An Age of Miracles Continues: The Empire of Rhomania

Hey I can't believe I didn't catch this part. Casimir and Ibrahim are gonna get killed by women, possibly Roman women in this very war.
I read it as an assignment that still has to be carried out, i.e. neither of them are dead yet but people believe it will be done by women.

Which of course reminds us of the "curses" Demetrios III put on them. The question is how do people know about that? Did Demetrios publish his drunken ramblings as propaganda/prophecy?
 
Rommel is a strange case. A significant part of his mystique is because A - he was de facto killed by the Nazis for tangentially being involved in the July 20 plot and B - Churchill (in a brilliant piece of PR/propaganda) spent 2 years singing his praises. After all, if Rommel is this great general and Leader Of Men, the fact that the British in North Africa kept losing to him isn't quite so bad. He's also the living embodiment of the Peter Principal - brilliant in France as the leader of 7th Panzer, very good in North Africa at first, much less good as he kept getting promoted up the ladder and his responsibilities increased. By the time he was in charge of Army Group B the job was too big for him - although in fairness to him by June-July 1944 no general, living or dead, was winning the war for Nazi Germany. But still, he wasn't very good leading Army Group B either way. Von Kluge had (somewhat) more success once Rommel was incapacitated by the plane attack in late July.

I'm off to the gym/brunch so I'll dig into more detail in the rest of your points when I get back (assuming I'm not too tired and/or hammered). Thanks for answering though.
 
Rommel is a strange case. A significant part of his mystique is because A - he was de facto killed by the Nazis for tangentially being involved in the July 20 plot and B - Churchill (in a brilliant piece of PR/propaganda) spent 2 years singing his praises. After all, if Rommel is this great general and Leader Of Men, the fact that the British in North Africa kept losing to him isn't quite so bad.
This concept isn't so strange, it's probably why people commonly did it from around this period onward. Your victories against such an opponent are more glorious and your losses less biting.
 
Hey I can't believe I didn't catch this part. Casimir and Ibrahim are gonna get killed by women, possibly Roman women in this very war.

@Basileus444 what's Elizabeth's view on this war? Does she actually care about her brother's claim to the Roman Throne, or is she just in it to hurt the Romans?
I’d say that Elizabeth’s chief priority is the power and prestige of her family. She’s doing her best to support her brother, being a rather effective regent of the Wittelsbach lands while Theodor’s off in Bulgaria. Now getting revenge for her humiliation at the hands of the Romans would be nice, but at the same time it’s not worth it if it costs the destruction of her family. I’m planning a narrative section (October 1633?) with her and Blucher that should hopefully make things clearer.

At a certain point Blucher and the other commanders are going to have to put their foot down. Theodor isn't his grandfather, he's a young brat whose delusions of grandeur have lead them to ruin, he doesn't command any respect. Why should they follow him for any longer? Many have rebelled for less, couldn't they coerce Theodor into committing to a full retreat?
The winter 1633 update’s going to have lots of narrative scenes, including one with Blucher and Elizabeth, and that one will be directly addressing this.

I read it as an assignment that still has to be carried out, i.e. neither of them are dead yet but people believe it will be done by women.

Which of course reminds us of the "curses" Demetrios III put on them. The question is how do people know about that? Did Demetrios publish his drunken ramblings as propaganda/prophecy?
The curses were done in private, but there’s already a rumor floating around that Demetrios is a sorcerer (see the Night of the Tocsins update). Palace gossip is the most likely culprit for spreading the rumor of the Emperor’s curses.

Rommel is a strange case. A significant part of his mystique is because A - he was de facto killed by the Nazis for tangentially being involved in the July 20 plot and B - Churchill (in a brilliant piece of PR/propaganda) spent 2 years singing his praises. After all, if Rommel is this great general and Leader Of Men, the fact that the British in North Africa kept losing to him isn't quite so bad. He's also the living embodiment of the Peter Principal - brilliant in France as the leader of 7th Panzer, very good in North Africa at first, much less good as he kept getting promoted up the ladder and his responsibilities increased. By the time he was in charge of Army Group B the job was too big for him - although in fairness to him by June-July 1944 no general, living or dead, was winning the war for Nazi Germany. But still, he wasn't very good leading Army Group B either way. Von Kluge had (somewhat) more success once Rommel was incapacitated by the plane attack in late July.

I'm off to the gym/brunch so I'll dig into more detail in the rest of your points when I get back (assuming I'm not too tired and/or hammered). Thanks for answering though.
But that’s the thing, someone can compliment or praise their opponent for many reasons. Acknowledging that the guy on the side of the field is good at his job doesn’t make that guy a Mary Sue. That just means his capabilities have been noted.

This concept isn't so strange, it's probably why people commonly did it from around this period onward. Your victories against such an opponent are more glorious and your losses less biting.
It’s far older than WW2. One example off the top of my head-Herodotus. His numbers for the Persian army are absurdly huge, but that makes the Greek victory all the more impressive. It’s common throughout history to big up your opponents; it makes your victories all the more impressive and your defeats all the more excusable.
 
I’m fairly convinced that Bohemia won’t backstab Theodor directly, as hinted before they’ll invade Poland. As soon as the Poles are weakened enough I.e. Casimir gets shot by a female Roman sniper, they invade. Theodor will be too weak to stop them, and the Poles have been bled pretty heavily by the Danube campaign, probably proportionally higher than the Bohemians?
 
Last note on this subject because I find that I'm both repeating myself and detracting from the point of this thread but IMO Laskaris' problem is that he's cautious when he should be aggressive (the battle where he inflicted 2.5 times as many casualties but withdrew anyway; not attacking the night of Sept 6 when Blucher retreats under cover of darkness because he was wary of a non-existent ambush) and aggressive when he should be more cautious (launching a full frontal assault in tandem with the naval action which lost him twice as many men, all for a feint). That doesn't mention how he got schooled by the Archbishop in the first place at First Ruse.

I don't think this war lasts 5-7 years personally. I think all sides - especially the HRE/Western Alliance - will be far too broke to keep fighting that long on any large scale. Given how Rome hasn't looked good at all vs the Ottomans (and Ethiopia has been "Italy in WW2" levels of incompetent vs the Ottomans) I'm not holding out hope for them in the Levant, but we'll see.
I agreed regarding Iskandar's flawless victories, but this time you're making no sense.

AoM is good because it is well researched and realistic. Sometimes, nations just don't do well. Look how 7 years war started for the British and how it ended.
 
Slow day at the office so I reread all the posts covering this war this morning. I started with the one titled "1631: The Hosts Gather" and worked to the one most recently posted. I wanted to rank all the generals involved on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being at a level of Andreas Niketas/Iskander and 1 being...well, you'll see :)

I'm curious to see what you all think about these rankings - if I over/underrated anyone please let me know. These are pretty quick and dirty, but I'm still interested in everyone's thoughts.

Note: I'm only counting the generals by what they did during this war itself, so the fact that Ibrahim (for example) got kicked out of India doesn't count. I also offered some supporting info for each rankings.

Without further ado:

Blucher --> 8 to 9, leaning towards 9. I've said enough about him the past week or so, won't repeat myself here. Hes pretty awesome though.

Michael Laskaris --> A solid 6. See above - I've said enough about his successes and failures in the past few days.

Ibrahim --> Probably a 9. He secures tribal support, eliminates the weak link of the Roman Alliance (the Egyptians and Ethiopians), secures the vital fortresses and interior highways of Roman Syria, doesn't attack Anatolia (which would have been a disaster), arms and encourages the Syrian rebels, manages to hold his army together after Theodoros Laskaris catches up to him at Aabdeh, and shows "tremendous bravery" in said battle. Oh, and he captures Damascus without a shot. Only reason he's not a 10 is because I'm fairly certain The Day Of The Fingers will come back to bite him in the ass, plus he took a lot of casualties getting all those successes. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree in his case.

Theodoros Laskaris --> 5 at best, maybe a 4. He wins at Saraquib despite being outnumbered (but not against Ibrahim, rather it was a subordinate. A win is a win however, can't take that away from him). He falls for the oldest trick in the book when Ibrahim leaves his camp fires burning overnight when he starts his march south, which costs him a vital day. He savages the Ottomans on the July 10th part of the Battle of Aabdeh, but makes two huge mistakes. 1 - He thinks a very minor flanking action by some Ottomans fording the Bared River is a major attack and takes the precious time to snuff it out rather than press the advantage on the main Ottoman host. Ibrahim uses that reprieve to rally his shattered army. 2 - Theodoros stupidly keeps his own army up all night by firing his cannons all night at the Ottomans the night of July 10/11. Then he attacks against "a truly impressive series of earthworks" with the aforementioned sleep-deprived army. The attacks are repulsed and he loses over 3x as many casualties as he inflicts, blunting his tremendous gains the day before. Oh, and he also loses Damascus to the Syrian rebels. I think a 4 to 5 is fair.

Crown Prince Lazar --> 1, only because that's the low point of the scale. Holy hell is this guy a dumbass. This guy makes Alexios Gabras look good and that's saying something. Thankfully for Team Rome he seems to have exited stage left.

Nikolaois Mouzalon --> 3 for his field command, but 7-8 for his overall command once Ibrahim declares war and Mouzalon goes back to Constantinople to manage the entire war. He gets punked badly by Blucher at Sopot and Drenovac, (although Lazar's idiocy was a big part of the loss at Sopot, the loss at Drenovac is all Mouzalon) and loses half the Danube fortresses. He's way better running the entire show however, especially when he and D3 realize - correctly - that mass conscription would be a disaster for the Romans. So overall, maybe a 5 to 6?

Vauban --> 10. He does one thing only - siege cities - but does that thing really really really well. There's a cliche that "the fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog one good one" and Vauban is the hedgehog here.

Archbishop of Cologne --> 9? We've only seen him when he succeeds, so this is subject to change if/when things go badly for him. First Ruse was a smashing success that was only limited by the small number of men at his command. Plus anyone who hates Casimir gets a boost in my eyes. Speaking of...

Casimir --> 7 for his military command, 1 for the fact that he's a smug bastard who everyone, friend or foe, hates with a burning passion. As far as the military command, he's a skilled leader of horse and his men do seem to fight hard for him, so that says something.

Von Mackensen --> I guess 9? Much like Vauban and the Archbishop, we only see him when things are going great for the HRE/Allies. He did somehow figure out that the villa at Sopot had no replacement ammo. No idea how he figured that out, but he did.

The Ethiopian general who faces Ibrahim (he doesn't get a name) --> 1. Dude can't read a map so gets trapped at Wadi Itm, then gets his force routed by Ibrahim at the first day of Aabdeh. Thanks for playing. He'd be the low man in this rankings if Lazar didn't spend his spare time drinking lead paint while juggling multiple Idiot Balls.

The nameless Egyptian general --> 2. Ma'an isn't a complete disaster. The first day of Aabdeh however is. Ibrahim feints with his infantry in the center and uses his cavalry to attack the flanks which leads to "a complete rout." The only reason this isn't a 1 is because this guy, unlike his Ethiopian counterpart, can at least read a map.

Amirales --> 8 at least. He does very well at Duhok (causing 3x as many casualties as he takes) and takes Mardin. His achievements are limited only because he's in a tertiary theater, but he acquits himself very well.

Anyway, thanks for reading. This was way more fun to write up than actually doing any work would have been :)
 
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Quite like the write up! I think the Roman scores are skewed lower because, to be honest, only the Navy has actually acquitted itself fully in the war, and the Army officers who've achieved much of anything for Rome aren't in the major theaters (the Roman/Sicilian rampage across Italy is the only army success story in the war so far).

I wonder what the Romans at the subordinate levels are doing in all of this, the last time Roman leadership was so flawed in the upper echelons, it was immediately evident to the subordinates and they attempted to remedy the situation to the best of their ability, but there's considerably less agency and initiative in this war.
 
Quite like the write up! I think the Roman scores are skewed lower because, to be honest, only the Navy has actually acquitted itself fully in the war, and the Army officers who've achieved much of anything for Rome aren't in the major theaters (the Roman/Sicilian rampage across Italy is the only army success story in the war so far).

I wonder what the Romans at the subordinate levels are doing in all of this, the last time Roman leadership was so flawed in the upper echelons, it was immediately evident to the subordinates and they attempted to remedy the situation to the best of their ability, but there's considerably less agency and initiative in this war.
Why thank you! There wasn't a real general in charge in Italy, but Alexios Angelos is ranked very high if I included him in the rankings. Someone upthread compared Lombardy to OTL Italy in WW2 due to their terrible decision making skills and that's such a good comparison I'm pissed I didn't think of it myself.

As far as your second paragraph...I have no idea, but I guess we'll see.
 
Curtain Jerker, you seem to be under the impression that losing a battle or making a mistake makes someone a bad general. A significant portion of your complaints about commanders; especially both Laskarids, and now a few others, boil down to that they don't have perfect information. You as a reader can easily say Michael should have pursued Blucher harder... but on the ground that comes down to scouting and managing the organisation of tens of thousands of men.

If Michael had pursued Blucher there was just as likely a chance that an ambush or hidden cannon emplacement lay waiting, as there was of achieving a smashing pursuit or entrapment. Maybe Blucher mined the camp as they retreated. Or hidden Allied reinforcements arrive. Maybe the Roman army fumbles about due to lack of organisation, especially considering they had just completed a major battle. The only reason you know these things weren't possible is because you're a reader. Michael being cautious is the sign of a good general; because he isn't omniscient like us readers are.

Similarly, was the Ethiopian general supposed to open google and search for 'best locations for a naval landing' or browse a GPS map? No, the best they can rely on is scouting, which time and time again, history shows was imperfect even under the most capable generals. He clearly isn't a military genius, but making a mistake doesn't make someone a 1/10.

There are situations where even the best general cannot win, and even the most intelligent people make mistakes due to imperfect information. The true sign of their competence is how they handle the risk of the unknown.
 
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The Imperial ambassador, the hawk-nosed and perceptive Count Philip von Stadion-Warthausen has another theory. He notes that Maria of Agra frequently visits the villa at Chalcedon where Andreas’ bastards are raised, which isn’t that surprising since one of them is her own son. However the Count notes that she treats all three boys lovingly as if they were all her sons. He points out that Andreas, who clearly cares for his children (the yearly stipend for their maintenance would cover the annual payroll of a line tourma), cannot help but be touched. In contrast, Elizabeth is seemingly incapable of hiding her disgust, sometimes being rude and abusive to individuals who do nothing more than acknowledge the bastards’ existences. In a report to his sovereign he writes ‘in view of the contrast in their behaviors, it would be a rare man who would forsake the tender and open-hearted compassion of his mistress for the vicious jealousy of his wife.’ It is a bold report since his sovereign is Empress (Elizabeth of Bavaria had been crowned as such a week after Andreas) Elizabeth’s older brother.
@Basileus444 what happened to this guy? Elizabeth must control his fate now that she's regent. Did she destroy him out of spite?
 
Random question, how are the Habsburgs and the Bernese League doing? Now that the Allies have been beaten back, perhaps it's a more opportune moment to pile onto Italy? Or would they be waiting for a full Triune commitment in Germany?
 
Mousey, all generals in this war have to manage the organization of tens of thousands of men. We've already seen that Michael doesn't do it very well in comparison to others - otherwise he wouldn't have strung out his army on the march which directly led to them getting picked off at First Ruse.

Thus far during the war the Allied High Command (Blucher, Vauban, the Archbishop, von Mackensen, and Casimir) has been portrayed as far more knowledgeable than their Roman counterparts. Von Mackensen somehow knew that the fortified villa at Sopot was short on ammo. The Archbishop knew that the Romans were ripe for the picking at First Ruse. We've also seen where Blucher is getting good information from his spies in the Roman army/government too. Those guys have been portrayed as omniscient in the text, so I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. The fog of war only exists on one side of the battlefield so far.

As far as Michael being cautious...B444 mentioned in a reply that he was cautious after Second Ruse because he didn't want to get pinned on the Danube.

Second Ruse goes to the Allies because they held the field at the end of the ‘day’, which is the textbook definition of battlefield victory going back into ancient times. Laskaris withdrew because it doesn’t matter how many casualties he inflicted on Blucher. At the end of the day Blucher was maneuvering so he’d have a better chance of outflanking him and pinning him against the Danube. Even if Blucher has only a 2% chance of pulling that out, Michael can’t risk it. Better to lose this battle than risk losing the army out of stubborn attachment to this field.
Sometimes the risk is worth the reward. Michael inflicted a mauling on Blucher and had a chance to finish the job if he pressed on. Sure, he could have lost, that's always a possibility too of course. But he could have won too, and he had a better chance of winning than losing, seeing how he had already inflicted 2.5x as many casualties as he took. Sometimes you gotta roll the dice, trust your men, and finish the job. There's no "perfect" outcome, but Michael chose the cautious way out when he was already winning the battle. Would be a totally different situation if there was parity in casualties on both sides, but his men were clearly winning the day and Michael punted. That to me is the worse option. I realize that I'm probably the only one who thinks that, but that's my problem with Michael in a nutshell - he's way too cautious given the circumstances.

As far as the Ethiopian, we've seen him twice in this text. Once when his army got trapped at Wadi Itm and picked off by the rebels/tribes in the mountain passes and once when Ibrahim smashed his/the Egyptians at Aabdeh on Day One. That's it. Maybe he redeems himself, maybe not, but given the information in the text shown so far this guy has been shown as incompetent.
 
Mousey, all generals in this war have to manage the organization of tens of thousands of men. We've already seen that Michael doesn't do it very well in comparison to others - otherwise he wouldn't have strung out his army on the march which directly led to them getting picked off at First Ruse.
Stringing out an army on the march is the norm. Armies traveling in combat ready formations are extremely slow, more tiring on the men, and in general impractical given most roadways and terrain wouldn't support that many people clustered together. Once again, you're blaming Michael for not having perfect knowledge of every soldier's veterancy, organisation, and leadership quality; things which aren't even directly his responsiblity (subordinates and logistical officers are far more to blame, but even they don't micromanage to the level you're demanding). We're only keenly aware of those issues because we are readers.

Thus far during the war the Allied High Command (Blucher, Vauban, the Archbishop, von Mackensen, and Casimir) has been portrayed as far more knowledgeable than their Roman counterparts. Von Mackensen somehow knew that the fortified villa at Sopot was short on ammo. The Archbishop knew that the Romans were ripe for the picking at First Ruse. We've also seen where Blucher is getting good information from his spies in the Roman army/government too. Those guys have been portrayed as omniscient in the text, so I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. The fog of war only exists on one side of the battlefield so far.

As far as Michael being cautious...B444 mentioned in a reply that he was cautious after Second Ruse because he didn't want to get pinned on the Danube.
This is an additional bias caused by us being readers, exacerbated by a general lack of narrative detail on the allied side. We don't know their thought processes. You can't point to these few successful gambits in a years long conflict as a sign of omniscience when you don't know for example:
  • All the times they thought up a risky strategy and didn't take it.
  • Took a wasteful action based on misinformation.
  • The times they completely failed to spot an obvious opportunity.
Ultimately, it's because B444 doesn't tell us what the Allies don't know, because most of it'd be wasted writing. We only hear about what the Allies do know and act upon, because their actual actions taken (successes or failures) are the only part that matters to the narrative from a Roman perspective.

And if the allies were omniscient they wouldn't be losing battles at all. They wouldn't have failed to spot an entire Roman flotilla sneaking upstream. They wouldn't have walked into a hidden cannonade. Michael being cautious because he didn't want to get pinned is excellent generalship and I don't know what makes you think otherwise, the allies have repeatedly lost battles because most of them aren't cautious in the same way he is, even if they pull off the occasional flashy gamble as a result.


Sometimes the risk is worth the reward. Michael inflicted a mauling on Blucher and had a chance to finish the job if he pressed on. Sure, he could have lost, that's always a possibility too of course. But he could have won too, and he had a better chance of winning than losing, seeing how he had already inflicted 2.5x as many casualties as he took. Sometimes you gotta roll the dice, trust your men, and finish the job. There's no "perfect" outcome, but Michael chose the cautious way out when he was already winning the battle. Would be a totally different situation if there was parity in casualties on both sides, but his men were clearly winning the day and Michael punted. That to me is the worse option. I realize that I'm probably the only one who thinks that, but that's my problem with Michael in a nutshell - he's way too cautious given the circumstances.
First of all, you're once again assuming Michael has a direct live feed of enemy casualty numbers, morale, potential reinforcements, ambushes, traps, etc. I would go so far as to call it bad writing if a pre-electronics era general could so rapidly judge a battle and change the entire course of his army.

And ultimately, why would he roll the dice when he's already got the war in the bag? 'Rolling the dice' when there's nothing to be gained would be one of the worst examples of command in the story.
 
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And ultimately, why would he roll the dice when he's already got the war in the bag? 'Rolling the dice' when there's nothing to be gained would be one of the worst examples of command in the story.
This is the key here. What would have happened had the Roman army been caught in a trap, or disordered in the pursuit or what have you, and destroyed? The Roman state is already pushing itself tremendously to field armies of large size on two fronts against powerful enemies. Losing an army is not an option.

In many ways it echoes real world Byzantine (Roman) attitudes towards pitched battles as written in multiple military treatises. They are to be avoided wherever possible, as history can tell us that when the Empire loses a field army, huge swathes of territory usually follow and most of it is never recovered. So their military thinkers came to the realization that having the army is far more important that actually fighting any battles with it. Sure that army does need to fight sometimes, but given a risk and a victory already won and no risk of an enemy breakthrough, it is courting disaster to seek more direct combat.

I would argue on the side of Michael's strategic competence here actually on the whole being effectively better than Blucher's tactical competence. Blucher has, whether it was entirely his fault or that of Theodor's bullheaded foolishness, managed to win incredible victories and yet, now he has lost the war because Michael kept his army alive, and delivered a solid blow that finally shifted the momentum fully in Roman favor. Blucher has lost thanks in no small part to his just being plain outmaneuvered and outmatched strategically. He was a bit like a less impressive version of Hannibal in a sense. Yes he fought and won all these great victories, but what does he actually have to show for it? His army is, while not yet destroyed, massively depleted. It's unity is failing by the day and weakening by the day under siege. Meanwhile the Romans get stronger every day. Barring some massive change in the strategic situation the Romans are poised for a breakthrough in the Balkans.

So Michael is, I think, a damn solid general. While he might not (yet) be very flashy in his achievements, there is still probably one more major battle in the Balkan theater and regardless he has, for all his lack of flashiness, just about won this war.
 
Babyrage: Important thing to note though is that Ottokar was eyeing Poland before this all started; challenging the Wittelsbachs in the 1620s would’ve been suicide. With the Wittelsbachs so weakened now though, he might favor more direct methods.

Poland’s committed less men to the war than Bohemia, but it’s been their top-tier absolute-best men they’ve sent.

Curtain Jerker: Mousey and TheCataphract covers what needs to be said in response, but here are some more points.

You’re being too hard on Theodoros Laskaris. Firstly, one does not ignore an enemy’s formation on one’s flank. If you do it will kill you. If cavalry hit musketeers arrayed in line on the infantry’s flank, the infantry dies, badly. Theodoros is operating in the fog of war, literally. Tens of thousands of men have been blazing away at each other with black-powder muskets, plus all the cannons. There’s a lot of powder smoke about. He has to take a flank threat seriously. Secondly, the night bombardment also kept the Ottoman troops up; keeping up the pressure on the battered morale of the enemy troops you’ve clobbered during the day is a good idea. It’s not perfect since it did keep his own men up, but what in life is perfect?

Regarding the attack on July 11, weren’t you just saying sometimes you have to roll the dice and take your chances? Theodoros saw an opportunity to take out Ibrahim’s army, gambling that the demoralization of the Ottomans would make up for their impressive earthworks. He lost, but it was a reasonable gamble. At worst, he suffers a repulse and takes some casualties, not great but not too serious. At best, Ibrahim and his army get swept off the board. Considering the cost-benefit analysis, it would’ve been a mistake not to try.

Now on the nameless Egyptian general. He’s part of a very heterogeneous army, made up of Egyptians, Ethiopians, some Roman tourmai, and various militia groups, that’s facing a unified army under a clear command that outnumbers him 8 to 5, with an even higher preponderance in artillery and cavalry. Those are really long odds; losing in a situation like that isn’t proof you’re an idiot. I’m not saying he’s good, but the lopsided nature of the battle means it’s poor proof of stupidity on his part.

The casualty ratio at Second Ruse was lopsided heavily in the Romans’ favor, because they were fighting on ground chosen by Michael and they were fighting defensively. Conducting an offensive negates those advantages. Furthermore by thrusting west, it would make it easier for Blucher’s flanking maneuver to swing around behind him. Furthermore by this point most of the day has gone by, so even a successful Roman attack wouldn’t have much time for pursuit before nightfall, meaning that at best Michael would knock Blucher back and at worst position himself to be annihilated by Blucher the next day. The risk is not worth the reward. Batin hill is not worth dying on.

Casualty ratios are not the be-all and end-all of battles. Second Ruse was based on OTL Malplaquet. The French had to retreat, but did so intact and in good order, even though they’d inflicted double the casualties they’d suffered.

Minifidel: Important thing to note-the Roman army has more than doubled in size in about eighteen months. Meaning that junior officers have their hands full whipping a lot of new recruits into shape. Also there’s been a massive expansion of the officer corps too, and the new officers likely don’t have the training the peace-time officers got. Plus the haste means more bad apples inevitably get through.

Mousey: Precisely, thank you.

HanEmpire: I admit, I’d completely forgotten about that guy. I’m not sure what Elizabeth would do to him. I like the idea of her maturing, analyzing her past mistakes, and trying to be smarter and better in the future; I feel bad about shafting her character. And for all my desire to create strong and capable female characters, it seems that most of the women rulers ITTL have generally not turned out that great.

ImperatorAlexander: They’re going to be showing up in an update shortly.

TheCataphract: Precisely, thank you.

Battles can be dangerous. They’re unpredictable. Some freak accident can happen and ruin your whole army. There was an OTL battle between the Byzantines and Bulgars (I believe early 800s) where the Byzantines were winning handily. Then the Byzantine general needed to pee so he went over to a convenient tree, tied up his horse, and started doing his thing. The horse somehow broke free and ran down the Byzantine lines. Seeing their commander’s horse without its rider, the Byzantine troops thought their general had been killed and started panicking. The Bulgars were then able to regroup and win the battle.

For a more recent example, a good chunk of Napoleon’s casualties at the battle of Leipzig came about because the bridge over the Elster was blown up too early, before the French rearguard could retreat. Thirty thousand plus casualties, something like half of the French casualties for the whole battle, that could’ve been avoided except for that one mistake.
 
1633: Dueling in Tuscany
Central Italy 1633.jpg

1633 continued: The main debate in Italy for the Romans and Sicilians is, what now? The immediate goals have been achieved spectacularly, but King Cesare has not made peace. He is gambling that if he sticks it out, he can get concessions at the peace table (at this point, spring 1633, the Allies still control the bulk of the Roman Danube valley). Cesare has managed to up the number of troops he commands, but the new additions are weak in artillery and their equipment is often shoddy. The Sicilian army is still smaller overall, but it has expanded to 46 tourmai, the new recruits all equipped with D3 muskets produced at Bari, Syracuse, and Naples which match the Roman pattern.

There are a few targets in mind. Rome is one; it is not a long march away for the Sicilian army and the besiegers could be easily supplied via the Roman enclave at Civitavecchia. It would also be emotionally satisfying for the Romans, who have had quite enough of papal encouragements for attacks on the Empire.

The Sicilians don’t feel that to the same extent, but have their own reasons to be irritated with Pope Paul IV. The Orthodox proportion of Sicily’s population has been growing steadily over the past several decades due to increased trade and influence from the Romans, helped along by dismay at the growing corruption in the Avignon Papacy. There is also alienation along the Hungarian and Scandinavian models because of the solely Arletian & Spanish nature of the Papal court. Save for Naples, the cities of Sicily are mostly Orthodox and it is making inroads into the countryside, particularly Apulia, Basilicata, and Calabria. By 1630, the population is more than 60% Orthodox.

Pope Paul IV, of course, is not amused at the nest of ‘heretics’ to the south. An Inquisitor prior to his accession to the Pontifical Office, he has gone out of his way to harass Sicilians in Papal territory. In 1629, a well-loved Orthodox priest was in the Papal States overseeing purchases of sheep when a mob surrounded and beat him badly, although he managed to escape finally with help from his assistants. Although it appeared to be spontaneous, more than a few Sicilians think it was ‘encouraged’ from above.

At the same time, while it’d be emotionally satisfying, Rome is strategically insignificant. The papal subsidies to Theodor’s exchequer are noteworthy, but those are going from German clerics directly to the Holy Roman Emperor, not via Rome. So taking Rome wouldn’t do much to stop the flow of money, unless the Pope would rescind that at sword-point, but then such an arrangement could easily be repudiated by the Catholic Church in Germany, making the whole operation pointless. For this reason, an attack on Rome is shelved.

Another proposal is to muster an army in Venetia, using it as a base. The objective of this army would be to storm and seize the Brenner Pass, with the initial target of Innsbruck. The conquest of Tyrol by itself would be a serious blow to the Wittelsbachs. Its mines provide vital raw materials for weapons manufacture and its silver ones are important collateral for their snowballing loans. Furthermore, from Innsbruck one could strike east into Austria, hampering the flow of supplies down the Danube, or north into Bavaria itself.

The flaw to this plan is that such an offensive would be highly vulnerable to a flank attack from Lombardy to the west or Croatia to the east. Verona is a massive Lombard fortress, perfectly placed to take this Roman offensive out at the knees. Udine to the east is not so formidable, but still a threat that cannot be ignored.

There is some hope that the Bernese League might be persuaded to join in this attack. The League has been making covetous glances both to its south and east and an eastern assault would provide valuable cover. Furthermore relations between the League and the Holy Roman Emperor are rocky given that requests for battle cohorts have been denied; only the League and Lotharingia have declined to contribute in some way. And while the growth of professional armies amongst the great powers of Europe has diminished the qualitative lead of the cohorts that they held back in the 1400s and early 1500s, the League can still put at least 18000 well-disciplined infantry backed by a respectable field artillery into the field. But the current situation, with Allied forces well down the Danube, means the League for the moment is inclined to sit this one out.

Even without the league, this offensive could still work if it was in conjunction with a second attack to keep the Lombards off-balance. There are a couple of proposals there. One is an attack on Genoa, the key port of Lombardy. However Genoa is also very well fortified and garrisoned, including with the bulk of the Lombard fleet. While far smaller than the Roman-Sicilian battle-line, the twenty three battle-line ships there, mounting over 1300 cannon between themselves, cannot be despised.

Furthermore Genoese financiers are heavily involved in supporting Spain’s war in Granada and anything that interrupts Ferdinand’s credit and seriously irritates him is politically out of the question. Only he has the forces available in Western Europe to challenge the Triple Monarchy. Demetrios isn’t willing to offer concessions in the east but he does provide war materials for the Spanish at a discount to hopefully speed up the fall of Granada and Malaga. At the same time as the squadron departs for Mexico, another force of 2 battle-line ships and 5 smaller warships are sent to Malaga to help with the blockade. It is cast as a reprisal for corsair attacks on the Sicilian coast and Roman ships despite the peace treaty with the Marinid Sultan, but the real reason is that if Ferdinand’s hands are free he might use them against the Triunes.

It is decided finally to focus on Tuscany, not as significant to the Lombards as northern Italy, but much more vulnerable. An easier march for the Sicilians, the region was conquered by Theodoros Doukas, King Cesare’s father, less than thirty years ago. Many there still hanker for independence, or at the very least an overlord who is more lenient and particularly farther away. Those who feel that way also haven’t failed to notice the growing prosperity of Livorno in Roman hands.

Alessandro da Verrazano is a prominent and prosperous Florentine nobleman, having made a lot of money from investing in sugar plantations on St. Kitts, the pearl beds of Venezuela, the salt mines of Curacao, and the slave trade that keeps all of those running. Forty-five years old, he fought at the battle of Vaiano against the Lombards in 1603 as a standard bearer, a high honor for one so young. He walks with a slight limp, his right leg viciously scarred by saber wounds from a skirmish against Lombard cavalry five years later.

He and his family seem to have reconciled themselves to Lombard dominion, but the Verrazano family had been prominent in the Florentine administration when it was ruled by a cadet branch of the Wittelsbach family. It is not now. It is Lombard policy throughout most of their territory to keep the major local families, if not destroyed, at least outside of political office, while giving them free rein economically. Hopefully wealth will compensate for lack of power. Meanwhile local offices are aimed at mid-level families, those who couldn’t expect to reach their high station under local authority and so are loyal to their Lombard benefactors. That is the case with Gonfaloniere (regional governor of Florence) Tommaso Guadagni.

Verrazano’s wealth has not reconciled him to his lack of power. Since the accession of Andreas III he has been in contact with Hektor di Lecce-Komnenos, the paternal uncle of Andreas III who served as his regent in Sicily and became Despot Hektor I on his death. Nothing much had come of these talks; Hektor by himself could do nothing and Andreas III had his eye firmly fixed eastward with the goal of avenging the humiliation of the Eternal War.

Demetrios III, on the other hand, is much more interested. With Verrazano’s wealth and connections, he can create a powerful pro-Roman fifth column in Florence. With Siena, its rival, now in a sad state of decay with less than a quarter of Florence’s population, as Florence goes so will most of Tuscany. And Verrazano thinks that Despot Alessandro of Tuscany has a very nice ring to it.

The Sicilian field army, comprising 38 Sicilian, 6 Roman, and 1 Dalmatian (from the Duchy) tourmai, is ensconced in Ancona, commanded by Nikephoros Mytaras, a descendant of one of Alfredo di Lecce’s lieutenants from his days as an Apulian rebel. The family name, which in Greek means ‘big nose’, derives from that lieutenant with his large nasal capacity.

His first target is Urbino, which during the winter was partially blockaded by cavalry raiders. There is some hope that he might manage to convince the city to surrender without a fight. The Montefeltros are still well-respected in their former territories, and the cousins of the Drakos have done quite well for themselves in the Empire after being expelled by the Milanese back in the Time of Troubles. (Andreas II Drakos’ wife and the mother of Helena I was a Montefeltro, herself a descendant of an illegitimate daughter of Andreas Niketas). But it has been a hundred years since those days and so that hope quickly fades.

The new commander of the main Lombard field army, currently encamped around Florence, is the Duke of Parma, Niccolo Farnese. He is one of the premier nobles of Lombardy, although a relative parvenu, his family having come to prominence because of his great-uncle who was pontiff at the end of the 1500s. He was also one of the few major figures at the Lombard court who opposed the war with Rhomania, arguing that either Theodor would be defeated and drag Milan down with him or that he’d create a super-state that would eventually turn around and crush Lombardy. For wouldn’t the One Roman Emperor seek to add the old heartland of the Romans to his dominions?

Because of his ‘defeatist’ attitude, he was rejected as first choice for the commander of the main Lombard army, despite his substantial military experience. He fought as a junior officer in King Theodoros’ wars that brought Tuscany under Lombard rule; cavalry under his command were the ones who wounded Verrazano’s leg. He led the army that forced Ancona to kneel. Another credit is two naval victories against Barbary corsairs off Majorca and Sardinia, where he commanded the soldiers stationed on the ships.

Not given a post, he spent 1632 on his estates, predicting in general the Roman-Sicilian riposte to the Lombard declaration. At the end of 1632 Cesare recalled him to Milan and appointed him commander of the field army. While he does not expect to win the war (just before being recalled to Milan he predicted that Blucher’s army would either starve or be smashed to bits somewhere on the Thracian plain), his goal is to make the war as expensive and difficult for the Romans as possible. That way Lombardy may get off without making any concessions.

He would like to advance and give battle to the Sicilians but operations on the eastern side of the Apennines are difficult to support. The main highway there runs along the coast, within cannon range of any offshore warships, such as the half-dozen prowling on the approaches to Rimini. Therefore his supply lines would be wagon trains having to traverse mountain tracks. So instead he shifts south to Arezzo, sending cavalry to raid the Sicilians, but waiting for the Sicilians to come to him.

The Sicilians have a high-quality though fairly small artillery train, but Urbino’s fortifications are an early-gunpowder design. Three weeks in, the guns smash a storm-able breach in the defenses, at which point the garrison capitulates.

Moving west, the Sicilians face little opposition save for some annoying light infantry as they push through the Apennines. But as they debouch from the mountains near the commune of San Giustino, the Lombard army approaches in full battle array, 46000 strong compared to the 38000 that Nikephoros commands, although 18000 of the Lombards are new recruits with little training and poor equipment.

Despite being outnumbered, the Sicilians advance to attack, subjecting the Lombards to a fierce cannonade while forces try to work around the Lombard left flank. The Duke is wise to the danger, his cavalry parrying the blow and sending the would-be flankers back in disarray. But it has fixed the Duke’s attention squarely on his left.

The Strategos had expected the Lombards to attack him on his exit from the mountains, so he detached a flying column of three thousand cavalry and black horses before proceeding. They cross the Apennines, coming out near Citta di Castello twelve kilometers to the south of San Giustino. Immediately they swing north, riding hard, and pitch into the Lombard right flank with complete surprise. The men and horses are tired after their march, but the shock demoralizes the new Lombard soldiery which make up the reserve which counters their charge.

That aside, sheer numbers and freshness help make up for it, until Nikephoros reinforces them with troops from the main body. Hit by crashing musketry from both front and flank, they break. The Duke of Parma manages to extricate himself with his left wing and center largely intact, even succeeding in drawing away most of his guns, but his right wing is mangled. For three thousand casualties, the Sicilians doled out five thousand, plus another six thousand prisoners, mostly the new soldiers.

Now outnumbered, the Duke pulls back to Arezzo, but then withdraws further to the northwest to avoid being pinned up against the city. As the Sicilians begin digging parallels for the siege, he starts raiding their lines. Now the Sicilians are the ones having to deal with wagon trains over the mountains and Nikephoros has to commit a good portion of his cavalry to guarding the convoys. Although Lombard horse gets in some telling blows, enough gets through that along with forced requisitions from the surrounding countryside the siege proceeds, albeit slowly.

Reinforced with new recruits as well as siphoning from various garrisons in the north, the Duke returns to the attack to relieve the city but is unable to break the Sicilian army which parries his attacks until he retires. He has nothing to show for his eight thousand casualties save for fifty five hundred Sicilian ones, although he is able to draw off all of his artillery and banners. Upon the failure of the relief effort, Arezzo capitulates to Nikephoros.

After garrisoning it, he begins the march on Florence. At the same time, Roman naval forces intensify their raids on the Tuscan coast while the Livorno garrison sallies repeatedly against the Lombard siege lines. There’s no substantial aim behind these attacks, but are done to distract the Duke of Parma and hopefully split his forces. But the Duke is wise and refuses to cooperate.

Instead, after receiving another batch of reinforcements from Lombardy proper, he pivots south to Siena, hovering off Nikephoros’ left flank. If the Sicilians proceed north to Florence, he can swing behind them. Arezzo helps to anchor the Sicilian supply lines, but with Livorno still blockaded, preventing supply from the Tyrrhenian, it’d be a big gamble to let the main Lombard line loose to conduct mischief whilst attempting a siege of a city of 100,000 souls. Particularly after the Duke has stripped the Tuscan countryside to support his own army and deny them to the enemy.

Nikephoros is concerned, but also hopeful that he won’t have to siege Florence if Verrazano can open the gates. Unfortunately the Gonfaloniere Tommaso Guadagni discovers the conspiracy and moves to arrest Verrazano. Forewarned, he launches his rebellion early but the Sicilians are still encamped at Reggello, far too away to provide support. Street fighting erupts between the partisans of Verrazano and the supporters of the Gonfaloniere while Nikephoros force-marches to support the Florentine nobleman.

He is too late. Verrazano’s generalship does not equal his financial acumen and he is defeated, although he manages to cut his way out of the city with a good portion of his partisans, linking up with Nikephoros.

The situation is not ideal. The Duke of Parma is camped to the south, already swinging towards Arezzo. He can draw on supplies coming up from Latium, while a siege of Arezzo, even if he fails to take it, will still require the Sicilians to detour their own convoys, significantly lengthening their transit time. If Nikephoros splits off forces to open a line to Livorno, there will be an opening for the Duke to attack him while his forces are split. Furthermore, Florence is massive, the city bisected by the Arno River. Meaning that if Nikephoros wishes to seal up the city, he’ll have to split his forces anyway.

He lays siege just to the city south of the Arno for now; not all of Verrazano’s partisans have been arrested or expelled, so there is a decent chance he might still be able to take the city without a formal siege.

Meanwhile Nikephoros detaches 18 tourmai and hurls them at Livorno. With the Tuscan countryside stripped bare he really needs a supply line opened up promptly, but considering the difficulties in reducing Florence, he doesn’t want to abandon any chance of Verrazano’s partisans giving him an opening into the city.

Between the 18 tourmai and the garrison, which has been reinforced with four newly recruited tourma from the Morea (one is mostly comprised of Slavs from the Taygetos mountains), they brush aside the Lombard besieging force. But the bulk manage to escape, retiring to Pisa, ready to harass any Livorno-Florence convoys.

The Duke of Parma, after leaving a blocking force at Arezzo, charges north as soon as he hears word that the Sicilian army has split. In a sharp battle, he defeats the outnumbered two-to-one Sicilians, Nikephoros retreating westward to Livorno. Joining up with his detached force and the Roman garrison, he pivots back east. The Duke of Parma offers battle and they trade long-range cannonades for a day, but then Nikephoros retires westward again.

Right now he has 40,000 men under arms to the Duke’s 48,000 (he is receiving a steady trickle of new recruits from northern Italy and their equipment is improving), and he doesn’t see a way to successfully siege Florence while the Duke’s still in the field. He has to split his forces across the Arno; with the Duke controlling the city bridges that gives him a perfect opportunity to defeat him in detail again. Furthermore Pisa has 6500 troops as well, mostly militia or new conscripts, but still another threat that needs to be guarded against, meaning more splitting of his limited forces.

At the same time, the Duke of Parma is also stuck. If he uncovers Florence, Nikephoros can attack the city and if he takes it that would be a disaster; there’s still concern that not all of Verrazano’s partisans have been accounted. Yet he can’t destroy the Sicilian army. Encamped at Livorno it is covered by the fortifications and the guns of two dozen battle-line ships. So while the two spar and skirmish, the campaign falls into a stalemate, not broken even by news of the disasters to the Allied cause along the Danube.

Meanwhile to the northeast, while the Sicilians are setting up their siege lines at Urbino, a new commander arrives in Venetia, Tourmarch Andreas d’Este. That ancient family, like the Montefeltros, was expelled from Italy by the Milanese during the Time of Troubles, resettling with their Roman benefactors. The family has been largely Romanized in the passing century, but they still hold firmly to their distinguished name, again like the Montefeltros.

He would very much like to lead an invasion through the Alps into Bavaria, but with only four thousand regular troops and nine thousand militia, he doesn’t have the numbers he needs. So for now he raids, wreaking havoc across the countryside and bloodying the militia, already experienced from earlier raids. But while he ravages, he also notes the fruitfulness of the region. Perhaps the concerns about supply lines being cut by a Lombard force staging out of Verona are irrelevant. As long as the army isn’t too large, foraging should supply all needs, particularly since there isn’t any desire to be particularly pleasant to the peasants. And Bavaria is also rich and fertile, untouched by war since the days Germans and Hungarians dueled for the crown of Charlemagne.

Even so, he’d still need more men than he has, despite repeated requests to Constantinople along with his analyses and proposals. So instead he keeps up his raids, even occasionally sending a stab over at Croatia.

Usually his attacks are solely on civilian targets, with the occasional isolated outpost or patrol getting ambushed. There is one exception to this. While the Duke and Nikephoros settle down into impasse, d’Este and 1000 cavalry and black horses come upon a long string of 4000 Lombard infantry and 400 cavalry. Attacking with a fury, he scatters the Lombard horse. With the black horses dismounting and sniping at them with their muskets, the infantry are never able to properly organize and the Roman horse rolls them up. For 180 casualties (only 31 are fatalities on the field) he inflicted over 900 and took 1500 prisoners.

Compared to the slaughter on the Danube, it is a small matter, but nevertheless highly impressive. While occurring too late for anything to be done this year, it definitely makes Megas Domestikos Mouzalon and Emperor Demetrios III think this junior officer may be on to something in his propositions.
 
Great update. I've reread the previous chapter in Italy to remind myself what's the situation, and oh boy does the original Brenner plan sounds batshit crazy. Raid with main Sicilian army without a secure logistic line deep into Germany, with Lombard fortresses blocking the way and main Lombard host still in the field?

Person who suggested that should be out of further strategic planning.

Judging by the forces and geography available, my preferred move would be rerouting Sicilian army to Livorno and offensive into Tuscany. Romans got to that point in the end but blasting their way through Apennines and reducing several fortresses on the way was rather risky way to accomplish that. Though I understand Florentine fifth columns was a tasty lure for the Romans.

Anyway, I don't believe Romans have the sealift capacity to transfer 50.000 men from Adriatic to Tyrennian so my plan would be impossible in any case.

Main objective should be destruction of Lombard host - sieges of major cities and fortifications with a larger hostile army breathing down your neck seem very risky.

Taking out Pisa and then Lucca might be a logical next move - it's very near Roman supply base, holds a significant chunk of Sicilian manpower, and block one possible avenue of retreat for Duke Parnese. If both are taken, it might be possible to engage Lombards near Firenze with their freedom of movement significantly constrained. If the field is won they can retreat:

a) north towards Bologna. Siege of Firenze will then be much easier if Romans have to guard their supply lines against only one venue of approach, with Arrezo and Lucca/Pisa guarding the flanks.

b) south towards Pisa, where they will be hemmed in by Arrezo, Livorno and sea. Complete destruction of Lombard army might be possible then.

c) into Firenze. They might be able to divide the Sicilians and contest the siege, but it won't be easy to feed 60.000 men.

Of course, this depends on Lombards actually engaging the Sicilians instead of retreating into Firenze at once. Still, I don't believe cramming all those men into city is a good option for them.

D'Este's plan for Austria and Bavaria sounds good. Smaller raiding force living of the land is much more survivable then a major expedition, and can be afforded to loose. Bavaria shouldn't have major forces still there, with Danube front gobbling up men and supplies. Few thousand experienced, trained men might cause quite a ruckus there.
 
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Well, the Italian Campaign certainly has been a totally different kettle of fish compared to the Danube Campaign! I'd very much be interested in seeing whether the Romans can spare another 20,000 men to either bolster the main campaign, or for a force in Lombardy to cut off overland supplies. Whilst the Danube Campaign is probably considered more important, that could be enough from what I can see to start rolling up the Italian Campaign and start raiding from the Alps and providing a second avenue of attack for the Danube Campaign. In fact, if an experienced General can be sent to Venetia, there are a lot of possibilities, unless the Tourmarch d'Este is given a rapid promotion. It may even be a proving ground for a new General/Future Despot of Lombardy :p

I agree with Stark though, the focus should be to end the ability for their opponent to fight, and the last thing you'd want to do is play by the enemies terms - so fight them from Venetia, rather than Sicily, and force the Italians to either turn around, starve, or risk massive morale problems as news of the Romans campaigning ruthlessly in Lombardy. Although...

I'm loving the rise of these Pro-Roman Partisans, it'd be great to see a Roman Italy once again, even if it is 3 Despotates in the process. What I'd love more is if there are any N.Italians who could be an ally for the Tourmarch. That would be one sweet event, but one that may sail eventually. Nonetheless turning the entire Peninsula Purple would be a geopolitical coup that anchors the Roman Western Flank and would allow them to be both the Masters of the Med, and focus in the long term on naval supremacy in the region and diverting resources to North Africa to complete their Mediterranean conquests outside of Spain.

Although, this Farnese General seems sound, so without throwing him off of his game, I think the Sicilians may be in trouble.
 
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