Good evening (/morning/day/night/twilight/noonlight/starlight/Vegemite), fellow Tropers! This is your host, Iniquitus The Third, inviting you back to the stands to watch as I fail epically at managing the hopes and fortunes of a small medieval European Nation, driving them into ruin and wiping their name from history!
Silly Buggers aside, yes, hello again. This will be a liveblog operating on much the same basis as the previous one, which will forever remain incomplete as a result of technical and RL sheniagans. So I thought to myself as I wept over the burning wreckage of my labour, "Iniqui ol' buddy ol' pal, why don'tcha give it another go? After all, what have you got to lose, other than the little self-respect that you had and the utter failure of your best attempt?"
As you may be able to discern by the existence of this post, I decided to run with it.
Righto then, let's get into it. First off, I'll outline the factions available for choice and give my opinion of them. Loong post ahead, so be warned.
NOTE: In terms of difficulty, I will say that I generally find the Islamic factions the easiest to play with, then the Catholic factions, and finally the Orthodox factions. Mainly because the first two groups get to have holy wars (cheap-as-f*ck mercenaries and no upkeep? Please sir, can I have some more?), and the last one... doesn't, and the Pope is a dick.
- Overview and Tactics: Start off with the southern end of the British Isles and a castle in northern France. First order of business will be to loot the everloving crap out of the Isles, and then get fat off trade, rampaging off down through Europe from there as soon as someone is stupid enough to get themselves excommunicated. Probably the easiest of the Catholic factions to play as, because a bit of luck on the battlefield will almost assure steady income and a wealth of options. Won't make for the funniest or best liveblog, but they start off with a faction leader who was featured on Badass Of The Week.
- Military: Typical cavalry, have the somewhat crummy Billmen as ainfantry until the Fortress level, but make up for it with the Yeoman Archers and Retinue Longbowmen, who are armed with, judging by the effect they have on the battlefield, rapidfiring anti-personnel rocket launchers.
- Opinion: Easy, and most probably boring, unless I decide to go kamikaze-style, which will take a bit of getting used to, play-wise.
- Overview and Tactics: Start off with Edinburgh. That's it. They have two rather large armies at the start with units in them that they can't afford to disband until they get off their butts and get themselves a castle, so the economy will be interesting to handle. Once the tea-drinkers have been kicked off the Isles, it's the same principle of 'build up, then wait for the oppotune moment to strike' that'll win me the game.
- Military: Decidedly average cavalry and ranged troops, but tough-as-old-boots high-end infantry which really makes it all worth it in the end.
- Opinion: Tough start, then gets easier once the Isles are down. And don't you want to see what I can do with their accents?
- Overview and Tactics: Interesting starting point, they have. They start with just the central few provinces of France, with the entire west coast being rebels and a series of buffer provinces blocking them from central Europe and Italy. This means my economy will be hard-pressed to keep up with my expenses as I try to snatch the French provinces away from the greedy people with no sense of ancestral claim, and will end up either building up to push England off the Isles (and the haggis-munchers too, once I'm there), or go down and knock heads together in the Iberian Peninsula. Or maybe even strike at the Holy Roman Empire if I'm feeling particularly adventurous...
- Military: Batshit hardcore cavalry who will eat everything but elephants alive with a bit of luck, but pretty nondescript in the other areas.
- Opinion: The beginning will involve walking a tightrope between snatching rebel lands and building up my cities. Once I've gotten past that, then it gets even harder, with up to three possible crossfires for me to walk into. Ah well, it'll be a good learning experience for me...
(The Iberian Peninsula)
- Overview and Strategy: Okay, so we start off with a city and a castle. And that's it for the first few turns. The only nearby rebels are Zaragoza (which will be taken by the Portugese within a few turns at most, meaning that it's a no-no unless my boys strap ther runners on) and Valencia, arguably the best-defended rebel settlement in the game, with a high-command, high-chivalry general (El Cid, for you history buffs) and veteran knights and Jinetes to boot. This means, really, that unless I want a first-class ticket to Hell courtesy of being kicked out of the God Club, the only real expansion options are the Moors. Once the Iberian Peninsula is under wraps, we can either go merrily crusading along the African Coast, or go up and give the French a collective wedgie...
- Military: Now, see, this is the funny part. Until the Dismounted Feudal Knights come along, my best purpose-made infantry is... Spear Milita. The Javelinmen and Almugharvarcarmartars (?) replace Armoured Sergeants, and this is not good because I like my people using pointy sticks to stab people with, not throw them away at the sight of the enemy. They also have Jinetes, who are effectively light cavalry but with stick-throwing urges as well, so points there.
- Opinion: Compact, stuck trying to bribe an honest man to scrape up some territory and with a military comically unsuited to my playing style. This oughta be good...
- Overview and Strategy: Essentially a copy of the Spaniards, except that there's another faction between the only two lands they possess. Wait, what? Yes, Spain is smack bang between their capital city and only troop recruitment centre. Furthermore, my only family members are stuck in Lisbon, so if the Moors become suddenly competent, it's goodbye game... Fortunately, things aren't all that bad. As noted above, they are perfectly positioned to nab the one relatively unguarded Rebel settlement right from under the Spanish's noses, and can then sit safely behind their walls laughing their asses off at the poor wee Spanish. Once that gets boring, we can launch a dagger strike at the Moors and take some land off them, then follow pretty much the same path as the Spanish above.
- Military: They have functionally the same setup as the Spanish, so any and all comments made above also apply here.
- Opinion: On paper they have a harder job of it than the Spanish, but in practice, they can easily steal Zaragoza and Cordoba fairly early on and build on that as a springboard to the next level. Lots of battles against the Moors early on, then a Cold War with the Spanish until someone blinks. Still a tough ride, but still better than some people have it.
- Overview and Strategy: Ah, now this is a proper faction. Enough starting territory to finance a real army and not too many settlements to administer. Early fights will be against the Portugese and Spanish, trying to push them off the peninsula before the Pope turns his eye on me and decides to send in the Crusades. Also, the Cardinals will be doing a real number on the faithful unless I start building Imams like crazy. Beyond that, call jihads as soon and as fast as I am able to, and blitz the infidels with high-experience, massive armies.
- Military: Still with the javelinmen as early infantry? Ah well, at least I have superior Militia to make up for it (No joke - I checked. The Moorish Spear Milita have better stats all round than the Iberians, and cost exactly the same to recruit and maintain). Eh, Ghazi will make uup in numbers what I can't fix with a few arrows from Desert Archers - the local equivalent of longbowmen, and seriously good fun to shoot things with. 'Specially those stupid Javelinmen...
- Opinion: Honestly my favourite faction and the one with the most potential to wreak havoc in the early turns, but will quickly turn into the Boring Invincible Hero group unless the computer has a sudden attack of competence.
(Central and Eastern Europe)
Holy Roman Empire
- Overview and Strategy: I have a love-hate relationship with these guys. On the one hand, Teutonic Knights are friggin awesome and the unit roster is filled to bursting with awesome units: Armoured Sergeants, Imperial Knights, Pavise Crossbowmen... On the other hand, they have a lrage, spread out and thus vulnerable empire, and because I hate to see nothing being built, will likely run out of money on turn ten. Oh, and they share a border with a total of EIGHT nations (rebel lands notwithstanding) - Venice, Milan, the Papal States, technically Sicily, France, Hungary, Denmark, and Poland. All of which want a piece of me. Best put my hat of Hittyness on - it's going to be a long night, and if I have to strike back to get some respect and cash, it'll only get longer...
- Military: As said above, they have all the equipment a general could ever wish for: the horribly shooty Pavise Crossbowmen, the rough-and-tumble Armoured Sergeants and Teutonic Knights, which become available earlier (at least, it feels like it) than other Orders, but their superiority wears off by the start of the age of Gunpowder. Best get my kicking boots if I want my Knights to stay bullet-free.
- Opinion: What can I say: I'm biased due to my descent. Despite all of these niggles such as having to attack Rome at some point and staving off the entirety of Europe with a failing economy and a Crusade on my ass every ten turns, this would be an interesting faction to play, and certainly guarantee a lot of action both early on and later as the cannons start rolling.
- Overview and Strategy: I always tend to think of Denmark as Scotland's first cousin, twice removed. Starting off with a single region and with a huge-ass army that I can't afford to disband for fear of not being able to rebuild, and with a larger empire nearby positively aching to steal all those opportunities for expansion away. However, there are a couple of differences. Mainly, the fact that the Polish and the Russions are going to be beating a path to my watery doorstep just as soon as they've finished whacking each others' heads in with nail-studded clubs, as well as the tiny little problem with the militarily and economically superior Germans all set to do a dry run of the early stages of the First World War. If those problems can be solved, though, there should be no further barriers to a screaming horde of Vikings pouring down from the frozen north.
- Military: The Danes don't go for subtlety in warfare. There's no elaborate battleplans, no intricate fire sequences, there's just you and several hundred heavily armoured Norsemen running (and occasionally riding) full pelt at the enemy, screaming your guts out and trying to break off, and I quote, "a huge f*ck-off axe in the first-bugger-you-see's trachea". Their heavy infantry is truly a sight to behold, and really the thing they're best with, with the rest of the recruitment pool being fairly tolerable instead of notable.
- Opinion: Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of the Danes. Big axes are very cool and all, but I prefer slightly more developed tactics if I'm honest. Still, everything is an opportunity, and really, it can only go well compared to my first test run as them...
- Overview and Strategy: Hmm. Poland is in the possibly unique situation of having no actively aggressive neighbours to deal with near the beginning - the Holy Roman Empire tends to cocentrate on seizing Italy and the nearby rebel regions first, while Hungary preys on the Byzantine Empire to the south and the Russians have their hands full with trying to cobble together a proper empire. As such, they have all the time they need to stretch out and settle down in a big way. Once the Holy Roman Empire decide to cut their losses and replace them with some space to the north, or the Russkies decide that they'd rather have a proper scrap than just smashing rebels, though, things will heat up majorly. Once that stage of the game is survived, then we can start with the counter-offensive and snag some land at the expense of the Germans. Panzers? What panzers?
- Military: Poland has the novelty of being one of the few Catholic nations without obtaining knights and light cavalry for the first and second level of castle upgrades - instead, the first level gives them as I recall Strychczyhzs (or something), which are crossbowmen on horses and thus horribly unfair to the poor infantrymen on a open field, and the second level giving them remarkably effective spearmen. The downside it, of course, that they have javelin-armed cavalry, which I hate. They're like mounted archers, but with worse range, and like light cavalry, but with the annoying habit of stopping their charge because you forgot to turn off that frickin' skirmish mode, as well as a penchant for spearing your own general with friendly fire while chasing down the enemy infantry.
- Opinion: I personally have nothing against the Polish, but using them in a serious game would involve me biding my time and reporting nothing at all of note for quite some time, so be warned of that. Otherwise, well, MOUNTED FREAKING CROSSBOWMEN. Against infantry. *drools*
- Overview and Strategy: The Hungarians start off with a city fairly close to the German town of Vienna, plus a castle hidden away in the mountain range. The starting position they have is not bad, as such, having a fairly stable economy, but they will need some new land very quickly, or else they won't be able to muster an army capable of properly measuring up against that of any of the neighbouring kingdoms. The problem? Well, the bordering rebel settlements that are within reach are Zagreb (first on the Venetian checklist), Iasi (a stone's throw from the Polish border), Sofia (curiously, the Byzantines seem to make for this with ridiculous speed) and Bucharest. Thus, in order to be able to fight an empire, we have to fight an actual empire. First on the list would be the Byzantines, 'cos the Pope won't be hating on us as much for stabbing them, and then we can begin to make plans about either sailing up north to steal some territory from the Russians, or pop back down and muscle in on some of that trade the Venetians love so much (or maybe even go up against the Turks).
- Military: Much like the Polish, Hungary doesn't get traditional knights upon getting castle upgrades for the first two levels, replacing Mounted Sergeants with Magyar Cavalry and Mailed Knights with Hungarian Nobles, both of which are ranged cavalry. All good for field battles, but a slight pain when you find yourself needing some proper shock cavalry.
- Opinion: I have to say that I'm a bit suspect regarding my chances of victory and making a funny liveblog about the Hungarians, simply because I need to act fast to get a proper start, and that's not something I'm very good at. Still, needs must and I'll give it a shot if nothing else.
- Overview: Yes, I'm aware that they don't actually start in Europe per say, but I couldn't fit them in anywhere else. So there. The Kievan Rus begin, much like their northern barmates the Danes and the Scots, with a single lonesome city supporting a disproportionately large army. Unlike the other two, however, they are absolutely drowning in rebels - two entire (large) regions seperate them from their nearest rivals, and they have plenty of troops to start stretching out without much problem. The first order of business therefore is to put those soldiers to good use and carve out a path of regions to build up all the way down to the supposed capital city of the Motherland; Kiev, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The bad news is, with minimal money from pillaging, army maintenance and the mercenaries most likely needed to overcome the garrisions, as well as building up an economic powerbase back up north, I'll be bankrupt by the time we stop marching and start swimming, and the Hungarians and Poles will be looking to snag some of that juicy territory now that you've gone and done the hard work for them.
- Military: Again, the steppe warriors win out over the armoured knight, with light mounted archers coming first, then javelin-armed horseboys in second place. Look you idiots, it works better if you run into them while still holding the sticks. Sigh. Still, it wouldn't be funny if it was easy now, eh?
- Opinion: Certainly making for a dynamic start, since I can't afford to waste time, things will likely get far, far worse for me financially than as any other faction. Still, all in good spirit, plus they have mounted archers, who are hilarious to use against footsloggers.
- Overview and Strategy: Well, this one's a real doozy. With just two cities under their control, the Milanese have it rough, especially considering the lack of nearby chances for expansion. The castle of Bern is far too well-guarded to take easily, which means the first steps towards building a empire will be powered by militiamen. Good thing these boys have life insurance, because with the Venetian moneysacks eyeing that valuable trading port of Genoa, and the Emperor sitting in Bologna with half a stack's worth of soldiers, they're going to need it. However, if Florence can be stolen from underneath the noses of the Pope, Emperor and Doge, and the island castle of Ajaccio similarly nicked and both built into trading ports, then we can buy all the troops we could need, such as for 'reappropriating' some of Johnny Frog's lands...
- Military: Since it'll take a while for Milan to get a handle on proper professional troops, we are reduced to using militiamen as frontline soldiers. Which... is not actually that bad an idea, considering that Italian Spear Militia are roughly on par with Sergeant Spearmen, and that Genoese Crossbow Milita are effectively Pavise Crossbowmen, whom I will fanboy about in the Venice section. Plus, Monster Ribaults! If I last that long...
- Opinion: Starts off slow and sedate, but there will be action aplenty as soon as Venice and the Germans get sick of beating each others' heads in. It'll be a bit of a slog, but I'm up for it.
- Overview and Strategy: The Venetians start the game aimed, curiously enough, at Eastern Europe, with their heir and a few hundred men a turn from Zagreb, a castle positively tailor-made for churning out reinforcements to march through Greece and the island of Crete providing a stopoff point deep in Byzantine territory. However, taking advantage of this properly is just asking for the Milanese to make a jab at their home city, and the Sicilians are curiously interested in Ragusa, so care is needed to ensure that the Europeans don't interfere while we're busy duking it out with the Romans.
- Military: As promised, we have Pavise Crossbowmen here. So let me tell you about them... They have a simply staggering range, an astonishing hit ratio for ranged troops, even without any experience, and will shred any armoured unit stupid enough to sit there and take it from them. They are pretty much the main reason why Venice has a realistic chance at bringing down the Byzantines in a field battle. Lets see you ride away with a crossbow bolt in your spleen, ya stupid horse archer! They also have a fairly balanced set of options infantry and cavalry-wise, though the lack of specialist cavalry means that getting a chapter house up in this place is pretty much a necessity.
- Opinion: I like these guys, deep down. Heartless, jerkass-ish money-grabbing pricks? Sound like my kind of people all right!
- Overview and Strategy: Ah, now we hit the whipping boys of the group. It seems like everywhere that the Sicilians got shafted; they start the game off in debt, in addition to only possessing two territories, meaning that we need to start conquering, pronto. They also have a less than stellar unit roster, for my taste. Then, instead of at least being able to walk to where they need to get, they need to either not disband their expensive fleet, or grow flippers. And then we get to the problem that every last rebel province, aside from maybe Tripoli, is right in the path of another faction's expansion - the two islands are important to Milan (and some badly lost Moors), who by the way also lay claim to Tunis half the time, and the only town in the area and thus the only reliable source of income for the cash-starved Sicilians? Has a Byzantine army AND a Venetian one bearing down on it, and is basically at the lower limit for city potential. It may be time to start thinking about finding a new home again...
- Military: Okay, I was lying when I said they didn't have a proper unit roster, but apart from the Norman Knights, who essentially replace Feudal Knights, they have pretty much the same roster as the other Italian powers, which I've already gone over.
- Opinion: Urrgh. These guys are honestly my least favourite faction out of the lot, and GameChainsaw already did a much better job of it than I really could do, but if you insist, I'll give them a try.
(Asia Minor and the Middle East)
- Overview and Strategy: Oh hey, it's the Romans. They start off with the largest empire, barring only the Germans (and who cares about them?). They also have control of the most trade-rich city in the world, as well as access to multiple population centres and a comfortable buffer zone of rebels blocking access to most nearby nations, except the Turks. Said Turks are probably the easiest target to pick on, mainly because they are spread out and weakened, compared with the built-up and raring-to-go Romans. Once that's over and done with, attention must be turned to the Venetians, who by now will have thrown up a blockade around roughly half your ports and be marching right for Constantinople. Fourth Crusade, here we come...
- Military: Hey guys, guess what? The first three tiers of cavalry are entirely ranged. Yup, not a single lance-holder is available for recruitment until Citadel level is reached, and that my hammer-and-anvil tactics will need some revising. On top of this, they have a surprisingly lack of cannons later on, meaning I'll have to wrap it up quick or risk my precious units being shot to hell.
- Opinion: An interesting choice, to be sure, but not one for the faint of heart as I hate not being able to ram several dozen sticks into faces with the help of my good friend momentum. Barring that and a bit of bribery with the Pope, it'll be smooth sailing.
- Overview and Strategy: Oh, dear. These guys have it rough. They do start off with four provinces, but the rebel province of Adana splits them down the middle, leaving them divided and hard-pressed to fight the Byzantines off. Also, unles they get their (breaking-even economy) butts in gear, Egypt will often simply waltz up and nick Antioch all the way down right away from them while they struggle to find grip. And I haven't even started on the Mongols... Bottom line is, they need a secondary base of power that won't get swallowed up by the Khan's men pronto, and it looks like either the Caspian Sea, to match wits against the Russkies, or the Mediterranean will need to be traversed to get there. Mind you, a Jihad will make short work of the distances involved. Turkish Mujihadeen v.s. the Papacy, anyone?
- Military: Things just keep getting better here, don't they? A distinct lack of heavy infantry all the way up until the Janissaries come along mean that barring mass recruitment of Halberd Militia, it's gonna be hit-and-run until the Mongols come, and probably even after that as well. Oooer.
- Opinion: Oh Lawd, this won't be pretty. Heavily-defended settlements to the south, the Byzantines to the west, an almost endless steppe to the north and the Mongols to the east later on. Yep, these guys took the short straw alright. Eh, I work well under pressure.
- Overview and Strategy: And so we reach the last faction available for voting. If the Truks drew the short straw, then these guys got the long one. They start off with two of the most wealthy provinces in the game, plus easily a dozen rebel provinces upon which you can call Jihads right off the bat, meaning that complete domination of the Holy Land is a very real goal. As mentioned above, they can work their way up through Palestine and onto Antioch with little difficulty, and with most of the game's best farming income region at their disposal, they can easily keep up the momentum and smash into the Turks like a monster truck into a house of cheese. However, they're going to need it: the Pope doesn't take to kindly to Allah's homies chillaxing in Jerusalem, so plentiful arming up will be needed to hold off the Crusaders at Jerusalem, and Antioch as well for some reason, and then you just know that the Mongols want in on the scrap and won't take no for an answer. Last stands aplenty...
- Military: Though the first-tier cavalry and infantry get the typical javelineer makeover, the second-tier ranged troops are Desert Archers, who are effing awesome and just plain unfair when you have the high ground. Expect to be hearing a lot about them if you choose this faction.
- Opinion: Ah, this'll be a piece of cake. Plentiful munnies early on and virtually no faction to piss off means I can take my time expanding. At least, until the Mongols arrive. They tend to screw me over every so often.
Welp, that's all the factions I'm willing to play. I could hack the game file to allow the Papacy, but this is me writing these words, and I cannot hack worth shyte. Post a response with your preferred faction for me to play as, and I'l tally the votes whenever I find the time to do so.
MAJOR EDIT TIME: The votes I have in so far are both in favour of...*drumroll* ...the Moors! So, with your leave, the Almovarid Empire will have a list of characters up within the week, and we can learn the names of the first bunch of crazies to rampage across Europe!