The mapboard represents Germany in the high middle ages.
It is divided into a large number of areas of movement, which are formed
by different kinds of terrain or which are divided from one another by
rivers and by the occasional blocking fortress. Rivers always form boundaries
between areas of movement, except at their headwaters.
There are very few areas of movement which contain no fortresses at all. Most contain at least one, and very many each contain a number of them. These fortresses are of five types, ranging from a comparatively weak castle (with an intrinsic garrison of 100) to a powerful city (with an intrinsic garrison of 2,500). Most of these fortresses are neutral, and are uncoloured, but each player has a number in the colour of his faction and which form his family estates/fiefs.
Rivers form important boundaries as these can be crossed only at river crossings, each of which is controlled by an associated fortress. In order to cross a river, a player will have to control the fortress at the point where he wants to cross, failing which he will have to seek permission from a fellow player who does control it, or, if it is neutral, from the fortress itself by means of a die roll which can be modified by a payment in cash.
All the major rivers of Germany are represented. Of these, the chief ones are the Rhine and its important tributaries, the Danube and its major tributaries, the Weser, the Spree and the Elbe. The border between Germany and Poland/Hungary is the Oder. The Main, a tributary of the Rhine stretches West - East from the Rhine itself almost as far as Bohemia. The rôle of rivers in the game cannot be under-estimated. Together with the blocking fortresses, they chop the mapboard into chunks of territory and can have the effect of channelling the movement of army counters in one direction or another. Players will find that they restrict movement, an aspect of the game which, when combined with the limitations imposed by the game calendar, will certainly cause the players to think very carefully before embarking on many activities in the game.
In addition to this, mounting a successful siege upon either a blocking fortress or upon a fortress which controls a river crossing is difficult because any such fortress will have to be invested from more than one direction by more than one army counter. In a few extreme cases where a fortress controls two river crossings, or where there is a blocking fortress which additionally controls a river crossing, three army counters will be required. In one unique case, that of the blocking fortress of Eger, which is part of the Staufer estates, the fortress has to be invested from three adjoining areas of movement, even though it does not control a river crossing.
The requirements for laying sieges are given in detail in the rules, but for the sake of simplicity, one can say that under normal circumstances, if the fortress controls a river crossing, the fortress itself will be invested by a large army group on the fortress side of the river, while the crossing, from the other side of the river will be held by a smaller supporting army group for the duration of the siege. A similar remark applies to sieges against blocking fortresses. In such cases therefore, it is particularly easy to
break a siege by sending a relief army to attack the supporting army group. Defeating such a supporting army group will end the siege. This is one of the reasons why players will tend to prefer a storm attack without a siege against a fortress if circumstances permit. This is in turn means that storm attacks without the benefit of a preceding "softening up" siege will mostly be carried out against castles and small towns, with the occasional one against medium-sized towns. Storm attacks, whether with or without preceding sieges directed against large towns or cities are exceedingly rare. (At the time of writing, and after having played a number of games of ‘Konradin oder Interregnum’, I have only seen one siege and storm attack against a city, and even that required a concealed opportunities card to allow success.)
It is clear therefore that the fortresses on the mapboard can differ widely in the degree of vulnerability which they pose to an opposing player. For instance, two different small towns, despite having identical intrinsic garrisons of 400, may have very different effective strengths depending on whether they control no river crossing, one river crossing or even two river crossings. Players must therefore familiarise themselves as thoroughly as possible with the intricacies of the geography of the mapboard, and apply the knowledge which they have thus gained when planning their campaigns for the coming game year.
Players should note however that the foregoing two paragraphs refer essentially to intrinsic garrisons.
Apart from the Alps, the various terrain types (clear, forest and marsh) have no effect in themselves on movement. They do, however influence the combat effectiveness of various types of troops. Knights are always rated at 100% of their nominal face value in any situation, but the strength of a troop of mercenaries will differ widely according to the terrain in which they are situated. Mercenaries are particularly ineffective in field battles in clear terrain when facing knights. They are however equal to knights in field battles in difficult terrain and, depending on their type, they can be particularly effective in sieges or storm attacks against fortresses, whether as attackers or defenders. If optional rule Y is not being employed, one is not permitted to siege and/or storm a fortress in difficult terrain unless certain types of mercenary contingents are present on the attacking side.
Due to the high military risks which are involved, field battles tend to be rare. One or two in the course of a game would be average. They normally occur in desperate circumstances or when the attacker knows that he has overwhelming odds. (The consequences to the loser of a major defeat of a large army are too horrible to contemplate.) Actually, the historical military situation is nicely summed up in the rules; (see italicised paragraph [6.1]) and players will find themselves naturally following similar strategies in most circumstances, as the game system reflects this.
It is my opinion that, of all the fortresses on the mapboard, the Premyzlid-held large town of Wien (Vienna) is the most powerful - or at least, the most difficult to besiege - despite the fact that it is not a city. It is remote, it is part of a player’s home fiefs, it is a blocking fortress, it controls a river crossing and, being a large town, it has an intrinsic garrison of 1,600. In addition, its bridge leads towards Bohemia, which means that it is comparatively easy for the Premyzlid player to attack any enemy support army holding the bridge.
Neutral fortresses are scattered fairly evenly across the board, except in the south-east, where there is a real dearth of them. This fact has unfortunate implications for the Premyzlid player (red faction), whose starting bases (i.e., fiefs) are all concentrated in precisely this area. Neutral fortresses are important as feuds and marriages depend on them, and so players need access, preferably easy access, to such neutral fortresses in order to take advantage of such opportunities, which in turn lead to obtaining contented allies cards and cards from the concealed opportunities deck. (Do not under-estimate the importance of this last point.) Weak neutral fortresses - mainly castles and small towns - are also useful in the months from September onwards, as storming one of these successfully satisfies the requirements for a "military success" and allows one to avoid paying that particular army in the month that the attack takes place. A similar remark applies to the costs for disbanding an army at any time during the game year.
Quite apart from the considerations of the side on which
to intervene in a feud which were outlined in the section on task cards
earlier in this paper, there are also other considerations in choosing
allies, or otherwise gaining control of fortresses, which are concerned
with geography. This is because controlled fortresses can be used as bases
where armies can be raised in the April turn of each game year. Far-flung
allies or controlled fortresses are often important for precisely this
reason, so that a controlled fortress with a crossing of the Oder can be
vital for the Brabanters, while conversely, an allied fortress in the vicinity
of Frankfurt on the Main is more than helpful to any player who wants to
elect a king. Here players should remember that obtaining Church posts
for family members can be very useful indeed (Premyzlid player, please
At the beginning of the game, the five factions (i.e., players) have set positions in which the majority of their fortresses, as shown on their fief/estate cards, are located. a) The Ascanians (green) occupy a belt of territory across northern Germany from the east bank of the Elbe to the Oder. Within this general area there are also many neutral fortresses. b) The Brabanters (blue) have their fortresses mostly concentrated in the north-west and mostly on the left bank of the Rhine. Here, neutral fortresses are very densely concentrated. c) The Premyzlid (red) fortresses are located in Bohemia, Moravia and Austria, i.e., the south-eastern sector of the map north of the Alps. Apart from Breslau, which as a medium-sized town has an intrinsic garrison of 900 and so cannot be stormed without a siege in the first game year, there are no neutral fortresses in the clear terrain in the immediate area. d) The Staufers’ (yellow) fortresses occupy a belt of territory across southern Germany, mostly in Upper and Lower Bavaria with some outlying fortresses along the upper right bank of the Rhine. There are numerous neutral fortresses in this area. e) Finally, the Wettin (orange) fortresses are to be found mainly in a belt across the eastern-central part of Germany. They also have one very useful fortress (Wiesbaden) in the Rhineland, and they have fairly easy access into the areas where the Ascanians and the Staufers predominate anyway.
Given these fixed starting positions, it is not only the starting positions themselves which are important, but rather the combination of the starting positions with the task cards which are dealt to the players at the beginning of the game. The combination of faction and task card will therefore vary from one game to another. I have attempted to tabulate my own perceptions of the relative ease or difficulty of each possible combination (see Table I at the end of this paper), and I admit that this is subjective, although taking into consideration what I have written in this paper, I think that the assessments that I have made in Table I present a reasonable view of the possible situations. I shall not therefore present a detailed analysis of 24 possible combinations. Rather, I will confine the comments which follow to the position of the Premyzlids as it seems to me that it is this faction which is the one presented with the most challenging set of circumstances.
The Premyzlid fortresses occupy the south-eastern corner of Germany north of the Alps. The Premyzlids have only four fiefs. One of these is extremely valuable, one is moderately valuable and the remaining two are cheap (see Table II). There are no neutral fortresses in the immediate neighbourhood.
It therefore appears that the most difficult task card
for the faction is TC 166. The difficulty here is one of sheer distance
as Frankfurt on the Main is fairly remote from the Premyzlid territories,
while Aachen is even further away. In order to cope with this task card,
it is therefore vital that they gain an ally, preferably a permanent ally,
somewhere in the Rhineland, although any controlled fortress will do if
allies are not forthcoming. Since a marriage with a neutral noble in the
Rhineland would be difficult for the same reason of distance from their
home fortresses, The Premyzlid player should think of putting one or even
two of the faction’s male family members into the Church at an early stage
of the game in order to obtain a bishopric or an archbishopric in or near
to the Rhineland. This would give the faction a base in the right area
where armies can be raised in a subsequent April turn. Such a base would
also allow the faction to obtain further "permanent" alliances through
marriage in the area and also ease their access to "temporary" alliances
across the board. The drawback to this course of action is that it is a
protracted one which will take more than just one game year to get going
effectively, quite apart from the possibility that a suitable Church post
may not turn up. Note however that there are several useful Church posts
in or near to the Rhineland, such as Mainz, Trier, Speyer etc.
In fact, this need for allies and controlled fortresses will dominate Premyzlid strategy, no matter what task card the faction is holding. The player will have to pursue this strategy with verve and vigour during the course of a game. In any event, the player should also take the military option, raise a large army and attack as many neutral fortresses as possible in Upper Bavaria in order to occupy them so as to provide bases for the forthcoming April turn. I recommend that this initial army should consist of not less than 1,500 knights which will cost the player M. 75,000 to raise. This will leave him with just twenty-five thousand marks to spare; the cost of two marriages, with a balance of M. 5,000, further permitting him to raise and later disband a "marriage army" of just 50 knights.
TC 167 appears to be the easiest for the Premyzlids to deal with, simply because they are close to the Alps and, more importantly, to the Oder which they can cross at Breslau if they are leading an expedition across the river to raise cash. Even here, however, they have to have had prior access to the concealed opportunities cards in order (hopefully) to draw one or more of the cards 127 - 132. So, once again, the ordination of a family member in a Church post, or marriages, or successful interventions in feuds cannot be avoided as these give access to the concealed opportunities deck. One cannot rely upon a single purchase of a concealed opportunities card at the end of a game year to get the card that one wants!
TCs 168 - 170 are all difficult for the Premyzlid faction. Once again, they will have to try and establish a base outside their own area, using whatever means they can to do so. If, however, they manage to do this, they create quite good opportunities for themselves to the point that they may then have an even chance of winning the game. To repeat; the other factions have relatively easy initial access to the neutral fortresses, but this is a luxury denied to the Premyzlid faction, which will have to take vigorous steps to rectify the situation.
Also, to a certain extent, this need for the Premyzlids to establish bases outside their area gives them an advantage in that it clouds their ultimate objective from the point of view of the other players. In other words, the necessary groundwork which they have to do should have the effect of concealing the nature of the Premyzlid task card, at least for a certain amount of time. The drawback here is that such groundwork takes time to accomplish, while the other players are getting stuck in to the real requirements of their task cards
The opponents of the Premyzlid faction could attempt to
undo what it has achieved in its groundwork by attacking any bases which
it establishes. Hence the necessity for as diverse a strategy as possible
on the part of the faction. As a further general observation, the fact
that this particular faction has but four fiefs means that under certain
circumstances, it can be very "brittle". The worst such set of circumstances
would see the Premyzlids being heavily defeated in a battle and not having
the money to pay off their troops and disband their army in any month after
August. They may even find that they have to pawn off their largest fief,
the consequences of which would simply be disastrous from a financial and
a military point of view. Other players, having more than four fiefs, are
slightly better cushioned from this sort of situation.
(Minor corrections February11th 2001)
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