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Subject: An Alternate History of Europe: 1517-1535 rss

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An Alternate History of Europe 1517-1535
From the Papal Annals of the Playtest Game HIS46


1517
An Augustinian monk in Wittenberg named Martin Luther posts 95 theses concerning the sale of indulgences on the door of the Castle Church on the eve of All Saints' Day. Immediately, a firestorm of religious conflict arises across Germany. Theologians and priests in Wittenberg, Brandenburg, Magdeberg, Stettin, and Lubeck declare their support for Brother Martin's teachings. However, Tetzel incites the people of Leipzig, who oppose these new teachings.

From the 95 Theses of Martin Luther
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.


1519
Emperor Maximillian dies, and two strong candidates emerge to become the next Holy Roman Emperor--Francis of the Valois dynasty and Charles of the Hapsburg dynasty. Through clever politicking and generous gifts to the Electors, Charles V is elected. He becomes the most powerful man in all of Europe, holding lands in Spain, Austria, Germany, the Low Countries, northern Africa, and southern Italy.

From the personal journal of Pope Leo X:

My disappointment is great that Charles of Spain has assumed the throne of the Holy Roman Emperor. However, he may yet prove malleable--he is young and still lacks the skills to run such an ungainly empire. I pray that I may bend his ear toward Mother Church, and that he may assist the Holy See in dealing with this German controversy...

Our resources are quite sparse. The Papal treasury is almost exhausted, and I have so few theologians who are capable of understanding the subtleties of this German heresy. However, we have one advantage--some devilish advances in siege warfare… So there is nothing for the Holy See to do but to utilize its strengths. We will invade Florence, my old hometown, and make an example of it to the world. Then, the wealth of Florence can support my future schemes…


1520
Henry VIII and the English delegation meet with Francis I of France at the Field of Cloth of Gold. Despite the grandeur of the proceedings, no agreement is reached. Subsequently, Henry meets with Charles V and agrees to declare war on France in return for some of the Hapsburg riches. Moreover, the English crown hires a Venetian informant, who reveals the weaknesses in the French defenses.

Meanwhile, an Imperial Diet is called in the city of Worms to examine the teachings of Martin Luther. The Papacy sends a meager delegation, and the Holy Roman Emperor is only slightly more interested. However, Martin Luther is joined by many of his supporters and gives a strong defense of his doctrine. The Diet is considered a resounding success for Luther, and the burghers of Leipzig and Brunswick are convinced by his arguments.

Excerpt from Martin Luther’s speech at the Diet of Worms:
Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither sale nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.


Meanwhile Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, moves his hordes against the Hungarian city of Belgrade, which quickly falls with equal losses on both sides.

England weighs the political dangers of declaring war on France, as they had agreed to do. Lacking a causa belli, Henry VIII decides to create an incident that would force France to start the war. Henry declares war on Scotland, asserting that the entirety of the British Isles is the birthright of the English throne. He hopes that France will invoke their long-standing alliance with Scotland, intervening and declaring war on England. However, Francis fears that he will be overwhelmed with too many enemies if relations with England deteriorate. France abandons Scotland to its fate and remains neutral in the conflict to come.

The Papal armies annex Modena, as the Papacy's military advisors discuss how best to capture Florence. While the Pope is consumed with conducting his Italian wars, Luther uses the brief respite to write his famous 1520 treatises: On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, The Freedom of the Christian Man, and An Address to the Christian Nobility. These documents expand the Reformation well beyond a discussion of indulgences and other abuses within the church. Contraband copies of these treatises are read throughout Germany.

Letter from Johann Eck to Leo X
Your humble servant Johann Eck to His Holiness, Leo X, Bishop of Rome,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... If I may offer my lowly advice, O Holy Father, the time has come to address the unchristian teachings of that heresiarch, Martin Luther. I have examined his most recent treatises against the rules of Scripture and Tradition, and it is clear that this monk promotes anarchy and discourages Christian living. Moreover, he assaults the Holy Sacraments, rejecting most of them and declaring the remainder to be under the captivity [sic] of the Antichrist... He undermines your authority, O Vicar of Christ, and the authority of Ecumenical Councils... I pray that I might be allowed to meet with this unruly heretic in an academic debate, so that his wretched doctrines might be fully revealed to all for the heresy that they are... I propose that Leipzig would be an appropriate place to debate these errors that persist in Dr. Luther's theology...

Johann Eck
Second Sunday in Advent, A.D. 1520


1521
The year begins with fierce battles erupting across Europe. Fresh from their victory at Belgrade, the Turks drive northwards to Buda, meeting the Hungarian army on the field. Both armies are decimated in the fighting. Suleiman limps back to Szegadin with only a fraction of his army left. The Hungarian government begs the Hapsburgs for assistance and becomes a vassal to Charles V. Meanwhile, Charles Branden leads the British army north from Berwick to besiege Edinburgh, and the French besiege the independent city-state of Metz.

In the city of Leipzig, Johann Eck challenges the "Lutherans" to meet him in a public debate. Luther chooses not to attend, and Martin Bucer volunteers to represent him. However, Bucer makes a poor defense of the fledgling faith. Following a decisive victory for Eck, imperial soldiers seize Martin Bucer and drag him into prison. He persistently refuses to recant, and he is burned as a heretic. Fear sweeps across the empire, and many rebellious cities return to the Roman faith. Eck is lauded for his wise and cunning performance, and he travels to the court of Charles V, where he is accorded many honors.

Leo X Pontifex Maximus to Charles V Holy Roman Emperor,

Grace and peace to you. I will say 49 high masses for your eternal soul and for your victory on the battlefield. Forthwith, I will dispatch Johann Eck to discuss with you the current state of scholastic theology. He would much enjoy a journey to Spain. He has laboured greatly for the faith, and I will attach a plenary indulgence to the reading of his books. The blessings of the Holy Virgin be with you.


On the Barbary Coast, a fierce group of Ottoman corsairs begin to prey upon the shipping lines in the Mediterranean Sea. They soon become a major threat to the Christian powers in Europe.

1522
The English navy swoops into Edinburgh harbor and destroys every last Scottish ship. Simultaneously, Charles Branden assaults the walls of the city. After days of fierce fighting, the Scots prevail. The British mercenaries are wiped out, and the scattered remains of the British army retreat in shame before the proud Scots.

A French army grows in Milan, gathering around the charismatic leader Charles Bourbon. Tensions mount between France, the Papacy, and the Hapsburgs.

Leo X Pontifex Maximus to Francois Roi de France,

Grace and peace to you. I am slightly offended by the show of arms that Charles Bourbon has made so close to the Holy See. I suggest that Your Majesty makes no further aggressive moves unless he would like to be excommunicated from the true faith and simultaneously come under the wrath of my dear friend, the Holy Roman Emperor. I trust that we can reach a peaceful level of coexistence. We both have much more dangerous enemies elsewhere, and we cannot become entangled in a mutually destructive war...

Fracois Roi de France to Leo X,

Our loyalty to the holy church is, of course, unbounded. As is our friendship with His Royal Highness the Holy Roman Emperor, from whom peace flows in our fortunate land. I will endeavour to ensure that friendship, peace and goodwill between us remain forever intact. The enemy to the east is so worthy of defeat -- and so suddenly defenseless! -- that I can assure all that I will not do anything to distract His Royal Highness the HRE from the current opportunity to drive the infidel from Europe and Christian soil!


The Papal armies invade Florence, laying siege against the city. Even though the Papal force is small, they have the advantage that they have invested heavily in new military technologies. Massive siege artillery is wheeled across Italy from Ravenna to Florence. The Pope chooses not attempt any siege mining, confident in his armies and in his surprise weapon. The artillery breaches the walls of Florence, forcing Florentine capitulation.

Excerpt from the personal correspondence of Leo X
To my dear brother,

Grace and peace! I wish to announce that the Lord has given us a mighty victory at Florence. The Almighty blessed our investments, and the empire of the Vicar of Christ grows. Even now, I am feasting on rich Florentine food and wine... I also am pleased that Francis' forces in Milan chose not to interfere with our holy conquest. However, I fear that the old emnity between us has not yet died...

Leo X, Pontifex Maximus
The Feast of St. John, Anno Domini 1522


Luther's young colleague Philip Melanchthon completes the translation of the New Testament into German. With the Scriptures in the common tongue for the first time, much of western Germany converts to the Lutheran faith. Nevertheless, the Reformation fails to make any inroads in the south. Soon, Luther himself begins to create a translation of the Old Testament.

1523
As spring returns, Ferdinand marches East and reinforces Buda against any further Ottoman aggression. Meanwhile, Charles Bourbon, in an act of deep treachery, marches south to capture an undefended Ravenna from the Papacy. However, the Pope's agents catch wind of this stab, and the conquering army in Florence intercepts the invaders. They meet in battle just outside of Modena. The Battle of Modena would prove to be a turning point in the conflict between France and the Papacy. While losses are heavy on both sides, the French are finally forced to retreat to Milan. Shamed by his defeat, Bourbon soon retires from public life. Meanwhile, the French attempt to besiege Metz but fail miserably. These debacles prove to be a major setback to French ambitions.

Various correspondence from Leo X:
Leo X Bishop of Rome to Charles V Defender of Orthodoxy,

Grace and peace to you. We applaud your ultimatum to the French invaders for its piety and eloquence. We have the good fortune to report to you a narrow victory at Modena. For now, the Holy See is safe, and there are prospects for future peace in Italy. Masses of thanksgiving will be spoken across all the Empire!

Leo X Pontifex Maximus to Francois Roi de France,

Grace to you. We stand now at a crossroads, my unfaithful child. I am willing to be merciful to you and prevent further bloodshed if you will end this pointless aggression. If your armies in Milan no more trouble the holdings of Mother Church, then I will plead with the most exalted Holy Roman Emperor to spare you. If not, then your judgment is sealed.

Leo X Holder of the Keys of St. Peter to Brother Luther

Your heresy has gone unchecked too long. Repent of your evils, or face excommunication from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We do not use the Major Ban lightly, but your spurious doctrines can persist no longer. Now that our affairs in Italy are resolving, know that the full attention of the Curia will now turn to this German affair.


However, soon after his victory, Leo X dies of a fever. Leo's pontificate is remembered primarily for his extravagance and for his victories at the Siege of Florence and the Battle of Modena. The College of Cardinals meets and chooses his replacement--Clement VII. Clement has a much gentler disposition, eschewing worldly conquests and having much greater piety. In his first pontifical address, Clement VII announces that he will actively pursue a resolution to the "monkish quarrels" in Germany.

In the New World, all manner of advancements are made. The Hapsburgs send colonists to the Caribbean, where they establish a settlement which they name Hispaniola. In a stunning act of bravery and perseverance, Narvaez discovers the Amazon River. While his own monarch, Charles V, doubted that he would even find South America, this achievement would be renowned throughout the world, and Narvaez would forever have a place in history. Shortly thereafter, the English explorer Rut discovers the Mississippi River. Not to be overshadowed, the Hapsburgs send a Spanish conquistador named Montejo to South America. He comes into contact with the ancient Inca civilization and conquers them.

1524
The Ottoman war machine recovers from its failures at Buda, moving large armies westward. They fund their newest offensive with heavy loans from the Fuggers family in Augsburg. Francis continues to threaten the Papacy, but in the end he takes no action. Instead, he uses the wealth of art and architecture in Milan to build beautiful chateaux in France. Meanwhile, Henry VIII also attends to domestic concerns. Convinced that Catherine of Aragon will never produce a male heir for the Tudor dynasty, Henry petitions the Pope for an annulment of their marriage. The Papal legate stalls the process for four years before the Pope finally gives an answer.

Clement VII finally takes drastic action against Luther. On the Feast of Candlemas, a Papal bull "Exsurge Domine" is issued, excommunicating Martin Luther and all who would protect him. Having been branded as an outlaw and a heretic, Luther goes into hiding for the next several years. This harsh act creates controversy across the German states. A major debate is called to discuss the matter. Zwingli and Campeggio meet in Kassel to argue about the doctrines of Martin Luther. The two men are very evenly matched, and their hard fought debate is deemed inconclusive. A second debate is called, and this time Cardinal Cajetan and Oekolampadius, a student of Zwingli, are the speakers. The Kassel Disputation is judged a minor victory for the Papacy, even though both sides counted it as a success. Soon, the religious struggle would return to the forefront, as Luther and Melanchthon finish their translation of the Old Testament into German. The publication of the complete Bible in the vernacular effectively cancels the Papacy’s debate victories.

Arise, O LORD, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. -- Psalm 7:6, the opening words of the Papal bull “Exsurge Domine”

Excerpt from the Four Hundred and Four Articles of Johann Eck:
With total confidence in the Holy Spirit, I assert that the articles of Luther concerning this shameful affair condemned by Pope Clement VII were legitimately condemned as heretical, erroneous, and scandalous. I anathematize and condemn them, and I freely declare that all those who agree with the bull are Christian men. But those who oppose the bull are schismatics and are enemies of the faith who should be counted by Catholics as heathens and tax collectors.


1525
The Knights of St. John become a thorn in the side of the Turks. From their base on the island of Rhodes, the Knights raid the Ottoman shipping lines. They give their plunder to the Church as an offering. Pope Clement VII decides to begin a massive building project with these new funds, a basilica in Rome beyond the dimensions of any in Christendom. The foundations of St. Peter's Basilica are laid, but construction is halted soon thereafter.

The Holy Order of the Knights of St. John the Evangelist to the Holy Father in Rome,

Greetings! The Lord has given a mighty gift into our hand. We present to your holiness the wealth of the infidel that it might beautify the city of God. May the Lord Christ open up his treasury of merits upon those who give generously to his bride, the Church…


Frustrated by his losses in the Siege of Edinburgh, Henry VIII changes tactics and offers terms of peace to Scotland. Then, he skillfully arranges a marriage alliance between the two royal families, and a grand wedding is held in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Thus, without any further bloodshed, all of the British Isles are united under one banner.

Meanwhile, Dr. Johann Eck calls for a second debate at Leipzig, since the previous Kassel Disputation had been so inconclusive. All of the German reformers are too busy with other matters, so the defense of their theology falls to Andreas Carlstadt. Carlstadt is not able to deal with the subtleties of Eck's offensive, and he blunders into a carefully laid trap of words. When Carlstadt is driven into a corner, he anathematizes the Pope to the horror of the audience. Imperial soldiers seize him, and he is sentenced to burn at the stake. Unlike Bucer, Carlstadt begs for mercy and renounces all of his false teachings. For this confession, he is given the mercy of burning quickly. Terror sweeps Germany, and many cities return to the Catholic faith.

Excerpted from Johann Eck's closing speech at the Second Leipzig Debate

Listen how my opponent's own words show him for the Schwarmerei that he is. He preaches anarchy and impiety when he condemns the use of images and condones violence in destroying them... Then, he has shown himself to be no true son of the church when he robs the Eucharist of its glory, calling it a mere symbol and no true sacrifice... Finally, you have heard from his own lips the slanderous words against our Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome... My dear hearers, rend your garments and cover yourselves with ashes, for you have heard nothing but unholy blasphemies from this twisted pupil of the heretic Luther. Do not let this outrage continue to plague Christendom...


1526
Finally, the Ottoman Empire can bear the Knights of St. John no longer. An invasion force is sent to Rhodes to expel the Knights and end their plundering. By the end of the year, the Siege of Rhodes is successful. A handful of the defenders escape by sea.

The independent kingdom of Genoa allies with the Hapsburgs, and Andrea Doria becomes the commander of the combined Spanish and Genoan fleet. He begins to make plans for defeating Barbarossa and bringing an end to Ottoman piracy.

The monk Johann Tetzel is dispatched to northern Germany. He publicly burns Luther's writings, denounces the vernacular Bible, displays the Papal bull against Luther in every town, and begins the sale of a new indulgence to support the building of St. Peter's Basilica. He is met with stiff opposition. On the other hand, Suleiman's advance in the east prompts a resurgence of Roman orthodoxy among the German peoples. Somewhat ironically, Pope Clement VII declares him to be the greatest "Defender of the Faith."

With the great economic success of their New World colonies, the Spanish establish another settlement, this time in Cuba. Meanwhile, Ottoman piracy continues, sowing terror along the Barbary Coast and the North African Coast.

The debates continue across Germany. Contarini challenges Oekolampadius to defend some of the remarks that he made in his previous debate with Cajetan. Oekolampadius makes an earnest defense of his beliefs, but the people aren't convinced. The local prince grants Oekolampadius safe-passage, so he escapes the fires that claimed the lives of Bucer and Carlstadt. Nonetheless, it is considered an overwhelming victory for the Papacy.

1527
Fearing further reprisals from the bloodthirsty Pope, a number of German princes form a confederation for mutual defense. This Schmalkaldic League comprises most of northern Germany, including the electorates of Wittenberg, Brandenberg, and Cologne. The first action of the League is to send Philip of Hesse to bring the elector of Mainz into the alliance. When he refuses, the Protestant princes send an army to besiege the electorate of Mainz. Shortly thereafter, the Protestant cause is eloquently defended in Zwingli's famous "Wittenberg Sermon," presented when he was visiting Luther to discuss a unified theological position.

Exerpt from Zwingli's 14-hour long "Wittenberg Sermon"

The infidels are almost at the gates of Vienna. The musselmen corsairs are sweeping across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, kidnapping good Christian women and children. The Ottoman sultan is abducting good Christian children from throughout the Balkans and forcibly converting them to Islam, so they may serve in his armies. And what does this most Christian leader do in response to these threats to Christendom? Threats which have not been seen since Charles Martel defeated the Saracens at Tours over 700 years ago! He attacks that most Christian of towns, Florence. His so called 'Swiss Guard' looting and pillaging Modena. He threatens to excommunicate his most serene majesty Francis I, for having the temerity to try and save the good people of Florence from this most rapacious of 'Shepherds.' He cruelly tortures gentle monks and glorifies in their destruction. Finally, he accuses that most noble of souls, my good friend Martin Luther, of heresy and excommunicates him. And what heresy has Luther committed, why he has tried to spread the word of Jesus to all who will listen by publishing the holy book in German. An activity that should be the primary activity of the Church!

And what of his 'holiness'. He continues to absolve his favourites of sin as if he were God himself. He continues to extort monies from the faithful so that he and his bishops can live a venal life full of luxury and indolence. If Jesus walked into Rome today he would not recognise his church, it has been taken over by the moneylenders and usurers! My allegiance is with Jesus and God--not to this capricious popinjay in Rome.


In response to Zwingli's provocative statements, a debate is called in Nuremberg. Zwingli declines to attend, fearing the inquisitor’s fires, and so he sends his student Oekolampadius. Again, Oekolampadius is bested in a duel of words, this time by the Papal legate Aleander. With the outstanding success of the Papal debater, even Zurich turns against Zwingli.

A number of expeditions are sent to the New World with great success. The Italian explorer Verranzano discovers the St. Lawrence waterway for the French, and Willoughby discovers the Great Lakes for the English. These two powers divide North America between themselves. However, the exploits in South America are far less fruitful. A French conquest of the Aztecs fails with the entire conquering force killed by natives. Then, Hapsburg prospects turn ill-- the colony of Cuba destroyed by disease and starvation. The Spanish vow to resettle and rebuild.

1528
Finally, the Pope can stall no longer on the issue of Henry's marriage. Following a most generous donation to the Holy See, Henry VIII is granted a divorce. His advisor Thomas Cromwell arranges a new marriage for the king with a lady named Anne Boelyn. However, Henry finds Anne repulsive, and many in the king's court are superstitious about her having six fingers on one hand. The marriage is never consummated, and Henry sends Anne away within a matter of months. Cromwell takes the fall for the ill-made match, and he is beheaded soon thereafter for treason.

This is a time of great chaos and uncertainty. Ottoman piracy on the North African Coast continues, leaving a trail of death and plundering. Meanwhile, cloth prices fluctuate erratically across Europe. The English and Dutch benefit greatly from the rising prices. Then, the religious conflict is upset again when Pope Clement VII dies. His reign of terror ends, giving some relief to the Protestants in Germany. He is replaced by Paul III, a shrewd and clever man. However, his pontificate would be greatly troubled.

First, a large French army crosses the Alps, led by Francis himself. This force is largely composed of mercenaries and other unsavory types. The new Pope rails against this aggressive motion. He immediately redirects his own armies northward, and the city of Modena is fortified and garrisoned. This defensive measure effectively shields Florence and Ravenna from the French threat.

Meanwhile, the Lutherans and the Zwinglians discover a great need for a unified theological stance for the Schmalkaldic League. The Marburg Colloquy is organized by Philip of Hesse to bring the leaders of these two factions together. Luther and Zwingli both attend, and they are able to find complete concord on 14 different articles of faith. However, they find themselves completely at odds on the issue of the Lord’s Supper--Luther believes in a “real presence” while Zwingli advocates a symbolic interpretation, supported by his theory of alleosis. Despite this fierce polemical confrontation, Luther and Zwingli are able to draft a mutual confession of faith, the Marburg Articles. This new unity greatly hastens the spread of the Protestant faith.

The Marburg Articles, XV
Regarding the Supper of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, we all believe and maintain that we should make use of both kinds, according to the institution of Christ… Although we have not at this time agreed whether the true body and blood of Christ are bodily in the bread and wine, each side is able to display Christian love to the other (as far as conscience allows). Both sides are praying diligently to Almighty God, that he would confirm us in the right understanding through his Spirit. Amen.


1529
The French mercenary army in Italy--hungry, bored and underpaid--begins to loot the countryside. Francis loses control of his forces, who move southward, leaving destruction in their wake. They bypass Modena and Florence, but Rome is not spared. The city had been left ungarrisoned because all the armies had been moved northward to defend against French advances. Pope Paul III hides in the Castel Sant’Angelo while French mercenaries rape and pillage for 8 days. Even the foundations of St. Peter’s Basilica are destroyed. This unfortunate event stalls the Papacy for some time. The Pope accuses Francis of intentionally “losing control” of his mercenaries. Later investigations show that Ottoman agents had also been involved in this conspiracy.

In the New World, the attitude was far more optimistic. The Spanish reestablish their colony in Cuba, and the English send their first settlers to the Americas. A colony is established at Roanoke Island.

Swiss mercenaries join Phillip of Hesse, as he assaults the electorate city of Mainz. The city falls after months of sporadic fighting. Newly liberated, the people of Mainz are finally able to freely practice their religion, and the city becomes a new center for Protestantism.

1530
The new year dawns with another debate called by the Papacy. Paul III believes that perhaps unity can be reached yet between the Roman Catholic Church and these dissenters. He sends his trusted theologian Johann Eck to meet in Leipzig with Oekolampadius. At first, the meeting seems quite cordial. Eck is able to accept several of the Marburg Articles, and it seems that the schism in the church may yet be healed. However, on the issue of Papal authority and infallibility, Oekolampadius is unable to comply. The argument becomes more and more heated, and eventually it turns to personal attacks. Any hope of concord is lost. Eck is hailed a victor once again, and several Protestant cities choose to return to the Catholic fold.

Excerpt from Oekolampadius’ second rebuttal:

Dr. Eck! Dr. Eck! It should be Dreck, for your entire theology is nothing but a seething pile of dreck. Woe to you, O vile lapdog of a false Pope!


Henry VIII decides to marry again. This time, he chooses his own bride, the beautiful and flirtatious Jane Seymour. However, Jane is caught cavorting with many of the young men in the court, and Henry is furious. He has his wife locked up in the Tower of London, and two weeks later she is beheaded.

Having devastated Rome, the French mercenaries rejoin Francis, and they return across the Alps, intending to winter in Paris. However, this does little to mollify the Pope’s wrath. He issues a Papal bull, excommunicating Francis. This creates turmoil throughout France, and many pious Catholics rebels against their monarch. Riots abound, especially in Avignon and St. Dizier, which fall into complete anarchy. French rule is not restored to these areas for a decade.

Meanwhile, the Reformation makes inroads in England. A series of debates are called in which William Tyndale is called upon to defend his faith. After heated exchanges with first Campeggio and then Contarini, Tyndale fails to gain any favor from the British people. However, he soon returns to the public scene with a translation of the New Testament into English. The Scots are the first to embrace this new translation, as well as the Protestant faith. Soon, many of the great seaports of England are also awash with Protestant sentiment brought on by Tyndale’s work.

1531
Andrea Doria and the combined Spanish-Genoan fleet sortie, intent on ending the terror caused by Barbarossa’s corsairs. Finally, they meet in battle just off the Barbary Coast. There is a pitched battle that lasts all the day and most of the night. A third of the Hapsburg ships are sunk, and over half of the Ottoman squadrons receive the same fate. Finally, Barbarossa is forced to retreat into the port of Algiers. Doria pursues, but his fleet is smashed in the second confrontation. Finally, he regroups and reengages the corsairs, and this time the entire Ottoman fleet is sunk. The Duke of Alva leads a small army against the remnants of the Turkish force garrisoning Algiers. After a brief siege, the city falls to the Hapsburgs. This victory effectively ends the Ottoman threat in the Mediterranean.

Henry VIII soon marries for the fourth time, and Anne of Cleves is chosen as his new bride. Sadly, Anne is barren, but she is a loving stepmother to Princess Mary. Henry VIII gives up on ever producing a male heir, and he even learns to love Anne.

In the New World, failure and frustration plague the European powers. Both the French explorer Cartier and his Spanish counterpart De Soto fail to discover anything. These unsuccessful expeditions are nothing more than an economic burden. Charles V then sends one of his most trusted conquistadors, Cordova, to seek out and conquer some of the indigenous tribes in the Americas. However, he returns in shame, having lost most of his men in battle with the Aztecs.

1532
Francis has a sudden moment of piety and begs Pope Paul III for forgiveness. Most likely, Francis’ willingness to end the conflict between France and the Papacy stems from his fears that the Hapsburgs are becoming dangerously powerful. Considering the balance of power in Europe and the religious struggles at hand, Paul III grants forgiveness and restoration to Francis in return for treaties of peace in Italy. Francis also takes out heavy loans from the Fuggers family, in order to prepare for the wars to come.

From the private journal of Pope Paul III

…how does one forgive so perfidious an enemy as Francis? Certainly, I have opportunity to land a grievous blow against this vile monarch: the Milanese have sent secret envoys to the Papal Curia, begging for support in a rebellion against their French oppressors…

However, I believe that I fear Charles even more. His wealth and power have become overwhelming. He calls himself the truest friend of the Church, but he has failed to come to the aid of his Holy Father when it was so desperately needed…

Yes, I will make peace with France that they may be the iron rod that smites the Spanish. Then, when they both have become thoroughly mired in this conflict, I will proceed to support the Milanese rebellion--and then take control of Milan myself. In the meantime, I will wait and gather my power.


The remnants of the Knights of St. John regroup and establish a new fortress at Taranto. From there, they resume their activities of preying upon Ottoman shipping.

This year is a glorious one for the advancement of science and other learning. The French crown supports the work of Copernicus, who proposes his heliocentric theory. Meanwhile, the Papacy promotes the medical discoveries of Michael Servetus, in spite of his radical beliefs. When Jean Calvin denounces Servetus, the world begins to think of the Protestants as backwards and ignorant, as opposed to the far more enlightened Pope.

Meanwhile, the German peasants, upon hearing Luther and Zwingli preach about the priesthood of all believers, are inspired to revolt against their oppressive lords. The Peasants’ War would become one of the most tragic events in this time period. Tens of thousands die, and great atrocities are committed on both sides. To make matters worse, Luther denounces the evil deeds of the peasants, and Zwingli makes provocative statements about the nobles. The reformers effectively ostracize themselves, and all their efforts are stymied by widespread unrest.

1533
Upon hearing of the revolts in Germany, the Irish are also inspired to rise up against their unjust masters. From Dublin to Galway, the Irish band together into makeshift armies bent on expelling the English. Charles V becomes sympathetic to the plight of the Irish, and he sends a small army to assist in the revolt. This quickly sours relations between Henry VIII and Charles V. The English immediately declare war on the Hapsburgs and send an invasion force into the Low Countries. Antwerp is placed under siege. Moreover, Francis I leads an army across the Pyrenees. Believing that the empire of Charles V has grown too large too quickly, the French besiege Navarre.

Meanwhile, Henry sends Branden to crush the Irish revolt. In just a matter of weeks, Charles Branden soundly defeats the ragtag Irish army and their Hapsburg allies. He rounds up the leaders of the rebellion and cruelly executes them. Ireland is put under even heavier oppression than they had known before.

In London, Thomas Cranmer arises as a leader of the Protestants, and he convinces Henry VIII to accept more and more reforms. The Papacy immediately excommunicates Cranmer for heresy. Henry decides to cooperate, but Cranmer goes into hiding before he can be brought to justice. This prompts a debate in London between Cranmer’s colleague Latimer and the Papal representative, Campeggio. Latimer lashes out against the Papacy for its heavy-handed treatment of Cranmer. Campeggio seizes upon this and quickly sways opinion to say that Latimer himself is a dangerous heretic. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Henry VIII burns Latimer at the stake to appease the Papacy. This reverses the progress that the Reformation had been making in England.

In Germany, the Protestant princes finally manage to clean up the aftermath of the Peasants’ War as best as they can. Order is restored in many areas. However, armed conflict and unrest continue for many more years in the area of Innsbruck.

1534
Charles V leaves his subordinates in charge of the wars against England and France, and he goes to personally lead the defense of Buda. Suleiman’s army has grown massive, and Charles greatly fears the wrath of the Turks. However, in Charles’ absence, the Hapsburg armies suffer numerous defeats in the West. Unsantiary conditions in Antwerp cause widespread disease and death, allowing the English to easily conquer the Low Countries. Meanwhile, the French successfully capture Navarre, stealing a major economic center away from the Spanish.

A hymn by Martin Luther:
Lord, keep us steadfast in thy Word,
And curb the Turks’ and Papists’ sword,
Who Jesus Christ thine only Son,
Fain would tumble from off thy throne.


In England, another debate is called. The ever-active debater Eck is chosen as the Papal representative against Coverdale. The Pope hopes to reveal Coverdale as a dangerous schismatic, as well, and then continue the burning of heretics. However, Coverdale is a much more subtle man than Latimer, and he is able to escape with his life. Eck is named as the victor once more, and his convincing arguments effectively end Reformed sentiment in England. However, the story is far different in France. A translation of the New Testament into French begins to circulate underground, and the Reformation in France builds strength. Central France, from Tours to Grenoble, embraces the teachings of Jean Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli.

1535
Tetzel is sent for a second time into Germany to burn books and sell indulgences. This time he convinces the battleground city of Leipzig to return once again to the Catholic faith. Meanwhile, the last Protestants in Scotland are rounded up and killed. The British Isles become completely Catholic again, and the Reformation never revives there.

In other developments, the Spanish colonists establish plantations, greatly increasing the wealth of their New World holdings. Meanwhile, Francis continues to build spectacular chateaux. However, trouble comes when the mercenaries in Francis’ employ demand all of the wages that the crown owes them. In order to maintain his army, Francis empties the French treasury.

Tiring of the standoff for Buda, Suleiman bypasses the Hapsburg defenses. His Ottoman hordes besiege Vienna and force a Hapsburg response. Charles V wants to personally lead his army to cut off the Ottoman supply lines, but he is forced to stay in Buda with a terrible case of gout. Instead, Ferdinand leads a smaller force to cut off the Turks at Mohacs. Suleiman immediately abandons his siege and turns to destroy Ferdinand’s army with his far superior force. However, terrible autumn rains hold back Suleiman’s advance, and winter strikes before the Ottomans can. Nonetheless, Ferdinand blunders and fails to make the Turks pay for their ill fortune. Suleiman’s army returns safely to Istanbul before the worst of winter arrives.

The European powers become obsessed with the prospect of circumnavigating the globe. The potential wealth of establishing new trades routes with the Far East prompts two expeditions. Chancellor sets out for England, and he has the advantage of a new map--Mercator's projection of the world. Simultaneously, the French dispatch Cartier, in spite of his previous failures. The Hapsburgs decline to attempt the feat, calling it folly. Instead, they send Pizarro to conquer more of South America, but he is killed by natives. Meanwhile, the world waits to see if either Cartier or Chancellor will return. Finally, it is Jacques Cartier who arrives, having successfully circled the globe and returning with the bounteous riches of the East. This event is considered the decisive moment in the 16th century. The Valois dynasty of France becomes the wealthiest and most powerful in all of Europe.

The Aftermath
Suleiman’s defeat in Hungary weighs heavily on his heart. He sues for peace and never leads his armies into Europe again. In 1537, he is assassinated by his rivals. His reign would prove to be the zenith of Ottoman imperialism. Turkey is reduced to a minor power with no further prospects for growth and no respect among the other nations. Less than a century later, the Ottoman Empire collapses into anarchy and eventually is broken into various minor states.

The Protestant Reformation is stillborn. After Martin Luther dies in 1545, they are left leaderless and scattered against increasingly powerful Catholic opposition. Pockets of Lutheranism and Calvinism persist in Germany, Switzerland, and France for many years, but eventually most of these are eradicated. A handful of Lutherans flee persecution and sail to the New World, where they are able to safely practice their religion. This sect remains until the present day.

England fails to raise its status on the world stage. They remain a small, backwater power with a thoroughly superstitious Catholic population. Moreover, Henry VIII never fathers a male heir, and his throne passes to Mary I after his death. Mary is a weak ruler, and she allows England to be dominated by the Hapsburgs and the French politically. When she dies without an heir, the crown then goes to Mary, Queen of Scots. She rules with an iron fist, for which she is infamously remembered as Bloody Mary.

Charles V suffers grievous defeats at the hands of the French and English, and he finally sues for peace. While this curbs his ambitions, the great wealth of the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish holdings in the New World help Charles to retain an important place in European politics. Moreover, his decisive victory over the Turks allows the Hapsburg empire to consolidate its power and finally crush the Protestant princes. However, when Charles V abdicates in 1555, the empire he leaves behind slowly erodes and weakens.

The Papacy realizes that it can no longer stand up to the immense economic and military might of France. Paul III shrewdly abandons his designs on Milan and signs a long-term peace treaty with the French. However, he continues to undermine and oppose Francis in the political realm, maintaining the balance of power to some degree. Pope Paul III dies in 1540 at the apex of his influence. He is remembered for the fervor with which he stomped out the Protestant heresy, building his empire on the charred bones of heretics. His successors, Julius III and Paul IV, are highly competent and continue to expand Papal power.

Francis I of France becomes the most powerful and enlightened monarch of his era. The latter years of his reign are known as the most peaceful that Europe has even known. He builds a dynasty that would dominate European politics for three centuries. Most of the Americas become French colonies, and French becomes the language of international trade.

- - - - - - - - - -
This game was a playtest done by e-mail over the course of five months. It was very close, and if the game had gone one or two more turns, any of the top four powers had a good chance of victory. We had an immensely fun time roleplaying it, and several of the segments above are direct quotes from the various players. We used a slightly older ruleset (version 0.6), but there aren’t very many differences from the final version. I have taken a small amount of artistic liberty with the details, mostly adjusting the order of events to fit into a neater timeline. If you enjoyed this little 16 page labor of love, I would be glad to accept tips of GeekGold. I’m trying to get a GeekBadge. Thanks!

Final score:
France (Robin Griller): 26 VP
---8 keys (all home keys, Milan, Metz, Navarre)
---3 discoveries (St. Lawrence, Pacific Strait, Circumnavigation)
---3 chateaux
---Copernicus
Papacy (Paul Elliott): 20 VP
---3 keys (both home keys and Florence)
---22 Protestant spaces allowed
---3 heretics burned (Bucer, Carlstadt, and Latimer)
---Michael Servetus
---Not enough progress on St. Peter’s
Hapsburgs (Brian Conlon): 17 VP
---10 keys (5 of his home keys, Algiers, Tunis, Buda, Prague, Genoa)
---2 electorates (Trier and Augsburg)
---1 discovery (Amazon River)
---1 conquest (Inca)
England (Ed Beach): 15 VP
---6 keys (all home keys, Edinburgh, Antwerp)
---2 discoveries (Mississippi River, Great Lakes)
---No heir, no Protestant spaces in England
Protestants (Steven Nixon): 14 VP
---22 Protestant spaces
---4 electorates (Wittenberg, Brandenburg, Cologne, Mainz)
---Complete Bible in German
Ottomans (Paul Nied): 14 VP
---5 keys (all home keys, Belgrade)
---2 successful piracy attempts
---2 for winning war against Hungary
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Brad Miller
United States
Seattle
Washington
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Fabulous piece of work. I'm in a PBEM game now, and while we are just starting, this SR really fleshes out the feel of the game.
 
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Brian Conlon
United States
Danbury
Connecticut
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A wonderful recreation of our game!
 
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Benjamin Hamdorf
Germany
Bonn
NRW
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I'm stunned. Just .. stunned.

Looks like I need to play with you, Paul, so that my deeds can become immortalised too.

Ben
 
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Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
London
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Great work, mmm I want to play this now!meeple
 
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Christian Letourneau
Canada
St-Lambert
Quebec
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Wow.

Christian
 
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robin goblin
Canada
Toronto
Ontario
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I am awed that Paul would honour my victory with such an impressive monument!

Thanks for telling a great story, Paul! The funny thing is that through much of the middle of the story, my Kingdom of France vanishes only to reappear with a flourish toward the end of the game!

robin
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