Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strathearn Dynasty Pt.4 - King Kenneth IV the Blind of Scotland

King Kenneth IV the Blind of Scotland
As the first King in the Strathearn Dynasty, Kenneth's reign marked the culmination of Muiredach's dream. They were still small fry compared to the European powerhouses, so there was still much to do outside Scottish borders. The control of Ireland is the next goal on the table.

A generation of sowing Strathearns into potential seats of power had only reaped one county leader, so Kenneth turned to another strategy; bring in claimants, win them to his side (with possible Strathearn blood ties), then gift them their title through the pointy end of a stick. Oriel and Tyrconnell succumbed to this strategy while also becoming vassals of Scotland. With 1/2 the Duchy of Ulster under Scottish control, the title was created and then used to attack Tyrone, who also fell quickly. Although Ulster county itself was led by Countess Eua, a Strathearn descendant, poor marriage choices meant that her rule would be the last for the Strathearns, so she too was forced to bend the knee and join the Scottish Kingdom. All the southern duchies of Ireland were also contested by Scottish claimants at some point, but they continued to evade Kenneth's machinations and remain independent.

Even though the wars were swift, Kenneth's reputation for staying behind grew into rumours of cowardice. When a rebellious Malcolm Dunkeld of Gowrie took leave of his senses and strived for independance alone, Kenneth saw an opportunity to lead the burgeoning Strathearn Guard himself. With almost 2000 men under his direct control the outcome of the battle for Gowrie was never in doubt, but as Kenneth led the final assault, he took a viscious slash that dislodged his helmet and almost decapitated him. Bleeding, he stayed in the fray until victory was complete, but the damage was done. He would lose an eye and bear the scars of battle to his grave. No longer would the King be seen as craven, but instead was to be known as Kenneth the Blind.

In his 40's, Kenneth's kingom was looking in control. Minor claims into English territory went the same way as the southern tip of Ireland, with more luck of increasing Scottish land going to existing earls and Dukes rather than outside claimants. The potential death blow for Strathearn dominance came from within as Kenneth's only son 'little Kenneth' passed away, exposing a severe lack of rightful male Strathearn heirs within the electorate Duchies. Kenneth considered many options to bring his brother, the king of Denmark, to the throne, but eventually settled on a more wide ranging solution to change the succession law for females to claim the throne if no male heirs were available. Many of our line rejoiced at the change, while the Island and Lothien Dukes cried foul. Their names were soon to be removed from power anyway.

With somewhat of an impasse in Ireland with the independent dukes happy to keep slaying each other, and England seeming to miraculously come back from wave after wave of internal splits, Kenneth turned south for territorial expansion. Far south. While the Pope had proclaimed a crusade to Darum (near Jerusalem), there were still holy wars raging on the Iberian peninsula. Kenneth set sail with eager troops and laid claim to Granada to help rip apart the Andalusian Sultanate. Over 5000 set sail, and barely met more than 1500 troops on the field of battle to make good their claim. Cultural and spiritual differences took their toll on any hope of making productive use of the land, but it served as a convenient place to hide away heretics and claimants outstaying their welcome at court.

Succumbing to illness, King Kenneth the Blind finally departed at a venerable 55. His wife had borne him another son when both were in their 40's, so King Archibald took over at only 10 years of age with Kenneth's doting wife, Queen Eilionora, acting as regent.



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Strathearn Dynasty Pt.3 - Duchess Aufrica the Wise of Albany

Duchess Aufrica the Wise of Albany
As Aufrica took the matriarchal position at the head of the Strathearn Dynasty,  her two ambitious sisters acquired land also in the gavelkind succession. Fife went to Bethoc, while Flora took Moray up north. The sibling rivalry would stir ofen during Aufrica's reign, and both sisters spent a good portion of their lives behind bars to curtail their scheming. Without any direct control there were fears that the Strathearn line would peter out in those two branches, but both countesses managed to find suitable matches that would accept matrilineal descendants. However, the prolifeartion of girls in the next generation would continue to be a problem.

Aufrica married into the Babingberger line to set up a loose alliance with mainland Europe, but was under no illusions that the Dynasty required a legitimate heir to the throne. Even though Queen Finnguala currently reigned, a male descendant would be the only true way that Scotland would accept such a new lineage. Duchess Matilda arrived first to take the female count to 10 from 10 progeny, but Kenneth arrived next spring with his twin sister Ada to finally bring hope to the Strathearn line.

Poor luck and indecisive breeding also plagued the Lothiens to the South. Their Duchy claim backtracked though their tree to Gille-Crist's wife, and hence enabled Aufrica to make a play for the title. The Queen and other gentry up north ignored the young Duke of Lothien's pleads for help as the Strathearn Guard took them apart. Lothien had previously extended themselves by claiming the Duchy of the Isles, and this was to be their saving grace as they managed to squirrel away the majority of their holdings under that secondary title. Stirling Castle and Dunbar, the jewels of Lothien, still found their way into the clutches of Strathearn's Duchess.

With the Duchy spread clear across the breadth of Scotland, the power now belonged solely in Aufrica's hands. Queen Finnguala had passed on her crown to an inexperienced Godfrey a Muirebe, whose lack of leadership further put him in a weakened position. She bullied him into conceding Argyll and Caithness before attemting to relieve him of the crown itself. As Kenneth was still only 14, a plot hatched to bring Ingram Dunkeld to the throne. Even though it undid some of the work to extracate the Dunkelds from their position of power in the Scottish highlands, Ingram was the weakest of the candidates with no personal heirs and a 60 year old wife. He jumped at the chance to don the crown, but there was no doubt where the Scottish might now came from.

King Ingram the puppet. No love, no heirs, no control over his vassals. Soon to be deposed.

Kenneth was handed the Lothien Duchy as he turned of age, but with the Saxon populace objecting to Scottish rule, most troops were unavailable for him to wield. Aufrica continued to do the bulk of the work to depose Ingram and install Kenneth as the first Strathearn King of Scotland.

With only minor scuffles to deal with at home, the Dynasty turn their sights over the waves to Ireland. Some groundwork had been laid with Domnall's injection into Ulster during Muiredach's reign, but the female curse had spread there too, leaving only a generation of Strathearn blood to call upon. Kenneth had taken an Irish bride as the plans for the Puppet King were unfolding, and with her came the rights to claim the Duchies of Connacht and Meath. Other claimants were catered for in the halls of Strathearn to cover almost every part of the green isle.

As Aufrica slipped in and out of illness, Henry, her youngest, was her final bullet in the game of genetical warfare. Sizing up the Kingdom of Denmark, they accepted a betrothal to the young King's sister before he sucumbed to repeated assasination attempts. This cost Aufrica dearly in the sight of her peers and contributed to her worsening mental state. She slipped away from court as Otto, her husband, took over as regent in her final months.

Henry, atop the throne of Denmark, saw off the Polish threat that was plaguing the nation with help from Kenneth and Otto's combined forces. 2 sons, 2 Kingdoms. A testiment to Aufrica the Wise.      

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Strathearn Dynasty Pt.2 - Duke Gille-Crist of Albany

Duke Gille-Crist of Albany
Gille-Crist has high ambitions; to become great among men. With no real conflict on the horizon it seemed a good enough goal to aim at through festivals, feasts, and great hunts. As the years ticked by, Gille-Crist's parties became more and more spectacular, eventually surpassing even the King's illustrious events. Gille-Crist has the presence of a King, but not the title.

Scotland had 3 duchies at the time; Albany, Lothien to the south and Moray to the north. Lothien remained allies through Gille-Crist's brother-in-law, so Moray was the only real alternative for internal gains. Gille-Crist had been the chancellor used to fabricate some of Muiredach's claims, so he had no hesitation in sending out Fergus de Tullabardine to see what he could do in Moray. Maybe he could even find a way to get into the Duchy itself?

As the festivals and hunts continued, finally Gille-Crist succumbed to a hunting accident that maimed his arm. This took the shine off organised hunts as an avenue for fame, and shortened his reign to achieve greatness. Festivals remained a yearly event though, and Gille-Crist became loved among the peasants and gentry alike for his magnanimous generosity and kind-hearted nature. 

Moray's claims were finally found, but if another could be found for the County of Ross it would mean a clean sweep of the Duchy come battle time. As the new century rolled in Gille-Crist could feel time running out, so he initiated his Moray claim and called up the troops. With superior numbers and Neil Rodriguez (the marshall's talented son) holding the middle, the pitched battle of Buchan settled the debate.

Countess Finguala of Moray, although seething over our recent conflict, had other plans in place. She called for Gille-Crist's support to change Scotland into an elected monarchy; a plot that offered an even quicker way to the throne. Gille-Crist accepted and the King duly agreed without the need for bloodshed. As the King's chancellor and land holdings through the middle of Scotland, Gille-Crist was level-pegging with Prince Malcom Dunkeld for the right to wear the crown. A closer step indeed.

Countess Finguala had not finished. Her next claim was for the Kingdom itself! The ramifications of an unsuccessful plot were huge for Gille-Crist, but Moray was certainly in a more precarious position than the Dunkeld's and would likely lead to more opportunities of election. With Gille-Crist's support, the Crown was handed over immediately.

Without the protection of the crown, Prince Dunkan's holding of Gowrie was able to be pressured for amalgamation into the Duchy of Albany. As Gille-Crist's final act, he saw the fall of the once great Dunkeld line before passing away at age 47. Could this happen to the Strathearns too? Possibly. And with no sons in the family tree they are vey much exposed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Strathearn Dynasty Pt 1 - Count Muiredach of Strathearn

This is an AAR detailing a playthrough of Crusader Kings 2 starting from a single dynastic character. I have a soft spot for Scotland, so this first one is based there.  

Count Muiredach of Strathearn
As the Count of Strathearn, a small province in the middle of Scotland, I had a lot of work to get my Strathearn dynasty established and stable, let alone dominating Europe. First things first, a good wife with good breeding potential.

With kids on the go the dynasty is looking a little more secure, but with only one province I can't really do much on my own at the moment. I don't even have the troops to hold a siege, let alone win a stand-up battle. Regardless, we're certainly not going to be a dynasty of note with only a single county to rule. Plans are put in place to drum up any claims at all (even if I need to make them up myself). Fife next door is the first target as it doesn't have any real ties to the Dunkelds who hold the Scotland throne at the moment, or the Lothien dynasty to the south. The Earl of Lothien is also happy to accept a marriage betrothal with my heir to give ourselves an alliance of sorts.

Ulster is the next focal point as a gateway into the north of Ireland. We manage to line up another marriage to their eldest daughter, but her younger brother is currently the heir to the independent county. He had a slight accident that night though. Unfortunately the perpetrators were caught and leaked our involvement, which brought about a reciprocal poisoning attempt. Might have been a bit soon with the knife, as the betrothal still needs to be validated in a couple of years. Anger subsided by the end of the year when the old  Earl of Ulster passed away and left my son's bride in control.  
With the years passing I finally get my Lothien bride, and with it a strong ally to go after Fife. The fabricated claim had been in place for a while and Lothien's support (even though it needed a little pampering) was the last piece of the puzzle. The Mac Duibs didn't stand a chance with their 400 strong against our invading 2000.

With Fife added to Strathearn, there's the opportunity to create the Duchy of Albany. Even though it covers Gowrie, the existing seat of the Scottish kingdom, it had been let in decline over the past century. It solves a current problem quite neatly though. With Gavelkind succession, there was the potential that we would only hand over 1 province to our first heir, Gille-Crist, with Lorenzo pocketing Fife along with his grip on Ulster. I don't want to go back to being a 1 county leader, so a Duchy allows us to keep the forward momentum going. At 58, Muiredach was unlikely to see out the several years of fundraising to establish the Duchy, but as luck had it he fought off 2 illnesses to see the Duchy complete.

Duke Muiredach of Albany. Nice ring to it. King Muiredach sounds better though. The Duchy allows us to press claim on the mountains of Atholl, and with fresh leadership devoid of Dunkeld family ties it's a pretty easy decision to grab it. We called on Lothien again, but they, too, had Lothien ties that kept them on the sideline. No matter. With 2 provinces to draw troops from we had the advantage ourselves. Rather than forcing a fight, both sides were happy to trade sieges. Once again with 2 provinces, the sieging race was heavily stacked in my favour and took less than a year to bring them into line. 

Scotland wasn't without external pressure as a William-the-Conquerorless England pressed for a claim to Cumberland. They fought off several internal splits to complete the deal, but the real concern was our inability to meet their numbers on the field. 3000 to ~2400. England is definitely going to be a big pain in the future.

At 62, Muiredach finally passed on, leaving a somewhat smooth transition to Gille-Crist and the next chapter in the House of Strathearn.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CK2: Interesting Choices

Finally at 4am Crusader Kings II was unlocked and I could finally download it. A bit late for the anticipated Valentine's Day playthrough with Sandy, but at least we got a couple of hours in this morning.

What really makes this game come alive is the messy situations that the game throws at you. Hopefully I'll record a couple of these in a Sid Meier's Interesting Choices homage.

Situation: I'd shuffled around the council a little to get a genius theologian with 21 skill into the court chaplain position. Sacrificed a little opinion in doing so, but should be worth it in the long run. 6 months later he presents me with this interesting choice:
"Hey, I've been following this Cather heresy stuff and I think they are onto a good thing. You with me?" (paraphrased, should have grabbed a screenie)
Choice 1: Yep. [ and be potentially excommunicated and run through by every country within 1000 miles ]
Choice 2: Lock him up [ and then have to search again for a new chaplain ]

Outcome: In the end it had to be 2, although I was tempted enough by the offer to actually look up what Catharism was all about to see if it was indeed heresy by my standards (Lutheranism was also heretical when it started).

Situation: My first born son has finally come of age and looks like a perfect candidate for the Scottish King's 4-year-old daughter. I set up the match, but while he's deciding an interesting choice pops up at the King's feast that is currently underway:

"The wine's good and there lots to go around"
Choice 1: Drink up! [ and gain the "drunkard " trait ]
Choice 2: I've had enough [ and reduce the King's opinion of me ]

Outcome: If this were any other time I'd probably have gone with 2 as I hate picking up negative attributes, but with the marriage proposal on the table it was just too risky. I hope "Gillie-Crist" realises the sacrifice his dad is making to keep the dynasty strong.

Dwarf Fortress update

After almost a year the new version of Dwarf Fortress is out! Unfortunately it's going to be eaten up by Crusader Kings 2 that unlocks in less than an hour. Might at least get  to play with the world gen.

Monday, February 13, 2012

PSTN Intro

An interesting project is starting up to help pre-service teachers establish their own personal learning network. Boringly named The pre-service teacher's network, it is an awesome idea.

While mulling over David's How to get rid of the lecture, I'd come to the conclusion that the highest priority should be in establishing contact points between students. The lecture not only provides information for students, but also binds them into a shared experience of time / place / content. Without that common binding, it's very easy for students to feel lost in the content and become overwhelmed. What is needed is a simple way to connect to another student travelling on the same learning journey. Really simple. Like looking around the room or nudging the person next to you simple.

PSTN has the opportunity to be just that. A simple way of nudging someone to see if you're on the right track. The learning journey isna't a specific class, but a profession that cries out for additional support.


Manual activation of Office 2010

For some strange reason Office 2010 won't show the activation window on one of the computers in the church. Here's an Office 2010 manual activation workaround that I'll need when I'm in there.

Monday, February 06, 2012

GameLog 236-237

Really need to do the GameLog of 2011.

Fallen Enchantress beta (23h) - Much, much better than Elemental ever was, but it feels a little slow paced. I know it gives more time for the heroes to do their stuff, but it sometimes leads into a position where you disturb a giant and have no chance of defense, so you may as well keep pushing.

Grepolis (15h) - Big push by EN.
Dwarf Fortress (10h) - Built another colony with a valley below the river. ttempting to see if a dam is possible.
UFO: Alien Invasion (5h) - Open source UFO: Enemy Unknown. Good buildup to Jagged alliance coming soon.
OpenTTD (5h) - Multiplayer with Sandy & Cam
Blight of the Immortals (4h) - Ironhelmet online board game. Worked well for LAN.
Jupiter's Folly (3h) - Ironhelmet online board game for LAN.
Hacker Evolution: Duality (3h) - They have changed it, but it still feels too artificial. It's more like a puzzle than a sim. Uplink remains my favourite hacker game.
League of Legends (2h) - LANTF2 (1h) - LAN
Terraria (1h) - Quick couple of games with cam.
Crusader Kings II demo (1h) - Woohoo!