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An Empire Facing East

A Venetian AAR​

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my first shot at an AAR. I will be playing as Venice from the beginning of DW’s Grand Campaign. I suck at this game, so if you’re looking for brilliant gameplay exploits look elsewhere. I have a job, so if you expect meticulously-researched 3000-word updates every day and a half you will be disappointed. What I can deliver is a fun and plausible history-book AAR with reasonably frequent updates. If Italian espionage and massive galley battles sound like your thing, read on.

As I said before, I suck at EU3. To make matters worse, I haven’t been playing for very long. Despite this, I’m going to try not to abuse autosave. I’ll only go back to a previous savegame if my empire falls apart due to some error that someone more familiar with the interface would never make. Venice may rule the seas of 1820, or she may be annexed in 1405.

Without further ado, let’s get started.
 

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Veniero's Ambition

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To most Venetians, the fourteenth of October, 1399, passed without incident. Trading ships arrived from and departed to every corner of the Mediterranean. Barges floated down the Grand Canal. Merchants and visitors alike crowded the marketplace in search of glass, salt, spice and dyes. The city floated serenely on the northern corner of the Adriatic, convinced of the myth of its own invincibility.

Doge Antonio Veniero bore no such illusions. The Genoese war of the previous decade had resulted in Venetian supremacy but had highlighted the Republic’s vulnerability. Without a reliable base of strength, Venice’s trade empire might be snatched away by a coalition of rivals. Veneiro had spent the past fifteen years maneuvering the entrenched interests of Venice to accept a plan to expand the Republic’s territory on the mainland. On the fourteenth of October, his patience bore fruit.

Messengers greeted Veniero that morning with news that the merchants of Verona would support his rule if their city could be pried from the grasp of the Sforzas. The Doge quickly convened a secret joint meeting of the Signoria and the Council of Ten to approve his plan of expansion into Terra Ferma. The executive councils, populated after years of maneuvering with Veniero’s loyalists, gave the Doge their unanimous consent and set the hidden gears of the Venetian bureaucracy into motion.

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Fig 1. The Signoria endorses Veniero’s plan.

Verona was a natural choice for the Doge’s ambition. The wealthy, populous province guarded the western flank of Venice’s only mainland holding, Trevisio. Its population felt little love for their distant masters in Milan. Most importantly, Verona controlled the threateningly powerful duchy of Milan’s only access to the Adriatic. Seizing the city would cut off a potential rival from Venice’s backyard.

Veniero’s functionaries went to work lobbying members of the Major Council. Although theoretically autonomous, the legislative body of the republic was easy enough for the Doge to manipulate with a few well-placed bribes and favors. The conservative Senate, however, would pose a greater obstacle as the aristocrats proved immovable in their opposition to expansion on the mainland. Their intransigence played directly into Veniero’s hands. As the senators railed against the evils of continental entanglements, the Major Council passed a resolution allowing the Doge to raise an army for the conquest without the compliance of the gentry. This army would be funded by contributions from Venice’s richest merchants, in exchange for greater influence over government. Outraged at this attack on noble privilege, the senate passed its own resolution condemning Veneiro’s “dangerous and revolutionary” tampering with the established order. While he knew that this resolution would damage his reputation with conservatives at home and abroad, Veniero considered it an acceptable price for his dreams of conquest.

fig3slider.jpg

Fig 2. Favoring the wealthy over the well-born was a disgraceful practice.​

Preparations began immediately. The Doge’s men dispatched messengers to Greece to raise regiments from the local population. Such regiments were cheaper than the condottieri and more loyal besides, making them ideal troops for the long sieges that Veniero anticipated. As foreigners, the Athenians could also be relied on to suppress dissent in Venice itself, if it came to that. The Major Council also approved funding for construction of a new galley in the Arsenal, with several more planned for the future. When Venice went to war with Milan, she would be ready.

fig1recruitment.jpg

Fig 3. Athens became the Republic’s primary recruiting station in the lead up to the war. Refugees from Ottoman Europe swelled the ranks of the army.

Wars are not won by force alone. To achieve victory in the complex political network that was the Holy Roman Empire, Veniero would have to master the diplomatic field. Venice’s greatest leverage in that field stemmed from her economic power. The Venetian trade league encompassed much of the southern half of the empire, along with southern Italy and the Balkans. This network would have to be strengthened and expanded to withstand the diplomatic controversy that could be stirred up by war. The government dispatched emissaries to Poland, Bohemia and Switzerland to persuade these nations to join the Venetian trade league. During the coming months, a string of emissaries would stream North, South and East out of Venice to formalize trade agreements with other courts of Europe.

fig2tradeleague.jpg

Fig 4. Venetian diplomats convinced the kings of Bohemia and Poland to send their goods southward. The Cantons of Switzerland proved uncooperative.

Almost unnoticed in this bustle of activity, the Doge spent the late afternoon in the company of a few close aids and the Genoese ambassador. He convened the Major Council the next morning to deliver his greatest coup of all. The councilor’s heated gossip hushed to a whisper as Veniero strode into the chamber, flanked by the ambassador. With rousing oratory, the man who had risen to power in the aftermath of the Ligurian war of a generation ago announced that the Republic of Venice had entered into a military alliance with the Republic of Genoa.

fig4alliance.jpg

Fig 5. Veniero hoped he had outflanked Milan with his new alliance.​

Key to the reception of this news was the way in which it was presented. We now know, having access to the secret Venetian papers of state, that this announcement was the result of years of backchannel correspondence between Veniero and the Genoese elite. The Doge recognized the advantage of forcing Milan to fight a two-front war, and both republics had reason to fear Milanese consolidation of power in Lombardy. Veniero insisted that the Genoese be the party to officially request the alliance with their old rivals. This established Venice as the senior party in the alliance, in Venetian eyes at least. The announcement was met with enthusiastic applause in the Major Council and wholehearted support on the streets of Venice. Veniero became exceedingly popular, and the schemes against him in the Senate withered in the bud.

By November of 1399, the Most Serene Republic floated inexorably toward a violent confrontation with its western neighbor. Veniero and the state apparatus found itself in a race against time to complete their machinations before the conflict erupted. Victory would not favor the just in the coming war, but the prepared. While Veniero had made this conquest his life’s work, the Duke of Milan was no less crafty an opponent. Venice would not be the only country to gear up for war.
 

DisgruntledLemming

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I can't wait to see that war... Though I find it funny that Genoa and Venice are allies, considering their legendary rivalry.

Will be following! :)
 

JKNUBZ

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After all the biscuiting, I assumed this would suck, but far from it--the writing is good, and there are a sufficiency of well-integrated screenshots. I'll be following.
 

Rifal

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Will be following this.
 

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Prince of Savoy- I know! I did a double take when I saw the notification on the bottom of the screen. We'll see how loyal they are when the war starts.

JKNUBZ- Thank you very much. I never claimed to be bad at writing, just at playing :)! This AAR won't last very long if I get eaten by Milan and the Ottomans.

To all- Thank you for your support. I'm playing just ahead of the writing, but I'll try my best to update on a consistent schedule. Expect the next one before the weekend.
 

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Very good stuff, consider me subscribed. I like your choice of nation and the coming war should prove very interesting.
 

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Great start! Don't worry about the gameplay, you're in good company :D
 

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Morningsider and Generalolaf- Thank you for your interest! I'll try not to disappoint.

The next update is written, but events will be taking me away from an internet connection for the next 48 hours. I still need to edit the damn thing and throw in some screenshots, so you can expect it Monday night. Thanks for y'all's patience. Talk to you then.
 

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"We Will Rule the Adriatic!"



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Fig 1, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan​

Though not Veniero’s equal in administrative maneuverings, the Milanese Duke Visconti could match him in diplomatic finesse and exceed him on the field of battle. Though the two men never met in person, they would have made a study in contrasts. Veniero’s thin frame earned him the nickname “the shadow” behind closed doors. Possessing an immense appetite for power, he nevertheless subsisted on only one plain meal a day. His furnishings were Spartan and his tastes in the arts nonexistent. Visconti, meanwhile, reveled in his nickname, “the ox.” His massive frame and oversized head prompted a visiting diplomat to remark that “It were as though some descendant of Goliath, forsaking his home in Palestine, had settled in Lombardy.” His beard frequently bore the scent of his last meal, much to the dismay of his courtesans.

It did not take long for rumors about Veniero’s planned invasion to reach Visconti. Alarmed by the Genoese-Venetian alliance, the Duke sent emissaries of his own to Liguria. His agents preyed on the old distrust between the merchant republics, winning the support of traditionalists and bribing the undecided. The Genoese Senate decided to hedge their bets by pursuing a policy of trilateral diplomacy. Veniero flew into a rage when the Genoese ambassador informed him that his country had signed a military alliance with Milan.

What followed was a race between Venice and Milan to secure allies across the Italian peninsula and southern Holy Roman Empire. Switzerland entered into a military alliance and trade compact with Venice after much badgering, flanking Milan to the north. Milanese agents thwarted the efforts of Venetian diplomats in Burgundy, and Savoy remained frustratingly indifferent to the entreaties of both parties. Turning south, Venice signed an alliance with Tuscany. Finding himself surrounded, Visconti strengthened his relations with the Emperor in Bohemia.

This last move chilled the enthusiasm of the Major Council. Even Veniero seems to have been given pause. Bohemia had a powerful army and a threatening network of alliances that could bring the might of Central Europe to bear against Venice. The Emperor’s displeasure could also dry up the lucrative trade that flowed to Venice from Germany and Bohemia. Veniero would have to maneuver carefully so as not to appear to be the aggressor. Visconti had made it known that he intended to bring Mantua into his patrimony, so Venice extended a guarantee to the small Italian state.

While the entrenched interests of Venice tended to pursue trade, the Milanese elite prided itself on its martial origins. Visconti was compelled to keep his noble retainers busy on the field of battle to prevent them from scheming at home. The Duke enacted a plan to leapfrog the Venetian cordon sanitaire while simultaneously dispatching another rival. As an added bonus, the audacious move would keep his generals occupied far from home. On a hot July day in 1400, thirteen thousand Milanese troops and condottieri crossed the Austrian border into Trento.



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Fig 2, The disciplined Milanese troops overwhelmed the Austrian defenders​

War fever swept into Venice like a tide. Market demagogues stoked fears that Milan would seize Tyrol, leaving Treviso surrounded. Merchants agonized as the nearby hostilities delayed caravans across the Alps. A mob formed daily in front of the Palace, demanding an intervention.

Milanese successes on the battlefield seemed to confirm these fears. The Milanese general Pietro swept away the Austrian opposition near the border in a brilliant lightning campaign. The numerically superior Austrian army, beset by logistical problems, suffered defeat by defeat as it arrived piecemeal from the Bohemian border. The Genoese Senate sided with Sforza and sent an expedition force to southern Austria. The majority of the Austrian army was in disorganized retreat by the time the leaves turned for the season, leaving Milan and Genoa unopposed.

Several members of the Signoria shared the crowd’s enthusiasm for intervention. These hawks butted heads with Veniero and his fellow pragmatists in heated meetings throughout that autumn. There were powerful arguments for caution. Venice could field less than half the number of men Milan had on the Austrian front despite the success of the state’s recruitment drive in Greece. There was no guarantee that Austria would not come to terms with Milan soon, regardless of whether Venice joined the fight. Most ominously, the Bohemian ambassador made it clear that the Emperor viewed the conflict as a strictly “imperial” affair. Any interference from “outsiders” would be met with immediate sanction.

Veniero had enough support in the legislature and executive councils to prevent the hawks from getting their way. He nevertheless recognized that further bickering on the war issue could tear apart the coalition that kept him in power. He needed a distraction. Fortunately for the doge, the perfect opportunity to unite the Venetian factions was brewing to the southeast.

The tiny principality of Montenegro was a former possession of Venice and remained tied to the Republic by trade. The former king had struggled to hold on to power as various factions jockeyed for influence. His death left a power vacuum, as his son was more interested in hunting and drinking than in ruling. It did not take long for resentment to boil over. Peasants burned their tithes while the garrison in the capital revolted. The young king and his few supporters barricaded themselves in the palace, leaving the country to the rebels. Refugees fleeing into Venetian Albania told stories of chaos and deprivation.

Veniero seized on this issue in a speech to the public on the feast day of St Mark. Addressing those who insisted on entering the Italian War, Veniero countered:

“We float serenely on the sea while behemoths wrestle on the land. Why send our sons to die for uncertain gain on the mainland? Look not in vain to the north. Look to the east, were riches await our merchants and anarchic territories crave our benign jurisdiction. Let the Viscontis and the Habsburgs struggle over rocky wastes. We will rule the Adriatic!”



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Fig 3, The Venetian army marches on Montenegro. Few expected the city to put up much resistance.​

The fickle public bought the Doge’s ploy. The tide of war fever washed out to sea as quickly as it had arrived. Greed and adventurism, both cloaked by piety, took its place in the public imagination. An expedition charged with “restoring God’s ordained order” marched from Albania to Montenegro and laid siege to the city. The Venetians, expecting a quick surrender, were surprised when the defenders rallied and rebuffed their messengers. Both sides settled down to a bloody and protracted siege.

One Montenegrin survivor, Nicholas Luksic, was so traumatized by the event that he abandoned his business and family and retired to a monastery at war’s end. He published his diary, written during the siege, years later:

“The skies are black with ravens, come to feast on the bodies of our departed neighbors. No one has had bread or proper meat in weeks. We subsist on dogs, rats, anything. I have seen children picking each other’s hair for lice, so desperate are they for any form of sustenance. We are surely far from God to have descended to the level of beasts. Rumor has it that Death himself walks the streets at night, choosing his victims. It is a measure of our suffering that this story is not related in a tone of dread, but rather one of wistfulness.”

The besieging Venetian force suffered its share of hunger and morbidity as supplies and funding were redirected into the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats. Both sides must surely have appreciated the irony that this man-made hell sat within sight of some of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful natural coastline. Luksic had good cause for his lament.



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Racked by disease and totally sapped by hunger, the city surrendered in the spring of 1401. Weary citizens accepted annexation as the price of stability. Jubilant crowds greeted news of the victory in Venice, while eager merchants divided the resources of the former state. Veniero remained securely in power as his country settled down to digest its acquisition. Events on the mainland, however, threatened to upset this delicate equilibrium.
 

morningSIDEr

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Excepetionally well written, cracking stuff. I love the political machinations at work within Venice as Veniero carefully attempts to balance the many bickering parties. This alongside the growing rivalry with Milan for supremacy in Italy, all very good. Also very good that you've gained Montenegro, a small but useful addition. I'm rather intrigued to find out what these 'events on the mainland' will prove to be.
 

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perfect sense of writing, Sire - nevermind the in-game highs and lows, telling the TALE is the most important!

subscribed!