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bbqftw

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After reading the 1.17 patch changes, I became convinced that hordes were once again top-tier WC contenders. This AAR is intended as a proof of concept for this. 'Gamey and ahistorical' play will abound, as well as tag-switching when strategically expedient. I do hope that someone finds my explanations of some gameplay tricks useful.

Here are some reasons I think 1.17 hordes are significantly more powerful than in 1.15/1.16:

  • With the removal of conquest CB AE reduction on claims, there is now no general AE-discount CB against nations of your religion. Conquering same religion clay is useful - you often don't have to raise autonomy on it to prevent a revolt, but a practical increase of 33% AE on claimed territory makes it a lot harder to manage aggressive expansion when taking these nice provinces. Hordes of course don't have this problem, as they have tribal conquest / tribal feud.

  • Religious unity impact on corruption reduced. Hordes naturally start in religiously diverse areas, which can be a large problem under 1.16 rules, as taking wrong religion clay threatens to totally destroy your net income. That's no longer the case. Of course for other reasons we want to reduce religious disunity, but at least in the short-term it is not crippling to the treasury.

  • If you want to reform, reforming as a Christian now turns you into Eastern techgroup. This is not only a 20% difference in tech penalty (when compared with Muslim) - it also allows the very powerful Western Focus decision, which allows you to practically skip most of the hassle with Westernizing in exchange for having to beat down some irrelevant countries like Austria or Poland.

The Kazan idea set is almost perfection. Excellent tolerance of heathens, early religious unity, the ability to unlock reduced coring cost with the first idea group, and an amazing morale finisher that rivals what most tier 1 nations get. It loses the +1 shock of classic / Manchu horde ideas but gets quite a bit in return.

Traditions:
−10%
Aggresive expansion impact
+2 Tolerance of heathens
Steppe Tolerance

+25% Religious unity
Tribal Legacy

−25% Core-creation cost
Warrior Society

+20% Cavalry combat ability
Legacy of the Great Horde

+25% National manpower modifier
Steppe Warfare

+1 Land leader maneuver
Settle Down

+15% Fort defense
End Western Domination

+10% Trade efficiency
Ambitions:

+15% Morale of armies

The starting position is a bit dicey, being surrounded with initially stronger opponents, but sitting at the crossroads of three religions - Catholic, Sunni, Orthodox - is an incredible opportunity, and not just in terms of AE distribution.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Steppeland Voltron
Chapter 2: Catholic Zealot Demolition Derby
Chapter 3: Razing for Charity
Chapter 4: The Protestant Deformation
Chapter 5: The Fourth Elector
Chapter 6: The Shadow Princes
Finale: Always Settle For Greyskin
 
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bbqftw

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Chapter 1: Steppeland Voltron

**

"I had a dream," the Khan announced proudly. "We ruled the entire world."

"That's silly," the budget +1 theologian stated. "A Khanate could never conquer the world. Corruption forbids it."

"Corruption? That wasn't in my dream."

"Now take a look at Qara. He's a basket case, he has no money, and all his officials are decadent bribe-takers. All because he had too many Shia provinces. Also, the land you freshly conquer from your enemies also contains some corrupting aura. It's all really quite terrible..."


**

Goals for this chapter:

* Unify the steppes.

* Secure strong alliances.

* Cripple Poland and Muscovy, preferably both.

As almost all Kazan gambits are, Nogai is the first target after allying Uzbek and Timurids - they are the odd-man out of the horde diplomatic game, hated by nearly all its neighbors, and its few alliance possibilities snuffed out by really bad rival choices (remember, if they rival you, and you ally X country, it is highly unlikely that they can ally X as well early game). Call in Timurids - it is not strictly necessary, but we want to avoid costly wars for now.



The Khan goes on campaign, and the news of a great battle outside the walls of Kazan arrives. Normally it would be extremely dishonorable that not a single one from the Kazani tribes showed up to defend their capital. But money must be conserved, and I don't feel like loaning quite yet. The Timurids are liable to explode at any time and I am keen to get the maximum value out of this alliance before it must be dropped.



When tricking your allies with promise land, the magic number is 10. You can accumulate up to a 10 trust hit while still being allowed to promise land to call people into wars. It's not like I value the alliance with Timurids, but with a possible offensive war against Muscovy in mind in the next 30 years, I'd like to keep my options open. So three provinces are given to the Timurids. Everything I take is, of course, razed. That will be the standard way to deal with provinces. The only exceptions are gold mines.



The Golden Horde army is ambushed while returning triumphantly from their vassalization of Ryazan and destroyed completely. Unsporting, but it will do.



By targeting the Golden Horde army, the Ryazanians liberty desire, already high from vassalization, spikes to the point they are unwilling to help their nominal overlord for a great portion of the war. The rest of the war is whack-a-mole - sit on top of the horde provinces to prevent recruiting, and wipe out the few stacks that do form. Towards the end we are perilously close to taking a 2nd loan (!!) but this battle cleanly removes the need for that.



Astrakhan is released as vassal, and we get a border with our next victim Crimea. Astrakhan will hold the majority of the Sunni provinces we conquer. Aren't we Sunni? Well...for now we are.

A quick tip for winning horde v horde wars early game - take loans to match their front line and add an extra 4 cavalry. For extra gameyness, declare on the first day of the month. Since the AI loves to sit their armies at partial maintenance, you can attack a morale depleted stack which is generally sitting by their capital. Crimea has 13k troops, so we recruit up to 13k infantry and add 4k cavalry. Unsurprisingly, it is a wipe.



Because I'm such a nice guy, I see Circassia dogpiling Crimea and use the opportunity to assault Theodoro's fort with their infantry. Thanks!



Within the first decade, I've taken 100% or close to it off the 3 other European hordes. It's not a bad start, but not nearly enough to allow me to solo Poland or Muscovy without severe inconvenience.



This is useful, had both Poland and Muscovy mutual rivaled me it could have been trouble.



With a Polish alliance seeming unlikely, I seek out the Ottomans after dropping Timurids as an ally. However, they are unwilling to join in a war against Poland due to not wanting any of their land. So lets farm some favors. I declare on Qara and let the Ottomans do most of the work, though we can occasionally bulldoze pitiful Eastern tech soldiers with superior nomad units. The more war participation we get, the more Ottoman favors we can get by giving them most of the land.



Muscovy DOWs us while Ottomans are busy sieging down Qara's forts. This is inconvenient, but promising - I take several loans to go way above force limit and buy a morale advisor, and am hemorrhaging money but I have to break the siege on Kazan. Level 3 forts are a pain to siege at such an early point in the game.

This is ultimately a good thing, though - a defensive war gives an equivalent AE discount to an offensive tribal conquest war. While I do have to pay DIP for provinces I take, that's reduced by rival status, and the fact that I can freely call in allies more than makes up for it.



With the main Muscovite army crippled, the stacks daring to invade my homelands grow ever smaller, and are easily disposed of.



I peace out with QQ, establishing a border link with the Ottomans, allowing free transit of Ottoman troops to the Russian front. Being ever the generous fellow I give the Ottomans a bunch of wrong-religion / increased core cost Georgian land. You're welcome...



This 6 shock general makes things interesting, but even he cannot compete with the power of shock bonus on steppes.



Storm has been weathered. Uzbek and Ottomans come to relieve sieging pressure on manpower / war exhaustion - 100% on Muscovy is assured now. I turn my attention to cleanup on Nogai and Odoyev.



Result: I release Yaroslav as my Orthodox vassal and feed them some provinces, as well as get border and CB on Novgorod.



Polish off Golden Horde, and at least we've acquired something close to a "no existential threat" stability. Sure, there's some insignificant puny nation called "Poland-Lithuania" next door, but surely they cannot stand up to the horde's might, right? Right...
 
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subbed.

Since i'm very bad at reading patch notes... And others maybe too..

What exactly changed in 1.17 that makes hordes top tender wc candidates again?

Just asking for the readers that don't know ;)
 

Alienatu

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i think you forgot to mention the part where you annexed circassia ... ? :)
subbed!
 

bbqftw

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subbed.

Since i'm very bad at reading patch notes... And others maybe too..

What exactly changed in 1.17 that makes hordes top tender wc candidates again?

Just asking for the readers that don't know ;)
Added to OP, thanks.

i think you forgot to mention the part where you annexed circassia ... ? :)
subbed!
Hi, thanks for commenting - in general I will be waging a lot of minor wars while carrying out the big 'strategic' wars. Generally I won't mention 'cleanup' wars that involve one stackwipe -> siege.
 

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Chapter 2: Catholic Zealot Demolition Derby

**

"So who are these idiots besieging us this time, Abdul?"

"Haven't you heard, Muhammad? They're Catholic zealots."

"Idiots! Don't they know we have a conversion strength malus? We would never turn from the Sunni faith."

"I don't think they care about that." He pointed to the first wave of men climbing over the walls, chanting "Pope best, Pope best" intermixed with "brains...." as they shambled throught the streets.

"You know, suddenly becoming a cross-worshipping heathen doesn't too bad after all."

**

Goals for this chapter:

* Cripple Poland

* Consume Novgorod

* Convert to Catholic



No lucky generals, no lucky rulers, same inferior Eastern units, less development. What time is it, Novgorod? It's time to die.



Novgorod peaces out and takes back a bunch of clay.



Their triumph is extremely short-lived, as they are immediately forced to cede their reconquered land to the increasingly belligerent horde next door.



Time to cash in the favors with Ottomans. Hungary + Teutonic Order are giving Poland serious trouble - calling in Ottomans should make this war trivial.



Taking influence ideas first, to allow admin tech progression not to be harmed, as well as get the influence AE reduction.



Poland-Lithuania turns in a dreadful performance. Since they start with a mil 1 ruler, it isn't hard to get a tech/tactics lead on them. With Ottoman and horde unit superiority is telling - even 0 rolls still do big damage.



Border is gained on Teutonic Order - we attack, immediately. With their depleted forces from the Polish war, it is a stomp.



A somewhat comical scene unfolds at the Prussian border as the Khan's representatives frantically try to buy maps to understand to where their new holdings called "Danzig" and "Ermland" are located.



The results of the first war with Poland. Chernigov is released as another Orthodox vassal.



Our first rival spawns from revolt in Timurids, but is quickly dealt with. Nogai is now no guy.



Missionary efforts near the Lithuanian border have gone terribly wrong! Some people suspect the Khan of direct sabotage, as all missionary funding was suspiciously cut to zero right before the zealot uprising. The zealots, possessing a poor understanding of Eastern European geography but also advanced Kazani military technology, have become an extreme nuisance to our neighbors, assaulting Polish and Lithuanian soldiers in an attempt to find more Kazani land to convert.



Despite the religious conflagration in the West, there remain Muscovites to be disposed of. With a substantial tech lead, this war promises to be much easier than the first.



The second wave of zealots might even have a poorer grasp of geography than the first, but I don't mind them destroying the Polish manpower pool while they sort out their issues.



With the taking of Moskva, Muscovy has no more centers of trade. The less resources I have to expend 100%ing them every truce timer, the better.



With a 2-3 military tech lead on Timurids, its time to feed up Astrakhan, who has been feeling a bit neglected as of late.



The zealots, having finally realized where the heathens really are, decide to clash with Russian soldiers and peasants on their way to my capital.



One of the things about movement lock is that it can be really easy to bait the AI into taking really bad battles.



unfortunate.



One of the unfortunate things about religious zealots is that they will raise autonomy upon acceptance of demands on any sieged province. As a horde with no autonomy reduction, this can hurt a lot, so we are forced to kill all the zealots and desiege the land, but not before they've helpfully converted away a majority of the Sunni land.

The wars are concluded, and the Khan swears fealty to the Pope - the peacetime is necessary in order to immediately re-ally Ottomans after converting (which breaks all alliances). Since they maintain ally attitude for only a month it is imperative to get the alliance back ASAP. My other ally, Uzbek, is now viewed in the "food" category.

Catholic presents a number of advantages. Key among them, it removes the heathen aggressive expansion penalty against Christians, allowing me to expand much more recklessly against them. It also provides (in my opinion) the strongest bonuses for large-scale conquest, as conversions can easily ensure that you stay at +3 stability, while running all the papal influence modifiers - 15% manpower recovery, +1 diplo rep, +15% tax. It also provides the strongest ally opportunities, though with the new powerful allies modifier it is unlikely that I'll be able to score any actually strong ones.
 
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heh, ooookaaay. Nice going.

Please put up diplomatic screenshots showing an overview on 1500 in next chapter ;)
 

bbqftw

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I am really bad at remembering to take overview pictures. I've played pretty far (to the point where its 'when' not 'if' I will one-tag) in but hopefully I can remember to make more screenshots towards the later part of the game.

Anyways, thanks for the feedback.
 

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Chapter 3: Razing For Charity

**

"Isn't this - what are the words for it - highly unethical? I mean, these aren't those dirty Uzbeks Or those Russian people with their funny looking crosses. These people also like the Pope and that funny Jesus bread. Feels a bit off to me that we're burning down their homes."

"Oh come on, Muhammad, its all for a better cause. All this... renovation helps us to build better boats. And, uh, better administrate the country. So we can renovate things even more effectively. And it will allow us to invent guns faster than all these savages."

"That doesn't even make sense."

"Don't overthink it, Muhummad."

**

Goals for this chapter:

* Grow ourselves and our vassals. With current horde play, your tech rate is almost solely dependent on how much razing you do. In order to maximize your monarch point income, you need to keep razing throughput as high as possible. Since decision stacking was nerfed, we can no longer core ridiculous overextension worth of provinces, so instead we will try to maximize the amount while keeping it 100% while also feeding vassals with razed provinces.

Unlike my previous horde one-tag, I've been a bit more deliberate about setting vassals aside for feeding - Astrakhan will absorb Sunnis, I'll core the Catholics, and Chernigov / Yaroslavl will take care of the Ruthenian and Russian Orthodox.

So the first victim is our constant rival.



Time to smash Poland again - having to run constant war taxes coupled with poor MIL start means they will take a long while to catch up - if ever.



Well...he's got it where it counts.



Shock bonus strong.



Spis is a gold mine, so it is priority one. Hordes suffer from money shortage more than monarch point deficiencies - if I was Sunni I would have made a run on the gold in Africa, but since we are Catholic we can more readily target gold in Bohemia / Hungary. The Orthodox land is parceled off to Chernigov.



Who said hordes don't do damage in fire phase...?



Absolute massacre. A nomad with no massive razing monarch point income is a sad sight indeed.



The Kazani horde extends its reach. One day all the heirs of Genghis will bow to one Khan!



Fun fact: you get favors for core revocation, as if you were giving them land. Except you are not giving them land.

This is extremely useful for farming favors without strengthening your allies. Those who play 'ally abuse simulator' (aka VH mode) will find this even more important.



Due to unfortunate inability to round up sailors in order to take out the strait blockade to siege down Osel, we have to settle for leaving Livonians alive for another day. Sailors are actually really scarce for a horde, since likely you'll be raising autonomy to 100%, and there's no burghers estate to counteract this.



Yaroslavl growing.



The weakest horde falls. Silly Timurids, you don't even have reduced coring cost. What are you doing even existing.



News arrives about a city called "Paris" belonging to the King of England. This seems not quite right to the Khan, but there are other matters to attend to.



Due to how coring range works (being able to core from a seazone using your colonial range instead of province-to-province, having to core one province at a time), there's a large incentive to push towards Persian Gulf quickly.



Yarkand is exiled to the Tibetan plateau.



Poland has found some new friends like Brandenburg but they will perish all the same.



The destruction of Poland continues on pace. But the celebrations are cut short...



A disgusting blue shade begins to seep from the terra incognita of Central Europe.

Protestants...
 
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Pretty much. Are the papal favors better than the reformed Christian faiths when it comes to a WC?
 

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Fun fact: you get favors for core revocation, as if you were giving them land. Except you are not giving them land.

This is extremely useful for farming favors without strengthening your allies. Those who play 'ally abuse simulator' (aka VH mode) will find this even more important.
heh, I didn't know that.

Very hard mode is indeed 'ally abuse simulator', as they kill all your rebels.

I'm sad you don't have overview screenshots, its easy to lose track of your growth here :)

BUT, you already proved your point of catholic hordes being OP for world conquest..
 

bbqftw

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What was your national focus throughout the campaign? Also great AAR
Administrative, for practically the entire game, unless I was annexing two vassals at once. Thanks!

This is crazyyyyy
:) thanks.
Pretty much. Are the papal favors better than the reformed Christian faiths when it comes to a WC?
I would actually not advocate taking Catholic as a European non-horde unless you are planning on securing the emperorship. It's not necessarily about the papal favors (as being able to maintain near permanent +3 stability is excellent, along with the diplo rep), but the fact that with the nerf to conquest there is no longer a general reduced-AE CB against people of your own religion until imperialism.

heh, I didn't know that.

Very hard mode is indeed 'ally abuse simulator', as they kill all your rebels.

I'm sad you don't have overview screenshots, its easy to lose track of your growth here :)

BUT, you already proved your point of catholic hordes being OP for world conquest..
well, I think Christians in general are the strongest religious group, especially if you view it as having an AE reduction on all of non-Ottoman Europe. As for the Ottomans, interestingly you can decision stack Unify Islam still, so maybe there is even room for 'late' conversion (and I think Ottomans can grab all the requirements before 1500?). Since Ottomans (non-HRE) WC meta seems to be leaving Europe for last this might be a viable strat.
 
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Chapter 4: The Protestant Deformation

**

"We have to talk. The Catholic Church can't just canonize Tamerlane. Things just don't work that way."

"Well, I can understand, Luigi. He did do some ah - 'bad' things. But who of us hasn't made some mistakes? Besides, Pope says 'No Protestants,'" the Khan made a sweeping gesture towards the charred remains of the church, "see, no Protestants."

"Hard to imagine," the Papal legate said. "The Holy Father does have to admire your...direct way of solving these heresy issues. I'll see what I can do about your ancestor. Though I do wonder, was it necessary to burn the rest of the town as well?"


**



The conversion of Bohemia is concerning - it appears we might be too late to stave off the complete formation of leagues (basically no Protestant electors when 1550 rolls around), and Austria is in an iffy enough position that a strong Protestant league formation could pose trouble later.

We declare immediately. Austria has Bohemia rivaled so they won't defend.



The first Center of Reformation is secured. But there are two lurking out there.



Muscovy falls, to be incorporated into the holding company of Yaroslavl



And so does Yarkand...



The route to the sea is secured, so we can now start opening up fronts in India and Arabia conveniently.



First victim - the Shia block. When you conquer a lot of clay off a nation, its important to plan to annihilate everyone in their religion in the area. Better to have high aggressive expansion but localized vs. medium coalition-range but widespread aggressive expansion.



Picking off princes without Austria.



We need to cut down Bohemia more to force-convert them, and they have a gold mine, so two considerations converge here. But they seem more intent on dealing with my separatists. Go right ahead, heretic scum.



Take the gold mine, one more war required to put them in force-convert range.



We release Najd to supercharge conversions. We'll leave them Shia for now while they get set up (don't want to trash them into internal conflicts early) but eventually they will provide useful conversion power along my (soon to be 5, with Jerusalem + Mecca) missionaries



Poland DOW'd again, clean stackwipes are a lot easier now since Poland's core territories are full of flat shock-bonused land (as opposed to Lithuania where you have to fight in their southern territories).



Take some forts, but mostly focus on Lithuanian land since we are dangerously close to coalition range by Austria.



Using our telepathic powers (generally a province being converted by a CoR will have "X's missionary strength against heretic" where X is the country holding the CoR, assuming it converted - we found out that Denmark is responsible for one of the Protestant CoRs. Luckily it spawns in Fyn, meaning we don't have to cross the Oresund straits to grab it, which would prove troublesome since my sailor gain is pretty much negligible.

Unfortunately the 3rd CoT is in a terra incognita country, but one that has not converted to Protestant yet.



It's always annoying to see this, when a Muslim has nicely blobbed over the Rajput land, and then loses a war and has to release all these Rajput countries, some of which take aristocratic. Luckily a horde has means to defray increased coring cost but everyone else is out of luck.



This leaves Bohemia as the only Catholic elector. With luck we can stop league formation, but it'll be close.



Europe is revealed. Major two power blocks are led by Burgundy and Aragon + Papal States. I've initiated a war to cut Austria down to size.



Poland gets beaten up again.



Leagues have unfortunately formed. Here are the conditions for ending them:

Any of the following must be true*
All of the following must be true:
Has the flag HRE Leagues Enabled
Has the global flag Evangelical Union Happened for at least 10950 days
No known country:
* Is an elector
* Is protestant
* Is a league enemy
* Has a truce with

Thus, if there are no protestant electors, the Diet event is eligible to fire as soon as 30 years have elapsed.



Thus, Bohemia is ready to be force converted. We DOW right after leagues form since Bohemia is league leader - this reduces the amount of people we have to fight.



Taking strategic non-Empire provinces is also nice, as who knows when we can find a useful ally chain to target someone for vassalization with tribal conquest. Like an elector.



A quick note about my finances. I pretty much run in the negative whenever I have full army maintenance, and I rely on loans / peace deal war reparations and ducats to keep me afloat. Since hordes have no autonomy reduction, any land I raise autonomy on becomes essentially useless for money generation (with tribes estates we can pull full force limits / manpower out of stated provinces though).



I'd be furious if this happened when I wasn't a horde (and could just raze the offending provinces). Releasing a bunch of aristocratic Rajput increased core cost tags is the epitome of rudeness.



The first elector falls under control.



Europe reveals while we are cutting Austria down to size and vassalizing Saxony. Burgundy has practically consumed France, and Aragon is the dominant power in Iberia. Aragon is allied to the Papal States.



Sweden presents an excellent opportunity for Catholic expansion without annoying too much of the HRE. OPM coalitions are dangerous!





Cleaning up Shia-bros



Almost the end for Poland



Despite Swedish combat bonuses, fighting them on Stockholm (grasslands) is still pretty viable.



Double annex complete.



There we go. We have a respectable name now.
 
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ThetrueColt

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There we go. We have a respectable name now.
Respectable as in "We became super Soviet Russia 400 years early" :)

If you stop the Protestants early enough, will the Reformed centers still appear or is it possible to block them altogether?
 

bbqftw

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Respectable as in "We became super Soviet Russia 400 years early" :)

If you stop the Protestants early enough, will the Reformed centers still appear or is it possible to block them altogether?
I'm not actually sure. The main point of suppressing Protestantism in particular is to force the Diet event that ends religious leagues as soon as possible.