In the year 2502 Karl Franz ascended to the throne of the human nation known simply to its inhabitants as the Empire. Elected by the slimmest of margins, the young Prince of Reikland succeeded his father Luitpold, but not without dissent. Ostland, Middenland, Averland and Nordland all refused to back the young Emperor, deeming him to be too inexperienced. Boris Todbringer, Elector Count of Middenland, was widely favored to be the next Emperor. The Graf was a general of great renown and his experience in the wars against the Beastmen of the Drakwald Forest won him the respect of many within the Empire. When he lost the election Todbringer, in a fit of pique, authorized his advisers to send aid to a small but growing secessionist movement within the Reikland itself. Todbringer also conspired with the Burgomeisters of Marienburg to finance a mercenary company to assemble east of Altdorf in the Bloodpine Woods. Their job would be to assist any advance on Altdorf itself by the secessionists led by a fiery radical named Helmut Ludenhof, who propagated heretical notions of "democracy" and "populist" government.
|The Empire of Man.|
Franz knew that he had to quell the rebellion in the Reikland if he wished to establish any lasting authority in the Empire. He immediately struck south towards Grunburg, and dispersed the nucleus of the rebel army mustering there. He swiftly captured Grunburg, then headed west towards Helmgart. The rebels fortified Helmgart, but in vain. Franz, assisted by his Household Guard of Reiksgard knights, halberdiers and hand gunners, and supported by a growing mob of Free Company militia loyal to his rule, were able to brush past the rebels' defenses and capture Helmgart. They then marched north to the last bastion of resistance in Eilhart and captured the remnants of Ludenhof's forces there. In a lighting one month campaign the new Emperor had secured the Reikland and destroyed the secessionists. More importantly, however, he had earned the grudging respect of his critics with his decisiveness and his prowess on the field.
After so many starts the beginning is pretty much rote for me. It's only after 25 turns or so when things become chaotic and factions begin to splinter into different and new directions. But in the early game the destruction of the rebels becomes a matter of fact, and the first few declarations of war are almost identical in every game. The Empire begins with several non-aggression pacts already in play. The Empire has a non-aggression and a military access agreement with Stirland, which gives you the option to assist that province from the inevitable attacks from the vampire factions in the east. In fact, in the seven campaigns I have played, the first declaration of war has always been the Von Carsteins declaring against the Stirlanders. The Empire also starts with a non-aggression pact with either Talabecland or Wissenland, and it is easy to conclude a similar pact with the other non-signatory power in the first few turns of the game. This leaves Marienburg or Middenland as your first potential opponent. Declaring against Middenland is problematic because Nordland is their ally, and even conquering them removes a buffer against the Norscan tribes. The best move is to move against Marienburg after uniting the Reikland, because the Marienburgers are diplomatically isolated and are usually at war with either Bretonnia or Nordland.
|The Reiksgard, the Empire's elite cavalry.|
All of this moot however, if you are unable to unite the Reikland and wipe out the secessionists. Doing so immediately improves your diplomatic standing, because your relative strength is a factor in diplomacy. The first real time battle you have to play is the attack on the rebels in Helmgart, because if you auto-resolve it you will lose, and set yourself back badly in the early game. The real time battle itself is a cake walk. Free Company units are not rated highly by the computer when it comes to auto-resolution, but in actual battles they are worth their weight in gold. They are skirmishers that can deploy in vanguard in the enemy's faces, and harass them constantly with missile fire. If they are charged or attacked they automatically fall back, which means you don't have to babysit them during real time battles. They also disperse the opposing army very badly as enemy units begin chasing Free Company units all over the map, allowing you to pick off and destroy the enemy army in detail. This is the tactic that Franz has used over and over again, and is probably more suited to Wood Elves or a skirmishing type of army rather than the Empire. Franz starts with a solitary unit of Reiksgard knights, and it is this unit, along with Franz himself (the first point I spend is upgrading him to a warhorse) which is responsible for destroying elements of the enemy army piecemeal. If I have any line troops like swordsmen or hand gunners I perch these guys together on top of some hill on a far corner of the battlefield and set them on defend. Hopefully by the time the enemy reaches them the Free Company will have done its job in dispersing the enemy, and they will only have to deal with a few units strung out in a line. They will also have the support of Franz and the Reiksgard, who ideally, will hit the enemy in the flank or the rear.