the AARlander – 2020: A YeAAR in Review!

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
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DensleyBlair

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210111_AARlander Masthead.png
Local torturer Steven Hack trekked through the snow towards his favourite holiday pastime: pissing off the oldies. There they all were as they were every Friday afternoon, in their support session for AAR creations most cruelly abandoned. TBC was many things but the only consistency in his writing career was his ability to craft characters and then ditch them just as they were becoming interesting.

Having finished their chant of encouragement, so very required for characters whose personal god had forsaken them to the depths of the AAR catalogue, Steven Hack burst in just as Emperor Galahad was about to start the meeting.

“Showtime, yea old farts! Bossman wants you to headline the AARlander special.”

The cancelled and abandoned cast looked at him silently for a while, long enough for Steven Hack to remember that most of them were a lot stronger than he was.

“Are you taking the piss?” King Elfwine roared from the other side of the room. He refused to sit anywhere near Galahad after their…first meeting. “He drops my storyline to chase the CK3 crowd and, having climbed to the top, then decides to throw me the smallest of bones?”

“Hey, it’s the first edition they’ve put out in years. Landmark, it is.”

“Only a select few people who read AARs know where AARland is. Of those, fewer still know who we are or what that rag is.”

“What about the people reading this right now?”

“Freaks.”

“Enough,” the Dark Lord Kelebek emerged from the shadows and laid down the law. “You will all do your bit. You will offer no resistance because there is none to be offered. You are all tools of the AARlanders, lest yea forget. Move!”

“Creator’s pet,” Elfwine and Galahad both had the audacity to grumble. They all left and set to work on this fine and moste special edition of the venerable AARlander, brought back from death (potentially very unwisely) for your reading pleasure.

“Right, I’m going back to a proper AAR universe. Later losers,” Kelebek retreated back to bask in the glory of Talking Turkey.

Local torturer Steven Hack was left alone in the room. “I’m starting to think this place is just a little bit odd. Wouldn’t you say?”

He turned and looked at the crazy old Irish ghost of Ged Ned, who shrugged. Within its cage, the red eyes and fluffy tailed rabbit called PTM commented, “Meh, try not to think about it too much.”



 
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DensleyBlair

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210111_Letter from the editor.png
Howdy AARlanders, and welcome to this very special edition of the AARlander: 2020: A YeAAR in Review!

To quote the legendary Tiny Tim: Well hello, my friends: here we are together at last! By any measure, this publication has been a long time coming – whether you choose to count from July 2014, when the last edition of the AARlander graced the boards under the editorship of @Derahan, or simply last month: what one might consider the more traditional time to publish a review of the year just past…

No matter. Thanks to the sterling efforts of our stable of writAARs, AARland has a community publication once more, capping off what has been a momentous year in many ways for our online community. Against the lows of the Covid-19 pandemic, equally 2020 was not short of highs for AARland – from the (admittedly troubled) birth of the new CK3 forum, to the miraculous revival of fortunes over in Victoria 2, to the festive cocktail hour celebrating the end of the year.

Beyond these headline-grabbing events, it would be a disservice not to recognise a far more understated, but no less significant fact: that two decades in, AARland keeps on chugging along very well indeed. Alongside returning veterans, last year saw the arrival of a fantastic cohort of new writAARs to the boards, and the quality of storytelling on display here on seems to be improving.

The community, too, remains strong. 2020 was the year that
the bAAR reopened its doors, and also saw the successful return of “Guess the Author”. Meanwhile, the ACAs continue to find good support, and the Year-end AwAARds (“the YAYAs”) have also made a return. (As of publication, voting in both remains ongoing!)

Over the seven AARticles that make up this edition, our writers offer a compelling portrait of just why AARland remains an internet community par excellence; these pieces – the ones I’m not responsible for, anyway – are generous, irreverent, thoughtful and impassioned. It is my great pleasure to be able to introduce it.

If you would like to comment on, muse about, critique or rail against this publication, please direct all correspondence to
the Admin Thread. I look forward to seeing you there!

As we hope in the world at large for a 2021 that is better than 2020, all things considered, AARland is in the fortunate position of being able to wish for more of the same. Here’s to another twelve months of great reading, great writing, and great fun along the way!


DB
 
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210111_slothinator.png



'Twas the night before Christmas, in the Holy See
Not a creature was stirring, not even a bee;
The mitres were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Peter soon would be there;
The bishops were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of popehood danc'd in their heads,
Pope in his tiara, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap—
When out in the square there arose such a racket,
I called for Swiss Guards to get me my jacket.
Away to the balc'ny I ran to the glow,
Looked up to the obelisk and then down below.
The heavens they shined so brightly that night
It appeared that the City was once more alight.
When upon the cobbles I spotted the glitter
Of a little old man being borne in a litter,
The bearers were gilded in manner so neat,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Pete.
The porters they all jogged despite their old frame,
And he chanted, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Run! Clement, run! Pius, dash! Leo and Syxtus,
On! Greg'ry, on! Urban, on! Inn'cent, Callixtus;
To Bernini's columns! To the Aurelian Wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
Then taking a run up, a leap and a jump,
The palanquin took to the roof with a thump;
As guards all around us took up aim with care,
I told them to stop that—St. Peter was there:
And as we all wondered on what we had seen
The odd papal parade added more to the scene.
We shifted and shuffled, in hushes we spoke,
When there came from the chimney a puff of white smoke:
St. Peter got up on his knobbly old knees
And we secretly wondered—had he lost his keys?
But have them he did and he pulled out a chest
And unlocked it most swiftly with no time to rest;
Inside it were relics of silver and bone
And riches aplenty enough for a throne.
The small stocky man had a head free of hair,
But he kept himself warm with the beard he did wear;
A big pair of keys he did hold in his hand,
They all jingled and jangled as if by command.
And unlike the team that he left on the roof,
Not one of his clothes was of papacy a proof
He simply smiled at us celestial and calm,
And had many among us reciting a psalm;
With a flick of his hand then silence he bade
Before whispering kindly please be not afraid.
Then to his main business he turned with a flash
And each one of the mitres he filled with his stash,
He carefully labelled each relic in turn
Then took to the chimney—a speedy return.
He climbed on the litter and giving a nod
He flew off in the night with the help of his squad:
I heard him cry out just before he took flight—
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night".


@slothinator is the authAAR of Annuntio Vobis: A Papal History of Italy, a Victoria 2 AAR.
 
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DensleyBlair

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210111_A view of CK3.png

I think at this point it is safe to say that Crusader Kings 2 blew up Paradox considerably. It was and remains to this day an incredible success of a game, both critically and financially. The learning curve is, despite being rather steep, far gentler on a newcomer than every other Paradox mainline title. The potential of customisation, roleplay, interaction and control of a medieval simulation, with as much or as little added insanity as a player could wish for, has led to it being one of the stand-out player experiences of the last ten years. Lest we forget, it is also the source of much expansion and adaptation within its own lifetime. The map had effectively tripled in size due to new detailed depths of counties and even entire sub-continents added as expansions and DLC.

Whatever gripes you may have about this business model, it has been shown to work, and be incredibly lucrative for Paradox.

The AAR forums owe a personal debt to CK2 as well, for this game more than any other in recent memory has inspired an explosion of content and writers. The fertile fields of the CK2 AAR section created so much in terms of readers and writers, and even better, proved so fecund that cross-pollination occurred and these new members of the community spread out into all the other sections of the board as well. Perhaps it is because CK2 promotes that sort of drive to explore, being the natural start of any mega-campaign (and home to many such incredible works of that nature), and a perfect prequel in any case to the popular EUIV section.

Why then in a section about CK3 do I discuss at length its predecessor? Because, having said all above, it was a surprise to me and quite a few other people, that Paradox bothered to make it at all. Sure, it makes sense, creating an even larger sequel to one of their most popular titles, but the common and general belief amongst CK2 players was that Paradox would simply go on forever with the game they already had. The old version has certainly not run out of features to improve upon (and more cynically, sell to us), and the map though already expanded, could go further.

Further surprises lay in store however. The base game of CK3 is a paradox in and of itself, replete with many features of CK2 contains now as standard, such as the current expanded African and Indian map. Yet it also lacks several things that CK2 had as a core of its gameplay for many years. Republics are once again locked away from players, certain to be sold back to us at some future point. More aggravatingly, theocracy is still unplayable, despite being a consistent request since the days of Crusader Kings 1. Any perhaps most alarmingly of all, certain aspects of the old game have been stripped down and simplified to the extent I now feel kinship with HOI veterans (and those guys are monsters). Paradox in their wisdom decided to tear apart the slightest scraps of naval construction and simulation CK2 players were given, and instead make boats simply a thing that appear on demand (for gold of course) when a player or AI army reaches a body of water beyond a certain size.

It is a horrifying mess of a feature gap, considering that so much of the map still revolves around the Mediterranean Sea, and North Sea coastline. To have no naval warfare at all, not even fleets to build up and use as transport and roleplay material, is rather disappointing. Watching huge crusader armies effortlessly sail the entire length of the map to land in Mesopotamia really does feel like Paradox not only missed a trick but ruined a large portion of their game (Crusader Kings should never have anticlimactic holy wars).

And yet, I have played hundreds of hours of this new game. And I have, unlike every single CK2 attempt, completed an AAR based upon it. Even more astonishingly, that AAR game is still being played and I fully expect it to be the one game of CK (of either title) that I manage to finish. So then, something clearly is being done right here. What is it?

A good place to start would be the tutorial, something that I was expecting to be horrendous, because Paradox never does tutorials right, and often they actually impede learning of game systems. But some sort of miracle occurred (possibly to counter-balance the dreadful decision to redesign the forum website to this current…state) and the people in charge of making this bit of the game genuinely knew what they were doing. This was both gratifying and annoying for me, as I had just started on a CK3 Tutorial AAR to see what we could see about the new game, and if nothing else laugh at the terrible setup.

Alas, the Paradox Tutorial Maker, whilst apparently something of a sadist, was nonetheless competent at their job. The AAR instead turned into a desperate battle between me and it over the poor unfortunate soul Murchad of Munster, the designated tutorial character for CK3. PTM wanted him to suffer to show off the mechanics of the game. Astoundingly, I felt bad for the poor little guy and in much the same way one adopts an abused puppy, I renamed the character Ged and took him under my wing. Tales of our adventures and misdeeds (for some reason) caused that AAR to be one of the first success stories of CK3, and my first completed project.

What have I learnt so far with CK3? It is very competently made. The intricacies of tech, culture and religious customisation are immense, enough for hundreds of hours of gameplay variation. The map is gigantic and well-made. The 3D character design, whilst initially dismissed as a modern gimmick, is surprisingly good at making you feel more attached to your Player Character. And to everyone else in your realm as well, come to think. The improved events, knight and councillor mechanics have made you care about several characters in your realm, which I assure you, was not usually the case with CK2. Now you genuinely hate your rivals, and enjoy your best friends.

The base game is good. Perhaps even great in places. The absence of some extremely obvious DLC sized holes is thus very noticeable (really, the removal of playable republics is only the most notable). But on the whole, the game is finished, works and does what it is designed to do. That’s good. But what about the AARs?

Well…here we have something of a problem. Though it is true that the expected explosion of CK3 stories and new writers has occurred, and the quality and originality of many of their works are excellent…we cannot avoid the elephant in the room here. CK3 is segregated from the rest of the AAR forums. And it is done in such a way that the chances of it being changed are slim, till the time the entire site gets redesigned again.

I’m not sure what impact this will have on AARland itself, but the indications so far have been mixed. Whilst the voting for Q3 of the awards heavily favoured CK3 stories and writers, quite a few of the voters moved straight from voting links provided by their followed stories, voted for that story and then went straight back to CK3. I’m not sure what can be done about it, but the main aim as ever is cross-pollination. CK2 might have been the behemoth of the AAR awards and reader focus for years, but there was plenty of cross-over between it and other areas of the forums. Writers reading and commenting on other games works and the like.

As for the future, CK3 itself seems poised to become the new star and darling of Paradox. It’s rapidly becoming its most sold and successful game after a very good launch. The foundations are extremely solid and as said already, the base game is worth the money. I do wonder however, where they go from here. The map is already massive. Are the devs truly going to bite the bullet and finally have a proper crack at putting all of Afro-Eurasia onto the map? Is there going to be an expansion where the Americas are released, locked off and utterly separate from the current map, but playable as an option? I am uncertain, but I know full well (as I’m sure you all do) that Paradox is not going to let this rest here. CK2 was a cash-cow because of the DLC and Expansions.

Now we are going to see whether they can pull off the same trick with the sequel, or merely fill in the holes someone in Finance told them to tear out. As for the AAR section, the first page is healthy and constantly updating, which is great. The actual process of writing, reading and commenting contuse unabated, despite the separation of forums. That separation though, is going to continue to be a concern of ours, very possibly for the entire life-cycle of this game.

In the grand old tradition of AARland reviews, I end a mostly positive piece by asking whether this is the beginning of the end. Probably not, based on evidence. But on the other hand, we are all doomed.

And it’s all CK3’s fault.


@TheButterflyComposer ’s most recent AAR is The Life of Brian, and Other Stories, a CK3 anthology as the Kingdom of Ireland.
 
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210111_RossN.png

This past August we witnessed a milestone: it has been ten years since Victoria 2 was released. While it might be just a little optimistic to say the Victoria 2 will reach its Diamond Jubilee like the monarch it is named after that is an impressive achievement, and you only have to look at these forums to see how many people still love this rusty but magnificent old ironclad of a game. The year drawing to a close saw seventeen different AARs start and many others begun a year or two or three earlier carry on.

I have written two Victoria 2 AARs and I have a lot of love for both this game and the forum, and even when I am writing about something else part of me is often wondering if it is time to write Prussia or Qing China or the United States of Central America or Hapsburg Mexico or anything related to Victoria 2. Like a lot of us I keep coming back again and again to this game and to the stories people write about it.

So why is Victoria 2 still so popular? Is it the period people love? The gameplay? The community? An insatiable love for light operettas, foggy streets, cucumber sandwiches, monocles, penny farthing bicycles and zeppelins?

In my opinion all of these things.

The Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century was a period of staggering change, beginning with sailing ships armed with cannon and brightly coloured hussars riding to war and ending with aircraft carriers and tanks. It was a mix of absolute monarchy and communist revolution, of stringent morals and the demimonde. Ancient borders changed, multi-ethnic empires grew across the globe, the telegraph and the steam engine made the world smaller. Cinema, aircraft and radio saw their birth and the world in 1936 seems a lot closer to us than the world of 1836. It was also a period that saw so much of what we think of as popular culture emerge. Sherlock Holmes, Phileas Fogg, Tarzan, Zorro, Jo March, Jane Eyre, Fu Manchu, The Tramp (of Chaplin fame), Tintin and many more come from this age.

It is an incredibly exciting time and you can see the draw in such diverse AARs as @mad orc's The Last Pirate, a narrative story about a British naval officer in the fading days of sail or @Riotkiller's majestic history book The Most Sublime Porte – An Ottoman AAR studying the failures and triumphs of a crumbling Ottoman state reforming into a modern power, or @Jape's stylish May the Sun Never Set: A British AAR (whose title I have shamelessly stolen for this article.) Whatever your taste in an AAR the period covered by this game would seem to provide a story to tell.

As for gameplay Victoria 2 is not a game that even its greatest fans (of which I am one) would call flawless. It is showing its age in a way newer Paradox titles are not. Even so this is still a solid game, as we can see with @Tommy4ever's megacampaign Here Dwells God - A Jewish Poland AAR, Part Three which having made it through CK2 and EU IV has entered our beloved Vicky without slowing down. And us fans love it, quirks and all.

It is from that mix of history and the quirks of the game engine that we reach the most interesting aspect of Victoria 2 on this forum; the community. All games have some level of interactive support but Victoria 2 seems especially rich in this area, especially this year with the birth of two (!) different ‘community newspaper’ AARs edited by @El Pip, Read All About It! - A Community NewspapAAR and the even newer Read Even More About It! An Ottoman Flavoured Community NewspapAAR. I can think of nothing more appropriate to pay tribute to era that saw the newspaper as we know it come into its own, that draws on one of Victoria 2's most memorable features (who has not at least chuckled at some in-game headline) and I can see few things that better symbolise the splendid spirit of this forum and how eager everyone is to help each other and let their imaginations flow.

Victoria 2 is an older game, not as flashy or as popular as other titles and like some of us players and writAARs it can creak alarmingly. But I adore it all the same, and I adore the community that has built up around my favourite game. Long may it continue and God save the Queen!


@RossN is currently writing The White Eagle & the Knight, a Polish AAR for EUIV.
 
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210111_HistoryDude.png

Imperator is perhaps the least active AAR forum here. It was definitely the least active AAR forum for a game that hasn't been replaced by a sequel this year. I can cover the amount of AARs in a quick post.

This is a comprehensive list of AARs that have been updated in the last year, with links:

The Eternal City - A Rome AAR by @Stuckenschmidt
Delian Leagues Can Into Pontus Exinus? by @Todie
4 Chiefs 1 campaign (which is a Let's Play, not a text AAR) by @Todie
An Roman Empire world conquest 1.4.2 by @dasvira
Rise of the Three Mass_lias by @CJL78
Dawn of a New Day by @Jehzir
The Complete History of Terra by @HistoryDude
Rule Kartago by @Nikolai
All is lost by @Nikolai
Bactria succession campaign (see below)
Something is rotten in the state of Carthage by @crownsteler
Epirus Ascendant, Part 1 by @HistoryDude
Alexander's Funeral Games by @Argead33

Yes. The Imperator forum is so practically dead that a grand total of 13 AARs were updated in a year. Technically, including comments, 14 were, because Rebirth of a Nation was commented on, despite being abandoned.

This list includes one-shots and Let's Plays, by the way.

Oh, and the number of people actually writing AARs (excluding the succession campaign - I'm getting to that, I promise) is even lower - 9.

The Bactria succession campaign is the only even remotely collaborative thing going on in the forum. It's a succession game that has had 4 people post on it - and 4 sessions total. I'd contribute myself, but I kind of have a lot of AARs going on right now.

There's no other succession games, no MP AARs (can we please get one of these started?), and no interactive/semi-interactive AARs. To add to that, Imperator has never had an MP AAR or an interactive/semi-interactive AAR, and the Bactria thing is the only succession game on the forum.

I get that the game was buggy in its early stages, but it isn't buggy now, and the AAR forum is still very lonely.

I mean, we had to cut this category from the ACAs because there weren't enough AARs to compete!

TL, DR: The Imperator AAR forum is still really dead. Can we revitalize it?

Huh, this came out looking like an opinion piece/rant, but I really want more Imperator AARs.


@HistoryDude is currently the authAAR of six projects, the most recent of which is The Rise of Russia, a Victoria 2 AAR.
 
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DensleyBlair

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  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
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210111_Don't look back in AngAAR.png

Seven years ago, drunk on the confidence of youth, having been a member of the community for barely a year, I embarked upon the task of writing a history of AARland. What, you would be very justified in asking, was I thinking?

Sadly, that particular scrap of historical interest has been lost to time, but what remains is the kernel of a grand project, taking in AARland from its murky origins around the turn of the Millennium until about 2004, when ‘AARland’ actually appeared as a contiguous part of the forum for the first time. It was a lot of fun to do, and while I would never dream of revisiting it (older, wiser, tired-er) I'm glad that once upon a time I was uninhibited enough to take it on as a challenge. While doing the work of researching it, I got to know a number of fantastic projects (and, in some cases, their authors) which remain with me to this day as old favourites. (Have I ever told you to go back and read CatKnight's Resurrection: Rebirth of the United States? No? Well consider this me telling you.)

Undoubtedly one of the most curious of the seven articles which form the completed extent of this history is Part V: “EUII, 2003–04: A Study of Greatness”. Aside from the embarrassingly pretentious title, what distinguishes this obscure piece of writing is that, quite unexpectedly, in its latter half it shifts from past to future. Although presenting itself as a look back at some of the first ‘epic' works in the history of AARland, the article spends much of its time deeply concerned by the question of whether the community as it then was (on the eve of 2014) could sustain projects of a similarly ambitious scope.

Over seven paragraphs, I went to great lengths to demonstrate why “Would we see a return of the ‘epic’ AAR today?” was a classic Question to which the Answer was ‘No’. In the service of proving my case, I invoked such facts as the abundance of reading material in 2013 compared to 2003; the prodigious Paradox release schedule, churning out new releases before ‘epics’ could be finished; and a preference among the general AARland readership for instant gratification. As the argument ran, diminishing returns from a commentariat spread more thinly over a swelling number of threads would discourage long-term commitment on the part of authors, while those projects which did persist in their scope would only hold limited appeal; the commentator who ploughs through dozens of pages to catch up with an old tale is rare indeed.

Perhaps, at the end of 2013, this was how things felt. Certainly, it was common for promising AARs to spend up all their energy at once, petering out after three or four enjoyable updates with the author vanishing, traceless. And from memory it did feel as if threads were getting shorter, comments were becoming more scarce and the Heroic Titans of the AARland Literary Canon had all long since packed their bags and headed off for pastures diverse – some, crucially, on to publishing in ‘the real world’. If asked to recall my favourite works from my first few years on the boards, I don't think a single one was ever completed; imperfection was the order of the day: burning bright, burning fast, but God what a show.

Of course, it is ever thus. What I neglected to consider as a doomsaying fifteen-year-old is that ‘The grass was always greener’ is a fundamental law of communal memory, even inherited memory. When a good friend of mine remarked at the time that being an AARlander in 2014 was like being a Roman under Commodus, looking back to the reign of Trajan, it seemed to sum up a general feeling: the best among us had gone; community initiatives were few and far between; engagement was on an inevitable downward slope. Resisting nostalgic declarations of future ruin is apparently harder than it would seem.

What I also failed to consider is that only rarely are icons recognised in their own time. No, that's not quite right: good writers and good writing are usually recognised: as a community, AARland is pretty good at bringing quality to wider attention. What I should say is that only in the broader stroke of history does it become clear that something may be considered an institution. Resurrection took four and a half years to write. At what point during that process can the author pat themself on the back for having produced an epic work? Arguably, until the project is finished, when it gains shape as a ‘thing’, even the most long-standing of AARs is just like all the rest. It's an extreme position to hold, yes, but maybe it's also a fair one; who is to say which of the hundreds of active AARs being written at any one time might turn into something enduring? Who is to say that time or length matter at all?

The answer, of course, is that they don't, but let me deal with them a minute longer just for the sake of the original argument. AARs from 2013/14 that survive into the present are, admittedly, rare. But every community has its ups and downs. It would only take a few years for things to shift, and in the latter half of the decade (who quite knows why) AARland witnessed a minor explosion of projects starting up which, unbeknownst to any at the time, would endure into the present. A short review of the boards brings up such works as Empire for Liberty (volksmarschall, Vicky 2, 2016), Talking Turkey (Bullfilter, HoI3, 2017), 'Odin' and Stalin's Secret Committee (roverS3, HoI3, 2017) Before Plantagenet (JabberJock14, CK2, 2017), Road of Queens (Eurasia, CK2, 2017) and Der Adler, der Wolf und die Sonne (Wraith11B, HoI3, 2018), all still ongoing. All of this was still to come when, foolish ignorant child that I was, I made my bold predictions of despair seven years ago. Let this be a lesson to all would-be Cassandras in the audience: AARland does not go down easily.

What unites all of these projects is that they stand in direct contradiction to my previous doom-mongering, not only in the fact of their survival, but in their methods. Now that we've seen the release of Crusader Kings 3, and accepting that Victoria 3 remains a distant pipe dream, each AAR cited above concerns a superannuated game, often with a small core of commentators forming a community around the story. Thus while I spent my moody teen years predicting that the decline of the mass-appeal work would be fatal for AARland, the exact opposite seems to hold true: find your passion, carve out a niche, stick to it in the face of all obstacles, and the rewards will be yours in time. And what rewards they are, for even in spite of dwindling view counts and the advent of the reaction over the comment, top AARs today frequently equal (and in some cases far exceed) the masterworks of the past in measurable popularity. If anything – dare I say it? – AARland looks happier and healthier than ever before.

There are still challenges today, of course. The most pressing of these, the continued absence of CK3, sets a genuinely concerning precedent for the future of the community, and far more than changing trends in commenting and writing threatens to upend the AARland ecosystem. But always there are lessons to be drawn from the past. The AARland general discussion is an invaluable locus for community activity, and over the past year we have seen the revival of a number of initiatives first launched in the hope of bringing together writers from across AARland's numerous constituencies. Most encouraging is the fact that, whether haunting the bAAR or playing Guess the Author, newer faces are readily seen mixing with old heads. Not bad for a little corner of the internet almost as old as I am.

Maybe it’s just the year we've had, sending people the world over rushing to the internet for a fix of community and social interaction, but in stark contrast to seven years ago there is little evidence I can find to suggest that AARland is pitched any way except up. I've learnt my lesson, and I'm not going to make any more wild predictions for the future, but I will say this: Never have I been so happy to have been wrong on the internet.


@DensleyBlair is the authAAR of Echoes of A New Tomorrow, a 20th century Commonwealth of Britain AAR for Victoria 2.
 
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DensleyBlair

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210111_coz1.png

The year 2020 was a rough and difficult slog for so many. Restaurants, bars and other businesses have closed forever. People have lost their jobs. In the US of A alone, nearly 300,000 people have died of the COVID as of this writing. Worldwide the figure is over 1.5 million. It can be very depressing if one considers it too deeply. I’m not suggesting we shrug it off. But the fact remains that we, as a global society, must move ever forward. And I don’t know about you, but the things that have assisted me in this rough terrain have been the immediate things. My sweet little boy, Max (my dog who turned 12 this year.) Music (most especially The Beatles, always and forever.) Family and friends (even though we lost my brother in law this year and my best friend of over 30+ years is in a mess of a hell.) At some point, we must consider those simple things that truly matter. And that, of course, brings me to this forum.

It does not go unnoticed by me that I first discovered this company and these games (at the time, it was just 2) nearly 20 years ago. I purchased the original Europa Universalis in 2001 and began reading AARs at that time. They were rudimentary, mostly game logs, but some few added some spice and that few became more and more throughout each subsequent effort. By my join date in 2002, there was a dedicated cadre of writAARs and population that really enjoyed what you and I these days likely take for granted. They were having fun and I wanted to join in. Lest this become my own personal journey (which I’ve told often), let us consider all of you. I imagine something quite similar occurred to you as you discovered this place.

Around 2004, we gained the creation of what is now known as AARland. This brought all of our disparate attempts at writing AARs together in one place. There are too many people to list here that helped make that happen. Yet what they all had in common was one simple desire. Enjoyment of writing, the pleasure of reading others doing the same, and a sense of fellowship in this symbiotic and synergistic environment that has been created. This last is a theory of theatre (as I know it) but it matters just as much to us as it has for the greats of the theatrical boards in years past. One person writes a thing. Another reads it and comments. Encourages. Then they themselves get an idea based on their reading and move forward with their own. That, in turn, pushes another. And on and on it goes.

To return to the hard year that we have all experienced, I am certain, we must then see this place...AARland...as a place of respite. A thing to be thankful for and celebrate. A place that you come to, work your work, make friends, read excellent AARs, enjoy the characters and situations, maybe learn something about the game or writing and simply have fun. Have fun in a year when there has been such a lack of it. And truth be told, this has always been the case. In my time here, I have seen depression lifted by activity here. I have seen celebration of the good lives we’ve lost over the years. I have seen dedication push past initial shyness. I’ve seen struggling writers become great writers and great writers eventually publish.

In short, I have seen this place...this AARland...change peoples lives.

It has been many years now that I was a moderator, and even though I had a run of spending hours each day writing, commenting and being an ambassador, those days are likely over. Yet I can never leave because it has always and (as long as I have anything to say about it) will continue to be a place where people are invited and enjoyed. Both the act of game play and the art of writing about it will be appreciated. No one will be left out as long as the few simple suggestions are considered. Listen to your mods because they only want peace. Read, read and read some more and then comment! Those few precious words may well be more important than any original material you have offered in your own AAR. And consider the whole...all of AARland...as you continue to navigate this forum in all of its glory. There is a reason we joined it all together (even if our company keeps CKIII apart at the time...and I can almost ensure that this will not remain given time.)

So...words of wisdom from this old hat...hug your wife or husband, partner and friend. Kiss your pets (good luck cat owners.) Go to work as best you can and wake up each day with a renewed sense of purpose. Find your inspiration in life and this leads to the largest rule of AARland...it has been said for nearly 20 years by our esteemed former leader Lord Durham...Write On! There is no better place on the internet to practice what we do here and it has kept me around for all of this time. I hope it keeps you around as well. You will enjoy it, I assure you, and we will appreciate it, I am certain. And finally, get involved. Look and comment and the rewards will be endless. That is AARland. And will be into 2021 and beyond. It is a forum, if we can keep it.


“Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, do, dun, do, do
Here comes the sun, and I say
It's all right.”

(George Harrison/The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”)



@coz1 was most recently the authAAR of The House of Wessex, a quartet for CK2 beginning with The Rightful King.
 
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DensleyBlair

Outside Agitator (they/them)
39 Badges
Jul 29, 2012
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  • Europa Universalis 4: Emperor
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Sengoku
  • Semper Fi
  • March of the Eagles
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Stellaris
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Together for Victory
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Death or Dishonor
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Expansion Pass
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • 500k Club
  • Victoria 2
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III: Chronicles
  • Cities: Skylines
210111_that's all folks.png

Thank you for reading this special edition of the AARlander: 2020: A YeAAR in Review! Please head over to the Admin Thread to voice any and all opinions, critiques, suggestions and corrections. On behalf of all of our writers, we look forward to seeing you there!

Now… write on!
 
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