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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Alright, I got a bit head of my AAR (went through three turns) so I'm going to try to catch up right now.

Alright, it's 1463 and time to leave Novgorod for the perhaps inaptly named "Serene Republic" of Venice. The first thing I notice is that Venice has more people than all the terriorites of Novgorod put together. Hmmm...this might be a more uneven pair tha I thought.

The next thing I notice is that the AI actually did a pretty good job. Stability is positive at +1. Inflation is low, and although no gains were made from that beginning war with Milan, they did manage to conquer Bosnia and Corfu. The AI chose Church Attendance Day for its first NI. Not exactly my first choice, but the greatly reduce stab costs will help in a campaign in which I'll have to be aggressive and start a fair amount of wars.

I'm impressed by 2.1 so far, especially after the horror stories of Storey's multi-faction campaign, where the AI tended to make a mess of things.

Since an early war put Novgorod so far ahead, I figure it will do for Venice as well. I DOW Mantua, conveniently dragging their larger and more strategically important neighbor Modena into the war. My ally Switzerland bails on me and cancels our alliance, but Sicily stays in, contributing a grand total of 0 troops to the campaign.





The first, and as it turns out most decisive, battle takes place in Verona, where Mantua ends up losing some 2300 troops to my 40 thanks to the efforts of General Carlo Zustiani. The rest is just mopping up.



Mantua is annexed, and Modena forced to cede Ferrara, pay a 50 Ducat indemnity, and to become a vassal of Venice.

Venice is catching up!



At this point I take a look at my advisors, and notice that I am paying about 1.0 ducats per month for Theologians. :eek: I guess some things don't change. I sack them and hire some better advisors, mostly stab increasing ones since pickings are slim.



There's not much to do after this but invest in productions for workshops and get my stability up, so I take a look at some other countries on the map. I'm a bit worried when I see that Novgorod is at war with Pskov and the Teutonic Order, and after I spent so much money bribing better relations with the latter. However, it appears that the Order was weakened in wars with Poland and Lithuania, and they fold quickly, alowing AI Novgorod to annex Pskov.

Austria fights an indcisive war against the Ottomans, and does a pretty good job at keeping them from being a worry for me. This is especially nice as Hungary pretty much rolled over when he Ottomans attacked them. When 1473 comes long, Venice is looking stronger than ever and is constructing workshops in all provinces.

 

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Stroph1: Thanks, I think I'll take you up on that offer. :)

RGB: Indeed, I can't wait to see how they do. Too bad for them that guiding destiny is a mediocre player. :p

Capibara: Thanks, after I died so quickly on the first try I thought an aggressive start might work better. With Moscow and Tver on their way to diploannexation, all that's left is a war against blobish Lithuania to get the last needed province (Smolensk or Chernigov). :wacko:

Shiggs: Thanks! I think that makes you the very first subscriber to one of my AARs. At least, the first to actually say they subscribed. :cool:
 

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Two more turns and my AAR will be caught up to my save.

With 1473 having come it's back to Novgorod for their second turn.

As I half expected, the AI managed to diploannex Tver and Moscow. Russia is slowly taking shape, and it looks like Novgorod is ahead in the race. They also have +1 stability but way too many soldiers, a large but useless fleet, and 0 manpower. Revolt risks are high in the newer territories, and rebel armies in 2.1 seem to be much, much bigger. I settle in for some consolidating, disbanding the extra soldiers, when in 1476 Crimea DOWs me, and Kazan and the Golden Horde joins them. Thanks to the AI's aggressive diploannexing, the only ally I have left is Yaroslavl, with no army. At the same time, there's a 10,000 man revolt in Pskov.



The addition of Moscow means my maximum manpower is 20,000, and I need every soldier. I end up having to mint all the way and take on my enemies one by one. While Kazan takes my eastern provinces, I manage to fight Crimea and the Golden Horde to accept white peaces, the best deals they'll take while Kazan is still in the fight.



Things still look bad, even with just Kazan as an enemy. I barely manage to fight them to a draw and get a white peace. All this just in time for a 25,000 man rebellion in Moscow. Luckily tht one back in Pskov wandered into Lithuania, and the leftover mercs from my war are enough to take care o the Moscow army.




So, after years of war and rampant inflation, I finally think I'll get a break When Crimea, no longer allied with Kazan but rather with the Ottomans, DOWs me in 1481. Luckily the Turks have their own problems and ditch Crimea to fight Hungary again. Just as the turn ends, I panick and take a peace for 25 Ducats. I'm a bit worried about the idea of leaving a war to the AI, but maybe this was a mistake.





And so as I leave Novgorod for the sunny shores of Venice, exactly the same size and with a few more points of inflation, rather poorer than they started their turn. :eek:o
 

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I have to apologize for this update. Things got pretty hectic and I took very few screenshots. I promise to pause more often after this one.

It's 1483 and as usual the AI has left me with far too many troops. Since it's worked well the past couple turns, I start out with a bang, and use those troops for a war with Tuscany and Genoa. Both are vassalized and Pisa is annexed. Tuscany's remaining settlement of Firenze is a requirement to form Italy, so I'm looking forward to diploannexing it. Sadly, Genoa loses it's territory on the Black Sea to Crimea right before I vassalize them, so I don't get the chance to have both my factions border a common neighbor. :p



A peak at Novgorod shows them at war with Sweden. Ah well, that's probably the only neighbor they could beat up right now, since they have no allies.



Then the part where I didn't get pictures begins. :eek:o In 1487, I get a nic opportunity when the Papal States, containing most of the cities I need for unification, attacks my vassal Genoa. Little do I realize that their vassal Milan has a fair amount of soldiers themselves. Despite heavy minting and recruitment (turning to mercs when my low manpower runs out), I get little more than a stalemate with them. Everytime I advance on one front, I lose out on another.



Just when Milan has been weakened (although still controlling their territories), Croatia DOWs me. I laugh until I realize they have a rather large friend in Austria. :eek: Luckily a few factions, notably Savoy, have been sending me alliace offers. While I put out small and medium Papal armies trying to drain their manpower, my allies distract Austria. Just as my northern front crumbles, I make progress in the south. Most of my northern territories are lost, Venice is about to besieged, I end up forced to take a loan, but I decide to deny requests for a white peace from the Papal States.

Eventually I manage to take every Papal territory, and they accept peace, ceding Romagna and becoming a vassal. I buy off Austria with some of my low income Baltic provinces, and releasing a minor faction or two (including Corfu). Venice has no net increase in territories this turn, but traded Balkan province for Italian ones, and has a pretty high monthly income. The only downside is that I didn't ask for the Pope to release Milan, and they are diploannexed. I wonder if the Papal States can be diploannexed? If not, I have some wars ahead of me.

With turn number two complete, I guess it's time for to compare the two factions provinces.

Unification
Novgorod: Novgorod is definately closer to unifying, needing only Smolensk or Chernigov. However, these provinces are held by Lithuania, which is bloobbing up nicely, making their presence felt as far west as Germany. Novgorod's strategic situation is weaker as well. They have a high income, and much higher manpower than Venice, but all of Novgorod's neighbors are the same size or larger than it and allied to other nearby powers. It could be tough for them to get that last province.

Venice: Venice is smaller than Novgorod, and hs a much lower manpower. However, they're techng much faster, with fewer, richer povinces. They should get at least Firenze and Sienna next turn, then only te Papal States stand between them and Unification. Their position is also stronger strategically. Venice can take anyone of is neighbors, including Austria, and their vassal the Papal States, is as large as Venice.

Trade:
Both factions are dominating their COTs, but fall a bit behind when stab lowers with wars. Chances are the real trading race will begin after they unify.
 

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Shiggs Yeah, the constant wars have been tough, especially since I have to mint like crazy to beat Novgorod's large neighbors. They're pulling through, though, and when cores hit on all those Russian territories they've taken, they'll have a huge census income.

The AI has a surprise for next turn, too. Apparetly they've been busy. :cool:
 

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The Khanates are all unrealisitcally strong in the game, and the fact that the western border is no friendlier doesn't help at all.

Venice seems to be doing more or less alright but I expect things will only get harder from here, sandwished between Austria and the Ottomans...
 

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I agree. Venice's position looks like it could be tense when the AI is running it. I hope they can keep things together until you return.
 

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Subscribed. And yes, the Papal state can be diploannexed, at least in 1.3. Then there's the thing that they'll soon reappear somewhere else and remember that they had good relations with you.
 

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RGB, Stroph1: We'll see. The AI has actually been holding things together a lot better than I'd expect so far, and Austria is having a heck of a time starting its usual blobbing. As for the Khanates, they've been a huge pain, but at least with their tribal governments I can keep up with them techwise.

Abraxas Woohoo! Another subscriber! That's good to hear. Don't they usually take over from the Teutonic Order if they're annexed? Poland and Lithuania have been kicking the Order around, so that means they'll only have one province.

I just had a horrible thought. What if I get the requirements for the unification events, and the AI rejects the event? Is there a way to check for that? If so I might go back to the point and fire it off via console.
 

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I thought the Papal state would usually takr over from some theocracy but in my most recent game (with MM) they took Nevers from France and when that got annexed they popped up in Cordoba :wacko:
And if you want to check if the AI has refused unification events while you've been gone, try this. Open the save game and search for italian_nation_declined=yes or russian_nation_declined=yes. If you find either of these lines, then the respective counries have declined unification. You can delete the line and pretend nothing happened or fire the event manually
 

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So, 1493 and back to Novgorod. The first thing I notice is a pleasant surprise. Apparently the AI got all of Finland out of that war with Sweden. Taxes are low and revolt risks high in the provinces and I'm tempted to release Finland as a vassal, but a lot of the provinces have a high production income from furs, and they had a negligible effect on investment costs. 'll need that extra income when I fight Lithuania for those last coule provinces.

Stability is low at -2 and revolt risks are very high in my new provinces, so I figure this might be a good turn to consolidate. I cut out men from the huge army the AI built up, lower maintanance, and wait for my stability to rise.



The early part of the turn is a bit dull but a couple of nice things happen. I get the Western Arms Trade event, providing much needed investment for my Land tech, which hits 2 shortly after, finally allowing me some slightly less crappy infantry.





Hmmm..even new advisors in my territory are pretty nice. I think Novgorod's luck is returning.



Around 1499 I notice Venice is at war with Austria and has already lost a province. That can't end well.

The same year I experience an odd bug. I get a request from my "ally" the Golden Horde to defend them from Crimea. Ok, maybe the AI allied with them over their last turn. I join in,noticing Poland is also attacking Crimea.

I crush them pretty easily. The extra manpower and income from Finland is helping a lot, and this time they don't have allies to help them. I don't really want any more wong religion, wrong culture provinces, so I just vassaize and all them. Oddly, Poland ends the war the very instant I do.

Then I notice I'm not allied with the Golden Horde. Was I the Alliance Leader of an imaginary alliance of me, the GH, and Poland? I guess I can't complain. With Crimea as an ally, I now hold all of Lithuania's eastern border, and Crimea keeps a 20,000 man standing army that will help nicely.

I get an event offering lowered stability or the Qsim Khanate as a released vassal. Not wanting to ruin my attempt to get back to positive stab, I welcome a new vassal into existence and leave Novgorod for Venice's next turn.
 

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In 1503 I return to Venice. I wonder how many territories the AI lost to Austria, and how badly the AI screwed u---holy crap, they annexed the Papal States! And they got a territory from Sicily. I'm starting to wonder my own competence vis a vis the AI. That's the second turn I've started to find the AI made serious territorial gains in my absence.

Stab is low, and I have moderately high BB, but with the last city needed to form Italy held by single province minor Siena, I figure I have to go for it. I declare war and in a few short months Siena is annexed and their all Sicily is vassalized. My BB is up past 20, and only a couple points shy of the limit if I get unlucky and get a ruler with poor stats. So I sit back and prepare for another mostly boring turn of consolidating and hoping I get the Unification event soon.





Hmmm, great ruler, great advisors. Go AI! I drop the lowest stat one for a rep reducing diplomat, sell Avignon (once Papal territory, now useless and cut off from my other territories. I also release Corsica as a vassal to get that BB down a bit.



Not much to do but twiddle my thumbs. My techs are doing ok, with govt very high thanks to all the universities in Italy. The Pope is set up in Germany now, with just a couple territories. Hmmm, I have a truce with Georgia. I wonder who they were allied to to get into a war with me? I stave off boredom bypaying with some lego soldiers, and slowly watching my nal tech to see if I can colonize anywhere I can't except Arquin which France takes right before my tech gets high enough :p ).

Finally something nice happens, a stability reducing Saintly miracle.



Just when I think the turn will be uneventful I get a jolt of excitement. I guess the AI figures I need a good war to end each turn. I could have done without this one, though. Croatia attacked me, bringing their ally Austria into it. I have high revolt risks in most of my newer settlements, and am in no shape to fight off Austria. After taking back a province they assaulted, I buy a peace with some Ducats, giving up a few claims to Balkan provinces they took last turn, and releasing Crete into existance and Corsica from being a vassal.



I'm a bit surprised to find Greek had been an accepted culture, and I lose it when I give up Crete. Crap, I could have planned to conquer all the Greek provinces on the Mediterranean and gotten decent taxes from them. They must have started that way. I can't imagine Crete ever making 20% of my income. Ah well, it's the Italian culture group provinces that interest me most.




As I leave Venice in 1513 they're looking pretty good. It's only a matter of time now before Italy unifies and next time Austria comes a knocking, I'm kicking their butt.

Here's a map of Venice. It's from a bit earlier in the turn, but it shows all the territory Venice currently holds (although it includes Avignon, which I sold).



Now I have a question. Novgorod has to move fast to get a chance to unify. Basically, I have to attack Lithuania and hope I can get Smolensk or Chernigov. My monthly inome is a bit higher than their's, but my army is much smaller and lower tech, and their census tax is twice mine. Even with Crimea helping, beating them and Poland will be tough.

My question is, should I go for it this next turn, or wait a bit until some more of my provinces become core?
 

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Holy cow, Austria annexed the Swiss! :)

No idea with Novgorod, though. Lithuania looks pretty scary. You might want to consolidate your gains. But then again, that will only give Lithuania more time to get stronger.
 

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The AI is 1. very aggressive 2. gets money for free.

What it doesn't have is long-term strategic thinking, you have that. Once you set them up in a good position, they often do better than you I find...
 

Abraxas

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I don't know the exact situation Novgorod is in but I imagine it has some problems concolidating its realm and building up its stability (you don't want to have revolts at home as soon as you go to war abroad). If that is indeed the case I probably would not go to war with Lithuania yet unless they get involved in another big war.
 

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I think Venice is doing fine, Novgorod needs help against Lithuania though. You may want to make Sweden and/or Norway a vassal to help.
 

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RGB: That's certainly what I've been finding. I expected disasters, but AI cheats plus some occassional human guidance are a strong combination apparently.

safferli Yes they did. I guess I'll have to take on Austria and free the Swiss next Venetian turn so they can go back to their customary neutrality. :) I'm kind of afraid of Lithuania getting bigger or outpacing me land techwise, but I'm not sure if I can take them now.

Abraxas Revolt risks are finally down to nil, even in Finland, but stability is going up fairly slowly.

spl That makes three votes for waiting, then! :cool: Crimea will probably be my most useful vassal (20,000+ troops, far more than Lithuania's ally Poland), but it couldn't hurt to vassalize Sweden or Norway. Maybe I'll try to fabricate a claim.

My monthly income is actually a bit larger than Lithuania's, so theoretically I could field more troops, although they still look pretty scary. I guess I'll wait one more turn.

I should note something I just noticed, though. The Timurid Empire apparently kicked Kazan around last turn. They're coming awfully close to bordering Novgorod. Given that, maybe the risky strategy of an immiediate war with Lithuania might be better? Once again it may be Novgorod's neighbors that force her foreign policy.