With Strange Aeons: The Stars Are Right (An Aquitanian Apocalypse AAR)

Author: Discix
Published: 2018-08-23, edited: 2018-08-23
The second entry in the ongoing 'With Strange Aeons' AAR, in which the Roman Empire struggles for survival amidst the unending tide of the undead (courteously supplied by the 'Aquitanian Apocalypse' mod, a combination of HtA and Apocalypse 1836).

This one has a fair bit more action and less exposition than the previous chapter, as we see the Roman military junta take the reigns and bring the fight to the zombos by reinforcing the Danubian border...to mixed results.

Part of the campaign:

With Strange Aeons

Previous part:

Game: Victoria 2

With Strange Aeons: Rome vs. The Evil Dead (An Aquitanian Apocalypse AAR)

Images: 31, author: Discix, published: 2018-08-23, edited: 1970-01-01

Hello and welcome back to our little foray into 'Aquitanian Apocalypse', a Victoria II alt-history mod combined with a healthy dose of the living dead. Thus far, Europe (and the rest of the world) has been plunged into chaos with the arrival of a terrible plague that causes the dead to rise- while Roman authorities have been successful in controlling the initial outbreak, the greater bulk of the hordes have only just arrived on the banks of the Danube...
It is the 7347th year of creation, and tensions run high as a reports stream in detailing the complete overrun of the various Balkan states by the restless dead.
Roman military foresight has seen to the fortification of the Danubian frontier, but the worrying size of the inbound hordes has spurred the new military government to requisition even more men for the border.
All across Hellas and the federated client territories of the Vlachs, Bulgars, and Arben, additional professional regiments were raised and equipped with the new caplock firearms imported from Britannia.
Further to the east, a general recruitment drive was initiated in the urbanized imperial heartlands, hoping to capitalize on the storied martial legacy of the Opsikian and Thracian Thematic regiments.
Unsatisfied with the meager enlistment rates from the preliminary reports, the Megas Domestikos, acting head of government in the Roman military junta, instituted an empire-wide mandatory conscription for all men of working age.
The order was not taken well by the masses, who were already in the midst of civil unrest and terrified of the prospect of facing the living dead. Anarchy reigned in the streets of the Empire's cities, and those who resisted the draft faced summary execution.
Less than a week after the general draft was ordered, news came in reporting that the hordes in Montenegro had advanced days sooner than planned, and the undead remnants of the free Serb armies would be entering the Dardanian provinces imminently.
To preserve border integrity, Roman High Command dispatched members of the Hemia Guard, an elite group and veterans of the bloody Anatolian Wars, to serve as first response. Accompanied by Orthodox clergymen, the guard's march was met with much pomp and circumstance which boosted the morale of the frightened Dardanian citizens- albeit at the cost of some time, time which the Empire could ill afford to lose.
On the 2nd of Δεκέμβριος, in the 7347th year of Creation, the first great battle on Roman soil between the Living and the Dead occurred. Leonidas Papadiamantopoulos, acting Strategos of the Moesian Theme, combined his field army with the Dunonian garrison to repel the horde, which sought to ford the river near the city of Dunonia/Vidin.
Though Papadiamantopoulos was much derided for his slovenly nature and philandering, none could doubt the man's resolve. His stalwart defense from the West Bank of the river saw the city proper spared the worst of the fighting, though the Wallachian city of Calafat was utterly razed by the relentless Roman battery.
The victory at Vidin spawned high hopes throughout the Empire and numerous celebrations were had in the city proper, particularly in the garrison town's historic Frankish Quarter. Though none were so foolish as to believe the conflict over, the victory was seen as a good portent for battles to come.
The festivities were soon cut short, however, as another battle raged farther east along the frontier, as another Wallachian horde sought to cross near the province of Konstantia, home to an ancient Scythian port town. As fortune would will it, the garrison commander of the river fort was Charalambos Papadiamantopoulos, a distant relative of the victorious Leonidas.
The Battle for Konstantia was long, brutal, and hard-fought- while the initial waves were defeated handily, the noise of battle attracted ever-larger and ever more ravenous packs to merge with the greater horde. Desperate to hold the line, Strategos Papadiamantapoulos rallied nearly all the garrison and field troops along the eastern Danube to defeat the horde.
The Strategos's gambit paid off, and the Empire won a stunning victory at Konstantia, though it had cost a third of the region's fighting men. Despite this, however, the transfer of troops to Konstantia left some portions of the defensive line open. To the south of Konstantia, a new, smaller horde attempted to cross near Duristolon, and the victorious armies at Konstantia rushed to meet them.
As the innumerable border skirmishes and grand engagements raged on, the Empire began to devote considerable resources to updating the archaic organizational structure of the military and imposing a degree of uniformity and discipline practically unheard of since classical times.
The old system of landed pronoiar elites and regional thematic troops was rapidly discarded and replaced with mobile field armies, much to the dismay of the imperial landed elites. Equipment was mass produced and standardized using the vast majority of the Empire's limited industrial resources, and strict organizational hierarchies were adopted based on those of the Emperor's guards.
In the West, the situation grows increasingly dire as the Serbian client state completely collapses. As the few remaining stragglers trickle southwards, the Imperial Army is forced to split into smaller units to better protect the border, which lacks the natural protection offered by the Danube.
Within a month, all undead incursions along the Western Frontier had been successfully repulsed, and mobilized irregulars have permitted the full manning of all the border forts along the Danube and beyond.
From the Adriatic to the Black Sea, the entire Roman border with the Balkans was fortified with a series of checkpoints and citadels, and the mandatory conscription laws ensured that fresh troops could always be rotated in whenever a major incursion was attempted. For the first time in years, the Empire felt secure.
The winds of fate are fickle, however, and the ease was not fit to last. After nearly half a year of successfully holding the line along the Danube, ill tidings bore in from the Orient. A second, concurrent plague had ravaged India, and the ravenous dead were currently pillaging the putrid remains of perfidious Persia, Rome's ancient and timeless enemy. As the Armenians girded for war, Rome could afford to spare little while it held back the hordes out of Europe.
Seven months after the border was declared secure, tragedy struck; having finally achieved critical mass, the undead hordes -guided by predatory instinct or the fell hand of fate, one may never know- launched a multi-pronged attack at several points along the Western Front, striking at Dardania and Mesembria.
Despite concerns regarding the sheer volume of undead, imperial commanders were strictly ordered not to combine forces for fear of compromising the front. Though sorely outnumbered, Imperial forces were able to hold the line for a time due to a number of innovations in their panoply, namely the reintroduction of armor suited to close combat with the risen menace.
For all their discipline and bravado, however, the situation continued to deteriorate as an ever-increasing number of undead assailed the various border forts.
As the situation grew increasingly dire, some imperial commanders grew to resent their inactivity and the apparent apathy of military high command. Acting against order, Mikhael Papadopoulos, a junior captain in the renowned Hemia Guard, diverted his troops from garrison duty in order to support allied forces in Naissos that were critically outnumbered.
While Papadopoulos's intervention was tremendously well received by the relieved garrison, Roman high command was in an uproar over the insubordination and feared that the decision may encourage disobedience among other army groups. Before a proper court martial could be arranged, however, more pressing matters emerged.
In the northern reaches of Arbenon along the Adriatic, a truly massive horde nearly one million strong had arrived and was assailing the urban garrison in Askrivion.
The sheer size of the sea of flesh was staggering, but even more bizarre was its composition. Most of the risen dead the Empire had faced were those of Slavic peasants or Magyar and Vlach soldiers who had turned. The eclectic panoply of this horde, however, suggested origins from all across Europe, with the tattered remains of Frankish and Aquitanian uniforms shambling alongside those bearing Nordic and German colours alike.
In a fit of desperation, Archistrategos Aristidis Krizeis, field commander of Moesia and head of the Emperor's elite Basilike Guard, order his troops to withdraw from Dunonia and reinforce the collapsing Western Front. Shock and despair swept across the streets of Dunonia as the site of the Empire's first victory soon became the first major city taken by the deathless plague.
While the arrival of the Basilike Guard helped even the tides in Dardania, situation in Arbenon approached critical as the risen horde reached over a million men strong as new packs swarmed the battleground and fallen imperial soldiers rose against their erstwhile allies.
Though the Hemia Guard fought valiantly, no amount of valor -nor gunpowder, nor steel- could overcome the literal sea of rotting, decrepit flesh the undead hordes threw at them. Even as mountains of corpses piled up in once verdant fields, the ravenous tide clambered and shambled and shuffled ever onwards, slowly but inexorably forcing the Imperial Army back.
It is the 7348th year of creation, and one by one, the border garrisons fell as the Western Front collapsed into ruin. The once magnificently orchestrated defensive line disintegrated as the ravenous dead burst through its pores, and the field armies who had planned a fighting withdrawal were instead forced to beat a hasty retreat to the capital months ahead of schedule.

With the defensive perimeter compromised and the outer reaches already lost to the deathless ones, can the Eternal Empire survive the coming onslaught? As the battered remnants of the Imperial Army, inheritors of elder legacy of the legions, congregate in the fields of Thrace, can their yet be hope from this sudden turn towards despair? Only time can tell...

[Thanks for reading! Hope this entry was marginally more interesting than the last, and I assure you that the collapse of the front was just as surprising for me as it perhaps was for you- typically the zombos are quite reluctant to engage you directly and I expected the lines to hold at least until new forts could be built. Hopefully this will make for a more dynamic game with more unique outcomes than the typical 'player-controlled nation curbstomps everyone'-type affair. Cheers!]

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Game: Hearts of Iron IV

18. 9. 39; A HOI4 short story.

Images: 6, author: Yoper101, published: 2017-02-06