Charlemagne (S&T 189)

Playings 2; Empire wins

This game looks great, is produced by Miranda and is based on the reasonably useful Byzantium system. With that pedigree it should be a harmless, vaguely informative game worth getting and playing. Unfortunately it does not meet the mark.

The main difference from Byzantium or Fall of Rome or 100 Years War is the addition of hexes and some damn fine graphic design. As units stack in hexes rather than areas there will be more active stacks than in previous games. Stacks have a number of operations points ranging from 6 for peasants to 18 for the sporty knight types. This is added to a D6 (doubled or trebled for leaders) to give a number of points to spend on moving, fighting, pillaging and such. Due to the increased number of active stacks this can take a bit longer than in previous games.

Charlemagne should be played solitaire, this is not a bad thing just not much fun if you are not Charlemagne. There are two sides; the other being the tribal player who commands forces fighting the Franks. This starts off as the Lombards and (German type) Saxons. Other nations join the tribal player as the Empire expands and is forced to attack neutrals. Nations can be prevented from raising new troops by occupying all their towns but can only be forced out of the war by playing Vassalage markers in a game phase that occurs before movement. So you cannot take over a nation in a single turn, as you will have to move in and then Vassal the place later.

Vassalage markers are amongst the strategy markers common in this type of game. They are gained by winning battles and control of civilised hexes. It is not hard to find a weak enemy garrison and crush it to get a good chance of gaining two stratagem markers. This puts a lot of stratagem markers in play and as they are required for conversion and vassalage they will be played a lot more frequently than in other Miranda stratagem games. The Franks begin in control of a good chunk of nations compared to the two initial tribal nations. They also get to go 1st and have Charlemagne who is good. Expect one of the tribal nations to be overrun on the 1st turn; the other could be in trouble too. With the markers gained from battles the overrun nation will probably be a vassal during the next Frank turn. If they are the heathen Saxons it helps to convert them 1st, hopefully the required conversion chits have showed up.

Nations can change sides by revolt as well as conquest so in theory the Frank should be troubled by his conquered areas revolting and have to turn back to sort this out. This is all in the hands of the random events rolled every player turn. Half the events are revolts requiring listed nations to test for revolt. Basically a nation revolts on a 1-3 of a D6 but add 1 if all towns are occupied by Frankish forces and +1 if the nation is Christian. The Franks will be converting as they go along, as it is good for victory points as well as the soul. With a little maths we can see that an occupied Christian area will only revolt on a natural 1. A revolt takes the nation to neutrality if active or tribal control if already neutral. Revolts can affect the tribal player in the same way, as the Empire so may even be a worse blow to the tribes.

Second problem is money. I am an absolute failure with this but do tend to accumulate it in this sort of game. The Franks can bring in a lot of cash by occupying all their towns and there is not much to spend it on. You can raise some more troops but most troop types come free as a levy. Some should be kept back to supply big stacks and further crush the tribes who are unlikely to have the spare cash to build or supply that size of force. They are also very reasonably prevented from stacking different nations in the same hex. The money can be spent on more civilisation markers that bring on stratagems or to build yet more towns and bring in even more cash. The Frankish home area cannot revolt so can be built into MegaCity 1 by cramming on the new towns. In the 2nd game I gave up collecting the Empireís cash as it is fiddly to find all the occupied towns and count them and there was clearly more than enough to go around. The worst fate for the Empire is not revolt but plague that halves the treasury and removes units so less cash can be gathered. The tribal player has less to lose.

Restricted to reaction and starved of cash the tribal player has to wait on the random events and stack big in towns or raid into Empire regions. They can then pillage the place to get some cash, reduce the Empireís ability to raise income from that town and perhaps gain the odd stratagem. Basically you shuffle off capture and pillage the weakly held towns until you get caught and sliced.

Variants

I have dreamt up a few fixes to make the game harder for the Franks.

4.3 Control

Neutral units are not set up on the map. Remove all units of a nation when it becomes neutral. When a neutral nation is activated the controlling faction places the units given in the set up for that nation. At least 1 unit must be placed per town. Active units may not enter the towns of neutral nations without 1st declaring war and allowing the nationís units to be set up.

Previously it was hard to tell which units were neutral as all units are double sided for Empire and Tribal. They had to be inverted to show neutral status. A nation that has been activated, passed to neutrality and then activated again may gain a few more troops. We can assume that it has invested some income in defence.

6 Random Events

Do not test neutral areas for plague.

A simplification required because the neutral areas have no units. This also cuts down a tedious chore of checking and removing.

7 Revolt

The die roll modifiers on the revolt table are not cumulative. Either may be used to a maximum +1.

This will double the chance of occupied Christian areas revolting.

11.1 Levies

Only Militia and Fleets (for Denmark and Norse) may be raised by levy. All other units are raised as mercenary units.

This gives the players something to spend the cash on and puts war on a financial footing.

20 Provisioning

Ignore the current rules. A player must pay 1 treasury point for each unit that is outside its base area. If this is not paid the unit is instantly moved for no operations points to its home area. If the unit cannot be moved without exiting an enemy ZOC it is eliminated. Count enemy naval units when determining status. Exception; units that have successfully pillaged at least 1 town are not liable for provisioning in that player turn.

This is a simpler rule than before but harsher. It was good practice to leave cheap units behind to garrison towns now these units will use up the income from those towns to support them.

Charlemagne Scenario

Do not set up neutral units.

Due to the changes in 4.3.