Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mortal Empires, Part XII - Hochland and Nordland


With the Norscans driven back for the moment Franz took the time to meet with the Elector Count of Hochland, Aldebrand Ludenhof. A tall thin man with a passion for hunting and falconry, Ludenhof and Todbringer became bitter enemies in the aftermath of the Imperial elections, leading to a series of bitter clashes in southern Middenland near the town of Carroburg. The Norscan invasion put an immediate halt to their squabble, and Todbringer was forced to cede the town in order to withdraw his forces to defend his provincial capital. With the liberation of Middenheim Todbringer was eager to march south and re-capture Carroburg from Hochland, despite the fact that he had nominally agreed to make peace.


Another rendition of Karl Franz in action.

Franz made all this moot by meeting Ludenhof and extracting from him an oath of fealty. Appealing to the Count's sense of duty, he was able to persuade the Elector to serve the greater good and join the Imperial cause. Ludenhof was no fool - his province was sorely pressed from the east by the Varg, and with a combined Imperial army in the west, over a third of which were vengeful Middenlanders looking to avenge their humiliation at Carroburg, he knew that to fight was folly. The issue of who would have control of Carroburg was also solved by Franz, who placed it under Reikland administration. While this displeased both Todbringer and Ludenhof, the two Elector Counts were much more willing to let Franz control the town than each other and thus the issue was settled.

Ludenhof was able to extract one concession from Franz, a request that took the Emperor by surprise but one he readily acceded to. A passionate collector of hunting birds, Ludenhof had always wanted a griffon to raise and one day ride into battle. He was given a single griffon egg from the Imperial Zoo, and with that, Hochland became part of the Empire again. He was also awarded a position as the Emperor's Eye, the title of the Empire's spymaster, much to the discomfiture of Todbringer.


The province of Hochland.

Franz's overtures to Nordland, however, failed to garner similar success. Despite several entreaties for an armistice, Gausser continued his raids into Marienburg territories, much to the anger and disgust of Franz's court. After several weeks of fruitless diplomacy Franz finally lost his temper, and declared Gausser a traitor. Franz marched onto Salzenmund with a combined Reikland, Middenland and Hochland army. The garrison put up a spirited defense, but fell in a few short weeks, once again thanks to the demoralizing and deadly assault of the Emperor on the back of Deathclaw. After securing Salzenmund Franz moved on to the coastal town of Dietershafen. Here he fought Gausser's army which had hastily marched back from Gosling. Gausser was soundly beaten, and forced to retreat. His tattered army was pursued and finally destroyed in the woods south-west of Dietershafen. Gausser himself was denied a final audience with the Emperor. He met his end at the hands of Imperial assassins somewhere beneath the eaves of the Laurelorn Forest, and his remains never found. His family was stripped of their lands and titles, and a family loyal to the Franz dynasty, the Hasselhoffs, was proclaimed the new Elector and entrusted with watching the bays and coves of the Empire's most northern province.


The Empire (in red) after confederating with Middenland and Hochland, and conquering the rebel province of Nordland. Franz's army composition can be seen in the bar below the map, comprising of Franz, an Empire captain, a Warrior-Priest, 8 units of Reiksgard, 7 units of Free Company skirmishers and 1 Helstorm Rocket Battery.


More confederation! Hochland accepted my offer to confederate with the Empire, so I added Aldebrand Ludenhof to my list of generals along with his armies and territories. Ludenhof is not a Legendary Lord and can die, however, so I have to be careful with him until he reaches level 20. Once he reaches level 20 he can unlock a skill called Immortal, which as the name suggests, makes the lord death-proof. The same applies for all heroes, so it's incumbent on you to look after them until then. Once they hit 20 and acquire the skill, however, you can be as reckless with them as you like. Even if they should die they will return in 4 turns (less with special items, traits or followers). High level heroes seriously boost the power of your army, so you should always be consciously leveling them.

The Empire has a vested interest in forging an alliance with Nordland because Franz has a quest which requires him to do just that. Quests award Legendary Lords bonus experience and unique magical artifacts, and are well worth doing. Nordland refused all offers of peace in this playthrough, however, and so I just decided to wipe them out. The quest aborts the parts of quests which are no longer achievable, so I didn't lose anything by doing this.

We're now a medium-sized power, ranked 9th or 10th overall. This is the furthest I've ever been in Legendary in the sequel so I'm very chuffed at our progress. Franz has also hit the level cap (40) and acquired his epic weapon, Ghal Maraz, by completing his quest lines. He can now pretty much go toe to toe with any other Legendary Lord in the game, with the exception of maybe Archaon, the Chaos Lord of the End Times. Franz is equipped with a Potion of Healing in order to give him extra staying power in battle. I'm also training up an Empire Captain mounted on a Pegasus to become his wingman. Franz is tough enough to solo regiments on his own, but when he has friends he just cleaves through the enemy. 

My next goal now is to level up the rest of the generals. While none of them will ever become the beast Franz is, they can come close. Balthasar Gelt is a support general whose spells can be devastating, but needs heroes to anchor his line. He can hold his own against low to mid quality enemy units, but can't go toe to toe with enemy lords in combat. Volkmar the Grim is a traditional general in the sense that he stays with the bulk of the army and provides leadership. He has a special mount known in Total War circles as the "Popemobile", which is essentially a war chariot. I've never actually used him that much, but will tinker with him and his army build as we keep expanding. He combos very well with Flagellants, which are a type of unbreakable fanatic infantry. They will fight to the last man, but they are slow, unarmored, and vulnerable to missile fire. They're also expensive to replace, and they die in droves in every battle, so I'm not sure if I like Volkmar's army composition design. Maybe when the Imperial treasuries are flush he'd be great, but for now his army upkeep almost rivals Franz, who has a lot of expensive units in it. 

At this point of the game our main enemy are the Norscans, who are just ripping up the north-east parts of the Empire. By some miracle Stirland has been keeping the Vampire Counts at bay, and are still in the game. Things look good for the Empire, but this is largely based on fighting the Norscans only and avoiding any other wars. I've only been playing for 3-4 combined hours on the weekends to prevent my gameplay from outrunning the written account, but I'm pretty confident we can spank the Norscans and drive them back north. I'm just worried that the Vampires will turn on us before we complete this task. We shall see!

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