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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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coz1

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Nasty wars up in the north, to be sure. Too bad about the stolen siege, but one assumes their will be more chances the next time.
 

Stuyvesant

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An interesting, low-key start. If anything, it's a nicely different starting point from most AARs to have a small, struggling state to being with. Sure, it would be very nice from a gameplaying point of view if you had occupied, Novgorod, but from a STORY point of view, being thwarted is very appealing. :)

The Teutonic Knights should should boldly ride eastward, in search of the fabled Spicy Szechuan Cuisine of Faraway Cathay! Oh, wait, wrong AAR, wrong Knightly Order. :p

For medium-term goals, I could suggest that the Order should try to prevent the monstrosity of Poland-Lithuania from forming. Only out of genuine concern for the purity of faith in Poland, of course: those Poles don't have the steely German determination required to deal with such a massive influx of Orthodox schismatics (which the Knights, of course, have in abundance).

Another option is to prevent Russia from forming (difficult) or at least thrashing it solidly if it proclaims itself the New Rome (presumptious heathen schismatic heretics!).
 

CatKnight

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Duke of Wellington: That 'reasoning' is actually historical. It's how the Byzantines tricked the crusaders out of Antioch in the First Crusade. They made a side deal with the Muslims.

stnylan: I don't know why Muscovy got the siege. Truth is, though, it didn't matter as you'll see.

Vann the Red: Possibly. Catholic solidarity is working well so far!

Draco Rexus: What now? We shall see, my friend.

GrimReaper: Thanks and welcome!

Judas Maccabeus: Muscovy might get theirs someday. Russian winters intimidate me :)

coz1: I'm sure there'll be more chances. For now von Russdorf has other plans. This whole Muscovy thing disgusts him.

Farquharson: Thanks! Enjoy!

Stuyvesant: As I mentioned above I got/will get what I wanted from Novgorod, so no worries. From a story point of view you're right: This definitely sets up a grudge with Muscovy as some of the others are already exploring. It may take awhile, but we'll have to arrange another chat at some point.

Stopping Polish/Lithuanian unification is an interesting idea, and I like your reasoning! Von Russdorf's busy now, but I'll certainly pass along the message. For now he's found his raison d'etre. At least reason enough to drag him into another war so soon. As for stopping Russia: As you said, really difficult and I doubt the Knights would be more than annoyed by that. If and when they proclaim themselves New Rome though, perhaps then will be the time for some revenge!
 

CatKnight

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In 1422, Grandmaster Paul Bellizer von Russdorf found himself in a war that, thanks to Muscovite perfidy, he could not gain from.

VIII: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Von Russdorf would have preferred continuing his predecessor's work of building relations with his rivals, and early on he managed just that. The Teuton grand master signed agreements tying his order closer and closer with the greater powers of Europe: Hungary, England, Castile and Portugal. (RMs all)

The Novgorod thorn vexed him however, especially as he had to endure continual appeals from von Darmstad to finish what he started. Finally on April 1, he sent a terse message to the Livonians: Finish what you started by this autumn, or we'll finish it for you at the table.

How the Livonians felt about this interference is lost to history, but they did listen. A surprise assault on a weak spot in Narva's walls won them the city on May 22. Negotiations dragged on for months as Narva hoped for salvation. It was not to be, however, and when they learned Muscovy and their curs were besieging Kexholm they lost all hope. In September Narva officials surrendered their city and a Livonian commander moved in.

novgorod0914223ph.jpg


IX: DENMARK'S AMBITION

As the Teutonic Order finally enjoyed prosperity, von Russdorf began watching Germany with interest. New city states arose and fell within the Empire pretty much at whim, but when Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Stettin attacked Bremen, Holstein and Mecklenberg he paid attention. He wrote in his journal:

As near as I can tell, this war began when Denmark demanded Holstein's submission. Impossible: None of German blood will ever consent to be ruled by what amounts to Vikings. The lords of Stettin should beware, lest their new friends turn on them.

Attention grew to alarm when Holstein fell in April 1423, Mecklenberg in May, and Bremen in December. All were incorporated into the Danish state. He broke his ties with Denmark (Broke RM) in protest, but they proved indifferent.

During this time, the Teutons had been quietly building a navy under the watchful eye of Admiral Oberstein, a Pommeranian native. Sensing his master's unease, Oberstein accelerated his program and by the middle of 1424 could boast ten galleys, all weather-proofed against the brutal Baltic winters.

Preaching the need for Teuton unity, von Russdorf negotiated an end to a long standing feud between Kommanders von Mencken of Danzig and von Leuw from the chapterhouse in Mecklenberg. The initial disagreement dated to a trade agreement in 1399, where the Mecklenburg chapter was to supply Danzig with several ships worth of luxuries from the German heartland. The ships vanished, and Mecklenburg blamed pirates, possibly based on Gotland. The Danzig kommander replied that he, himself, had been in Gotland dislodging the pirates last summer, and anyway the 'Victual Brothers' were Mecklenburgians. He accused the Mecklenburg chapter of treachery, and it took over a generation to resolve the competing claims and wounded honor. It really didn't change much in Teuton lands, and in point of fact sponsoring the end of the feud actually hurt the realm short term (End of Great Feud: +1 Stab, I was at +3. -50 gold. I had 20-odd in the treasury and had to take a loan.) but von Russdorf believed it was one less hassle to worry about. In exchange for von Mencken's agreement, the Hochmeister agreed to examine the Danzig question once and for all: Whether it would be well to welcome Polish traders, or to Germanize the land even if it would hurt their prosperity.

danzig1014243bi.jpg


With the home front more or less secure, the Grandmaster looked outwards again through 1424 and 25. Dealing with the Danish threat to German sovereignty, and such an overt attempt to dominate the cities of the Hanseatic League, would be difficult. He asked and received military access from Pommerania and Stettin - the latter in the hope Stettin wouldn't care to fight. The Teutons attempted to form an alliance with Oldenburg, were rebuffed when the duke there learned of Teuton intentions, and finally settled on Meissen/Saxony. Denmark countered by marrying a daughter into Stettin's line in a cynical plan to retain their services.

Finally, on November 30, 1425 von Russdorf sent his ultimatum: Release the three German cities as independent powers, or face the consequences. He did not expect a response. His armies were already on the move.

X: AGAINST THE VIKINGS

It has come to this, my brothers: We have been patient. We have given the Danes two years to reconsider their actions and restore the sovereignty of Bremen, Mecklenburg and Holstein. We have given them two years to behave as honorable men do, and seek not to expand at the expense of their brothers in Christ. The Danes are not as honorable men though. They are barely past being pagan themselves, their bloodlines and history tainted by too many years of raiding and pillaging. This is how they think. This is who they are. If they believe they can grow fat off the labor of our German brethren, then they will do so.

We must decide. Aye, this is not our fight and we can sit safely here until Armageddon. No doubt our enemies will honor our humility when we are gone, content to live on a handful of sparse miles on an icy coast. They would like that, if we stayed here sitting on our hands as Danish invaders took our people.

Or yes, we could war with the Rus. Our enemies would like that also, were we to die of their winters and lose through their trickery. Perhaps that day of our return will come, but it has occured to me that now that they are busy killing each other: Let them. We have denied them the Baltic, let them fight over the frozen interior like dogs over scraps.

There was a day when we were the swordarm of the emperor. When he bid us go to these bare lands, beat back the Prussen hordes, and so hold the Empire's eastern flank against all comers. For centuries we have maintained our lonely vigil, and we have done well. Now it is time to come to the Empire's aid again. It is time for us to decide, here, whether we serve God and His Roman Emperor, or whether like the Danes and their ilk we serve only ourselves.

Brothers: Do we go to rescue our brethren? Or do we let them live and die as Viking slaves?
Hochmeister Paul von Russdorf, addressing the high council and kommanders: November 29, 1425

Perhaps excited to have any cause, one the Teutons had been missing for so long, people came together to spur their wartime economy. (Infra 2) Sweden, Norway and disappointingly Stettin stood by the Danes, while the Livonians stayed loyal to their Teuton lords. Saxony initially balked but, after a quick reassurance they could keep what they took and the Knights wouldn't make them fight alone, rejoined the fray. (They initially dishonored. I immediately invited them back.)

startmove1214250oc.jpg


The initial plan called for von Darmstad to invade Stettin through Pomerania. Stettin was heavily garrisoned and expected an eastern attack, however. Von Darmstad quickly negotiated passage (MA) rights with Brandenburg and struck from the south. He did indeed surprise them, but after a brutal Pommeranian blizzard and general lack of supplies the Teuton should have avoided battle. Recklessly he pressed forward on March 20. After losing eight hundred men while Stettin actually gained over a thousand in reinforcements from the surrounding towns he finally conceded defeat and retreated towards Mecklenberg, which was already sieged by Saxon troops.

Von Hagen boarded Oberstein's ships. A quick recon showed Gotland would be difficult to take. More importantly, it would leave him out of the war for an extended time. He instead disembarked in Swedish Smaland and besieged Kalmar, hoping to drive them from the war. The Swedes proved stubborn however, and twice attacked the Teuton with thousand-man banners only to be annihilated.

mercprnc0214260xp.jpg


A third army of nine thousand was quickly conscripted, the infantry coming from the sons and cousins of merchants who attempted to use the war's confusion to increase their own power. Like his predecessors after Tannenberg, von Russdorf did not like or trust the burghers. He placed them under a Holstein ex-patriate named Kuchen. Kuchen, too, boarded Oberstein's fleet and disembarked near his home town. Twice he fought off probing attacks by the Danes and Stettin.

On July 26, 1426 Denmark attacked with 7,500 infantry and 2,200 cavalry. With scouts in the field and a number of men ill, Kuchen only had 4,800 infantry and 2,700 cavalry. Tolerably close, but here Kuchen and his merchant army's inexperience showed through. Danish cavalry retreated from the flanks early in the battle, and he ordered a general chase by his cavalry. This left the Danes' massive infantry advantage, which slowly ground the knights down and destroyed their siege engines. Finally Kuchen conceded defeat and also retreated to Mecklenberg.

Europe watched the unfolding war with interest. Oberstein did well, fighting off fourteen Danish and Stettin warships in January, then briefly seizing the Sund in June. The sieges of Mecklenburg and Kalmar proceeded without incident, and the Knights retained more than enough men to carry out their threat to take northern Germany away from the Danes. Inspired by appeals from von Russdorf for German unity, Brandenburg, Pomerania, Bavaria and the Palatinate joined the fray on April 30. Their alliance, led by Friedrich I of Brandenburg, besieged Stettin.

On August 13, the Danes made one last attempt to save Mecklenburg. They threw the ten thousand man force that defeated Kuchen at the Saxon/Teuton alliance. Von Darmstad commanded the Teuton forces, while the Saxons brought some twenty thousand men of their own to the fray. They threw the Danes back on all fronts, and in October 26, 1426, Mecklenburg fell. Denmark wanted peace.

denpeace14264dl.jpg


Von Russdorf didn't.
 

GrimReaper

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Good progress. Crush them! :D
 

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44 gold for peace, when the Danes' strategic situation has deteriorated so badly? Von Russdorf would've been mad to accept that offer!

Good show championing the German cause. Entertainingly written, too. I will hold out for either Lithuanian or Russian adventures, but the Knights' undertakings promise to be interesting, wherever they turn their attention.
 

stnylan

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Time for the Danes to cough up a geld! Still, one or two bad battles and it could go very ill.
 

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Intriguing! I wonder what the Teutons are going to pull from this war? The Saxons hold Mecklemburg, so no joy there - something a bit more Baltic in flavour, perhaps? Some bits of Denmark or Sweden? In any case these Scandinavians clearly need to be kept at bay, that's for sure! Great writing, as always.
 

coz1

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I suppose the question is, will the Teutons release the cities once captured? Very helpful alliance, by the way.
 

fj44

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Now, the real question is: when, not if, the order picks up the german states, will they be given autonomy? ;)

Good work thus far, CatKnight. :)

EDIT: Ha, coz1 beat me to it. :)
 

unmerged(28944)

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Interesting, very interesting move. The Teutons preaching German unity, and bringing the sword to make the point. Nice. So where is von Russdorf heading now? I'm thinking a march into the Dane lands is in order! :D
 

CatKnight

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Nobegow: Welcome! Yes, Teuton AARs seem rare here. I think they have great storytelling possibilities!

GrimReaper: Okay!

Stuyvesant: You may not have to hold out for long. In the meantime, von Russdorf is taking the time to explain to Denmark why 44 gold isn't enough.

stnylan: That is true. Fighting all of Scandinavia (Den/Nwy/Swe) can get very entertaining if the AI is feeling saucy. They seem to like sailing their ships around. They did land 3,000 or so men in Livonian territory back at the war's beginning. The Brotherhood was not amused.

Duke of Wellington: Thanks! Resurrection has very few illustrations, so it's unusual for me to use so many. Glad they're working!

Farquharson: Yes, the Scandinavians definitely need chastising.

coz1: Will the Teutons release the cities? I'll have you know cities like Danzig enjoy unusual freedoms for the time! They just uhm...chose to fly Teuton flags. Yeah!

fj44: Hmm...define autonomy :)

Draco Rexus: A march into Dane lands is certainly in order, if only to convince them of their error.
 

CatKnight

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In 1426, the Teutonic Knights invaded northern Germany to free their kin from Danish domination.

XI. HUMBLING THE ENEMY

By October, the German city states that made up the bulk of the Empire could see the Teuton/Livonian/ Saxon alliance, with a nod to Brandenburg, Pommerania and their friends, were set to humble the Scandinavian invaders. Mecklenburg was now in Saxon hands, and General von Darmstad marched on Hamburg with ten thousand men.

His next battle took place near the banks of the Elbe, when a small Danish cavalry force of 2,700 barred his path. Von Darmstad held a 2:1 cavalry advantage and easily repelled their efforts. Even a Danish relief force of 2,000 infantry wasn't enough to turn the tide and they retreated in disarray.

On January 13, 1427 Admiral Oberstein with his ten galleys met three Danish carracks and a transport while patrolling the German coast. He retreated to the shoals and reefs near Mecklenburg. When the heavier ships followed, they ran aground and he battered them from a quarter mile with small prow-mounted cannonades. He might have seized them outright, but four Danish carracks appeared and distracted Oberstein long enough for the crippled ships to escape.

Kalmar fell later that month, but Sweden refused peace. Left with being stuck in the war's backwater (and thus a permanent second to the younger and more dashing von Darmstad), General von Hagen ignored the Swedes and pushed into Danish Skane. Oberstein moved up with his fleet and seized the Sund, preventing reinforcement from Copenhagen...not that any was forthcoming.

1427mar0id.jpg


April saw Stettin forced out of the war (and independence,) compelled to swear fealty to the Hozenhollerns of Brandenburg. Saxons raided into Jutland and attacked Bremen through Oldenburg.

All was not ease however, for defenders repelled the Saxon advance at the Weser River, and Admiral Oberstein's perfect record yielded to ten Danish and Norwegian carracks who surprised him near Anholt Island. These were deeper waters and the Scandinavians held the weather gauge. After several hours Oberstein to retreated to Mecklenburg for refit and repair.

In May, however, Hamburg fell. Von Darmstad blitzed through Viborg and besieged Aalborg in Jutland. Denmark offered peace...

1427aug2wh.jpg


But Teuton Grandmaster Paul Bellizer von Russdorf did not think it sufficient. The war continued, and on September 5, 1427 Lund in Skane fell to General von Hagen. Now he merely awaited news of von Darmstad's victory to carry the fight to Copenhagen itself.

Von Russdorf had not been silent in his castle at Konigsberg. He recruited yet another army, exhausting Teuton manpower as this consisted mostly of the boys and retired fighters of the realm. As he explained in his journal:

If the Danes continue their obstinancy, then only a twin strike at their capital and Gotland may drive them from this war. Then we will be able to dictate any peace we desire.

Sweden ceded Gotland to the Teutons in 1388, letting their order rule it as a Swedish fief if they would oust some Mecklenburg pirates. They did so, but even before Tannenberg Danish and Swedish intrigue tricked them out of their reward. Von Russdorf made it clear to the world he would take it back if his enemies persisted.

For their part, Denmark contemplated relieving Aalborg with the last of their army. The problem was Admiral Oberstein, who once more with surprising obstinancy blocked the Sund. From October 1 through mid November his nine galleys fought running battles with no less than twelve carracks and thirteen transports. Worse, he had time to study the area and continually found ways to resupply off the hostile land. Teuton marines stormed and sacked Kalundborg and briefly held Odense before the canny Admiral would once more fade before the larger Danish fleet.

Erik VII, King of Denmark, received a final letter from the mainland on November 12:

The food is almost gone. The invaders burned our crops and restrained the peasants from planting more. Our water is similarly desperate, and yesterday three of my men refused a sorty to try and break past the siege. Today the bastards catapulted the body of my son over the wall: I can only guess he was captured attempting to bring supplies in from the coast. He was still alive when they fired. I could hear his scream as he broke on the walls of the citadel. The "Knights" promise to do that to every man, woman and child if we do not yield.

If your majesty is unable to relieve Aalborg soon, then I will surrender to save my people.

Teuton held Jutland, with Oberstein in control of the Sund, would leave Copenhagen open to a two-pronged attack. He could not take that chance, and after a series of exchanges with a Teuton diplomat based in the capital against this day, came to terms.

1427novborders3tj.jpg


XII. AND THEN THERE WAS SILENCE

Celebrations and thanks givings lasted into early 1428. To no one's surprise, if their mild disappointment, von Russdorf had no intent of yielding Holstein. He believed controlling Denmark's southern border, and thus their access to the German states, was best for the time. He did promise Hamburg the same rights of all Teuton cities. Once this would have been generous, but after the burgher-led insurrections following Tannenberg the provincial Kommanders kept much stricter controls.

General von Darmstad became Kommander of Holstein, while von Hagen led Skane. For the next few years Grandmaster von Russdorf, increasingly popular at home, continued consolidating and strengthening his people. He paid off loans to Danzig merchants dating back to 1423, and appointed administrators (tax collectors) for the new areas.

Paul von Russdorf believed the feudal system, with power centered on various nobles, could only weaken the Knights. The Teutons were always a military order, but now he enforced a strict chain of command that ensured all major decisions came from the senior officers at Konigsberg. (Centralization +1) This did annoy his kommanders, especially in Skane, Holstein and Kustrin where access to the capital was infrequent at best. He combatted this by requesting of the senior officers that, should he die, they appoint von Darmstad as his successor. (Heir to the Throne: +1 Stability) Technically this wasn't legal, but with von Russdorf's incredible popularity his opinions carried enormous weight.

XIII: BUT THE BAND PLAYED ON

Denmark may have come to terms with the Teutons, but they still warred with Brandenburg, Pommerania, and Bavaria. In January 1428 they besieged Pomerania with overwhelming force. They made two attempts to break the siege, but with only thousand man banners easily destroyed. Brandenburg might have had a chance, but Friedrich I claimed he was too busy securing Stettin.

In April von Russdorf and new Saxon leader Friedrich II sent Erik a terse letter: Stop, or we won't until Copenhagen is burnt to the ground. Denmark reluctantly agreed, and after coercing a pittance from the prostate city state sailed home. They were distracted anyway as Bremen merchants, encouraged by the recent Teuton/Saxon campaign, made a bid for independence. It failed, but Kommander von Darmstad expected rebellions to continue "like a festering wound until they learn to acknowledge German sovereignty."

Meanwhile, Emperor Sigismund of Hungry met with Vytautas of Lithuania and Jagiello of Poland in Lutsk to offer an independent crown to Vitautas. Jagiello at first agreed, but his own nobles rebelled at the idea and he quickly rescinded the idea. Later he actually tried to give the Polish crown to Lithuania, but Pope Martin V stepped in fearing a united kingdom under Lithuanian domination might go Orthodox.

Von Russdorf sent letters to Poland's nobility, reminding them of their king's Lithuanian heritage, and asking why Jagiello had been so eager to crush and finally annex (Romanist) Bohemia. Enough agreed and threatened to revoke the Union giving him Poland's crown if Jagiello tried. Vytautas finally despaired of the political machinations and went into permanent retirement. (various events)

1429 saw Denmark invoke the Sound Due, charging a hefty fee to merchant ships passing by Denmark into the Baltic Sea. This effectively ruined Mecklenburg's prosperity, which angered the Saxons. Von Russdorf protested, but ambassadors from various nations hinted his 'oppression' of the Danes was starting to tarnish their reputation and he backed down. With Germany secure and his attentions in that arena unwelcome for the moment, the Teuton Grandmaster began seeking another cause for his order.

Discussions with Moscow bore fruit the next Christmas (Diplomatic Move: +1 Dip rating, +25 relations Muscowy, +1 Diplomat) when they suggested it wouldn't be taken overly amiss if the two knight orders wanted to weaken their Novgorod neighbors further. The senior officers agreed that while Moscow could not be trusted, the chance to further weaken the Orthodox cause could not be ignored. Grandmaster von Russdorf considered his options.
 

stnylan

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A very successful war. Rather brutal siege tactics however. And you are now in an excellent position to prosecute further scandinavian wars should that prove necessary.
 

Farquharson

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Looking at the map it seems that what would help the Teutons most now would be to get hold of Pommerania - but that seems a little tricky for the moment. What would another war with Novgorod have to offer? Only the chance for the Livonians to get even stronger, surely.
 

unmerged(28944)

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Great work on that, eh?

I agree, the Knights need Pommerania, but that may have to hold off for awhile yet. But sticking it to the Rus and Novgorod sounds like fun. ;)
 

coz1

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Soundly (heh! :D ) defeated Denmark. And it wasn't easy it seems, what with all you had to do by sea. Well done! Methinks this won't be the last time you tangle with them.