This is the third part in my report of the Come to a King Megagame. For more information, please read Part One.
The Spoils (or not) of War
Prince Owen and I returned as heroes from our foray to Ireland. Knowledge of how we were paid to leave, and the vast untapped richness of the land (the Civil Wars mainly ravaged the south eastern parts from what we heard) quickly spread across Scotland. Jarl not-Sigurd the Second was finally ready and eager to join in our grand enterprise. Even Lord Finlay of Moray was eager to get stuck in to something… it seems I was having a bad influence on my neighbours.
Only the Scottish Abbot opposed our venture, but only because he was generally against Christians attacking other Christians, and even then he did nothing to prevent our plans – he only stayed at home with the King. He did suggest we join in what was turning into a grand ruckuss down in Southern England, but I scoffed at the idea.
“You may know the ways of the Gods,” I said. “But I know the ways of War – you go where everyone ISN’T. And there’s no one in Ireland to defend their lands.”
No one except women and men in skirts, that is.
The King gave his blessing, troops were raised and ships were built. I once again tried to enlist the help of my compatriots in the Irish Sea, but they were committed. Wales would be theirs, or they would see it and the thrice cursed ‘King’ of South Wales burn. There was no-one else to ask.
Planning our actions and coordinating closely with the controls of both the Scottish and Ireland maps, our grand armada of six ships set sail. We were four Lords of War, A Viking, some Scots and a Welshman. It would be a glorious venture indeed!
We had 12 units in all for our invasion of Ireland – hardly a Great Army, but large enough considering there was still no-one at home. Just before we set-sail we learned that the High King of Ireland was slain in a duel, which would cause turmoil in the country. It was surely a sign from the Gods. We landed in Ulster, and were met by some local levies that had been raised that year to deter further raids, as well as another force raised by the same Bishop as last time.
(Jevan tried to convert me both times I was in Ireland. I admired his determination, if not his religion.)
We were asked if we would accept more money to go away, and we said we each wanted three gold. There were four of us.
They said no.
Sadly, the invasion of Ireland ultimately achieved nothing. There’s no real way to narrate this – a combination of several things I don’t really want to get into right now hampered what we wanted to do. It was the only part of the day where I felt genuinely disappointed. We didn’t manage to seize any lands, didn’t get any money… we saw off the levies, but that was about it and we didn’t get anything from that either.
By this point the Lords of Ireland were retreating from England. Word of our invasion had spread, and with their leader dead there was no point in remaining in Wessex – they were coming home, and they were angry. With our own levies returning home and feeling disillusioned by our lack of success, we returned to our ships and sailed back to Scotland.
As it happened, the Queen who paid us off the first time rose to become High Queen and managed to keep the various Irish Lords in-line – she saw our return as a vile betrayal and swore bloody vengeance upon us. We planned our next move, not really knowing where to go at this point, (maybe we would go to England after all?) but we also had to consider a counter-invasion by Ireland.
Ultimately, we never found out what would happen, as the world ended at the end of the council phase that turn. Ragnarok was here.
I never did find a good women.
And that, in a nut shell, was the epic saga of Jarl Gilli.
There are probably plenty of things I forgot about or miss-remembered, but the above represents the core narrative of how my day went. As mentioned right at the beginning, it also lacks a lot of context as to what was happening in the wider game, since there was a lot I just never interacted with.
I felt very much a fringe character, on the periphery of a game not really meant for the general idea Gilli represented. This was a game of Kings, and of people who could be useful in the great ‘Game of Thrones’ (sorry). I didn’t really feel like either.
Jarl Gilli had fairly poor stats and low fame, and with few ways to boost any of it I was always destined to be a footnote. Personally organising and leading the invasion of Ireland was about as good as it got, but that was me as a person as opposed to Jarl Gilli as a game element, and despite everything I ended the game with the same stats I started with, albeit richer.
I had a great time though – as mentioned above, there was only one instance where I was genuinely disappointed. The rest of the time I didn’t feel like I was wasting my actions, or not accomplishing things I wanted to do… even when I wasn’t sure what it was I was even striving for (which happened a lot).
My first raid into Ireland was probably the highlight of my day: Turn up, Get Paid to Leave. Looking at the game-rules as presented, there was no way to come away with four gold from just a single action given the circumstances. A huge success in my books, and I hope the real Jar Gilli would have been proud.
Some other primary thoughts:
Province/Land ownership was weird.
There seemed to be no mechanism to exert influence over lands not controlled by you directly in terms of resources and manpower. For example, If I had been made Lord of Argyll without seizing the other Land, I still couldn’t have raised troops or collected taxes from the other man.
(If this wasn’t the case then it was a miscommunication applied across several maps, as far as I was aware.)
The point is best presented by looking at my friend’s situation. As the Prince of the Sub-Kingdom of Strathclyde, he was technically a power unto himself on the Scottish map. And yet he still had to spend early turns physically seizing and taking possession over everything within Strathclyde to reap the full benefits of the province.
I also personally disliked the rule that you had to be physically in a province to tax it, as it meant owning land was pointless in general. You had to own the RIGHT province (so one with at least 2/3 Lands and a Town), and once you had that it didn’t really matter what else you owned. Even owning two like that seemed kind of inefficient because you’d have to spend actions repeating tasks in the other province. I witnessed an instance like this where Tim had to do a Tax action in Orkney, and then a Tax action in Caithness, even though they are just across from each other on the same map.
It gave considerable advantage to players who owned such desirable provinces, and mean’t anyone who didn’t was off to a slow start. I didn’t really mind not being able to do something on another map entirely though – that at least made some sense.
This makes me uncomfortable, but I feel some controls were definitely better than others on the day.
I respect each and every one of them for donating their time, and their patience in dealing with all of us and acting as GM’s. To be clear, I had positive dealings with every control I talked to, and everyone heard me out when I wanted to propose something and ruled fairly, in my mind.
However, local controls also tend to interpret and enforce the rules differently, and in different ways (which I’m not questioning their right to either). In this specific game though those fluctuations had a far greater impact on things than I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sorry to say, some seemed to do this better than others.
I never went to/organised a single feast.
They were costly, and only one person generally got the benefit so it was hard to justify said cost. That left them being used as one of two primary platforms for assassinating another character – which meant nobody wanted to actually go to a feast ever. Even when the King of Alba married his daughter to the newly crowned King of Northumbria, no feast was held because nobody wanted a Red Wedding.
I understand there was actually a Red Wedding elsewhere in the game, so my viewpoint is by no means universal, but most of the people I interacted with certainly were wary of holding feasts. Brodir of Mann went to a feast designed to betray the King of South Wales, who (surprisingly) didn’t turn up. It just felt to me it was a bit too obvious what would happen if you went to a feast.
It would have been nice if Raiding were a mechanically supported concept.
For fringe characters like myself, all we really do is get swept up in greater events or try and make a nuisance of ourselves. For a Norse character especially, the ability to ‘Raid’ should have been a thing that was easier to accomplish. As it was, our invasion of Ireland was working on the plan of seizing lands, and then taxing the crap out of it for maximum profit, and then leaving/moving on. It was the only way I could think of representing a ‘Raid’ within the rules as written.
I realise I had a conversation with Andrew regarding this on Facebook prior to the event, so I know why the game was set up the way it was. I imagine I wouldn’t even be making this point were I a King in Ireland, or a Saxon Lord in the South of England.
As I’ve alluded to above, I feel the main meat and potatoes of Come to a King wasn’t really meant for someone like Jarl Gilli. I really enjoyed playing as him, and I had a blast working within the rules to be an unruly, troublesome Irish Sea Viking and I accomplished everything I wanted to (although not, as it turns out, anything my briefing suggested I should work towards. I didn’t even get married!).
Thank you again to Andrew for putting on this game, and I hope you don’t take offence to my criticisms. I would definitely play again – I would personally like to see a few things fine-tuned, is all (or maybe play as someone more grounded in the setting, for contrast).