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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Kagemin

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Introduction

Welcome all, to my new AAR. It's a bit different from what I (and probably many of you who followed my earlier series) originally had in mind, but it somehow ended up with the mighty dragon of the east, Ming.
The first chapter of actual gameplay will be in the next post, so if you're not interested in my thoughts behind this campaign feel free to skip to there. :)

Overview:
Chapter 1: Restoring the Old Faith
Chapter 2: Expansion under the Sword of Damocles
Chapter 3: Glorious RNG
Chapter 4: Thinning out the neighbourhood
Chapter 5: Confused Rivalries
Chapter 6: The vassals are growing stronger
Chapter 7: Progress on all fronts
Chapter 8: Colonial Ventures
Chapter 9: Kow-Tow
Chapter 10: Troubles ahead
Chapter 11: Balancing Act
Chapter 12: Progress in India

So why Ming? My earlier series all started with weak and small nations facing a pretty tough start, and originally I had something along this line planned for this series as well. So how did I end up with the mightiest nation on earth (at game start) instead?

- At this point a big thank you to everyone who suggested nations and/or goals for my next series. There were some really cool ideas, and I'll likely get back on at least some of them at a later point. -

I've been trying out several things before deciding on a campaign, some of them suggested by you, some of them ideas I've been wanting to try out for a while now.
One of these ideas was about Ming. I never actually got around to play them before (which itself already was a big incentive, considering their amount of flavour), and their unique position allows for some very different campaigns.
I always fancied the idea of creating a massive Ming Empire that's keeping true to their traditional Celestial government, and challenging the Europeans with that.

One of the recent changes to some mechanics around religions finally made me actually try it out. I'm talking about the possibility of an Animist rebellion converting your nation without some OPM/ bankruptcy shenanigans. Since Ming starts with a couple Animist provinces that allows for a very nice "old vs new" challenge, an Animist Ming ruled by a Celestial Emperor fighting against the European upstarts.

So I gave it a try, played for about half an hour to see how it works out, and then restarted to make a proper campaign for an AAR from it. This half an hour is the full extent of my experience with Ming so far, so please be kind if I'm making some silly decisions. :)

Considering this almost complete lack of experience with Ming, and my usual rather careful playstlye, I'd say that a full world conquest isn't the most likely outcome. But even with the delay an early conversion causes Ming starts as such a powerhouse that it's a possibility at least, so we'll see how far I can make it.


The Plan


If you followed my earlier AARs you probably know how reliable my long-term plans are, but here's what I have in mind:

Try to convert to Animism asap. This will have to involve causing an Animist uprising, and having these rebels do a lot of work for me. At the same time I don't want to lose too much by it, so if possible I want to get the rebels without having to lose the Mandate of Heaven.
From what I can tell the easiest way to achieve that is to conquer some more Animist provinces early on, it's really tough to get any real unrest in your starting provinces with the -5 unrest from Mandate of Heaven.

Don't westernize. Since I want to keep the Celestial Empire government this one is a given. Especially towards the late game that will make keeping up in tech a bit more difficult, but luckily Ming has a few ways to counter that. They get a -10% tech cost reduction from the unique government, and they start with a high enough income to allow high level advisors from the start. Having a really bad starting ruler and heir is a bit of a low blow, but we'll have to deal with that.
Keeping the government form also means that we'll be stuck with a minimum of 50% autonomy in all our provinces for the whole game. Tbh I have no idea how bad this will be in the later game, I'm looking forward to finding out. :)

Ideas. There are a lot of ideas I will definitely want, and I'm not yet sure in which order. Administrative, Diplomatic, and Aristocratic will all help a lot with keeping up in tech, plus I consider all of them to be very strong. Aristocratic will definitely by the first military idea I'm picking, but the other two each have a strong contender.
Religious will be very important if I want to spread the Old Faith, and the religious CB is just awsome. I have not yet decided if this or the the core cost reduction from Administrative should have a higher priority.
And then there's Exploration. There are quite a lot and fairly rich uncolonized provinces Ming can reach from the start, the more I can block of the Europeans from reaching east Asia the more time I'll have to build my power, and the earlier I can reach the Americas the better. I think I'll want this before the Diplomatic ideas, even if I could save some monarch points the other way around.

Routes of expansion. I don't think I'll beeline for Europe and the colonizers. I know that it's the best move towards world conquest, but I just like a more "organical" expansion better.
We'll see about this depending on the opportunites presenting themselves later on in the game, but for the time being I'll mostly try to avoid border gore (apart from colonizing).


So that's it for my preliminary thoughts and plans. Please tell me what you think about this, I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop, and hope that it'll be having as much fun as I did with my last campaigns.
 
Last edited:

Kagemin

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Chapter 1: Restoring the Old Faith

Welcome again, to this here first chapter of this AAR. For those not too familiar with Ming's starting position we'll be starting with an overview of our nation.

We are the biggest nation on earth, but internal politicking prevents us from making full use of our potential. We are still the biggest power in this part of the world, but some misstep (especially against the Hordes to the north) might have fatal consequences. Our ruling dynasty has seen better days, we can only hope that they'll redeem themselves on the battlefield.


This is one of the things making Ming so unique, the Mandate of Heaven. As long as we can keep our stability non-negative, our ruler's legitimacy over 60, and have at least 20 provinces we are fine. -5 national Unrest is great, and the cheaper stability is nice as well.
But as soon as we fail to fulfill any one of these conditions things are looking grim. Going from -5 to +10 national unrest most likely will lead to a lot of rebels, and the increased cost for stability will make regaining the Mandate of Heaven all the more difficult.


Our military is strong, even if not as strong as one might have expected given the size of our nation. We have a decent amount of starting forts, with only a bit of redundancy in the north. But some big regions are also completely uncovered, if there ever comes a time where I lose the Mandate of Heaven that'd be a big problem, so I'm considering building a couple more forts.


And finally our religious situation. Ming starts mostly following the teachings of Confucius, but in the far south-west we have regions of Buddhists and Animists as well. Considerings the plans I have for this campaign the Animists are very important, I'll need to taunt them into an uprising as soon as possible.


Sadly that won't happen with the regions we're starting with, so we'll have to do something about that. As you can see two of our neighbours in the southwest are starting with some Animist provinces of their own, I started fabricating on them right away and moved my armies into position to take these provinces before the nations in questions (Hsenwi and Mong Yang) can convert them.

Hsenwi both had weaker allies and 2 Animist provinces, so I started with them:


They couldn't really do much against the whole might of our armies, so soon enough they were forced to accept my terms:

Some money and, more importantly, their two Animist provinces.

Since Hsenwi had a missionary working in the province of Kengtung the Animist still were the prominent rebels there, sending a missionary to Mong Pai ensured the same for that province.

That's more like it, I should be able to work with this.

Since I'll need all the Animist provinces I can get I declared war on Mong Yang soon after, to hopefully take their province before they finish converting it:


Again the enemy had little resistance to offer, to make things even better we struck gold during this war:

I don't have any money problems so far, but I plan on replacing my infantry with mercs soon, and once I unlock some buildings the money will be welcome as well.

I made a seperate peace with Lan Na and vassalized them, I plan on feeding them large parts of south east Asia later on. Especially Dai Viet with their increased coring cost...:mad:

And from Mong Yang I only took some money besides the Animist province, similar to the peace deal with Hsenwi earlier on.

With these new high-unrest provinces it was only a matter of time for the Animists to finally rise up:

These guys have a lot of work ahead of them...;)
So I made sure to move my armies out of the way, mothball the forts, and let them do their thing.

If you're wondering where I moved my armies to:

Oirat was busy fighting against the hordes to the west, so a few claim fabrications later I pressed those and attacked them.

I got another nice event during the war:

Temple Faction seems best to me for the time being, so I went with the Inward Perfection. Even if that's not quite what I would call my plans for the future of our nation...:rolleyes:

With the Oirats being busy in the west I pretty much had free reign to siege their eastern provinces, the armies they could send over were no match for my own.

I'm still being a bit tame in my conquests so far, the more provinces I have the longer it will take for the Animist rebels to convert the nation. Plus getting other rebels to rise up might end up pretty bad for me...

While the rebels were still wandering across the country a war amongst the Manchu tribes (plus Korea) gave me a pretty good opportunity for some easy conquests. A good enough opportunity that I couldn't resist:

Plus the north east was one of the few regions left where my own armies wouldn't get in the way of the rebels, so I figured I might as well put them to use while they're there.
There's also the added benefit that each war pauses the progress of the rebels towards enforcing their demands/ breaking the nation. If possible I did not want to have to wait for a second uprising to finish the conversion...

Luckily I got some more Animist uprisings in the meantime and they were doing some good progress, but given the sheer size of our country it's still taking quite some time.

I even had a few mercenaries unsiege some of the provinces that got force/converted, I was planning to get as much from these rebels as possible. ;)

With how weakened the Manchus were from their previous wars I didn't have too much trouble getting the warscore needed to take all the claimed provinces:


And since I had no intention of doing all the coring myself (especially before I get any form of coring cost reduction), I released the missing Manchu tribe as a vassal:


Around this point in time our heir fell tragically ill, and even our most sincere prayers couldn't save his life.
But the spirits smiled on us and provided us with a new son soon after:

Some people question his upbringing (the average claim could be problematic), but the Bureaucrat faction is already working on legitimizing his claim to the throne (here's hoping that I do get the event to get him a better claim).
As a bit of an oversight on my part switching away from the Temple faction meant that I auto-failed the mission to "Restore the old frontier", and I lost all the claims I got on Dai Viet. :(
Hopefully I'll be able to get the mission again later on. Then again I plan on giving all their land to my vassal in that region anyways...:rolleyes:

And then it was done:


Almost 17 years after starting the game we not only got the Animists to rise up, they even sieged and force-converted enough of our nation that we are accepting their beliefs as the official religion of our Empire now.


Sadly especially the richer provinces along the coastline are among those still clinging to the teachings of Confucius, with only one missionary and this early in the game it will be a long time before the Old Faith will reach all of them.


So our nation is now torn between rich provinces of a non-accepted religion on one side (and at a very slow conversion rate), and a lot of provinces at 70% autonomy on the other side.
I already downgraded some of the advisors (I consider the lvl1 Inquisitor advisor a lucky pick up though, even if I could really need more admin points), but the economy is still looking none too great.

It will be a while before the economy recovers (Celestial Empire has no Autonomy reduction :(), and
Expansion was a bit on the slow side so far, but at least I managed to win an early war against my biggest rivals already.
Still, all things considered I think I managed to reach the first step towards my goal, the conversion to Animism, relatively fast and without too much trouble (no other successful rebellions).

It will take a bit longer before I can really pick up the pace, but with everything that's happened so far I'm feeling really good about this campaign already.
 
Last edited:

Nikolai

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Nice, glad you posted in the old thread, so that I could follow this from the start.:)
 

ThetrueColt

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Yep, that's how I got here as well. After those fairly challenging campaigns, it will be interesting to see how the Ming will fair under your command.
 

Kagemin

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I guess I'm owing crazyself00 a thank you then, I don't think I would have though of it on my own. :)
 

esemesas

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Can't miss a Kagemin AAR! Subscribed!
 

Kagemin

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What's your ruler's title now?
Still Emperor. I wasn't really expecting it, but I was hoping for something new and cool too.
 

Trace284

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Still Emperor. I wasn't really expecting it, but I was hoping for something new and cool too.
Aw, that sucks. It's the whole reason I was asking about Animists in Egypt, you get to be Pharoah if you're a pagan egyptian. I've heard you get to be "Son of Heaven" if you're a confucian theocracy, but then you've gotta play confucian with religious ideas. Yuck. :eek:
 

Kagemin

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Chapter 2: Expansion under the Sword of Damocles

After converting to Animism (Animing?) we're still in a strong position, but we're facing two big problems: One is the autonomy in our provinces, since not only do we have the 50% autonomy floor, the majority of our provinces just got another 20% on top of that from the rebels. And potentially even worse is that our heir only has an average claim. I'm not exactly sure which legitimacy value that translates to (I'm guessing somewhere around 50), but I am pretty sure that it'll mean at least a few years with the "Mandate of Heaven lost" modifier.
So my hopes are now resting on the Bureaucrats, and on my bad starting Emperor becoming as old as possible to get a chance at the event that increases the heir's claim. I'm getting the feeling that relying on either of these 2 is already a recipe for disaster, but we'll see how it goes... :rolleyes:

Be that as it may, there's not much I can do about it (besides keeping the Bureaucrats in power), so let's get back to the things we're good at: Bullying everyone around us who shows signs of weakness.

The main point of this war was to give my vassal Lan Na a border to Dai Viet, no way I'll core that region myself.

Since the warscore allowed for it I just fed them the whole of Lan Xang, and annexed the one province of Taungoo myself, I don't think I'll have to worry about AE too much for the time being.

Back on the topic of our two big problems, I decided to go all out and solve the one problem by making the other one even more devastating:

I simply reduced Autonomy everywhere. :p
Unless either my Emperor lives for another 20 years, or I really do get the event for my heir (or if the heir dies and I get one with a strong claim, I guess), I'd say we're pretty screwed. But I rather solved the one problem I could and just wait how the RNG plays out for the other one, than sitting there doing nothing about them.

With that out of the way I shifted my focus to Korea:

I would have preferred a peaceful solution, but they turned hostile and left me no choice in the matter.

During this war I also got the first (of hopefully many) events from close contact with other religions:

Not tough a choice imo. ;)

Shortly after the war against Korea came to a conclusion, all on their own without any allies they couldn't put up too much of a resistance:

Hopefully I'll be able to force-vassalize them in the next war. I was even considering leaving some of these provinces uncored and sell them back later on, but decided to spend the admin points in the end.

Next up I rotated back to the south, the nation of Hsenwi still didn't get any strong allies after our first war and made an easy target:


Still doing a lot of coring myself, but I should have vassals for pretty much all directions of expansion soon. Lan Na for the south-east, Haixi for the Manchu region, Arakan will get me into India,

and Kham for the Tibet region and maybe parts of the hordes to the north. I think I'm set in that regard, at least for the time being. :)

Speaking of which, Haixi still has a lot of cores, so I started working on it right away:


Yeren (the green horde to the north) attacked Jianzhou as well, so the war was over very soon:

I was hoping that Yeren would take the last remaining core of Haixi in that war so that I could keep pushing north, but sadly that didn't happen for the time being.

Around that point in time Ayutthaya no longer was a valid rival for us, so we're down to just the Oirats now. We'll deal with them later on. ;)
First is their weaker neighbour Kara Del though:

Since Kham already had a claim on one of their provinces I might as well give them some more for a potential expansion into the other hordes later on.
And while I'm at it...

:p

And for a change this decision actually proved a pretty tough choice, even though I'm not at +3 stability:

I almost recovered the prestige I lost from converting, but I still went with another +50 over the +1 stability.

Back to the wars, Kham got much bigger from them:

Huge nation that's much weaker than its size would suggest, sounds familiar...

Next up on my agenda was Dai Viet, the earlier I can get them and their increased coring costs out of the way the better.

Plus they never found any allies, easy target. ;)


Hopefully Lan Na will be able to deal with that...:rolleyes:

After that it's back to the north for my armies, they're doing much more running than fighting so far. :p

I still had truces with both Korea and Jianzhou, so I'll go for Oirat and Buryatia instead. They were already a bit occupied with another war in the far west, so after I focussed on the armies of Mongolia and Buryatia the war was pretty much won already.

I get a piece, Haixi gets a piece, and even Kham gets something. While I was busy in other regions I missed how Korea got some provinces from Jianzhou though, putting them above 100% warscore cost again. And Japan is starting to invade Manchuria as well, looks I'll have to deal with them sooner rather than later.


I'm so glad I don't have to core this, pretty sure that's at least a whole tech level worth of admin points... o_O

And still no news from our Bureaucrats, I'm getting worried more and more about this...

As much as I want my 5/5/5 heir to take over asap, I'll need to have the current emperor hang on a bit longer...:confused:

Anyways, time to cut Korea back to size again:

I'm still planning on vassalizing them eventually, but if it takes too much longer I might lose my patience and just annex them instead.


For now I'm content with getting them below 100% total warscore cost again though, plus taking the island of Jeju for a potential way to get to Japan.

And after all this I've started the annexation of Kham:

Will cripple my diplo points for the time being, but getting that land for myself will open several new ways to get into (and beyond) India. I'll be getting new vassals for India and the Persian region though, once I get there.

And that's it for this chapter, not entirely sure how I feel about things at this point. I think I'm making good (albeit not great) progress in all directions, but the whole situation about my old emperor and his heir only having an average claim really scares me. It would have been tough enough to deal with the +15 national unrest from losing the mandate of heaven, but after decreasing autonomy all over the nation it would be devastating.
I still can't decide if it was a good thing to do. It did help a lot in terms of income and manpower, and I might still be able to deal with the rebels if my emperor dies too soon (9 more years until the +10 unrest from decreasing autonomy goes away). Or better yet, I won't lose the Mandate of Heaven in the first place and all this worrying was for naught.
But it might also have been the final nail in the coffin, turning a tough situation into one I won't be able to deal with.

I guess we'll know how things turn out in the next chapter, but regardless of the actual results I'd still be interested in some opinions on that. :confused:
 
Last edited:

ThetrueColt

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A more than daring move, I probably wouldn't have gone for it. It will be a nice challenge to watch you fight all the rebels though (If it comes to it, that is. Maybe you'll be lucky?) :) You should have just coped with the money and manpower shortage by expanding more slowly - the monster of Ming grew quite a bit in those 20 years considering your "heavenly gifted" ruler.
 

InvisibleSandwi

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So far, your animist, "traditionalist" Ming seems to be growing at a nice rate. If you're not careful, you'll be so strong that Europe won't dare attack you even if they have a tech advantage. The other alternative is you managing your monarch points so well that you never fall behind in technology, but either way you'll be a juggernaut, and the actual Ming emperors would probably envy your version's enormous conquests.

Edit: 666th post; hope you guys aren't too big on numerology...
 

Nikolai

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India will be a huge boon to your fledging empire.:)
 

Kagemin

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First off an apology. I've had some issues with Steam this session, and some of the screenshots I took (or thought I took) either didn't save or got corrupted. It's not too bad, but there are a few small gaps.
That said, I'll explain what's going on as well as I can, so here we go:

Chapter 3: Glorious RNG

After having beaten Korea again at the end of the last chapter it was time to shift my attention to the south again. A few claim fabrications later and it was time to attack our former rival, Ayutthaya. The alliance network of them, Ava, and Pegu has been keeping me from attacking any of them for a while now, and thus put a big roadblock in the way of my south-east Asian expansion.
But after dealing with any rebels that may have poped up during the war by getting them to spawn earlier and when I was ready for them, and with several strong(-ish) vassals on my side I felt strong enough to attack them without too much worries. Plus my vassal Lan Na fabricated several claims on Ayutthaya under their militaristic ruler. ;)

I focussed on the smaller nations of Pegu and Ava first, while leaving Ayutthaya to my vassals until I could help them and decide that front as well.

That's a port on the Indian Ocean for us, and our so far smallest vassal gets a bit as well.


And that takes a good chunk out of the biggest power (besides us) in that region. Lan Na wasn't even finished with coring the provinces they got from Dai Viet some 10 years ago, but at least they're doing well enough to not get any rebels.
I was getting really low on diplo points, but at least the annexation of Kham wasn't impacted by it. Would have to hold back on any unjustified demands for the time being though.

As you can see the nation of Kachar (the purple one) was getting beat up while I was fighting to their south, they were forced to release a nation while their remaining provinces got annexed.

Which left a small nation with no allies, with me having claims on both their provinces already. :D


I would have preferred to feed that to a vassal, but that's still fine.

And while I was in the area already I decided to mop up some more small nations:


And almost right away after declaring that war it finally happened, our starting Emperor died at the remarkable age of 69 years. He held out for a long time, but sadly it wasn't long enough, I never got the event to increase my heir's claim. :(
I did cheat a bit by increasing stability before the month ticked over, to avoid the 60% cost increase from having lost the Mandate of Heaven, but I still was in for a world of pain.

I got very lucky with the rebel spawns (some 20 provinces with Confucian unrest leading to only 4 stacks spawning for example), but I'm not sure if I would have been able to keep the realm together long enough (would have been about 7 years to get back to 60 legitimacy naturally). With some laons and merc armies I might have done it, but thankfully I didn't have to put that to test:

I admit I was a bit cranky after losing the Mandate of Heaven thanks to getting the average-claim heir and no event to make it any better, but this event and its timing definitely made up for that.


I lost a lot of money and an army or two (and it would take more than all my remaining manpower to reinforce what I had left), and yet I felt great about it. :)

Having weathered the worst storm it was time to take stock of our dynastic situation:

We had a 5/5/5 ruler taking the throne in his mid-twenties, and a 5/3/4 who's about 20 years younger than him. The strong claim is very reassuring, but the relatively small gap in age might create another problem later on. Still, with stats like that I can't really complain. :D

While I was still dealing with the last remaining rebels I also made peace in that war our previous Emperor has started:

The extra manpower recovery would be very handy. ;)

Once my armies were more or less reinforced again it was time for to the north again, towards Manchuria. Japan had gotten a foothold their, and Yeren has vassalized what remained of Jianzhou after that. I still had claims on Jianzhou, so that was the perfect opportunity to finally get a hold on Yeren. Also gave me time to fabricate some claims on Japan. :D


If the Great Wall actually sees some action I'll be really worried, but this decision still looks like a great deal to me, especially with Ming's national ideas.

Anyways, after this war Haixi owned almost all of Manchuria, I think they'll be the next candidate for annexation once Kham is finished:


They're still missing a bit, but we're about to fix that:

I couldn't really judge how strong the Japanese armies would be before the war, so I decided to play it safe and declared a province off their islands as the wargoal. Apparently Shiba somehow as independent, I didn't really pay much attention to what exactly was going on in Japan before...o_O

Oh hey look, another war that left a weak nation without allies on my border...:D

I fed them to my vassal Arakan. I guess it'll be time for the push into India soon.

Back to the Japanese front, turned out that they weren't as strong as I feared. Some naval maneuvering and blockading allowed me to concentrate my forces on their islands before forcing some fights on my terms. I did run out of manpower again, but it was a pretty decisive victory nonetheless.

It took a bit to decide on the peace terms, but this is what I went with. My first thought was to take some provinces to release a vassal, but in the end I settled on another plan.
Shiba still had a whole bunch of cores and claims on eastern and central Japan, and the province on the Manchurian coast I took from Japan gave me the opportunity to fabricate a claim on them. :)

Another tough decision was my first idea group. One of the Administrative ideas would have probably been the most useful (Religious or Admin), while points-wise a military one (Aristocracy) would have been the easiest to fill.

But I decided on Exploration instead. Probably the worst choice in terms of monarch points (among the idea grous I considered), but I think the opportunities and gains it provides are worth that. An administrative idea would have delayed the next idea group more than I was comfortable with, and Exploration gives results right away from the first unlock.

A fabricated claim later and I could attack Shiba. It was a pretty short war, and ended with me gaining a new vassal.
And since I still had these Japanese provinces from the earlier war (I never cored those) I spent some prestige on selling those to Shiba right away:

That also solves the Korea-problem, I wonder if I can keep a vassal owning all of Japan plus souther Korea happy without too much trouble... :p

So here we go, a few months short of 50 years into the game here's how we're looking:

Khmer has proved little more than a wasted diplo relation slot, once their ruler dies and our royal marriage ends I'll sever all ties with them (I had hopes of diplo-vassalizing them at some point, but they grew too big for that again).
Kham will be fully annexed relatively soon, I think I'll get a vassal in western India after that. In the north, east, and south, I'm pretty much just waiting out truce timers between wars now, so it's about time we start pushing west soon.

I'm really feeling much better about this campaign now than I did after the last chapter. :)