In the course of the campaigning season of the first game year, all players are largely restricted to the initial 100,000 marks they receive at the start of the game. There are indeed supplementary sources of income that can be collected during the game year, but most of these are of a minor nature. There are only two possible major sources of supplementary income. Both of these are perilous, one being generally more dangerous than the other. One of these consists of leading troops over the Alps or over the Odra (Oder) in order to hire out these troops respectively to the Italian Communes and to the Teutonic Knights, but the income derived from this source will only be received in the month of November. The other possible and potentially more dangerous source of supplementary income is derived from inflicting a heavy defeat upon a large enemy army and so being paid the money due for disbanding it, but this method, although it can occur in any game month in which military activity is permitted, is exceedingly risky and can easily backfire, so turning the attacker into the victim of the action.
It is therefore particularly accurate to say that in the first game year one’s entire military and economic position hinges upon the initial 100,000 marks that one receives at the beginning of the game. In crude terms, if one is using Optional Rule U (Accelerated Army Groups) there are two types of army. One of these is the so-called Escort Group which is small (usually, just one commander and 50 knights) and which one will use mainly to go after marriages for one’s female family members. The other is the Battle Army which is used to engage in direct military action, which is considerably larger than the typical Escort Group and which is likely to include several commanders. Usually at the beginning of most if not all game years, all players will raise one of each of these two types because of the respective and differing advantages that they have.
The problem however is the question of costs and military efficiency. To put it simply, a battle army that has less than 1,200 knights (and I say “knights” at this stage because the cheaper mercenaries are not available to players as troops in the first game year) will be ineffective. It will be ineffective because the main purpose of a battle army is to engage in feuds and so storm fortresses. The figure of 1,200 knights is the minimum required for storming a small town (intrinsic garrison of 400) without the benefit of a preceding softening-up siege.
It will cost 60,000 marks to raise 1,200 knights. Add to this the cost of the smallest possible size of an escort group, 2,500 marks (but actually 5,000 marks because one will almost certainly have to pay to disband it as its size normally precludes the possibility of it having a military success of its own to allow it to disband for nothing), and one will have spent 65,000 marks. Now add the cost of a couple of marriages at 10,000 marks each and one will have spent the sum of 85,000 marks in the course of that first game year. This will leave one with just 15,000 marks to cover all other possible expenses that might arise prior to the November turn of the first game year. In short, expenses are high and effectively apply limits to what a player can do.
In practical terms, one rarely has enough money left over from the April turn to allow one to disband a large army without the military success that will allow the army to be disbanded at no cost. It is at this point therefore that direct military action involving an opposing player’s battle army becomes perilous. In most game years, but particularly in the first, one finds that all battle armies are of roughly the same size because of the limited amount of cash available for raising armies in the April turn. (Subsequent game years may produce greater discrepancies in the sizes of battle armies.) It therefore follows that a field battle involving the battle armies of two players will usually be resolved using the 100 - 149% line on the Battle Results Table, especially if this occurs in the first game year (see Appendix 5 of the rules). For the attacker to gain any sort of victory under these circumstances requires a 2xD6 roll of “7” or better, and for a reasonable victory to be achieved requires a result of 10+ with the hope that a “B” result will convert to an “A” result.
If an “A” result is obtained, the attacking player will be a very happy man as the opponent will have to disband his army, pay the attacker a very large sum of money and lose any surviving commanders who took part in the battle as prisoners to the victor. The victor will, sooner or later, be able to release these prisoners (unless he wants to and is able to retain them as prisoners) for a minimum ransom of 10,000 marks each. The defeated player will suffer serious economic and military damage, often serious enough to put any chances of him winning the game in severe jeopardy.
The converse is also possible however, and an attacker who suffers a heavy defeat (“F” result) will be the one who suffers equally serious economic and military damage.
Assuming that the defeated army is 1,200 knights in strength, that it has three commanders all of whom survive the battle and that the battle takes place before the end of August in the game year, then the defeated player will have to pay 60,000 marks to the victor just to disband the army. In addition, he will probably have to pay a further 30,000 marks to cope with the ransom for his army commanders before the year is out. This is a total of 90,000 marks, but, certainly in the first game year, the defeated player will be unlikely to be holding a balance of more than 20,000 marks and probably less. He will therefore have to find the remaining 70,000+ marks from somewhere, and that “somewhere” consists of pawning one or more of his estates.
The sum of 60,000 marks will have to be paid immediately. The 30,000 marks to cover the ransom will have to be paid when the army which is holding the prisoners disbands. This may even happen in the very same turn as that in which the battle takes place if the victor wants to use this victory to disband his army without having to pay to disband it, or it may happen later in the game year. It is also possible that the captives may never be released: i.e., if the victor can, for example, transfer them to an escort group which can take them to imprisonment at some suitable fortress. In any event, when a player suffers a severe defeat, he will, for practical purposes, have to think in terms of having to pay both for disbanding his army and for paying a ransom to release his captured commanders within the same game year. Under normal circumstances, all of this will happen before the November turn, so he will not be able to reckon on receiving the annual payment of 100,000 marks before it happens.
In theory the problem then will be which estate to put into pawn. Upon pawning an estate, one receives twice its value. So an estate or group of estates worth around 45,000 marks will have to be pawned. Since this represents nearly fifty per cent of the “guaranteed” annual income and a very large number of troops, this will create severe economic and military shortages for the player in the following game year. The Ascanians could actually raise 90,000 marks by pawning all of their estates apart from their largest. All of the other players will have to pawn their largest single estate. Individually, estates cannot be partially pawned.
The pawning of an estate brings adverse economic and military consequences. The bigger the estate, the greater are these consequences because, whilst in pawn:
a. the estate provides no money for the November
b. the estate cannot contribute to the April raising of troops.
c. the player cannot use any of the fortresses listed on the estate card.
In effect, whilst it is in pawn, the estate is totally lost to the player and this remains so until it is redeemed. A pawned estate however can be lost permanently (from the erstwhile player’s point of view) if a sole king redeems it. If PTC 167 puts an estate into pawn, he cannot win the game via his task card until he redeems it, while if it is lost permanently, he cannot win the game via his task card at all.
Pawning an estate brings in a one-off payment of double its face value, but to redeem it a player has to pay three times its face value.
It should be clear therefore that a player who finds himself in a position in which he has to pay his troops and/or pay to disband an army will find that he suffers serious adverse economic consequences unless the army in question is a very small one (escort group). If the player does not have the ready cash to make the required payment(s), his position is truly dire as the long-term effects of pawning an estate will have to be suffered.
At this point, it would be well to introduce a further, related word of warning. Under one set of circumstances, a player may find that he has to pay to disband an army and possibly pay the troops as well even if he does not suffer a military defeat. In discussing this point, let us firstly repeat the general rule: disbanding an army at any time during the game year costs as much as it did to raise it in the April turn and one always has to pay the troops in an army in the months of September, October and November - again an April equivalent for each such month. However one does not have to pay to disband an army at any time during the game year or to pay the troops in September, October or November, provided that the army in question has achieved a military success in the same month. One cannot emphasise enough that this is one of the most important rules of the game.
Couple the foregoing with the fact that an army can be forced to disband even if it has not suffered a military defeat. This is because an army which finds that it has lost all of its commanders because they have all been killed off in battle (or even have been wounded in battle and forced to retire to the Reserve for the remainder of the current game year) has to be disbanded. To put it another way, an army must have at least one commander in order to function at all and to remain in play. Now the fact is that both field battles and storm attacks provide for a sort of “draw” (= ‘no result’) outcome to a military conflict. Whilst this is not a defeat, neither is it a “military success” within the meaning of the game rules. So, if one’s army loses the last of its commanders in the survival dice roll(s) after a conflict in which there was a “no result” outcome it will be disbanded, but there will be no economic consequences if it had, in that same conflict, achieved a military success. If, on the other hand, it has not achieved a military success in these circumstances, then the owning player will have to pay to disband the army. Were this to happen in September to November inclusive, the troops comprising the army will have to be paid in addition. Again, in September, October and November, a situation in which an army which achieves a “no result” outcome to a military conflict will see the owning player having to pay the troops of that army even if it has one or more commanders remaining alive.
I have used this first part of my commentary on the economic aspect of the game in order to examine the economic and military consequences of having to pay to disband a battle army and/or for having to pay the troops in a battle army, and I have done this in some considerable detail. I have done this to underline the possible dangers that any player may have to face because such a disaster is often sufficient to rob a player of any chance of winning the game. At the very least such a disaster will cause great delay in achieving the requirements of one’s task card, and a player to whom this happens will naturally find that any of his opponents who have not suffered such a disaster will be far ahead of him towards achieving their victory conditions.
There is a noticeable tendency amongst experienced players to avoid engaging in field battles, particularly when these have to be resolved on the 80 - 99% and the 100 - 149% lines of the battle results table. Generally speaking, field battles tend to occur only in desperate circumstances or when the attacker knows that he has a strong advantage. This is due to the sort of dangers as those outlined above. For a similar reason, players normally avoid keeping a large army in the field after the August turn of each game year. Of course a major victory in a field battle gives the victor enormous advantages, both militarily and economically and so one does find that some players, who have a gung-ho attitude, will take the risk of making an attack, and often enough this does pay off as the battle results table does tend to favour the attacker, even on the 100 -149% line.
It is quite important that players take careful note of the positions of their opponents’ armies. They should also take careful note of the size and composition of these. For instance, an army containing a large proportion of mercenaries may be comparatively weak in open terrain conditions, but it will have to be regarded with much greater care if it is in difficult terrain (as I myself once found out to my considerable cost). A player who attacks an opponent’s army would be best placed to do so if the opponent does not have a friendly fortress in the same area, and to which he can retreat, while it would be best if the attacker does have such a fortress in the area in which the attack takes place (see the explanation of the battle results table in the game rules). Although this paragraph may seem to be one devoted to military matters, such military matters have considerable economic consequences.
As the game progresses, players will (hopefully) start building up a reserve of cash in their individual treasuries.
Every player requires money in order to achieve the conditions imposed by his task card. Although the conditions for victory in the case of PTC 167 require a particularly large amount of cash, the other players too require money, and in fairly substantial amounts. This point has already been alluded to in the earlier section devoted to the individual task cards.
There is only one regular, annual source of income; namely, the payment received by each player every November from his estates. Provided one’s estates are in “good condition” one receives the full sum of 100,000 marks in the November turn. Individual estates can, however, be damaged as a result of hostile action on the part of one’s opponents and in such circumstances the damaged estate will yield a lower level of income, while estates that are in pawn yield nothing, so that receipt of the full sum of 100,000 marks cannot be guaranteed and should not therefore be taken for granted.
All supplementary sources of income are “irregular” in the sense that players have to work for them, and in the sense that most of them are one-off payments. Two of these supplementary sources of income are potentially large, while all the others are either medium or small.
Of the two large but irregular supplementary sources of income, one is that earned by smashing an enemy army very successfully in a field battle. As shown above is can be very risky, although if successful it both gains money for the victor and wreaks havoc on his opponent.
The second of these two large but irregular supplementary sources of income is capable of producing substantial amounts of money. It is earned by leading an army over the Alps or across the Odra (Oder) in order to hire it out respectively to the Italian Communes or to the Teutonic Knights. If this is carried out successfully, the faction will earn 100 marks per knight. It appears to be a simple way of earning money as there is a pass through the Alps which will allow the army to cross, and two neutral fortresses on the Oder will, provided they remain neutral, permit a crossing of the river. There are, however, several possible pitfalls. Firstly one of the Concealed Opportunity cards 127 - 132 must be held by the player attempting the expedition. This means that some previous action allowing the player access to the Concealed opportunity cards must have been carried out successfully and that one of the required cards is drawn from the deck. Each such card is single use only. Secondly the army concerned must consist solely of knights of which there cannot be less than 500. Mercenaries do not count and cannot take part in the expedition. Thirdly the army must be led (of course) by at least one family member or son in law, and each such commander in the army must undergo an unmodified survival dice-roll. Fourthly the army can only make the crossing of the Alps in September or of the Oder in September or October. As an alternative to making a crossing of the Oder, it is also possible to move to Poland/East Prussia from the northern coasts, but in order to do this, one of the Hanseatic town cards must be held as an ally and must have been placed with the army attempting the voyage - i.e., it must have been assigned to the army in April of that same year when the army was raised. Here too, commanders in the army have to undergo unmodified survival dice-rolls and an extra fee for shipping the army is payable in addition.
It is the third and fourth of these requirements that can be particularly irksome. If none of the commanders of the army in question succeeds in the survival dice-rolls, the expedition fails and the army will naturally be disbanded without having achieved its objective. If it is disbanded in this way, it means that it is disbanded after August without a military success. So the troops will have to be paid and then a second equal payment will have to be made to disband the army. Since players will naturally attempt to have as large an army as possible (in order to get as much money as possible) such a set of circumstances will be extremely painful. Having but a single leader in the army is therefore particularly dangerous. The expedition will therefore run a smaller risk of failure if two or preferably more commanders are involved, even though this exposes more than one commander to the danger of death. Both the reward consequent to a successful crossing and the penalty for failure can be very large indeed.
The very fact that the survival dice-rolls that are involved are different to those seen in military conflicts because they are unmodified (i.e., the 1x4D, which determines the intensity of battle and which therefore provides the modifier in military conflicts, is not used) can produce problems of its own. Admittedly, one will not have to suffer the danger of a ‘minus 1’ modifier, but then one does not gain the advantages of any possible ‘plus’ modifiers either. Bear in mind that, as in military conflicts, not only can the commanders be killed, but they can also be forced to leave the army through injury. In fact, for a commander to remain with the army, a 2xD6 result of 7 or better will be required, and of course, as in military conflicts, each commander has to be rolled for separately.
Notwithstanding the problems that a player may encounter in implementing this action, it is definitely the key to obtaining very substantial supplementary supplies of cash. For practical purposes, PTC 167 cannot win the game unless he implements it, and he will have to do so on more than just one occasion.
Other supplementary sources of income are all of a more modest nature. They do however provide sums of money which any player will find welcome:-
The fact that a player has to hold one of the necessary Concealed Opportunity cards in order to lead an army over the Alps or the Oder ensures that there can be no guarantee that a player will actually be able to carry out such a task in any one year. This means that the amount of income to which a player will have access could easily be limited. Against this background of limited income, the players will have to face the challenges of costs. Most players will spend a considerable portion of their incomes in order to raise troops, to pursue marriages and to obtain Church posts for male family members (and since this is mediaeval catholic Europe after AD 1135, it means that family members who have entered the Church cannot marry). Sums spent will also include the payment of bribes, carrying out hunts and even the occasional assassination attempt. This last costs 50,000 marks. Apart from assassination attempts, all of these expenses are a normal part of the game, which means that one will be confronted with a rapidly shrinking pile of cash once the April turn of any one year begins. In practice, normal expenses should not cause a player any great difficulty, and in this respect, a player should find that he can cope reasonably easily with the economic system of the game. The danger lies in a player having to pay extraordinary expenses that he cannot afford. It is not uncommon for one player in a five player game to find that he falls victim to this aspect of the economic system of the game. Nevertheless, the economic system is tight, and as I have mentioned earlier, all players will require large amounts of money in order to win via their task cards. This means that players have to have a long-term strategy in building up effective treasuries which are aimed at securing victory.
The game leaves virtually no room for errors because the economic system is as tight as it is. Apart from the possible defeats in battle that one may suffer, other dangers also exist. In one game, I realised to my horror that I had led an army into an area where it was unable to gain a military success simply because there were no more fortresses to attack in that particular area - and it was in September in the game year.
A well regulated treasury is a basic ideal in the game, and failure to understand this and failure to understand the nature of the considerable number of economic pitfalls lurking in the game rules can lead very rapidly to a disaster from which recovery may be impossible. This is particularly true of a player who loses a very valuable estate through being forced to pawn it. Redeeming such an estate is almost impossible through normal processes and the player will have to have recourse to the rule “Limitation of Indebtedness” [8.3]. Even with this process, regaining a normal economic position takes a considerable amount of time; time during which one’s opponents are forging ahead with the requirements of their own task cards. So, take care. The inattentive player, particularly he who takes little heed of geography and the game calendar can easily find that he has built himself little more than a ruin full of troubles.
Back to the homepage of Kuhlmann-Geschichtsspiele