This is Part Two of my report from the recent Megagame ‘Come to a King’. For more information please read Part One.
This is the longest part, so apologies in advance for the length.
Trouble in Wales & Afar
By this point, I think the Danish King who had taken the English crown from Athelred, had died somehow, which caused a lot of feuding in the south of England. At some point a massive mercenary army from Sweden also turned up and took London, but I never really spent much time around the two ‘England’ maps to really tell what was going on. I hear they switched sides because their leader – Thorkall the Tall – wasn’t being paid enough.
Ireland had pretty much sorted out its differences and decided to invade Wales, and there were also shenanigans taking place in Northumbria I think.
For me though, I only had one thought on my mind – revenge! No sooner had I started consolidating my control over Argyll that I glanced over at the Irish Sea map and saw someone invading the Southern Isles! Jarl Emachahachamach (not really his name) of Galloway, one of my listed enemies, had gotten bored and decided to take some land from the absentee Lord of the Isles. (I was busy, ok?)
Rushing back with my Huscarls and a local levy I’d raised from Argyll, I decided to land on Galloway to force the usurper off the islands, although at the time I didn’t realise he’d already seized them. Ecmach sailed back to Galloway as well, and we had a small skirmish on its windy shores, with neither party doing any damage. We were at a stalemate.
With the season coming to an end, our levies had to go home, and I retreated back to my old holdings on the Northern Isles. Meanwhile, Jarl Brodir of Mann (played by the excellent Matt Bambridge) had led an invasion into Gwynedd, with the view to make it his new seat of power and to form a new Kingdom that spanned North Wales and the Irish Sea.
He had succeeded in taking most of the Lands there, and was in the process of besieging the towns (of which there were two), but he was being opposed by the Prince of Powys. Holding his own council at the beginning of the next turn, he demanded both me and Echelech attend and make peace.
“I know what you both want” he said* (*I may be making this up, but the jist is true) “and I tell you now what you want is in Wales. I require your help, brothers, and there is glory and riches to be had in the mountains!”
Due to the nature of how the game worked, I was considering Argyll more and more my new seat of power, but being Lord of the Isles granted me certain bonuses, which I kept so long as I retained direct control over one of the two Island provinces. The Southern Isles were previously held by an NPC anyway, so as far as I was concerned there had simply been a change in ownership.
I recognised Ecclair’s strength and his right to the Southern Isles – the previous tenant had been feeble, and weak. But I drew a line in the sand with my sword:
“This foolishness stops here,” I said. “If you want the Southern Isles, have them! But if you try and take the rest I will return, and I will bring allies, and either you will be crushed, or I will die fighting you to the last. Let us not make this petty feud the thing we are remembered for.”
Emachelmore agreed. It was also at this point that we were informed of an extra rule/thing that wasn’t in the rulebook – Trading/Interacting with Foreign control. James (playing Ecmachahaka) decided that there was probably more money to be made trading overseas, and so he spent much of the next year in Europe.
As for me, I agreed to help Brodir secure his place in Gwynedd. Raising the levy of the Northern Isles, I landed my forces in North Wales and together we faced the Prince of Powys on the field of battle. It was glorious! Being the more experienced commander, Brodir naturally led our armies, but I would dare say my troops made their ancestors proud. Our forces stormed their lines, burst through their shield wall, and even the Prince of Powys himself was mortally wounded in the fight. We didn’t see him die, but we heard he perished from his wounds whilst fleeing back into the mountains in the centre of Powys.
Sadly, our enemy wasn’t so numerous that we could all share in the fame, so my part in the conquest of North Wales remains largely unremembered, although I did get some loot out of it (Me and Matt got 1 Gold each, while Matt got the Fame from being the leader).
Meanwhile, the southern lords of Wales had united under one King of South Wales, and had destroyed the Irish invaders on the shores of Dyfed. We heard stories of that great slaughter, and I must say it even inflamed my Norse sensibilities. What a fight that would have been! I wouldn’t have even cared which side I was on either, but alas…
It was at this point that the story of Wales took a darker turn. With a power vacuum in Powys, and Gwynedd more or less secure (one of the towns was holding out I think), Brodir wanted to extend his dominion across the north and centre. The Lord of Dyfed, who supposedly tipped his head to the King In the South, came to us with a proposal – help him topple the King and he would recognise Norse dominion over the north, as well as formal recognition as the Lord of Gwynedd.
A noble of Gwynedd, who looked suspiciously like the recently deceased Prince of Powys (the guy had been given a new character), had risen to prominence during the Conquest, and had pledged his household troops to Brodir. He would be installed as the new Lord or Powys, giving fealty to the Lord of Mann. Since he was welsh himself it helped keep things in balance.
It was at this point that I departed the stage of the Irish Sea, never to return as it later turned out. My good friend Brodir was more secure in his new seat of power (sadly, he would never be formally recognised as the Lord of Gwynedd, which drove him to madness), and we made promises to go a-Viking soon, probably in England which was in turmoil.
I would need a time to consolidate, raise a war chest, and ready myself, so I returned north to Scotland.
A Grand Adventure
Much had changed while I was away campaigning in Wales. Prince Owen of Strathclyde ruled his province with an iron fist, becoming the most powerful of the Scottish lords (he was Welsh, technically), more powerful than the King of Alba himself.
Elsewhere, Ireland had become embroiled in a bloody civil war after the High King was slain in the failed invasion of Wales. Great armies clashed in the south of England as Danes and Saxons fought desperately for the throne of England. The fighting escalated to such a scale that England as a political entity collapsed at one point – undoing all the work of Alfred the Great and his grandson Athelstan decades before.
Hwicce, which bordered Wales, had declared independence first. Mercia also rose as an independent power for a time, and eventually Northumbria broke away to form its own Kingdom, with the support of the King of Alba. I never trusted the Northumbrians. The Danes of York were weak, and had spent too long under the yolk, and the Saxons were deceitful.
Despite having peace with Scotland, I never recognised their authority, nor their right to exist.
The worst news was saved for last, however. I returned to find that my good friend Sigurd had died in his sleep, and chaos reigned over the Orkneys. Norse influence in Scotland was weakening, and if it wasn’t for my timely return we may have been done away with altogether, and my lands in Argyll could have been seized.
Tim, now playing Sigurd’s son, had a bit of a rough time of it. No sooner did he try and take possession of his father’s lands, than someone from Control turned up and contested his right to the Orkney Islands. There was a duel in which Sigurdsson AND the claimant killed each other, so Tim had been through two characters in the space of a couple of turns. The Lord of Moray meanwhile had convinced the King of Alba to give him control of Caithness (one of Sigurd’s holdings) after the great Lord’s death. It was at this point that I was thinking of taking the Orkney’s for myself.
Sigurd had been a great ally, and while I was debating whether to keep my allegiance to his son (whom I’d had no real dealings with), once he died too there was little staying my hand. Tim came up to me however and revealed that his new Character happened to be a Grandson of the King of Alba – and heir to the Scottish throne thanks to a decision made right at the beginning of the game. I think he was part Norse (and to be honest I was Norse/Irish, so it wasn’t really a question of blood), which would mean a considerable Norse influence in the Kingdom of Alba should the current King die, so I re-affirmed my loyalty to Jarl whoever-he-was (I never did learn the names of Tim’s other characters).
I spent most of this year preparing – with my position more or less safe again I decided to take my huscarls and go abroad to Foreign Control – first on a trading run to Flanders, taking Scottish timbre and wares, although I only broke even. During my visit though I learned that the Holy Roman Empire was embroiled in a revolt from the Saxons in Saxony, AND in a war with Poland. Instead of trading, I decided to take my crew of experienced warriors (heroes of the Conquest of North Wales you know) and spend a season fighting as mercenaries. According to Foreign Control we didn’t do that well, but I still came away with three gold and no tangible negative effects.
(For someone like me, 3 gold for one action was really, really good.)
Upon my return, I found that the situation had changed once again. The Irish Lords, having finally chosen a new High King, had decided to lead a grand invasion of Southern England through the South of Wales and into Bristol and Hwicce. That left Ireland more or less defenceless.
I could smell it in the air – now was the time to go Viking. Unfortunately allies were in short supply that year – Jarl Tim the Third was busy consolidating his hold over Orkney, and my good friend Brodir of Mann had become obsessed with his ventures in Wales, dragging Emachabon aong with him. That left my old rival, Prince Owen of Strathclyde.
We had never been friends (despite Tom being my best friend) – it was Norse raiders who brought about Strathclyde’s demise as a British power, and me being a belligerent and unruly Norse Pagan meant that we were wary neighbours at best. Still, I’d never attacked him, despite his attempts to undermine me. The Northumbrians had formed their own kingdom by this point, which included the province of Cumbria, a historical possession of the old Kings of Strathclyde. He didn’t trust his neighbours to the south any more than I did, and perhaps it was that mutual hatred that finally united us.
On a whim I paid the Prince a visit while he was staying at Strathclyde’s principal Harbour. I was blunt – It was the season for raiding, and I would have someone accompany me on a grand adventure, even him.
Owen was restless – he couldn’t reclaim Cumbria whilst Alba supported Northumbria, fearing the Scots wanted the Bretons gone from Scotland once and for all and only needed an excuse. Breaking the King’s peace would provide that. Still, he was restless, and he was as itching for a fight as I was. He agreed, and we both took our household troops and sailed for Ireland.
That was a strange trip, but ultimately a successful one. Somehow the Irish had caught wind of our raid, and when we landed in the North of the country our scouts reported that an army of levies had been raised to confront us. We slipped away that night and went further south, guided, I thought, by the Gods, although I never voiced my beliefs to Owen, who was devoutly Christian.
(What actually happened was that I left my map at the end of Turn 3, only to turn up at the Ireland map at the beginning of their Turn 3, due to individual maps handling the progress of the action phases differently. It gave the Irish players an un fair advantage, since Moving is always done last so they shouldn’t, in theory, have been able to react to our presence that phase. Talking it over with control, we were allowed to change our landing point at the end of the phase ready for Phase 4.)
Our sudden disappearance and reappearance must have frightened the Irish witless though. No sooner had we run ashore and spread out into the countryside than an emissary came from one of the Irish Queens and the head Christian Priest.
We later learned that their levy had been raised by the Churchmen in Ireland, who claimed to have seen a vision of our coming. However, their God didn’t tell them we moved south, and so were caught completely out of position. By the time a new levy could have been raised and/or the first one rushed south, we would have done our damage and would be long gone. It was also nearing harvest season and it would prove impossible to keep the levies together when that happened.
The Queen in Ireland (I was never sure if it was a Queen or THE Queen, although that question was to be answered soon enough), and the high Bishop knew that, so we proposed a deal – Pay us, and we shall go away.
(We were paid two gold each, which was more than we could have physically achieved on our own had we just attacked the land.)
A very strange, but a very successful trip.