TURN 5: The War-Clouds Gather
We declare war on Allias (this takes effect at turn end for all characters except Evil ones, whose foul nature enables them to do it at turn start and attack at once). Being virtuous as the driven snow, I can't do this, but I can manoeuvre to prepare for a quick strike next turn. I am in touch with various neutrals who possibly pass on gossip to Allias: I tell them all I am being reluctantly dragged into war, sigh, and hope to make a mere token pinprick or two. It depends how big the pin is, eh?
My leaders train furiously, and move the main armies up towards the front: Migfox passes the naval force to Robin, whose Nav-1 skill makes him a better bet. Rolando drops the legions at the frontier to be picked up by Migfox (Tactics-2) next turn. Robin sails west and finds lots more sea. Rainulf and Marlboro spy and explore their way through Allias's territory, succeeding in stealing an invention: the screw ('The Screw helps your woodworking industry, and raises your revenue by +3%.'). And Dracona sails east, poised South-East of Allias's capital Mabrouk.
Eric Kelsey drops out, to be replaced by Rich Eisenman - another expert player, cringe. My main armies and my most important leaders, are South-West of the enemy (jungle) provinces of Ahdogast and Kisangani which lead to his capital, the desert province of Mabrouk. Milo's Crossroads is held by ally Stile. My spy reports show Allias recruiting defensive garrisons, so I expect him to have large forces with DEFEND orders: these will react to fight incursions.
The legions (with March-3 leader Migfox) will be able to march to Ahdogast (they can go 2 provinces, plus 1 for the March-3, minus one for the time it takes to conquer a province), but if all these manoeuvres boost Migfox to March-4 he'll be able to take them an extra province onwards. The chariots can definitely move an extra province.
TURN 6: War!
Everyone leaps into frenzied action as war blazes along the Allias frontier. Lallipugh casts an Oratory spell on Eden, enabling him to raise the standard of his troops with an impassioned speech; meanwhile, he hands Lallipugh the phalanx to avoid slowing down the chariots. Migfox races up to Khurum, and gather the legion army while Eden brings up the chariots. Together, they roll into Ahdogast, which proves undefended (income 1, yawn), and then Eden takes Javir (income 1, double yawn) while Migfox, who has indeed moved up to March-4, assaults Kisangani. As expected, Allias is waiting with defend orders, and two armies under Adele and Thrym, two of Allias's heroes, react into Kisngani to give battle. Here's the report.
The armies were drawn up into lines of battle as shown here:
I led a host of loyal soldiers into the battle. Adele (#83) led her armies into the battle. Standing at the ready with his warriors was Thrym (#59). My luck didn't hold up this time. My superstitious men became unsettled when my priests were unable to properly sacrifice a bull to the gods because they had all been slain by gryphons. On the other hand I maneuvered my forces against Thrym with excellent tactical judgement and consequently obtained a tremendous tactical superiority.
Out on the left outside flank, the Veteran 53rd Legion sang out their fiery battle hymns, infused with a spirit of fanatical fury by their exalted King. They faced the 232nd Garrison. The 53rd Legion fought the 232nd Garrison and advanced almost at will.
In the interior front, the Veteran 145th Legion sang their fiery battle hymns, inspired with a holy, fanatical elan by their exalted King. They were arrayed against the Green 94th Legion. The 145th Legion battled with the 94th Legion and overcame them with their thundering charge.
Out on the right outside flank, the Veteran 51st Legion faced the 231st Garrison. On this battleground, the 51st Legion immediately turned to flight when they contacted their enemy. But it soon became apparent that the retreat was a trick to lure their enemy into overextending himself. The 51st Legion battled the 231st Garrison and drove them back.
The host of Migfox finally broke the army of Allias (#3)'s morale with one last, great push. The 53rd Legion scattered the 232nd Garrison in all directions. The 145th Legion slew the 94th Legion almost to a man. The 51st Legion demolished the 231st Garrison.
My host concluded the campaign victoriously and conquered the province of Kisangani. The battle affected the quality of our forces: the 51st Legion proved its valor during the battle and we now rank it a Crack unit. Adele (#83) made for Hoosia with her motley army. Thrym (#59) retreated with his command to Mabrouk.
Very satisfying! While all this has been happening, Dracona slips up the back entrance to Mabrouk: first the Kodiak Sea, then the Io Sea fall without resistance. Dracona pauses to fling a plague spell at Mabrouk, killing a defending legion, and yet another reaction force sails out: Teleko with two dragon armies and a legion. Dragons are weak in battle unless they have a druid-4 leader to coordinate them in dragonish (whereupon they become fearsome indeed), so obviously they are being used by Teleko here for transport: he thought he had two legions until one came out in spots just now. Dracona's naval marines and phalanx repel the assault and sends Teleko fleeing back to Mabrouk with his dragons: the legion dies.
In the dying days of the turn, Dracona finally assaults Mabrouk, and finds that only the two dragons under Teleko are left: these now benefit from being in the capital province, however, and in vicious fighting they hold the line and finally shatter Dracona's force: she flees back to sea, frightened and alone. I'm impressed by Allias's defence in depth: three defending armies proved just enough to save the capital, although my intelligence report shows that his main force was engaging Stile further west. Gus Smedstad (Allias) is a really experienced player and is going to be very hard to beat, but Mabrouk is now hanging on a thread.
The other heroes potter around exploring and spying: the Dryad continues her unbroken record of charming every man she meets (would heroine Dracona be more resistant?), but Lallipugh chats up a Genie in Sherwood, who is willing to provide a Huge Hoard of Gold if we can supply material for a book he is writing on the jungles of the world. This task requires us to visit every jungle province on the planet: we tell the Genie not to hold his breath.
Trading with other players produces two more inventions: a Sextant from Stile (+1 in naval skill all round) and Hidden Tattoos from Samuel (Martin Horn, a peaceful-seeming player who Dracona found SE of Allias): these defend all our heroes against the necromantic Kill Enemy spell, which requires the necromancer to construct a perfect voodoo doll - if he can't see the tattoos, he can't get the doll right!
We're now back up to 77% of the leading Emperor candidate, and if we can get Mabrouk and Hoosia (another rich province) we should charge into the lead. Mabrouk looks an almost sure thing, as Migfox's Crack and Veteran legions should make short work of the dragons and any scratch militia who Allias can dredge up at the start of the turn. The problem is whether to try for Hoosia too, and risk a major defeat opening Mabrouk to recapture.
TURN 7: Catastrophe Strikes
DISASTER! My two main armies move into Hoosia (tax 9, yummy), but then a typo in my orders sends Eden's force veering off to attack the valueless desert of Al Kufrah, leaving Migfox alone to take the Allias capital, Mabrouk. Each is defeated in detail by Allias's neatly-organized armies on Defend orders: a Defending unit will react to fight any invading force which it thinks it can handle, a nice touch in this game. By the end of the turn, my invasion has been virtually pulverised, and Robin's expedition was defeated by a non-player force to the west, leaving me practically shorn of armies.
The only consolation is that Hoosia and a couple of minor provinces behind Alliass lines are still held by me, which will delay him a turn in mopping up before he can drive south in vengeance.
However, a note from Rich Eisenman, now playing Tantalus to Allias's north, confesses that he and Allias are both Pagan and bent on conquest in alliance. 'My armies are very numerous and Allias's are very strong, so I think you'd have lost Mabrouk again soon anyway', he adds (perhaps, though the impact on Allias's income would have probably left his armies underpaid and prone to desertions).
This is the sort of moment which all PBMers know, when the Grand Plan has fallen apart, the enemy is at the gates, one's allies are politely sympathetic but not rushing to help, in short, when the thought 'Shall I drop out?' slinks unasked into the nether regions of ones mind. But I try never to drop out of closed-ended games, partly out of cussedness and partly to discourage attackers: once it's known that a good hard push will send you out of the game, you can expect lots of pushes in future. Let's see what we can rescue from the debris.
First priority is to give the pagans something else to think about. I'm now corresponding regularly with Stile (John Moe), Samuel (Marty Horn) and Yerbouti (Kurt Wicklund): I'm good, they're good, neutral and druid respectively, on the following scale:
Good >> Druid >> Neutral >> Pagan >> Evil
The closer you are to the alignment of the emperor in Adventurer Kings, the less your score is penalized: you lose 12-20% for each step away from the emperor. Thus I can rely on Stile and Yerbouti to view a Pagan win without enthusiasm, but Samuel might prefer it to a Good win. However, I know he's trying for the Archmage office, which requires having more magic skill than anyone else, and am able to tell him truthfully that Tantalus has said he's going for this too; an argument of sorts for fighting Tantalus.
I lobby all of them furiously, and Stile and Samuel promise to break with the pagans (Stile is already at war with them) and send invasion forces to the enemy flanks. Stile comments that he's also under attack from Gordon Monson (Glenda, another Good player).
Time for some high-level diplomacy. I write to all of them including Glenda, calling for a Noble Alliance of good-to-neutral powers against the pagan menace: Glenda should stop attacking Stile and rally round the holy cause, I urge. I note that we probably have 55% of the worlds tax base, enough to force an election for emperor, and offer to support whoever has the richest total area. I reckon I may be lucky: like many top-level players, Tantalus and Allias are in numerous games, and tend not to have time for elaborate diplomatic schemes: a wavering neutral can often be won over by the first player to offer a systematic alliance described in copious detail. My Noble Alliance letter accordingly rolls on at luxurious length, proposing cooperation in military campaigns, research, training, information, objective sharing, etc. etc.
Meanwhile, my characters drop their remaining demoralized troops (there is no point in fighting losing battles in this game: it just gives the enemy combat training), leap onto their horses, and gallop furiously south for home terrain to raise new forces: thanks to the disappearing armies, I am quite rich and able to pay for heavy-duty recruitment. Soon my heroes are doing a Paul Revere simulation, racing from province to province, raising army after army to fight the approaching foe. Ride! Ride!