Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HPM Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 4: The Holy Land (1234-1237)

Published: 2017-03-16

Part of the campaign:

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR)

Previous part:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Imperium Romaniae (A CK2 HIP Latin Empire AAR) - Chapter 3: The Four Horsemen

Images: 75, author: CargoShortsSensei, published: 2017-03-08

With the Christian states of the Levant under threat from the Saracens once again, the young and ambitious Pope Alexander IV declares his intent to prop up King Jordan the Greek, calling for another Crusade against the Ayyubid Sultanate. He even declared his intent to personally lead a march himself!
With my realm somewhat divided, I immediately send word to Rome that the Empire of Romania would take the cross and fight in the Holy Land. It seemed to be a chance for adventure and an escape away from the troubles of my realm.
I raise my levies, and intend to rally my forces in Kallipolis.
The other most notable lord participating in the Crusade is King Henry III of England. I hoped to meet him; the worst part of living on the edge of the Christian world was the isolation of it all.
As lords across Europe muster to march on Jerusalem, the King of France decides to hold a lavish coronation ceremony. The idea that someone could hold such an event while pious Christians marched off into foreign lands in the name of God turns my stomach a bit. I write a letter to him, criticizing his decision, and declare that I had much more pressing matters to attend to.
Speaking of things that turn my stomach - Duke Angelo continues to resist King Boniface, and they finally meet on the field of battle in Asia Minor. How good Catholics could engage in such squabbles while the Pope himself planned to lead an army on Jerusalem is beyond my comprehension.
As expected, the King of Thessalonica wins the fight. While his war effort was all but crushed, Angelo Sanudo continued to resist.
My armies finally muster together, and in a grand ceremony, I declare that I would co-lead the Romanian forces with Baron Ademar and Baron Aubry. With my major vassals otherwise detained, this was as good as things could get.
Rather than attempt a perilous trip across the Mediterranean, we decide to instead march through the Sultanate of Rum before visiting the Queen of Cilicia. From there, we would march south through Antioch and towards the Holy Land.
In comparison to the earlier holy wars, however, this one had low organization. The armies of petty lords land on the Palestinian coast, only to be quickly defeated by much larger Saracen armies. It becomes my goal early on to link up with other Christian forces and then march united.

[This is the worst thing about how Crusades are represented in this game. In my admittedly meager study of crusader history, the various lords would almost always agree to rally somewhere (Constantinople, Venice, etc.) and then set off as a united force. This system is bad, and it's why the Christians rarely win when I play.]
As we continue our march, word trickles in that suggests the King of England has landed his forces and plans to fight valiantly against the odds. Given that we have the largest army in the entire thing other than England, I order my men to march faster.
The crusading armies slowly link up. Hopefully, I might arrive in time.
Across Asia Minor, King Boniface finally crushes Angelo Sanudo. In response, he sends messengers to reach me, ensuring me that he planned to join the Crusade as soon as he was able.
He ensures me that he would scrounge together an army of 4,000 men, and would transport them himself on his own money. I prayed he was right.
He does, however, let me know that he planned on officially crowning himself before setting out. The conceited ass.
Count Narjot, who had stayed home (and acquired quite the reputation, such that men called him "Son of the Devil" behind his back) decided to take the opportunity to revolt against Boniface. I prayed that Boniface would send his levy to me regardless.
The new plan, as we languish in the land of the Armenians, is to wait for Thessalonian reinforcements before navally landing on the coast. News from Palestine is not exactly encouraging; things do not seem to be going in our favor.
Strangely enough, I receive word from my sister Matilda, Countess of Nevers, which finds me in Cilicia. She asks for me to spend some time in France in order to bond closer with my European family.

In my decade and a half in Constantinople, I had nearly forgotten of them. I pass on the offer.
Plans are made as I force these thoughts from my head; we would land in the Holy Land by early June. As we wait aboard the creaking vessels, I begin to feel fear for the first time.
We land in the Holy Land one June 12th, 1235. We greet some nearby Englishmen, set up camps for the night, and take a moment to relax.

That night, I find myself walking myself through the desert. The sand between my toes, the hot wind baking me like a pheasant. I am here; I am actually doing this, the dream of our ancestors. I am a crusader.
Just shortly after, I march my forces to the nearby Belfort Castle, a Crusader fortress in Lebanon, now occupied by the Ayyubids.

I stand over a war table with Aubry and Ademar. "It is my opinion, my emperor, that we attempt to starve out the Saracens," says Ademar, sweating in his armor. "We do not have overwhelming numbers, and in this desert, I fear that our men might tire out quickly."

"This is precisely why we should assault the walls," argues Aubry. "We outnumber them greatly, and we have the material necessary to construct siege weapons. I say we storm the walls as soon as we are able."

I consider the dilemma. "I am in agreement with Baron Aubry. We assault as soon as we're able."
The resulting fight is quick - our siege towers get our men onto the ramparts of Belfort quickly, and before long, the castellan surrenders. Belfort belongs to Christians one more.
Leaving some men behind to occupy it, I set my sight on the city of Sidon, which is lightly defended. After we finish taking the settlement, the lord of the city, Rasul, is taken into my capture.
I continue to scourge the Levant. Sarafand is taken before the end of July.
During my occupation of the small piece of the Levant I managed to carve out, my scouts report back to me that the Sultan has taken notice of my actions. An army nearly doubling ours in size will be upon us within the month.

Barons Aubry and Ademar petition me for a retreat, but I didn't think that my army would be capable of escaping the attacks. I decide to stand and fight.
On the field of battle, we defend our position valiantly, but it becomes clear very soon that victory would not be possible.
I authorize a full retreat on August 7th, having lost nearly half my men to either injury or death. I lead my fleeing men south along the coast, as more Saracens waited for us to the north, which was certain death.
On our march to the south, we met up with several other crusading armies; the Lord of Mann, the King of England, countless lesser Frenchmen. We were set upon by Saracens nearly as soon as we formed up.
While we fought in the south, I knew that the Saracens would slowly undo my work around Sidon. There was nothing that could be done about that.
In an incredible display, our combined forces manage to force a retreat from the Saracen troops. Commanding the right wing, I had no small part in the victory. The Fourth Battle of Ramleh (as the first three had come more than a century before) is probably already being romanticized by scholars as I write this!

There was little time for celebration, however; men were knighted, arms and armor repaired, and then it was back to the fight.
Working in tandem with the other crusading lords, we decide to seize some of the nearby Saracen settlements, beginning with Ramleh itself.
With our superior numbers giving us a distinct advantage over the Saracens, we continue to assault settlements in Palestine. However, we receive word in early January that another army was soon to arrive, eager to break us.
The Saracens, believing us to be low on food and supplies, attacked us as we set up for another siege. We return to the fields outside of Ramleh to defend ourselves once again.
The Fifth Battle of Ramleh is another smashing Christian success. With our victories, triumph in the Crusade seemed inevitable.
By the beginning of April, the strategic fortress of Latrun is seized by our armies.
Overall, Crusader position didn't look that bad. While our armies were scattered across the Levant, our victories in Ramleh had given us an overall numbers advantage. I like our odds.
I receive word from Thrace that another thousand or so men were in the process of being pressed into service, which would be transported to the Holy Land as soon as possible. Given that my number has been almost decimated by the Saracens, it would be a more than welcome addition.
While I would not learn this until I returned to the city of Constantine, my good son Phillip had begun his education in stewardship in earnest during my long absence.

If there was one thing that I didn't fancy about the crusade, it was being so far away from Marie and my children.
While on the warpath, Geoffrey, who had been participating in the war intermittently while occasionally returning to Achaea on matters of business, asked for my company on one particular day.

"It's come to my attention, your imperial majesty, that your young Phillip does not have a betrothed," he says as we speak over a lunch purchased from a local vendor.

"He does not," I confirm, "unless he's decided to run off with some lowborn while I've been away."

Geoffrey laughs politely. "My daughter, Melisende, is just six, but I believe she would be a suitable partner. Indeed, it would ensure that your empire would stay peaceful, even after we pass."

I'm a bit annoyed by Geoffrey's presumption of friendship, given that he helped King Demetrius bully away one of my titles, but I don't comment on this. It was a good match, all things considered
Just later that day, I begin to feel a terrible pain in my guts, with cramps making me feel as though I'm on the verge of death. I speak to my physician, Bishop Arnold, about it, and he immediately pales. "I pray that I'm wrong, my emperor, but I fear that you are developing consumption. Let me bleed you, to restore proper balance to your body."

I decide to trust him
However, my symptoms persist. It becomes apparent to me that rather than developing consumption, I have a simple case of food poisoning. I knew I shouldn't have trusted the local food! Damn you, Montezuma's Revenge!

[Also, damn you, Montezuma's Anachronism]
While I am suffering from one of the most foul afflictions known to man, I manage to appear on the field of battle in order to inspire my men against a Saracen attack.
The Second Battle of Montgisard goes our way, and the Saracens are routed. God is on our side (though clearly not on the side of my bowels).
A lowborn man who had sworn himself into my service as a hedge knight at the beginning of the war distinguishes himself at Montgisard, and I'm encouraged by my vassals to knight and ennoble him officially. And he becomes Ebbon de Perperak.
We succeed in capturing Montgisard, a former Crusader settlement.
However, the main Papal forces - led by Alexander himself - decides to march south, leaving my army of 3,000 isolated. We learn that a much larger Saracen army was bearing down on us, and I petition Alexander to aid us in the fight.
Despite our pleas, reinforcements do not arrive. There was no hope of victory here.
My army is routed at the Battle of Qala, and I escape with just a little over a thousand men left. We decide to march to the north, hoping to meet up with a large English contingent there.
Indeed, as we retreat, devastating news falls upon my ears. The large Saracen army, after defeating me, turned south towards the Papal forces. The evil Sultan Meledin himself dueled with Pope Alexander, and Alexander lost, taken prisoner!
The Pope, held by the Saracens, immediately surrenders. At this moment, Sultan Meledin proved he was not an utterly inhuman devil - he agreed to the terms and allowed the Pope to go free. The Crusade was over, and we had lost, despite winning so many victories.

It stings, however, to be so close to success and to have it snatched away.
We plan for a long march back home. I could not wait to be with Marie once again; three years seperated from your wife would drive any man mad. While I had not been entirely without love on the Crusade, I longed for Marie to be back in my bed.
As I return home, it is brought to my attention that the old Greek in control of most of Thessaly and Epirus had died, succeeding by his daughter, Anna. Unfortunately, we learn that Radoslav, King of Serbia, has married her, meaning that Serbia would one day control most of Greece.

[I stumbled across this fine meme last night. It seems relevant.]
As I board a ship bound for Constantinople, a vessel the great city intercepts us.

"Your imperial majesty!" cries the messenger. "The Doge of Venice has declared war upon us!"
Out of the cauldron, into the flame, it seemed.

Next chapter:

Game: Crusader Kings II

Imperium Romaniae - Chapter 5: The Fall of the Good Emperor Robert

Images: 30, author: CargoShortsSensei, published: 2017-03-17

Check out another AAR:

Game: Victoria 2

Chill Iran

Images: 9, author: Zulfy, published: 2018-09-09