Monday, January 22, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part IV - Consolidation


With Marienburg and Grung Zint temporarily secured Franz's soldiers marched back towards Altdorf to put down another rebellion. Ludenhof's head may have already been put on a spike for high treason, but his ideas proved dangerously seductive and continued to circulate within the literate middle class. Franz's army was now battle-hardened and experienced, however, and they had little difficulty in crushing the peasant rabble rallied by the agitators and radicals. Franz also led his army east into Talabecland into the Bloodpine Woods, where he surprised and destroyed the mercenary army assembled by Todbringer and Marienburg's former Directorate.

The Free Company militia are an essential component of Franz's army.

With the capture of Marienburg and control of the Reikland Franz was now in a position to engage his detractors from a position of strength. He immediately concluded a non-aggression pact with Talabecland, offering them gifts of gold from the Imperial Treasury to mollify his trespass into their lands. Similar gifts were given to Nordland and Middenland. Todbringer, surprised by the gesture, agreed to a non-aggression pact. Todbringer had been impressed by Franz's recent feat of arms, but more so by the young Emperor's willingness to let bygones be bygones in the name of unity. No mention was ever made of Todbringer's involvement in supporting the Reikland rebels in their correspondence with one another. While this angered some of Franz's trusted inner circle, who believed that the Graf should be executed for treason, Franz was able to look beyond this to the greater threats beyond.

The same could not be said for the other Electors, however, who took advantage of the fractured Empire to advance their own claims or pursue petty grudges. Nordland solidly refused to be drawn into any kind of alliance with Altdorf, despite several overtures. More crucially, however, Hochland and Middenland erupted into all out war, as did Ostermark and Ostland. While the northern lords fought for prestige, land or ego, the southern lords were hard-pressed by external threats. Averland and Stirland fought several battles against the forces of Manfred Von Carstein, who declared himself the rightful ruler of Stirland. Wissenland was subjected to several raids by the orcs and goblins of the Crooked Moon tribe. Now more than ever did the Empire need unity and solidarity. Unfortunately at this point Franz still lacked the prestige, authority or military might to bring the Electors to heel, and it would be the common folk that bore the brunt of this.

The more I played Total War: Warhammer II the more I realize that I wasn't playing Total War: Warhammer I correctly. In the first game I relied mostly on auto-resolving battles rather than commanding them in real time, and so for me it was more a strategic game like Civilization rather than real time strategy game more akin to StarCraft. I'd plan on long sieges, and count on my stack quality defeating my opponents in quick, automatic battles. I saw real time battles as time-wasting inconveniences, and only played them when I needed to. As a result I never got into the nuts and bolts of the real time tactical game, simply because I didn't really need to.

In Total War: Warhammer II the game has been re-tuned to bring the real time combat more into focus. As stated previously the auto-resolve now significantly favors the computer, which means you have to be more careful in choosing which battles are resolved automatically. It means more time invested in the game, but it also makes it more rewarding. I have a vested interest in the continued longevity of Franz's Household Guard - the three units he begins with - and try to make sure they survive each battle. Units level up as they gain experience, and so I keep a close eye on unit health, pulling out units from the line that have suffered lots of casualties so that they can live to fight another day. Unfortunately in the siege of Marienburg my halberdiers were completely destroyed due to a misclick - I sent a contingent of swordsmen and the halberdiers to scale the walls, and the halberdiers decided to scale a section of the wall garrisoned by three enemy units. They were surrounded and cut down, despite my attempts to relieve them.

In the early game Franz rides with the Reiksgard as a cavalry commander.

The focus on real time battles has also had an impact on the customization of my generals. In the first game I picked campaign skills almost exclusively when leveling my generals, but now I spend more time tailoring depending on their role. My treasurer specializes in skills that increase public order, drive down the cost of recruitment, and battle corruption. Karl Franz, on the other hand, is being specced to become a beast on the real time battlefield. Once he unlocks his flying mount Deathclaw he will become a very dangerous combat unit. For now he is a cavalry commander, riding with the Reiksgard to make hard-hitting attacks on the enemy's flanks.

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