend's son and marshal Prince Svend, which had sailed up the Schwale and disembarked in the vicinity on the same day. Outnumbered almost 8:1, the Polabians and their subsidiary tribes' armsmen were killed to the last man at the Battle of Segeberg:



    Prince Svend's army then marched south and invested the fort at the mouth of the Trave, just outside Lübeck, on 1 December 1066. The garrison was taken by surprise and was short on supplies, and so was reduced considerably by 6 January 1067. Then in response to the first grumbles of levy discontent appearing in the Danish army Prince Svend called for an assault on the walls. Five score Danes died, but the castle fell on the 14th.

    Following the Battle of Segeberg, Count Budivoj had escaped to the lake town of Ratzeburg, some ten miles south of the Travemünde, but now Svend marched his victorious army after him. Budivoj held behind the town's watery barriers for a while longer but eventually a blockade caused starvation. He submitted to Prince Svend in early February, who sent him by ship to Ringsted.

    13 February 1067

    Budivoj entered the hall knowing that he was going to die that day. Some time in the next few minutes, or few hours at best, Svend's men would drag him out into the dirty courtyard and cut his head off with a sword. It would be an unpopular one who did the actual deed. Most men wouldn't kill in cold blood, particularly not a man with powerful relatives who'd mark the murderer and try to avenge him. So most kings had at least one man just for that purpose, half-mad or not that bright, who'd not realize what he was getting into and not be missed when his turn came. When Budivoj surrendered to the younger Svend he'd assumed it was going to be the usual ending, a payoff to the victor and empty promises of fealty and such rot. Maybe an axe-head wedding between some prince and some unfortunate princess in the spring. That was how it had been for as long as anyone could remember. Not this.

    At least he'd go out a man, let his people know he was a warrior. Even if, it seemed, he was not a successful one in the end. After the necessary kneeling to the king -- he wasn't that eager to die that he'd leave that out -- he spoke first, out of turn.

    "My brother said much about your hospitality to him last year. I hadn't expected to experience it myself."

    Svend looked younger than the age Budivoj had heard he'd reached. Young and vigorous, which was probably how he'd convinced the Danes to stop killing each other long enough to conquer someone else for once.

    "You'll have it for a long time," Svend replied.

    It was all Budivoj could do to keep from exploding in rage, continuing good health be damned. He'd not be taunted on death's threshold like some beardless lad! "Let me guess. Small bed, about 6 foot by 1, and another six deep? A few ells of white cloth as a blanket?"

    Svend rose from his wooden throne and walked off the dais to his opponent. Several of the king's courtiers stiffened as he did, but no-one protested. Most unlike Danes, Budivoj thought, before his attention was taken entirely by the man in front of him.

    "Your father wanted to unite all the pagan tribes into one Christian kingdom. It's a good dream, one I share. The question is, who will be its king? You're here, before me, so it won't be you. Who does that leave? Swear allegiance to me and you'll have a part in your father's vision, even if it's not the one you thought you'd have."

    "And if not?"

    "Then we'll see about that blanket after all."

    When Budivoj was twelve, he'd killed a charging boar with a spear in the swamps around Ratzeburg. Years later he'd faced Kruto, his father's murderer on the field outside of the pagan's fortress, and stabbed him much the same way. He did not frighten, or so he had thought.

    That evening he left on a horse for Travemünde, animal and fort gifted to him by Svend II Ylving, king of a (now slightly larger) Denmark. Budivoj had made a different sort of bed, and he and his descendants would lie in it for some time to come.
    Last edited by Paul Drye; 02-05-2012 at 04:03.
    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

  9. #9
    Lady of the North Star Demi Moderator Saithis's Avatar
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    Very nice update, Svend is very shrewd. Some effort will be required to maintain the new vassal's loyalty but if he sticks to it in the short term then the extra troops should be invaluable for Svend against the Obotrites.
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  10. #10
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    The Reign of King Svend II, Part Three

    Prince Harald raged in his private house within the royal compound at Ringsted. He'd woken that morning to find that his father the king had met with Count Budivoj the night before, and let him go after swearing fealty to the king personally. Those lands adjoined Harald's and were rightly his. And he'd met the Slav in the middle of the night with most of the nobility and not him.

    "I'd worried that father was looking past me as heir the past year, but now I know it! He had Knud there last night, you say?"

    Erland was his right hand man and had brought him the news. "Yes, lord. Knud and that foreign wife of his."

    "He means to cut me out, his own eldest son! I cannot believe it!"

    "You are still Duke of Slesvig, milord. Your position is nearly as strong as the king's. When he dies, you'll be in a good position to put yourself above anyone else who tries to be king."

    "Not if my father has anything to say about it. After what he did with Budivoj last night, I see the game he plays. He plans to bring more vassals under his direct control and enamour them of Knud. When my brother succeeds, he'll have more men beholden to him than I can hemmed up in Jutland."

    "What are you saying, milord?"

    "We act as soon as we can. Before Knud has a pack of partisans handed to him. My father is taking the kingdom down the wrong road, and someone most take it by the reins to lead it right again."

    Prince Harald, Erland, and the rest of the Jutlanders left as the sun reached its height. They followed the same road Budivoj had taken not even a full day before, but they had no intention of catching him. This was simply the only way from Ringsted to the lands of the west, and they had another plan in mind.

    Gunnar af Dalby, the king's spymaster, watched them go. Five days later he would have a clandestine meeting Erland after a bandit attack on Harald's party apparently saw him taken and missing -- or so the Prince thought. With the evidence the mole brought, King Svend sent for his son to account for himself. He suspected it would take more than a summons to make him appear.

    Harald's Rebellion
    Cover blown, Prince Harald raised his flag with the intention of forcing his father to declare to an open Thing that his eldest son, and not Knud, was his chosen heir. He claimed no threat to Svend's throne, only a desire to defend his own rights, but all knew what would really happen if the hot-headed Prince made his point by force of arms.

    Harald found himself surprisingly less popular with his own party than he had thought, and barely 450 men came to his banner. The king, meanwhile, amassed in excess of 2000. They descended on one of two of Harald's levies, marching toward one another but before they could meet, and destroyed it at the Battle of the Wilstermarsch, near Itzehoe:



    Using his naval strength, Svend then moved north and trapped Harald's other levy at Viborg. Despite having no more armed strength to resist the will of his father, Harald refused to surrender and cowered in his fort at Hedeby while the king reduced the forts and fortresses of his various supporters.

    As the war raged, Svend made his point apparent by marrying Knud to an Irish princess of considerable talents, Ben-Míde de Nenagh:



    The elaborate (for the 11th century) ceremony in Ringsted, full of pomp and ceremony made, it clear to all who the king favoured.

    On 3 April 1068, the rebellious prince's last holding of Hedeby falls to starvation, and the prince is led in chains to Svend's hall on Sjælland. Few have much doubt about the shape of the prince's fate, but many are shocked by what actually transpires: Harald is banished from the kingdom, his lands forfeit to the king. Harald, his wife, and his infant son Svend (born during the siege, his name failed to soften his grandfather) travelled to Norway where he eventually carved out a position as steward for the king there.

    Svend had secured the royal throne through making it by far the largest land-holder in the kingdom -- only three small counties outside the royal demesne, even including the new Wendish land to the south. Grumbles of tyranny ran through the nobility and down into the people of Denmark, so Svend engaged in the time-honoured distraction: foreign war.
    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

  11. #11
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    The Reign of King Svend II, Part Four: The First Eastern Crusade

    (translated and modernized from the Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus, c.1208)

    For many years the Oselians had sailed forth from their island, which they barbarically named Saaremaa, and ravaged to coasts of both Denmark and Sweden. The same could be said for the Wends east of Lübeck, particularly the heathen Rani of Rugen, holders of the temple, but while those peoples were populous and had towns and forts from which they could resist the righteous, the same was not true for the Oselians. Their raids had laid low the common people and set women weeping for the loss of their husbands and sons as they were sold to the slave pens of Nygård, but that was the extent of their strength. At best they could ally with another, as they had done with the Swedes in the time of Harald Wartooth -- and there was the issue of settling accounts for the death of that king and his son Rørek, no matter that the king had requested it himself. It was a matter of honour.

    And so it was that King Svend made the judgment that they could not withstand the might of the Danish fleet and warbands. On the feast day of St. Mark in the third year of his reign (31 January 1069, ed.) he declared war against the Oselians. Thus did he cause the Oselian ships to be burned on the beaches of Dagø on St. Felix's Day (8 March 1069, assuming St. Felix of Dunwich, an English saint patronized by the king in Grammaticus' time, ed.) and their host to be driven into the sea and drowned:



    The strongholds of the pagan were invested and left to wither, while Svend's wisdom was demonstrated. The islands of the Oselians had been their strength, so long as they had their fleet, for none could land without their permission. Now did Svend's fleet keep the allies of them from offering them aid, except at the king's pleasure. "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils." (Luke 11:21-22, ed.).

    When the Estonians across the strait did come, they came in starvation and cold, and Svend had the stronghold of Moon (Muhu, ed.) in his hand, having taken it as the leaves fell. And so it was that with the aid of St. Ambrose (implying that the battle took place on 5 December 1069, ed.) Chief Vesa was defeated and caused to quit this land forever.

    The king then granted lands across his new holding to Danes of great skill of whom he knew, and to whom he granted positions of honour, and his repute was increased so that others came to his court of their own accord:

    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

  12. #12
    the Conqueror Peter Ebbesen's Avatar
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    Always nice to see another Danish AAR and I quite like the narrative approach, though it is dreadfully slow. Four updates to cover the first 3 years? This'll end as an opus to make grown men weep if it doesn't pick up speed during peacetime.
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  13. #13
    Major Paul Drye's Avatar
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    Well...as the game progresses the view seems to slide outwards and so the pace accelerates as Denmark builds on its successes. Right now Denmark is small, and the scale is small. Past a certain point I think I'm going to have to engage in a bit of sleight of hand to keep it interesting anyway; I'll stay mysterious on that front for now, until I need it.
    'Into the belly of a dead camel shall he go, be sewn up like a cat's liver in a pudding, and cast into the Nile before God gives tomorrow a sun." -- Donovan Pasha by Gilbert Parker

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