Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Crusader Kings II Part XX - XVIII + III (I Think?): Holding Breifne, and Rise of the Idiot Son

Back to war with Briefne
It was only a matter of time before Briefne rebelled
After finally pressing my de jure claim on Briefne and defeating the county, I expected it to be difficult bringing the region in line. In order to keep their now defeated and vassalized leader, Arzhel, happy I tried giving him an honorary title and tossing him a few gold. It worked for a time, but eventually he just said to hell with it, called out Enri as a pretender, and we were back at war.

As luck would have it, though, it was a very short war. I marched my troops back into Briefne, and they got down to the business of smacking around enemy soldiers. Moments later I was informed that Arzhel was dead, and that the war was over, so things worked out rather well there. I didn't even need to call in foreign help, which was quite nice.

Briefne defeated again
The war with Briefne didn't last very
Now the dead count's daughter is next in line to run Briefne, but she came to power a child, so there was a Regency over there after the war. This was great for Connacht, though, because with a young, impressionable mind over there, I'd have plenty of time to get on her good side. I kept my chancellor over there telling the girl how wonderful Enri and his regime are, there were countless feasts, fairs, and hunts, and I took every opportunity to improve her opinion of the duke. This worked out quite nicely in the end, as she has a decent level of approval of him now that she has reached adulthood. She can even attend Connacht's feasts herself since she's come of age, so there are even more opportunities to butter her up in the future.

While idly scanning the map, I also noticed that Scotland has been expanding quite a bit, and has even gained a foothold in Ireland. They seem to be staying put in Ulster right now, and neighboring regions are on guard. It'll be a little while until the Scots are a threat to Connacht, but I'm keeping an eye on them for now. If they try to enter my territory I have a number of alliances at my disposal including Castille, Sweden, Norway, and France. Hopefully the threat of being stomped by some of Europe's greatest powers with give Scotland pause before trying to invade my fair dukedom.

Naughty wife
During the post-war years, Enri's
wife to a liking to smutty literature
Meanwhile, I've also been learning about the different succession laws as well as how titles pass hands. I finally decided to give Enri's brother a landed title since he wouldn't shut up about it, so he became the Baron of Anchory. He seemed happy about that, but a few years later because he'd married a daughter of the French royal family he somehow managed to become the King of Leon. I don't think he let the title go to his head because he stayed on as Enri's religious adviser on the Connacht council. The problem here is that I also wound up changing my succession laws to agnatic-cognatic primogeniture, which gives all titles and lands to a ruler's oldest son upon death. With that it's apparently important to have a landed title to give to your heir, and now I have none to give. It's not the end of the world, and not entirely necessary, but it would have been nice to make him a baron. Live and learn I guess.

Also, it seems like Enri's heir, Emich, also turned into a complete moron the moment I changed the succession laws.  Suddenly he was running around plotting murders left and right.  My spymaster discovered these schemes twice before getting bumped off himself by the idiot.  It's like he figured he's guaranteed to be duke now, so he can do whatever he wants.  After that I'd finally had enough and figured I'd toss the lad in prison for a few years while he takes some time to think about what he's done.  Instead he managed to avoid arrest, and buggered off to the Continent.  Now he's off fighting in the Crusades.

Renegade son
One boneheaded son may cost me my entire dynasty
With that I'm left wondering how secure my family line is. If Emich is gone, does that mean there's no one left to take the throne in primogeniture succession? Enri has three other sons, so if Emich doesn't take the throne, I really hope one of them can rule instead. If not, I may be facing game over soon assuming the family line cannot continue to rule under the new laws. Next time I play a session of this game, if I have an heir that starts behaving badly I'll likely just have him executed instead. I have a feeling that may be the better way to go. For now, I'm hoping that Emich dies in the Crusades. It'll certainly make my life a lot easier.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Crusader Kings II Part 17.35201593: At last! Briefne is Mine!

Trying to survive the regency period
Nothing spells fun like having a child on the throne
Obviously the title of this post is pretty spoiler-ific, but before getting into tales of glorious conquest, let's start at the beginning of Heinrich I's reign because he had a lot running against him when he came to power. Hell, he wasn't even allowed to rule by himself, so his mother was appointed Regent until the lad came of age (the game allows me to make all of the decisions myself during this period, so I didn't need to worry about her meddling in affairs). It was a bit of a worrisome situation to be in because if there's one thing that ambitious medieval types like, it's children on the thrown. They're perfect targets for accidents, attempts at marginalizing, and just power plays in general. They see someone weak, and go straight for the jugular.

Planning an assassination
Sometimes you just have to
bring the hammer down on
The only consolation in this was that Heinrich was already 14, and it would only be a couple of years until he'd be considered an adult. He just needed to hold out a little bit longer, all the while trying to improve everyone's opinions of him. It was a rough ride, as a revolt broke out shortly after his father died. It was quashed easily, and Connacht's marshal was assigned the task of making sure no more of these happened during the remainder of Heinrich's regency period. Those jerks in Briefne even used the commotion as an opportunity to once again usurp the title of duke from my region. It would be a short lived changing of hands.

Once Heinrich reached 16, things calmed down a bit. A decent number of his nobles were at least tolerating him, and the members of his council seemed to think he was a pretty okay guy. About the only real problem that kept popping up was that one of my courtiers kept assassinating my spymasters, and these guys had pretty good intrigue stats, so it got annoying after a while, and I had to stop it by plotting an assassination attempt of my own on her. It took a little while to find co-conspirators for this because a lot of people had a high opinion of her, but eventually I found a couple, and we got to scheming. It took about a year, but we finally managed to bump her off through poison. Other than that, though, things were quiet in Connacht.

I took advantage of this time to start making political marriages wherever possible, including marrying Heinrich himself. The most important of these has established ties with Castille, one of the more dominant Spanish kingdoms. These sorts of marriages are something that I want to work on now because I'm probably only 100-150 years away from England starting to push hard into Scotland and Ireland, assuming it tries to expand. I want to make sure I know how to swing some powerful connections around so that I can push them out of Connacht, and whatever other regions I conquer when the time comes.

Death by poison
The assassination was an oldie
but a goodie
It also seems that the Papacy wants to reward Heinrich and his predecessors for throwing Connacht's weight, however minuscule it may be, behind its Crusades. It's been the easiest 400 gold that I've made in the game. I did make sure that it went to good use, spending it on upgrades for both of my castles so that I can increase both of their levies. I should also note that the castle I build and talked about last post is now vassal-free, as the guy died and I have yet to bestow the vassalage on anyone else yet. So, I have a far larger personal levy to draw upon right now since I don't have to worry about relations with whomever might normally be overseeing the castle as a vassal. With that, things have worked out pretty well with all of the free money raining in, and some newly freed up levies. It almost looks like a good time for an invasion. More on that in a moment.

During the early part of his reign, Heinrich was beset with a steady succession of dead bishops. There was nothing sinister about their deaths, they just kept dying of natural causes. Occitan kept freeing up more and more bishops for me to recruit, but I had to wonder about their quality after a while. It got to the point where the only guy available was a certified lunatic. He actually had a trait for lunacy. I hadn't even realized that was a thing in the game until that point. I wound up recruiting him for laughs, though. Figured it would be fun.

Most of my court didn't say anything, but my mayor eventually called out Heinrich on the matter, asking why I had a heretic as a bishop, and why the man was also in his council. First of all, he's not a heretic, Mr. Mayor, he's just crazy. Second, dem learning stats! They're really high. How can I say no to those? Eventually I did capitulate and replace him on my council, but again people in that role kept getting sick and dying, so I had to go and ask the bishop to retake the position. I'm guessing he didn't take the original firing all that well, because when I went to check on him now he had not only the lunatic trait but was now also a drunkard. Great! (Truth be told, I'm half tempted to make him a guardian of someone just to see what happens. Tee hee!)

Money from the Pope
Free money!
About the only other thing of note to happen during this time is that, for whatever reason, Heinrich started to identify far more with his Irish heritage, and eventually decided to embrace it, eschewing his German half. He changed his name to Enri I, and seems quite happy now.

Oh, and did I mention that I invaded Briefne? Well, I did. The first order of business was to usurp the title of duke back for Enri, which would also return my de jure claim on that region. With that out of the way, I promptly declared war on the county, and marched some 800 troops on it. At first it was a route, as my forces smashed their army, and laid siege to one fortification after the next until finally coming upon the castle of the count himself. This was a much closer battle than I was expecting, as their garrison was quite large, with almost 750 units in it. I only just outnumbered them, and thus was able to win the siege, forcing a surrender from the count.

The conquest of Briefne
Oh, and did I mention that I conquered
This brought Briefne fully under Enri's control, and forced the count to become one of my vassals. The guy is understandably angry, though, so I'll need to keep a very close eye on him. I've had my chancellor over there, trying to butter him up, and it's worked somewhat. I may even try to shower the guy with gifts and honorary titles just to keep him happy. The last thing I want is for him to start forming a faction, and then get an insurrection going. It may be unavoidable, however. He just has too many negative modifiers affecting his opinion of Enri, and I'm not sure any amount of gifts or sweet talk will sway him in the long run.

So, now I wait and watch. Maybe I can somehow get the count on side, and we can start having slumber parties and doing each other's hair. If not, maybe it'll mean another war, and if that's the case so be it. I'll just march on Briefne once more, and crush him. Assuming he survives the battle, I'll make sure he spends the remainder of his life rotting in prison.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Crusader Kings II Cont'd: The Life and Times of Tadg II

Tadg starting an affair
Tadg had a tendency to indulge himself during his reign
With a new castle under construction, things were looking up for preparing an invasion of either Briefne or Tyrconnell. However, due to some problems with taxation policy, my lack of understanding when creating vassals, and not grasping retinues, I've had to put those plans on hold. When my second castle was completed, I made the mistake of creating a new vassal to take care of it. Unfortunately I didn't understand that this wasn't really necessary at the time since the place's existence would not cause my demense to become too large, consequently angering my nobles. I could leave it vassal-free, but I didn't. This resulted in my having a far smaller levy than I would need for an attack on Brienfe. I would have to wait for that vassal to die, freeing up the castle, or strip his vassalage from him, which would make him super angry. So, now I wait, and improve my castles. I'll also have to get a handle on making a personal retinue, but more on that in a separate post.

The birds and the bees
Just because you're a duke, it
doesn't mean you don't have to
answer difficult questions
So, here we are, a new ruler in Connacht with an opportunity to reclaim the title of Duke for his family. Would I usurp it? Absolutely! It turns out that this costs quite a lot of money, though, so I had to be patient while scraping up the 180-ish gold that I would need to perform the deed. With time, Tadg made his move, and became a duke just like his grandfather. As you can imagine, Briefne was none to pleased about this, but they started it by usurping the title in the first places, so, nya!

During his reign I'd have to say that Tadg has been the most ennui addled ruler that I've ever played in this game. He would get bored easily, and eventually decided to go and have an affair with his uncle's wife. I didn't even have a say in it. His bad behavior even resulted in a bastard son who I chose not to legitimize, humiliating his mother, infuriating his uncle, and leaving the boy with a deep-rooted hatred of Tadg and his house. Nonetheless, this went on for years, and for reasons I've yet to figure out Tadg's mistress, Helie, just kept on coming back to him no matter how poorly he treated her.

Tadg the inventor
For science!
As time wore on, the duke began to mellow with age. He eventually gave up his philandering escapades, and realized that he actually loved his wife. From then on, the two got on wonderfully. Tadg even developed an interest in science, taking it upon himself to try and invent a flying machine. Somehow he managed to sucker the local dung collector, Melrick, into test piloting the thing for him, and as you can probably imagine things didn't go so well. Miraculously, the pilot survived the first test, but after that he convinced Tadg to steal another local inventor's flying machine and try to claim it as his own. Upon testing this one, the machine plummeted to the ground, killing Melrick. With that, Tadg decided to give up on his experiments, and just focus on ruling his dukedom. The whole escapade did earn him a couple of points in learning, though, so it wasn't all for nothing.

Shortly after this, Ireland was once again facing the threat of a tuberculosis epidemic. I kept my fingers crossed that Connacht would again manage to escape being afflicted by the disease, but I wasn't so lucky this time. At first it trickled into my region, and before long it was tearing through my court, sinking its claws first into Tadg's brother, then hitting several of my nobles. There were a number of deaths at the hands of the illness. As luck would have it, though, it also managed to kill some of Tadg's enemies in his court, including his uncle who was still none too happy about Tadg's affair with his wife. Even my duke was struck by the disease. He managed to pull through, but died a couple of years later due to another illness.

Heinrich is too young to rule by himself
My first Regency
The worrying thing about this is that Tadg's eldest son, Heinrich I, has not yet come of age, so his mother is acting as Regent until then. Heinrich is already 14 years old, though, so it won't be long until he's a full-fledged ruler. He just needs to tough it out through the transition period, and hope no one holds it too much against him for the heavy German influence upon him from his mother's side of the family.

If he can hold things together, and bring his nobles in line, he could have an interesting run on things. He still has a de jure claim on Briefne that he can exercise, and his father poured quite a lot of money into castle improvements, so maybe he'll be the one to start Connacht on the path to conquest. It certainly helps that I think I have a better grasp on that element of the game as well. Before that, though, I'm just going to focus on getting Heinrich to adulthood in one piece.

To Part V

Friday, 26 October 2012

Oh, Hey! More Crusader Kings 2: Aed has been a busy duke...in the bedroom

Aed really loved his wife
Indeed Aed does love his wife, as we can see by the huge brood of
offspring that he produced with her.
After facing the threat of being invaded, trying to get back into the swing of things on his second marriage, and finding out his bishop was a heretic, things were looking rough last time we saw Aed I. He's been a busy duke, though. First he has finally had to fulfill many of his political commitments from marriages that he and his family are part of. Ie. He's been asked to lend his support to several wars. Thankfully, I don't actually have to send troops to these things, and basically just send these other monarchs letters that read little more than, "I'm with ya, man!"

Aed I was an amazing duke
Aed really did well for himself
during his reign, and his heirs

have some big shoes to fill
Unfortunately, with my county committed to all of these wars it also means that it cannot have any feasts, hunts, or fairs. I guess throwing lavish parties is in bad taste when people you know are dying for a cause or something. So, what's a duke to do in order to keep himself entertained. Well, I have a pretty good idea what Aed did because he managed to make another four children in less than a decade while all of these wars were going on. Not bad, and bare in mind that this guy had his last kid when he was pushing 80. In the Middle Ages. I guess there must be something in the water in Connacht.

I also have a feeling there's something in the water wherever Aed's clergy usually hang out, and it's something a lot more sinister because two more of my bishops have suddenly decided to go heretic on me. One guy embraced Walderianism, and I can't remember off hand what the other got into, but I'm thinking it may have been Catharism. Again. I had these people thrown in prison, but this time I was actually able to demand that the Walderian convert back to Catholicism, to which he happily agreed after which I had him released, and he lived out the remainder of his life serving in my council. The Catharin simply shouted, "I don't wanna!" every time I tried to make him convert so I was forced to leave him in prison. Unfortunately, I also forgot about him after time, so he wound up rotting there for many years before finally dying.  Did he ever have a change of heart, I wonder. I guess we'll never know.

Beware the tuberculosis epidemic
It's difficult to see here, but a
tuberculosis epidemic swept
much of Ireland
Meanwhile, things have been relatively quiet in Ireland. A crusade was called, so some of the counties sent troops to support it. I just lent moral support because I want my soldiers for local conquest, and would rather not squander them in some far flung part of the world. There was also a tuberculosis outbreak that spread through parts of England and eventually made it to Ireland. I could see the little greenish black cloud spreading its way across the island, consuming one county after the next and hastily recalled both my chancellor and spymaster from their foreign assignments so to hopefully prevent them from catching the disease. The way it so completely infected Ireland was a little unnerving. I almost wanted to blow on my computer monitor to prevent the clouds from making their way to Connacht. Thankfully my region never had a full blown epidemic. Only one person in my court was afflicted by the illness. So, potential crisis averted.

After quite some time, though, Aed I finally died. I was actually starting to wonder about this guy because he kept on going and going, living for over 80 years. In his twilight years it was easy to see that age was taking its toll. His stats were starting to go down, and the earl of Briefne was able to usurp Aed's claim on that county. Even after Aed did die, his son was getting up there in years, already in his late 50s, and didn't have a long reign at all before succumbing to age himself. About the only thing that he was able to accomplish was to get the "Lust" attribute. A few short months later he was dead, apparently of natural causes. Right.

So now Aed I's grandson, Tadg, is leading the county. He's suffering a fairly significant hit to opinion of him since he's still in the transition period after taking the reigns of power. This will last for a few years, so I have to do whatever I can to improve people's opinions of him. Thankfully we're not at war right now other than the crusade going on, but that doesn't inhibit feasts, fairs, or hunts like more conventional conflicts do, so he'll have to start up the partying anew like his grandfather once did. Hopefully this well get him in everyone's good books sooner rather than later, and he can get down to the business of expansion.

Moving on to third generation of rulers in Connaught
Because Aed I lived for such a long time, his son barely had a chance
to rule Connaught before dying himself

And this is where things could get interesting. Despite Briefne seizing my claim on that region, it's former ruler has died and there is a child on its throne, so I can usurp the claim right back now if I want. I plan to do this. It does get tricky, though, in how I go about invading the region. I recently started the construction of Connacht's second castle, which will be complete in under two years. When it's done, I will be able to muster significantly more troops, and also have a better selection thereof, including a larger number of heavy infantry. The long and short of it is that I should have a good-sized invasion force at my disposal, and I can finally start thinking about expansion.

Political marriage attempt
Tadg's first wife died, so now I'm
trying to marry him to a princess
But where to first? Briefne is in a weakened state with a new leader who also happens to be a child. It's an unstable region ripe for the picking. One problem exists, however. Tyrconnell has once again been making claims on Connacht, starting a year or so before Tadg rose to power. If I go all in with an invasion of Briefne, will Tyrconnell take advantage of this to expand into my own region? I want to invade with overwhelming force when the time comes, but if I do I could leave myself exposed on other fronts. It makes me wonder if I should try and fabricate a claim on Tyrconnell, and invade there first. Doing so would eliminate it as a threat, then I can focus all of my attention on Briefne (I hope).

So there are some decisions to be made. I'm leaning toward dealing with Tyrconnell first, but we'll see. Before doing anything I need to shore up morale in Connacht, and make sure all of my nobles are on good terms with Tadg. Only then can I start looking to expansion.

To Part IV

Thursday, 25 October 2012

More Crusader Kings II: Back to Reality

Could an invasion be coming?
Last time I checked in things were looking pretty good in Connacht. There were feasts, and hunts, and fairs a plenty. It seemed all of my neighbors had a fairly good opinion of its ruler, Aed I, and we'd even managed to get some nice ambitions completed, all resulting in a decent amount of prestige being earned. With that, it seems like the game saw what was going on and decided, "Better not let this guy get too confident" and proceeded to beset my region with all manner of problems.

Where to begin? Hmmm, first, another neighboring region, Tyrconnell, decided to fabricate a claim on Connacht, which means there's a risk that I may be invaded at some time. I have my army training, but my forces aren't very large, so it may prove to be a problem if this guy marches on me any time soon. All I can do is try and keep my soldiers ready, and maybe see what I can do about improving the area's opinion of Connacht. Not long after this Aed's wife died (of natural causes), and this proved to be a double problem because not only would I have to seek out a new wife for my duke, but I also needed a new spymaster. Filling this position resulted in a flurry of job shuffling in my council as I tried to find a suitable replacement. I had to go so far as to invite some new nobles to my court, but after about a year I finally had a number of new nobles that were very good at their jobs, and at last the spymaster position was filled for the long haul (I hope!). The council even got a couple of new members that were particularly skilled to take on the roles of steward and chancellor.

What the hell!  First you complain at my feasts, now
you turn heretic on me.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Next came the matter of remarrying Aed, and this took a surprisingly exhaustive search of eligible lasses from across Europe. Eventually I opted for a young lady from Burgandy that's about one third his age (scandalous!), and they seem to be getting along well enough. They've even managed to have a daughter together, which made for a nice additional boost of prestige since I made that an ambition for Aed. Unfortunately, though, all of that hunting has finally caught up with the old duke, as he managed to wound himself quite badly on his last expedition. It came from a run-in with a bear. Thankfully he didn't die, but he did take a beating. So, no more hunting for him. He'll just have to settle for summer fairs and the occasional feast.

There have been no lack of spies
lurking around Connaught.
The final bit of adversity to hit Connacht came when my bishop tried to convince Aed to convert to Fraticelli, a heretical take on Catholicism. Of course I had the guy imprisoned immediately because the last thing I want is a heretic ruler, as I suspect that will put a big target on my region with people near and far plotting to invade it and reinstate the Catholic Church. Sadly the bishop died in prison a year later, and he's been replaced in my council with a new holy man (who has some pretty amazing stats, hedonism not withstanding).

So things have gone all topsy turby in a little over five years for my little corner of Europe. We're still throwing our parties but it's hard to ignore the looming threat of a potential invasion from Tryconnell, the loss of Aed's wife, and his bishop suddenly turning heretic. Things have started to take a turn for the worse, but now I guess it's up to me to get things back in order, and ensure that Connacht becomes the hippest, most happening place in all of Ireland.

Part III is over here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Learning to Play Crusader Kings II

I've always been intrigued by grand strategy games. They seem such complex things as someone whose never played one before with all of the rules, countless factors to consider, and tons of historical depth to them. I think for a lot of people it feels a little daunting trying to get a handle on such a game. A while back I got my mitts on Crusader Kings II, Europa Universalis 3, and Hearts of Iron 3, but up until this point my time with the games can only really be considered fiddling riddled with false starts and silly mistakes as I try to get a handle on the genre.

Now I've decided to really sit down and try and get comfortable with these games starting with Crusader Kings II. I chose this one because I find it a little easier to grasp than the others, and it has a nice sense of humor to it as well where it feels like even if I lose I still kinda win just because of the hijinks my characters got into while playing.

I have a du jure claim on Briefne, but it ;make take some work to
bring it under my control
If you're not familiar with the game, the whole point is to pick a noble family and build up as much prestige and piety as you can. There's a lot of variety in the sorts of families you can control with four different ranks to choose from: count, duke, king, and emperor. You'll be able to pick these from all sorts of areas in Europe such as obvious places like France, England, Denmark, Hungary, etc. With expansions it's also possible to play as leaders from the Islamic world in areas like the south of Spain, North Africa, spreading some ways into the Middle East, as well as Byzantium. About the only rulers that aren't available are pagans, which is a bit disappointing because I'd love to play as one. I guess that's what mods are for.

So, for someone like myself who likes lots of history, as well as games with a lot of meat on their bones, I guess it was inevitable that I'd sink my teeth into these games. This go around I plan to play through a session until the bitter end amassing as much prestige and piety as I can until my family line dies off or I make it to the year 1453, the year the game ends in. I'm going to give it a go as an Irish duke in Connacht, Aed I. Ireland is pretty much referred to as tutorial island in the game because it's a relatively quiet area of the world where not much happens. The larger nations mostly leave it alone seeing as it's so far away, and nearby countries like England and Scotland have their own problems without trying to invade. About the only thing players need to worry about is other Irish rulers trying to take over neighboring regions. Just to make sure I've got a handle on the game's mechanics I'll be playing it on the lowest difficulty setting. If I survive I'll play a new game with it set to normal and see how that goes.

Hunts have been very good to Duke Aed I
I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with my family. What time I've spent with the game, I've not been a very aggressive leader, so I'm not sure how hard I'll try to push into nearby regions. I do have a du jure claim on Breifne, but they also have a larger, better armed military than I, so it's a bit iffy that I'd be able to take them. I tried once in a previous game and things went very badly, though I did rush in there within a year of starting the game, which may have been a bad decision on my part.

And that's one of the things that I'm noticing with Crusader Kings II: you need to take the long view on things. A lot of things take a really long time to come to fruition, so don't go running around guns blazing all the time like one would in countless other games. Realize that a plan that has just been set in motion may take many, many years before anything comes of it. Research takes time.  Construction takes time. Getting all of the pieces in place for some grand scheme takes time.

That isn't to say nothing happens in the game, and that players are forced to wait ages before events come to pass. There's still a lot to do for fun, for profit, for the benefit of your family / vassals / subjects / the clergy. That's largely what I've been doing so far, going on hunts, having feasts and festivals, and finding a wife for my son (landed him a daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine). With a steady flow of tax income, research into ways to get more taxes, improve military tactics, and get more monthly prestige, things seem to be going well.

One of the first orders of business in this session was finding a wife for
Aed's only son.
Prestige has been pouring in and I'm only a few of years into the game. This is largely thanks to some extremely eventful hunts and festivals that have become near annual events (I like to gamble on catching thieves selling stolen goods at the summer fair, as it's an easy 15 gold that can pay for all of the year's festivities with money to spare). The hunts in particular have gone unusually well with my duke constantly fighting packs of wolves, single-handedly slaying stags and bears, and really just clobbering any cute forest animal in sight. Well, maybe not quite all of them. I've let a few live when I could get a decent boost to my piety for doing so.

I've also held a couple of winter feasts, sparing no expense on food or entertainment. Guests have been treated to mountains of food, rivers of drink, and conjurers, tumblers, and fire breathers. These things are really quite the spectacle. The local bishop seems to be a bit of a jerk at the feasts, though. At the first feast he turned down more wine, which thoroughly pissed off Aed. At the next one, held a couple of years later, he was openly complaining about the food. It's weird, because he has a really high opinion of my character, in fact he holds my duke in higher regard than the pope, and yet he's bad mouthing him at these parties, and turning down his hospitality. Maybe it's water under the bridge, though, because at the last feast he and Aed stayed up until the wee hours chatting about this and that, and they seemed to have a good time.

Hurray, free money! I mean bad thieves! Bad!
The duke has also been trying to better himself via ambitions I've set for him. A lot of the ones available were the sort that would be difficult if not impossible for him to attain like gaining 500 piety or gold. His lands are just to small for him to do either of those before he dies. He's getting old. Thankfully I did get a couple of nice ambitions to choose from. First was one to bring his diplomacy up to an 8, as we was severely lacking in that area. Those feasts really helped with that and it wasn't long before he'd reached his goal at which point I was awarded an easy 100 prestige. Next came an opportunity to try and bring his scholastics up to an 8, as that was also pretty low. I leapt at this one, as I knew there was a decent chance I could get an event that would help me achieve this ambition. After a year or so of waiting my opportunity came, as a mysterious man left a book that the duke found. I had him read it thoroughly. When he was done with it he said the thing was full of nonsensical malarkey, but I did get a nice scholarship bonus, and blammo, another ambition completed, and another 100 prestige in the bank.

It's always nice when everyone survives one of my
parties eyebrows intact.
So, up to this point it's been a non-stop party in Connacht with the occasional bought of self betterment, and it has resulted in me already raking in about 450 prestige points, so I guess that's not bad. I'm not ready to go to war with anyone just yet, though I did notice that my neighbors to the south have been having at it of late. It was tempting to send in my own troops while they were weakened, but I'm not quite comfortable with doing that, as Osmond was the aggressor there, and they too have a larger military than I do. I am putting the feelers out for possibly trying to press my du jure claim on Briefne, though. I already have my spymaster over there seeing what dirt she can dig up, and I may send my chancellor there soon as well to see if he can sow some dissent and destabilize the area. I'll still need to build up my military before I can attempt something, though, so I suspect the waiting game will continue. Perhaps my character's son will be the one who has to lead Connacht into this battle, as I suspect Duke Aed I will already have passed away by the time pieces are in place for this.

That's all still a long ways off, though. For now it's time to party, and really fortify things on the home front. Some expansion will come eventually, but I'm not willing to jump the gun on it. I'll satisfy myself with feasts, festivals, and hunting for the time being.

On to Part II of this adventure.