Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part XI - Crisis in Ulricsberg


Ulricsberg is the name of the massive plateau of white rock rising from the Drakwald Forest in the heart of Middenland. It is on this place that the city of Middenheim was founded, and for centuries the City of the White Wolf has remained inviolable, proof against pestilence, war and famine and an enduring symbol of Ulric, the ancient God of War and Winter. Middenheim is ruled by the Elector Count Boris Todbringer, once a bitter rival to Franz, but slowly being won over by the young Emperor's string of victories and his uncanny ability to counter every move made by his enemies to destabilize his fledgling rule.


Middenheim is home to one of the most famous Imperial Knight Orders - the White Wolves. Sadly, the White Wolves are not represented in-game.

When the news arrived in Bretonnia that Middenheim had fallen the first reaction was stunned disbelief. The Reiklanders, celebrating their relatively easy triumph over the undead legions of the Red Duke, could scarcely believe their ears. The rivalry between Reikland and Middenland was an ancient one, but the Reiklanders had always respected the mettle and courage of their more "uncouth" and "barbaric" neighbors. A vast tide of Norscan raiders had supposedly swept past the Nordland fortress at Salzenmund, and taken the city garrison by surprise. The bulk of the Middenland army was fighting in the south against Hochland over the township of Carroburg, and could do nothing. By the time an armistice was signed and the troops withdrawn the city was in the hands of the Norscans. This was a double humiliation for the Middenlanders - not only were they forced to cede Carroburg to Hochland, but their ancient capital of Middenheim had been lost.

Todbringer's self-recrimination knew no bounds. But his shame at being the first of his line to lose Middenheim paled in comparison to the fury he felt at the betrayal of the Elector Count of Nordland, Theodoric Gausser. Gausser, infuriated at the election of Franz, had deliberately ceased all patrols in the north as a gesture to spite the new Emperor. The lack of eyes and ears in the north was not lost to the Norscans, who took full advantage of the discord in the Empire to strike a mortal blow. The Norscan tribes of the Varg and the Skaeling swept south in unprecedented numbers, raiding and pillaging throughout the Imperial provinces of Ostermark, Ostland, Hochland and Middenland. The fact that Nordland was spared the Norscan's wrath did not go unnoticed.

Gausser's treason did not end there. He declared Nordland's independence, and launched an attack on Gosling, a northern city in the province of Marienburg recently annexed by the Empire. Volkmar was one of the few who knew of Franz's visions, and he asked the Emperor if he had foreseen this. Franz replied no, and said that in every vision he'd seen Gausser had rallied to the cause and fought with the Empire. Franz, not wishing to execute a man who he believed would become a staunch ally, was reluctant to move against Gausser. Volkmar counseled the Emperor that Gausser's actions were treasonous, and must be answered. The Grand Theogonist also warned Franz that since they could not be sure whether the Emperor's visions were divine or diabolical in origin, they could not rely on them to guide their actions.


Middenheim is another city described in exquisite detail in the modules printed to support the first run of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

In any case the two men agreed that the first course of action must be to liberate Middenheim from the Norscans. The Imperial armies were swiftly mustered and headed back east at all possible speed. To defend Lyonesse, Franz assigned Balthasar Gelt, the new Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic. The new Patriarch of the Colleges of Magic was largely regarded as an impudent upstart by more established masters. Nonetheless, his defeat of the former Patriarch Thyrus Gormann at the ritual duel in Altdorf secured his position as the Head of the Colleges for the foreseeable future.

Franz met Todbringer in Altdorf, and it was there that the Count of Middenland swore eternal fealty to the Emperor in return for Reikland assistance in re-capturing Middenheim. Franz also demanded that Todbringer end his feud with the Elector Count of Hochland, Aldrebrand Ludenhof. Chastised and humiliated, Todbringer had no choice but to comply. To ameliorate his wounded pride, Franz appointed Todbringer as Reiksmarshal - a position left vacant after the death of Kurt Helborg in the first battle of Grung Zint.

Franz marched northwards with Todbringer from the Middenlander's last redoubt in Weismund. At Middenheim the combined Reikland and Middenland army captured the city in a lightning strike against the Norscans, who showed little aptitude for siege craft. The Middenlander's perception of Karl Franz as a weak and soft "southern river" lord was irrevocably changed when they saw the Emperor crashing into the Norscan lines like a vengeful thunderbolt from the skies. Coupled with the liberation of their beloved city Franz had finally done enough to win the hearts and minds of the Middenlanders, who would go on to become staunch allies in the wars to come.

I've unlocked the last Legendary Lord, Balthasar Gelt, so nominally I now have three armies in the field. We can't afford a third army, however, so Gelt doesn't actually have an army with him. He is effectively just leading the garrison at Lyonesse. I've also been able to confederate with what remains of Middenland, who have been pounded by the Skaeling and the Varg and only have one city left after losing Middenheim and Carroburg. In Total War you can consolidate with like-minded factions by either becoming so friendly with them that they welcome confederation, or by swooping in to rescue them from certain destruction, which is what we did in this case.

When you confederate you gain control of the old faction's cities, armies, heroes and generals, and this usually leads to some culling because army upkeep balloons out of control. I also gained another Legendary Lord - Boris Todbringer - effectively giving me four generals. As stated above, I could only really afford two full armies, and so I had to switch Volkmar out so Todbringer could help liberate Middenheim. Legendary Lords can't die, though, so any experience gained is never wasted, and you're free to sub in and sub out at any time (except when they're wounded). The priority is to create high level generals that can win crucial battles. I found in earlier campaigns that wherever Franz went we would win, but everywhere else was vulnerable. The goal then, is not just the acquisition of cities to fund armies, but also to create a few formidable generals who can win with those armies. This will allow us to open new fronts and free Franz from having to do all the heavy lifting.

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