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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Pewt

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The Blue Menace – A multiplayer gameplay-driven France AAR (FINISHED)
This is a continuation of my quickly failed attempt at a multiplayer Ottoman AAR, but this time with France; I suggest skimming the Ottoman thread first to get an idea of what my goals for this are. This time the campaign is “The Fight for Supremacy”, played on Tuesdays. I’ve tried to incorporate suggestions from last time, although there’s definitely still a lot of improvement to be made, and I look forward to feedback. The player list for this game is much stronger and the patch much saner, so hopefully it won't meet the quick demise the last one did.

My starting position
France is in one of the best starting positions in 1399, alongside England, the Ottoman Empire, and to a slightly lesser extent Austria and Burgundy. Its late game is relatively unexciting compared to the excellent decisions from nations like Prussia and Austria, so your main goal is to use your early game strength to establish yourself and ensure that you can put enough boots on the ground to overcome country-specific disadvantages. Given that Austria needs to do their own setting up in the early game, nothing short of a coordinated effort between (player-controlled) Burgundy and England has much shot at stalling your expansion in the first 5-10 years, and you can get quite a lot done in that time if you’re fast and play efficiently.

The Players
England: Clonefusion. The GM and a relatively inexperienced player.
Castille: Bialaska. A relatively new player to MP.
Portugal: Lord_T. A relatively inexperienced player.
France: Myself.
Austria: Rayzee. One of the community old-timers, and among the best players in the community.
Brandenburg: Hagbard. A decent player who’s been around for a while. Somewhat less aggressive than many experienced players.
Hansa: Maestro. A (relatively?) new player to MP.
Sweden: Sneakyflaps. An MP first-timer.
Venice: cacra. A relatively inexperienced player.
Milan: The Grandprince. Another old-timer and top player.
Muscovy: Pilis and Elcyion (co-op). Both old-timers and top players.
Ottomans: Histaxin. A decent player, although he doesn’t usually enter into particularly challenging games, so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs here.
Chagatai: AdkEric. A relatively new player to MP, although significantly better than most new players. He might not be able to show up in future sessions, so this may end up being an empty slot.
Holland: Radioactive. A newish but decent player.
Ming: dibbern. A newer player to MP.

The land scene looks like it’ll be very strong; it’s the strongest I’ve seen at least as far back as BiWeekly 3 around 6 months ago, and possibly farther. The naval scene is much less experienced, so we’ll see how that works out. I expect to see Radioactive dominate the naval scene despite the fact that Holland is not a very good nation, but anything could happen.

The Start (1399-1420)
Your goal at the start as France is basically to declare war on anyone and everyone you have CBs on as fast as possible. Burgundy is an obvious choice since they’re trivial to beat on day 1 and yield the richest, cheapest, and most land of any option. I won’t say overly much about my specific conquests in the early game, since it’s mostly based on where you can find CBs and you have to adapt from game to game, but the short of it is I took the majority of the unclaimed land in the French culture group as well as Dutch/Flemish provinces.

Starting off, you generally have a pretty clear priority in terms of nation management. Tech advisors as well as a Master of the Mint are by far the best, and I ended up with a decent draw at the start; level 6 production, level 3 trade, level 1 government. As a land power, Production, Land, and Government are the big techs at the start, so aim for those advisors if possible.

Tech progression is pretty clear: Government to 4 (NI), then Production to 4 (Constables), then Land to 11, maybe boosting Government a bit if Land is getting ahead of time and Government is lagging back, and briefly taking a break to boost Production to 8 at some point or other. However, in general, if you want to play safe Land 11 is worth much more than NI slots are; Land 11 vs Land 9 produces very one-sided battles, so people rushing to Government 11 risk losing badly if someone exploits their weakness (which too few people are willing to do, unfortunately).

National Idea picking is similarly easy for a land nation. Church Attendance Duty is the obvious starting choice, due to the power of Gilded Iconography (without which there is no practical way to guarantee decent advisors), which is quickly swapped to Military Drill once the decision is passed. From there on, Grand Army and National Conscripts are your second and third unless you can guarantee some measure of consistent peace, since trade national ideas are another case of asking people to exploit your weakness. Military Drill and Grand Army aren’t really tradable in any circumstance; Military Drill’s +1 morale is completely game-changing in the early game and still powerful later on, while Grand Army saves quite a bit of money on military maintenance and moves you rapidly towards Quality.

Slider-wise, I started off moving towards Free Trade, since I’m too used to 5.1 France’s 8/8/8 leader. In 5.2 the 3/3/3 leader start means you won’t be trading for significantly longer, so in retrospect I’d’ve probably started off by moving Land a few times. By the end of the game, I’ll be aiming for -5 Centralization (obvious choice), -5 Aristocracy (+shock, -unit upkeep), +5 Free Subjects (+tech), -5 Innovative (+tech), +5 Free Trade (best for most nations, possibly all nations now that 5.2 nerfed sound tolls), -5 Land (obvious choice for a land nation), -5 Offensive (+shock), -5 Quality (obvious choice, largely because Quantity does nothing to alleviate attrition and because discipline is just so good in general), and with a bit of careful management this can be reached surprisingly quickly with events.

The conquest itself was nothing much to comment on. I grabbed cores wherever possible (except Provence, since I never really got around to sparing time to walk down to Naples), vassalized everything small except for Brabant (which has crazily good provinces and a university, and is thus a good annexation target), and got a player to cancel all my 1399 vassals to drastically reduce my infamy and save prestige compared to manual cancellation. With a bit of troop production and an extended occupation of Avignon to abuse its Tax Assessor’s inflation reduction, things were looking quite good by 1417. During the course of my conquests, I managed to get -1 Offensive from an event, +1 Free Subjects by surrendering to some peasant rebels, and bought up my army size a fair bit (mostly Infantry, since my fairly high WE made cavalry build times somewhat absurd).


France calms down after nearly constant AI warfare, slightly over its infamy limit.

The Austro-French War (1419—Ongoing)
Although my rapid expansion was largely smooth, I made a critical mistake—I’ve become too complacent playing against less aggressive and less dangerous players, and decided to break my “always play safe” rule; not something you want to do against the likes of Rayzee. By late 1419, I had only 40 units on a forcelimit of 80; still a formidable force by European standards at the time, but not the “crush everything in your path” force that France should be maintaining at that point in the game. Austria noticed this and chose to exploit this by using his PU mission on Burgundy, which was guaranteed by me. Rather than try to defend the guarantee, since defending guarantees on PU targets is practically impossible given that I could never force him to cancel the PU were he to succeed in enforcing it even temporarily, I chose to convert to an Empire then sacrifice my remaining 2 stability to declare an Excommunication war on Burgundy, breaking our truce. Austria realized he could not possibly beat me to Burgundy, and thus declared war on me (using the “Dishonourable Scum” CB). To my surprise, he had enlisted the aid of Brandenburg, Switzerland and the Hansa, and nearly the entire might of the HRE was soon on my doorstep.


HRE armies move into France in the early stages of the war.

I had no chance of beating this on my own with only ~40 regiments, so I enlisted England’s aid for 400 ducats, and the Netherlands joined my side due to his desiring one of the Hansa’s provinces. After paying another 150 ducats to Castille in exchange for his handling of rebels in the Occitan area and convincing Switzerland to leave the war after an earlier favour, things looked quite a bit better, and we organized a counteroffensive. Unfortunately, Austria was able to succeed in PUing Burgundy while I regrouped, although given that the two wars were separate I wasn’t prevented from annexing them if I could hold on long enough for the warscore cost to drop to 100%.


Austrian occupation at their greatest extent, but after the death or retreat of most HRE armies.

On a slight sidenote, around here I got an event I’ve never seen before; -500 ducats and -2 Centralization, or +50 ducats and +2 Decentralization. Although the timing was somewhat inconvenient, I wasn’t complaining about 2 free slider moves, and took a loan to afford the centralization (although I had little choice; +2 Decentralization is awful). I also took my third slider move (to Land this time, rather than to Free Trade like the first too) around now.

The Austrian alliance overextended, seeing The Hansa’s army annihilated and Austria in full retreat. The Austrian army itself was saved by the timely intervention of Milan in the war, and it looked like they might have a chance to push back once again until Castille declared a separate war on Milan, probably intending to capitalize on Italian Ambition and take some of the richest land in Europe. Milan was forced to White Peace my allies and I so that he could focus on defending against Castille and their ally, the Swiss, but the damage was done; Austria’s army was able to retreat to the mountains of Tirol, and the war drew to something of a stalemate. Soon after, Brandenburg, The Hansa, and the Netherlands all expressed their intent to leave the war, while England’s pay was raised to 600 ducats in return for promising to stay in the war until completion.


The state of the war.

My next step was to move into Switzerland in the hopes of having a chance to invade Austria itself, while England took care of any rebels in France. Initially, there were some promising opportunities and I moved into Austria, although it quickly became apparent that Rayzee’s defence was sound. Since neither party could afford to engage in mountains offensively, there was an interesting game of cat-and-mouse where armies attempted to take strategic provinces without actually fighting.


The greatest extent of my progress towards Austria.

It quickly became apparent that progress through the mountains was not practical, and with Wurttemburg walling off any easy access to Austria’s forests and plains in the east (they were sphered by Milan, which prevents me from asking for military access while truced with Milan), I returned home. By the end of the session, warscore on Burgundy was just starting to drop, and at this point it looks like the inevitable conclusion of the war will be White Peace and Burgundy annexed by me. Austria has stated his intention to stay in the war for a while longer, hoping to win when he is elected Holy Roman Emperor, but since right now his economy and military are significantly worse off it remains to be seen whether he will accomplish his offensive at all, let alone before Burgundy is annexed.


The state of the battlefield a few months before the session’s end. There's been quite a lot of rebels in southern France for a few years, and although they're under control they require an army patrolling there at all times.

Comments
I’m still not very good at taking screenshots; I took a bunch, but most of them were of peace time situations which I don’t feel would contribute anything by attaching. I need to get better at (read: do at all) taking screenshots of combat situations, such as Austria’s near-loss of his entire army, but since such situations can be rather frantic it’s been easy to forget so far.
Once again, looking for suggestions and stuff on what to improve. I tried to include more comments on what I was doing mechanics-wise, but there’s definitely still work to do there.
Stats
The map in 1426:
 
Last edited:

diegoami

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I hope to see the end of this. Are you feeling the 5.2 manpower scarcity ?
 

sprites

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You gor ... quite a bit high badboy for those provinces , I see!
 

SiikFajitas

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I liked the last version of this and this one seems good to! Sub'd
 

unmerged(475128)

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Go big blob!
There are more comments on the mechanics yay :) the amount of screenshots is not bad, but a few more wouldn't hurt.
What are your plans for future expansions, and what players are you most afraid of in this game? Can you talk about it at least vaguely or is it a secret?
Good luck anyway, I hope this AAR will last longer, it has potential with Europe so crowded and some very experienced players in.

Beware of Austria if you go on the offensive, it has 27 cavalry regiments on his western border.
I hope you can peace him out soon and let your crazy WE go down before the rebels become a problem (Dauphiné will defect in 1 year).
 

JKNUBZ

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the excellent decisions from nations like Prussia and Austria
What are you referring to with Austria, the reinforce speed bonus? Or the +50% tax imperial reform? Combination of those and the others? I hadn't thought of Austria's nation-specific decisions as particularly gamebreaking, at least compared to Prussia or someone with thalassocracy.
 

Pewt

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What are you referring to with Austria, the reinforce speed bonus? Or the +50% tax imperial reform? Combination of those and the others? I hadn't thought of Austria's nation-specific decisions as particularly gamebreaking, at least compared to Prussia or someone with thalassocracy.
They're definitely not PMR/Manchu/Venice level, but they still have a host of useful decisions (inflation reduction means you can drop the MotM sooner/live without one in the early game easier, the reinforce speed bonus is really nice, the various bonuses they get from inevitably being the emperor are nice, etc).

Go big blob!
There are more comments on the mechanics yay :) the amount of screenshots is not bad, but a few more wouldn't hurt.
What are your plans for future expansions, and what players are you most afraid of in this game? Can you talk about it at least vaguely or is it a secret?
Good luck anyway, I hope this AAR will last longer, it has potential with Europe so crowded and some very experienced players in.

Beware of Austria if you go on the offensive, it has 27 cavalry regiments on his western border.
I hope you can peace him out soon and let your crazy WE go down before the rebels become a problem (Dauphiné will defect in 1 year).
Yeah, rebels aren't an issue; they're being sieged as fast as they appear, it's just that a lot appear. Rayzee will inevitably be my biggest rival, although I'd also be scared of Elcyion/Pilis if they weren't so far away; I've played a few campaigns with them and cooped a few games with Elcyion (during one of which we basically did the MP equivalent of a WC), and they're definitely not to be taken lightly. My plans for future expansion... I'll be tight-lipped about that less because it's a secret and more because you really have to improvise as a nation like France, but probably HRE-wards.

I hope to see the end of this. Are you feeling the 5.2 manpower scarcity ?
ZZFZ doesn't have the massive manpower nerfs of later patches, although it does nerf the highly broken level 5 and 6 army/navy buildings, so later on manpower will be shorter than it was in 5.1. The massive nerfs in later patches really made the game not fun in my experience and the experience of most other MP players I've talked to who play the game paradox forums-style. I've actually started a few threads about it over in the beta forum, the latest one being this one, but unfortunately little has come of it (although I luckily did manage to get some of the other problems, such as broken naval combat and the disparity between manpower regeneration and truce times, addressed).
 

franckfuck

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How refreshing! The multiplayer game is the real strategy game, thanks for sharing the experience with us. I only hope there will be good treachery.

Once again, looking for suggestions and stuff on what to improve.
So far, so good. I find content and layout both very pleasant, just keep posting!
 

unmerged(471650)

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confirmed single player but will be following.
looks like fun!!
 

Pewt

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Always love MP aars, and do you have any colonial ambitions?
Not really; there's no real way to compete with naval powers for the good provinces, so it mostly comes down to whether you need many/any crappy colonial provinces for extra conscription centres as a land nation. It also depends on how tense things between myself and Rayzee are continuing further into the game, since last time I was in a France-Austria situation with another experienced player (myself as Austria vs silktrader as Burgundy) it was pretty much constant war.
 

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Excellent, glad to see you have a new game started. That is an already formidable looking France, I'm surprised you were able to secure any human allies in the war! The Ottoman player has expanded particularly quickly, and it will be very interesting to see how Portugal and Castille co-exist.
 

Pewt

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Session 2
Player changes:
Maestro moved to Vijayanagar, and Lutai (another player I’m mostly unfamiliar with) took over Hansa.

The Austro-French War (Session Start –May 24, 1426)
Examining the save between sessions, I noticed a critical point I had missed earlier; my warscore against Austria was 42%, probably largely due to Austrian/Prussian/Hansan/Milanese vassal armies being wiped. Above 40% warscore new peace rules kick in; small peace deals compared to the warscore will state (The people consider this a generous offer, etc) which means that if the peace is refused the receiver will take a stability hit, and at -3 stability they’re forced to accept. Given that Rayzee couldn’t hope to push without first becoming Emperor, I sent a Concede Defeat offer, and he accepted rather than taking pointless stability hits first, realizing he had no chance to push before he’d be kicked out due to -3 stability regardless.

Peace at last.

Wrapping up French expansion (1426—1432)

With Austria halted for the time being, I could finally annex the remaining stragglers and work out some arrangements for peace time. Burgundy finally dropped to 100% warscore about 2 years later, and I promptly annexed them. Milan held no ill feelings towards me, and allowed me Military Access to reach Naples, necessary since they were still Provence’s overlords. Due to Provence’s capital being unconnected (by land or sea) to their other provinces, I was able to annex their entire country for 4 infamy and in one war, and finally French expansion was complete.

Meanwhile, I was determined not to make the same mistake of underestimating Rayzee’s boldness that I did last time. The Netherlands was interested in a defensive alliance for the session to protect him from possible repercussions of helping me during the first Austro-French War, which I gladly accepted. Meanwhile, I built up my army to my forcelimits—nearly 100 men—to ensure that the next war would require a much more serious commitment on Austria’s part, given he only has half my income.

My lingering war exhaustion was annoying, but brought a few advantages. First, Vermandois got a Veteran’s Home, a rare and powerful province modifier. Second, I was able to use peasant rebels once again for a slider move towards Free Subjects.

The remaining world saw a fair amount of war. Milan repeatedly declared war on Switzerland, forcing Switzerland to mint and pay large sums of money, while Vijayanagar was invaded by Chagatai in a war which saw Chagatai acquire the remaining necessary land to form the Mughal Empire.

The extent of the French Empire, while Switzerland is invaded by Milan (and Austria, who agreed to take infamy for some provinces in return for payment) in the background.

The Calm Before the Storm (1433—1446)
With war exhaustion at 0 and all my desired initial expansion territory annexed, a long era of peace began, although overshadowed by the lingering knowledge that another war with Austria was inevitable. For the moment, though, things looked good; at 1200 income, I was significantly in the lead, and my army of about 100 regiments was as large as every human HRE member’s army combined. I chose to take my next slider move towards Centralization, since Infamy was still a long way from letting me trade and the move would take me to 0 Centralization, requiring merely one more move to enable many decisions which I may want to have access to on relatively short (~10 year) notice in the future.

My sliders in 1434

During with this time, I had little diplomatic contact with the outside world. I proposed a 50 year NAP to Brandenburg, who wasn’t interested, confirmed that Milan would be not side with Austria offensively (after the session, it was further clarified that he’d be fine with me attacking Austria as well, due to both my and Rayzee’s desire to have a 1v1), and sent gifts to bring up my relations with Luxembourg and the Papal State. Since I had already passed the Statute in Restraint of Appeals but was stuck Catholic for around 70 more years keeping good relations with the Papal State was important to prevent excommunication, while Luxembourg was the last remaining free state in the HRE, protected by my sphere and their membership in the French culture group. After a few shots at Offer Vassalization at Likely—my high Diplomatic Influence thanks to a large Sphere of Influence helped counteract the infamy penalty—Luxembourg finally accepted, leaving me with borders I’m quite happy with for the time being.

The French Empire

Magistrates were more awkward; my rather large size combined with low early game magistrate income meant my country was far from coated in Constables and Armouries by the time that my 6 star Production advisor, Dutch manufactories, and income investment in Land brought both techs to 8, so I may have to revisit the Production line as late as the ~tech 18 era, given that Barracks will be relatively soon (and hugely important) and the time and power gap between them and Regimental Camps is large.

Little more happened this session. Claims on our Rivals gave me a core on Sundgau, and a few more wars broke out; Netherlands declared war on Venice over a colonial dispute, while Vijayanagar chose to attempt to push back the Mughals. By the end of the session, both are still ongoing. The home front is tenser; with Austria having built up to match my army and both our desires for a 1v1, another war looks inevitable soon into next session.

Stats and map

http://www.europa3.ru/cgi-bin/mpsta...e=int&season=comp-2013&game=XVI&yearsave=1446

Comments
A relatively peaceful session, as session 2 tends to be; everyone is winding down from massive expansion in session 1. I need to stop reflex-closing popups and events before having a chance to take screenshots. Russia and I took an absurd amount of stability hits; it almost feels like we’re having a competition to take more than the other.
 

sprites

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everyone is consolidating , that Russia is big , Austria too!
 

Pewt

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everyone is consolidating , that Russia is big , Austria too!
Just wait; Austria and the OE (the nations, not the players) have a habit of getting outright silly in MP games.
 

Seelmeister

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There is an excellent sense of impending mayhem in this recent update. Europe seems to being carved up relatively quickly, and I'm very interested to see what shape the conflict between Austria and France takes when it comes round. Will the other human players really respect the wishes for a 1 v 1 conflict? Hard to see how the Ottomans and Spaniards in particular will resist the urge to take advantage.

Interesting observation regarding magistrates, if you are under-developed in terms of infrastructure compared with the other powers, then while this is currently a drawback it also means you have additional capacity to increase the wealth and manpower of your provinces.

Great update, really enjoying hearing about a game played in multi-player.
 

Pewt

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There is an excellent sense of impending mayhem in this recent update. Europe seems to being carved up relatively quickly, and I'm very interested to see what shape the conflict between Austria and France takes when it comes round. Will the other human players really respect the wishes for a 1 v 1 conflict? Hard to see how the Ottomans and Spaniards in particular will resist the urge to take advantage.
I don't think Spain has land ambitions, and either way I suspect both Austria and I would be happy to white peace should someone attempt to intervene (and, given our current military lead, such a war would be rather one-sided). OE most likely is scared of Russia.

Interesting observation regarding magistrates, if you are under-developed in terms of infrastructure compared with the other powers, then while this is currently a drawback it also means you have additional capacity to increase the wealth and manpower of your provinces.
I'm actually by far the best developed (not counting the OE, who starts with level 1 buildings everywhere), it's just that as most countries you can finish off workshops and training fields by land tech 12 whereas as France your building order has to be a bit more wonky given you can't really afford to delay Barracks; their manpower boost is just too important.
 

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Interesting observation regarding magistrates, if you are under-developed in terms of infrastructure compared with the other powers, then while this is currently a drawback it also means you have additional capacity to increase the wealth and manpower of your provinces.
it takes a real optimist to see being further behind as having more room to grow :)

really enjoying this AAR. i always enjoy lurking the multiplayer threads and watching people lose their shit over trivial things. now we can get the back story to a rage quit.
 

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MP AARs are great, I love reading about a good MP game but there's always too little detail and too much drama in the regular MP forum threads.