It seems like every few months I get the urge to go back to Crusader Kings. So far we’ve had Ethiopian Jews building a new Israel in The Promised Land RELOADED, and Viking warriors taking over most of Europe in How Do I Vike. A bunch of the comments mentioned doing a Roman Empire playthrough, which I’ve read a few of but never actually done myself. So let’s try it!
Caveats! I play CKII in a somewhat suboptimal way for roleplaying and amusement, so if you’re hardcore I apologize if it frustrates you. CKII touches on various real-world religions and topics, so please don’t take too literally any comments about burning heretics and so on. Lastly, as a logistical note, my plan is to post these every Wednesday, so check back weekly!
As usual, this is a game where we set our own goals. This time that’s pretty easy — I want to reestablish the Roman Empire! That involves being a Christian Byzantine Emperor and taking over some old Roman territory, which is a pretty tall order. If we get past that, we can try to reclaim the old borders of the Roman Empire, which is most of Western Europe and Britain. Yikes. Well, you gotta have dreams!
Here’s the world of 769 AD. The most notable feature, from the Byzantine point of view, is the huge Abbasid empire that dominates the Islamic world. That could be a serious problem in relatively short order.
To found our hopefully mighty dynasty we have Strategos Taxiarches Katakylas of Nikea. Side note: I think it’s a rule that almost all Byzantine names and titles work as Pokemon. “Taxiarches, I choose you!”
Anyway, Taxiarches is an excellent warrior and a mediocre administrator, while being absolutely crap at diplomacy. He’s zealous, greedy, chaste, and gluttonous. Chaste isn’t a great trait for a dynasty founder, and may explain why he’s unmarried with no children at age 31. Fortunately, now I’m in charge, and we can fix that!
Step one: acquire wife. I find one with good stewardship to make up for my deficiency in that area. She’s not super fond of me but I don’t see how that’s relevant. (Note: Unlike in my viking game, I’m not played in a gender-neutral world, since it would make my political conquest of the Byzantine Empire considerably more complicated.) Anastasia, welcome to Nikea!
Step two: choose the “Groom an Heir” ambition and the “Family” lifestyle, both of which provide fertility bonuses, for Maximum Sexytimes.
Step three: profit! (Stealing underwear may have been in there somewhere, too.)
With that underway, we can get back to politics. Here is Nikea, in bold, aggressive pink, just across the Sea of Marmara from Constantinople.
Thankfully, unlike in my viking game, we are not stuck with God-damned gavelkind inheritance. It’s good old-fashion Agnatic-Cognatic Primogeniture for us! (This is standard-issue Game of Thrones inheritance: the oldest son inherits, with women eligible only if there are no males in the direct line. So the succession runs Robb-Bran-Rickon-Sansa-Arya.)
Unfortunately, we have another problem. While I have a duke-level title and four counties, I am not technically a Duke. Instead I am a Strategos. This is more like an administrator, appointed by the Emperor, and the title will revert to him on my death. This is obviously less than ideal. So my first goal try and build up a power base during Taxiarches’ lifetime that he can pass on to his children. That means a) holding as many counties as possible personally, rather than through vassals, and b) trying to get myself a “real” duchy in my own right rather than one granted by the Emperor. The latter means taking some territory and creating it myself, probably.
First, though, we’ve got to get ourselves a quack. Always need one of those.
The Basileus (Emperor) is quick off the block, declaring a holy war immediately. I cautiously raise some troops to try and get in on the looting.
This goes wrong immediately as my vassals rebel, demanding more power. Fucking vassals.
Unfortunately, they get the better of me, and I don’t have money for mercenaries. Fine you guys can have bathroom breaks, I guess.
Drakokephalos is a pretty awesome name though. Means “Dragon Cove” maybe?
My liege apparently appreciates my efforts, though. He names me to his council and then offers me a favor in exchange for my vote. A favor on your liege is pretty valuable, so I’m happy about this.
The only thing Taxiarches the Fat loves more than war is shopping!
Anything that divides the Muslim world is good for us here in Byzantium.
My wife manages to produce a suitably male offspring on her second try. Now we’re getting somewhere dynasty-wise.
The only thing Taxiarches the Fat likes better than shopping is drinking in front of his council until he passes out!
The Emperor has an unmarried daughter, who will inherit at least a weak claim on the whole Empire. Normally she wouldn’t marry someone as lowly as my son, but I nudge the Emperor in the ribs and say, “Hey, you owe me one, remember?” So the infant Konstantinos is betrothed to an Imperial princess.
Unfortunately for Nikephoros, I am not yet prepared to delve into the dark arts.
Also my “rival” is just the dude who saw me drunk, so I don’t really need to turn to black magic to get rid of him.
The Emperor is mad at the Jews. This happens a lot, honestly. The Jews probably just have vacation homes somewhere nice.
At least one of them is coming to be my replacement quack, so they can’t be THAT banished.
Who’s up for a nice game of tyzkanter … tzykantr … horse-net-goal!
To get things started expansion-wise, I recruit an awesome diplomat and make him Magistros, then set him to forging claims against some exterior neighbors. The Emperor intermittently enforces a no-internal-wars policy, unfortunately, at least when he’s strong.
Soon enough this pays off, and I can go steal some land from the Armenians!
Fortunately, they are quite weak and I easily win, getting a second country under my personal rule. My Magistros goes to work forging more claims.
For my next trick, I start picking on my own nobles. In order to revoke their titles without everybody hating me, I have my spymaster gin up some accusations and then call them out. This is good because a) they’ve already revolted against me, so screw them, and b) when Taxiarches dies, his son won’t be Strategos, so if I want to hold on to Nikea I need to own it personally.
Orthodoxy and Iconoclasm continue to war for the soul of the Empire. My official position is “whichever the Emperor wants” since I don’t want to get excommunicated.
That is one good looking apostle! Honestly, I just need stewardship, since I’m going to have to hold a lot of land personally before we’re done.
Things are looking good, though! My clever spymaster has let me accuse yet another noble of treachery and seize his land, giving me three of four Nikean counties. Meanwhile, my magistros has forged claims to two more counties in Cilicia, so I can take them off the Addauids!
And Konstantinos is turning out pretty well. Everything’s coming up Katakylas!
The war drags on a long time and some of my vassals are pissed off at me, but otherwise it’s going okay.
“Come on back, Jews! The Emperor definitely won’t repeat this cycle once or twice a generation!”
Victory! I now hold three out of five counties in the Duchy of Cilicia, which is enough to usurp it from its current holder. Unfortunately, I can’t do that while the current holder is at war, and he’s at war with like four different people. So we’ll wait.
Meanwhile, Konstantinos turned out great, and married the Princess Anthousa as promised! Now I need them to breed, which means their descendants will inherit their mother’s claim on the Empire, which I can use to take over when the Emperor is weak.
Which actually happens quite a lot. Two simultaneous revolts break out, and I try to stay out of the line of fire.
I’m not sure if it’s because there’s a teenaged girl as Basilissa, or because she’s engaged to her uncle.
Taxiarches suffers the consequences of his gluttonous lifestyle.
Ahh, the old rat-cure! Not so good actually.
Let’s stick with the flatulent goat. That’s much safer.
Konstantios is ready to take over the throne! He’s a spectacular administrator, though not much of a warrior. And his wife is pregnant!
Well, shit. No sooner am I exulting than Konstantinos dies of consumption. The rest of the court, including his pregnant wife, are secluded from the illness but starving to death. Prepare the emergency backup son!
Well, she managed to have the baby, also named Taxiarches, before also dying of consumption. I quickly bring the infant to my court.
However, Cilicia is finally at peace, which means I can usurp it! Now I’ve got a Duke-level title (Doux) that won’t disappear with my death, ensuring my successors can retain their vassals.
Taxiarches is getting old, and the land is ravaged by smallpox AND consumption. He has his grandson, his emergency backup son, and some daughters.
For the moment, anyway. Plagues, man!
On the plus side, as Doux of Cilicia, I have de jure claims against the two remaining counties, and the new, weaker Emperor doesn’t mind me attacking my neighbors. So I start a war to get them to pay proper tribute.
Well that’s … certainly a thing, that happened.
Sadly, before I can finish the war, gout catches up to Taxiarches. Still, not a bad career at all — from one personal county to six, and claiming a duchy to serve as a power base.
Taxiarches II, I choose you!
Unfortunately Taxiarches II is only two years old. So we’ve got a long regency to look forward to …
Current Year: 795 AD
Current Status: Toilet-Training