Monday, January 22, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part III - Marienburg


With the Reikland secured and his army resting at Eilhart, Franz saw an opportunity to launch an attack against the so-called Free City of Marienburg. Straddling the mouth of the great River Reik, the great port of Marienburg was once part of the Empire, but seceded in 2429 when Emperor Dieter IV granted the city its independence in return for an enormous donation to the Imperial coffers. The scandal ended Dieter's tenure as Emperor, and since its secession many Emperors have tried and failed to re-annex the city back to the Empire. Karl Franz's own great-grandfather, Wilhelm III, led three expeditions to take back the city, all of which met ignominious ends. The last expedition ended in disaster in the battle of Grootscher Marsh, and forced the Emperor to recognize Marienburg as an independent city-state once and for all.


The Free City of Marienburg.

So when open war broke out between Bretonnia and Marienburg Karl Franz saw an opportunity to reclaim Marienburg, avenge an ancestral grudge, and win more prestige for his fledgling rule. The city had just repelled a Bretonnian assault on its walls, and Franz, under the guise of protecting the Empire's trading routes, moved west from Eilhart to occupy the city. The Directorate, the ruling cabal of Marienburg's wealthiest and most powerful merchant families, immediately recognized Franz's intentions, and marshaled a mercenary army commanded by Emil von Korden to drive off the Imperial army. In a bloody battle Franz defeated the Marienburg army and was able to assume control of the great port for the first time in over 70 years.


A map of Marienburg and its districts.

There would be little respite for Franz's weary men. To the west of Marienburg, high in the peaks of the Grey Mountains, an Orcish clan calling themselves the Skullsmasherz was mustering near an abandoned hold called Grung Zint. Encouraged by the enmity between the human nations the Orcs were stirring from their warrens, and Franz was forced to march immediately to disperse the greenskins. In a series of short, sharp encounters, Franz's army, now bolstered by mercenary troops hired in Marienburg, ended the Orcish threat and established a small garrison in the mountains before returning to Marienburg.

Marienburg and Nuln are two key cities for the Empire when starting out. Provincial capitals in the game can build stronger walls and house larger garrisons than the smaller settlements, which means they become linchpins for your defense against multiple stacks. They can also house more buildings, and tech them up to a higher level than regular settlements. Provincial capitals should be the goal of war - declaring war against factions just to take a normal settlement may not be worth it. Conversely, if you ever see a lightly defended provincial capital, it may be advantageous to seize it if you have the forces available.

Marienburg has a special place in the heart of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplayers, because it is the setting of one of the best modules ever released for that game. Marienburg: Sold Down the River fleshed out Marienburg in exquisite detail and made it one of the most memorable settings for roleplaying fantasy adventures. Set in a fantasy version of Amsterdam, Marienburg is depicted as a great trading port presided by a cabal of powerful merchants. As the gateway to the Old and New Worlds it is a cosmopolitan place where anything is possible, where desperate merchants trade their souls for fame and lucre, sailors, pimps, prostitutes, thieves and worse stalk the streets, and dark things scurry in the depths. The unimaginably wealthy rub shoulders with the most desperate and destitute. Fortunately for the common folk for Marienburg, it is now under Imperial occupation in this alternate history, and under Karl Franz, the Great, the Enlightened, the worst excesses of the city will be curbed. The merchants will come to heel - or their heads will adorn the walls on spikes.

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