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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

diskoerekto

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Previously, on Blut und Schlacht by March 938 CE, the young Russian Emperor and Fylkir Styrbjörn had led the realm into feudalism. His main concern was to start ‘building upwards’ in his home counties, to develop a strong retinue and levy and (eventually) a larger tax base. The only one of his many vassals that was already feudal at this time was Jarl Bertil II, the powerful leader of Flanders. Until the others began to adopt the same form of government, there would be a degree of political friction with the other vassals, along with two ambitions brothers and their factions and sundry other political troublemakers. A strong personal army would help to deter any violence or, if it came, to have a fair chance to defeat any rebels. And with a busy raiding program envisaged to fund an ambitious building (and bribery) program, a stronger Imperial raiding force would also be useful.
Some kind of a "previously" was necessary since we've missed the story so much! Thanks for getting back at authAARing and giving us this episode :)

Ch 115 Q1: Holding Cities. Given it will be a while before I can build new baronies in the home counties and province conquests/revocations are also not planned for now, I decided to hold onto these despite them being the ‘wrong type’, despite the 75% (I believe from the Wiki) income penalty. I didn’t know/couldn’t be fussed trying to work out whether this was better or worse than giving them to direct vassals and taxing them instead. But if anyone has any advice on whether I should divest these or wait until something better comes along to fill the demesne, it would be most welcome.
I never thought about holding cities so haven't really calculated if it's more profitable to keep or give, but for some reason I automatically give them to high stewardship people for RP purposes.

for a destination yet to be determined.
there seems to be 2 lonely realms in the coast of Levant

Ch 115 Q3: Economics. The earlier question on keeping some, all or none of the cities is now due. And should I plough money into them, keep spending it on the existing baronies, or save a bit more to create a new one? Given economics is now a key part of Russia’s next phase as a feudal realm – and noting advice already received at the last Þing – any advice on timings and priorities at this stage would be very welcome.
I'd give cities to high stewardship people, and spend money only on the demesne castles until they're all built up (I posted a priority list of buildings once here, but I don't remember the order from the top of my head now, if I find I'll post it again. Basically build buildings that give good troops and avoid buildings that give light infantry. also, money bringing buildings are weak). Once they're built up I'd create new castles.

I vaguely remember an event or decision or something that created new holdings in empty holdings, but I might just be imagining it (and somebody will correct me in 30 seconds if that's the case :) )

Ch 115 Q4: Realm Succession Laws, Learning. Much value in considering subordinate kingdom law changes? I’m thinking not yet. For tech, I see monastic schools for temples and universities for cities can be built, though the latter are very expensive indeed and will take a very long time to build.
Not much to do but to wait, and send the spy to Constantinople (or if some other province has higher legalism than Constantinople, then there). Buildings for tech are very long term investments. About the succession laws, I like ultimogeniture more than primogeniture but both will save the realm from versions of gavelkind or splitting of titles among heirs.

And speaking of cities and income, it is definitely worth it to create a pet merchant republic - if you conquer a coastal duchy at some point, giving it to a mayor. The prince mayor will dislike you most of the time, but offers plenty of tax.
my idea :D they also offer ships
 
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Idhrendur

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I echo the other replies. Make the notice go away, vassal republics are amazing, spymaster lives in the Queen of Cities.
 
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The Fourth Þing of Styrbjörn’s Reign – February 945 New

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The Fourth Þing of Styrbjörn’s Reign – February 945

Time for the love to return to our Viking Russian Empire. Herewith the feedback to those comments I haven’t already responded to previously, concentrating on the questions and advice.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch 115 Q1: Holding Cities. Given it will be a while before I can build new baronies in the home counties and province conquests/revocations are also not planned for now, I decided to hold onto these despite them being the ‘wrong type’, despite the 75% (I believe) income penalty. I didn’t know/couldn’t be fussed trying to work out whether this was better or worse than giving them to direct vassals and taxing them instead. But if anyone has any advice on whether I should divest these or wait until something better comes along to fill the demesne, it would be most welcome.
With money in short supply, I would give the towns to others and let them use their money to develop them.
Very well, that seems to be the consensus view.
Personally, I always give wrong holdings away. Not because I did the math, but to get rid of the alert.

Styrbjörn holding on to them slows down their development as the mayors won't improve the cities themselves, but I can't say if the little additional income is worth it. Intuitively, I'd say no, as you can raid.

As a bonus information, if you wish to assign a new mayor, you can right-click the holding and simply give it to a random character. And speaking of cities and income, it is definitely worth it to create a pet merchant republic - if you conquer a coastal duchy at some point, giving it to a mayor. The prince mayor will dislike you most of the time, but offers plenty of tax.
Thanks for the advice, including mayoral appointment and merchant republics.
my idea they also offer ships
Will try explore a merchant republic if I get the opportunity later.
I never thought about holding cities so haven't really calculated if it's more profitable to keep or give, but for some reason I automatically give them to high stewardship people for RP purposes.
OK, will probably get to it. Only hung on to them temporarily as I only had the four counties for Styrbjörn to hold at this point in his reign.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch 115 Q2: Vassals Feudalising. Anything much I can do to encourage them or speed the process up? Other than building stone forts for them? Or do I just wait and expect it to take a lot of time?
It is fairly fast as long as their capitals share their religion and have stone forts, so focusing the proselytizing on these counties (though that doesn't look like being a problem) and building forts is all you can do.
Yes, they’re converting pretty steadily.
I'd give cities to high stewardship people, and spend money only on the demesne castles until they're all built up (I posted a priority list of buildings once here, but I don't remember the order from the top of my head now, if I find I'll post it again. Basically build buildings that give good troops and avoid buildings that give light infantry. also, money bringing buildings are weak). Once they're built up I'd create new castles.

I vaguely remember an event or decision or something that created new holdings in empty holdings, but I might just be imagining it (and somebody will correct me in 30 seconds if that's the case )
Thanks. Plenty of initial building in existing demesne counties before I start creating new baronies etc, so I’ll file it away for later.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch 115 Q3: Economics. The earlier question on keeping some, all or none of the cities is now due. And should I plough money into them, keep spending it on the existing baronies, or save a bit more to create a new one? Given economics is now a key part of Russia’s next phase as a feudal realm – and noting advice already received at the last Þing – any advice on timings and priorities at this stage would be very welcome.

Basically dealt with under comments on Q1 and elsewhere, I guess.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Ch 115 Q4: Realm Succession Laws, Learning. Much value in considering subordinate kingdom law changes? I’m thinking not yet. For tech, I see monastic schools for temples and universities for cities can be built, though the latter are very expensive indeed and will take a very long time to build.
Change all inheritance laws at same time.
Noted!
It may be an idea to also give Sviþjod to a loyal vassal and centralize the power. The benefit is that you'd have a powerful vassal. The problem is that you'd have a powerful vassal. But at least that powerful vassal won't have a claim on your titles, as Styrbjörn's secondary successor would have under gavelkind.

Garðariki, as your primary kingdom, doesn't actually need any law change. IIRC, it should go to your primary heir (as long as he's the firstborn), just as the screen indicates.

As for tech, there's mainly the good old CK II method of buying a residence in Constantinople for your spymaster, in use for many, many generations; there's the title bonus and your learning skill, small advances from buildings, random events, and - most useful - the scholar focus.
Looks like, if the factions and plots stay under control, it could well be back to Constantinople for the Spymaster again, as in days of yore. Scholar focus also worth another look (it worked for Rurik, and his stargazing wasn’t the thing that drove him mad).
Not much to do but to wait, and send the spy to Constantinople (or if some other province has higher legalism than Constantinople, then there). Buildings for tech are very long term investments. About the succession laws, I like ultimogeniture more than primogeniture but both will save the realm from versions of gavelkind or splitting of titles among heirs.
Won’t be building any universities for quite some time, I suspect. I think I’ll probably try for primo, even if it’s more the for the familiarity of it, as well as being ‘in role’ for the Rurikids.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

General
It looks like Styrbjörn will manage a very successful feudalization, thanks to the raiding income keeping his vassals happy and his demesne improving. Looks like that content man is just what Russia needed - unlike some other people who shall not be named.
Nice! We’ll see how he goes now that the earliest part of his reign moves into the middle phase.
Even Hakon's death was annoying for the empire. The man was truly a thorn in the main line's side.
Very true – though at least he caused far less trouble in the latter part of his life than he did in the first!
there seems to be 2 lonely realms in the coast of Levant
We’ll consider them as a raiding target.
I echo the other replies. Make the notice go away, vassal republics are amazing, spymaster lives in the Queen of Cities.
All noted – thanks for the corroboration.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Thank you to those hardy souls who commented earlier and have offered advice. As always, any stuff-ups that follow are purely my own! :D Now to play the next session – trying to keep the historical sweep broad, so we can get through this game in reasonable time. Well, for me, anyway!
 
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Eurasia

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Oh yes, there is always that one guy who decides he should be Ruler and does not understand why nobody will join his Faction?

Also...you maps looks weird. Or is it my AAR maps are the weird ones?
 
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Oh yes, there is always that one guy who decides he should be Ruler and does not understand why nobody will join his Faction?

Also...you maps looks weird. Or is it my AAR maps are the weird ones?
@Eurasia, he is not using Holy Fury map update. Massive map changes in Russia would crash the Rurikids!
Yes, that is right: the patch that accompanied HF broke this game, so I had to roll back and stop updating DLC at that point if I wanted to continue the AAR.
 
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I need to do some ck2 challenges at some point, if just to unlock the wizard beard perk option.
 
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Chapter 116: A Passing Parade (1 February 945 to 31 December 947) New

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Chapter 116: A Passing Parade (1 February 945 to 31 December 947)

AuthAAR’s Note: I’ve maintained the same thematic history book as per the last chapter. This one only covers just under three years, as the session yielded a little too much material to squeeze into one chapter. My writing up has been delayed, as I was quite unwell (neither serious nor COVID-related) for most of the last week and am only just returning to functioning humanity today!

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Previously, on Blut und Schlacht The Russian Emperor, Fylkir Styrbjörn, had by early 945 AD largely stabilised his reign. He had the political factions – where his two brothers were most the prominent pretenders - largely under control and continued to build his demesne, largely through raiding, and had another aid about to set forth. Styrbjörn’s vassals continued to both fight one another and against neighbouring leaders to expand their holdings, which also saw the Empire’s boundaries expand gradually, even though the almost omnipresent anti-Fylkir defensive pacts remained in place. The Germanic faith continued to gain adherents, while the Fylkir’s vassals only adopted feudalism very slowly – the vast majority remained tribal lords.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

1. Council, Legal and Administrative Matters

Acting on the advice of the learned members of the Þing, Styrbjörn immediately appointed mayors to hold the four cities within his feudalised demesne. They all seemed to be very happy with their appointments and their Fylkir.


Mayor Kjartan of Holmgarðr’s opinion of Styrbjörn was typical of his newly appointed peers.

A few months later, the Fylkir decided to make a change to realm law, in the hope future acquisitions might require his span of control to be increased. The change to increase centralisation passed with the full support of the Council after a brief consideration.


In early November 945, the mad – but trusty – old Chancellor Grimr became the fifth Russian vassal to swear feudal oaths to his emperor.


But the loyal Grimr had only months to enjoy the fruits of his embrace of feudalism: he died peacefully in April 946, with his inheritance (one county in Russia, plus the other original holding in Ireland) split within his family upon succession. So passed, with uncharacteristic peacefulness, one of the more colourful, loyal and effective court characters of the period.


This left an important vacancy at the head of the Council, of course. And the best candidate available in the realm was good enough that Styrbjörn felt no need for a foreign recruit. Chief Refil of Járnberaland was an accomplished diplomat, still very young, actively sought a council appointment and already retained a high opinion of his emperor, in large part due to a recent gift [the reasons for which are explained in Section 2 below].


He was immediately sent to continue the diplomatic mission to the powerful and touchy Jarl Bertil II ‘the Devil’ of Brabant. Confirmation of Refil's appointment as designated regent followed a couple of weeks later. By that time, he had become one of the loyal members of the Emperor’s Party on Council.

With things otherwise remaining fairly quiet on the Council front during this period, good news was received from Spymaster Jarl Helgi a year later, in April 947: his research in Constantinople (where he had begun his information gathering mission in 945) paid off, though it was information on military doctrine, rather than the hoped-for cultural area. The desired advancement in Legalism would have to wait.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

2. Factions and Politics

The factional ebb and flow was constant throughout this period, but as the Emperor was able to keep it largely under control with only the occasional need to intervene directly, the Rurikid scroll trove now contained only limited references to these events.

But by late August 945, enough momentum was building in a range of factions that Styrbjörn felt the need to take some action. Bertil himself was considered too expensive to buy off – hence the continuing diplomatic mission there by Chancellor Grimr (at that time), which would ultimately pay off. Three other factional members were however sent gifts and they soon left factional politics behind them. One, Chief Refil, would later be brought into the Imperial Council as an Imperial Loyalist, such was his change of attitude.


Then in December came the disquieting news that Helgi had developed the ambition to become King of Garðariki! But would he act on it any time soon? Styrbjörn wondered darkly whether it might not be an entirely bad thing if his powerful kinsman fell afoul of his Byzantine hosts … permanently.


Just a few weeks later, on 24 December, came news from faithful old Chancellor Grimr ‘Son of Hel’ that his mission to Brabant had succeeded in improving relations with Jarl Bertil ‘the Devil’ [to +31]. He would continue to work on Styrbjörn’s most powerful vassal: perhaps the two got along well because of, if not in spite of, their ‘colourful’ personalities.

There was even better news for the Emperor in March 946: word came of the unsurprising early death of Jarl Kezhevat of Yaroslavl, Styrbjörn’s former childhood captor, who had robbed him of the jarldom his father Eilif had bequeathed to him all those years ago. Kezhavat’s nine year old son had inherited the title. The gears began turning in Styrbjörn’s mind …


It took a year for him to act, as his main force was still out raiding until March 947 [see Section 5 below] but in April 947, Styrbjörn summoned his Council.

“Refil, how strong is my claim on the Jarldom of Yaroslavl?” asked the Emperor of his recently appointed Chancellor. “Would it cause any wider political problems if I sought to revoke it from the usurper’s whelp?”
“Young Virdyan would be outraged, of course, but no one else will care, as your claim is strong. The Council would support you on this matter.”
“Excellent! Go ahead and draw up the papers.” Styrbjörn then turned to Marshal Barid. “Summon my Swedish and Russian levies, just in case the junior upstart chooses to resist.”

The writ of revocation was duly issued on 21 April 947, as the levies began to concentrate.

At that time, the factions within the Empire were at their lowest ebb for a number of years. Only the principal claims on Russia by his two brothers remained, and neither had much (if any) support from the other vassals. Importantly, Bertil was no longer active in any faction after the ongoing charm offensive.


Then a day later, a letter arrived from young Jarl Virdyan (or his regent, anyway) humbly submitting to the revocation: there would be no internal war after all.


It was only after the act was complete that it occurred to Styrbjörn that the two counties associated with the title had not come with it, and he had no legitimate claim to either at present. The mental gears began turning again … but nothing more was acted upon before the end of 947.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

3. Vassal Wars

The ever-acquisitive Jarl Sumarliði of Sarkel launched another war of conquest in June 945, seeking to take the rich coastal province of Azov from the Christian King Mamia ‘the Accursed’ of Georgia. The war would still be going by December 947.


The very next day, Styrbjörn’s brother Tolir finally won the long war over Vestmannaland against Jarl Totil or Sviþjod. Tolir’s reach was extending further west from his original base and his power rose correspondingly.


By April 946, as Sumarliði’s war for Azov continued, Jarl Tryggve ‘the Unready’ of Ryazan (another of the territorially ambitious Russian lords) launched his own bid for the Georgian province of Abkhazia. By now, it seems King Mamia had either died or been deposed, replaced by a man named Ishkhanik, whose problems only seemed to be multiplying. This war would also remain unresolved by December 947.

Next came a relatively brief internal revocation war, launched by Jarl Helgi for the county of Belo Ozero against the unfortunate chief of that province, a Slovensky by the name of Miemo, who refused to yield to his liege’s demand that he relinquish his title. The fighting only lasted from 11 October 946 to 14 May 947, ending in Miemo’s surrender and another acquisition for Helgi’s personal demesne.

And on 23 April 947, Jarl Bertil began another of his bold (foolhardy?) attempts to conquer a county in Britannia, this time Sussex, currently controlled by King Bouchard the Fat. Time would tell whether this was any more likely to succeed than his previous failed attempts over there.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

4. Family and Personal Affairs

Styrbjörn’s concubine Beata af Vitebsk announced her latest pregnancy on 31 July 945. But it must have ‘unsettled her humours’, because on 1 November Helgi’s agents uncovered a plot whereby she sought to murder Styrbjörn’s second son (by the Empress), Prince Sigurðr, then aged 13 and heir to the Kingdom of Sviþjod. Such plots were a relatively common occurrence in Russian courts and when confronted with the evidence by an angry Emperor, Beata swore the plot would end and asked for forgiveness. Which, for the sake of their unborn child, he gave.

Whether it was spurred by this episode, or just a random occurrence where he had been subjected to criticism from within his family or the court, in late 945 Styrbjörn noted in his personal journal that he had discovered a new-found patience: this should definitely make him a better ruler in most respects, he believed. And was better than becoming an angry man by seeking vengeance over so petty a slight.


And this patience was rewarded on 1 March 946, with the birth of another daughter by Beata: Vigdis. She would be taught to be thrifty.

But the Gods, as ever, gave with one hand and took away with another. Styrbjörn’s older cousin, Rikulfr Helgisson – one-time heir presumptive under the old gavelkind succession rules – passed away peacefully three weeks later. He died as he had lived – in obscurity and without fanfare.


By mid-946, the previous infidelity of Empress Ulfhildr ‘the Unfaithful’ was finally forgiven. Not only that, but the love between them had grown further. And despite her cancer (which must not have been too aggressive), Ulfhildr managed to keep on keeping on.


Later that year, Styrbjörn took stock of his personal strengths and weaknesses as a ruler and decided to do something about his worst vulnerability: his nearly total lack of skill regarding the murky world of intrigue. The initial effects of this change were immediate and he hoped more opportunities to improve his skills would arise as time went by, even if the switch of focus had diminished his diplomatic skills a little.


On 28 May 947, Crown Prince Eilif came of age. It seemed his military studies had been very successful, the young man being described as a skilled tactician, brave and fairly virtuous. Though also cynical and ‘a bit queer’, according to court gossip. So, he was an accomplished military leader but run-of-the-mill in other skill-sets.

Rumour or not, his first duty as heir was mandated: a royal marriage was arranged straight away. The best prospect available of a similar age was young Björg, an apparently good Norse girl from the minor nobility of Tyrconnell. The offer was made for her to join the court and the most powerful Norse royal family in the world as the likely future Empress of Russia.


There was only ever going to be one answer. She arrived (by extremely fast boat) on 1 June and the two were married that day. With Imperial prestige abundant but cash always an issue, a Royal Aid Duty was called for. Björg had no direct claims to land, but it turned out she was the daughter of the Marshal of the Jomsvikings! It may not be the substantive connection to the Norse military order a marriage into the leader's family might have afforded, but could hardly do any harm.


Little relevant family news was recorded for the next years and a half, with a footnote to history being the death of a minor member of the royal family. It is said that Ingjerðr, daughter of that old ogre Hakon (and thus Styrbjörn’s cousin), succumbed to rabies on 12 December 947. She was 47 years old and had been married to the powerful and ambitious Tryggve de Normandie (ie the successful one), Jarl of Ryazan and Imperial Advisor.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

5. Imperial Raids and Wars

In February 945, the Emperor’s raiders were in the northern Black Sea and deciding on a new target for their depredations. It was determined that the one-county Duchy of Cyprus would make an excellent choice: it was not too far away; its Doux was a renowned snivelling coward, with a suspect character and virtually no military ability; there should be no chance of external resistance; and there would be rich pickings. The mixed raiding force of Russian Imperial Guardsmen and levies set sail once more.


They fell upon the unsuspecting Cypriots on 5 April, setting siege lines against the formidable castle of Famagusta and raking the countryside for ‘loose change’. The castle fell on 14 September, yielding almost 65 gold and a hostage, Princess Vadamerca, who was immediately ransomed to the Doux for another 10 gold. And back in the capital, it was discovered that the serial Karelian pest Chief Tuure of Ääninen now had the 10 gold to ransom a hostage taken in a raid some years before. Ka-ching! But Russia also paid a blood price for Famagusta : 441 men died during the five-month siege.

The less well-fortified Nikosia was the next to fall on 8 December, adding almost 93 gold to the treasure chests, though another 84 raiders were sent to the underworld. Cythium was taken on 15 March 946, yielding over 56 gold but costing 178 Russian soldiers. Saint Hilarion followed on 3 May, bringing a little less than 22 gold, but not costing any raiders to seize.

The county had delivered the last available plunder by 2 June, but the fleet still had some room left for more treasure, so the raiders moved to the other county on the island – Limisol. This was part of the powerful Byzantine Empire but, being so isolated, the Russians forged ahead without any worries. The castle itself fell on 12 January 947 (67.7 gold, 206 raiders killed). The last available treasure was scrounged up by 2 February and the raiders boarded ship, the chests filled close enough to capacity with loot after almost exactly two years of effort.

They returned to port in March and the gold was sent back to the capital, where the Emperor would seek to put it to good use.


Rather than launching another inevitably long raid, by early April a target for conquest was being sought. The Emperor’s covetous eyes fell on Sarpa, an isolated eastern province of Iva Struma’s Bulgarian Revolt. It looked like no one was home, it was close by and, as rebels, they were not part of the Christian pact. Not only that, but though not currently rich, it was a Silk Road county. Those Russian eyes became even greedier.


By 8 April 947, the last levies had been stood down and the Imperial Guard, now up to its full strength of 1,700 men, had already started marching to Sarpa by the time war was declared on the unfortunate Iva.


The siege of Sarpa began on 29 May and was over just two months later, with only light casualties suffered. But it looked like it was going to take a long time for a victory to come in the war.


A small Bulgarian rebel army (just 200 men) appeared to the north of Sarpa on 21 November [warscore 17% by then]. Additional levies from the ultimately unnecessary troop muster leading up to the Yaroslavl Revocation (mentioned previously) had joined the Guard in Sarpa at that point. With now around 2,400 men, two Russian forces headed out to try to bring the Bulgarians to battle [in the hope of increasing the warscore, and knowing that a land battle would need to be won to force a capitulation].

But the Bulgarians proved somewhat elusive and it wasn’t until 3 December that a revised plan would bring the enemy within Styrbjörn’s grasp. And that grasp was personal. Despite being only a mediocre military commander, he decided he would return to the tradition of the warrior leader and took personal command of 700 Guardsmen and a hundred or so levies (not yet included in the total on the map below) heading to Don-Portage, while Velmayka took 700 Guardsmen to Sarkel (where the Bulgarians had been heading) and Gorm stayed to keep Sarpa secured with another 1,000.


As events transpired, instead of continuing to Tana the enemy stopped in Don-Portage and it was there that the Emperor personally sounded the charge to attack on 30 December 947. His army was simply too large, well trained and heavily armed for the Bulgarians to contend with. When the pursuit ended on 19 January 948, only three Russians had been lost while over half the enemy company was killed. Styrbjörn had won his first battle in his own right, even if it proved a walk-over.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

6. Building and the Economy

The year 945 saw a range of infrastructure projects both finished and commenced, as the funds from the latest raid were applied to the Emperor’s home demesne (with some cash set aside for persuading vassals to leave factions and other contingencies). On 24 March, a level two barracks was finished in the capital castle of Nygarðr, and the next level was started straight away: it would cost around 282 gold (from a treasury of 477) and take 666 days to build. It was completed on 20 January 947.

A week later, level two stables were completed in Aldeigjuborg Castle (Ladoga). Given how often the county was raided by the troublesome Finns, a shallow moat (ie. level one castle fortifications) was commenced on 31 March, at a cost of 71 gold and taking 168 days. It was duly completed on 30 September, but by then the treasury was down to 81 gold, so no more projects were being commissioned, nor would be until the next raid was finished.

By late July 945, a survey of the core Imperial demesne counties showed that feudalism and continued development was beginning make them wealthy – forming a small but deepening sea of prosperity within the poorer Russian tribal hinterland. They were now the four richest counties for many hundreds of miles around, led of course by Holmgarðr itself. But the realm was still heavily reliant on raiding for economic growth.


It was not until 21 April 947, after the Cyprus raid returned to port, that the next new project - an expanded barracks (to level two) in Starya Russa (Toropets) - was begun (172 gold, 509 days). In addition, a new Housecarl Training Ground was begun in the capital, which was becoming a key centre for heavy infantry training.



ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

7. Religion

The grey cloak of Odin’s wisdom enfolded another five counties in the Russian Empire in a bit of a flurry in 946 AD, the gains including Western Europe, Sweden and the central Russian expanse. Nordgau converted on 8 February; Mari on 19 February; Desht-i-Kipchak on 20 April, Herjadal on 8 July; and Mstislavl on 25 November. The march of Reformed Germanicism now saw it dominate the Empire – though the spread of Norse culture seemed to have stalled entirely.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

8. Conclusion

As the year 947 ended, the border war for Sarpa progressed slowly but steadily – though it did severely limit options for launching new adventures while it crawled along. Political factions were proving amenable to influence when necessary, without too heavy a hand or great a financial cost. Jarl Helgi continued to be a rather unpredictable, ambitious and sometimes violent operator, but remained loyal enough and doing his job down in Constantinople.

The adoption of feudalism was still very slow, but this also meant the Emperor’s personal demesne grew more economically and in troop strength compared to most other Russian counties – and thus in the eternal jockeying for relative power between liege and vassals. Imperial family life remained as ‘interesting’ as ever, with the usual births, deaths, marriages, epiphanies and plots. The Emperor and Empress were now fully reconciled and the Crown Prince had come of age, making Styrbjörn more willing to indulge his desire to be an old-fashioned ‘hands-on’ Viking military leader.


A later portrait impression of the young Crown Prince Eilif Rurikid who, if he did indeed live to inherit, would be one day crowned as Emperor Eilif II of Russia. He was a curious mix of supposed homosexual appetites and military prowess and, by all accounts, not a bad man and not incompetent in any of the five ‘cardinal skills’.

ᚔ ᚱᚢᚱᛁᚲᛁᛞ ᚔ

Endnote: I had no specific questions arising from this chapter, which covered the first three years of a six-year session. But as always, any general advice, comments or questions will be warmly welcomed. There will be a major ‘taking of stock’ at the end of the next chapter, in which a few gameplay questions also arise. The images for that are largely edited, so it will take less time to prepare when it comes time to write it up. Thank you for reading and supporting this story!
 
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diskoerekto

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God I missed this AAR! Thanks for a great new episode!

AuthAAR’s Note: I’ve maintained the same thematic history book as per the last chapter. This one only covers just under three years, as the session yielded a little too much material to squeeze into one chapter. My writing up has been delayed, as I was quite unwell (neither serious nor COVID-related) for most of the last week and am only just returning to functioning humanity today!
get well soon! everybody we gotta look after ourselves good

But by late August 945, enough momentum was building in a range of factions that Styrbjörn felt the need to take some action. Bertil himself was considered too expensive to buy off – hence the continuing diplomatic mission there by Chancellor Grimr (at that time), which would ultimately pay off. Three other factional members were however sent gifts and they soon left factional politics behind them. One, Chief Refil, would later be brought into the Imperial Council as an Imperial Loyalist, such was his change of attitude.
A good emperor, making allies out of foes

The ever-acquisitive Jarl Sumarliði of Sarkel launched another war of conquest in June 945, seeking to take the rich coastal province of Azov from the Christian King Mamia ‘the Accursed’ of Georgia. The war would still be going by December 947.
there should be a couple of silk road trading post provinces around there. any vassal who gets to those will become very rich. Too rich, I might say. I'd wait for an opportunity to pounce on them and keep this top priority.

Rather than launching another inevitably long raid, by early April a target for conquest was being sought. The Emperor’s covetous eyes fell on Sarpa, an isolated eastern province of Iva Struma’s Bulgarian Revolt. It looked like no one was home, it was close by and, as rebels, they were not part of the Christian pact. Not only that, but though not currently rich, it was a Silk Road county. Those Russian eyes became even greedier.
Ahh Tana is the trade post. Sarpa is also rich, being part of the silk road, but Tana can become much more. Keep an eye there, maybe forge a claim and request from Sumarliði ? Marry the second son to his eldest daughter and kill their sons? How strong is he? How healthy is he? Who is his heir? A lot of questions :)
 
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It is nice to see him starting to plan to right old and ancient wrongs :)
 
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Midnite Duke

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@Bullfilter, thank you for braving your illness and updating. I have three theories that I wish to share. Probably most veterans already know them but fellow newbies may learn something new. None will improve your gameplay but helps the scarecrow to reveal the wizard. 1) Most women die on the same day of the month as her children are born. I first learned that a married couple's children are born on the same day of the month from @JabberJock14 and to use this trick to check for a cuckoo using your nest. A woman's children from different husbands and a concubine's children are also born on the same day of the month. The death causes that produce exceptions that I have found are a) human sacrifice b) killed by rabble c) troubled pregnancy (she will die within one month of last child's birth). I imagine that other non-natural causes such as murder and battle will also be exceptions. 2) About half of the population age after death. How? During a session, death ages are correct. But upon reloading, anyone, who has not had their birthday in the calendar year that they die, will receive credit for that birthday. (Ex. born 3 Oct. 934, die 9 May 990, age at death 55, age upon reloading 56. 3) Recently the Emperor's daughter/spymaster was murdered by Jarl Helgi but he did not receive any malus. I have since seen unpunished murders occur in two of my games and once in another AAR (@Dunaden's People of Forest). My theory is that the spymaster discovers something and is killed and not as the result of a plot. (Anyone who wishes details on my murders pm me and I will gladly share.) To my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving. To all, may you and your loved ones be happy and healthy. @Bullfilter, get well soon.
 
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Bullfilter

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This is a ‘non-Thing’ chapter, so I’ll do feedback ad hoc:
get well soon! everybody we gotta look after ourselves good
@Bullfilter, thank you for braving your illness and updating.
@Bullfilter, get well soon.
Thank you both! Am now recovered (have been feeling better since Friday and was well enough to get a cricket game in on Sunday!
To my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving. To all, may you and your loved ones be happy and healthy.
Fine sentiments, which I heartily endorse. These times call for watchfulness, resilience, mutual regard, friendship and yes, optimism. I hope you may all find these things and more in coming days and weeks.

God I missed this AAR! Thanks for a great new episode!
Many thanks. It was nice to return to the story.
A good emperor, making allies out of foes
It was a lucky coincidence, but made possible by his prudent faction management.
there should be a couple of silk road trading post provinces around there. any vassal who gets to those will become very rich. Too rich, I might say. I'd wait for an opportunity to pounce on them and keep this top priority.
Ahh Tana is the trade post. Sarpa is also rich, being part of the silk road, but Tana can become much more. Keep an eye there, maybe forge a claim and request from Sumarliði ? Marry the second son to his eldest daughter and kill their sons? How strong is he? How healthy is he? Who is his heir? A lot of questions :)
This was my first direct encounter with a trade route province - I had fuzzily thought (without any prior checking, as that would impinge on this AAR’s zeitgeist :D ) that you’d be able to build a trade post on any such. Clearly not. There is more on this aspect in the next chapter.

Regarding Tana: good point, I can see now why Sumarlidi took it. There will also be some other developments with the expansionist southern lords in the next chapter that could become relevant in this regard.
PS: I will look into those questions next time the game is fired up.
It is nice to see him starting to plan to right old and ancient wrongs :)
The dynasty has a long collective memory! ;)

I have three theories that I wish to share. Probably most veterans already know them but fellow newbies may learn something new. None will improve your gameplay but helps the scarecrow to reveal the wizard. 1) Most women die on the same day of the month as her children are born. I first learned that a married couple's children are born on the same day of the month from @JabberJock14 and to use this trick to check for a cuckoo using your nest. A woman's children from different husbands and a concubine's children are also born on the same day of the month. The death causes that produce exceptions that I have found are a) human sacrifice b) killed by rabble c) troubled pregnancy (she will die within one month of last child's birth). I imagine that other non-natural causes such as murder and battle will also be exceptions. 2) About half of the population age after death. How? During a session, death ages are correct. But upon reloading, anyone, who has not had their birthday in the calendar year that they die, will receive credit for that birthday. (Ex. born 3 Oct. 934, die 9 May 990, age at death 55, age upon reloading 56. 3) Recently the Emperor's daughter/spymaster was murdered by Jarl Helgi but he did not receive any malus. I have since seen unpunished murders occur in two of my games and once in another AAR (@Dunaden's People of Forest). My theory is that the spymaster discovers something and is killed and not as the result of a plot. (Anyone who wishes details on my murders pm me and I will gladly share.)
Interesting theories. Others out there may have more information, especially re the kinslayer attribution.

I will keep replying to other comments as they crop up this time around.
 
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alscon

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So Styrbjörn does ride off to war after all. A target that looks easy enough, the biggest problem may be if the revolt fails before he's seized the county.

In any case, it looks like feudalization goes off without a hitch. He seems to be the emperor Russia needs right now. Though he'll have to choose someone to give Yaroslavl to if he doesn't want to keep it himself. A good Norseman may do the trick if he doesn't want to revoke a title there himself. Of course, if he does he could give it to a spare heir to alleviate gavelkind's impact on the eventual succession.

I do fear for young Eilif's safety, but then again he does look like just the man the empire needs after Styrbjörn - willing to brave the dangers of the pact to aggressively expand despite it.
Being homosexual may also be a sign of the gods. To turn varangian (he already is, but you know what I mean). Be it as a simple guard - or as leader of a great host.
 
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Bullfilter

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So Styrbjörn does ride off to war after all. A target that looks easy enough, the biggest problem may be if the revolt fails before he's seized the county.
Without spoiling things, the war does have its complications - and none of them on the battlefield.
In any case, it looks like feudalization goes off without a hitch. He seems to be the emperor Russia needs right now. Though he'll have to choose someone to give Yaroslavl to if he doesn't want to keep it himself.
Progress seems largely steady, if slow. He actually wants the counties controlled by Yaroslavl, and you’ll see how that plays out next episode.
A good Norseman may do the trick if he doesn't want to revoke a title there himself. Of course, if he does he could give it to a spare heir to alleviate gavelkind's impact on the eventual succession.
Right now, Styrbjorn wants to expand his base beyond the central four countries and hopes he can secure primo succession before he shuffles off. His plans for expansion become clearer next episode as well - though with an unforeseen (by me at least) wrinkle.
I do fear for young Eilif's safety, but then again he does look like just the man the empire needs after Styrbjörn - willing to brave the dangers of the pact to aggressively expand despite it.
Being homosexual may also be a sign of the gods. To turn varangian (he already is, but you know what I mean). Be it as a simple guard - or as leader of a great host.
He may not be used intensively as a commander, but I do want to have the Emperor and Crown Prince earn a few battle laurels (mainly for RP purposes) along the way, after having had to cocoon Eilif for so much of his career.
 
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