The army group moving to Frankfurt on the Main to secure the election can consist of a mere 50 knights. If the game is being played with Optional Rule U (Accelerated Army Groups) the consequent double move should allow the army group to reach Frankfurt on the Main without too much difficulty, avoiding the attentions of hostile forces, and the election can then go ahead. In such a case, it may be best to choose to have this army group as Army Group I. The candidate himself can then be in Army Group II, which, under the best circumstances, could even allow the player to achieve victory in the same turn as that in which the election takes place. Such, at least, is the ideal situation, but there are problems.
The first of these is the matter of the costs involved. In a worst case scenario, the election and coronation of a king will require an outlay of at least M. 132,500 (60,000 for 3 archbishops’ votes + 2,500 for an army of 50 knights + 50,000 for another army of 1,000 knights + 20,000 for the coronation, giving a total of 132,500), although permanent and temporary alliances with bishops and archbishops will reduce the payments for the archbishops’ votes [10.1.2]. In theory, it is even possible to win the game in the very first game year, but to do this, the extra M. 32,500 which will be required will have to be raised by pawning estates. In practice, for geographical reasons, the only player who could have a hope of achieving this in the first game year is the Ascanian (green) player. In this case, the pitfall is the danger of failure and the consequent effects of the self-inflicted monetary and military damage (loss of income and troop-raising capability which attends the pawning of estates). Were this to happen, and even were the player to avail himself of the rule "Limitation of Indebtedness" [8.3], he would still lose a whole year of income and troop-raising possibilities, followed by yet another year of reduced income and reduced troops from the estate(s) in question.
The most obvious difficulty however which PTC 166 is likely to encounter will be the active attempts of his opponents to frustrate his plans. Two obvious counter-stratagems exist. What appears to be the simpler of these is the storming and destruction of Aachen, because a coronation cannot be carried out there if the town has been destroyed [10.2]. At best, this is a useful, temporary measure. This is because the townspeople of Aachen will rebuild the town in April in the following game year, so that the town would have to be stormed and destroyed successfully every single year were this to be the only counter-strategy adopted. Aachen is a medium-sized town with an intrinsic garrison of 900. Storming it without a siege will therefore require a minimum of 2,700 troop points, with, at 300%, only a little better than 50% chance of success and all the obvious dangers of failure. In any event, since each faction starts the game with a maximum ‘pool’ of 2,000 knights, this would clearly be impossible in game year 1, unless the storm attack were preceded by a siege taking three to four months. Here, the player attempting this counter-strategy would have to siege the town with at least 1,350 points of troops. The siege would take three turns unless the player succeeds in inducing the town to surrender on one such turn [6.4.3]. Should he fail to induce the town to surrender and if the siege ends with a storm attack with the besieging army having only the minimum number of 1,350 points of troops for such circumstances, the besieger will, once again, have the problem of storming the fortress at only 300%. Another problem in the case of a siege is that its length may allow a relief army to attack the besiegers successfully before the town itself can suffer demoralisation.
The more effective counter-strategy is for one of PTC 166’s opponents to elect and crown one of his own family members or a foreign prince (Richard of Cornwall or Charles of Valois) before PTC 166 can crown his own family member. The foreign princes are obtained through concealed opportunity cards. If this counter-strategy is successful, it will ensure that PTC 166 does not achieve the requirement of having the sole elected and crowned king unless he is able to defeat the rival militarily and force an abdication. In addition, this counter-strategy, if successful, has the added advantage of ensuring that PTC 166 has the candidate for the so-called "anti-king". An anti-king cannot simply enter Aachen to be crowned. Rather, PTC 166 will have to ask permission to enter Aachen as if he were requesting a neutral fortress permission to use its river crossing or he can storm the town under normal siege and storming rules being in force. In this latter case, he naturally runs the risk of army commanders, who will include his elected candidate, being killed in the attack.
Of course, the player who elects and crowns a king in order to prevent PTC 166 from obtaining a sole elected and crowned king is really acting as a "front man" for all the other players. Doubtlessly, they will offer him monetary, material (i.e., election votes) and military help to achieve and to maintain this state of affairs. The obvious "front man" for implementing this strategy is the Brabanter player, since he can never be PTC 166. Indeed, for the Brabanter player to do this has a further, added advantage in that all players apart from PTC 166 are likely to support this strategy, which means therefore that the player who refuses to support it is probably PTC 166 himself, who will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. Quite apart from such considerations, the fact that Aachen lies within the area in which most of the Brabanter fortresses are concentrated makes the Brabanter player the obvious choice for such a counter-strategy.
There is also the possibility of a "double blind". Since players keep their task cards concealed, the only thing that players other than PTC 166 himself know for certain is that the player controlling the Brabanter faction does not have it and that, individually, they themselves do not have it. It therefore follows that PTC 166 can, very openly, support the candidature of one of the foreign princes provided that he himself gains the necessary card from the concealed opportunities deck. It would then appear that it is he who is attempting to prevent some other, unidentified player from achieving victory through TC 166. He can even subsequently pretend to pursue the requirements of another task card - which, of course, he does not have - until he judges it suitable to act by forcing this first king to abdicate, declaring another (family member) as a new candidate and then entering Aachen with this new candidate and crowning him. As soon as he announces the abdication, there will no longer be a crowned king, so that the problem of his new candidate entering Aachen as anti-king will no longer exist. Such a set of actions, if carried through successfully, would win him the game immediately. It is for this reason that players should regard the candidature of even a foreign prince with suspicion, unless the faction controlling that foreign prince is the Brabanter one. [Note that it is not the intention of the author of the game to allow a player to hold two elected and/or crowned kings simultaneously.]
One can take this strategy even further. The rules of the game do not forbid two players, neither of whom is PTC 166, from crowning a king and an anti-king. Such a situation would certainly create a very serious problem for PTC 166, as he would have to inflict a military defeat on at least one of these rival kings before he could even elect one of his Family Members as (anti) king. Note that the game equipment (Crown cards, numbers 149-153) allows only two elected kings to be in the game at the same time. Even if PTC 166 were to inflict a military defeat upon one of these rivals, so forcing him to abdicate, he would then have to elect and crown his own candidate and then go on to defeat and force the abdication of the other rival as well, before he would have the right to claim victory through his task card. Naturally, he would have to hope that yet another player does not beat him to the election (let alone the coronation) whilst he himself is engaged in this process.
It actually gets worse. A few paragraphs earlier, I stated that electing and crowning a king costs M132,500 (all other things being equal). In the case of the situation outlined in the immediately preceding paragraph however, it is possible that PTC 166 would face considerably higher costs because he would have to raise an army of sufficient strength to defeat his rivals, so that even the 1,000 knights needed for the actual coronation may not constitute a sufficiently large force to achieve this. Two very victorious battles would be required, so that in addition to the financial burden which he would have to bear, PTC 166 may find that he has insufficient time to trap one rival, defeat him, elect his own candidate as king, crown his candidate and defeat the other rival (or defeat the other rival and then crown his candidate - the order does not matter) in the space of a single game year, due to the constraints imposed by the game calendar. Of course, one is not compelled to do all of this in a single game year. One could extend such a campaign over two or more game years, but to do so would certainly introduce yet further problems for PTC 166.
Firstly, as soon as he attacks one of these rivals, he will have identified himself to the entire universe as being PTC 166.
Secondly, he would allow his rivals (and this includes players other than the two who have elected and crowned kings) an additional breathing space to raise cash and to organise military opposition to his counter-offensive.
Thirdly, having had to disband his armies by the end of the November turn in that game year, he would have to pay for and reorganise his troops all over again in order to mount the necessary military offensive to allow him to win the game. In addition, if he has managed to dispose of one of the two rivals, and if he has managed to elect, or to elect and crown his own candidate, but if the end of the current game year intervenes before he can dispose of the other rival, he exposes his candidate to the danger of multiple assassination attempts (if Optional Rule L is in force). This would definitely be so because his candidate would have been identified, and for obvious reasons, no other player would be too keen on him having the sole elected and crowned king. In short, PTC 166 could find himself being seriously bogged down in a dangerous set of circumstances over which he has comparatively little control. Here it is useful to note that any player who, for whatever reason, fears the possibility of an assassination attempt, should hold onto Concealed Opportunities cards 141 (Mechtild of Magdeburg) and/or 143 (William of Ockham) if he is fortunate enough to obtain them.
An assassination can only be attempted against an individual in a reserve army group (which in effect also extends to foreign princes, i.e., Richard of Cornwall, Alfonso of Castile and Charles of Valois, who have entered the game). Assassination attempts are therefore more likely to be made in the October turn than in the May turn. In circumstances where there is a danger of PTC 166 winning the game all players who are capable of making such an attempt - each of which costs M50,000 - should certainly do so. Naturally, if he has the cash to spare, this course of action, directed against a rival, is also open to PTC 166. I do know that the author of the game envisages no more than a single assassination attempt by each player in each of the two months - May and October - in which it is possible, so that PTC 166 would therefore only be able to dispose of one such rival in each of these months in each game year, if indeed he is able to do so. The simplest counter to the danger of an assassination attempt against one of one’s family members is not to disband the army group accompanying the said family member until the November turn, but of course, this means that the army group in question will have to have a military success in each of the months of September, October and November, otherwise the controlling player will have to have a large reserve of cash, unless he can, by a process of redeployment (which can simply mean splitting an army group), transfer the family member to an army group which is small enough so that he can afford to pay for it, but of course, this could be a rather risky way of doing it.
If there are two rival crowned kings in play, of which one is that of PTC 166, then PTC 166 would win the game automatically were his own assassination against the rival king to succeed while his own crowned family member remains alive.
The players controlling a crowned king and a crowned anti-king must note requirements of rule 10.4. The aim of this rule is clearly to force a confrontation between the two. Where it is likely that the player controlling the anti-king is PTC 166, he is almost certain to come under attack, not only from the player controlling the king, but from all the other players as well.
In such circumstances and where one of these players is PTC 166, both players are likely to field large armies: PTC 166 because he requires the victory via his task card and the other player because he has to prevent it. Both kings must be in armies in the field in one of the four areas noted in rule 10.4 from May until October each year once the rule comes into force (but they need not be in the same area). It is important to note that this does include both the September and the October turns of each such year so that if either of them were to fail to obtain a military success in any one or more of these months, they will have to pay their troops for the month in question. As their armies are likely to be large, they would have to pay out a commensurately large amount of money.
Circumstances may differ somewhat if neither of the two players is PTC 166. In such a case, it would be in the interest of neither player to force a confrontation between the army of the player controlling the king and the army of the player controlling the anti-king. They may be prepared to field armies of a much smaller size than they would if either were PTC 166. They may even each field a so-called "marriage army" (also known as an "escort group" - see below, and in the notes on raising armies in the game). The double move associated with such an army could even allow it to move from one of the required areas to another, so possibly dodging the attentions of PTC 166 himself, who may find it difficult to trap and defeat such an army. With sufficient commanders however, it is possible for PTC 166 to raise two marriage armies of a relatively larger size than those of his rivals and, with luck, he may be able to hunt them down, bring them to battle and force the necessary abdications etc., etc.
Yet another point which has to be considered by a player attempting to stop PTC 166 from gaining a sole elected and crowned king by electing and crowning a rival of his own, is that of the impact that such a strategy may have upon the requirements of his own task card. Rule 10.4 will eventually force him to maintain an army in one of the four specified areas. Not only will this cost money, but it will also divert money and an army away from his own task. His own fiefs/estates may be left undefended. He may find it difficult to try and intervene in feuds, to lead an army over the Alps or the Oder to try and obtain more money because, with limited supplies of cash and troops, it can be quite difficult to maintain two large armies on the board at the same time. For practical purposes, he would be taking on two tasks simultaneously and this may impose an intolerable burden on his resources. He would have a good case when asking for direct financial, and indirect military help from his fellow players. After all, he is, remember, the "front man" for the others.
My own group, in the shape of Mike Rogers, has been able to demonstrate that a player who has TC 166 can, with careful play, win the game very early in the second game year. The strategy employed on these occasions (indeed, he did it twice and in consecutive games) was similar to that noted earlier. In the first game year, PTC 166 raises only a medium sized army and is careful to conserve funds as far as possible. The medium sized army is backed up by what my own group terms a "marriage army" (or "escort group" - see later). PTC 166 uses the first game year in order to attempt to gain allies who are strategically placed in the vicinity of Frankfurt on the Main and in the vicinity of Aachen as far as possible. (He uses the marriage army for gaining marriages and the medium sized one for intervening in feuds.) Then, early in the second game year, with M132,500 (or less if he has managed to pick up allies amongst the clerical nobility) in his pocket, he uses a marriage army to march rapidly on Frankfurt on the Main and proclaims a family member as king. This family member will be with his second, much larger army (at least 1,000 knights) which will be waiting at a fortress with ready access to Aachen. The other players must therefore pay very careful attention to any opponent who appears to be keeping back money in the first year and who appears to be gaining allies who are strategically based for just such an action.
TC 167. PTC 167 wins if he accumulates a sum of M. 500,000 or more. None of his fief/estate cards however, may be in pawn or otherwise lost, for him to be able to claim the victory.
It is not easy to amass half a million marks in cash. Players each receive M. 100,000 at the beginning of the game, and provided their estates are in good condition, a further full M. 100,000 each November. This November payment of M. 100,000 will be reduced if the estates do not meet the criteria of being "in good condition". [7 and see also Optional Rule M]. Although M. 100,000 appears to be quite a large sum of money, it disappears fairly rapidly as mobilising troops is an expensive affair. Other actions too, are onerous in monetary terms. Marriages cost M. 10,000 each; obtaining a Church post for a family member is not cheap. Nearly everything costs greater or lesser sums of money, the cumulative effect of which can easily fritter away the November income, while apart from the annual November revenues and two other possible but irregular sources of income, monies which one receives during the course of a game year are comparatively modest. In addition, virtually all sources of income other than the November revenues are either fraught with danger or are not guaranteed to succeed. Some may be both dangerous and difficult to achieve.
Of the two large, but irregular sources of income, the first involves a military option. Essentially, this consists of raising a large army and using it to attack the armies of one’s opponents. A good result for an attacker (‘A’ in a field battle or ‘G’ in a storm attack on a fortress where an opponent’s army is occupying the fortress attacked) will gain the attacker the sum of M.50 for each of the opponent’s knights and M. 5 for each of the opponent’s mercenaries which were involved in the conflict [Various Game Tables 1 & 2]. Unfortunately, this strategy is exceedingly risky, unless the defending army group is much smaller than that of the attacker. Even then, success cannot be guaranteed, whilst fickle Fortune may provide some very nasty surprises, and a severe defeat for the attacker will result in him having to pay large sums of money to the victorious defender. It also means that the army group raised for this purpose must, in that same game year, defeat more troops in total than it consists of itself otherwise it operates at a loss. In practice, players tend to avoid field battles precisely because of the risks which are inherent in such a strategy. Yet another major problem is that it is not easy to trap an opponent’s army group in this way. The military option is therefore best avoided - certainly as a primary source of income - and it is probably better used against PTC 167 than used by him.
Nevertheless, players will have to raise large army groups from time to time, and should a situation occur in which an opponent’s army group can be attacked effectively, the chance to do this should be taken.
The second large but irregular source of income is obtained through raising as large an army group as possible (at least 500 knights) and leading it over the Alps into Italy or over the Oder into Poland in order to hire it out to the Italian Communes or to the Teutonic Knights. The army will have to enter Italy in September or Poland in September or October. In November of the same year, the player will receive M. 100 per knight hired out in this way, and will not have to pay for the upkeep or disbanding of the army group in the intervening months. Only knights are permitted in the make-up of such an army group. A number of possible pitfalls exists in this strategy, which is dealt with in more detail in the later section on the economic aspect of the game, but it is worth noting that this strategy can leave one’s fiefs/estates comparatively unprotected during the extended campaigning season. This, however is likely to be a comparatively minor problem, as players will naturally tend to avoid having large army groups on the board after the August turn, in order to avoid having to pay for their upkeep after the close of the true campaigning season. It is also worth noting here that, in order to use this strategy at all, a concealed opportunities card is required (one of Nos. 127 - 132), and that each of the cards which gives a player this right is single-use only. So the players wishing to use this strategy will have to have access to the concealed opportunities deck, and even when they do draw a concealed opportunities card, there can be no guarantee that they will draw the card(s) which they require.
Access to the concealed opportunities deck is obtained through a marriage, an ordination, a successful intervention in a feud and a coronation. Also, in the November turn of each year, one may draw a concealed opportunities card in exchange for a payment of M. 5,000. Optional Rules N and P, if used, also permit access to the concealed opportunities deck. A problem with concealed opportunities cards is that a player can hold no more than three undeclared ones at any one time.
It is therefore clear that in order to earn the right to lead an army group over the Alps or the Oder, a player has to invest time, money and effort into actions which gain concealed opportunities cards, while at the same time, there can be no guarantee of drawing the card desired. This is, nevertheless, the strategy which must be the main one for achieving the conditions of TC 167.
In theory, it should be reasonably easy to identify PTC 167 simply by looking for the player who is building up a large reserve of cash. Although this is certainly true, it is only true up to a point as appearances can be deceptive. One must bear in mind the fact that any player, no matter what his task card, needs as much money as he can lay his hands on. This means that any player who obtains one or more of the concealed opportunities cards allowing him to hire out troops to the Italians or to the Teutonic Knights will be almost certain to try and take advantage of it. Conversely, PTC 167 may find that, due to a combination of circumstances, he is unable to earn large sums of money, so possibly leading the other players to draw false conclusions.
Should PTC 167 be identified correctly, his opponents have certain strategies to prevent him from securing large sums of money. Players are allowed to reveal their undeclared concealed opportunities cards to each other. Doing this will give the players a reasonable idea of how many of the six cards in question (127 - 132) are being held which in turn, will allow an estimate of the number which could be available to PTC 167. Bear in mind that at the end of each game year, the face-down decks of cards (which will include any discards) will, apart from the order of play cards deck, be re-shuffled which
means that any of these cards which might have been used during that game year will once more be available. Players can agree to hold and not use such cards in order to prevent them from falling into PTC 167’s hands.
Still, the most effective strategy for the other players remains direct military action. Attacks upon PTC 167’s fiefs/estates are one example of this, and should be carried out by all players in order to reduce his annual income. Again, trapping one of his armies and defeating it so as to force him to pay large amounts of money is another possible option, although it carries a high military risk for the attacker and could backfire rather badly. On the other hand this strategy could be very successful if it forces him to pawn off an estate. In such circumstances, if a player other than PTC 166 and PTC 167 has a sole crowned king, he will have the right to redeem the pawned estate and hand it over to any player of his choice, including himself. Were this to happen, PTC 167 would be unable to win the game through his task card. If the estate card remains in the pawning box, PTC 167 may be able to redeem it at some point by paying three times its value, or by using the rule on the limitation of indebtedness, but in either case, he will probably receive quite a severe set-back to his money-grubbing plans.
It is possible to cause yet further problems for PTC 167 by sealing off the borders with Poland and Italy. The Oder crossings into Poland are three; both Stettin and Breslau are neutral towns while Frankfurt on the Oder belongs to the Ascanians. The towns controlling the crossings would have to be brought under the control of players other than PTC 167, but it is difficult to do this if PTC 167 happens to be the Ascanian player. By the same token, sealing off the border with Italy would be difficult to achieve against a Staufer PTC 167. Effectively, the Danube rather than the Alps would have to be the border. In both cases, at least one large army group would have to be employed.
PTC 167 must pay far more attention to the economic aspects of the game than his opponents need to do. The reason for this is that he cannot win the game via his task card while even one of his family estate/fief cards is in pawn.
Now, under normal circumstances, a player who is forced to pawn such a family estate (as a result of incurring a debt which he has insufficient funds to cover) will naturally choose an estate which is as cheap as possible, i.e., of a value just sufficient to cover the debt. For instance, a player who has to cover a debt of, say M1,800 and who has no money at all, will choose an estate valued at M1,000 if he has one available. This is because the estate is pawned for double its face value, here netting M2,000. In this case, redeeming the estate will cost M3,000, but this is an inconsiderable sum of money which the player should be able to raise with ease in the subsequent November turn. In other words, such a set of circumstances will be unlikely to cause economic worries for any player other than PTC 167.
The reason why such a set of circumstances can cause serious problems for PTC 167 is to be found in Rule 10.3.2 "Pawned Property". This rule allows a sole elected and crowned king the right to redeem any currently pawned estate/fief cards which are in the pawning box. If the king redeems any such card or cards, he may assign them to any player, including to himself. Although this rule also states that he has to move to an Imperial Town in order to take advantage of this right, such Imperial Towns are fairly plentiful, so that this aspect of the rule is unlikely to cause him any difficulties.
By definition, a player who is forced to pawn a fief/estate card will usually have insufficient funds to redeem it until the following November turn. The sole king, however, has the right to redeem the card, provided he can reach an Imperial Town and provided he has the required funds. The point here is that even if the king has insufficient funds of his own, there is nothing in the rules to prevent other players from acting as financial backers and contributing cash to allow him to redeem the fief/estate. Were this to happen to one of PTC 167’s fiefs, he would be very unlikely to regain it. This means that he would be completely unable to win the game via his task card, no matter how small or cheap the fief concerned and no matter how much money he is able to amass subsequently.
It is important to note here that the greatest danger probably lies with PTC 167 pawning his smaller, cheaper fiefs, precisely because any such fief would be particularly easy for the king to redeem. Yet, on the other hand, while more valuable estates are less risky in this particular respect because they are relatively more expensive to redeem, PTC 167 would find that redeeming a large estate/fief could provide him with a very heavy financial burden.
Looking at it from the point of view of the other players, the greatest difficulty would be in positively identifying PTC 167. They could cope with this by agreeing to contribute to the king’s costs for redeeming the fief. This should then offer a positive identification of PTC 167 who would be unlikely to join such an agreement as he would, in effect, be offering rope with which the opponents could hang him.
PTC 167 should therefore avoid pawning fiefs. Even if there is no sole, crowned king at the time when he pawns a fief, circumstances can change quite rapidly. Conversely, where a sole, crowned king does exist, he - i.e., the king - should make every effort to redeem any fief which goes into the pawning box.
It is fair to say that, if all other things are equal, PTC 167 has a reasonable chance of winning the game.
TC 168, TC 169 and TC 170 all appear very similar as each of them requires the players to assemble a number of permanent and/or temporary allies. The similarities of these task cards are actually more apparent than real, as each of these task cards requires a radically different approach to the goals which they set before the players.
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