Welcome to Chapter 2 of my Ten Thrones Achievement Run, the reign of Ragnar Lothbrok!
To recap I have inherited into Ragnar the only son of Sigurdr Hring in the middle of a big war for the subjugation of a King who has many territories in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. The war continues but although I have a big army, money is tight and I am only a child.
To keep troop pay down I aggressively siege down enemy holdings. Some lucky captures of enemy notables gives me some much needed ransom money. By late 774 the fortunes of war are looking good, I still have the larger army, money in the bank from ransoms and the higher war score. I corner the enemy king with his army and trounce him but he gets away.
My army defeats the enemy king one last time and he throws in the towel. Thus I gain a truck load of new titles and vassals, pushing me way over my vassal limit and making me a massive threat in the eyes of all around. I also have two of the sites needed for reforming the Germanic religion. Not too shabby for an eight year old.
Some peasants choose this time to revolt because peasants are annoying that way. I squash them like the bugs they are.
Now I have a problem. I still have not created the King level title so I am technically still just a petty king albeit one with dozens of vassals covering half of Scandinavia.
This means I can not lower the number of direct vassals by bundling some of them under a duchy level vassal because granting anyone a duchy level title will make them independent.
Somehow I need to raise around 300gc to make the kingdom title. On tribal pay that is going to be tricky. I can’t even do any lucrative raiding yet because the viking age is at least another 25 years away. All I can do is rob some similarly broke tribals of their buttons and pieces of string. Bah! Why bother?
Oh and almost all of my vassals hate me. Mostly for defeating them but also for being a kid who has only just begun his rule.
I’m a lonely eight year old who owns the world but will probably not live much longer to enjoy it. I can almost hear the scratching of plots hatching, except my own spymaster is probably running half of them, so there is not much chance of him telling me about them until it is too late.
I go into hiding. There are rumours of plots against me but my spymaster is not telling me anything which is suspicious. All I can do is go into hiding and swap out my spymaster for someone who hates me a bit less. I am only child, my regent is running everything anyway.
The son of the traitor that my father Sigurdr Hring offered up to the gods in sacrifice turns out to be a traitor too. My new improved spymaster has uncovered his plot to steal away my titles. Traitors beget traitors it seems. He is arrested and will go the way of his father
I’m still in hiding just as precaution when my regent is replaced somehow with my spymaster. Worse still he remains my spymaster even while he is also my regent. Even worse he is a thoroughly unsavory character! Ambitious, envious, deceitful, cruel and even possessed. He has the ambition of becoming the King of Denmark for which he needs titles and vassals I hold and he has strong espionage skills as well. I am literally at the mercy of a borderline monster who wants everything I have. And I can’t fire him because he is my regent.
I’m in hiding but somehow I fear that won’t be enough. This is looking bad, very bad. My only slim hope now is that my court seer might burn him for apostasy since he is possessed.
It begins.. Still in hiding I have “funny smelling” candies sent to me. Luckily I feed them to my kitty before trying them myself. Kitty does not make it. I live another day but I am still only 12 years old, four more years yet before I can be free of my killer regent! I’ll never last that long!
The only thing I can do is send him away to set up a spy network somewhere. Randomly I choose Saxony. He might get caught and killed, fingers crossed. If he is out of town it might be more difficult for him to kill me, maybe.
While I am waiting for my next package of poisoned candies, a peasant revolt breaks out in Slesvig. As it happens this is the holding of the former petty king I battled for the titles in Denmark and Norway. He rules there still and he hates me still. I am mustering to put down the revolt of course. But I might just wait until the peasants have sieged down the former king’s holding before I crush them. Perhaps they will rid me of an old enemy?
No such luck. The peasants siege down the settlement but the old grump is not harmed. I crush the revolt and go back to waiting for the Grim Reaper.
Camp Fever breaks out in Frisia. At last, a ray of hope. I send my suspicious spymaster to set up a spy network there. Hopefully he will get sick and die.
Somehow I have lived long enough to get my nickname Lothbrok. I gain the brawny and diligent traits, which is nice. But I am still only 14 years old, two more years to go until I can get out of hiding and rid myself of that spymaster.
So my spymaster informs me of a plot to kill me by a vassal of mine in Norway. Apparently he wants to be king of Norway. Unanimously my council refuses to imprison the nasty little traitor.
Then as luck would have it my seer identifies him as an apostate! Shall I burn him? Why yes, yes I shall!
I notice the camp fever in Frisia has subsided. My spymaster survived, unfortunately. I send him to Constantinople to steal technology. Hopefully he will be caught and killed. I’m almost 16.
I seriously didn’t think I would survive this long, but I have. I am 16 and the regency will finish as soon as I come out of hiding. I graduate as a Brilliant Strategist which is perfect.
Only two ambitions are available to me, become King of Sweden and Become Exalted Among Men. I already have all the territories I need for the king title but the former ambition also reduces the cost of making the title. I really need that title and need it cheaper, so that is what I go for. I come out of hiding so I can fire my spymaster.
Except, he likes me a lot now. So maybe he wasn’t the one who tried to kill me? There isn’t anyone else better qualified either. I leave him be for now
Thrandr of Slesvig, the former king whom I hoped the revolting peasants would kill for me, has challenged me to a duel. The odds are massively in my favour, so I accept. Not surprisingly I kill him. Nice.
To make sure I get some heirs ASAP I take a couple of nubile concubines along with a wife. I am not overly fussy at this point, any working womb will do and the more the better.
I join the Wolf Society and win my debut duel handily. Surely I am destined for greatness?
So I am wondering what to do with myself now. I want the king title but I need cash to make it. I almost had enough for it when I foolishly called a blot and blew 50gc on it just like that.
I contemplate having a war with someone. Hopefully some ransoms can get me enough cash for the title. I consider subjugating Saxony. But I am almost at the realm size limit for Prepared Invasions and Saxony would push me well over. I don’t really need more territory, at least while I do not have any heirs. In the end I attempt to force vassalisation on a single county, Herjadal, just to the north. It will not put me over the realm limit and it gets me a bit closer to Nidaros for the 3rd Holy Site.
No sooner is the first war over I force vassalisation on Nidaros because why not? In the meantime I waste some more gold checking up on the fidelity of a concubine. The spies find nothing suspicious.
Nidaros is won and a daughter is born. A girl heir is better than no heir. But I have not even half the money I need to make a king title. A son is born to the other concubine, the suspect one. Finally a heir and a spare, I can be a bit more reckless now.
Scratch that, I just noticed I am not showing up as the parent of the “son”. It seems the concubine was a slut after all. And the daughter won’t inherit as it is because the rules of succession don’t currently allow females to inherit. Sigh, still no heirs then.
I have a wicked thought. I need a king level title but although I have more than enough land for two king titles, I don’t have the cash requirement. However I have just realised that the Grand Chief of Saxony has such a title. If I used my once in a lifetime Pagan Subjugation on Saxony and won then I would get that king level title and a border on rich Christian lands for border raiding worth the bother.
It would mean my primary title would be King of Saxony which is a little weird for a Swedish king but with the loot gained from raiding I could create the Swedish title later and then make it the primary title. Saxony would also give me another holy site.
It is crazy but it just might work. Of course Saxony would put me over the realm limit for Prepared Invasions but I could always spin a kingdom off once I have a spare heir to give it to. The Viking Age is still decades away I think.
I go for it. I declare on Saxony and not a moment too soon as I see Pepin of Francia is already piling on Saxony. So I prioritise slaying the infidel franks. My army is pretty huge too, 14k+, enough to give the Franks an ugly time.
Except, as I realise, I am not at war with the Franks so I can’t touch them. It is a race then between me and the Franks to see who can subdue the Saxons fastest. The Franks have a head start but I have the bigger army.
Soldiers march, armies clash and holdings are besieged. I win the race and dozens of ransoms, Saxony submits to me.
So I win the race, Saxony is subjugated and I take the title of King of Saxony and so consequently I now become at war with Frankia who is still pursuing a claim on Saxony.
After liberating Saxon lands held down by the Franks I push into Frankia and give them a taste of their own medicine. Soon they have enough and pay up to me 700gc and more in ransoms. Sweet, sweet lucrative victory!
My realm size is now 75. I have enough land for three kingdoms, Saxony, Denmark and Sweden but I only have one king level title for Saxony. I have plenty of cash now so I could now make a title for Sweden and make that my primary title. Still no heirs though.
I have the option to build The Great Pillar now which I do to celebrate my victories and because I can. My personal great pillar is not liking my mediocre wife who is still not pregnant and getting older. I boot her out the door and get someone younger and hopefully more fertile.
The new wife is a foreigner with a silly religion but she is 16, well groomed and patient. I hope my personal great pillar will approve. She is also lazy but that is alright as I prefer her horizontal anyway.
So now I have my king title I can now go about bundling some of my county level vassals under a duchy level vassal. I am looking around for likely candidates for promoting to duke level, jarl as the norse have it, when I notice one of my larger vassals is a 6 year old girl with a harelip and no surviving family at all. She has like 10 counties all to herself. In the absence of anyone to inherit from her I am, as her liege, her sole heir…
I’d marry her to a son but I have none yet and she is a mutant. I am not really wanting to do sneaky things but the eugenic argument holds extra weight when attached to ten chiefdoms! I finally have a real job for my scary spymaster.
Still having promotions to make, I make the chief of Skara, a left handed 9 year old boy, the Jarl of Vestergautland for no other reason than he likes me a little while the other candidate for the title hates my guts. With the promotion the hater becomes the lefty’s problem.
As an aside the Left Handed genetic trait is considered a defect but it gives a significant boost to personal combat skills and the only downside is a negative opinion modifier amongst Muslims and Christian priests neither of which should bother a pagan Norse man. If I can find a way to breed the new Jarl’s of Verstergautland’s lefty traits into my line I will do so. I’ll keep an eye on the lad.
I am still twice over my vassal limit and still carrying a “too many duchies” opinion malus so I make the harelip girl Jarl of Austergautland. I’ll re-inherit it back from her later anyway probably.
Making the girl Jarl solves the too many duchies malus but does not do anything for getting me under the vassal limit. So I make the 12 year old son and heir of the old King of Sjaelland whom I killed in a duel the Jarl of Sjaelland. He also inherited a powerful artifact called Andvaranaut. I’d like to keep it in the kingdom but I am not sure I would want to own it directly because of its health penalty.
I then create some new jarl titles and dispense them around. Even after transferring lesser chief vassals to the new jarls I am still over the vassal limit. It doesn’t matter overmuch though. The penalty for being over is lower taxes and levies from vassals but tribals don’t pay taxes anyway and I have no shortage of troops all the same. Getting under the vassal limit is an optimisation rather than a necessity.
My scary spymaster disappears at this point, probably he ceased to be a direct vassal with all the title creation and distribution I was just doing. The new spymaster is mediocre but probably harmless to me.
Now I have a border on rich feudal lands it is time to go a raiding. A year passes while I gain much loot along with a fearsome reputation as a viking and a pretty Catholic girl I capture and make my 3rd concubine. One of the other concubines becomes pregnant.
Then my new mediocre but “probably harmless” spymaster bungles a plot to kill me. There is something to be said for incompetent spymasters, if he had been more competent he may have succeeded and then, as I am still without a heir, that would be game over.
I sack him and appoint another spymaster and then in my fury I somehow attempt to revoke his title instead of imprisoning him first. He goes into rebellion but as it happens his jarldom is right by my raiders. I set them on him.
Of course his feeble rebellion is put down and he is caught. I revoke his jarldom and give it to my chancellor. I take 70gc for his ransom.
The previously pregnant concubine Sif unloads her cargo and it is a girl, again. Oh well I should be able to change the succession rules soon to allow girls to inherit. Also my wife is now pregnant so that is another roll of the dice. I make a bit of a fuss of her by making her “Queen of the Harvest”. It gets me some piety but probably won’t help me get a son.
My plot to permanently purify Harelip Girl of her unsightly genetics comes to fruition and I inherit her titles. But I am discovered to be complicit in her misadventures and my reputation is hit. Also the wacky elective gavelkind doesn’t give me all her many titles just a few. The rest gets spread around to all sorts. Oh well I am pretty popular so the opinion penalty is bearable.
Finally my wife’s first child is born and it is a girl. A girl with a harelip! It seems my dastardly plot to bump off harelip girl has just caused her to reincarnate as my daughter. Oh dear. Karma is a bitch… a bitch with a harelip.
The silver lining is that the child is sickly and might not make it. By withholding medical attention I hope the karma payback will pay itself. In other news my wife just went insane, probably at the sight of her hideous child. Divorce please!
Third wife is a 16 year old Croatian. She is well groomed, content, chaste and gregarious. Some nice attraction modifiers there as well as some resilience to the temptations of cuckoldry in being content and chaste.
I don’t really need the war focus now, so I switch to the family focus for the fertility buff.
I go back to raiding Franks. While I am doing that I offer vassalisation to bordering Germanics. The last independent Norse holdings are all in Norway. They are all pretty keen to take up the offer so now I have all the de jure territory of Norway as well as Sweden, Denmark and Saxony.
But I still have no heirs to give it all to but for some girls. A son, a son! My kingdoms for a son! Three concubines and three wives and still no sons after seven years of huffing and puffing. Sigh.
Some traitor I bailed has plucked up the courage to duel me and never-mind that at this point I am an axe wielding murder machine with a personal combat skill of 110 vs his puny -2.
I click “hell yeah, thank you for letting me murder you legally.” I should be confident but it is April the 1st and this is ck2 so I’ll probably die now.
Except I kill him without breaking a sweat. Good.
I hadn’t mentioned it but some time ago I sent my marshal off to find a cure for death for me. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t expect anything to come of it. A few years ago he brings back this African voodoo lady with hints of magical powers. Not much happens for a while but now she is getting me to fight a snake. This is an interesting coincidence given I am playing a character who in real legend fought a giant snake to gain his name Lothbrok… But on the other hand I’ll probably die now.
I grab the snake by the neck…
… and it bites me on the neck instead….
And I die! Game Over! Boo!
Does anyone else think that is just a little spooky? That my Ragnar should die of a snake bite in a weird echo of the “real” legendary Ragnar of history’s death in the snake pit of King Aella. Yeah spooky.
I failed the challenge but mostly down to bad luck. Both Sigurdr and Ragnar did well on the battlefield and in staying on top of the politics. They both died fairly young but that much is to be expected given the dangers they must face from all quarters. Dying was not the primary cause of failure, failing to produce heirs was their real failure. There was no one to carry on the fight when the inevitable happened.
This is why I can say that I lost down to bad luck. I lost down to not having heirs but I did not lack for trying in that respect. Ragnar went through three wives in seven years and had three concubines but only rolled a few girls for progeny. That is some unlucky rolling.
I have viking spirit so no doubt I will return to play Ragnar again some time and hopefully for a longer stint. But for now I must try the Ten Thrones challenge again with a different strategy and character. Thinking back to the preamble, I will try the “Marriage and Daggers” strategy starting as a Catholic duke. I may try a Lombard so that I might pick up a couple of other achievements for bonus points along the way.
See you then.