How I learned to stop hating heretics and start loving longbows: A CK2 Wales AAR

Published: 2017-02-07
Welcome to Wales
We're starting as the relatively insignificant Duke of Deheubarth. The only goal of this campaign is to survive until 1453; I want the new achievement. The reason I'm playing as Wales is because I read somewhere that longbowman retinues are amazing; that will prove to be the case as the campaign continues.
To begin, we have a big of a surprise waiting for us in the mainland; ole' Karl has flipped to Lollard. Shouldn't be a big deal, as long as Karloman stays Catholic. In any case, we marry our daughter to a Karling for an Alliance. They may be heretics, but they're still useful!
Her husband becomes King, then dies.
Anything for Jesus, I suppose.
Lollards are running rampant throughout Europe. Karloman died and now the Karlings are firmly in the heretic camp. We get an event to flip to Cathar and we take it for the Holy War CB on the other Catholic rulers of Great Britain.
Meanwhile, the Abbasids exploded. Disgusting.
When I started this campaign, I wasn't planning to make an AAR. That's why screenshots are so spotty in the early game. Long story short, we abused the Holy War CB until the British Isles were firmly controlled, then we converted back to Catholicism. During this time, every Catholic king had converted to a heresy. We were Cathar, Bavaria was Waldensian, and the others were Lollard. Asturias was quickly conquered by the Umayyads.
Rebuilding Catholicism was spotty, but then the crusades began. To start with, the Teutons took over Middle Francia, and with it, Koln. I fabricated a claim on Santiago and took Northwest Iberia for the Moral Authority. There was a brief period where Rome was the only holy site controlled, but now, things are back in good shape.
Meanwhile in the East, the Khazars convert to Orthodoxy and become Byzantine Vassals. Blobbing intensifies, until a Jihad conquers Anatolia. In the meantime, the Ecumenical Patriarch becomes emperor, making the Byzantines a theocracy, which they will remain for the rest of the game. Consequently, inheriting them is out of the question.
As you can see, there was a very successful jihad for Portugal. Look how successful it was! The Umayyads remain a pretty easy target, we have a Holy War CB on both them and the heretics in Europe, but they proved to be a much easier target than the Karlings.
In the meantime, we take some Norse holdings to try to stop the constant raiding. Seriously, raiding was a nightmare to deal with for a very long time.
For funsies, we set up some merchant republics as vassals.
This was the third crusade, but the first one I actually won. There was the crusade for Middle Francia that I showed earlier that the Teutons won, and a crusade for Italy that some random Serbian duke won. Worth noting that in that Italian crusade, there were only 4 Catholic rulers on the map; Us, the Teutons, the Pope, and this random Serbian. I should have won it, but a Cathar uprising and an Umayyad holy war diverted my attention long enough for the war to end.
At this point, I didn't really want any European holdings, so I fed my crusade winnings to the every-expanding Teutons.
Have fun with that, buddy.
I don't remember why I screenshotted this, but I'm sure it had some significance.
The world looks awful.
So, what I think happened here was that the Teutons exceeded their vassal limit. Then, when the Grandmaster died, his former vassals went independent until the limit was reached. I've noticed that Holy Orders tend to be pretty bad at holding onto land, though, so I could be wrong. The Teutonic Order was at this point a Ducal level title which may explain the low vassal limit; they eventually formed it into a Kingdom, but that didn't come until later in the game.
Our conquests in Iberia are going well, we take the Umayyad capital and they relocate it to a much safer location
At this point, the Umayyads are getting swamped in revolts. Suits me, I don't have a peace with rebels
Lovely!
Out of nowhere, Catholic Tunisia becomes a thing. I had nothing to do with this, but I suspect my constant Holy Wars have driven down Sunni Moral Authority to dangerously low levels.
Meanwhile, I notice that the Russians have flipped to Suomusko. This is seriously the most successful I've ever seen them; I'm very surprised they couldn't manage to reform.
The Mordvins took over Rus, while the Russians hold Ruthenia.

The Poles conquered the Avars and most of central Europe
The fourth crusade is just as successful as its predecessors. At this point, I didn't expect to expand in Europe, so I decided to give it to someone else.
I learned my lesson that the Teutons couldn't be trusted to hold the land, so I give it to a dynasty member and give him independence
1170: The reconquesta is complete.
The only thing worrying is how bad her stats are.
The fifth crusade nets us the Kingdom of France.
Another dynasty member gets a shiny new Kingdom to his name.
I am become Karling, destroyer of heretics.
Lollard OPMs ain't nothing to fuck with. Seriously I have no idea what happened here, suddenly there were 100k troops...
... But then attrition killed them all and the county went bankrupt trying to support the few that were left.
A bunch of mercenaries flipped to us. I guess they were all mercs, but every merc company in the game combined is less than 100,000 troops. Very strange.
Our Aquitanian king has married the queen of Bulgaria. I thought this meant that the Byzantines would gain control of Aquitaine, but the opposite turned out to be true. Aquitaine gained control of Bulgaria from the Byzantines, at least, until a series of wars brought it back under the Imperial fold.
After 500 years of throwing our chaplains into a meat grinder, we finally have something to show for it. The Swedes are Catholic! (Not pictured: Sweden getting partitioned by their pagan neighbors.)
Welp. We inherited France. This is a turning point in the campaign, because I say screw it and decide to spend the rest of the game blobbing.
Viceroys were a godsend in this game; they ensured that no vassals got too uppity even when we were weak. At the same time, having longbow retinues kept our periods of weakness less dramatic. It's one of the few retinue types that's 1:1 as far as troop count to retinue cap usage, meaning that they were a serious deterrant to rebels. I only had about 5k troops in my levy, but the 25k retinues bolstered it considerably.
Score! Italy's ruled by a Queen. Not only that, but she's a kid, so we can get a marriage with her.
At one point, Lollard numbers had made Catholicism a heresy. Now, not a single Lollard ruler remains. Crusades are a helluva CB.
Behold the rare ambitious content combination!
Crusade for Anatolia! It's more for aesthetic reasons than theological; those borders are hideous.
Now we have an S shaped kingdom in the Near East.
Too far for me to care about, we give it to a dynasty member and focus on other things.
Our dynasty is getting bigger all the time!
That didn't take long. It's only Shiites though, so they ended up okay.
After a nail biting 11 years, we finally get a son out of our Italian queen. Here's where things get tricky. In Italy, the crown law in primogeniture, meaning our son is going to inherit no matter what. The problem is, our crown laws are Tanistry, meaning a functionally random dynasty member inherits.
Since we don't have high crown authority, we can't go primogeniture, so we're going to have to do the next best thing...
...Ulmiogeniture. This means if we have another son, we're screwed and we're not going to be able to inherit both the empire and Italy.
For now, the succession is secured, but it's a precipitous grasp.
Rip Swedes.
The Umayyads have seen better days
The Mongols show up. I don't know how it happened either.
Success! RNGesus was seriously on our sides. You can't see it well in this picture, but I ended up with one boy and 6 girls. I wish I had bought a lottery ticket that day, because wow.
At this point, there was literally one Nestorian courtier in the world and 0 Nestorian provinces. I guess he was really convincing.
Another nailbiter. Had we died before our mother, my plan would have been ruined. She ended up living almost twice as long as her husband. This whole Italy thing was super lucky.
And now that we control Italy, we can form the HRE! Awesome!
To celebrate, we war the Pope; for some reason he got some land in Italy after the event.
So now there are two hordes; one Sunni and one Nestorian. What happens next, I didn't properly capture with screenshots because I was too focused on other things. Basically, both hordes cannibalized each other and disappeared entirely within a few decades. Some of the most ineffective Mongols I've ever seen.
The Teutons did a weird thing. First, they formed the Order into a Kingdom. Because of that, the title was separated from the Holy Order, so they formed Germany on top of that. At least, that's what I think happened. What's important is that now we have a kingdom rather than a monestic state, which proved to make a big difference when it comes to conquest.
Very strange.
This picture is from an abortive effort to land some less seen religions in around the world.
So here's where it made a difference that the Teutonic lands were no longer monastic. I managed to rig succession so that the lands will go to a vassal.
Like I said, it was an abortive effort. The Monothelite ruler died almost immediately and his daughter ended up being too weak to defend the lands. Oh well.
I don't know how the Pope got this CB, but I'll allow it.
Nice work, Pope.
I was more than happy to take part in this crusade. Norway was the largest remaining Norse realm, and raids were some of the most annoying things I dealt with this campaign.
I abused the money request feature a lot this campaign.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Mongols were shockingly unsuccessful.
We have a vassal with a claim to Aquitaine.
A nice, clean war.
My plan backfired and the new king of Germany kept the barony I gave him, but didn't become my vassal.
But then, a gift! We're depressed! We can do whatever we want with no consequences!
Declare war once...
Then trucebreak a few more times for the other counties I want
Then voila! I kill myself and escape that nasty negative diplomacy and relations hit
I had never actually set up an Antipope before this game, and I must say, I can't believe I didn't do this sooner. Conquering the Papacy nets us a great vassal and access to targeted Crusades. Very powerful stuff.
Keep sieging Sardinia, I'm sure to surrender soon!
You don't have to be a tactical genius to become Pope, it seems.
Not only do we get Latium, but we also get his North African provinces. Not bad! Also, our crusader state in Anatolia is doing well for itself.
We get a vassal who has a claim on the Teuton-German kingdoms, we end up getting both.
Bavaria remains the only remaining kingdom in Western Europe not under our control. I almost wish I had made a more concerted effort to blob, as I think I could have done much better if I had started earlier.
These Kingdom claim CBs are really great. And because of our Longbow Retinues, even if the new kings want independence, they never have the troop counts for the rebellion to fire.
A catholic uprising led by a heretic? Why not?
A county ruled by a pope? Why not?
A pope who died 60 years ago? Why not?
Our Anatolian friends somehow conquered this county and then broke away from the main kingdom. They now are fighting a holy war for Jerusalem. Of course, I lend them a hand.
There have been something like 6 crusades and Jerusalem ends up getting conquered in a holy war by a random OPM. What a weird game.
Now that the Papacy is controlled, I declare a crusade for Syria. The Muslims at this point are incredibly weak, especially compared to me.
It goes off without a hitch. It feels good to be amongst heathens. After centuries of kingdom claims, some good old fashioned Holy Wars are just what the doctor ordered.
The heretic is always the person you suspect the least...
In no time at all, we have a respectable chunk of the Arabian peninsula.
I don't know how this happened, the Tengri haven't existed in hundreds of years.
This is the highest diplomacy score I think I've ever seen.
Because I'm here, I conquer Mecca and Medina for the "Defender of Holy Places" achievement.
There are two Kingdoms of Jerusalem, one is the normal one, and one is a Muslim controlled sultanate created using the duchy title.
Oh my. Those Tunisian Catholics from earlier have control of virtually all of North Africa and a claimant accepted an invite into our realm.
Suddenly our overseas holdings aren't so overseas anymore.
A few holy wars later and we are now contiguous.
The last 200 or so years of this game was pretty much going from kingdom to kingdom looking for claimants.
Welcome to the fold, Poland.
I have committed crimes against aesthetic borders, and for that, I must do penance.
Another claim war
Looking a bit nicer.
We managed to find a claimant, but she's female so we can't land her. I decide to land her husband in the remote chance that that ends up making her a vassal
It doesn't
So we press the claim of the guy we just deposed. I love CK2
I really wish the Byzantines weren't a theocracy.
After all the rebellions are gone, we have quite the empire. Time's almost out, however, so we can't get a claim war on Lithuania.
The Rus, after all this time, are the only Pagans left outside of Africa. So as a last hurrah, I declare a crusade on them.
It ends, but not in the way I expected. Oh well, we're big enough.
So here's the realm at the end of the game. We went from a backwater duke in the middle of Wales to the rulers of the blobbiest blob in all the land.
The Mongols were a disappointment and the Byzantines somehow managed to keep their Central Asian holdings more or less intact.
After exploding, the Abbasids managed to regain control of Persia, which they kept throughout the campaign.
The Ethiopians ended up being the big losers when the rise of the Shia happened.
There was briefly a Sultanate in West Africa, but rebels ended up restoring control to the Pagans
The Suomuskos held out well, but our last crusade put the final nail in the coffin. Every pagan in Europe converted to Catholicism, with the Asiatic Tengri split between Orthodoxy in the west and Sunni/Zikri in the east
Moral authority of the Sunni religion was pathetically low after the reconquista, so the Abassids adopted Zikri. Even with their low moral authority, relatively few provinces flipped. And in India, Hindus were the big winners.
Welsh culture spread well through the Isles, France, and Iberia. Since most of the other holdings were won through claim wars and inheritance, most of the rulers kept their local culture, meaning that Welsh culture didn't spread far. You can see in eastern Italy the legacy of that Serbian duke who won the crusade.
Scandinavia was won through Holy Wars and crusades, so Welsh spread accordingly.
Greek spread well throughout Central Asia, pretty much all Muslim cultures aside from Bedouin are gone, and Mongol only remains in a small pocket of the steppes.
We have a lot of troops.
Our dynasty is strong, not only in the empire, but also in Anatolia, which was incredibly successful with very little help from me.
The last few years had a lot of small county claim wars for OPMS near the Lithuanian border. Just another thing that installing an Anti-Pope is great for.
Our army is 3x larger than the nearest competitor.
The end! It was a fun campaign to play, I hope it was also nice to read through.
It was all worth it for this meaningless achievement.

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Images: 25, author: porkpotpie, published: 2017-08-31